Tag Archives: about me

Writer on the Road – Day 3

There’s something about dying desert towns that makes me anxious. I drove through the small town of Green River, Utah tonight. As the sun went down at my back, the moon bleached out the buildings as I looked for my hotel.

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If you ever travel to Green River, you’ll notice one side of the street is lined with gaudy, half working neon lights, the other is long dead and empty. If you go on a full moon, the cold light will make the husks of closed motels and empty gas stations look haunted. \

When I finally made it over the river and looked back at the city behind me, I can’t tell if my imagination is running away with me, or if there really are figures moving on the plateau outlined in the setting sun.

It was unsettling to say the least.

But I learned some very important writing lessons today. One, every place you drive through can be inspiring enough to write a little overly flowery blog post, and two learn how to manage your time.

If you caught last night’s blog post, you’ll know I was having trouble at my last hotel with the wifi, and this night started out exactly the same. I downloaded my files to my phone, and managed to start last night’s words, even if I didn’t meet what I was originally hoping for. The funny thing is, I had net at one point, but thought “I can always finish this later, I want to screw around online right now”. I made plans for a later time, but that later time turned out to be problematic.

So here’s tonight lesson. If you want to write a book, start to notice when you’re wasting time, because you might not get it even if you plan for it. Even if you’re a night writer, if you get an hour in the morning, write in the morning. Worse case scenario, you get a little bit of work done, and you still have that night to write. Best case scenario, you lose that time, and you’re already done.

It should be an easy lesson to learn, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do this sort of thing. Maybe this trip will make it skip this time.

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2017 NaNoWriMo Influence Map

My NaNoWriMo novel this year is a paranormal comedy, and with it only a week away, I gathered up my inspiration to make myself an Influence Map.

As promised, here’s what’s keeping me motivated on this project!

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1. This one is a bit obscure if you don’t know The Twilight Zone, but in season 3 episode 16, I saw Death personified for the first time in pop culture. I was 10 when I first saw this episode, and it’s stuck with me all these years. While Death won’t be a huge character in my novel, I definitely love the idea of Death appearing to people in different forms, and hope to translate this as well as The Twilight Zone did.

2. I found this picture on pinterest and for whatever reason, it just cracked me up. From this picture, I started collecting others that reminded me of haunted cafes, or ghost related things. I took it and ran, and haven’t stopped since.

3. Now, I won’t be too influenced by Gravity Falls, but I do like the general feel of the show. A town with supernatural happenings that just kind of shrugs and goes with it is definitely the vibes I want to give off.

4. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of Ghost Whisperer, but an old writing friend of mine pointed out some of my plot points reminded her of that show, so I went back and rewatched a few clips, and yeah, there are definitely a couple similarities. Not many, but enough to admit when there are common themes.

5. Buffy is one of my favorite shows of all time. I love the girl killing monsters trope, and while my main character isn’t as outgoing as Buffy, she’ll definitely be in a “Hell Mouth” situation. She’ll also be a reluctant hero type, so that’s a bit of inspiration for me as well.

6. & 7. Practical Magic and Dime Store Magic are inspiring as far as the witchcraft goes, but also because of how they portray female friendship/sisterhood. Much like Death, witches won’t have a huge part in my novel, but they’ll have enough of an impact on the plot to take some inspo for them.

8. Gilmore Girls has a bigger square because I’ll definitely be pulling some of the class division in small town life, as well as a woman trying to make her own away from her family. As I’ve been saying, this is really a paranormal book about friendships, especially positive female ones, and I really hope to be able to portray that.

9. I’ve been listening to the podcast, New World Witchery for close to 3 years now. While it’s mostly about North American magic, they have side stories revolving around folklore that I’ve always found inspiring. Their collections of ghost stories, American witchcraft, and general folklore will heavily be influencing my world building.

10. There’s a house in the small town of Steilacoom, WA that sits on a hill facing the bay. With two stories and a shade of dark mint green, when I first drove by it, I had my husband pull over so I could get a closer look. Now an office building, it’s the perfect size and layout of where I imagine MC lives and works, with a cafe in the bottom, and bedrooms on top. It’s my main setting inspiration, and I can’t wait to explain why this house turned cafe is now the pit stop for lost souls in my universe.

