Writing Prompt – Two Types of People

In 300 words or less, write a short story inspired by the theme “Two Types of People”. Post your writing and I’ll pick my favorite to feature in my next blog post!

Two Types of People

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There are two types of people who go to a funeral. The first type are the ones who are sad to see the deceased go. They wail and make a right mess of themselves over something that’s going to happen to everyone. This group turns everyone else off to the experience.

The other type are the ones who are happy to see the person in the box go. Sometimes these cheery folks aren’t even allowed to step foot in the church in the first place. On the rare instance that they are, it’s funny to see them try to hide it. They sit there with a grin on their face like they’re at some god damn carnival and give away how happy they are. This group is full of idiots.

I land somewhere between these two groups.

Now this probably makes you wonder if that would make me a third group. My answer to that is shut up and let me work my explanation. There are two groups. I’m in between.

Why am I happy and sad at the same time?

I’m happy cause the woman in that box is someone I hated more than anyone else in the whole god damned world. But it’s a bittersweet kind of happy. I loved to hate her, and I don’t know what I’ll end up doing with myself now that she’s dead.

Then again, I was the one who killed her. That’s always good. Although who else will I get to kill now that the woman who made my life a living hell is gone? I should’a worked up to her, maybe start with a few other annoying people before I took all my anger out on the person who really deserved it. I probably would feel a little more satisfied.

Why Bad Reviews Are Actually Great

It’s every writer’s worst nightmare. Or really any artist’s. You put weeks of work, maybe even months or years, into a creative project. There are long nights, days you forget to eat, and more coffee than any human being should rationally consume, but when that project is finally done, it’s not just a book, or a song, or a painting. It’s YOU.

And then the wake up call comes. Reviews come in and the world absolutely hates it.

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It’s hard hearing a negative review. People telling you something you put all that time and effort into, is bad can hurt. But let me tell you, bad reviews are a good thing.

Before you close the page for thinking I’m crazy, hear me out.

When you get a bad review, or even a hundred bad reviews, there’s only one place you can go from there. Up. Well, you could stop creating art all together, but then the only person you’re hurting is yourself. Instead of looking at negative feedback as an attack, see it as you’re starting at square one, and now all you have to do is create something better than the first piece of art you put out to the world.

Still getting bad reviews after your tenth submission? Maybe it’s time to learn from that feedback. Now, I will say learning from trolls is going to be near impossible, but you can learn from the negative feedback you get from people who are giving constructive criticism. If you keep doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting people to feel differently about your work, the only person you have to blame is yourself. Take a step back, hear what they’re saying, and learn from your mistakes.

And lastly, negative feedback keeps you humble and teaches you how you handle rejection from your audience. When you talk to authors who are on their third or fourth book, they’ll all tell you the same thing. You can’t please everyone 100% of the time. You can, however, learn how to overcome the insecurities that piggyback on artists from every field. When you see that negative review, acknowledge that it hurts, but instead of giving up, move on. Know that person isn’t in the demographic you’re writing for and find a different audience.

I know it’s easier to say this than to do it, but trust me. The minute you learn how to handle rejection from the audience, the more you’ll be able to tap into a creative part of yourself that isn’t afraid of what others will think.

 

How do you handle rejection when it comes to your artform? What keeps you going when you get a negative review?

Author Interview #7 – Alexandra Badita

My favorite part about these author interviews are getting to speak with and learn about writers from all genres and walks of life. This week, I have Alexandra Badita, a woman who’s actively trying to make the world a better place through her blogs and writings.

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Q. I like to start with a quick introduction. Tell the audience a little bit about what your life is like outside your writing life. 

A. My day to day job is juggling tasks and deadlines as project manager in a digital marketing agency. Writing though keeps my evenings and weekends busy, together with my other passions that I try to squeeze in my schedule, such as salsa dancing, learning to play the piano, reading, getting better at cooking, volunteering in a bookstore and discovering my current city of adoption, London.

 

Q. In your blog, you talk about how you came up with the word “Impressivity”, and that people should “make impressions wherever they go”. How do you live your life by this mantra, and what advice can you give to live a more impressioned life?

A. When I thought about this word, I pictured all the small things from our daily routine that can make an impression on us, like spotting a blossom tree on the way to the office or smelling the fresh croissants from the street bakery, as well as big things that make a bigger impact. Impressivity also incorporates the meaning of each of us making an impression on the world surrounding us, as the beautiful and unique individuals that we are. I just believe we all need to collect daily impressions and also leave an impression  whenever we step into a room and there is no secret recipe for all this, just take the time to observe and be observed.

 

Q. I was taken by your website, “The Guy That”. What inspired you to create a website to help people through their past relationships?

A. Writing has always been the best way for me to get over strong emotional episodes in my life. Besides, I figured there are so many things – crazy, beautiful, interesting things –  happening in my life on that front, that I might as well share my stories and maybe other women will learn from my mistakes. When I hit the depression stage a couple of years back, I went to therapy for a while and the best cure was the writing exercise that my therapist recommended. Putting feelings onto paper is one of the most useful tools to cope with extreme emotions. That combined with my passion for writing about relationships lead to “The Guy That” idea.

 

Q. As you help people through relationships, give advice on everything from life, to fashion, to your life in London, who’s there for you the most when you need advice?

A. I obviously turn to my friends for pieces of advice and to my parents, but  there are situations when I choose to stay introvert and debate it with myself rather than put it on someone else’s account.

Q. What would you recommend for people who want to tell their stories but are too nervous or don’t know where to start?

A. Write it, then burn the paper. If it’s the fear to share your thoughts, this will come with time and confidence and understanding that one must not be ashamed of their feelings. But the most important step is to write your feelings down, your thoughts and everything that seems unnatural to be spoken out loud. Then rip it out or burn it. But once the first wave of relief washes over you, writing will soon be the best reflection of the stories that you keep inside and deserve to be shared.

