Thursday, November 10, 2016

The "Stranger Things" Clue Everyone Missed

For those of you who haven't heard of it, "Stranger Things" is a Netflix Original Series that will knock your socks off. It's sort of like the best X-Files episode of all time expanded into an eight-hour story line. I'm a very busy mother of two young kids, and I've watched it twice. That should tell you something.

*Here come the spoilers*

The first season left us with a lot of unanswered questions: Is Eleven alive? Who is Hopper working for? What was that egg? How did Will survive? Is there any conceivable way that poor Barb will make it out alive? (Give it up, guys. She's gone.)

The most interesting questions, I think, are about the Demogorgon and the Upside Down. Where did it come from? What else is in the Upside Down? Some people have hypothesized that the Demogorgon and Eleven are linked, like she accidentally created him or maybe he's a part of her that got separated and now is running amok.

I believe there's no connection between the Demogorgon and Eleven because there's proof the monster has been there for much longer. The show left us a really big clue that no one saw, and it was right under our noses:

The skeleton in the Upside Down.

The events of the show take place over the course of one week, and during that week, the Demogorgon takes six people. When you first watch this show you might think the skeleton belongs to one of the six, but Barb (let's take a moment of silence for poor Barb) was recognizably intact. This guy has been dead for much, much longer.

You might be thinking, "Okay, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Perhaps the slugs ate all the flesh. Perhaps things decompose faster in the Upside Down. Perhaps Barb was so intact because she isn't really dead and we're going to see her in season two." (Let it go! She's gone.)

Here's the thing, though. I believe the show told us exactly who this skeleton belonged to, and that it wasn't one of the six who disappeared over the course of the show.

Hopper dropped the bomb (possibly) in episode 2 when he was standing on his porch talking to Sandra. He said, "The last person to go missing here was in '23."

Does that skeleton look like someone who died in 1923? Yup. It does.

If someone got taken from the town in 1923, that means a Demogorgon has been around for almost a century.

That leaves us with an interesting question: what happened to all the slugs that came out of the corpse taken in 1923? This Demogorgon seems to be all by himself in the Upside Down, so if there's already been a round of slug-hatching, one must wonder why we don't see any others.

Notice that the Demogorgon only traveled in a small area of the town. Jonathan and Nancy point this out when they start hunting it. They also compare the monster to other predators in our dimension, and predators can be very territorial.

Perhaps the Demogorgon only prowled such a small area because that was his territory. He couldn't go outside of it because there are other Demogorgons all over the world with their own claimed patches of earth, waiting for portals to open so they can snatch up unsuspecting humans and lay their slug babies inside them.

Either the Demogorgon we see in the show snatched the person in 1923 and all his slug babies have moved on to their own territory, or that's the corpse he was born in when he was a slug baby. Maybe he ate his brothers and sisters.


Need more convincing? There is another clue that suggests the monster has visited the town before. Hawkins Lab is a mysterious building where Doctor Brenner experiments on Eleven (and possibly ten other kids). It might not be a coincidence that the building was placed in that particular town. We don't know all that was going on in that lab, only that at one point, they use Eleven to spy on the Russians.

Doctor Brenner doesn't seem surprised when Eleven finds the Demogorgon. In fact, he's pleased and is eager to communicate with it. It's possible that the building is there because that was the last known sighting of the Demogorgon, and finding the Upside Down was one of Hawkins Lab's many projects.

One thing is for sure; we're going to be seeing a lot of monsters in season two. In the foreshadow-heavy Dungeons and Dragons game at the end, the Thessalhydra appears. And as we all know, when you cut off one head from a hydra. many more appear.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Marketing Plan for a Book Launch

I can't wait to market my book. It sounds fun, like a game where each book sale is a point and you get money for each point. I've been working on my Marketing Plan for years in hopes that I will use it when I finally get published, and since I just shared it with a friend of mine, I thought I should send it to my virtual friends, too.

Most of this is catered to self-published authors simply because I don't know enough about publishing companies to offer advice on how they should help you. These are all things that any author can do. Keep in mind that I haven't actually done any of these things; I just hope to. Someday.
If you have any tips to share, or if you've tried any of these tips and would like to tell us how it went, leave a comment!