11. Good Omens was the first Terry Pratchett, and 3rd Neil Gaiman book I’ve ever read. I loved the snappy dialogue and hilarious idea that an angel and demon are trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. The writing style of both authors has heavily influenced my comedic work, and to say I didn’t get my character dynamics from them would be a lie.

12. As stated above Steilacoom, WA is a town a drive through or visit semi frequently. The first town in Washington, I love how cute and quiet it is, but since I’m a small town girl, I know that there’s probably some problems there that are just under the surface. Maybe there aren’t literal ghosts people are trying to hide, but I bet everyone has a few skeletons they try to keep buried. While I called my city “Stella Cove, WA”, there will definitely be some similarities between the two cities.

 

Hope you enjoyed seeing where my ideas are heading! If you’d like to make one of these influence maps, check out the link here for the download. Also, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo comment below with how you’re getting ready. What’s your story about? Have a link to share? Throw it my way!

Also, I’m looking for writing buddies, so shoot me a line on the NaNoWriMo site to team up.

Lessons Learned From Van Living

The long awaited “Vanlife” post is here! This Personal Post weekend highlights what I learned from living in a van for three weeks, and what my plans are for future travels.

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My husband first introduced me to van life through youtube videos. We watched a few but both settled on really enjoying Kombi Life. Episode after episode, blog post after blog post, and when we filled up on all we could there, we spent hours looking through the van life subreddit.

We decided this was the life for us. It screamed ADVENTURE and, damn, did we get one. Here’s what we learned about life by traveling from Tacoma, Washington, to Austin, Texas.

Sometimes, the GPS isn’t the best to follow.

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On the last leg of our trip, we accidentally took a wrong turn and wound up in New Mexico. We had a great time, and found beautiful campsites, all because we forgot to follow the GPS. It actually saved us time, and we had a blast.

Everyone was given a roadmap to adulthood when they were kids, either by parents or society. Mine read “Graduate high school, go to college, get married, have kids, work until you can’t anymore”. Most adults in my life followed that formula, or tried to, and they taught me that was the way to grow up. But sometimes that map doesn’t work out, and you wind up in a better place, one that you wouldn’t have found if you didn’t go off the path the GPS laid out for you.

Your belongings aren’t everything.

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With my husband being military, we don’t have a lot of stuff to begin with. Moving every one to four years makes it hard to want to pack everything up over and over again, so we’re not a very materialistic couple. Even with as little as we take with us each move, we still learned objects are just that, objects. While sentimental value is nice, it’s empty if that’s the only thing in your life. All we needed were each other, our dogs, a camper stove and a mini fridge and we got by just fine.

When you get a feeling you shouldn’t be somewhere, trust your gut.

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In a cavern in the middle of Colorado my husband got a bad feeling. When he said, hey, I think we should go, I agreed. We already decided it was important to always trust each others’ gut, so we packed up the van and got out a dodge (ha, the make of our van).  Shortly after we got out of the cavern, the sky opened up and parts of the campground flooded. I’m not sure if where we were at was safe or not, but I’m glad we got out of there.

It should go without saying, but this is how life should be in general. If you have a gut feeling, trust yourself. Chances are there’s a reason you feel that way.

Decide what’s more important the journey or the destination.

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Being in a small, enclosed box with someone, there’s sure to be some tiffs. The only one we got in was that we both didn’t know what we wanted out of the trip. Did we want to stop and sight see? Did we want to rush and spend more time with friends and family? Neither of us asked these questions and we wound up spending one night having to discuss this at length.

It’s important to know where you’re at in your life, and you have to ask yourself, what’s more important? Is it spending time in the now, or should you hurry to reach the goals in your life. You can always take your time when trying to reach those goals, but figuring out which one is more important before you jump into a big life changing event is always good.

If things get really hard, have someone with you who can make you laugh.

