The Night Circus Magic.

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Let me start by saying how incredibly grateful I am to have read this story. Erin Morgenstern has earned a loyal fan. I must say, after having read a few reviews of this book from people I trusted, I went into The Night Circus with high expectations. Every single one were met.

I don’t want to critique this book, or give anything away. Part of the magic for me was not really knowing much about the story other than there are two magicians dueling each other and that the backdrop was a circus, only open at night. So in order to help you decide if you want to read this book, I’m just going to make this simple!

If you like using your imagination, you will love this book. I got lost in the sweeping, beautiful details of the circus. Morgenstern did a phenomenal job painting the most elaborate pictures with her imagery. It was stunning as it unfolded within my mind.

If you need lots of action in a story, you will not like this book. This book is more a museum of unique artwork you leisurely walk through siping on a glass of wine, less of a Marvel movie you watch shoveling popcorn.

If you love magic and wonder, you will love this book. While there is not much action in terms of story, the creativity and sense of awe surrounding the magicians creations were completely inspiring. I’ve never wanted to be in the setting of a book more in my life!

If you want a mind numbing read, you will not like this book. If you want to follow the plot, you will need to use your noggin. There are lapses in the timeline, jumping back and forth with in said timeline, and multiple POV’s. But it made me feel as though I was discovering something, like I was working out something previously unknown.

If you appreciate the art of writing as much as the finished product, you will love this book. At least I did. As a writer, Morgenstern’s style inspired me. In fact, after reading The Night Circus, I was inspired to jump back into writing my own story and finishing it. Which for me, is a sign of an awesome story.

And that’s all I’m giving you. If you’re still on the fence, just go pick it up or download it on your kindle. It’s worth the money even if you don’t end up liking it!

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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!

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.

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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. 🙂

Mother’s Day Contest!

Calling all sons and daughters!

I’m excited to announce a fun and different type of contest I’m running for Mother’s Day.

Do you have an awesome, inspiring, funny, quirky, intelligent, or accomplished Mom?

Does she deserve to have a character in a book inspired by her? Do you think she should be immortalized in the written word forever?

The Door Keeper revolves around a mother/daughter bond and the legacy that surrounds family. So to honor my story and mothers worldwide, I’ve decided to write a new character based on one of your moms.

Anywhere on social media, tell me 5 reasons your mom deserves to be a character in the sequel to The Door Keeper. It can be a normal post, a picture, or a video. Just make sure you tag me to be entered. (Feel free to use the hashtag #doorkeepermom so you can see other entries.) On Sunday, May 14th, I will choose a Mom to become a new character in the next book.

I will also send whoever I chose, a signed copy of The Door Keeper, so they can catch up to their big debut as a fictional character. 🙂

I’m so excited to get to know your mothers over the next 10 days! Enter early and share this post to give other people the opportunity to submit their moms. I plan on sharing some of the entries on my blog, so yours could be featured.

Who knows, if more than one speak to me, I may decide on more than one winner!

Open your eyes.

White Butterfly

Yesterday, I sat in a lounge chair by the pool while my kids splashed and played. Earlier that afternoon, a blue and black butterfly had flown around the pool, sending the kids on a wild goose chase trying to catch it. As I sat there, listening to the kids laughing (fighting) and the birds chirping, a white butterfly flew up beside me. It landed on the flower pot next to me, then flew off into the woods. A white butterfly. It was so beautiful and for a split second, time froze as I looked at it perched next to me. The whole encounter lasted less than 5 seconds. But it sparked something and it was all I needed. Before it had reached the tree line, I thought “What if there was a world that was completely white?” Boom, a new world was born. Then, of course I spent the next hour researching the science behind the color white.

Sometimes we just need to open our eyes.

My friends asked me where I come up with this stuff (different worlds, fictitious stories, etc.) And to be honest, this is it. I just notice things, things that trigger something else; an idea or a thought. This is where almost everything I have ever created comes from. Once I sat on the beach, watching the gentle lapping of the waves pulling and pushing each other in different directions when I was inspired to create an entire world around that idea. Not too long ago, I sat by the Chattahoochee River and watched a huge swan (could have been a goose, lol) fly and gracefully land in the river,  which inspired a major detail in that same world. One of the other worlds I’d imagined had been inspired by sitting in a hammock by the lake staring up into the trees. One time, I woke up after having the most vivid dream of skipping rocks on a lake. It was so beautiful I wrote it down immediately because I thought it such a beautiful scene. It ended up making it into the book.