 

Q. In the “How To” portion of your blog, you have a great list of “How to make time for things that really matter”.  Do you find it easy to take your own advice, or is that something you have to work on?

A. It’s definitely not easy to juggle with a day job, a side hustle, hobbies and an active social life. And I know most of the people manage it. But my 3-step secret to be able to keep up with the schedule is to ‘List, Prioritize, Commit’. I hear so many of my friends finding excuses  that they don’t have time to accomplish their goals. But it’s all about time management. Not having time is my own fault for not being able to prioritize. Finding excuses won’t make the day longer or put more minutes in an hour. We make the choice. We commit to what is important to us.

 

Q. You do a lot of traveling, and have pictures of yourself in places all over the globe. Where’s one place in particular that you are the most inspired as a writer?

A. The best places where inspiration hits me happen to be by the water – whether it’s at the seaside, on the quiet shore of Edinburgh’s beach, along the Seine river in Paris or just by the Thames in my London neighborhood. Water always calms me down, lets my thoughts clear away and gives me a sense of clarity.

 

2326098Q. What book would you say has made the most lasting impression in your life?

A. The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky was one of
the life-changing books that gave me a new perspective into the abstract concept of happiness. After my panic attack and coming close to depression, I became more and more interested in this whole happiness pursuit and reading this book has opened so many windows of my understanding.

 

Q. What have you found to be the most rewarding part about your writing?

A. Writing has always helped me in the soul-healing process, but beyond the personal benefit, the best rewards are the pieces of feedback from my blogs’ readers who find meaning and useful lessons in what they read.

 

Q. Like many writers, finding inspiration can be difficult and often times an uphill battle. How do you deal with writer’s block when working on your blog, or is it something you don’t believe in, in the first place.

A. I wish this was just a myth, but I’ve experienced writer’s block to the extreme decision of taking a break from writing. After going through an attempt to a relationship that dropped my self-esteem level and drained my whole energy, I just couldn’t get myself together to write down the experience. Whenever I’d sit down in front of the computer, I would stare at the blank Word document trying to dive into my thoughts but I was too angry with myself for having allowed  my inner balance to be shaken again. It was too painful to accept having been offended to such an extent that I considered myself guilty. I had to deal with all the demons first, then I went by myself on a trip to Paris to reflect and reach my healing point and only then I started to write again.

 

Q. Are you working on making your blog or website into a book any time soon?

A. My plan for this year includes writing a book about – what else? –  writing. People need to be encouraged to find their way into this beautiful world of healing through writing and I believe that there is a writer in all of us.

 

Q. On top of giving advice, you also do movie reviews and talk about current films that are popular in today’s culture. What do you think makes for a good movie, and what type of movie would you like to see more of?

A. As far as I am concerned, a good movie has to connect with myself and reflect a realistic way of seeing life. I am not a fan of SF or action movies, although I do appreciate their entertainment value. But I am more intrigued by movies that question real life aspects like Richard Linklater’s trilogy of the Befores (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight”) or Woody Allen’s films.

 

Q. What is your favorite part of living in London?

A. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of big cities. But there is always something to do here: if you want to be entertained, you just look up plays, shows, the newest bar, or if you want to take a long walk, you just get comfortable shoes and head to one of the parks or along the river. I am lucky to live in a beautiful neighborhood and I rarely feel the need to indulge in the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

51j10qkqfsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Q. Let’s say you’re snowed in for a few days, and you only have five books in your whole house to keep you busy. Which five books are they?

A. “Indian Love poems” – I just can’t get enough of reading them, there is a special way of putting love into words in the Indian culture; “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now” by Maya Angelou – so many great lessons and insights on feminism, racism and much more; “The How of happiness”; “A Tale of Love and Darkness” by Amos Oz – the writing was really impressive and I’d love to re-read it, “The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo” by Amy Schumer – she’s funny and witty, curious to see how she puts it in writing.

 

Q. Your goals for 2017 was to push yourself out of your comfort zone. How have you been reaching for this goal, and what do you have planned to help you achieve this in the future?

A. Although it’s only been less than half a year since my New Year’s Resolutions, I have to proudly admit I already took a couple of steps that were the most frightening to me. One was my trip to India in March, which included so many firsts ( first long flight, first trip to Asia, first time applying for a visa and so on). But I am so happy I did it and now my travel planning is no longer limited to Europe, I can be more confident when thinking about future destinations. Another big step outside of my comfort zone was launching “The Guy That”, after two years of playing with the idea of this project and I am excited to plan its evolution into more and more challenging tasks. It’s the only way to succeed.

 

Q. Your fashion photos and personal style looks like it came straight off the runway! If you could sit down to brunch with any fashion icon, past or present, who would it be and why?

A. Fashion is for me more of an esthetic way of playing with impressions. Dress to impress, right? There are many icons along the history who made daring steps in the evolution of this art, but if I could sit down and talk fashion, I would do it with Annie Leibovitz, one of my favorite fashion and portrait photographers. I’m sure she’s seen so much style and beauty in her photo shoots that her stories must be fascinating.

 

Q. Lastly, are there any big projects coming up on your horizon that you’d like to promote, or talk about?

A. Many ideas are lined up on my agenda and it may be premature to talk about them, but I would like to see my websites helping as many people through live workshops and online courses and obviously through the upcoming book that will be full of tips and valuable advice for healing through writing.

 

Want to know more about Alexandra and her projects? Check out the links below!

