Monday, August 29, 2016

The Mermaid and the Unicorn - a photo inspiration

This is a post for those of you who have already read the book. Over the past four years I have been saving photos on Pinterest that inspired this book, and I would like to now share some of those photos, and the reasons behind the inspiration, with you all.

I will try to keep from revealing any MAJOR spoilers in this post, but I have to say that you'll enjoy it a lot more if you read the following after finishing the book.

(Below are snips from my Pinterest Page. For the full photos and credits, view the whole Pinterest Board here.)

Left: The Opera House! One of the earliest decisions for the book was that I had to have a scene at the Paris Opera House. I was able to visit the building myself in 2005 and it was a tremendously cool experience. Since Daphne was in Paris much longer than I was, I could send her to an actual performance.

Right: To walk by the river in Paris, you have to go down to a lower level sidewalk. This is one of the inspiration photos I used to keep this in mind when writing scenes with the Mermaids.

I looked at a lot of different mermaid art to figure out what my mermaids would look like. I knew that I wanted them to look more human than the scary creatures in "Harry Potter", but I didn't want them to be 'cutesy' either.

Although I visited the Louvre, the Basillica and Notre Dame myself in 2005, I needed to reference photos to get all of my details correct. I loved these not only as reference photos, but also for capturing the mood of the book.

The Unicorn Tapestries at the Cluny Museum made a huge impact on me when I saw them in person. When I chose Paris as the setting of this book, I knew immediately that it would focus on a Unicorn, and that the tapestries would play a role.

More mood photos. Water, the Eiffel Tower in Winter, and Paris in the rain and Night. Yes, it really is a beautiful city, and I worked hard to capture that beauty in the novel.

Versailles is so ornate, that it is difficult to fully describe without a degree in architecture! I did my best, but there really is nothing like looking at actual photos to understand the excess of ornamentation.

Lourdes is a very iconic and well-known pilgrimage site for most Catholics--but I would never have heard of it without my Catholic friends' references! I needed a LOT of reference photos, and also first hand accounts from friends.


Being a costumer myself, I thought a lot about the clothing that the characters wear in the book. I wanted to have something very specific in mind when I wrote about Daphne's gala dress, and when I came across the pale aqua dress on the right, I KNEW this was the one.

On the left is a dress very much like I could imagine Amelia wearing.

I also had great fun sourcing inspiration photos for imagining the rooftop garden!

Mermen are pictured far less often than mermaids. I was thrilled to find a few very cool photos that helped me think about what my mermen looked like. The one on the left is very, very close to how I envision my main merman. (There was an actor I envision when I'm trying to imagine how Luc speaks and moves, but he is dark haired and my merman is blonde, so I struggled with a solid image until I came across this painting. It helped a lot.)

Pinterest helped me organize my thoughts well, and especially served to inspire me when I had trouble with scenes or characters. I highly recommend it as a good way to pull together a sort of playlist of pictures!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book News Round-Up

I want to give a BIG thank you to everyone who went out and bought the book last week! I'm currently doing very well for a first time indie author, and that is due to YOU. So thank you! 

In particular, I am so grateful for everyone who took the time to write a review. So far it's all been 4 or 5 stars, which is brilliant! (And yes, I am happy for 4 star reviews too, because if it was 5 stars all the way, it would seem too good to be true!) I also got my Goodreads Author Profile all set up, so feel free to check that out! And if you want to read "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" but haven't got the time quite yet, you can add the title to your Goodreads bookshelf.

(BTW - in order to avoid personal hypocrisy, I am making an effort to review more books myself. This will mean keeping my Goodreads account more active! So, yes, feel free to friend or follow me over there.)

Secondly, for those of you wondering how and why I, a Protestant, got into writing a Catholic novel, this interview I did over at Sacrifice of Love really delves into the details of that.

Thirdly, those of you who have read the book know that my next project is a novella focusing on the backstory of two characters in "The Mermaid and the Unicorn." I am currently about 28,000 words into the first draft of what will probably be a 40,000 word product, and well on track to have it out in time for Valentine's Day 2017. If you have any requests for Parisian characters you'd like to see more of in this prequel, let me know in the comments section!

Fourthly, if you are the sort of person to be intrigued by fashion, you may be interested in checking out the clothing design sketches I did for Daphne, Amelia, Maddie, Kate, Abby and Danielle over on my sewing blog.