Free/Cheap Tips
Launch Party – When your book is available to purchase, you can host a party at a bookstore where people buy your book for the first time. You invite all your friends and family, put up posters in the community, and get the bookstore to promote it. It’s like doing a reading, except it’s a big deal because it’s the first one. You read from your book, discuss your inspiration for writing it, sign copies, maybe make cupcakes.
 Facebook Launch Party – I’ve been to several of these and they’re a lot of fun. You invite everyone to come to a Facebook page at a set time and for two to four hours, you post stuff, like fun facts about your book or your time period. You also host giveaways. Every twenty minutes or so, you introduce an author who agreed to participate, then the author says hello and asks the participants a question. One of the people who answers the question gets the book (you announce winners the next day). You can also offer swag as a prize, like a poster or a mug with your book cover on it, or a gift that’s relevant to your book.
 Giveaways – Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Booklikes give away free copies of books, and people read through the books and enter for the ones they like. You might get a hundred people to enter the drawing, so it’s a great way to promote the book to the 99 who don’t get a free copy.
 Join Historical Novel Society – If you write historical fiction like me, being a member of this society will help you get to know other historical novelists, and you can get them to review your book on their website. (I don’t know how, but you can ask.) It’s $50 a year. Also, you can get on their Facebook page for free and network there.
 Newsletter – With an email newsletter, you send people information about when your book is coming out, when you’re doing readings, etc. I think there’s a way to get people to sign up for newsletters on your blog (are they called apps on blogs?), but you can also do it manually. MailChimp is a great program for mass emails.
 Author pages – You can have your own professional profiles on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, LibraryThing, and Booklikes. People go there to read about you and see what other books you’ve written and where to buy them.
 Book clubs – You can get a group of people together and have your own book group to read and talk about your novel, and you can encourage your friends to host book clubs. Perhaps everyone who buys the book for a group could get a discount. A lot of authors also do Skype or phone calls to book clubs so people can interview the author at their meeting. You can also host virtual book clubs via Facebook or Goodreads.
 Use book cover as your profile picture and cover photo on Facebook. That way, everyone who interacts with you online will know you have a book to buy.
 Offer signed books online - A friend of mine did this and I thought it was brilliant; for only one month, people could buy her book from a certain bookstore and get it signed and personalized. How often do we find books we like but then wait years to buy them? Signed copies make people whip out their checkbook and get the book right away.
 Blog Tour – Get your friends to interview you and/or review your book on their blogs. If you don’t know many bloggers, you can hire someone to host a blog tour (see below).
 Book Signings and Readings – You’d be surprised how many opportunities there are to promote your book at fairs, library events, book stores, art events, writer’s groups, etc. Keep your eyes open and read your book publically everywhere you can. Then record it and post about it on Facebook.
 
Reviews - Reviews are extremely important to people buying books online, so encourage your friends to review them on as many sites as they can: Amazon, Goodreads, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, etc. Be sure to thank them afterwards.


Costly
 Website
 Ads on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Booklikes, and Facebook
 Blog Tours – For a fee, certain companies will set up blog tours where you get reviewed or interviewed by popular blogs. They also post about you on their website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I HIGHLY recommend spending some money on Amy Bruno’s site.
Historical Fiction Virtual Tours (Amy Bruno)
                                Blog Tours: $95-$495
                                Book Blast: $74-$140
                                Facebook Launch Party: $150-$800 (like what I mentioned earlier, only she does all the work, including finding people for the giveaways.)
                Pump Up Your Book Promotion (Cheryl Malandrinos) $49-$1,049
 Conferences – These can be ridiculously expensive, but I highly recommend them. You make so many friends who will help you promote your book, not to mention you learn so much and they’re loads of fun. You can also sell signed copies of your book and buy ads for the conference program.
 Book Trailer – I have no idea how to go about making one of these.
 Swag – You can get bookmarks, t-shirts, mugs, posters, bags, etc. with your book cover on them. At the very least, it’s good to carry bookmarks with you everywhere you go so when you tell people about your book, you can give them one so they remember it.


Book Tour - You can go to book stores in other towns for readings and signings, too. This gets expensive because you have to pay travel expenses. Still sounds like fun, though.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

First Two Chapters of Voodoo Queen

Some new members in my writers group wanted to read the first few chapters of my book, and I thought it would be easiest to post them here for anyone else who wants to look at them. I think I posted some of this earlier back when it was in third person (it's all in first person now).

