reading, update

New Resources

For myself but also all current and future clients, I’m always on the hunt for resources to help with proofreading/copy-editing.

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is generally always on hand, various dictionaries, style manuals…

But this one, I think, will be a new trusted source. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for months, and the bookstore did not make it any easier, losing my order twice before it was finally delivered today.

It’s finally here! I WANT TO DEVOUR IT.

From everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve seen with a quick flip-through, my nerdy little heart is in ecstasies.

I’ll be sure to report back with my thoughts once I’m through it!

Thoughts

Let Loose the Imagination

I hate horror.

With a passion.

The last real horror film I watched was The Ring back in 2000.

I hate the feeling of adrenaline taking over. Not knowing what to expect, bracing yourself for the worst.

It’s not even the “in the moment” pain I suffer, it’s what comes later. After I’m in bed and the lights are out. Or worse, when I’m in the shower and the curtain is closed. You never know what’s waiting on the other side (little girl ghosts. ALWAYS little girl ghosts).

It’s worse when there’s nothing else to distract me.

When there’s nothing to stop my imagination from taking over.

I know people fall on either side of this argument in horror: whether it’s better to let the imagination lead the viewer/player/reader through the story or whether it’s better to reveal the Big Scary.

The closest horror experience I’ve had in recent years has been being in the room while my husband played Layers of Fear. If you haven’t played it, it’s quite a fun game if you like that sort of thing. Around and around the house you go, and each time to finish a circuit… things get weirder.

I watched most of it through my fingers, and there was at least one nightmare-ridden night because of it.

But for the most part, the Big Scary was never revealed. Just hinted at. Glimpsed in the corner of your eye. Shadows where there shouldn’t be any. Objects moving, being knocked over. A wicker wheelchair.

So creepy. So well done.

But I guess the developers felt the weight of critique, because we just started Layers of Fear 2 (which we’re streaming live on Twitch every weekend if you want to watch me scream and be reduced to tears), and I keep being pulled out of the game. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will limit this particular example to simply saying: the imagination is given less to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I still watched it between my fingers, but there were times where the fear wasn’t there (thank goodness, really), and I really don’t think that’s what they were going for.

The imagination, the brain, is pretty cool like that. It finds patterns out of nothing. That’s a big part of what it’s wired to do, which means as soon as that adrenaline is going, it will seek out the threat, so nothing could be there, and there will still be a few jumps and shrieks every time you open a door or hear a thump in the distance.

Why bother to make that threat real when just the suggestion of one is enough to get the heart rate going?

The imagination is a powerful force. If you’re looking to evoke emotion in whatever project you’re working on, it serves well to remember it, use it manipulate it.

The advice “show don’t tell,” in my opinion, can be used given just as accurately here as in any other part of creation, and the audience will be more satisfied for it.

So where do you lie on the argument? Should they have shown the demigorgon in Stranger Things? Would Paranormal Activity be more terrifying if they gave away the Scary?

Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts, writing

Working Through Distract-huh?

Working under the dream conditions is, well, the dream.

The perfect view, the perfect volume level, the perfect temperature. No one walking into the room. The kids quiet. The pets asleep.

Ahh…

But how often does that happen?

And, honestly, how easy is it to work when you finally get there? Are you able to actually focus, or do you tend to find reasons to put off starting. Picking the right music, adjusting the height of your chair. Making sure the cat’s still breathing.

Distractions are everywhere — so how do you work through them?

I write my blog posts on Mondays while my husband sits beside me and plays video games or watches youTube videos. Despite the noise, despite his cursing and swearing after he gets his ass handed to him for the 30th time in a row playing Sekiro, I do my best to write some at least semi-coherent blog posts that have something useful to offer.

Some days, it’s not easy. The focus isn’t there, and watching him work not to throw his controller across the room is far more entertaining that figuring out what words to put on the page.

But I get there.

Usually.

My personal trick? Honestly? Persevering. Buckling down, tuning out as much as I can, and taking things one sentence at a time.

So, really, the same trick I use to get my work done on the best day.

Not to say it’s always like that. In coffee shops or out in public, I’m a headphones in, music loud kind of girl. Drown out all the ambient noise and pick my own poison.

At home, in the “best conditions,” I voluntarily distract myself with Spider Solitaire every 500-1000 words, slowly stretching out the break times, which makes it easier to focus in between.

The distractions never go away, so if we let them stop us, we’d never get anything done.

What are you methods of drowning out the world to tackle your projects? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts

Planning for Everything (Hint: You Can’t)

It doesn’t matter what you’re working on, you’re going to run into snags.

It might even feel, more often than you’d like, that you hit one snag after another.

That there are more snags than forward momentum.

You might start to feel beaten down by the snags. Exhausted. Drained.