34b98e6Website: www.theguythat.com
Blog: www.impressivity.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Impressivity_
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/impressivity/ & https://www.facebook.com/theguythat/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/impressivity_by_alexandra & https://www.instagram.com/the_guy_that/
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/impressivity/ & https://www.pinterest.com/theguythat/
G+: https://www.google.com/+ImpressivityNetbyAlexandra

 

 

If I Were a Character… – A writing exercise

There are little things about characters that make them more real to both the author and the audience. Birthmarks, scars, and little quirks are all things that contribute to who that character is and how they act in a story.

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Victoria Griffin created a list back on April 10th, 2016 to pinpoint the things about herself that made HER a character. Check out what would make her stand out on a page here, but in the meantime, I figured I’d jump on board and play along with my own personal version of the game.

What makes me a character….

  • I have a scar on the left side of my head from not wearing a helmet on a bike ride to work. I had to get twelve staples and it still aches sometimes.
  • I have a bad habit of biting my cuticles till they bleed when I’m very nervous.
  • Half my head is shaved, the other half is almost to the middle of my back, but when I’m working, it’s always thrown up in a bun.
  • My clothes always have at least five strands of dog hair on them.
  • I rely on my stage acting knowledge to come off as more confident than I really feel.
  • I whistle way more than is probably socially acceptable.
  • There’s usually something odd in my pocket (worry stone, tiny Ganesha, a nail or screw from a project, a shell I thought was cool, etc.)
  • I’m almost always wearing jeans and flip flops, if the weather permits.

 

How about you? What makes you a character, and how can you pick out little things to make your MC unique? Not a writer? What little things do some of your favorite characters do, have or say that makes them unique?

Author Interview #6 – Claire Brown

Time travel, war, and a dog named Hero. Claire Brown’s social media caught my attention the instant I saw it, and since I’m a sucker for all three of those things, I spent hours panning through her pages. With three books under her belt, and more on the way, I hope to be able to do a book review for her work soon. For now, enjoy her interview, and keep an eye out for more from her in the future.

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Q.  As always, I like to do an introduction before we get to the writing questions. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life.

I don’t think I’m ever outside of my writing life!  I’m one of those writers where there is always a story in my head playing like a movie in the back of my mind.  

That aside, I’m an avid reader, movie goer, theater lover, baker and dog walker.

 

Q. I already mentioned this to you, but your dog, Hero, looks like such a sweetie. IMG_1598What are the joys that come when working with a close animal companion?

Thank you, Hero is as his name suggests a ‘hero’.  He’s a four year old Golden Retriever.  I’ve had Retrievers most of my life, Hero came in to my life when he was four weeks old and I was looking for a companion for my mam while I was at work.  We’d lost my dad the year before, while he was ill we couldn’t have pets but without him and without a dog there was just something missing.  From the moment we met Hero and he decided to chew my shoe we knew he was meant to be with us. 

HeroSo since the day we brought him home at 9 weeks he’s been a joy to be around.  Even as I write this he’s sitting beside me trying to close my laptop so I will take him for a walk.  He’s the kind of dog that makes you move, he never leaves your side and he makes you laugh everyday. 

He is the inspiration behind Captain in The Poppy Garden because he is in his own way a service dog to us.  He’s just a very naughty one!

 

JonahAxe_SMASHWORDSQ. Your Jonah Axe Series looks filled with action, adventure, and time travel. What inspired you to write this series, and how many books are you planning on writing for it?

Like most people there are times in life when something happens or you do something and wonder what if I’d done it differently, would things be better, worse or just the same?  I decided if there was a way to change things in life how would that work and how would it impact the lives of the people given that power to change things. 

I think the opportunities for the series are endless, I have drafted out a second novel which would look a little deeper in to the background of some of the main characters, after that I  have considered going back in time to the Tudor court, to Jack the Ripper and so on. 

 

 

Q. Being from Sunderland, England, what made you want to study American history?

I always had an obsession with America from childhood, I’m not quite sure where it came from.  When I applied for University and was talking to advisers about courses one recommended Joint Honours and since it gave me the opportunity to go to the USA and study there as well as in the UK I jumped at the chance.  I studied at Western Washington University for part of my second year and made some great friends.  

 

ThePoppyGarden_iPADQ. As a military spouse, I’m always grateful to writers who capture how war affects not only those who fight, but those they come home to. When writing The Poppy Garden, were you able to speak with multiple veterans, or was it inspired by solely your grandfather’s experiences?

I lost my grandfather when I was 16, and I always feel that the book of his life has so many blank pages. I tried for a long time to fill in those blanks but there is a lot of information on what happened to him that it’s just not possible to uncover. I couldn’t tell his story completely and that always frustrated me.

I was working in my garden one day trying to restore it from the manic digging of Hero when it dawned on me how much my grandfather relied on his garden and that it wasn’t just a hobby  for him.   When I started to think about it in a different way I found that there was another story I could tell. Initially I was able to speak to my grandfather’s brother who could tell me what happened once my grandfather got home. 

As part of my research I have spoken to a lot of ex-service personnel from forces and other uniformed services and I also managed to contact a member of my grandfather’s crew who told me what had happened to all members of the crew after WW2 and how they had coped or not as the case may be. 

I also looked to the women in my family who had coped with extremely stressful situations and how they were able to support their partners they became the inspiration for Sky. 

 

Q. Authors from all walks of life it seems has an opinion on one very controversial topic. Writer’s block. Do you believe in it, and if so, how do you get out of these slumps?

Oh yes I believe in it and I have had periods where I just haven’t been able to write.  I think for me it’s when real life outside of writing becomes too stressful or there is too much going on and your mind is just too tired.    I usually try not to beat myself up about it, I’ll try other things to relax be it go for a walk, go to the gym, read a book.  I think it’s about giving myself permission to have a break, not feel guilty about not writing and allow my mind and body to relax, then when I’m ready the ideas will start coming back. 

 

Q. Looking back on the past three novels you’ve written, what advice would you give to not only your younger self, but writers just starting to put out their books?

