I’ve Been… (Lockdown Edition)

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  • Editing what I once called Frozen Heart, or what I might now call Frost. Which title do you prefer? Or a different one? It’s going alright, but I think I’m at the point where I need to call in a professional editor.
  • Writing. I’ve started a new project. It’s inspired by Cinderella. I never saw that as a fairy tale I’d want to retell (my first thought is always that it’s over done) but much like the case with Beauty and the Beast, I realized that I had something to say about it. I will say it’s a Cinderella I don’t think we’ve seen quite like this before, and a Godmother who is also rather unexpected. But it’s still a very new project, so, for now, I won’t say much more.
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    Locked down. My city has pretty strict rules about staying in, but even if we didn’t, I don’t think I’d be going out much! My weekly grocery runs are about as much stress as I can take. If you told me a few months ago, that it’s the only time I’d really go out, I’d have thought it would be something I’d look forward to. But between worrying about staying a safe distance from others and showering and wiping down my purchases as soon as I get home, it just doesn’t seem worth it!

  • Reading. I always read a lot  and this lockdown is certainly no exception. And if nothing else, this has convinced me that it makes perfect sense to have a huge pile of unread books in your space. This is a perfect example of just such an occasion. That’s a big “so there!” to anyone who ever told me that it was a waste of space! If you want to see what I’ve been reading lately, it’s all on here.
  • Working Out. Fortunately there’s enough of Youtube to keep me fit! I love some of these workout channels. Check them out. They’re a way to stay fit indoors (all have low impact workouts or at least low impact options so you don’t need to jump around and disturb the downstairs neighbors, if you have them)
  • Binging:
    • Ozark– It’s not my usually type of show (slow burn crime drama) but somehow I got drawn in and now I’m hooked! I’m just starting the third season, so no spoilers please!
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    • Schitt’s Creek– I caught up on the finale last night. I’m really going to miss this show! Feel good viewing that makes you laugh is rare, and with the loss of this and The Good Place in the same year, it’s now lacking in my TV line up!
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    • Unorthadox– I saw this recommended a few places and I loved it. How often to we get a miniseries with no big “stars,” set in the Hasidic community, about a young woman’s self discovery? While it’s not exactly what I’d call action/adventure, this character driven drama is really compelling and absorbing. It’s only 4 episodes so you can binge it in a day if you want.
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  • Oddly, socializing a lot. My extended family has gotten together for “virtual brunch.” My book club started doing virtual meetings. And I’ve touched base with a number of people to check in and see how they’re doing. It’s not ideal, but I appreciate the various ways that we’ve found to keep isolation for being too isolating.
  • A wreck. If any of this makes it sound like I’ve mastered quarantine, rest assured I’m just as nervous and stressed as anyone else. I’m just hoping and praying for the best for myself , my loved ones, the people around me, the people away from me and the world at large.

How have you been dealing with this weird, frightening experience?

Stay in and stay safe everyone!

While You’re Isolated…

Obviously there’s not a lot to love about our current circumstances. Most of the world is in some form of isolation due to the Corona virus. We’re all in the same, miserable, anxious boat. But I do love that some people have used this as a time to connect creatively, teach others, and share art. I’ve made a list of some people, hashtags, and websites that I feel are providing great resources during this troubling time. Feel free to provide others:

Hashtag Love

  • #SunshineSongs Broadway star Laura Benanti  reached out to kids who were supposed to perform in the school musicals only to have then canceled. She asked them to perform on twitter using the hashtag, and she got a beautiful response.
  • #ArtFromHome The Ayala Museum in the Philippines has started an  #ArtFrom Home Challenge. 15 prompts are posted, every other day, for 30 days. People make
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    art according to the prompts and post with the hashtag.

  • #InternationalPoetryCircle Poet Tara Skurtu started this project. Poets from around the world are sending in videos of themselves reading their work, or just their favorite poems. Not only does the thread have some beautiful work, but it’s a great way to discover contemporary poetry.