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Just like life, road trips get hard. Problems always are going to come up, and when things get extremely rough, it’s important to have someone you can laugh with. Even if you do butt heads from time to time, because arguing will always come up no matter how close you are with someone, the good times should outweigh the bad. Every time something went wrong on our trip, my husband and I were there to make the other one laugh. We listened to comedy tapes, my husband did funny voices, and I’d read him stuff online that cracked me up (which isn’t hard to do). It taught us that laughing’s important, and every trip needed to have some humor to get us by.

So what’s next?

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We sold our big van to someone else who wanted to give the van life a try, and they’re traveling around Washington state now. Next for us, though, is going to be a bus. We want to go on longer trips, which requires a little bit more room, so a small tour bus is right up our alley. Here’s hoping we find one soon!

Inspired by the Strange

After taking a walk around some museums this week, I realized something. I’m am entirely too inspired by dead birds.

Flightless, for those of you new to my blog, is my work in progress that revolves around people with wings. It’s no secret that I love birds, and I’ve taken a much deeper interest in ornithology since I started my novel in order to build a believable world and a realistic species.

As much as live birds inspired me and my writing, walking around a museum and seeing still life paintings of hanging pheasants, ducks with broken necks, and small song birds laid out on tables, I realized that was more the mood of my novel than the live birds I’d been studying. Heck I was more inspired by those paintings than I was holding an a hawk a couple weeks ago.

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You can always tell when I’m way too happy. I smile so much, I wind up squinting so bad.

After I made this discovery about my sudden love of dead bird imagery, I whipped up a quick banner with a picture of some of these classic oil paintings and decked out my Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and even my Deviantart page.

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Yes. I have a Deviantart page. I know.

It got me wondering though. . . .

What’s something strange that you find yourself inspired by? Comment below and let me know! I love hearing what inspires others.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I try to keep my private life just that. Private.

I’m pretty introverted and generally don’t like sharing about myself, but as I get more involved in social media, other authors, and a small yet fun fan base, I decided it’s time to open up. Here are ten things many people don’t know about me in hopes to get to know everyone better.

10. Most of my writing ideas are inspired from sadder parts of my life.

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Dramatic. I know. 

Whether it be the death of a family member, in the case of Flightless, or my rocky relationship with certain family members, most of my writing comes from experiences I don’t talk about very often. I like to work through these events through my writing, and hope that it’ll help people through their problems as well.

9. When I can’t come up with ideas, I draw
For a while, I tried my hand at being an artist. I considered doing a graphic novel for Flightless, and even had some of my work put up at a galleries in Detroit, Michigan, and small towns throughout Texas. When I started writing more often, I didn’t stop making art, and it’s still one of the main ways I get inspiration today.

8. I’ve never been to a concert
Even after living only thirty minutes away from Austin, and forty minutes away from Seattle and Washington D.C., I never made my way to a concert. I went to see authors speak, traveled miles to go to book signings, but when it came to seeing live music, I never had the time or money. Or interest, for that matter. As much as I love music, I never really wanted to go see my favorite bands live.

7. I originally went to school for acting

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When I was a kid, I used to watch my sister rehearse for plays and since I wanted to be just like her, I adopted her goals as my own. I liked telling a story, even if it wasn’t my own, and for a little while, it made me happy. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college did I realize I wasn’t as passionate as other actors out there. I hung up my costumes and switched my major to art. I never was able to finish college. Money got tight, and I’m only a few credits short of graduating.

6. I collect tarot cards
This isn’t something I advertise. When people think of tarot cards, they usually get negative connotations, especially if you grew up in a traditional Southern Christian family like me. I was given my first deck as a gift back in 2008, when someone found out I liked a particular artist, and my collection has grown to about 21 decks by today. Most of them were purchased as a way to support indie artists, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing how much work get put into them.

5. I prefer to write male protagonists
I have no idea why I prefer to write male characters over female. I just do. My husband says I do a decent job, so I figure there’s no harm in it.