Write, just write anything and everything, don’t get hung up on the end goal whatever that is for you.  Write whatever your imagination inspires you to write.  Not every idea will become a book, maybe you’ll have an idea but you don’t really expand on it for a year or so, the main thing is you sit down, make time for writing to be part of your life because it makes you happy. 

When you have your framework or even finish your book, don’t be disheartened by those who criticize you, not everyone will love everything – it would be a rather boring world if that were so.  Pick your reviewers carefully, family and friends are great but if your friend is a horror fan giving them a romantic drama probably isn’t the best idea.   

At the end of the day as long as writing makes you happy that’s the most important thing. 

 

Q. With your extensive knowledge in history, what time period do you find yourself drawn to the most, and why?

I think it would have to be either Tudor England or WW2.  

When I was around six or seven I remember getting a magazine on Queen Elizabeth I and since then I’ve always loved the Tudor period.  I’m constantly watching documentaries about it and reading up on the dynasty from the War of the Roses through to the Gunpowder plot. 

Obviously my interest in WW2 stems from my grandfather, I used to spend my weekends with him and my Nan watching old movies, listening to Glenn Miller.  I also think my personal style suits 1930’s/1940’s dress – just as some people love the Boho look or goth look I tend to love that Old Hollywood style. 

I think everyone has some time or something that they harken back to as almost a golden age, looking at it through rose tinted glasses and that’s probably how I look at both these time periods.

 

Q. The editing process can be a long road if you don’t know where to start. When it comes to make adjustments to your first draft, what’s the first thing you look to improve on?

Initially once I’ve completed a work, I give myself around two weeks away from it so when I go back to it it’s with a fresh mind.  I then tend to work on grammar, layout and story edits as I go.   I think once I have it in almost the right format it’s easier for me to work through and spot the errors, omissions in the story.  I can then work on expanding where I need to or cutting out what’s no longer necessary. 

 

Q. From your blog, you say you have a love of baking. What would be your favorite pastry to make, and your favorite pastry to eat?

I’m love making a steak pie – I do have to be careful with some foods so I tend to make it how my nan taught me as a puff pastry top rather than a full pastry base.  There’s nothing better than having that golden crispy top to slice through and hear crack and crumble. 

On the sweet side at the moment I’ve been making a lot of Jam twists and spirals which are so simple to make and taste great.  Or there is a recipe I came across on Goodfood to make an almond biscuit which is like a cross between a meringue and a macaroon which are completely addictive. 

If I’m buying a pastry I’m a sucker for an almond croissant.  I love anything with almonds and/or marzipan. 

Q. What made you decide to do the independent route when it came time to publish your books, and how has it been the most rewarding?

I had tried from the age of nineteen to go down the traditional publishing route with a few projects including a screen play and radio play.  I took some time away from writing during my dad’s illness, after I lost him I decided life was too short to wait for someone to believe in me and if I wanted to be a published writer there were now ways and means that weren’t available when I was nineteen. 

It was a great moment for me to finally see my work in print – as a paper back and as an ebook, it did boost my spirits and help me in darker times to focus. 

 

Q. In Chapter 9 of your blog is all about the right visual for book covers, and I agree with you that Jeanie Henning’s work is eye catching and beautiful. While many authors don’t even get to speak with their cover artists, let alone have a say in what goes on said cover, what’s your favorite part about building your cover with a fellow artist?

I was really lucky to find Jeanie when I did, she’s a great artist where as my artistic talents are probably more like a two year old with colouring pencils.  I’m creative just not artistic!  Jeanie is great as she has a way of working that really works for me.  For my first two novels we work on a Q&A basis from which she draws out the major points of the novel and works on creating images to match that.  Once she has a draft we discuss it and make minor changes.

For The Poppy Garden, it was a slightly different process as I knew the visual I wanted – I put in to words what I was looking for provided some images and Jeanie expanded on that.  The first version we discussed and tweaked before we got to what is the cover now. 

I think for me its vital to get a cover I love as it represents me and my work so I have to really connect with it. 

 

Q. What genre do you love to read the most, and who’s your favorite author in said genre?

I can be pretty eclectic in all things, books, movies and films. 

I do love Agatha Christie, so when I want something familiar and reassuring that I know I’ll love I tend to go for a cozy mystery, I love the Agatha Raisin Series and recently I’ve been reading some of the British Library Crime Classics which are brilliant.

History wise I love reading Lucy Worsley, her book The Art of British Murder is a favorite.

Romantic Drama’s are great and I’ve really enjoyed books by Fiona Harper, Samantha Tongue, Holly Martin and Lisa Dickinson. 

I’m also a Christmas obsessive so any Christmas book is good for me.  I love classics like A Christmas Carol each year I have a stock of Christmas themed novels to read from the beginning of October. 

 

Q. Novel writing and blogging can be two completely different animals, but it looks like you’ve tamed them both. What’s the most enjoyable part of blogging that you’ve found to be different from writing novels?

I think for me blogging has become a bit like keeping a diary, while I’m not going to reveal any deep dark secrets it does help me clear my mind.  It’s like having a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee and piece of cake. 

 

Q. Holidays play a big part in your blog. If you could spend Christmas with any author, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you get them?

It would have to be someone like Charles Dickens for Christmas – he created the imagery of Christmas for me, the snowy Victorian streets with the carol singers just make me feel all warm in side. 

I think as a present for him it would have to be a leather monogramed notebook and fountain pen – I’m not so sure he’d appreciate an ipad! 

 

Q. My favorite topic to talk about with other writers are when it comes to their antagonist. Even if it’s a “situational” antagonist, the relationship between the writer and their villain has always fascinated me. Which antagonist do you find yourself enjoy writing the most, and how do you relate to them?