Children’s Literature

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  • Gene Leun Yang’s book tour for his novel Dragon Hoops was cancelled, so he started “touring as a cartoon” from his Instagram page, where he responds to reader questions in comic strip form.
  • Amy Kaufman is hosting a weekly #kidslitgoesviral twitter party for MG and YA authors whose promotional plans have been upended by the virus.
  • Grace Lin is posting drawing tutorials and readings from her books on herYoutube channel. She started doing this as a way to combat the anti-Asian rhetoric has come up amid the Corona virus fears.
  • Author/illustrator Mo Willems is invites kids to draw with him every day for Lunch Doodles in which he walks viewers through his studio, answers questions, draws creatures and created simple animations for them to try at home.
  • Mac Barnett reads a book aloud every afternoon on Instagram Live.
  • Oliver Jeffers is reading on Instagram Live on weekday afternoons. Afterwards the recordings are available on his website.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novels, is hosting daily drawing sessions on his youtube.
  • Peter H. Reynolds’ tour for his most recent book, Be You, was also cancelled. He’s taken to reading aloud from his work on Facebook Live every day.
  • Susan Tan started an Authors Everywhere! Youtube channel. She provides workshops that are supposed to teach aspiring authors as well as give kids an emotional outlet for addressing their fears about the pandemic.

Theatre

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from playbill.com

  • Stars in the House concerts–  Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s Seth Rudetsky is doing an interview/concert series with Broadway stars via skype benefiting the Actor’s Fund.
  • The Irish Repertory Theatre has launched a digital series called The Show Must Go Online, featuring homemade videos of their actors performing favorite songs, poems and monologues from Irish and Irish American playwrights, poets, and musicians.
  • The National Yiddish Theatre is offering it’s Folksbiene! Live series featuring livestreamed theatre, American Jewish performers, workshops, talkbacks, and other events.
  • The American Conservatory Theatre has cancelled performances of the plays, Gloria and Toni Stone. However, a video of the performance is available to stream.
  • The Show Must Go Online (popular title!) is a weekly Shakespeare reading group covering the plays in the order they were written, as a way for actors and theatre makers to stay connected during unprecedented times. First up is Two Gentlemen of Verona.
  • Mike Lew’s play Teenage Dick at Theatre Wit in Chicago is available for remote viewing.
  • Broadwayworld has launched Living Room Concerts where the stars perform from their living rooms.
  • Broadway Star Elena Shaddow is doing a live concert on IGTV every night at 8PM EST. She takes requests from viewers and accompanies herself on the piano in her living room.

Performing Arts

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  • The Metropolitan Opera is offering “Nightly Met Opera Streams” a free series of Live in HD presentations of their past performances.
  • The Vienna State Opera has opened is archives and will broadcast recordings of opera and ballet performances. The performances can be found here, with instructions and information about how to access them here.
  • The Seattle Symphony is sharing live broadcasts of their performances.
  • The 92nd Street Y has recent performances available from pianist Garrick Ohlsson,  and mezzo soprano Fleur Baron.
  • London’s concert hall, Wigmore Hall, has past livestreams available on the website.
  • The Paris Opera is streaming performances online for free. Full performances are available on their website.

Health/Wellness

  • Pandemic Check-In is sort of a pop up podcast that’s really a call in show for people who needs some mental health support. The people at Brooklyn Minds, a psychiatry/psychology center are behind it, alongside the LA Based podcast studio Western Minds.
  • headspace-mindfulness-appHeadspace, a popular meditation app is offering some free meditations that you can listen to any time. The collection, called “weathering the storm” includes meditation, sleep and movement exercises that can help you through a variety of different situations.
  • Outlander star, Sam Heughan,  has created a 30 day social distancing challenge for free as part of his My Peak Challenge program.
  • Planet Fitness is offering a live 6PM “work in” every evening on Facebook, led by personal trainers. You don’t even have to be a member.
  • Core Power Yoga has a collection of free classes available  any time.
  • Studio Three is a Chicago area gym that combines yoga, cycling, and interval training. They’re hosting classes on Instagram Live at several times throughout the day. Workouts are available for playback on the app.
  • Pop Sugar fast tracked the release of their new app Active, and is offering it now for free.

Research When You’re Writing Fantasy

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A few months ago I  was talking to someone about writing. He asked what genre I wrote and I said “Fantasy.” He said “That’s nice. At least you don’t have to worry about research.” Well, that would be false. All writers are different of course, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I definitely do research as a fantasy writer.