Enjoy. (I hope.)


VOODOO QUEEN

People ask me how I got to where I am now. Americans wonder why a kind-hearted woman such as myself turned evil. French folk want to know why an intelligent woman resorted to ignorant superstition. People of color ask how I grew into such power that friends came to me in droves and enemies trembled at the very mention of me.
It’s been a long road. If I had to put my finger on one event that started it all, I’d pick the day the slaves from the Andry sugar plantation were executed.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Letters with Book Illustrations, Custom Designed with the Picture Book of Your Choice

Well, I've finally started my own Etsy shop. It's kind of "the thing" for stay-at-home moms. I wasn't planning on following this trend, but then I decorated a letter to hang in my daughter's nursery. I thought, "That was fun," and "I could sell these." Thus the Etsy shop was born.

I decorate 7" wooden block letters, mostly for kids and babies. They're custom designed and I try to make every idea a reality, but I specialize in children's books illustrations. You pick out the letters and the picture book you want (it can be any book in the world, as long as they sell it on Amazon), and I design them for $15 a letter.

So far I've made CHASE with Green Eggs and Ham, ELLA with There's a Woket in My Pocket, MAXWELL with The Story of Barbar, and I just got an order for LIAM with pictures of sports balls.

Right now I'm hosting a GIVEAWAY for THREE FREE LETTERS to one person who posts about my store on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. If you feel like spreading the word for me, I'd be eternally grateful! Just post this link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/223932534/letters-with-book-illustrations-custom?ref=shop_home_active_2

Interested? Visit my shop to order some for yourself. They also make great gifts!





Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Money Does Not Define Me

I always wanted to open a bookstore someday. We're going to wait until our family is more financially stable and I don't have babies in the house anymore, so it's a long ways down the road. Someday, though.

A friend of mine cautioned me against opening a bookstore. He said it was a "bad idea." I'm not going to lie, I was pretty irritated. It wasn't because the statement was an attack on my faith in the enduring power of paper books and the stores that sell them. It wasn't because it was an insult to my intelligence. After all, I am smart enough to know bookstores aren't goldmines.

I was mad because he thought bad ideas aren't worth pursuing.

I should take a step back here, since not everyone agrees on what makes an idea "bad." He meant it wouldn't make any money. As a stay-at-home-mom and an aspiring novelist, I don't make any money. Does that make me a "bad idea"?

Everything I've ever done that mattered had no financial value. College. My baby. Volunteering at church. Painting. Dancing. Knitting. Roller derby. My writers' group and our events. All my failed manuscripts that took me many years and many tears to write.

One the other side of the coin, all my working experience was a dismal and utter waste of time. I never had a job that was meaningful. Most of my employment history is me sitting at a desk pretending to be busy. Rotting from the inside out.

My husband keeps encouraging me to use my talents and intellect on money-making endeavors. He's an entrepreneur, so I can't blame him. I keep telling him nothing that makes money interests me. I want to be a lactation consultant, a writer, a bookstore owner... nothing financially smart.

You know what? I'm happy. I'm not just okay with my life, I love my life.

Sure, I hope VOODOO QUEEN will rock the bestsellers lists and make me millions, but if everyone read it an no one paid for it, I'd still be happy. Okay, I'd actually be irate that no one was paying for my book, but I'd keep writing. The point is, you have to live your life the way you are meant to live it, not the way people say you should live it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Record Your Story, Part IV: Journal Prompts About Your Past

As I mentioned yesterday, no journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your life thus far, here are some prompts to help.