You might even want to just throw in the towel. Walk away. Sell the house that came with more problems than you expected and go back to living with your parents because at least then if there’s a leak, they can handle it.

Okay, maybe I’m touching on a bit of a personal issue, but it did get me thinking about other things and the importance of looking at the momentum between the snags. What purpose the snags might serve or teach you.

They’re going to happen anyway, so I guess you might as well get something out of it.

In our case, it’s the house repairs. Back in December (FIVE MONTHS AGO), we discovered a leak in our basement. Since then, it’s been issue after issue with mice and drafts and construction, and now, three days after the wall was patched up and two days before the new carpet was due to be installed…. more water.

So we’re feeling a bit down, a bit of all those things mentioned above, but it happened. Raging at the world is not going to make it NOT have happened. So instead I’m doing my best (it’s not easy) to focus on the positive: at least we discovered the water before the carpet was installed. This new leak evidence has also helped us narrow down where the source of the water is likely coming from, which is different from where were thought it was before.

It’s still frustrating and exhausting, but at least turning it into a learning experience makes it productive. Something we can actively seek to interact with instead of passively cursing everything that brought us to this point.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before: there is no good experience or bad experience — there is only an experience.

You can’t plan for everything that’s going to come up in the course of a project.

Conflicts with associates, corrupted/lost files (the horror!), personal issues that effect the quality of the someone’s work/deadlines…

There is no way to know in advance that your schedule is going to be uprooted — and if you’re lucky, it often won’t be — but if it does, there are really only two options: let the snag stop you, or learn from it readjust, and keep plodding along until the next one.

The former might be the easiest, but it’s unfilling, unsatisfying, and, really, you should probably get the job done, which leaves the latter.

Which is not easy to achieve.

My solution? Talking it out with people: first venting and then working through the issue rationally; self-care in the form of walks or meditation to clear the head and let the emotions settle so pragmatism and logic can kick in; chocolate.

In the end, we get there, it’s all about the journey as you go.

Because, really, the thought of living with my parents again (much as I love them) is one of the greatest motivators to keep my butt moving.

What are your go-to tricks to help you gain perspective on a snag? Let me know in the comments!

update, writing

Staying Organized

Before I start this week’s post in earnest, I promised to let you know how I set up my table for ComicCon this year.

Behold! The crates are just standard pine crates found at Home Depot, Michael’s, Canadian Tire, etc. that hubs and I stained, painted, roughed up and generally beat the crap out of to make them look AMAZING. I’m really happy with them. We did with the same with the price list clip boards.

And this? This is just the beginning. We have plans, baby.

But this week’s post isn’t about ComicCon. For an update on that, you can check out the post on my website.

For this week’s excitement, I give you…….

………

….. THE 365-DAY CALENDAR!

What can I say? Not only am I an organization nerd, I’m also an office supply nerd, and this takes the cake for both.

The reason I wanted to see the whole year at a glance?

For reasons that, who knows, might help you as well with whatever projects you’re working on: planning.

My production schedule, my promotion schedule, my release schedule, everything laid out for easy reference. The beauty is that it’s a whiteboard planner, so can be erased as needed. I’m not locked into anything, no pressure, no stress, just there to help me keep everything on track.

The main reason I wanted this? For promotions/sales.

I can never remember when I put what books up for sale, and I don’t want to discount the same book too often/too soon/too far apart. With this plan, I should be able to create a strategy.

Also: isn’t it a thing of beauty?

This right here: a thing of beauty

This picture just shows the public events I have booked for the next couple of months, but as we go, I want to colour code it with my production schedules, what’s due when.

Adding this to my daily bullet journal and my Trello boards, hopefully I”ll be able to stay on track of everything!

What various systems do you put in place to stay organized? Are you walls covered in notes? Calendars everywhere?

update

Putting My Best Foot Forward

As an aside, I accidentally wrote “best food forward” the first time around. Apparently I’m hungry. Please keep that in mind with any other typos that might pop tart up.

As you may have seen already on pretty much all my other social media pages/accounts, I actually did manage to snag a table at ComicCon.

I’m excited about this. The fact that I haven’t yet included a single exclamation mark in this post is merely an exaggerated effort to keep this blog professional. For a full use of exclamation marks, feel free to check out my website.

But I thought I might touch on one of the important (and, in my opinion, the most fun) parts of direct sales: presentation.

It’s probably a given that you should make yourself and your display eye-catching when you want to draw people to you, but I’ll say it anyway, because I often see it at vendor events: the folks with their heads always bent over their phones, sitting at their table not paying attention, expecting their merchandise to do the work for them.

In my experience… these folks don’t tend to do as well.

