Monday, September 28, 2015

Elsie Fest 2015

Today--Sunday, September 27th--my friend Jess and I went to Pier 97 on the West Side Highway in Manhattan to attend the first annual Elsie Fest (named after Sally's friend in Cabaret)! Elsie Fest was organized by Darren Criss from Glee and it was a music festival for musical theater.

We arrived around 2 pm, wandered around the grounds a bit (stage there, facing the Hudson River; porta potties down there, three food trucks over there, lots of bar places--and all the way at the back, a piano, bar, and musicals singalong).

This is what the stage looked like:

At 2:20, the first performer went on: Tony winner Lea Salonga, who starred in Miss Saigon as well as Les Miserables and was also the singing voice of Mulan and Princess Jasmine!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Amazon Keywords

Back in June, just after I put Pearl up on Amazon, I came across a thread on AbsoluteWrite discussing keywords.

Amazon keywords are important because they help potential readers find your work. Also, the more niche you can get with the keywords, the more likely it is that your book's rank will be higher, which makes it more visible to more people. Now, how Amazon's Super Secret Algorithm works is unknown, so the rank of your book doesn't necessarily correlate to sales.

When you upload your book and begin the process of filling out the basic information (your author name, your title, uploading the cover, assuring that you hold the rights), Amazon also asks you to choose a basic category.

As you can see, some are very broad (General, Action and Adventure) and others are more specific (Amish and Mennonite, for instance. Lower down, there's a category for Black Humor).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Family History Mysteries

My cousin Liz went on a three-week long study abroad course to Belfast, Northern Ireland this summer--and she brought me back this book.

I should probably explain. I appointed myself the family historian.

This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I love history. 2) I'm a masochist (hehe) and 3) Since I basically have to explain my ethnic origins every ten minutes, I might as well know as much about them as I can find out.

I can already tell you that I'm not ready to write a family history any time soon.

The earliest ancestor I've been able to trace (mind you, this is almost all on the Irish side of the family because I can't read Japanese and those records aren't online anyway) is Peggy Mulroy, born in 1791, death date unknown. She's my 4th great-grandmother.

Otherwise, I've been able to trace a few cousins, at least out to the third degree.

But the fact is, I don't know a lot about any of my ancestors beyond a certain point (so, my great-grandparents, who all died before I was born), as happens to us all. I know names, some dates and how I'm related to these various (and mostly dead) people but stories? Pictures? Nope.

There are things I'd like to know more about, though. My grandmother's mother's family, for instance, were my first ancestors to set foot on American soil. My great-grandmother Annie was born in New Jersey--but her parents both died before she was six years old.

Supposedly, we have cousins in Australia. Who are they, why did they go there? I'm not sure what branch of the family they're from.

I still don't know what my ancestors were up to during the Potato Famine.

We're related to Father Flanagan somehow. How? Don't know.

I've decided that all Irish family trees lead back to a Peggy, Biddy, Mary, Thomas, or Paddy. But I've been pleasantly surprised by the several women named Sabina and Honora back in my tree.

I am thinking of how I can fit all the people I've traced onto a poster or something and drag it with me to Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5 More Things I've Learned About Writing Recently

1. Writing friends are awesome

My first college writing professor told me that while writing is a solitary occupation, writers still need people. I didn't quite believe her. Sorry, Professor Triant, wherever you are. You were right. In the past couple of years, through blogs and writing forums, I have made writing friends. We met for an online chat recently and although we were helping one of the girls work out the plot for a story, I ended up writing more of the novel I've been so on-and-off about this year because I felt inspired to get back to it.

2. Sometimes, you just gotta cut and paste.

I was working on the novel last week when parts of it struck me in such the wrong way. I realized that really, one part of the story was working a little bit more at this stage and the other parts read like I forget how to write.

So I cut and pasted one half of the story into another document, to be looked at once I've finished the part I'm working on now. It'll keep me from going mental.

3. Even goofing off writing helps

I posted about this pretty recently: comfort writing. It's completely not serious, it's only shared among very close friends, and everything and the kitchen sink is liable to get thrown into it. But the lessons I took away from that are: Remember how much fun this is, actually? Yeah, try to have more of that.

Writing something light, frothy, and hilarious is awesome. Plus, since I've developed as a writer since the last time I wrote one, this story actually has, like, a plot, a premise, character development, and an ending.

4. Be open and the opportunities will arise.

Writers, I have come to learn, are a very supportive bunch, whether they are writing friends, belong to the IWSG, or are in the pool of writers in a contest or regular commenters on a blog. Paying it forward is an important part of being in the writing community--and it is an online community. It's one of the reasons I wanted to start featuring guest bloggers on the blog, to foster some of that writing community. I was helping a friend out with some book promo and she asked me to join her in a writing project.

5. New challenges will teach you new things.

I started drafting a short story for my friend's writing project. I'm not great at writing short, but I did write short stories in college, so...we'll see how this goes. At most, it'll teach me how to write short and then I'll be able to write more of them, which will allow me to explore other writing opportunities.