JOURNAL PROMPTS

How you met your spouse/how your parents met/how your spouse’ parents met/how your grandparents met
How your spouse proposed/how your father proposed/how your father-in-law proposed/how your grandpa proposed
Your earliest memory
Five good childhood memories
Your most embarrassing moment
Your birth stories (if you have kids)
How you converted to the gospel
Your most embarrassing moment
The story behind your name, your children’s names, and your spouse’s name
A good memory associated with each season (Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter).
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Describe one moment where you needed courage to do the right thing.
What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to deal with?
Describe the places you’ve lived.
If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Describe one amazing experience you had.
Describe one spiritual experience you had.
Describe your first kiss.
What did you do on your first date with your spouse?
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
Describe some of the jobs you’ve had and whether or not you like them.
Describe what you did for each holiday this past year.
What were you like as a child? In high school? How are you different now?
What are some nicknames for yourself and your family members? How did they get them?
Describe one memory that makes you laugh.
What’s one story you love to tell people?
When you’re with your family (or your friends), what stories do they tell over and over?
What’s something you did that your family and friends tease you about?
What was it like for your mom when she gave birth to you?
What’s one memory your parents have of you as a baby?
Describe some of your family heirlooms, or some items you think will become heirlooms.
Write a summary of your life.
Write a summary of your parents’ lives.
Write about a time that you made a deliberate change for yourself. Write about what motivated you to make that change and how you think that change has affected your life.
Write about some of your scars and how you got them.
Have you ever been in a hospital? Had surgery? Broken a bone?
Describe one time when you were really frightened.
Describe where you were when 9-11 happened.
Describe some memories of your birthday.
Write a good memory you have with each of your parents.
Explain why you decided to date your spouse and why you decided to marry him.
Describe a major storm you and your family survived.
What was your favorite book as a child, or the first book you remember reading?
List some of the toys you remember having as a child.

List the friends you remember having at various stages of your life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Tie the Head Wrap in My Book Cover

A few people have asked me how to tie the head wrap that the model uses in my book cover. I learned how to do it from the video below. It was actually pretty easy. The only downside is you need six yards of fabric!

If you want to contribute to my Kickstarter campaign, it'll be up for only one more week. Click here to learn more about the campaign; scroll down to learn more about the unique history behind head wraps in New Orleans.



During the Antebellum period in New Orleans, many African American women were mistresses to rich white men. The men would support them and their children, going so far as to buy them clothing and even a house.

Certain people got tired of seeing gorgeous African American women walking around town in fancy gowns and elaborate hair, so a law was passed in 1785 forcing them to wear head wraps called tignons. This was meant not only to lessen their beauty, but also to distinguish the white from the colored during a time when interbreeding made it hard to tell who had cafe au lait in their blood and who did not.

The African American women wore such decorative tignons that soon the head wraps were associated with beauty, and they continued to wear them long after the tignon law was revoked.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Record Your Story, Part III: Journal Prompts About Your Present



No journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your experiences as they're happening, here are some prompts to help.

JOURNAL PROMPTS

The layout of your house
Your dream house
List of your friends, what you like about them, how you met them
What your kids are up to this year
Your biggest accomplishment this year
Your biggest disappointment this year
What you love the most about all your family members
What you did today (or this week)
The last time you went out and did something fun, what did you do?
Your testimony
If you could be doing anything with your life right now, what would you be doing?
5 things that make you happy
10 things you’re grateful for
What is your church calling right now? What was your favorite church calling?
Who did you vote for last election and why?
How do you feel about the government?
What are some major political issues you worry about? How would you solve them?
5 major world events that happened this year (or last year)
How much things cost (your rent/mortgage, gas, a computer, a phone, a gallon of milk, etc.)
5 of your favorite books and why they had an impact on you
Your last Facebook post
Something you’re good at. (Everyone’s good at something.)
What do you do for fun?
5 of your family’s favorite meals.
What kind of clothes do you wear? What’s in style right now?
Describe your pets, if you have them.
What was your last vacation?
If you could tell your children only one thing, what would it be?
Which family member are you most like?
Describe a memorable date.
What’s something you feel very strongly about?
Describe one of your pet peeves.
If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Who’s someone you admire and why?
What makes you laugh the most?
What’s one of your quirks? What are your family members’ quirks?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you could share a meal with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
What’s one thing you would never, ever do?
What’s your most prized possession?
What’s one thing about your culture you wish you could change?
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Describe the town you live in: How big is it? Are people there rich or poor? What do people do there for fun?
Where are you the happiest?
A quote you love and why you love it.

What’s the most important quality in a person?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Record Your Story, Part II: How to Keep a Journal


Welcome to Part II of my journal writing workshop! To read Part I on Reasons for Starting a Journal, click here.