For me as a child I was bullied severely from around 5 to 16, as anyone who has been bullied will probably tell you those experiences stay with you.  I think for me my villains take on the worst elements of the bullies, I’m not sure if I enjoy writing them or whether it’s just become a way of me addressing something that shaped my life. 

 

Q. You’re very organized when it comes to your creative process. What would you say is the best part about the way you work?

I think for me love the whole process of writing be it making notes in a not book because I’ve had a great idea in the most ridiculous of places, or walking with Hero and looking like a right idiot as I dictate ideas in to my phone. 

There’s nothing better for me than sitting by the fire with my laptop writing away it’s like dictating a movie that plays in my head only if I don’ like a scene I can quickly rewind and change it. 

 

Q. What novel would you say is under-appreciated that you’d suggest the audience to go out and read?

One of my all time favorites is Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Lerox, I think the musical outshines the book in peoples mind and while I love the musical the book to me is a darker exploration of what makes a complex monster and the social constructs of the time. 

 

Q. To end, tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now and when you hope to have it finished.

Currently I’m working on an idea for a romance with a hint of fairy tale about it. 

 

IMG_0760Want to find out more about Claire Brown? Check out her websites and social media below.

Website:  http://clairebrownempire.wix.com/clairelbrownautho
Blog:http://clairelbrownauthor.blogspot.co.uk     & http://myifeasawriterwhennotscribbling.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClaireLBrown.MyLifeAsAWriter/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/clbrown_author/
Twitter: @CLBrown_author
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1L86LHd
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRBjOrUZiRwUliIJ-I9hB7A
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/clbrown34author/
Draft to Digital; https://www.books2read.com/u/bzp9qq

My Intro to Mud Run Training

muddy-shoes-4-1433316I like to think I’m a little athletic. I go on walks, I enjoy runs occasionally, and during the warmer months, I hike wherever I can with my two dogs. That being said, I’m not ready for an obstacle course race, or an OCR if I want to sound like less of a rookie. When I really look at myself, I’m not in shape for more than the walks I go on. I spend my days behind a computer screen writing, or working at a museum and, while I was a rough and tumble tyke, I haven’t been active enough to do a OCR in years.

With my husband in the military, he’s more than happy to help. When he spends months out in the cold and snow for training, I think he’s finding the thought of me training for even 3.1 miles of mud hilarious. He’s agreed to help, but I’m a little scared of what his type of training entails. The last time I encouraged him to work out with me, I found myself with a rucksack strapped to my back, hiking up the side of a steep hill in the middle of the Texas heat. Since I know he’s a big believer of tough love, I’m not sure I want to jump into the rough stuff yet.

Instead, I started doing my own research, and here’s what I’ve learned from the web.**

  1. Get ready to do more than running. 
    This should be a given, especially since it’s an obstacle course, but this is the first thing I need to add to my workout routine. Ditch jumping , bear crawls, and rope climbs are all events I expect to see, so I plan to add weight lifting and yoga to my list of things to do. Weight lifting for the strength, and yoga for the balance.
  2. Get ready to get dirty.
    Of course, another given, but I don’t go running when it’s wet or muddy out, cause I’m lazy like that. I need to expose myself to different environments if I plan on keeping up with my team. Since I live in Washington, and it’s STILL the rainy season (and let me tell you, as a Texas girl, I’m not enjoying the constant wet weather, when I’m used to dry Hill Country heat), there will be plenty of chances for me to get used to being uncomfortable while I run.
  3. Eat better.
    This is going to be the hardest part for me. While I don’t do a lot of fast food places, I love my pastries, carbs and occasional salty snacks. I don’t eat nearly enough protein, and I could stand to have more veggies in place of cookies. On top of all that, I drink tea and coffee like it’s water. I can’t get enough of my earl gray, jasmine pearl, or green ginger tea. Luckily I’ve been cutting down to one or two cups of coffee a day, depending on how much I’m writing. I should really focus on drinking more water, especially on my writing days, and just eat healthier over all.

I have till June 24th to get my training done. As of this moment in time I’m a 5’4″, 165 lb, writer, with a body fat percentage of I don’t even know what. I’ve got a long way to go, but here’s hoping this change to my lifestyle sticks long enough for it to become a habit!

 

 

**Now I’m not a personal trainer, clearly, and most of these pointers are all things I read about online or heard from my husband. I don’t recommend doing any major changes to your diet or workout schedule if you haven’t spoken to someone first, and I plan consulting my local gym, so I don’t hurt myself. If you’d like to do an OCR, or if you’re training for any sort of race or triathlon for the first time, please talk to your doctor, and someone who knows what they’re doing. 

Author Interview #5 – Cristina Tarantino

Cristina Tarantino is one of the first memoir authors I’ve had the privileged to interview and wow, does this woman get around! Not only a writer, Cristina does photography and creates journals as well. She’s filled with creative and spiritual insight and I hope you enjoy looking through her work as much as I have.

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All of the pictures, besides my “Author Interview” picture above, are works of Cristina Tarantino. Enjoy.

Q.  Let’s start off the way I always like to. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life. 

My name is Cristina Tarantino, and I am 35 years old. I am married and have two boys. I am originally from Spain, but was born and raised in Germany. I thought growing up with two cultures was fun, until I married my American husband, and added yet another culture to my life. Being immersed into so many cultures is a blessing, since it has enabled me to be a very accepting and open person. I am also a very spontaneous person with lots of hobbies. Adventuring and traveling is one of them, which came in handy during my 13 years as a military wife, and is still a big part of my life today.

 

dsc_0072Q. Along with writing, you also draw and take part in photography. Which of your creative outlets do you find yourself more competitive than the others?

I would say that photography is the outlet I find myself more competitive in, since I most often compare my work to other photographers, and often forget that just like in writing everyone has their own style. I had to remind myself that to stand out one has to be different, and not the same as everyone else. This mindset helps me a lot when I am being creative.