I’ve had a good amount of opportunity to try different styles and strategies. Like most people trying to achieve a certain goal, I have certain superstitions and must-haves before starting. These are things that develop naturally — fascinatingly, it’s a built-in element of the human psyche; we’re such pattern-seekers that we’ll attach significance to the tiniest details if we think it’ll help us move forward — and even though I know they won’t make a difference, I hang on to them.

For example, my table cloth. I love the green, and I believe it contrasts really well with my books. I’ve worked with a red table cloth, believing the brightness would be even more eye catching, but it didn’t make a difference, so I returned to my green.

Other than those little things, I like to adapt.

A burlesque dancer friend of mine has a great rule. Every time she re-uses an act, she levels it up. An upgrade to the costume, smoothing out part of the dance, tweaking the stage set-up. Just something to polish the act and really make it shine.

I took this rule and have applied it to my display, which means it will never be perfect and (hopefully) will keep getting better.

To give you a better idea of what i mean, I offer the evolution of my display, starting from my very first novel to the recent Geek Market I did in March (and that’s still nothing compared to what I have planned for OCC.)

Evensong Release Party- 2014
Photo Credit: Blossom Moments Photography
Note: Cake is always a win
Awesome Adventure Academy 2015
Tablemate: Megan Connell, who will be keeping me company again this year at OCC!
I actually really like this set-up with the postcards as reading material. Not bad for a small number of books
My first Byward Author’s Market 2017
Simple, with the important elements right out front (newsletter, price list, etc).
Not bad… but a bit bland.
I had the sign for the AAA as well, which was a great level-up. The font is big and legible, and pretty much says what it is. Easy advertising!
Byward Author’s Market 2018
I levelled up in sheer number of books, that’s for sure. I took out my newsletter (sign-ups at table were slim, so it was taking up space I couldn’t really afford to space).
Downside: it’s very cluttered. Easy access for me to grab sellable copies, which is huge and something I plan to keep, but there’s no white space.
I LOVED this display.
The tiered effect got rid of the cluttered look, using vertical space to showcase everything while still leaving parts of the table visible.
This was a shared table, which meant even less space to play with, but I still added little relateable props (the ravens, the box with my business cards, and the book (where I kept my extra boomarks)

I can’t wait to show you what I have to store for OCC! I will say that my husband has been very busy making everything look really amazing.

Want to see ComicCon updates, photos & video in play? RSVP to my Facebook event page! Even if you’re not able to make it in person, you can follow along for larks.

update

The Magic of “When”

Right after I finished reading Flow, I jumped into a book by one of my favourite pop psychology authors: When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink.

Barely a week and a half later, I’m halfway done and really enjoying it.

I love this guy’s research, easily accessible style, and practical tips and suggestions he delivers alongside all the studies and examples.

Drive was another great one, which follows the science behind what motivates us, but When is all about timing.

When to tackle the most challenging tasks of your day.

When you should book your next surgical procedure.

When you should schedule your next interview or start trying to form/break a new habit.

His research shows that timing really is everything. That if you aim to focus on a more cognitively challenging task in mid-afternoon, you’re more likely to make mistakes or have a harder time with it than if you take it first thing in the morning or after an afternoon break.

He introduces the concept of the “nappucino,” and goes into detail about what makes the perfect nap, and how naps are not a sign of weakness, but a gesture of self-care that more of us should embrace. Same goes with actual lunch breaks and actual opportunities to mentally and physically detach yourself from work to get your head clear before the afternoon trough.

If you’re interested in any of these things, you should take a gander at this book, especially if, like me, you have trouble convincing yourself to walk the heck away from your desk for lunch or are constantly pushing yourself through the afternoon mental fog.

Do you have any go-to strategies to clear your head or wake yourself up when you start flagging during the day?

Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts

#IndieApril

We’re coming to a close on another month, and it has been a real indie author storm over on Twitter this month, with the hashtag #indieapril.

From what I can tell, it began with an indie author looking to show support for her fellows while raising awareness for the indie publishing movement that continues to make so many changes to the industry.

I love the idea, and have both promoted and requested titles from other authors over the past couple of weeks. The result: close to a dozen new books on my ereader that sound vastly entertaining.

The stigma against indie, or self, publishing, has significantly decreased over the last couple of years. When I made my first foray into the business in November 2013, a few people had already made it big and the nose-turning-upping had toned down quite a bit, but there were still the questions and condescending “ah, yes,” when I told people I had produced my own books.

These days, you can find a course for every step of the process, there are countless numbers of how-to books on the various ad platforms, cover design, editing, marketing and promotion… everything available to make the quality of your book the best it can be — ideally without breaking the bank.

I’ve been in the business almost 6 years now, have learned a lot and am still learning.

I take pride knowing that I’ve put my best effort into any given project, and that everything is under my control.