When I first started writing Beautiful, I was just throwing my imaginings on the page, and I hadn’t really done much research or preparation. But when I realized that I was writing a variant of Beauty and the Beast, I started to do some research. Specifically, I started with Google.  I think I literally looked up “beauty and the beast story variations” found some interesting articles. Some sites I found particularly helpful were Pook Press, Jenni of Shalott and SurLaLune Fairy Tales. I read up on some animal bridegroom tales from other cultures.  I wanted to see what themes emerged in common among these stories and where they differed. I also read a lot of existing retellings. I discuss some favorites and some observations in this post. I also read a lot of contemporary discussions on the story, including popular claims that it’s about Stockholm Syndrome (here’s my rebuttal if you’re interested) and I decided that I wanted to write something in which there weren’t any real captives. I also watched a lot of film versions of the story. For about a year I lived I Beauty and the Beast themed life, and I reflected a bit about the story and why it appealed to me. I wasn’t sure how much of this would end up making it into my book, but it was interesting food for thought.

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Another layer of research came as I was revising. I wanted the book to be set in a sort of generic “past” rather than a specific time and place.  But I still needed to look up things that the characters do. For example, in one scene, Finn, a wealthy, privileged character who has always had servants to do things for him, is on his own in the wilderness.  He must build a fire. In the first draft I brushed over this, because I was more interest in getting everything down. But as I revised I had to get more specific.  As far as I’m concerned, building a fire involves striking a match, so that took research. In another scene, the heroine, Eimear, is stung by a jellyfish. Fortunately, that’s never happened to me, so I needed to do research to find out what that looks and feels like, and how it’s treated. Google was again, helpful here. I have no idea how writers did research in the pre-Google days!

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Another element of research come in as I was building my fantasy world. The courts are based on a classification system derived from Scottish folklore. But within those environments I included other classifications from William Butler Yeats and Katherine Marie Briggs. I also included creatures from different folkloric traditions. One book that I used a lot was The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, which is a general A-Z guide to creatures from different traditions and systems of mythology. Once I found things I wanted to include I took to the internet again for more research.

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The finished product. Buy it! Read it! Review it!

My research process for my second novel has been similar-ish with one major difference. The first time around there was a lot of “how to” research involving publishing, and a lot of trial and error. I’m hoping that this time around will involve a little less error!

I’ve Been…

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  • Adding some extras to the “Books” section on my website. Right now it’s just a couple of character letters written by Eimear and Finn, the protagonists of Beautiful.  I’ve also been working on some letters for my next book. I’m hoping to have some news about that soon!
  • Trying to sell books. Figuring out the publicity and marketing angle of publishing is tricky for me because it’s not something I’m comfortable with. Part of it is the fact that I’m not an aggressive salesperson in general. Part of it is the fact that I’m still working on building confidence as a writer. I think/hope that as that happens, the sales side of things will get easier.
  • Working on book #2. It’s set in the same universe as Beautiful but it’s a stand alone. In it, I combine Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen with some Japanese mythology, as well as some of the Celtic folklore in Beautiful. I’m almost done with my first draft and I’m aiming to have it ready to publish by Summer 2019.
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  • Loving the Charity Miles App. Basically, it’s an app that logs your movement (walking, running, biking, etc) and each mile you move, helps to earn money for your chosen charity. The money comes from corporate sponsors who are repurposing their media budgets for social good. The app gives them premium advertising so they see a high return on their investment. You can choose from over forty charities that help children, veterans, animals, the environment, education, and scientific research, and you can change your charity at any time. In the past week, I’ve logged about thirty miles for She’s the First, an organization that fights gender inequality around the world through education. Next week I’ll walk/run for a different charity. Basically, it’s a chance to improve your own health as well as help others, and I encourage anyone and everyone to try it.
  • Livid and saddened by the situation in the US.  I don’t want to talk about it too much in this post, but this past week has been really overwhelming at times. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the state of the nation and how we can heal. Maybe I’ll post about that at some point soon. For now, I can only hope that this spurs everyone who has had similar feelings to vote next month.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Blogs/Websites

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 14: Favorite Book Blogs/Bookish Websites

This seemed like an interesting change of pace. I decided to avoid WordPress blogs here because that could be a whole nother post.

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1. Girls At Library  – Features book focused interviews with women of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Series including “Nightstand” (women discuss what books are on their nightstand), “There’s A Book For That” (literary prescriptions for a variety of ailments) and a book club with live events and an online community.

