Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chasing the Dream: My Interview with Aspiring Author Madeline Courtney

Introducing the Author:

Madeline Courtney is an eighteen year old writer. She dreams of saving up enough money to move away to Seattle and never look back. She has always been one to follow her dreams, despite the fact that many people tell her it's impossible. Abhorrence and Affection is her first regency romance novel.

Welcome, Madeline. First off, tell me how you got started writing.

I've been writing for as long as I can remember. Even when I was in kindergarten I would make picture books. I really started getting into it, and thinking of it as a career path, in the seventh grade when I wrote a science fiction novel with a friend. Since then I haven't stopped and never plan to stop writing.

Let's help the readers get to know you a little. What hobbies, interests, or goals do you have in addition to being a writer?

I love to read, obviously. I really love hanging out with my younger cousins. I've been doing a lot of that this summer... My biggest goal is to somehow make enough money to move to Seattle Washington... hopefully by the summer of 2017. You can read more on that subject on my blog.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, can you define "regency romance" for us?

Regency romance is a romance that takes place in the regency period--1811 to 1820. It can also be called a Historical Romance, but saying Regency is more specific on the time period.

Tell us about your new novel, Abhorrence and Affection.

Soo... Abhorrence and Affection is about a spoiled woman forced to marry her childhood rival--the one man who doesn't put up with her bratty attitude. This, of course, leads to a bit of conflict between the two. It sort of shows that life doesn't always turn out the way you expect it, but sometimes that's okay. It is inspired by the work of Jane Austen and is, by far, my best project.

Was it difficult to write about a time period in which you have never lived?

Honestly, I find it ten times easier to write in this time period, for some reason. I always have difficulty writing projects that take place in modern times. I think it's because everything was so much simpler back then. The only issue I might have is the way they spoke. I try to keep my Regency projects pretty authentic and sometimes that confuses people, so I have to clean up the mess and make it understandable for the modern readers. (A big THANK YOU, YOU ARE THE BEST to my main Beta Reader, Osiris Arteaga, for helping me with this and giving me honest feedback).

What historical research did you do in the course of writing this book?

 Mainly my research has been on clothes and what would be considered "proper" lady's etiquette... My character, Beth, is more outlandish and loud, really the opposite of what a charming woman would be back then. If I had to describe her, I'd say she was a modern woman in the late 1700s. So, I really did research on how she SHOULDN'T behave.

What route are you taking to publish your book?

 I'll be self-publishing. I plan to make it available as an eBook and allow people to buy physical copies on Amazon.

Will the book be available on other websites as well, or just Amazon?

Amazon and Kindle... I'm debating on putting the project up on Wattpad and other sites where it would be available for free. At this time, I have yet to decide.

When will your book be available to buy?

The Kindle release date will be on August 10th or 12th. It depends on my formatter, but around that time. 

Will this be your first published work?

I self-published one book before, The Case of Irene Adler, but long since took it down. It was unedited and unbeta-read and probably full of mistakes. I'm so glad I have some amazing betas to help me get the editing done.

Do you have any plans for future projects that you'd like to share with us?

The project itself is a secret.... I'm still debating between two. I won't tell you what they're about, but I'll give you the titles: A Writer's Dream and Rose . Which do you think sounds more interesting, by the title alone?

Some concluding words

Thank you so much, Madeline, for taking the time to do this interview.  I wish you the best of luck in your writing career, and can't wait for the release of your book.  I hope that it will be only the first of many to come.

If you are interested in hearing more from Madeline about this and other projects, you can follow her on Twitter for the latest news and updates.

Remember that you can also follow me on Twitter for information about this blog and other projects I've got up my sleeve.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Is It Possible to Become a Dancer After Thirty?

My Childhood Dance Experience

Like a lot of little girls, I took ballet and tap when I was seven years old.  And like a lot of little girls, I quit after one year.  For the remainder of my childhood and all of my teen years I didn't look back.  I had other priorities in my life at that time, and dance just naturally took a back seat.

Welcome to Your Twenties, Greta Cribbs

I began my twenties with my wedding.  Yes, I married young, and I have no regrets whatsoever about that.  We had a traditional church ceremony followed by a simple reception in the social hall.  I thought it was a beautiful wedding, and was happy with the way we chose to celebrate it.

About a year later, one of my friends got married.  She also had a church wedding, but for her reception she rented a ballroom and hired a DJ.  And of course there was dancing.  My husband and I sat at our table, listening to the music and tapping our toes to the beat.  And suddenly I was gripped by this overwhelming need to be out on that dance floor.  I asked my husband to dance with me, but he didn't know how and wasn't comfortable just making something up.

