Tag Archives: Music

What the Imagination Movers Taught Me About Self-Publishing

I have two little kids. This means I end up watching a lot of children’s television and listening to a lot of cds that include multiple versions of The Wheels on the Bus. This is generally painful. However, there is one children’s show I can be found watching even when my kids are off doing other things – The Imagination Movers.

Movers

They’re basically the most awesome thing ever: four guys from New Orleans who decided to put their musical skills to use as an “alt rock band for kids and their rockin’ families.” They don’t write “kiddie music,” they write damn good music that just happens to be for kids. And I buy their albums for me and just happen to let my kids listen to them, cause I’m cool like that.

One of my favorite things about the Imagination Movers is their motto: Reach high, think big, work hard, have fun. This motto makes an appearance in several of their songs including the song Brainstorming that appears in every episode and this classic:

So what does this have to do with publishing? I’ve been blessed to be on the self-publishing journey for several years now and I have adopted the Mover’s motto as my own because it encompasses everything I believe about being a self-publisher.

Reach High.

As a self-publisher I have the amazing opportunity to be in control of every single creative process that is a part of producing my book. This means everything from the writing to the editing to the cover design and interior formatting. Now this much responsibility scares and overwhelms some people. I love it. I realize it can be daunting – and I’m not saying you have to excel at each of these fields. A self-publisher is a PUBLISHER and part of that is researching and knowing what you want and then hiring competent people. I firmly believe that the product self-publishers put out can and should be as good or better than that of traditional publishing houses. Sometimes I get raised eyebrows when I say we can be better – “as good” is a high enough goal, I guess.  But why shouldn’t it be better? Why shouldn’t we be innovative and fresh and doing what the traditional houses are too stodgy to do? The internet has not only leveled these playing fields, it’s created a platform where indie artists can meet and work with other indie artists in a way that has never before been seen. As good or better is the goal. I now judge the cover design and formatting of traditionally published books by the standard of my own book. Reach high.

Think Big.

The internet. It’s amazing. I said before that it has leveled the playing field and it has in more ways than I can even count. The biggest way for indie publishers is in ebooks. We can put our books on virtual shelves all over the internet alongside books from those big traditional houses. That’s awesome. More importantly, we can reach readers. Lots and lots of readers. Or maybe only a few readers now…but there’s always the potential to reach more. Because unlike a traditionally published paperback that gets a few months (if its lucky) of promo from its publisher, ebooks are forever. They’re always there on the shelf waiting for readers to download and read them. I want to get my books into the hands of as many readers as possible. Am I expecting to make the NY Times Bestseller list next week? No. Do I think that’s an impossible dream for a self-publisher? Heck no! Countless of self-publishers have proven that it’s not. Is it the only measure of “big” success? No. Every self-publisher has their own idea of “making it” and they are as varied and unique as the authors behind those ideas. Whatever my goal as a publisher – I am not going to think small and I’m not going to allow others who think small to influence how I view my work. Think big.

Work Hard.

This is the big one, the one that make the first two a reality. I am not going to sugar coat this: Being a writer is hard. Being a publisher is hard. Being both is a crap ton of work. If you’re scared of hard work, if the thought of banging your head against your Kindle at three in the morning wondering why in the hell something won’t format correctly scares you…find another line of work (or pay someone to format your .mobi files for you, ta-da!). It’s not always formatting though, there will always, always be something new you have to learn. And there will always, always be more you could be doing. I’m not saying you have to do everything.  There are some things that you will find are just not worth your time and effort. The way you find that out? Effort. Tons of effort. To be great at writing and publishing takes a lot of really hard work. It might be easier if you decided to aim low and think small, but the Movers and I would be disappointed in you. Work hard.

Have Fun.

This, you guys. This. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it’s a lot of work. I can yammer on about quality and art and striving for excellence all day long. Self-publishing should be about all of that. But it’s also about having fun. It’s about taking your words – your stories – and sharing them with readers. It is mind-blowingly awesome when something you’ve written connects with a reader. There’s no rush like it. And it is FUN when a cover designer can connect with your story and produce a work of art that conveys the tone and feeling of your story. If you can’t look at the process of writing and publishing your books and say “that was a ton of work but I wouldn’t trade it for the world” then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s okay to have fun. In fact, it’s more than okay, it should be a requirement. Have fun.

Of course this motto doesn’t just apply to self-publishers. If you’re a writer of any kind you can identify with it. In fact, it can be applied to specific professions or to life in general. It’s never not true. No matter who we are, we should always reach high, think big, work hard, and have fun. I’m glad the Imagination Movers have summed it up so succinctly for my kids and I’m glad that I get to sing along with them.

