Storytelling Lessons: Stranger Things Edition

My husband and I just finished binge watching the second season of Stranger Things this weekend. Let me rephrase, it only took us 24 hours. He had minor surgery so it was the perfect excuse to stay in and not move off the couch, except to get more chips and dip. Because, priorities and all that.

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Man, what a show. What an incredible lesson in storytelling. There are several things I learned while watching this show, and here are just a few of them.

  • You don’t have to write elaborately to write meaningful emotion. Stranger Things does this in such a special way. I won’t include spoilers because the show just got released on Netflix, but there is a highly emotional scene towards the end of the season where people are just sitting in a bare room, telling stories about a specific character. It’s moving and important, and even better, simple. It’s about timing and placing those scenes in the right places.

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  • The visual picture matters. The only thing movies and TV have over books is beautiful cinematography. There is a moment in the show when you see something scary, something evil from one of the main characters perspective. More specifically, from right behind him, and able to actually witness the goosebumps rise on the back of his neck. It was a freaking incredible shot. We may not be able to give our readers that moment, but we can come pretty dang close. The point? The picture you paint is super important, and even though we may not be able to move the camera behind the character’s head to create that amazing shot, we should do our best to give our reader’s their own goosebumps.

 

  • We love feelings of nostalgia. Between Stranger Things and Guardians of the Galaxy, I think it’s obvious we all have a thing for the 80s. Considering I was born in 1981, I’m one of those people. We love being reminded of how life used to be, especially the pop culture we obsessed over as kids. The music, the hair, the clothes. And just FYI, this season of Stranger Things does NOT disappoint in that area. We like remembering what life was like pre-internet, and teaching those kiddies born in this millennia what childhood was like for us. How can use this as writers? Reminding readers about the past is not only an effect story-telling tool, it’s also a way to engage our readers by using their own past experiences and eliciting those feelings in our own story.

 

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  • Write like your reader will not be able to put your book down. One of the things I love about this show is their absolute audacity in assuming I was going to binge watch this entire season this weekend. They shot and edited these episodes in such a way that it was practically impossible not to! Every episode was such a beautifully frustrating cliff hanger, you’d think they planned it or something. I think it’s okay for us to write the same way. Don’t tie bows at the end of chapters. Just assume your readers don’t need to pee, or eat dinner. Write only the important things and be relentless! Don’t give your reader the opportunity to put your book down.

 

  • It’s okay to let your character make dumb decisions. I lost count how many times I groaned into my hands in frustration or yelled at the TV to a character for something stupid they were doing. “Don’t go into the hole you igit!!!” “Why are you doing this alone?” “How can you possibly think this is a good idea?!” I’m not sure when I decided all my characters had to be smart and strategic in everything they did, but Stranger Things reminded me that sometimes people do dumb stuff, and it’s okay for that to be reflected in my stories. Besides, reckless decisions lead to danger, great tension, and high intensity scenes, so why not?

 

Have you watched Stranger things yet? What show are you currently binge watching? If you have a show you think I should watch and could learn from, let me know!

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Bookstore Feature: FoxTale Book Shoppe

Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Independent Bookstore. Everything from the unique, comfy feel and laid back charms, to the inevitable formation of relationships that seem to come easier with small businesses. I pin them on Pinterest, stalk them on Instagram, and marvel at their ability to harness my sense of nostalgia.

When I thought about content for my blog, I knew I wanted to write about things I personally loved, and hoped other readers enjoyed as well. And the Independent Bookstore Feature was born! I plan on visiting as many indie bookstores in the Southeast as I can and feature them on my blog on Fridays. Plus, just to make it more fun, I’m going to visit these places with one of my author friends, so you can get two different perspectives if you’d like. 🙂


We decided to start in our own backyard with one of my favorites: FoxTale Book Shoppe in Downtown Woodstock. (I am a little bias considering Woodstock is one of the settings in The Door Keeper.) But if you’ve ever hung out or been there, I know you don’t blame me, because it’s incredible!

Easily, one of my favorite things about FoxTale is the location. Tucked back off the main town square, complete with park benches, gazebo, and fountains. (Side bar: my husband asked me to marry him in that gazebo. 😉 Surrounded by amazing restaurants, dress boutiques, dessert shops and a new amphitheater; this book shop has the vibe you are looking for from a small town with ALL the perks.

