The PR of Happiness (or “Disneyland Nightmares”)

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Part 1: In the months before my wedding, I had nightmares about visiting Disneyland. Since Disney was our honeymoon destination, it was something thought about constantly during my waking hours. In my dreams, I would always arrive late or forget my ticket and the whole day would be ruined.

I soon realized that my dreams had broader implications. On a deeper level, I was worried that all my marriage plans, not just the honeymoon, wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I was making a lifelong commitment and it didn’t matter how confident I was that I’d picked the right person, there was no guarantee my plans for happiness would pan out. Would I arrive at my “happy ever after” only to realize I’d forgotten my ticket? 

Luckily, our Disneyland trip was awesome and so was our marriage. And then a year later, the Disney dreams came back, but different this time.ticket_to_happiness

Part 2: Lately, I’ve started dreaming that I’m introducing Disneyland to my parents for the first time. They’ve never been big fans of Disneyland, but I’m convinced I can show it to them in a thoughtful way that will make them love it as much as I do. If I just keep a relaxed pace, then they won’t get tired out…except that something always goes wrong.

The broader meaning here? Well, now that I’ve gotten my “happy ever after”, I’ve been struggling to share it with my friends/family. Since we moved to Texas, the only way to stay in touch with them is through facebook and phone calls. I worry that constant “I’m so happy” posting on facebook will become annoying, or worse, not believed. When I tell my mom anecdotes from my life, I’m worried she’ll think I’m censoring out the bad stories.

Because everyone knows that marriages aren’t actually happy, right? All that stuff about marriage leading to happiness is a hollywood myth and couples who look happy are just good at hiding their misery. Anyone who buys into “happy ever after” is delusional, so I feel like a fake whenever I tell people the truth: R and I get along amazingly. Or I feel like I’m rubbing my happiness in their faces. So I try to tone it down–limit my mushy gushy posts, balance them out with tales of little frustrations we’ve encountered because it sounds more grounded. 

Now, please don’t comment with “Don’t worry what other people think” because that’s not my point. I’m just trying to be both transparent and sensitive to my audience. Sometimes it’s just more complicated than others. 

Part 3: So what I’m trying to say is, “I swear I’m not lying about being happy.” And if you’re a close friend or family member reading this, I can promise that I wouldn’t try to hide it from you if my relationship with R did sour. That doesn’t mean I’ll complain about it on facebook because that wouldn’t be fair to R, but I won’t stuff my troubles under the bed…errr, in the closet…err…under the rug! Hopefully rugs don’t have any innuendo in them…

As a counterpoint to this post, here is a breathtaking article thread about relationship envy and how we publicly present our relationships. I have re-read about 6 times in the past year because it’s so relevant. Essentially the bottom line is “don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outside.” But it goes even deeper than that. Check it out: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/04/relationship-comparisons-online/ and then the writer’s followup later: http://apracticalwedding.com/2014/04/everyday-kindness/ 

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Timeless Tales Issue #2 (Pandora’s Box) is LIVE!

This isn’t hot off the presses news anymore, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to announce it. Since this is my personal blog, I want to write something more than a simple promo for our latest issue, but honestly, I’m a bit burned out. I’ve been doing full time data entry this month, which has meant I’ve thrown all my evenings and weekends into the magazine so I could publish in time. I always underestimate the headache of formatting the stories–when will someone make it possible to use “Tab” for indentations in online text fields? For some reason, when I copy/paste from Microsoft Word, the indents always get lost. Some sites include an indent button (thank you WordPress), but not all. Having to add the space manually every paragraph is such a pain. And sometimes I wonder if I should scrap having author bios because while I want to promote my writers, it takes forever to manually add links and check them all.

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For this issue, I put more effort into a social media blitz the week before publishing, which meant designing a bunch of graphic promos. I must say, I’m absurdly proud of my seven facebook teaser pics, which I whipped together in 1-2 evenings. I’m trying to brand T.T. as modern and urban despite our whimsical theme, so I try to stay away from the typical “Ye Olde” and glitter visuals. I prefer either an infographic style or a rough/gritty style. It seems to have worked because the average views on my Facebook posts tripled that week! Even though TT has over 650 likes, my Facebook posts have typically only gotten 20-30 views, which is disappointingly low. Since my seven teaser graphics, I’ve consistently gotten 80-120 views on each. That gives me hope for reaching new readers.