That wedding was the spark.  After that, I knew that I needed dance in my life.  At the time I just wanted to be able to enjoy myself at weddings and Christmas parties, so I focused on learning ballroom dances.  And I am proud to say that the next time my husband and I were in the presence of a DJ, we tore up the dance floor.  It became almost an addiction--a little wasn't enough.  I constantly needed more and more.  I tried signing up for classes, but I lived in an area where not a lot of adults were interested in doing something like that, so every class I signed up for ended up being canceled for lack of members.  I was very frustrated, and that frustration only became worse when Dancing with the Stars debuted on television.  Now I had dancers parading around in front of me in my own living room.  It was a constant reminder of what I wanted but--it seemed--could not have. 

My Thirties: The Decade of Dance

Alright, so it actually started when I was twenty-nine.  I signed up for private highland dance lessons.  My hope was that, since I was taking private lessons and not a class, that this would be one dance form that I would be able to continue learning.  After all, there was no class to be canceled, so I would be able to keep learning for as long as I wanted.

Seven years later, I am still taking highland dance.  At first I did not compete because I was a little put off by the idea of being in the same category as children, but I eventually got over that.  I've now done three competitions, and I'm getting ready to move up to the next level.  I won't lie--it wasn't easy.  But I don't think it was my age that made it difficult.  On the contrary, I think that I was able to learn things faster because I am older and have been exposed to more dance styles than the average child.  Coordination is something that generally improves as one gets older. 

I do worry about injuries because highland dance is very high impact.  But a good warm-up and a safe stretch routine (one that does not push you beyond your personal limits) are very effective in keeping muscles and joints healthy.  And so far I have had no dance-related injuries.

What Does the Future Hold?  Ballet, Anyone?

Ballet is my newest adventure.  I signed up for a class a couple of weeks ago, and have been having the time of my life learning this most respected of all dance styles.  Again I worry about injury.  Ballet requires a lot of flexibility, and I am not deluding myself that I will ever go pro.  I know it's probably too late to think about anything like that.  But there's a lot you can do in ballet even if you can't bend your body the way some ten year olds can.  You can still learn the technique, you can still do the steps, and yes you can still dance en pointe.  I'm not quite there yet, but that's my goal, and I am confident that I will achieve it one day.

So if it's always been your dream to be a dancer, but you think it's just too late for you, I'm here to tell you that it's never too late.  If you want it that badly, go for it.  You never know what you can accomplish until you try.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Focusing on the Positive in a World of Conflicting Opinions

Are We Too Easily Offended?

I hear this complaint all the time (and I'm sure you do too): Everyone's offended by everything and no one can say what they think anymore.  Is that true?  Have we as a society become so obsessed with political correctness that we've killed freedom of speech?  Or are we just learning to be more considerate of others?

As with all things in life, I think the answer to these questions really comes down to balance.  We don't want to do or say things that are blatantly offensive to others, but we also don't want to be so afraid of offending that we never speak our minds.  We want to know that our opinions are respected, even when people disagree with them.

A Little Illustration

Let's listen to a story, shall we?  Let's say that there are two mothers who live next to each other on the same street.  We'll call them Jessica and Laura.  Jessica is a health nut.  She only eats organic food, she limits her sugar intake, she jogs an hour a day, and her kids never watch television.  Jessica's children are not allowed to go over to Laura's house because Laura bakes cookies, with real butter, every Saturday and let's her kids pack snack cakes in their school lunches.  It seems that almost everything about Laura's lifestyle is offensive to Jessica.

Laura, on the other hand, often feels guilty about the fact that she doesn't exercise or eat a healthy diet.  When she sees Jessica out for a run, pushing the baby in her trendy jogging stroller, and munching on apples and low fat Greek yogurt, she feels nothing but anger.  She sees Jessica and feels judged for her own choices, just because they are different from the choices her neighbor has made.

Seeing the Good in Both

Is Jessica a better person than Laura?  Or is Laura a better person?  Or do they both have good qualities and bad qualities, just like every other human being on the planet?  Can't Jessica be proud of her healthy lifestyle without hating Laura's chocolate chip cookies?  And can't Laura enjoy fixing delicious treats for her kids without being angry at Jessica for not eating them?