The next thing I loved about this Bookstore is the enthusiastic lady working there, a blue haired chick named Hyphen. Yes, everything about this woman brought a smile to my face. Her name, hair, book recommendations, and obvious love for all things books were not only refreshing, but super appreciated. She guided us around the bookstore, pointing out her current reads, (enthusiastically telling us the plot,) helping me find a purchase of my own, showing us the secret stash of ARC’s, (and graciously ging us each a couple,) and telling us her own story. Almost 11 years ago, she was one of the first customers of FoxTale. She came so often, she eventually landed behind the check out counter working one day, and been working there ever since.

Random side bar: One of my favorite things in life is a good theme. Ask anyone who knows me, when I throw a party, or start any new project, there must be a theme. It’s seriously one of my love languages. And I adored FoxTale’s theme. Everywhere I looked there was a fox of some kind. They had a beautiful stained glass window of their logo, stuffed foxes hidden on shelves, chalk art and statues strategically placed throughout the store. It was amazing.

As we moseyed around the store, I noticed a beautiful door on the back wall. My friend Bonnie mentioned I should do a “Cool Door Count” at each bookstore we visit considering my Trilogy revolves around awesome doors. FoxTale started this super strong at an incredible 6! There were 6 really cool doors all throughout the bookstore; from displays, french doors, door behind secret curtains, even the check out counter was a door! Not sure if any other bookstore can compete with that.

This was a really strong start to our Indie Bookstore tour. We had an amazing time with FoxTale and look forward to another visit. If you are ever in Woodstock, make sure you stop by and tell them hi! If you want more information about the different events they do, you can check out their website at http://www.foxtalebookshoppe.com/. They are also on Instagram and Facebook. If you’d like to get my friend Bonnie’s perspective of our visit, check out her blog here. (She’s about to rock the children’s book world with picture book coming out next year.)

Do you have any recommendations of Bookstores for us to visit? Let me know, I’d love to hear about your favorite indie bookshops!

The Lost Door Cover Reveal!

I am SO thrilled to reveal this cover. I wasn’t able to have the same designer as The Door Keeper, but she and I had similar styles. So I was able to capture the feel and vibe of the first cover into the second with some of my own drawings. Then after handing them off to my friend, Brittney Kaefer, she proceeded to work her magic with them. Complete and beautiful and amazing magic.

One of my goals in life is to constantly be growing and evolving as a person and I wanted that to be evident in these books as well. So Brittney and I worked to really capture the essence, characters, and plot of this story in the artwork. Which made me all the more excited about the clues and hints the cover would give you as to the story inside. Everything from the stag, stars, tree roots, and flowers all have relevance. Then Brittany took it to a whole other level with textures, overlays, and all things digital that are way beyond my brain power. So the cover itself is much more intricate, detailed, and evolved from the first, but still matching in whimsy and fantasy elements.

I can’t thank Brittney enough for partnering with me to create a beautiful cover that I am super proud of. Thank you Brittney, for enduring all my emails and texts. You are one talented chick. 🙂

I’m extremely proud of this cover and to share it with you all. Without further ado, I present you: The Lost Door.

 

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The Lost Door Blurb:

You have every right to be scared. But I promise you this, you come from a lineage of some of the strongest and bravest women these world’s have ever seen. You were made to do this; my mother and yours made sure of it.”

It’s been over seven years since Eden learned the truth about where she came from and that her mother was a Door Keeper from another world. Eden’s own daughter, Gabby, is about to turn 18 and learn the story herself, and about the predestined future that lay ahead of her. As fate would have it, the worlds intervene before Eden can tell her daughter the truth, throwing the family into complete and utter chaos. Gabby must find the strength to save her Mom while grappling with unbelievable realizations about herself, her family, and what it all means for her future.

This anticipated sequel to The Door Keeper introduces interesting new characters, opens two new doors into unique and magical worlds, where our heroines must face the harsh elements and mythical creatures long thought extinct. The Lost Door explores the circle of mother/daughter legacy, the unbreakable bond of family, and the sometimes inescapable repetition of the past.

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Let me know what you think of the cover! If you’re interested in being a part of the blog tour, or a part of my promotional team, please let me know. Thanks for all your support and look forward to sharing the continuation of Eden and Gabby’s story with you!

My Latest Obsession via Pinterest.

Recently, I saw a commercial that sparked a new obsession. It’s not what you think, the commercial didn’t turn me onto a product; rather, it repulsed me enough to create an entire Pinterest board against it.

It’s that new Verizon commercial of two girls horseback riding in the country. Beautiful country. Breathtaking views. And of course Verizon’s goal was to make us have to have guaranteed LTE coverage so we could post about it. Get our “likes.” Because of course, if you don’t post about it, it didn’t happen.