Movers Logo

All I Ever Have to Be

I have a lot of goals.  Some of them are realistic and some of them are crazy.  Even some of the realistic ones I make crazy by putting ridiculous deadlines and expectations on myself.  My mom always used to say “your eyes are bigger than your tummy” and she meant that about pretty much everything, not just 8 year old me at the Sizzler salad bar.

It’s not secret that I love Amy Grant.  I flew to LA in July to visit my friends and see her in concert and I put a bunch of my favorite Amy albums on my phone.  This means that occasionally a song pops up that really speaks to me.  And this week it was All I Ever Have to Be.

I just wanted to share this song because it’s gotten me through a pretty hard week.  Deadlines will come and go.  Creativity will come and go.  The amount of work I can flog out of myself will change.  But some things last forever, and I’m glad I have that assurance.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Atone Update

Atone is currently out to my fabulous beta readers! I always think I am going to experience this euphoric sense of relief or excitement when I finish a draft and for some reason I never do. What I usually experience is an overwhelming urge to run and hide because I know that the REALLY hard work is about to begin.

This could be because I am just a wee bit hard on myself. I need to lighten up and just celebrate the completion of a draft! I could even take myself out to dinner with an overstuffed lion as this Beauty seems to be doing:

I like this beast. He looks snuggly. This is from Once Upon a Time: A Book of Old-Time Fairy Tales. Margaret Evans Price, illustrator, 1921.
I like this beast. He looks snuggly. This is from Once Upon a Time: A Book of Old-Time Fairy Tales. Margaret Evans Price, illustrator, 1921.

While my fantastic beta readers have their hands on Nicholas Hunt…er, I mean, on my manuscript, I thought it would be fun to share some of my play list for Atone. Each books seems to find its own soundtrack, and in the case of Atone it is very Jennifer Knapp heavy. As in, ALL Jennifer Knapp and one other song. Here are the top tracks that inspired scenes in Atone:

Fallen by Jennifer Knapp off the Letting Go Album

 

Goodnight LA by Counting Crows from the Hard Candy album. They’re amazing live.

Want for Nothing by Jennifer Knapp of the Letting Go Album

I will be sending out a more complete update on Atone: A Fairytale in my first ever newsletter. Make sure to sign up to receive it if you haven’t already!

Random Rant: Maroon 5 “Payphone”

I’m not the biggest Maroon 5 fan but I’ve liked a few of their songs (not Moves Like Jagger – what? No, Adam, you do not have moves like Jagger. But I do Zumba to it, my darlings, I do indeed).  Their newest song, Payphone, is ridiculously catchy and gets stuck in my sad little brain.  I hate it, but I love it, but I hate it…

 

And what is all this about being at a pay phone?  Is it a song about time travel?  Where exactly IS this payphone?  1996?

 

How genius would that have been for a video idea? ADAM LEVINE GOES BACK IN TIME AND USES A PAY PHONE!  Genius, I say!  So I thought I’d Youtube the video and see how they solved the everyone has cell phone issue…

 

Warning: Explicit Lyrics, this is NOT the radio friendly edit

 

WHAT. THE. HECK!?!

 

And you thought my time travel idea was far-fetched?  Here is how I think this production meeting went down:

 

Director: We need a way for Adam to lose his cell phone.

Writer: Maybe he left it at home?  People do that.

Director: No! That isn’t exciting enough! Maybe it breaks when he is in a car crash!

Writer: Why is he in car crash? Just so we can have explosions? Maybe the phone gets damaged at a concert.  He could stage dive or something.

Director: He’s in a fiery car crash while running from the police … who are also in multiple fiery car crashes.

Writer: Why is Adam running from the police?

Director: Because he was in a bank robbery!

Writer: Adam is a bank robber now?  Is that really the image we want to send? Maybe he HAS the phone but he’s just out of his service area.

Director: No, he WORKS at the bank, then grabs the gun from one of the 7 or 8 bank robbers and runs – with a hot chick – through the bank, dodging bullets and only getting shot once (in the arm to prove he’s tough and can take it) and then runs, again dodging bullets, through the police barricade, cause they think he’s a bank robber, and then he ditches the girl behind a car, steals another car and leads the police (who are too dumb to realize the 7 or 8 ACTUAL BANK ROBBERS are still in the bank), crashes the car and destroys the phone!  Luckily, the crash occurs right by a …. wait for it … pay phone!

Writer: So I don’t get it, who is he calling? The girl he rescued and then ditched?  Or someone else?

Director: It doesn’t really matter. It’s art!

Writer: What if he just time travels to 1996, that’d be a cool video.

Director: No! Too far fetched! I like my idea.

Writer: Mmmmkay, I’m just gonna go ahead and quit now, cause I can see actual “writing” is not what’s really required for this video script.

 

But you know what? I still like the song.