 

Q. Judging by your twitter and blog, you travel quite a bit. Which location do you find yourself most inspired by?

I have to say that I feel happiest and most inspired when I am surrounded by nature, preferably mountains. We usually try to take trips every weekend, if it’s not to a neighboring European country, than to a neighboring town. Nevertheless, cities and their old architecture can also be an inspiration for me; however, I would go extremely early in the morning as to find it empty. During the day the city is just a bit too busy for my mind.

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Q. As you say on your websites, English is your third language, with your parents from Spain, and having been born and raised in Germany. How have these many cultures influenced your writing and do you find yourself drawn to one more than the other?

Surprisingly enough I find myself most drawn to the American culture and the English writing. As far as being influenced, I think all three cultures have influenced my writing in different ways. Nevertheless, I feel that the political state in these countries have influenced my writing more than the culture has.

 

Q. You said you were creating a memoir based off your life while your husband’s been deployed. What do you find is the most difficult part of writing about your past?

Actually I find writing about my past extremely liberating. I feel as if I have bottled up all the stress, worries, and struggles I faced growing up, as well as before, during, and after my husband’s deployment, and can now finally let it all out through my writing.

 

Q. Many writers have to find a balance between family and their work. As a mother, how do you make time for your craft while working on your novel?

When my children were little I used their nap time, and the evenings, after they went to bed, to pursue my interests. Now that they are older I use the time they are in school to write and market my work. When I am busy with the kids, or my daily routine and something pops in my head, I just take out my phone record my thoughts for later when I have more time, and move on with what I was doing.

For my photography, I use our family weekend trips to take my pictures. Usually it’s a family affair where I propose a location, and my sons and husband either agree or disagree. If they disagree we just find another location. Beauty can be found everywhere in nature, so I am not very picky, and of course I am trying to make it fun for everyone.

 

Q. What do you find is the best part as a writer living the military lifestyle? 

Well my husband separated from the military five years ago; however, when we were still living the military lifestyle I think the best part is getting to know new places and new people. I find meeting new people inspiring, since everyone has a unique life story. I think there is much we can learn from each other, much that could possibly influence our writing positively.

 

Q. You live a very active lifestyle. Hiking up mountains, taking long walks with your camera, and of course keeping up with your sons. What advice do you give to writers who are trying to spend less time in front of their computers and more time outdoors?

Spending time outdoors is extremely important for our mental well-being, and not to mention for our eyes. Sitting in front of the computer for hours, sometimes frustrated because of writers block, cannot be healthy. I would say set a goal for the day and stick to it, then go outside find a nice path to walk on or bench to sit on, and reflect. You can even bring a pen and paper, just in case that the fresh air and new scenery will inspire you.

 

10. Do you find yourself inspired by your boys’ interests when working on children’s books?

Although my boys are a bit too big for the children’s book I published, they were my inspiration. My children are growing up as American Muslims, and that in itself can be a bit of a challenge today. With them as inspiration, I wanted children of different faiths, race, and ethnicity to know that it is great to be different. I titled it “I Belong Here” because that pretty much sums it up.

 

dsc_0012Q. You created a journal for first time Muslims, titled My First Ramadan Journal. Tell us a little bit about it and what would you say is the hardest part in today’s world to live a more spiritual life?

My First Ramadan Journal is a journal I published for people to record their own experience when they fast 30 days for the first time, during the month of Ramadan. It can be fun and entertaining to read later on in life.

As far as the difficulty of living a more spiritual life goes, I think life as we live it today it quite distracting. We are constantly bombarded with the latest gadgets, cars, and brand names that we seemed to sometimes forget all the blessings that we already have. I think we just have to lose the feeling of entitlement, and become thankful.

 

Q. What made you want to write memoirs, and what part of your writing process do you take the most joy in?

Before my husband deployed I bought two journals. My plan was for my husband and I to write in them, and then send them to each other every other month. With such a long separation, 15 month, I figured that the small things would not come up in our phone conversations. So I wanted the journals to catch all those small things that we were missing in each other’s lives while he was deployed. Somehow we only sent the journals to each other ones, and after the deployment I kept writing into mine. With all those journal entries I thought it might be interesting for other people to read what I went through in my life, not just the deployment, but also my conversion, and other things that happened to me throughout my life.

As far as the writing process, I would say I enjoy the prewriting the most. Being able to read my old journal entries, and remember certain life experiences while writing them down is nice.

 

Q. Many writers have said the hardest part about the work would be the rewrites. What’s your editing process, and how much time do you spend reworking your novels?

My memoir is the first big project I have written. Although I have edited some parts, I have not officially finished it so the editing process that fits me is still to be determined.

 

Q. Who would you say has been the biggest help in realizing your dream as a writer?

I would say all the authors of all the books I enjoyed reading have helped push me into the direction of writing. (My favorite author would be Jane Austen, and I like the works of Bronte, just to name a few).

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Q. On top of all your creative works, you’ve also designed “My Panic Journal”. How
do you hope this journal helps others, and what advice would you give to those who suffer from panic attacks?

In Jan of 2015 I had a panic attack while picking my son up from school. Since then I have been struggling to gain my independence back. Writing has helped me cope with this, and I thought I would provide a journal to possibly help someone else coping while writing.

My advice is to stay strong and let this experience in life make you stronger. Stay positive and try to get out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, this will make you more confident, thus more your old self.

 

Q. To wrap things up, tell us a little bit about what you’re writing next, and when you hope to accomplish it?

I am trying not to start any other big writing projects next to my memoir, since I think it would just delay the editing process and publishing date. Nevertheless, I am always trying to publish my picture e-books of my latest adventures, so stay tuned and follow me on Amazon.

 

 

Want to know more about Christina? Check out some of webpages and social media below!