6. A blog schedule really does help

I've been reading how one of the "cardinal rules" of blogging is to keep to a blogging schedule. I never have. And that's been fine. But there was a point in August where I didn't want to work on the novel, I didn't want to blog, I didn't even particularly want to read--and in the event of those types of mood swings, keeping a schedule really does help your readers know when to anticipate a new post. If they know when it's coming, then they'll come to read 'em--maybe? So I'm trying to keep a Wednesday and Saturday schedule for now, with the reserved right to post on other days if I feel like it or if there's a guest post or something exciting happens. Writing is cumulative.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Randi Lee's Affected Buy One, Get One!!

The Affected BOGO is Upon Us…

Author Randi Lee is running a buy one, get one promotion for two of her books: purchase a copy of Randi Lee’s “Affected” between September 14—22, 2015 and receive a free eBook version of “Snap! A Quite Quick Collection.” To receive your free eBook, e-mail a copy of your receipt for the purchase of “Affected” to:

“Affected” by Randi Lee is available on major online bookselling sites, such as: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, kobo and Powell’s. Visit for more details.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The London Theater World, 1890s

The theater world of London in the late 1890s was an exciting place.

Burlesque was a big part of that world in the 1880s--bawdy songs, dancing, farce. These shows were short, silly, and pastiches of operas or other popular shows of the era.

These are just some of the things happening in London's West End in the 1890s.

The Gaiety Theatre
But in the 1890s, the Gaiety Theatre started putting on productions that became musical comedies. These shows were light, breezy, with witty dialogue and nice music and dancing. They were original shows, not pastiches, and from 1894, The Gaiety put on a string of "girl" musicals:

The Shop Girl (1894)
My Girl (1896)
The Circus Girl (1897)
The Gaiety Girls 

Part of the Gaiety's shows were the Gaiety Girls--the chorus girls. Unlike the chorus girls in the burlesque age, the Gaiety Girls were pretty, well-to-do, respectable young ladies who wore the latest fashions as they sang and danced on stage. Some became leading actresses in their own right. Because they were popular and fashionable and polite, the girls attracted wealthy men to the theater--and several Gaiety Girls married into the nobility.

Beerbohm Tree
Beerbohm Tree as Hamlet, 1892

Herbert Beerbohm Tree was a leading actor and manager of the time. He managed the Haymarket Theatre and staged new work. But he was known as a Shakespearean actor, performing in Henry IV, Part 1, Hamlet, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. He continued staging Shakespeare once he took over Her Majesty's Theatre as its manager in 1897 until his death in 1917.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde's plays were produced between 1892 and 1895 in London. Lady Windermere's Fan opened in February 1892; The Importance of Being Earnest opened on Valentine's Day 1895 and closed after 85 performances despite its success because of Wilde's arrest on charges of sodomy. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

No, I Don't Carry Those Facts Around With Me

Last week, a friend asked me, "You know what I don't get? How do you remember all that stuff to put in your story? All those facts?"

She was specifically talking about the fan fiction that I've been writing and she's been reading, which involves a real person and therefore, contains a few facts of said real person's life and career within the story.

"It's probably displacing something important," I replied. In my case, anything I stuff my brain with during a project is displacing math.

But I've been thinking about this--and then I came across the above pretty quote because it's really true, isn't it? Writers steals things from life, from other people, from books, movies, TV, and whatever else and it gets folded, reshaped, recorded, and shaded into our stories.

It's one of those brain mysteries, because while I feel like I don't remember a lot of things about my characters or the setting or something, when I'm really in the zone with a story, I'm pulling all kinds of things out of the subconscious.

I'm also pulling a lot of things out of random websites, Google, Google Maps, and Wikipedia.

But it's a lot more romantic to say that it's pouring forth from my subconscious.

So. What kind of random things do you all find popping up in your stories?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG: Let It Go

The IWSG is an online writer's group. We post about our writing and our insecurities every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out here! Thanks to our co-hosts for September: Julie Flanders, Murees DupĂ©, Dolorah at Book Lover, Christine Rains, and Heather Gardner!  

Somewhere in August, I had this intense burst of inspiration and wrote a 150-page long story in a very short amount of time. Too bad it's a fan fiction, so rife with Mary Sues and the fruits of too much time Google-Stalking certain movie stars that it'll never see the light of day beyond my two best friends.

But still, it's fun, comfort writing.

And it taught me something (as writing anything does): that letting loose while writing, not being too rigid, is the best way to write. It's the fun way. It reminds you why you like to spend vast amounts of time in worlds you make up with people you make up (well, unless you're writing a fanfic, that is).

So now, I'm getting back into the folds of my novel. And I've realized that I paused it several times now because I was being so rigid about how it needed to go and where it needed to go and what I wanted to convey.

So here we go, novel. I'll let you breathe and I'll let you lead. I'm half a pantser (that is, I do have a plan for this novel), but it's the getting there that's the problem. So, time to make like Elsa and let it go.