On the home front, I am obsessively organizing every aspect of my house and life, from labeling all the shelves in the fridge, to starting a bullet journal (which rocks.) Although I still have to take way too much supplements and meds to function, I do have some function again, which means I can take steps to organize my life and accomplish goals. SO HAPPY.

And in Mateo news - he is four months old, 10lbs, and learning new commands and words every day. It is fascinating to watch how he is really learning words, not just commands. For instance, he definitely knows 'outside', can pick up his name in the middle of any sentence and context, and knows the difference between "Mommy" and "Daddy" and can go find whichever one he is directed to find. Just the other day I couldn't hear where Nathan was, so I asked Mateo to "find Daddy" and then I followed him while he led me to Nathan. Not bad for the doggy equivalent of a five year old! Especially a Shih Tzu (the breed is not known for their intelligence, but apparently Mateo has good genetics).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Age of Adaline

When I first heard the premise of "The Age of Adaline" (Blake Lively plays a woman who doesn't age) I thought it was intriguing. Then the reviews came back rather bland and it moved off my radar screen.

But it kept popping up on Amazon Prime Video, and one day I was bored and needed a good movie, so I started watching it, planning to get through a few scenes at a time over the next few days.

I ended up making my husband join in watching it with me, and we stayed up past our 'bedtime' to finish it.

It is a beautiful film. Nostalgic, funny, sweet, and very romantic. There are a few sad parts (especially if you are a dog lover!), but overall it leaves one feeling positive at the end.

The cast is great--and not just because Harrison Ford plays a pivotal role. Blake Lively has come a long way from "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants" and she is backed up by Michiel Huisman (Orphan Black, Game of Thrones) as her love interest and Ellen Burstyn (House of Cards, Intersteller) as her 'looks older but is actually younger' daughter. It is fascinating watching how Lively plays old in a young body, and as a costumer I especially enjoyed watching her styles change over the years (but never lose a timeless quality). There is a framing 'scientific' explanation that thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously, and a minimal amount of 'content' (PG-13 for a little sex and one rather gruesome wound stitching scene, and probably some language that I've already forgotten).

The ultimate romantic resolution is satisfying within the film, but I found myself wishing for a novel to explore the depths of the character thought and motivation further.

A good watch for the nostalgic and the romantic.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Share a Book you Love (In the Internet Age)

What to do when you find a great new author/series and want to see more of the same ASAP? Well, helping the author raise their profile is a great way to help make that happen! For those not in the publishing world, it can be difficult to know what really makes the most difference, so I've put together a handy graphic to help out! Feel free to share - whether you are a passionate reader, or an author trying to grow your own brand. 

And a version sized better for Instagram

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Husband Reviews The Book

So last night I was kind of hurt that Nathan hadn't posted anything on Facebook yet about my book's publication. He explained to me that he had held off because he wanted to write something really special, and he hadn't had time to do it justice. It was really late at night and honestly I didn't really 'get' what he was saying because it'd been a long day/week/month/year and I was just worn out.

But then today he did post his thoughts on Facebook and I understood why he wanted to take his time and 'do it right.'

Thanks honey. I'm sorry I wasn't more patient... you are the best. :) 

Oh, and he also added...

Handsome AND funny. What a lucky lady I am! 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Release Day!

On the surface, it's an ordinary day. I got up, harvested squash and tomatoes in the garden, had a GF bagel for breakfast, and played with Mateo.

But I also posted the link to my first published book.

Yes, folks, today is the day. After 22 years of storytelling, and 4 years perfecting this particular tale, I have finally released a NOVEL.

It is still surreal to me.

There's a very real link for Amazon, though, where you can purchase either the paperback ($13.99) or Kindle ($2.99) version. (Actually, if you buy the paperback, you get the Kindle version free! Or you can read it on Amazon Unlimited, if you're a subscriber).

(Some people have asked if I'll be selling autographed copies. Right now, with my health issues, it is much easier for me to leave the selling up to Amazon, especially because each book sold there raises my ranking and visibility. However I am working on creating bookplates that I can personalize and send to interested readers.)

You can also win a copy of the Kindle Version by entering my giveaway here! (I have another giveaway planned for next week, after people have started actually reading the book, so check back!)

You know what else is surreal? Reading the first official reviews of the book! I sent out several Advanced Reader Copies and reviews will be popping up over the next week or two. The very first ones have already been released, and I am just thrilled with them! My favorite quotes are below, but I highly recommend checking out the full (spoiler FREE) reviews!

