The Power of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman LogoAbout a month ago, Daniel (my husband) and I went to see the new Wonder Woman movie. No spoilers, I promise. Because Daniel’s a huge movie buff, I let him share his DC fanboy analysis first (basic message: “That’s the movie Man of Steel should have been — hopeful, optimistic, awe-inspiring, untouchable!”). As we pulled into the pet store parking lot (exciting errands for this married couple), Daniel asked for my thoughts.

And without warning, I burst into tears.

This is why I’ve waited so long to write this post. I’m embarrassed by my reaction, and I don’t even know if I can put words to how Wonder Woman made me feel. But Daniel insists that you (especially the women) will appreciate my thoughts and so here they are.

For whatever reason, at that exact moment in my life, Wonder Woman was the superhero movie I didn’t know I needed. In the most basic ways (sometimes subtle, sometimes not), Wonder Woman overcame and surpassed the negative stereotypes and tropes that often define female superheroes (and characters in general). At the same time, Wonder Woman embraced Diana Prince’s womanhood and sexuality — even made them an asset for our hero — while still portraying her male allies in a positive light. The movie made me proud to be a woman, and as I watched the scenes unfold, I couldn’t help but feel like some kind of invisible weight had lifted.

Writing this now, I’m starting to become insecure. I can already imagine the ways in which I might be ridiculed for my reaction:

“Crying proves that women are weak!”
“Please, honey. You’re still white, cisgender, straight, American, abled, etc.!”
“Um … there are plenty of other strong female characters out there!”

To the first, I shake my head and move on.

To the second, I say, “I know!” I’m lucky to have been born with certain privileges, and having this experience has given me a new empathy and respect for those who feel underrepresented or excluded from our entertainment culture.

To the last, I say again, “I know!” That’s one of the reason I’m so boggled by my reaction. I grew up watching Xena Warrior Princess, and I’m a proud (albeit recent) member of Buffy’s Scooby Gang. I’ve read myriad books and graphic novels with strong, leading women. So why now? Why did Wonder Woman mean so much to me?

Honestly, I’m still not certain. Maybe it’s because Diana represented my brand of Feminism (which sometimes feels like it’s giving way to more radical, arguably misandristic perspectives). Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of a bunch of huge life changes and needed affirmation of my strength. Maybe it’s because the other recent DC movies have been underwhelming for me. And maybe, it was just a damn good movie that manipulated my emotions as the master marketing team intended.

Whatever the reason, after a tearful episode in the pet store parking lot and a quick purchase of cat laxative (I shit you not — poor Thomas!), Daniel and I made an unplanned stop. We went to Target to find me a Wonder Woman shirt, because I wanted to emblazon her logo across my chest. If you knew my “thrifty” self, you’d know that a $20 impulse buy is a BIG financial upset in our household. We didn’t find one I liked. The search continues but the fact remains …

Wonder Woman blew away my expectations. As a movie, it was fast-paced, charming, funny, packed with intense action (that trench warfare scene!), and satisfying (except for, perhaps, the final battle … but I promised no spoilers). But more than that, it tapped into a subconscious need that I didn’t even know I held. While other strong women have held the stage and Hollywood still has a long way to go towards equality, Wonder Woman was a step in the right direction and meant so much to me. If I can write just one character or one book that gives someone a modicum of that joy and pride, then I will be thrilled with my author career.


How did you feel about the new Wonder Woman movie? What other movies or books have held special meaning for you? Know where I can find a bad ass Wonder Woman shirt (seriously!)? Share it all in the comments.

Month-End Update: June 2017

Earlier this month, I had lunch with a close friend. As we visited, she told me about her experience training a new employee at her work.

“She’s asking a lot of really great questions — ones that I never thought to ask,” my friend said. “It makes me wonder … when did I stop asking why?”

Her question made me think, have I stopped asking why with my author journey? The answer: sometimes, yes. I’ve always been an ambitious person, prone to pushing myself too hard and occasionally getting tunnel vision. Sometimes, I can fall victim to “fear of missing out” (FOMO), which convinces me to do things that don’t align with my goals. Likewise, when I set goals for myself, sometimes I feel like changing them — even if they no longer align with my larger aspirations — means failure.

This conversation with my friend occurred on the cusp of a cross-country move. It’s my second in two years (perks of having a husband in graduate school!), and they’ve both caused me to reevaluate myself. Like starting a new school year or getting a new wardrobe, this move is a chance for rebirth. I’ll be meeting new people, exploring a new city, and establishing a new routine — a totally fresh start.

The conversation also coincided with writing/editing my third novel. For some reason, Desertera #3 felt different. I felt more comfortable and confident in my writing ability, style, and system. The third book also marks a milestone for the series– at least, that’s what I’ve read from successful authors (“Three books is the first tipping point. Readers know you’re serious.”).

All this is to say that I’ve done some reevaluating about my personal self, my author self, and my goals. And you know what? I’m refreshed, realigned, and excited to get back to it!