4. The only genre I haven’t tried to write is horror
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It’s not that I don’t like horror. It’s just never been a genre I’ve gotten attached to. While I like psychological thrillers such as the works of Tom Harris, or suspenseful sci fi horror, such as Alien or the short film Zygote, I’m not one for writing it. My love of horror has taught me the importance of narrowing your focus to build tension, however.

3. My husband contributes more than people might realize
Whenever I’m looking for inspiration, I just ask my husband what he would do. Most of the time, he provides insight on my plots that I would never have thought of. He’s a more grounded person when it comes to looking at problems, while I can get a little lost in the crowd. He helps remind me that sometimes less is more.

2. I learned how to create characters through role playing forums.
I don’t bring up my role playing past very often, but during my senior year of high school I was introduced to role playing and it improved my writing like crazy. While I admit it gave me a few bad habits I had to break, it also taught me the importance of well rounded characters, avoiding cliches, and how to create backstories to play into the main plot. It also taught me what not to do, which I think is all the more important when it comes to the learning process.

1. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the encouraging of one special person.

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Oh Alaska, you’re not crazy, but our love of Stranger Things makes me happy. 

While there’ve been many people in my life who’ve encouraged me, if it weren’t for my friend, “Alaska” as I’ve been calling her on my blog, I probably would’ve given up writing. After 2012/2013 knocked me down, I was half tempted to throw in the towel and not do anything creative again. She picked me up and dusted me off and reminded me that no matter what happens in my life, I can overcome anything. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, and I hope to one day be able to repay her for being there for me when I needed her.

Why Authors Love the Pacific Northwest

I’ve traveled across the United States, from Texas to Washington, D.C., back to Texas, and then childhood summers spent up in Michigan. I remember family trips across the hot deserts of the American West, and sticky falls spent along the Gulf of Mexico through swamps. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 did I finally make it to the Pacific Northwest.

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Beach at Solo Point. See my instagram for more pictures of my setting adventures.

Besides living with a family that loved to travel, I’m a military spouse who moves every two to four years. It’s left me with a wide array of places to chose from for a setting. From the city outskirts of Washington D.C., to back roads in the Texas Hill Country, to long twisted highways that carve through the Colorado Rockies; my mental setting bank is full.

Last year I moved to Washington state. It’s a part of the country I’ve only seen in television shows, books, and movies, and I’ve always wondered, what makes this area so special? What is it about the Pacific Northwest that pulls writers in?

I haven’t been here a year yet, and let me tell you. It’s been an experience. It rains more than I’ve ever seen, the people are eccentric, and the cities are small. But none of those are bad things. If anything, the area reminds me of growing up in Austin in the 90’s. People are active in their community, the land isn’t built up with subdivisions, and there are plenty of outdoor events for people to get back to nature.

When you get out of the cities, you find small communities centered around churches, rocky beaches with whole tree trunks tossed on the shore and if you go out east, over the Snoqualmie Pass, you find orange deserts and oasis towns.

With my next project in the works, a dark comedy and drama both of them supernatural pieces having to do with ghosts and death, I’ve set parts of it in the Pacific Northwest for a setting. Trips to Solo Point, a beach for military personnel to unload their boats, have been the most inspiring. The scenery is stunning and I hope to take a kayak out to the small island off shore to do some more exploring.

The longer I’m in this part of the country, the more I realize why writers and artists are drawn to this area. It’s lush, vibrant, and in spite of the rain, it’s beautiful.

Is there a part of the country you find yourself drawn to? Where do you enjoy setting your placing your novels?

Getting Over the Fear of Judgement From Loved Ones

I love my family. I’m sure some of them will read this one day, so let me repeat myself. I love my family. That being said, growing up where most if not every person in said family is either Catholic, Church of Christ, or Baptist, I’ve always been afraid of them judging my writing.

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My fears weren’t entirely uncalled for. As a child/young teen, I drew a lot, and there were more than a few eyebrows thrown up by what I enjoyed sketching. Fairies, dragons and magic were off limits, practicing the nude human form was scolded, and if I drew in a style that wasn’t approved of, anime for example, I was told to not practice it. While family members saw it as them protecting me, it created a harbor of insecurity for what I was creating.