I inhaled page after page of this book. The setting, characters, and plot all wound together to create a fun, imaginative experience. I particularly loved the way in which Catholicism danced throughout the pages of this story. Hajek is not Catholic, but she nailed the Catholic atmosphere in this story. From intimate details of devotions to unique struggles that the characters had, the story breathed Catholicism realistically. It is apparent that Hajek took much time and effort to weave this faith tradition throughout the story tastefully, and I hope that Catholics and non-Catholics alike will enjoy exploring the traditions, conversations, and struggles of the charactersAnneMarie, Sacrifice of Love
I found myself often being reminded of Narnia (even though the story never leaves the real realm of Paris), because the story reminded me that Beauty lives and breathes in ways that I might not even imagine and reawakens wonder at each turn. Carissa, A Myth Retold
 I was surprised to find a very personal, mature story about coming of age. Daphne goes through a fantastic character arc, not just moving from naivete to experience. She also grows as a person, gaining self-awareness, determination, and a larger view of the world. This provides a fantastic companion to the adventurous parts of the book–and this book is most certainly an adventure. Andy, The Catholic Geeks

Also, last week I wrote up a guest post for Rivershore Books about my experience with self-publishing. If you're interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how it all came together, check it out!

(Other behind-the-scenes posts, including FAQ's and how I came to write a Catholic novel, can be found here.)

One issue that I've realized I never addressed is a recommended reading age. The heroine of the book is a nineteen-year-old college student, but my intention as an author was to create a story that would appeal to a wide range of readers. The age of the heroine means that the book will probably be categorized as adult fiction, but content-wise there is nothing that most 13-year-olds shouldn't be able to handle.  There's a little violence, a little kissing, and a few very veiled references to more mature topics, but I think the book would be considered tame even by most YA standards. Indeed, I think the biggest issue for my Protestant readers will be discussing the Catholic elements with their pre-teens (and I am thinking of writing up a sort of study guide for this, as my hope is the book will serve as a bridge of understanding between these two sides of Christianity, as Regina Doman's Fairy Tale Novels did for me). I'm quite happy to answer any questions from parents determining whether to give this book to their pre-teen, please feel free to write me at ElizabethAHajek(at)Gmail(dot)com if interested.

I am so thrilled to finally be sharing my story with the world! If you enjoyed reading it, please consider sharing it on Facebook and writing a review on Amazon. Even a simple "loved it" with 4 or 5 stars is tremendously helpful for my Amazon ranking!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How to be the Spouse of an Author

On Facebook right now, there is a commendable meme going around wherein one is encouraged to post a photo of one's spouse for seven days, with something one appreciates about them each day.

I've been tagged, but rather than put a lot of photos on Facebook (because I already do so many), I decided to write a blog post about one very specific thing I am thankful for that Nathan does - being the #1 fan of my writing.

(Sorry Carolyn and Meg. Nathan wins this one.)

Nathan was pretty much the first person besides my editors to read the full synopsis of my of my book, back when we had just started dating. Although it was a dense nine pages of plot, he was totally engrossed in it. Not just 'dutiful boyfriend' either... you can't fake that kind of enthusiasm. (Well, he can't!)

Then he started reading my actual book, and proceeded to tell everyone how wonderful it was, and how he felt like he was reading "a real book, not Elizabeth's first draft!"

But words are easy, right?

So here's the second thing. Nathan loves my cooking. He makes food prep a joy because he just is so appreciative of my attempts. I strive to make really amazing stuff because I love the look on his face when he tastes something wonderful that I made for him. But you know what? Any time I was in a writing groove and needed to finish a chapter, Nathan would, without hesitation, tell me "go ahead and finish" and either wait for me to be done, or take on supper prep himself (after a long day of his own work). This happened a lot. But he never once complained, or did anything other than encourage me to finish.

Nathan, falling asleep mid-edits one late night
On that same note, Nathan never once complained about the fact that writing a novel has no immediate pay-off. We have been married for two and a half years, I've put in hundreds of hours, and I have not yet made a single penny. And Nathan has not protested or done anything other than express confidence in my abilities and support for this novel that he believes in as much as I do.

