From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weird Fashion Quirks I'd Spend Money On If I Had It

I wanna talk about clothes today. That's enough of a reason, right? It's my blog, after all.

Not a big shopper here, definitely, but sometimes it's fun. And I do feel like if my bank account allowed it, I could have a very...unique taste for fashion. There are a few fashion things I love.

Leather jackets. Seriously, I just love leather jackets with everything. EVERYTHING. Leather jackets are just sexy, okay? That's all there is to it.


Horizontal stripes. I know, I know, horizontal stripes aren't supposed to be a thing. But...but...
(apparently I just really like black and red, too.)

Funky tights and leggings. Just look how schnazzy these are.

And this skirt that's a freaking MAP OF MIDDLE-EARTH.

So there's that. Clothes. Yeah. They can be pretty fun sometimes. What weird fashion quirks do you enjoy when finances permit?

Sarah Allen

p.s. Just wanted to point out a new tab up there on the pages bar. I'm selling myself. Er, rather, my services as a writer or an editor or even a video producer. Check it out, see what I've got to offer, and maybe we can work out something awesome.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Making Stop-Motion Animation With My Ipad

So, I like telling stories, even when all I have is my iPad and some socks.


I know its silly, but what do you think? I've been really gratified and pleased with the response so far, better response than I've ever gotten for videos. But I always want ideas and constructive advice, so any thoughts would be great!

Sarah Allen

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Author Marketing Lessons from Grumpy Cat

There always seems to be something new that's gone "viral," that everyone's seeing across multiple social media platforms. Even those not online much seem to hear about certain things almost through cultural osmosis. When we're marketing and trying to spread the word about our books, what better thing could happen?

There's no key or formula for "going viral." A video or blog post that someone works weeks on will languor in relative obscurity while the thing they whipped up in one day will get all the crazy buzz. So yes, it's hard, almost impossible to gauge. However there are certain things that help, certain lessons to learn. Today I thought it would be fun to look at some of the lessons learned from one of those viral sensations, Grumpy Cat.

Be Consistent. Everybody knows what to expect with Grumpy Cat, even when the hilarious and awesome owners are taking pictures of Grumpy at Disneyland. Because its so pervasive, when anybody wants to express frustration and just plain grumpiness, Grumpy Cat is one of the first things they turn to.

Now, I'm probably going to have some trouble with this, because I hope to write in multiple genres. However, I am going to try and be consistent wherever I can: in terms of voice, style, etc. You can also be consistent across your various social media platforms. Even consistent scheduling can help. I follow many, many blogs that I read regularly, but for example, I actively wait for and seek out blog posts on Anne R. Allen's blog because I know there will be a fabulous and helpful post waiting for me every Sunday. I know that every Tuesday and Friday I'm going to get a YouTube video from John and Hank Green.

Be Genuine. Grumpy Cat is huge because everyone can immediately understand and sympathize with that fabulous expression. We know exactly what that face means, and have felt it ourselves. People like it when you get real, past the fluffy niceties and superficial pleasantries. We're not Victorian England anymore. We know we're all imperfect and often hilariously fallible and human and we as a culture would most often rather talk about it than gloss over things and pretend there are no issues. In fact, its this sense of humor that is often exactly what's needed to help deal with the issues and problems, even if its just on an emotional level. So be real. We're all here to connect with each other.

Be Shareable. Part of the reason Grumpy Cat succeeds is because its so simple and easy and convenient to spread it. You can quickly find and post a Grumpy Cat picture on Facebook or Twitter or a Blog or Pinterest or anything. People can easily "read" the image, have a good laugh, and quickly move on. That's what the internet is about these days, and though things like long and in depth are still wonderful things in their own right, they're not as easily shareable. People like bullet points and numbered lists and humor and, especially, images. If it takes more than point and click to spread your news, more often than not, people are going to move on rather than expend the effort.

Hopefully these principles can be applied to all types of book marketing. What other marketing lessons do you think we could take from Grumpy Cat?

Sarah Allen

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Top Three Most Memorable Villains

I've talked before about how difficult it is for me to write villains. Every time I try, or even try brainstorming and outlining my "antagonist" character, they always end up Snape-like. As in, more anti-hero than true villain. I want my villains to have a tragic back-story and maybe even a last-second moment of redemption, which just makes me sympathize with them and often find them more interesting than my hero. This has even come up a couple times in college creative writing classes, where I was often told that my characters are too nice and my villains not really villainous.

Today, though, I want to take a look back at the three most successful, effective and memorable villains, at least in my opinion. These are the characters I want to personally keep in mind when I do, in the future, try to write truly despicable characters, or at least more really evil antagonists. So without further ado, here they are. My top three favorite and most memorable villains.


1. Benjamin Linus: Yep, we're back to Ben Linus. You know me, I have to bring him up every once in a while or I start doubting myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Benjamin Linus is one of the most well-written and intriguing characters on television, and while the writing itself was quite brilliant, a lot of the credit goes to the paralyzingly genius Michael Emerson. You fellow Losties know what I mean. "So yes, I lied. That's what I do." You heard that in his voice, didn't you? For me, Ben Linus is in that same Incredibly Sympathetic and Heartbreaking category as Snape, but I'm adding him on this list because I know plenty of people who find him truly and thoroughly villainous. And while I think on Lost there were more true "villains" than him, none of them held a candle to the complexity and awesomeness that was Ben...er, Doctor Benjamin Linus.