 

Though don’t get me started on the rap breakdown… is “cars starting with the push of a button” really the ultimate sign of success in our society?

I miss 1996.

Changing the Playlist

I love listening to music when I write.  Part of it is that I’m horribly ADD and need to drown out as many of the crazy radio static channels running through my brain as possible.  I also count on music to help me set the mood and tone of my story.  I don’t necessarily set out to create playlists for each project in advance, but by the end of the process they all end up with one.

 

From the very beginning of the process the music I listened to for Awake didn’t feel right for Atone.  I listened to quite a bit of Taylor Swift and other similar happy/pop acts while writing Awake, and while editing it I was almost exclusively putting the band Thrice on.  When thinking through Atone I spent a lot of time going through Jennifer Knapp’s Kansas album, which I love.  The themes in that album are many of the themes in Atone.  The problem is I can’t listen to Jennifer Knapp when I actually write…I literally will stop writing to listen/sing along.  Kind of defeats the purpose.

 

I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some struggles with Atone.  I wrote almost 40 thousand words – some of them great, some of them crap – before deciding to largely scrap that first draft and start over.  I was trying to do something I wasn’t comfortable with, set the story somewhere I didn’t have the right feel for.  I set Awake in Los Angeles because I love Los Angeles.  I’m from there.  It’s in my blood.  When I first envisioned Atone it was set in L.A. as well, but I tried to twist and squeeze it into something it wasn’t supposed to be because I thought it made more story sense.

 

When I finally admitted to myself that I needed to start again and set the novel back in Los Angeles, I knew it would change how I was writing…and what I was listening to.   Currently the soundtrack for Atone is a band that makes FEEL like I am back home when I listen to them: Counting Crows.  At the risk of dating myself horribly, their debut album August and Everything After reminds me of cruising around in my parent’s little red station wagon with my friends in the South Bay (and yes, it came out in 1993, but I was really into it in the mid to late 90s, just to clarify!)  I have visceral, physical memories attached to that album, all of which are location based.

 

I’m listening to most of their other stuff too, but especially the Hard Candy album.  There are a few scenes with Becca and Nicholas that happen in the same place over a series of nights – and they’ve all been written to the song Goodnight L.A.  You can listen to it free on Grooveshark.  It’s really a brilliant tune.

 

So what do you think?  If you write, do you write to music?  What albums feel like “home” to you?

 

 

In Which I Claim God as a Member of My Flash Mob

A few random facts:

 

I love the movie Newsies.  Really, what is not to love?  A young Christian Bale singing and dancing?  Sign me up, please!  This movie happened to come out when I was 12, so I was the perfect age to become mildly obsessed.  I have passed on my obsession to my younger friends…I’ve been known to host a Newsies movie watching sleepover or two.

 

 

I have this annoying habit of singing and dancing in public.  This is kind of awkward because I am not a great singer, and I am an even worse dancer.  However, I am a total goofball.  I’m also really good at denial.  Once my boss pointing out that I sang and danced around the office all of the time and I was like “I never do that,” and he and my co-worker/best friend just looked at me as if I was telling them the sky was purple.  They’re right.  I do.  I even, occasionally, perform amazing dance maneuvers with the grocery cart in the store.  I’ve also been known to boogie with my kids in the cereal aisle.

 

This summer my good friend Becca came to visit for a whole month.  It was awesome.  My kids totally think she is their big sister or something.  According to them their family consists of Mommy, Daddy, Becca, and Grammy.  Becca shares my fascination with Newsies (and a name with the main character in Atone, this is not an accident, but more on that later).  I was determined that before the summer was out we were somehow going to create an awesome Newsies inspired flash mob and take Helena, Montana by storm.

 

A really distressingly bad picture of me but good picture of Becca and my kids in front of a waterfall outside Rimini, Montana this summer.

 

Tragically, my flash mob didn’t materialize quite the way I wanted it to because, well, there were only two of us.  We managed to sing a few songs and do some choreography at 11pm in the parking lot of Hastings…but it’s not quite the same as a full on, Youtube worthy, flash mob when there are only two relatively goofy girls in it.

 

I, however, tried to convince Becca that our flash mob was way more awesome than it was.  I told her, there were actually three people in it.  She was pretty sure there were only the two of us because, you know, she was there at the time.  I argued, no, three.  I’m counting God in my flash mob.

 

And then she broke my heart.

 

She told me I couldn’t count God in my flash mob.

 

The nerve!

 

I tried to argue the “wherever two or more are gathered,” point… but it was a no go.  Our flash mob must remain, sadly, only two members.

 

I still think it would be awesome to do a Newsies flash mob.  Someday I will make it happen with more than just two girls.  And I don’t care what anyone else says, God will totally be a member of my flash mob.