Needless to say, I never shared my writing with the adults of my family when I started writing. There were a few cousins I trusted with my work, and a best friend I consider a sister, but those were the only people I opened up to. When I told my cousins and “sister” I was going to start submitting to agents, they weren’t surprised at all. For the rest of the family, however, it came as a shock that I was writing in the first place.

When I told them, I’ll admit, I was worried. I write about people with wings that are mistaken as angels, magicians with power over life and death, and ghosts who fall in love with girls and refuse to pass on. I have plans for a novel that revolves around a demon who hunts spirits that escape Hell and another set in a dystopian future that revolves around human cloning.

You can see why I was worried they might judge my subject matter.

How did I get over my fear of judgement and just get to writing?

In part, I found a support group. My husband, “sister”, cousins, and a strict, yet fun, tough love writing group in Texas all gave me a shoulder to lean on but they weren’t the only things that helped.

When I sat back and began to think about what I wanted in life, I realized that writing is what makes me truly happy. I love entertaining people, I love the look on people’s faces when they enjoy my work, and I love creating worlds to let characters run wild in. I love all of it. If my family can’t understand that, and judge me, that’s fine. It’s worth it.

When you’re creating anything, from a sketch, to a play, to a novel, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it something you can’t live without, or are you going to let fear of people who should love you regardless of your interests and what you’re writing stop you from reaching your goals?

What are your insecurities, and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to artists struggling with judgement from loved ones?

One last note, if you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech and you’re struggling with fears of rejection, have a listen. I can’t stress how important it was for me to hear this on my road to overcoming fear of insecurities.

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10 Things About Me

Since I’ve wound up with a few new followers recently, I decide to do a little introduction.

Here are ten things about me that you might not have known.

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10. I’ve barely been outside the United States. I’m from Texas originally, so going to Mexico wasn’t that far of a trip, but one day I’d like to actually travel outside North America.

9. My music bank is mostly full of what my husband calls “cheesy indie songs” by bands like Oh Wonder, Amber Run, and Bastille… and Ninja Sex Party. I love Ninja Sex Party more than I probably should.

8. I got engaged a week before my 19th birthday and got married when I was 21. My husband occasionally gives input to my blog posts, or I’ll include his opinions on certain subjects. Mostly we travel together in our camper van and talk about what life will be like outside of the military.

7. My best friend, who I refer to as “Alaska” in many blog posts, is one of the main reasons why I write. She’s been someone I can count on through thick and thin, and I don’t know what I’d do without her.

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6. I have two dogs, a mastiff named Zeus and a lab named Hank. Hank is usually my writing buddy and is almost always at my feet whenever I’m working on the computer. Zeus, on the other hand, doesn’t care about my writing time at all.

5. I prefer to write male characters, as I’ve never felt like I’ve connected to my female leads. There are a few exceptions to this, but I generally wind up liking my male characters better.

4. Dragon Age is my favorite video game franchise. I’ve even read books the original creator put out just to get to know the world better.

3. When not writing, I work at a museum to make extra cash in a minor managerial role. It’s a pretty big source of inspiration, especially when it comes to talking to artists, meeting people from all walks of life, and interacting with tourists.

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2. My top five celebrity crushes are Adrien Brody, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Momoa, Mathias Lauridsen, and Idris Alba. There’s a wide array of faces between those guys, jeez…

1. I started out drawing before I considered writing as a serious profession. My artwork was in a few galleries in Texas, and was up in a 3 night showing as part of a exhibit in Detroit. I still paint and sketch on occasion, but I found writing to be what I’m more passionate about pursuing.

 

Hope you enjoyed this little peek into my life! Tell me a little bit about yourself. Do you have a thing for dragon rp games, or are you just a fan of Mads like I am?

Connect with me on….

Facebook: @aemcauleywriter
Twitter: @aemcauley
Instagram: @aemcauley
Website:  http://aemcauley.wixsite.com/author/