In fact, he believes in it so much, that he gave up a month of evenings to line edit and proof-read the final draft of my book. This meant that we got very little time together, and he got very little relaxation for that month. By the end we were both exhausted... but we didn't have to pay anyone else to accomplish this step! (Nathan does this all the time at his game design job, believe it or not, so he was quite qualified).

And those are just the big things! The little things are all of the little household chores he did so I could write, the food he made so I could write, and the conversations regarding plot and character development that we had over the years.

Of course, I do my best to support his work in numerous ways too, but that's for him to talk about. ;)

Monday, August 8, 2016

When it's NOT time to have kids (and your feelings are not what you expected)

I'm okay with not being pregnant right now.

I wasn't okay three months ago. I wanted to have kids and wanted to get started, ASAP. Health intervened, and kept intervening, and it's just not going to happen in the immediate future.

The weird thing, was that at just the time when this realization came upon us, I also came to the realization that I am not ready to be a mom yet. I've lost so much time in my marriage, my community and my writing and sewing due to my health, and I am so happy to have more time to progress in these areas before being overwhelmed with baby stuff.

I believe that someday my health will improve to the point where we will be able to have kids with that only occasioning the normal insanity of that situation (haha). And it'll be exciting when that happens, but I'm okay waiting.

Most of the time.

Then someone will have a pregnancy announcement, or a birth announcement, or a family member will mention envisioning grandkids or nieces/nephews/cousins and it'll hit me and I'll feel really sad. And that's not wrong. It's right and natural for me to have maternal urges. I cannot wait for the day when we have our own good news to share, and when I can see myself and Nathan mixed in our own child. (And we do hope to have biological children at some point, although we are also very open to adoption if God leads us in that direction at a point that my health allows).

The feelings of sadness are very real, and I need to allow myself to process them, but thankfully this summer they have not been consuming. My puppy, Mateo, is quite a handful, and combined with the book release, the garden, and finally being able to do some sewing again, my life is very, VERY full. Plus, I have a lot of exposure in my life to how exhausting motherhood is, and with my fibromylagia, I treasure every moment that I have a clear head and am not about to keel over, and I just can't imagine inducing more fatigue in my life and body right now.

 The longing is there and it's not all at the same time. Very Schrödinger.

Now this could change at any moment. Just as quickly as my last view shift, I could once again be overwhelmed with this longing. So I'm grateful for every day that I can be satisfied with what God's given me for now. 

BTW if you have been following me on Instagram or Facebook and have been a little overwhelmed with all the photos of my puppy... I have to channel my maternal energies into him right now, because my health doesn't give me a choice. So it may seem a little overkill to the non-dog people, but it's really helping me a lot right now, and I remain thankful for everyone's understanding. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Read Chapters 1-3 of "The Mermaid and the Unicorn"

In just 11 days you'll be able to read the whole novel! But for now, enjoy the first three chapters for free over on Geek Haus Press! I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them!

And don't forget to sign up here to get notified as soon as the book becomes available for purchase!

Monday, August 1, 2016

My Official Author Photo

So! Ready for my official author photo reveal?

And it crops down really nicely too! (Always a good feature for Author photos)

It was really hard to choose just one photo! While I went with this one for now, I may use some of the others in later novels. 

Or on my sewing blog.

The photos were taken by my very good Anthony (whom some of you may remember as "Fish" from our film of SOTB). If you're in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend his photography services!

 I almost picked this one.

Most of my sounding board agreed that I looked the prettiest in this one. But the point of an author photo is to convey who you are as a writer - not as a glamour queen! And while I look really lovely in this one, it doesn't have the 'let me tell you a story' quality of the one I ultimately chose.

Now THIS is an iconic mystery author pose. So if I ever dare write a who-dunnit... 

We took the photos out on our three season porch which had lovely lighting. And window ledges to sit on!

At the time we did this, I was on a very late schedule. 8:25 was insanely early for me. COFFEE.

My sister almost always goes around with awesome curls. I never have the patience for curls, so I asked her to come be my stylist for this shoot. It was the best choice.

And here is Anthony! We've been friends for a long time and we love joking around, so it was pretty hard to look serious enough for the photos above! There are SO many outtakes. (Which I may be able to share at some point, but Anthony just got a new job so he is super busy right now and hasn't sent them over yet.)

I feel very blessed that I had the opportunity to do this. I am working very hard to make everything about my book as professional as possible, and getting a really good author photo is part of the process. I love how they turned out!!!