As a first step, I redesigned my author website. While the previous template was effective, I felt like it lacked personality. This design is a little more me, but I’ve still got some work to do in the graphics department.

As a second step, I revised my New Year’s resolutions. I treat them more like short- and long-term goals than traditional resolutions, and some of them no longer reflected my aspirations for 2017.

Here’s my new list, complete with my regular updates:

Writing & Publishing

  1. Create 5 days per week — a little behind, due to bereavement leave and my move
  2. Write Desertera #3 — done!
  3. Edit Desertera #3 — in the proofreading stage!
  4. Publish Desertera #3 — planned for early August
  5. Write a second novel — totally possible, I can’t wait to start my next series idea!
  6. Edit a second novel — probably can’t publish it, but I should be able to start editing
  7. Start writing Desertera #4 — a long shot
  8. Make 2018 publishing schedule — I need to start thinking long term!

The BIG change: I’ve decided I don’t want to pursue a new nonfiction book at this time.

Business

  1. Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press — on track
  2. Create freebie for Writing Newsletter subscribers — done!
  3. Create short story for Reader List — my July Camp NaNoWriMo goal!
  4. Blog 1x per week — reduced from 2x per week
  5. Maintain content marketing schedule — restructured and reduced
  6. Diversify existing products — pending research into new audiobook distributor
  7. Do 12 marketing promotions — changed to focus on book launch
  8. Read 52 books — hoping to catch up this summer!

The BIG change: reducing my content marketing efforts to focus on writing and publishing.

Personal

  1. Work on positivity — going really well!
  2. Exercise 3x per week — hahahaha, I need to get my shit together …
  3. Break a bad habit — starting a new routine to help today!
  4. Recoup savings account post-Yale — we’re pretty much there!
  5. Make post-Yale plan — done!
  6. Visit final NYC sites — done!
  7. Visit new state — planned for August!
  8. Visit new country — done! Oh, Canada!

No changes here … but obviously I still have some work to do!

Goals for July & Camp NaNoWriMo

  • Write a Desertera short story
  • Get Desertera #3 ready to publish
  • Start outlining new series
  • Rewrite my long author biography
  • Read and review (on Goodreads/Amazon) four books

How do you handle evolving goals? When is the last time you took stock of your aspirations and routines? Are you participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo? Share it all below!

Guest Post: Skill vs. Talent – Which Do You Have? by Ryan Lanz

Please welcome back author and blogger Ryan Lanz! This time, Ryan will be discussing the differences between talent and skill, and which you need to make it in the writing world. 

  • tal·ent [tal-uhnt] noun: a special natural ability or aptitude.
  • skill [skil] noun: the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well.

What if you don’t have natural talent? Does that mean you may as well give up?

It’s not quite the chicken or the egg debate, but it’s up there. I’ve heard people go in circles about which comes first and which is necessary. At what combination of both does one continue the grind and attempt at success? I’d be surprised if you haven’t asked yourself that question. It’s a part of being human.

What does each really mean?

This comes from the university of my opinion, but I would describe talent as the natural ability that needs little to no refinement, and skill is the unnatural ability that you have to develop. For those of us who’ve played sports (myself excluded), I’m sure you’ve all encountered someone who strides onto the field and makes it all look so darn effortless.

This person hardly shows up to practice, and you have a fairly good idea that it took hardly any effort to accomplish. Same with the person who aced every test in college with little preparation, leaving you in study hall time after time with a bucket of coffee. You must have missed at least three parties because you had to cram for the Calculus exam, right?

Which is better?

Good question. And one not so easily answered. Sure, we would all like natural talent that we don’t have to pour so much effort into, but sometimes that doesn’t quite pan out. Often, we are born with enough talent to have an affinity for a profession, but the rest has to be made up with skill. In writing, there are dozens of abilities that need to be present to make a good novel, such as foreshadowing, prose, description, natural dialogue, pacing, etc.

Let’s say that you have a knack for writing dialogue, but your setting description rambles on and on. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and you’ll have to practice at writing setting description over time to develop it into a skill, even if it’s not a natural talent. To be fair, natural talent does get you to the goal quicker.


Related: Finishing a Book is a Skill


The combination of the two

If Tiger Woods is not the best golf player of all time, then he comes very close. He started golfing on professional courses at the age of two years old and was featured in a golf magazine at the age of five. Tiger spent 545 weeks combined total as the world number one. In my opinion, that is some superb natural talent. Although Tiger has mounds of it, he still had a golfing coach (and probably still does) through most of his career. That’s combining the natural with the refined skill that creates that sweet spot. Think about how you can make a similar combination.

Is it so bad if you don’t have natural talent? Should you give up?

The one downside to having natural talent is that you don’t have as much appreciation for the effort. Let’s look at two writers: one who writes his/her first book and quickly becomes published, and the other is a writer who labors for ten years to even become noticed. Both eventually become published and successful, let’s say. I think it’s fair to say that the latter writer has more appreciation for the effort of the craft. There are small nuances of writing that I feel are best represented when someone has to massage and mold their skill over the long-term.