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2. Belletrist  Yes, it’s run by Emma Roberts. Don’t judge. Her taste isn’t bad! It features a monthly book pick and an independent bookstore of the month. There’s also a blog with interviews, pics, and more

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3. Literary Hub   Be careful with this one because it’s very easy to spend half the day on this site! It features diverse voices, interviews, essays, reviews, reading lists and more including excerpts from some of the books they talk about.

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4. Electric Literature–  This is sort of a cousin of the Literary Hub since they share founders. This site features the Read More Women series featuring articles and books by diverse women,  a Recommended Reading section featuring short stories, poetry, and novel excerpts. Actually, it’s another potentially hazardous time suck.

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5. Modern Mrs. Darcy –This is actually run by a woman who is not related to the Darcy family at all. She’s actually a blogger who talks about books (a lot!). It features a  podcast, a literary matchmaking section, a book club, book deals, and more.

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6. The Silver Petticoat Review – Technically this is a romance-themed “entertainment” site but the focus is heavily on books and literary adaptations. There are lots lot lists like “50 Books To Read If You Love Jane Austen” or “The Romantic Profession: 18 Wonderful Films About Writers You Need To Watch

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7. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books– This is a fun site that is ostensibly focused on “trashy” romance, but really the definition of that is very broad. Some of the books featured on there don’t have a very strong romantic element. There’s a podcast, reviews, a blog and special features ranging from knitting patterns to a “best of” section.

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8. Book Riot– Another site that is a little too easy to get lost in. It features reviews, a podcast, videos, a reader challenge,  and articles like “Why You Should Read Fluff Books,” and “How Bookstores Help Calm My Anxiety.”

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9. Read it Forward- This site has a lot of lists, which makes it perfect for me because I love books and I love lists! You’ll also find author essays, interviews, a podcast, the Book Apothecary which prescribes books based on your mood, giveaways and more.

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10. She Reads For some reason one of my guilty pleasures is seeing what celebs read. Maybe because what a person reads can tell you so much about them, so seeing a celeb bookshelf is like the ultimate insider gossip. Regardless this site facilitates that addiction with its Celeb Reads page. It also features book lists based on what you like. For example, if you’re a fan of The Bold Type this is the list for you. It also features first looks, cover reveals, excerpts and giveaways.

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

I’ve been debating with myself for several months about whether or not I should post about what’s happening in the US right now. I have watched in horror over the past 18 months at what has taken place in the US. I haven’t just watched though. I’ve also voted, protested, and called my representatives regularly. But I’ve felt (and still feel) very powerless. A part of me had the feeling that it was inappropriate to discuss politics on a website dedicated to books and to my writing. But over the past few days, I realized two things:

  •  This is not a discussion of politics. It has nothing to do with political party.  It’s about right and wrong.

Which led me to my second realization:

  • I don’t think that I could live with myself if I don’t use my voice to speak out for what’s right. That applies everywhere. As a writer, everything I write involves my beliefs, values, and opinions. That can be explicit, in a nonfiction article or essay, but it can also come through elsewhere.

I have my own political beliefs and positions. I won’t get into that here, because as I said, it’s irrelevant. I also won’t say that separating children from their parents is evil. “Losing” those children surpasses “evil”. That should go without saying.  It breaks my heart that there are people who don’t understand that. If this were happening somewhere else, the press would be calling it a human rights violation or a crime against humanity. Because that is what it is. I applaud the people in this country who are publicly condemning this and trying to do something about it.  These are people from all walks of life, all political viewpoints, all religions.  If you feel threatened right now, please know that you are not without support in the United States.  A lot of people support you.

If you can, please consider contributing to one (or more) of these organizations:

If you can’t afford to contribute financially, you can do so in other ways.

  • Propublica is tracking bigoted violence and harassment. They are collecting and verifying reports to create a national database for journalists, researchers, and civil rights organizations. If you are a victim, or a witness to a crime, please tell your story.
  • Read, watch, listen to or promote art by marginalized people. This helps by giving the creator royalties, clicks, views or downloads. It also brings more attention to their voice.
  • Call your representatives!!! I can’t say it enough. It is the most effective way to get their attention. It is far, far, more effective than tweets, mass emails, or Facebook posts. Calls get attention. Click the link to find contact info. #callyourrep Remember, these people work for you!
  • Follow these hashtags on social media to organize and learn more about things that you can do to help.
    • #marchforstolenchildren
    • #wherearethechildren
    • #stoptheICEgestapo
  • Also, check out this thread on Alida Garcia‘s twitter. Garcia is an attorney and public affairs, strategist for electoral and issues advocacy campaigns. She gives concrete suggestions to people.