Writing in a journal can be overwhelming. What do you write about? Where do you start? How do you come up with topics? This should help you get a clearer idea of how you want your journal to be.

What to Write About

Every journal has a focus, whether the writer realizes it or not. If you have a focus beforehand, it becomes much easier to get started. Here are some different journaling methods:

-         Emotions Journal: for getting out thoughts, dealing with feelings, processing things you’re going through.
-         Event Journal: Only write about the big things that happen in your life.
-         Daily Log: Write what you do each day, or write a prompt each day.
-         Yearly Log: Every January, write what your family did that year
-         Memoir: Tell the story of your life by writing about things that happened in the past instead of as they’re happening now.
-         Themed Journal: Write on a certain theme, like a gratitude journal, a mission journal, a spiritual journal, a vacation journal, an ideas journal, or a baby book.

Different Journal Mediums

Knowing what to write about is only part of the battle. You also need to figure out where to put those ideas and how you want to represent them.

-         Blank lined book
o   Feel free to add pictures and mementos!
-         Computer program, such as Microsoft Word
-         Blog
-         Scrapbook
o   Feel free to add words!
o   Be sure to label your photos so people know who’s in them
-         Pre-made scrapbook
-         Marked scriptures
-         Audio recording (you can get conversations that way)
-         Vlog or videos
-         Family journal – everyone contributes to it

How to Get Started

So you know what you want to write about and how you're going to write it. If you're still having problems getting started, these tips should help:

-         Decide the journal’s purpose:
o   The story you want to tell
o   The audience you’re writing to
-         Write your milestones (childhood, college, marriage, babies) now. NOW. You remember less every day.
-         Occasionally make lists instead of journal entries: favorites, pet peeves, books you’ve read, etc.
-         Write about politics and social issues. That will become history, and your children and grandchildren will love to hear what you thought about it.
-         Include details! Future generations will want to know what you ate, how you traveled, how much things cost, what movies you watched, what books you read, what school you went to. The details might be more interesting than the big stuff.
-         If you’re having trouble getting started, think of what you might post as a status update on Facebook and write it in the journal instead. Or, think about what you wish you knew about your grandparents and write about that for yourself.
-         Think of journaling as a process, not an end product. It’s okay if it seems bad or unfocused right now. You’ll find your way.
-         If you’re worried about not doing it “right” or “well,” just remember: anything is better than nothing.

-         Enjoy yourself! This is fun!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finer Things Book Club: The Screwtape Letters

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shares his views on sin versus happiness through a series of letters written by a demon. The demon writes the letters to his nephew, who is a novice and needs guidance in how to cause the damnation of a young man.

This book was published in 1942, yet it is shockingly relevant to our time. Lewis has this amazing capacity to tell you things in such a way that you realize you've always known it, but you've never actually thought about it. This book changed the way I look at many aspects of life, especially what makes people happy vs. what makes them unhappy.

Every Christian should read this book, but I'd recommend it to anyone, Christian or no. Even though the book is essentially about salvation through Christ, it is at the same time a poignant study of human nature.

My book group's discussion for this book was fantastic, but it was difficult to find any activities to go along with it. We had some food that was related to the theme, such as devil's food cake, angel food cake, and divinity. I made dirty rice because the book is about sin and sin makes you dirty. I don't know if people got the connection, but the rice was delicious.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What surprised you the most about Screwtape’s philosophies? (For me, it was his emphasis on separating the patient from reality, because if the patient saw the truth in all things, he would be Christian.)

What do you think C.S. Lewis would add to this book if it were republished today?

What quote really stood out to you?

What is the difference between the detachment of self that God seeks and the detachment from reality the devils seek?

In what ways do you think the pressures of the “ordinary” make you susceptible to diabolical influence?

Screwtape uses Christian churches as a tool for temptation. In your experience, do you see Christians fall into some of the same traps as the characters in this book?

Did his views on prayer change the way you will pray in the future?

Why would devils want us to be more preoccupied with the future than the present?

Screwtape says noise is the constant sound in heaven. Does Satan use noise as a means of drawing us away from God today?

What do you think is so dangerous about asking if an idea is relevant instead of asking if it’s true?

From both divine and diabolical perspectives, what is the value of a long life?


Did Screwtape’s view of death change how you look at death?
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