Thursday, August 17, 2017

I write so that my blood won't shrivel

I write so that my blood won't shrivel.

Years and years ago, (actually, almost a decade ago if I'm being honest), I used to stay up late chatting with friends online. We talked about lots of crazy things: vampires and Hogwarts and religion and fairy tales and glitter bombs. And we wrote. Lots and lots and lots.

We also made graphics. This was the beginning of the digital meme age, and it was also the beginning of the age when everyone made their own graphics to share on the very very first Facebook apps that no one uses and barely remembers anymore.

And we wrote. Lots and lots and lots.

The melding of all of this came together one night when my friend Andy and I were having a long conversation about the Dark Side and Cookies. I think we were making jokes about the light side having milk AND cookies, or oreos, or something. It was a decade ago, okay? My memory is good, but not that good. Anyhow, somehow the subject got around to writing, and why we wrote. At that point I did a LOT of my writing very late at night. Or rather, very early in the morning. I might be tired, but I couldn't sleep until I'd written something. It was a compulsion. Andy and I were discussing this compulsion and I proclaimed "I write so that my blood won't shrivel."

Andy thought this was great, so we made it into a graphic, and it became an in-joke, our own little meme. But it was more than a meme for me, it was true. Perhaps not quite literally true, but psychologically. Expressing myself through storytelling is a core part of who I am. It has been this way since before I could spell words and made my parents write my stories for me. (No joke. I used to dictate diary entries to my parents, grandparents and babysitters when I was five.)

And it remains this way. Yesterday I was so wrapped up in my current novel that I had to literally tear myself away from the computer just to keep my body from freezing up and bringing on fibro pain.

I believe that storytelling is one of the things God made me to do in this world. I thank him and I praise him and I love people and I tell stories. (And also design clothing. That's another thing that will shrivel my blood if I am separated from it too long. But this post is about the writing.)

I write so that my blood won't shrivel.

What part of your life is that essential piece, that your soul cries out to do every day? Make time to do that. 

Don't forget, I am running a giveaway this week with fun prizes like a signed copy of my novel and Parisian Mermaid jewelry. Check it out here!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"The Mermaid and the Unicorn" GIVEAWAY

One year ago today I published my first book, and to celebrate I'm giving some themed items away to YOU! 

 The details:

  • The giveaway is open to anyone in the continental US
  • There will be two winners, 1st place gets to pick three prizes, 2nd place gets the remaining two
  • To enter, leave a comment with a valid e-mail address below so I can contact you if you win. (if you like, you can leave two comments, one with your comment and a second one with the address which I will not publish)* OR you can comment on the giveaway link post on my personal Facebook page here.
  • This is a random drawing, although I'd love to hear what you enjoyed about the book, it won't affect your chances of winning. 
  • Giveaway runs until midnight on Tuesday, August 22nd

*I will NOT add your address to my mailing list, although of course I would love to have you join. You can sign up here if you are interested in receiving book news (and other contest alerts!) four times a year. 

The prizes are:

  • A signed, personalized paperback of "The Mermaid and the Unicorn"
  • Two themed embroidered tea towels (one premium quality, one saver quality)
  • A Parisian Mermaid charm necklace 
  • A stitch-on Unicorn embroidered patch, approximately 4 inches high.

(All items were made by yours truly, except the book which I only wrote). 

Haven't read the book yet? The Kindle eBook is on sale for $0.99 today!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bringing Paris to Life

I visited Paris once in my life. It was the middle stop of a three-legged, twelve-day tour of Europe, and the one I was the least excited about. England? I was dying to see it. Italy? That would be so cool. Paris...Paris was so hyped, it had to be overrated, right?

But I loved it. Indeed, while I'm still more drawn to English history, and I adore much about Italy as well, I think in some ways Paris became one of my very favorite cities. I know not every visitor has the same experience, but I was blessed with a trip that seared this place into my heart forever.

It was thrilling to be able to convey this affection in my novel, "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" and, indeed, the book in some ways became my love letter to Paris. My fond memories of my youthful trip combined with all that I discovered in my research, resulted in a deep appreciation.

But simply loving a city and knowing stuff about it doesn't mean that one is able to bring it to life in a novel. I would not have been able to do so if I hadn't received some very specific critique as a young writer.

"Your dialogue is great, but we really think that you could use more description," my parents told me. "Could you tell us more about where the characters are standing? What they are seeing?"

It was rare that both my parents made the point of stating such a specific critique, so, though at first I was annoyed, eventually I got to work on it. As I grew as a person and a writer, I learned to incorporate description of all five senses, and as the internet grew, I gained more and more resources to fact check those descriptions.