 

My favorite of the facebook promos I created.

My favorite of the facebook promos I created.

I’m not quite ready to jump back into things yet, but in order to publish Issue #3 by late October, I’ll need to open submissions in early July, so looks like my break will be short lived. I am excited to see what writers do with The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It seems like a tricky fairy tale to retell.

The Perks of Boredom

Since arriving in Austin three months ago, I’ve found an amazing temp agency that hooks me up with assignments between interviews for permanent jobs. So far, I’ve spent full days packing jewelry in a warehouse, checking purses at a University track meet,  answering phones in offices that only get like 6 calls a day, and  my current assignment: data entry for a local real estate company.

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The common thread between them all? They’re all mind numbingly boring.

As a creative intellectual, my mind rebels at stagnation. I need input. INPUT! (Short Circuit, anyone?). So I find workarounds to make the hours bearable. I listen to audiobooks and music while I do data entry. When I’m somewhere I can’t use my iPod, I will chat the ear off anyone around me. The receptionist jobs have been the best, though, because I can get mountains of Timeless Tales work done in between calls (don’t worry, they gave me permission to play on the internet!).

But beyond that, the boredom has freed my mind in ways I haven’t felt since I was in high school. My imagination used to be so sharp, but years of being surrounded by mentally stimulating college classes, friends, and activities has actually weakened my ability to access the daydreamy part of my mind. I could still be creative–I wrote several good short stories during those years–but I haven’t been able to immerse myself the way I once could.

This is particularly significant in regards to my novel. I may have written four drafts of it, but since I wrote draft #1 the summer before college, I haven’t given it the mental space it needs to develop properly. If I’m ever going to sell it, I need to live the scenes and hear the characters in my head before I can write them correctly. I used to rehearse scenes in class, while mowing the lawn, and before I fell asleep every night. I can’t say I want this to be my life long-term, but I’m glad I have a beautiful coping mechanism to deal with it.

 

Exclusive Freebie Offer For Writers

Professor SJ Murray

Professor SJ Murray

Update: We were having difficulties with the code earlier, but it should be working now. Leave me a comment if you have any trouble.

Your story’s structure makes or breaks your story & box office. It is your novel’s (or screenplay’s) foundation and framework. To help you nail your story structure, using the classic three act model, we are giving away FREE copies of an online course called Three Act What?.

Written by my friend, Dr. SJ Murray, it walks you through every step of how to make the bones of your story strong. SJ teaches writing at Baylor University’s Honors College and travels around the world offering classes and consultations in screenwriting, so she is quite the expert.

Just click HERE and use the code Q2014 to get your free copy now!phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg

Dear Canva: Where Have You Been All My Life?

Canva-Logo-1-250x200 Yesterday, I raved about how Wix is the only reason Timeless Tales is a reality. However, even with Wix, there’s still one element of my website I struggle with on a daily basis: Graphics.

Hands down, the biggest time sink running T.T. is trolling the internet for public domain images to crop/filter/layer into something that will hopefully give my website more personality and polish. It’s exhausting! Especially because I’ve never learned any design programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.).

Considering Wix isn’t in the graphics business, it does a great job providing stock photos and clipart. However, it doesn’t let you customize its clipart much (no color swapping). Besides, this is an area where there is simply no such thing as enough.

Cue Canva! A free site I found just this week. Canva both supplies tons of customizable clipart/stock photos and is a tool to stick them together for projects. And don’t get me started on their font selection! Time for a website makeover!

Before:

PandoraCoverSubmissions2

 

After:

531 x 230 Pandora's Box

 

Before:

Puss in Boots Cover

 

After:

PussSlider 530x230 second

 

Before (cover page for TT’s facebook page):

 

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After:

TT FB Cover Page

Before (TT’s facebook profile pic):

 

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After:

180 x 180 TT FB Profile Pic

 

I rest my case.

WordPress Versus Wix

ImageA while ago, I posted “My Top 10 Brand Loyalties” where I discussed companies I have bonded with. I would now like to add two more to that list. Wix and Canva. Let’s talk about Wix today. 

Back in 2011, when I first announced I intended to create Timeless Tales, I hit a huge roadblock: Research told me that WordPress was my best option for designing my website. Now, I’m decently tech savvy and I successfully use WordPress for this blog. So how much harder can a website be?