Website: www.tarantinocristina.com
Blog: www.tarantinosbooks.blogspot.com
www.tarantinosart.blogspot.com
www.imagesthroughmycamera.blogspot.com
Facebook: @imagesthroughmylens @tarantinoc @tarantinosart
Instagram: @tarantino_C  & @tarantinosbooks
Twitter: @tarantinocristi
Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/cristinatarantino
GoodReads: Cristina Tarantino

Favorite Movies by Year

I saw a friend of mine on Facebook doing a fun project like this. You list the years since your birth with your favorite movie that came out that year. Since I love movies, I figured hey! Why not?

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1989 – This was a tossup between The Little Mermaid and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The nostalgic side of me says The Little Mermaid, but the goofball side of me who loves Keanu has to go with Bill and Ted.

1990 – Edward Scissorhands, hands down.

1991 – Terminator 2
As a side note, I did watch Drop Dead Fred all the time when I was a kid. Now that I watch it as an adult, I have to go, wow. I didn’t understand this movie at all.

buffy_movie1992 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

1993 – Robin Hoods Men in Tights or Dazed and Confused
What a great year for movies!

1994 – Leon: The Professional

1995 – Seven or Clueless.
Yeah. I know, two very different movies.

1996 – The Birdcage

1997 – The Fifth Element

1998 – Shakespeare in Love or The Truman Show
Like a lot of the movies on this list, these were two movies I didn’t see until I married my husband and we combined our movie collection. You caught me. I only married him for his choice in movies.

1999 – The Talented Mr. Ripley

2000 – Chocolat
I missed out on a lot of movies that came out this year. I am way behind on these greats.

2001 – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
I love Lord of the Rings. Just assume that if a LotR movie came out, it’s at the top of that year, but I’m choosing to pick another to be fair.

2002 – Treasure Planet
This one was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up and had a special place in my heart. I really think it’s underrated.

2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean

2004 – Shaun of the Dead
I have an irrational fear of zombies,but I loved this movie. Pegg and Frost are my favorite comedy duo.

2005 – Serenity or Sin City
I’m one of those people who didn’t know anything about Firefly until Serenity came out. I saw Serenity at a friend’s sleepover, and it wouldn’t be till 2011 that I saw the first episode of Firefly.

2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
First movie to kick off my love of del Toro

2007 – Hot Fuzz
I actually really enjoyed The Mist, and a few other less popular movies from this year, but Hot Fuzz is still my favorite 2007 flick.

2008 – The Dark Knight
This was a pretty disappointing year of movie for me. Thankfully I was saved by Heath Ledger’s Joker and Iron Man. Too bad that Indiana Jones movie we were promised never came out. . . yep. Too bad.

2009 – District 9
Now, I know Avatar came out this year, and I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, District 9 aged better with me, and I rewatch it more than any other film this year.

2010 – Robin Hood
What a confusing year for movies! They were either great, or a total bust. I have to admit, Legion is on my guilty pleasure movie list. But again, too bad that Avatar the Last Airbender movie we were promised never came out. . . yep. Too bad.

2011 – Midnight in Paris

2012 – Life of Pi
I’m not going to be stereotypical and say “The book was better”, but the movie had some great parts. I also enjoyed Les Mis and Rise of the Guardians, but I think Life of Pi had the biggest impact on my life.

2013 – Pacific Rim
I wasn’t thrilled with this year movie wise. I know some will say BUT FROZEN! But it didn’t connect with me very well.

2014 – John Wickjohn_wick_teaserposter
I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy, but come on. Keanu revenging the death of a puppy? With action sequences that put every other action movie to shame? John Wick all the way.

2015 – Ex Machina
This movie is fantastic. If you haven’t seen it, go look for it.

2016 – Deadpool

2017 – I haven’t seen any of the new movies this year. I would love to see Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, King Arthur, and Life. There are more than those, but those are off the top of my head!

Disagree with any of my picks? Have a different movie that came out during one of these years that was your favorite? Comment below!

5 Reasons to Join a Writing Group

Back in 2015, I decided it was time. Time to get more serious about writing. Time to get published. Time to BE a writer. My first step? Join a writing group. I’ve been out of one for about six months now, and here’s what I miss.
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1. Community
Writers tend to be solitary animals. I’ve never met a person who enjoys writing, who also loves spending hours upon hours of time around others. That’s not to say they don’t exist, this is just from personal experience.

That being said, I also believe that having a group of people you can share your experience with is a relief. Knowing that other writers are having the same struggles, are climbing the same uphill battles, and who can relate to long nights with lots of coffee makes you realize you’re not so alone. You can also make long lasting friendships that reach across states. Even if you’re pretty solitary in your writing life, it’s nice to have people who know what you’re going through.

You can also make connections and network. I met everyone from editors, published authors, and even a past agents who could give tips on how to get published. I learned more from them in two years than I could’ve learned on my own.

2. Build a Habit

You see it a lot in the “up and coming” writing crowd. People who say they would be writers if only they had the time, or if only they had the inspiration. What’s really missing is habit. It’s the sitting down and actually writing, on good days and bad. A writing group, at least a good writing group, will help you build a routine . The first group I joined had two very strict rules. Submit ten pages a week, and submit in the correct format. Not only did this force me to have ten pages done, it also taught me the importance of a submission format.

If I didn’t have my group expecting pages week after week, I would’ve just given excuses for why I couldn’t plug out one or two pages let alone ten. Even if I had days when the work wasn’t good, at least there was something there. As bad as some of it was, I was still writing. That drive pushed me through my first book, and is getting me along in my second, as well.

3. Learn writing rules, and how to break them.

My writing was sloppy when I first joined the “Harker Heights Writing Knights”. There were only five of us who showed up regularly, but the four other people in my group kicked my butt to get my work presentable for the public. Grammar problems were brought to light, story structure was built rock solid, and sloppy dialogue was whipped into shape. Now, I know my writing isn’t award winning, but I learned the rules and why they were important.