You never know when inspiration might strike. It could be on vacation, or at work, or while cooking, or dreaming in your sleep. All I know, is if we are too busy to notice, we might miss out on a beautiful opportunity or a beautiful moment of inspiration and creativity.

Are you a writer? Or a creator? Artist? Or are you just curious if you could be any of those things? My advice for you today is simple.

Just open your eyes and take notice of the things around you…then of course, make sure you write it down.

The long walk.

Picture: “Evergreen Plantation” Photographed by Mike JonesEvergreen plantation

The truck’s engine purred beneath me. I gripped the wheel with white knuckles, unwilling to pry them from the hot leather. The dirt road stretching out before me beckoned me home. But it has been a long time.

I turned the ignition and removed the keys, tossing them on top of the dash. I looked at the picture of you taped next to my speedometer. A small bead of sweat formed on my forehead. The southern heat felt familiar as it built in the old truck’s cab. The stagnate air hung quietly while I mustered the courage to get out.

I sighed, opened the door, hopped out, and shut it a little harder than I meant to. I was more nervous about this than I cared to admit.

Someone had recently driven down the dirt driveway; the small particles of dust still hung in the air, visible when passing through the bright sun’s rays cutting through the trees. The old oaks had been planted down this driveway sometime before the civil war, every twenty five feet or so. Their branches intertwined with each other’s and over the driveway creating quite an enchanting tunnel of green. The leaves were full; yet always allowed just enough sun through to make the undergrowth feel magical. It’s magic wasn’t lost on me today. I had almost forgotten how these trees made me feel.

Almost.

Willing myself to put one foot in front of another, I started the walk down the long dirt driveway. This was one stretch of road that needed to be walked, not driven. I needed the time to process what awaited me at the other end. I could barely make out what laid ahead, the end of the tunnel of trees almost glowed white with the bright sunlight. The end of the road no longer obstructed by the giant oaks or their leaves. With each tree I passed under, a different memory flooded my mind.

We hung from that tree upside down and played like monkeys.

I broke my arm falling out of that one.

You carved our initials on the backside of that one’s trunk.

We pretended those leaves were money and collected thousands, rich for the day.

And there is branch we sat on when you told me you loved me.

We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches under that tree.

And there is where you proposed.

Each passing tree held beautiful moments. The next held tragic reminders. Back and forth, until I wasn’t sure if my tears were from joy or grief. The red dirt under my sandals left temporary footprints of my journey. After the summer rain that would most likely fall later, there would be no evidence of me coming home.

Every few feet the sun would warm me in it’s rays. A welcomed sensation. But within seconds, the shadows were grim reminders of the truth. I was walking this road alone; and while your ghost played among the trees around me, you weren’t beside me anymore. 

Up ahead I saw the distinct line the sun drew in the red Georgia clay. Like the line of rain you see falling in the distance, or the line of children during a game of red rover at recess. The hot sun on my face meant I was home. I knew who waited for me on the other side of the bright white light, but I was unsure if I was ready to see her. This was a visit I had postponed in attempt to save myself. Save myself from the truth. The grief of my reality. The reality of my grief. There would be no more shadows, no more place to hide. There was only the full sun to expose everything I’d been attempting to run from. Going home does that to a person. Exposes you, for you who you really are. Where you came from, and those deep, deep wishes of who you’d hoped to be.

I can no longer be what I had hoped. Not without you. That’s why I knew this would be so hard. This is why I had waited so long. But I knew today was the day. I woke up feeling brave.

I stood, staring at the wall of light. The lines of trees stopped and the sun blared down hard on the expansive, uncut fields of tall grass that spread out before me. The house anchored the end of the driveway the way I remembered.

She stepped out of the front door, wiping her weathered hands on her  blue apron. Her face was tan deeply and wrinkled from years under the Georgia sun. Her white hair pulled back in a loose bun. Her brown eyes looked worn and heavy with her own years of sorrow and pain. I saw a tear run down her cheek as she nodded and slowly turned to enter back into the house.

I needed her. As much as I didn’t want to or wished I could do this on my own, I knew I needed her. I stepped out of the protection of the tree’s shadows and walked towards my home. The sun bathed me in what I had feared. Exposure.

I walked towards her, towards my past, so that I may find my future.

So that I may start new again.