ImageSeveral weeks playing around with WordPress turned into several months. And when I say “playing around”, I mean banging my head against my keyboard crying, “Why does the universe hate me!”. 

No images of my disastrous wannabe WordPress site exist, so here are some pics of my early attempts to create a T.T. logo using Powerpoint and stock photos. Frightful aren’t they?

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Hoping that a little programming expertise would fix my problems, I asked a developer friend to help me. He was great, but neither of us were designers and every tiny change required an email explaining what I wanted. It could take a day just to switch the font color. Worst of all, I was ultimately powerless to make any changes myself. The website looked awful and half-baked. Better to just let it gather dust until I could spend the money on a professional designer. 

Then I started seeing Facebook ads for a site called Wix. When I checked it out, a magical world was opened unto me. It was exactly what I’d craved–a site that let me click and drag all my website’s elements exactly where I wanted them. Everything was customizable! Better yet, it had a good amount of free clipart graphics for me to use. 

This is a screenshot of T.T’s first homepage (minus the header).

Timeless Tales homepage screenshot

In a matter of days, I went from having an unusable website to having a space I was proud of. And I did it all by myself 🙂

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Writing Process Blog Hop

Blog Hop I got tagged by Rhonda Eikamp, who I know through Timeless Tales Magazine,  to participate in this blog hop. She’s just getting started with blogging over at Writing in the Strange Loop. Everyone in the hop answers the same questions and passes the writing baton to others. So let’s get started!

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Pandora by Steve Delamare http://stevedelamare.deviantart.com/

1) What am I working on?
Answer: My main focus is currently Timeless Tales. That’s more editing than writing, of course. My big long term goal project is my YA sci-fi novel Whispers of Aetheria: The Earthian. I’ve been doing rewrites on it for the past five years whenever I have a chunk of time to delve into it. I’ve written short stories and poetry in the past, but I try to concentrate my energy and not get distracted.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Answer: T.T. is unique because it incorporates lots of genres. It exclusively publishes retellings of classic stories, instead of publishing new tales and is one of the few magazines with a focus on mythology, one of my great passions.
Whispers of Aetheria is special because it’s almost as much chick-lit as it is sci-fi.  Sure, it involves other galaxies and characters with telekinetic/telepathic powers, but the narrator is a happy-go-lucky teenager who gets just excited about Oreos as she does about being The Chosen One. Jezel is no Katniss or Bella, who react to the darkness in their worlds with intense introspection. Jezel treats the most dramatic events like they’re a party…which causes her no end of trouble, naturally. I really want this book to bring a fun playful tone to sci-fi without drifting into the zany goofiness of Hitchhikers. 
3) Why do I write what I do?
Answer: I don’t write for the sake of writing (mostly). It’s rarely a private way for me to express myself–every word I jot down, I plan to share someday. Even my journal I think about as a work someone might read in the future. When I find a world/character/idea compelling, I long to capture it and make others experience it.
4) How does my writing process work?
Answer Part A: I’m going to deviate and start by describing my process as an editor. My first issue, I didn’t want to read submissions until the deadline had closed, but since then, I’m trying to speed the process up, so now I start reading once I have 5-10 submissions. I read through each one and rank it from 1-10. Sometimes, I’ll highlight in red the parts I dislike (or typos) and yellow the parts I find impressive. Then I let them sit for a few days before re-reading those with a 5 or under. If a second reading doesn’t make me want to bump up its ranking, I usually send out a rejection letter to the author.
I rarely send out acceptance letters before the deadline has passed, so with T.T., so the longer it takes to hear from me, the better your chances of being accepted. Since I have a limited budget, I want to be 100% sure that I’ve picked the absolute best.

Answer Part B: With my writing, I generally rehearse the story in my mind, letting the characters and plot percolate in my brain until they’re ready. Then I write the first draft in a rush, trying to get to reach THE END without regard to length or style. Next comes my favorite part: Revision. Most of the time, by the time I’ve finished my first draft, I have a clear picture of what needs to be changed in the second. If I’m struggling with a length restriction, this is when I try to make my big cuts to streamline it. The third draft is all about trimming as much as I can. I go line by line and pick out any filler words and replace weak words with punchier ones. For short stories, I’m usually done after that. For novels, there will be tons more revising and I usually run it through lots of reader feedback. Rinse and repeat until my story is published.

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