And I learned how to break those rules. I realized sometimes style is more important, and that if done right, style and the rules to writing can learn how to coexist. Sometimes it takes experienced writers to show you this.

4. Get out of creative ruts

This was my favorite part of the writing groups I took part in. The sessions that ended in us comparing notes on how we could get over the mythological “writer’s block” were often the ones that brought us closer together. We could borrow techniques on how to get through a tough writing day and hopefully learn something about our own processes, as well.

5. Read outside your genre

I’m a fantasy and science fiction fan, to my core. Give me dragons, urban werewolves, and aliens over realistic fiction any day. I can enjoy a good suspense novel, or action adventure, but try to get me to sit still long enough to read something about realistic people and realistic problems, and I run the other way.

Being in a writer’s group forced me to open up to this genre and a few others that I’m not well read in. When you read with unbiased eyes, you begin to see genres you previously disliked in a new light. I realized that while I might not buy that type of novel on my next trip to the bookstore, I could appreciate them.
Still on the fence about joining a writing group, and want to ask some questions? Maybe you were in a writing group and you want to share a positive experience? Comment below and let me know!

(Please save your worse experiences for my “reasons not to join a writer’s group” post, coming soon!)

Looking for a writing group near you? Try meetup.com or checking on facebook. Writing groups also like to frequent coffee shops, cafes, and libraries, so check your local online or on location bulletin board to see if there’s anything posted. If you’re still a student, check with the English department and ask if they know of any open groups looking for members.

Disclaimer :: Please exercise caution when jumping into new groups. Always meet in a public places with people you don’t know.

My Reading Pet Peeves – How not to annoy your audience

Much like Aziz Ansari’s character, Tom, in Parks and Recreation, I have some “Oh No No’s”. But unlike Tom Haverford, my Oh No No’s don’t extend to my husband. They do, however, decide my relationship status with a book.

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Now these are just my personal opinions. If you do any of the following it just means I’m not your target audience. 

This is just why I stop reading books.

1. The names of characters

When picking the name of your characters, a lot of things should be taken into account. Setting, family history, genre, and who your character’s parents were are all viable ways to name a character. Fantasy settings tend to have more out there names, and that’s acceptable. The romance genre can get a little corny, but we’ve all come to expect that by now. So what’s the annoying part of names? The cheesy names for no reason, the naming a character who sacrifices themselves after Jesus, or the blatant “character stereotype” names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read someone’s work where they have a girl named “Raven”, who’s a dark, brooding girl, with a dark past, and a dark future, and she’s just dark. Or how many Astras, Stellas, or Stars are quirky, “spacey” girls. When naming is done correctly, an author can shape a character and make a name fit into the narrative, but when names are just slapped on without any rhyme or reason, I say “Oh No No”, and close the book.

And it’s not just me who’s noticed this. Check out Cracked’s video “4 Bizarre Rules for Naming Fictional Characters

2. Instant character changes

I love character development. As a writer who focuses more on character driven stories than plot driven, when I find another author who has the same drive to create a well developed protagonist/antagonist, I will cherish that book for the rest of my life (as I have with Good Omens. Go find it and read it). When that development is rushed, however, I feel cheated. The mousy girl who magically becomes a sword wielding, viking warrior, the asshole guy who all the sudden has a heart of gold, the cruel villian who suddenly becomes kind, I’ve seen it too many times to count, and I can’t stand it. Now if the character grows into that role, I can accept it, but short of mind control or hypnotism, a character shouldn’t spontaneously turn into a new person in one page.

3. Short cuts/Deus ex Machina endings

This one infuriates me more than any other number on this list, because most of the time it doesn’t happen until I’m already invested in the novel. I agree with the fact that some stories do have to have a little bit of coincident to progress. If a character doesn’t happen to be walking down that one road, they never would find themselves in a story, after all. But when all hope is lost, and there is nothing that can save a character from a fate worse than death, there needs to be a believable way to get out of their problem. Again, usually it’s too late for me to throw out an “Oh No No” card by the time this happens, but it will make me question reading that author again in the future. You see this in Lord of the Rings, with the eagles, but that’s about one of the few exceptions I’ll accept.

4. Killing for the sake of killing

Have you noticed yet that I really love characters? While I enjoy plot, setting and story progression, I get attached to the people who live in between the pages. When a character dies, I’m completely okay with it, so long as it plays a part in the story. When characters die for no reason other than to shock the reader, however, I draw the line. I don’t need my protagonists to have happy endings, and in fact, I love it when they don’t because that makes it more real, but to just die for no other reason than the author wanting to “create chaos” I won’t pick up another book by them again.

5. The “Can Do No Wrong” characters, or their equally useless counter parts, the “So Extremely Dark and Edgy”

These are the perfect characters. The flawless, often times “inexplicably alluring” men and women who for some reason, are amazing. They look amazing, they sound amazing, they can sing, and dance and juggle chainsaws if they ever put their mind to it. And then there’s the anti perfect characters.  These are the ones who are so badass that if anyone even looks at them wrong, they’ll kick them into the ground, and everyone will be okay with this. Everyone in the novel loves these characters. Every man and woman wants to sleep with them and or be them, and chances are the antagonist only hates them because they’re jealous.

But that’s all there is to them. They never develop past how perfect, or imperfect they are, and the story sounds bland because of it. Most of the time, these beautiful bastards are abused in some way, either by bullies, their families, or by the antagonist themselves, but it won’t have any point to the story other than just being something to make that character all the more edgier.

When this character type marches onto the first few pages, I say Oh No and keep walking.

What are your Oh No No’s? Have anything that makes you toss a book into the library donation box? Let me hear it!