I believe that about anyone can accomplish about anything if they were to dedicate their entire life to it, even if that person doesn’t have a drop of natural talent. Ask yourself what craft you can accomplish if you were to invest 20 years to its perfection. So, no, don’t simply give up on it. You may have been born with talent in a profession you’re not interested in. That’s okay, just work to catch up in a profession that you are.

Conclusion

If you sharpen your skill enough, people will believe that you’ve had talent from the very beginning, regardless of how much you actually had to start with.

Original post here.


Guest post contributed by Ryan Lanz. Ryan is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr.

Month-End Update: May 2017

I can’t believe I survived May.

As you cleverly inferred from the radio silence on this site and social media, May swallowed up all of my work time, then lapped up my free time for good measure. But you know what? It was a blast, and I’m so excited to share my many updates with you and get back to our regular programming.

So … what happened in May?

On the writing front, I finished the first draft of Desertera #3 and sent it off to the editor. She’s already returned round one of edits, and I’m floored and humbled by her feedback. This week, I’ll dive into the manuscript to make her changes and keep moving forward. Depending on how the next few rounds go (and when I finally select a title … I know, it’s my creative Achilles Heel), the novel should be on track for a late July or early August release date! More soon.

Rainy graduation day in a flattering blue poncho!

The second half of May revolved around my personal life. As you know, I’ve been living in Connecticut while my husband worked toward his Master’s at Yale. Well, Daniel graduated (so proud of you, honey!). My mother-in-law and her friend flew over from Australia to celebrate, then the four of us took an epic road trip around New England. (I’ll share more later, or you can check out some pics on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

And it doesn’t end there. Daniel begins his PhD at Stanford this summer, so we packed up our apartment and started our cross-country move. While I’m sad to leave our New Haven friends and the best ice cream on the planet, I’m thrilled for our next adventure together. Again, I plan to talk more about this transition later, once I’ve had time to process and establish a new routine. (Sensing a pattern yet?)

What will I do while Daniel studies? Well, obviously, I’ll still be writing, blogging, and building my author business. I’m also elated to report that I have been able to take my day job with me, so I’m still a copywriter for a fantastic wine marketing company. I love my job (and wine, duh) and getting to do it without three hours of commuting every day is awesome. While I’ll miss writing on the train, I won’t miss the train itself, the bus, other commuters, or braving the elements to get to the office!

Looking forward to June, my top priority is editing, titling, and starting the cover design process for Desertera #3. Second on the list? Establishing a new routine that balances my author work, my copywriting job, and my personal life. I’d also like to catch up on my favorite podcasts and my ever-growing to-read list (a big shout-out to all my fellow authors waiting on reviews … I haven’t forgotten you!).

Have a great Monday (or whatever day you’re reading this), and best of luck with your own goals! As always, I’d love to read what you’re working on in the comments section.


What did you accomplish in May? What are your goals for June? Share in the comments!

Month-End Update: April 2017

Well, I’m back from Camp NaNoWriMo, covered in bug bites and stuffed to the brim with smores. While I didn’t win (darn it!), I did add nearly 40,000 words to my draft of Desertera #3. This puts me well on the way to done, and I should have the manuscript wrapped up over the next week or two.

To be honest, most of April is a blur. Specifically, a blur of Scrivener documents, penciled outlines, and story discussions with my alpha reader. Still, I managed to sneak in a little bit of fun. In preparation of my husband’s graduation from Yale, we’ve started a taste tour of local restaurants and have had many fun double dates and friends’ nights.

It’s definitely been a challenge to balance writing, business, my day job, and my social life, but I’m doing my best. That’s all any of us can do, right? As for May, the first half (and a bit) will be focused on getting Desertera #3 to the editor. Over the second half, I’ll be celebrating my husband’s graduation and spending time all around New England with him and our parents. It should be a lovely (and well deserved) break!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – back on track!
Write Desertera #3 – almost done!

Thanks to the pressure of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made fantastic progress on my manuscript of Desertera #3. My main goal this month will be finishing it up and completing the necessary content edits before it goes to the professional editor in the middle of the month. Because I’ve been editing as I write, this process should be pretty easy!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – slightly behind
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As tends to be my pattern, I struggled with balancing my writing and other business activities. However, I did blog at least once a week, and I did participate in two separate marketing events. Given my editing deadline and upcoming personal commitments, I anticipate more unevenness this month. Luckily, I should have plenty of time to get caught up in this area over the summer.

Books Read:
None

Book in Progress: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – better than zero
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – pretty much done

Even with all the craziness and uncertainty coming up, I’ve stayed in positive spirits and haven’t fallen back into bad habits. Most excitingly, my husband and I have made our plan for after his graduation from Yale, and while we still have a few minor details to iron out, we’re in good shape for our short- and mid-term future. We’ve also planned two fun mini-vacations for the end of the month, so watch my Instagram for photos!

Goals for May
Send Desertera #3 to my editor
Enjoy our post-graduation mini-vacations
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? Any exciting plans for May? Share in the comments!