So when I read the reviews of "The Mermaid and the Unicorn", so many of which contain delight in the descriptions of the city of Paris, I am filled with intense gratitude for my parents. Neither of them are fiction writers or English teachers, but they are both avid readers and they knew (and were not afraid to say) what I needed to improve as a young writer.

Learning to write involves so many factors that there is no one right way to do it. But heeding good critique and learning from it is certainly a vital factor.

Thanks Mom and Dad. This is just one more way that my book wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the two of you. :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Midsummer's Update

If you're not following me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have wondered why the blog has been quiet for the past month. I figured I'd do a big update and fill you in on the happenings at the Hajek Homestead. 

Firstly, we finally turned our three season porch into my summer sewing room. Although it won't work year-round in the Minnesota climate, I'm hoping to get a good 6-7 months of work a year up here in this gorgeous space until we can afford to insulate it properly. For now, the good coat of paint did wonders!

Monday, July 3, 2017

20+-Year-Wait: Disney's Live Action "Beauty and the Beast"

It is quite possible that the new live-action "Beauty and the Beast" was the longest anticipated movie of my life. Certainly I have been waiting for a live action version of "Beauty and the Beast" since I first read Robin McKinley's "Beauty." The Emma Watson film may not be an adaptation of that book, but, like the animated version before it, it has many of the same values which mean the two retelling often appeal to the same crowd of people. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fast Writing: Tracking Set-ups and Pay-offs


There is one major rule that all good jokes and stories have in common: the three beat set-up and pay-off. 

What this means is in a story or a joke, you foreshadow a situation twice before paying it off with the third mention. Think of your favorite joke - how many times is the humorous bit repeated? Usually three times, with the third time leading to the punchline. 

Within a long novel, a complicated plot thread may end up getting set-up more than twice before it is paid off. This is okay. It shouldn't be overdone, but in a longer story you may need a tad more repetition to keep the element within the reader's mind. A good set-up is a memorable detail that sticks in the reader's mind for it' original place within the story. Only later, at the pay-off, does the reader usually  realize that the initial two mentions were setting up something bigger in the final act.

(Since this is Harry Potter Anniversary week, I'll mention that J.K. Rowlings, whatever her other faults, is pretty masterful with her set-ups and pay-offs. Keep an eye out for them next time you read through the series!) 

Many big items will likely be mentioned in the initial outline of your work, and you'll know from the get-go that you need to work in a few mentions of a character, place, object or technique before it really comes into play in the third act. However, sometimes you develop a set-up or pay-off later on in the writing process. Perhaps in the third act you insert a weapon that you realize wasn't foreshadowed at all. Or maybe as you are writing the second act, you create a set-up that you need to make sure to pay-off later. 

Now, you could go and write the other two thirds of the sequence immediately. However, this takes time, and time is money! I have found a really nifty way to keep track of set-ups and pay-offs that come up that saves a lot of time.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

10 Years of Harry Potter

Nope, that's not a typo. This week marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" but I would not read the series for another 10 years. Ironically, I finished an article marking this 10-year milestone just days before the internet exploded over the 20th anniversary.

This article will appear in an upcoming edition of the online magazine "Fellowship and Fairydust." F&F is a new publication emerging from a merger of "The Fellowship of the King" and "Ink and Fairydust," the latter of which was an online publication I founded back in 2009. Over the years I eventually got too busy to serve as Editor-in-Chief, a position which has been filled by many capable ladies, and it's been quite some time since I've even contributed. However, to commemorate the next stage of the journey, I am excited to be contributing a piece.

"Fellowship and Fairydust" - Facebook Page
"Fellowship and Fairydust" - Online Magazine and Back Issues

In the meantime I've been celebrating my love of all things Harry Potter by playing "The Battle for Hogwarts," participating in two Harry Potter RPGs, and rereading the books. It's been a great treat to pick up the series for the seventh time, particularly because a year ago my hands were in too much pain to hold such large tomes. This year, I could hold them and read for hours, lost in Hogwarts again.

I'll post a link to my article when it is released, but in the meantime you can check out my previous musings on the series here:

Harry Potter
What's the Point, Jo? (The Harry/Hermione confession)
In Defense of Hufflepuff
Pottermore Review and the Truth about Hufflepuff
Firebolt - a Musical Celebration of Harry Potter
What Hogwarts House are YOU? 
Deathly Hallows Part Two Review
Why do we all love Harry?
If Doctor Who went to Hogwarts
Harry Potter and the Cartoon Prince Index
How Harry Potter Brought My Family Together
Half Blood Prince Movie Review
Harry, A History ~ Book Review
Hogwarts and the Importance of REAL Education