I don’t have a lot of followers and I don’t know how much this post will accomplish, but it’s the platform that I have at the moment. If my saying this costs me a few followers then so be it.

I want to leave off with a quote from Elie Wiesel, writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

 

Shameless Self Promotion

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This is just an update for anyone interested since I’m putting the finishing touches on my Beautiful manuscript.

I finally got my author page set up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FranTheAuthor/

You can sign up for my mailing list here: https://wordpress.us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6a0b2e20068aa80f2cf3cab19&id=bdbbf47e1f

Elsewhere on the net, you can find me on:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/franlaniado/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FranWrites11

Beautiful will be available for pre-order soon!

I’ve Been

  • Eagerly anticipating my spring break, and now it’s finally here. So far this break has consisted of some hardcore resting.
  • Loving this blog. Catbird is a Brooklyn jewelry shop. While I like jewelry as much as the next girl, I normally wouldn’t follow a jewelry store’s blog, but with lots of literary quotes, beautiful pictures, fangirling old movies, and interviews with successful, creative women, this blog seems made for me.
  • Watching a lot of British murder mysteries on Netflix. I don’t condone violence of any kind, but I do find that murder is always more tolerable when it comes with a cup of tea and a British accent. In the past few months, I’ve watched the most recent seasons of  Broadchurch and The Fall as well as The Bletchley Circle, Grantchester, and Happy Valley,  and I’m currently watching The Five. The nice thing about British shows is that the seasons are quite short, so if I watch an episode each evening I can finish a whole season in about a week (if that!)   Of course, the downside is that if I really like a show, I’ll be through it all too quickly.
  • Trying to embrace more poetry this National Poetry Month. I’ve always had a weird relationship with poetry. While I like it, I can’t dive into it, and inhabit it,  like  I do with prose. But I do think I’m a better writer and a more aware, appreciative person when there’s poetry in my life. Right now I think there are a lot of exciting things happening with poetry, but there are also a lot of poets who have been heavily marketed thanks to social media but strike me as more style than substance. Any recommendations for poets I need to check out ASAP?
  • Editing. A lot. Since I’m not independently wealthy, I can’t spend as much as I’d like to ensure that Beautiful is well, you know… Often I’ll do an exchange with other writers for a critique or a beta read. I just did one that turned out to be way more work than I’d anticipated.
  • Deciding that my target publication date for Beautiful is July 4th. That means that I’m panicking every time I think about what needs to be done before then and wondering how I’m going to pull it off.

I’ve Been…

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  • Working. Hard. Mid-Winter break has just started and I find myself needing it desperately. I think that if teachers didn’t have these breaks we’d go absolutely insane. The kids would too, but teachers? Definitely. If you’re a parent and you don’t think teachers work hard, think about how difficult your kids are. Then picture 30 of them in a classroom. Try to manage their behavior. Plan lessons. Be accountable for their learning. Add some administrative responsibilities. Get the idea yet? I love my students but I definitely like being able to give them back at the end of the day. That’s how I know I’m not ready for kids of my own (well that and other reasons!)
  • Polishing up my Beautiful manuscript. In the next month, I plan to send it out to a few more beta readers just to make sure that all the wrinkles are smoothed, and then compile the whole thing, send out some advance copies to reviewers and see what happens! When I first decided to publish it, it felt like I was daring myself to do it. It still feels like that but in a more real way. Like it’s actually happening.
  • Working on the (so far) untitled follow up to Beautiful. I’m about halfway through which is a tough point. You’re not at the beginning where it’s new and you’re excited anymore, and the end is still a long way off…
  • Watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is living up to the praise I’ve heard. I got a 30 day free trial of Amazon prime a few days ago and I’m trying to take advantage of it as much as I can before it runs out. Recommendations are welcome!
  • Reading a lot of the Belletrist book club picks. It feels sort of weird to choose books based on the recommendation of a celebrity, but Emma Roberts has good taste! So far I’ve read The Rules Do Not Apply, Sex and Rage, and South and West. The Immortalists and An American Marriage are also on my TBR.