As I’ve previously mentioned, even organizations like our municipal and provincial grant programs have started recognizing indie authors — this as recently as within the last year!

I love that now, when I go out to events, if I tell people I do it all myself, I rarely get the patronizing nod, but often amazement or, my favourite, “oh hey! You’re self-publish” from someone not in the business.

It means word is getting out there that quality doesn’t depend on your publishing imprint.

It means that going indie is becoming recognized as a viable option for people who want to take the time and money to do it.

So happy #IndieApril, my fellow self-pubbers. May the playing field continue to grow even, the resources and opportunities continue to grow, and our imaginations continue to venture out into the world.

Thoughts

Wrap up on “Flow”

Of all the types of books I read at various times, the pop psychology/non-fiction/motivational/psychological texts always take me the longest.

Intentionally.

There’s a lot to take in, think about, absorb, and I like to give it ample time to soak into the brain matter.

So this week I’m wrapping up Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi’s Flow, the book that, essentially, attempts to home in on the meaning of life. The root of all true happiness.

An impressive claim?

Perhaps, but I really can’t argue with him.

Before I get into my thoughts on the book, I’ll get right to the recommendation. If you enjoy the sort of book that gets you inside your own head and helps you see the world/your actions differently, you’ll enjoy it. It’s dense at times, but interesting, and as it’s referred to in so many more recent books (this one came out in the 90s and is the definitive work on the subject), it’s a great starting point to give context.

My previous post about the book breaks down his definition of “flow,” and the various criteria required to enter into this optimal experience.

For the rest of the book, he goes more into depth with the various criteria and how they come into practice with examples, like the man who’s worked the same welding job at a company for thirty years, but still loves going into his job because he finds new ways to challenge himself and then goes home to invest new little devices and features for his rock garden as a hobby.

He discusses the fact that research shows people enter the flow state significantly more often at work than their do in their leisure hours, but society focuses so much on the value of working solely so you can enjoy your leisure time that, although less happy people want more of it.

The exception to the rule? People to whom leisure is an active hobby. Something that engages the mind in a way that matches the criteria previously mentioned.

Physical — running to beat your time or master a new form, taking up a new sport, getting into shape; cognitive — learning a new language, taking a course; creative — building/invention something, making art; or social — people? what? — activities can all get you into the flow state.

Passive activities like mindlessly watching television, travelling just to look, enjoying other people’s work without adding any of your own … don’t.

Where people are most affluent, it can actually take more effort to get into the flow state unless is an effort is made to get involved in your surroundings, to keep growing as a person.

He discusses how, without that effort, can people even forget how to set their mind to active thinking. Leading to say, less critical thought while watching the news, taking the opinions of media mavens and your neighbours without taking the time to reason things out yourself (things to consider as we enter the 2019 election prep in both Canada and the States).

The best way to develop the flow mindset, this state of perfect happiness that both grows the self while separating the ego from the self, is to practice it.

So the next time you have a day off and you’re wondering how to fill your time, call up a friend, crack open a model set or a jigsaw puzzle, download a language app, go out and work in the garden.

Life your best life — it starts in your own head.

Thoughts

Finding Your People

I chatted a few posts ago about using social media to network, and how it can be a great way to find like-minded people.

Social media, the use of hashtags and groups, can certainly introduce you to people you never would have met otherwise, and those introductions can lead to endless amounts of support and opportunities that can change your experience in your chosen artistic arena.

But I’ve noticed a returned trend in some of feed that really disheartens me: the obsession with numbers.

The number of followers you have doesn’t matter.

The ratio of followers : following you have doesn’t matter.

Do you derive pleasure from having your chosen people in your feed? Good! Keep them! Your feed is yours to curate. It’s how I’ve managed to keep my temper and my mood level despite all the nonsense in the news.

I’ve seen people try to play guilt games with people who unfollow them, and personally I feel this is silly. If their feed/interactions with you don’t bring you joy, you are under no obligation to continue the connection.

That is the joy of the internet. Set your own boundaries, decide the tone/mood/quality to want your timelines and feeds to hit, and be merciless in maintaining it.

Last year, I wiped out my Facebook profile. I had to keep it to host my author page, but my profile is down to 0 friends. I regularly clear out my Twitter follows, and will soon be doing the same with my Instagram.

Think of it as spring cleaning. The joy of logging on to your various accounts with the dread of what dumpster fire you’re going to walk in on.

This is how you find your people. The ones who matter to you; the ones who can educate you or learn from you; the ones who become a bright spot in your day when your job/hobby/passion (pajobby? COINED IT.) is driving you up the wall.

So if your feed is starting to bring you down, it’s time to Marie Kondo that following list and make your world a personalized, happier place.