Maybe Jessica could acknowledge that Laura is a great mom who spends lots of quality time with her kids.  Maybe she could see that Laura's family is happy, her kids are smart and well-adjusted, and Laura is an amazing cook.

Maybe Laura could applaud Jessica's efforts to stay healthy and to ensure that her kids grow up healthy too.  Even though Laura sees nothing wrong with a little television now and then, maybe she could understand why Jessica doesn't want it in her home.

Learning from Each Other

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but I know that when I find myself having a particularly strong emotional reaction to someone else's choices, it's often because I'm feeling self-conscious about my own.  I worry that other people are going to judge me, so I try to beat them to the punch.  I try to judge them so they're the ones who look bad, not me.  But of course that judgment itself is the thing that ends up making me look bad.

If you're feeling inclined to judge someone else, examine yourself first.  Are you judging just because you think the other person might judge you?  If so, it might be time to make a change in your own life.  Or it might be time to be proud enough of who you are that you don't have to worry about everyone else quite so much. 

This doesn't mean we have to accept every choice that everyone else makes.  It's a great big world with lots of different opinions.  It's a pretty good bet that everyone has at least one opinion that someone else would find offensive.  But even so, we can still be respectful to one another.  It's a matter of recognizing our own flaws before complaining about our neighbor's.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Angst: Embracing Our Discontent

What is The Angst?
The Angst is the name I have given to a feeling that we all experience from time to time.  That sensation that all is somehow not right in our tiny little part of the world.  If you have ever heard that voice in the back of your head, whispering, "There must be more to life than this," then you have felt The Angst.  It's a powerful emotion.  It has been the driving force behind such movements as Civil Rights, Women's Lib, and Gay Marriage.  It's a primary cause of the dreaded Mid-Life Crisis.  It can cause us to change careers, get divorced, move to a new town, or make any number of changes in the way we live our lives.
Though anyone can experience The Angst, there is a very specific brand of it that seems to be a universal experience of women.  In us, The Angst often manifests itself in the great battle between our domestic side and our creative side, and we spend our lives struggling to strike a balance.  Many women fall into this balance naturally, using domestic chores to achieve creative fulfillment.  Some do it by keeping their houses clean.  Others pride themselves on cooking all meals from scratch.  There are those crafty types who make all their own curtains and quilts and--occasionally--clothes.  They pour the entirety of themselves into the raising of their children, and have no regrets about what other life they may have had.
Many women, though, are not content with that life.  I'm not saying they hate it.  In fact, they may love it.  It's just not enough to make them feel completely satisfied with themselves.  They want more.  Disney movies sum it up pretty well.  Snow White dreamed that one day her prince would come.  Ariel wanted to be part of another world.  Belle longed for more than a provincial life.  And of course Elsa finally just let it go.  We identify with these movies because we have often felt what these women feel.
Is The Angst Bad?
We, whether experiencing women's Angst or some other form of it, often think of it as something to be ignored, even stifled.  This is not necessarily a bad way to look at it.  After all, the secret to happiness is not always having what we want.  Sometimes the secret to happiness is wanting what we have.  Contentment is a rare thing in our society, and those few who have found it have indeed found something precious.  It is something we all should pursue, keeping in mind that if we are unhappy in our lives, it might be our attitude, and not our lifestyle, that needs the adjustment.
So Why Should We Embrace The Angst?
There's a time to be content, and there's a time to change our lives.  Where would our world be today if Rosa Parks had decided to just be content with her lot in life?  And she is just one example of the good that can come of embracing The Angst.  I know, sparking the Civil Rights Movement is a slightly more noble thing than...oh...I don't know...signing up for an art class because you need a creative outlet.  But maybe that creative outlet can be the thing that makes you happy enough with yourself that you can be what you need to be for others.  Maybe leaving that job that you hate for one that you love gives you the energy to take your kids to the beach on Saturday.  Or maybe the creative outlet itself puts you in a position to have an impact on the world.  Or maybe it just makes you happy, and that's good enough.  After all, you'll have just raised the percentage of happy people in the world.
Care is needed, of course.  We don't want to become self-absorbed.  We don't want to spend all of our time pursuing our own interests at the expense of the other people in our lives.  We need to remember that we are still husbands or wives, sons or daughters, moms or dads, sisters or brothers.  Those relationships matter, and sometimes we have to sacrifice for the sake of them.  But if you have ever watched Tangled and cried as you wondered along with Rapunzel when your life would begin, maybe that's a sign that you have not quite found the right balance.  Maybe it's time to embrace The Angst.