2. Moriarty: How amazing is this character? I mean, the character of Sherlock Holmes needed a villain that could match him, and he got that in Moriarty. The version I'm really thinking of is, of course, the aching and slightly mad version played by the incredible Andrew Scott. I love me some quirk, and Scott's Moriarty has that in insane spades. Sherlock: "People have died." Moriarty: "That's what people DO!" Again, it's that genius voice and line delivery. Maybe it's the voice that truly makes the villain. It gets stuck in your head. "I'm *so* changeable!"


3. Wild Bill Wharton: Ok. When I think of truly despicable, awful, truly evil and completely unsympathetically villainous characters, this is the face that comes to my mind. (Either him or Bob Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird.) In the book he is just as completely evil, but really I think, again, some of the credit is due to the chillingly fabulous and insanely underrated Sam Rockwell. (You've all seen The Way, Way Back, right? Right??) Seriously. Amazing. Pair that genius acting with a character by Stephen King and you've got a match made in...well, Hell. Percy Whetmore, also from The Green Mile, could also deserve a place on a truly despicable villains list like this. Thank you, Stephen King.

These are the first characters that come to my mind when I think genius villain. Mad villain props also have to be given to Dolores Umbridge, more despicable even than Voldemort in my opinion, Darth Vader, and of course, Heath Ledger's Joker. So yeah, I don't do well at villains, but as I try and teach myself, these are the evil masterminds I will try to learn from.

Who are your favorite/most successful/most memorable villains?

Sarah Allen

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dreams and cochlear implants and brains

Last night I had a dream that I had stolen the space shuttle from the Air and Space museum by the Dulles Airport in Virginia and I was trying to use it to fence-hop so I could runaway, only my pilot was a talking golden retriever. There was also something to do with a scientific study going on at an amusement park, where they put everybody in a Tower of Terror type enclosed drop-zone ride and monitored everybody's heart-rates, and everybody was fine except me and my heart rate was something like 550 beats per minute, which I don't think is even possible? Anyway, the doors opened and the medics came in with this stretcher, assuming someone was having some sort of attack, but I was just sitting there totally fine, like, hey, I don't know what's going on with my heart.

Last Sunday was testimony meeting at my church, which, for those of you who don't know, means that members in the congregation all get a chance to go up to the pulpit and take a few minutes to bear testimony about their faith and belief. One girl got up and started off by saying that she hoped she didn't sound to weird, because her cochlear implant was broken and she couldn't hear anything. When she said that I automatically thought 'You are awesome and sweet and I want to be your friend.' I think a lot of people felt that same way. I connected with that girl and automatically felt like she was more genuine. "Ideal" people do not exist in this world, or I think even hypothetically. There is no "ideal" or "perfect" person. (Except Meryl Streep, obviously. Sorry, I almost forgot for a second.) This is why we need well-rounded, complicated and unique characters. No Mary-sues. We're all so beautifully perfect in our incompleteness.

Life is strange and wonderful. Brains are strange and wonderful. And dreams. Isn't it just ungraspably weird how our minds form possibly random and incoherent images and stories while we sleep? Isn't it incredible that technology allows us to take someone who doesn't hear and give them the ability to hear? That must be one of the most intense and incommunicable experiences in the world. There's a story for you.

Sarah Allen
[image source]

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo Lessons for Non-NaNoWriMoers

So, I know there are a lot of people doing NaNoWriMo. Lots. But there are also a lot who are not doing it, myself included. Everyone makes their own decisions about doing or not doing it, obviously, personally I just don't feel like I can keep up the pace and want to work on increasing my pace yearlong. However there are very good reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo, and a lot of lessons to take from it, whether you participate or not.

1. Just write. This is the main point of NaNoWriMo, obviously. A person cannot be a writer if they don't write. We have so many editorial voices going on in our heads, so many things taking our time in our day-to-day-lives. In other words, the excuses are ad infinitum. NaNo really makes a point of just getting it done. Just buckle down, sit down, and crank out the words no matter if half of them amount to nothing but horse poop. The cleaning and editing can come later. But you can't edit a blank page.

2. Community is valuable. One of the coolest things about NaNo in my opinion is the sense of community. The participants gather together, psych each other up, inspire each other and assist each other. The NaNo blog has respected and intelligent writers who guest post fantastic and wonderful advice that can be applied way beyond the month of November. I think this sense of community is valuable, and something every writer should participate in and be grateful for all year long. This is one reason I love blogs and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Pinterest. They are some of the best places to meet like-minded folk and be inspired.

3. Goals are helpful. Even for those of us not writing the 1,600 or so words per day as part of NaNoWriMo, the concept of setting a daily word count is a very old but very wise and practical piece of advice. That's one of the first things we hear as writers, is to get down a certain number of words a day, but its good to be reminded. And it's this kind of simple goal-making that accomplishes big things.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? 

Sarah Allen
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