It back fired on me. Hard core.

Because, if I’m riding horseback through rolling hills and glorious landscapes, I don’t want to stop and post about it. I want to soak it in, commit it to memory. Smell the grass and remember the feel of the wind on my face.

Forget LTE coverage.

So, I started thinking a lot about what kind of life I do want. What do I want to value, what is my Fantasy life? It immediately came to me: Unplugged in Italy.

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Dream with me for a second. Before we had phones, before we spoke to computers, before we had pre-made dinners delivered to our doors, we chopped vegetables and cooked, sat outside and had conversations, and we drank wine and laughed together. Now, put yourself in Italy, lounging on the terrace, the sun setting over the rolling hills. Imagine walking through the streets of a Tuscan village, shopping and eating pizza. Melting gelato running down your hand.

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Imagine drinking wine made by your neighbor, learning to cook from your friend’s Nonna, who is like a hundred years old, or making your own cheese? That’s what I want. And I don’t want to feel like I have to post about it, or care how many people see it.

Italian dinner

Hence my problem. Because we do live with phones, speaking to Siri and Alexa, with Blue Apron and Chinese food being delivered to our houses every now and again. I realize it would be difficult to simply unplug completely, so I started small. I deleted Twitter and Facebook off my phone. So far, it’s been great! I spend way less time on my phone throughout the day. I left Instagram on so I can still connect with the world regarding my book, and Pinterest because that’s where I fuel my creativity.  And of course pin about my newest obsession: one day living in Italy, touring, eating and drinking my way through every square inch without my phone.

Ironic, I know. But hey, I’m not perfect.

Here is my newest Pinterest board containing all the lovely italian things in case you are interested.

What is your Fantasy life? What would your board be called? Do you already have one? I’d love to hear about it. 🙂

Blog Tour Participates Wanted!

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Hey Friends! Now that the sequel is deep in editing and my cover is almost finished, I’m looking for several bloggers to work with me on the Blog Tour for the release! My original dates of an early December release are still looking good, so as of right now, December 5th is the start date.

If you have a blog, or would just love to read and review the book and help me promote online and on social media, send me an email at steen@thedoorkeepertrilogy.com and I’ll send you all the information and make sure I get you a spot on the tour!

Please share this info with anyone you think would want to be a part of the tour, or any bloggers you know of that enjoy fantasy. 🙂

Here is all of the official information for the book! So exciting!

THE LOST DOOR

 

“You have every right to be scared. But I promise you this, you come from a lineage of some of the strongest and bravest women any of the worlds have ever seen. You were made to do this; my mother and yours made sure of it.”

It’s been over seven years since Eden learned the truth about where she came from and that her mother was a Door Keeper from another world. Eden’s own daughter, Gabby, is about to turn 18 and learn the story herself, and about the predestined future that lay ahead of her. As fate would have it, the worlds intervene before Eden can tell her daughter the truth, throwing the family into complete and utter chaos. Gabby must find the strength to save her Mom while grappling with unbelievable realizations about herself, her family, and what it all means for her future.

This anticipated sequel to The Door Keeper introduces interesting new characters, opens two new doors into unique and magical worlds, where our heroines must face the harsh elements and mythical creatures long thought extinct. The Lost Door explores the circle of mother/daughter legacy, the unbreakable bond of family, and the sometimes inescapable repetition of the past.

Sequel Update.

Hey everyone! Sorry, it’s been a while since my last blog. I had mono for a couple of months and tried my best to rest, allowing my mind and body to heal. But now I’m back at it and ready to continue working on the sequel.

So, here is the update. My manuscript is finished and currently with my new editor! Once she gets her edits back to me, I’ll do some re-writing and send it back to her for a final look over.

My cover art is also with my new graphic designer and she is working on digitizing the cover. So that is also out of my hands for now.

So what am I doing???

I’m working on putting together my marketing plan and promo materials. I’m compiling lists of potential ideas, blog tour options, blogging schedule, etc. So if you are interested in being a part of the blog tour, or promo in any way, please let me know! I will keep you updated on opportunities to help, giveaways, and discounts here, so keep a look out.

As far as a time frame goes, I would LOVE to put the sequel out in December, but I’m still unsure if we can make these dates work. It just depends on editing timing, etc. But, this is the goal!

Tentative dates:

November 1st: Cover Reveal

November 14th: Presale

December 5th: Sequel goes on sale!

December 5th – December 12th: Blog Tour

Thank you guys for all of your support and encouragement! I can’t wait for you to see what is in store for Eden and Gabby.