Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

Behind the Curtain: The Catch Short Story Film

Today is a very special day, the unveiling of the short story film. This film was created by myself, using Melanie Conklin’s visceral and chilling short story, The Catch. You can read her original story here: The Catch by Melanie Conklin.

This dark and troubling gem was actually the grand prize winner of the Behind the Curtain Flash Fiction contest.

The Grand Prize Package for Melanie included many unique goodies, such as an exclusive interview with me (stay tuned!) touting her latest project, a writing notebook from Ruth Long, the chance to collaborate with me on my next crazy flash fiction contest (coming Spring 2013).

One of the coolest prizes I offered was a dramatic audio recording of Melanie’s winning story. This is something I’ve never offered before and, frankly, something I’ve not seen a great deal. There are audiobooks, of course, but not much in the way of short story recordings and frequently the dramatizations are a little suppressed. So it was an exciting idea for me.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about my recording process, so I thought I’d share a little, especially since Melanie’s story recording evolved in such a cool way.
The first thing I did was paste her story into a Word document and start breaking up the beats. Every story has a pulse, a natural rhythm, that you must suss out if you are to read it out loud successfully. Some sections must be fast, others dragged out deliciously. I highlight words in different colors to emphasize at different levels. I make notes such as [Pause], [Speed Up] or my personal favorite, [Brogue].

The more I read it out loud (and gave myself extreme chills), the more I realized that I wanted to do far more than just read it. This story needed music!

Simple enough, except I needed music that was royalty-free, the perfect length and mood. No problem. I started sifting through the THOUSANDS of circus-related free music. Most of it sounded like a broken carousel on methamphetamines.

After, no joke, two hours of reviewing music, I found the perfect piece, “Carousel” by Circus Contraption. It was dark, tinkly, and reminded me of a music box slowly winding down. But the section I loved was also two minutes, 30 seconds too short.

So I downloaded some free music editing software and sliced and diced my way clumsily through to the cut I needed. I’m not going to talk about how long it took me to do that or how steep my learning curve was. On the plus side, it ended up fairly excellent and I worked the one editing blip into the story, as you’ll see.

So I had my audio recording and my music. I also had a great vintage photograph from the Behind the Curtain Pinterest board that Melanie used as the inspiration for her story.

I kept staring at that image, which was so evocative; Melanie used it so well in her story that just looking at it was giving me killer goosebumps.

I’m a very visual person, as well as aural, so I finally gave in to the natural temptation. “Clearly,” said I, “I need a movie to go with this audio.”

So I started combing the internet for images that would work hand-in-hand with this photo. It was not easy, but what massively ambitious artistic project is?

Once I had found and edited all the images to my satisfaction, it was MERELY a matter of sequencing them in a dramatic fashion for the story. My hope is that these photographs unfold in a manner that does Melanie’s story justice.

Did I manage?

My whole life, I have believed in the inherent magic of music.

Small Business Saturday: Our Day

Here it comes: the holiday shopping season…whether you are ready or not.

For me, it’s almost appalling that it’s already Thanksgiving. Where did the summer go? I was busy with new job, new fiance, new-old hometown, new schedules and new worlds. But here we are, less than six weeks away from Christmas.

For the first time in nine years, I’m not working either in retail or hospitality. But a lot of people are. In this economy, many are under-employed. Many are working 50+ hours/week in the next two weeks. On their feet. If you’ve done it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, please remember the following:

These people are working, so that we can be shopping – please don’t forget that. Take a moment and say thank you, acknowledge their hard work. Many are overworked and underpaid and pushed to the edge of exhaustion for the next six weeks.

When you go to Walmart at 8 pm on Thanksgiving Day Eve, just remember that they are there and not with their families. So maybe consider doing something different this year. Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday (November 24th)is the perfect antidote to the hectic holidays. And it’s not just small businesses in your area. Don’t forget about the wonderful Etsy sellers, the artists and the writers online. Your purchase to them means everything. A few eye-opening facts:

* Small businesses are 99.7% of all employers.
* Small businesses employ roughly 50% of all private sector workers
* Small businesses create 75% of the net new jobs in our economy.

You can go here to find local businesses to support in your area:  
Shop Small

So shop small and local! Show your support – shop Small Business Saturday. It’s our day.

I have created a list of some of my favorite authors, writers, artists and small businesses online. Please consider patronizing them this holiday season!

Authors:

A.E. Howard (Flight of Blue) – http://amzn.to/TaOqPx

Becca J. Campbell (Foreign Identity) – http://amzn.to/TaM3wa

Cameron Lawton (Witch, Nun, Shaman’s Drum & Yours to Command) – http://amzn.to/TaPlQ3

Cara Michaels (Gaia’s Chosen Series) – http://amzn.to/TaOPBs

Diane J. Reed (TWIXT) – http://amzn.to/TaLTEN

Dionne Lister (Shadows of the Realm) – http://amzn.to/TaMkPI

Elise Stokes (Cassidy Jones Adventures series) – http://amzn.to/TaLLFi

Gary Henry (American Goddesses) – http://amzn.to/OTYlqK

James W. Hazzard (Dead Sea Games) – http://amzn.to/WmChuI

Jessica Grey (Awake & Views From the Tower) – http://amzn.to/TaLFO0

Justin Bogdanovitch (Sandcastles & Other Stories) – http://bit.ly/SANDCASTLE

Laura Benedict (Devil’s Oven & Isabella Moon & others) – http://amzn.to/TaLmCN

Sophie Moss (The Selkie Spell & The Selkie Enchantress) – http://t.co/pjp9OBlJ

Tristan J. Tarwater (Valley of Ten Crescents Series) – http://amzn.to/TaLjHp

Artists:

Angie Richmond (artwork) – http://www.etsy.com/shop/angierichmond

Cindi Cusick (pottery) – http://etsy.me/TaNGtx

Rachel Stanley (jewelry) – http://tocatchahummingbird.etsy.com

Tracy McCusker (book cover design) – http://bit.ly/TaPtyS

Musicians:

Anna Meade (Annasongs) – http://www.fiverr.com/ruanna3

Paul Ramey (Veil & Subdue) – http://www.veilandsubdue.com

Small Businesses:

Anna Meade (Super Secret Spy Girl) – http://www.zazzle.com/supersecretspygirl* 

Marilyn Dieckmann (wild rice & fairy treehouses) –
http://www.momswildrice.com
http://www.weetreehome.com

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means.

For the first time ever, I am inviting you to include a link in the comments to the post. If I forgot to include you, my apologies (it’s almost 1 am!).

Please include your name, your talent (writing, art, music, small business, Etsy, Fiverr) and a link where people can shop for your work this holiday season.

No Soda for Zombie Killers

I know that all my readers have been breathlessly awaiting my latest #ZAP progress report. Or not.
It’s easy to be gung ho when you start making a life change, but what about ten weeks in? Let’s check in with our beleaguered heroine, shall we?
So, I’d been running, running, running, every other day. And yet I had sort of plateaued as far as weight goals.
 
Please excuse my indelicacy, but it seemed like the fat was just sitting on top of the muscle. Thus, my pants felt tighter than ever. Even though I’m sure I was burning some fat, I wasn’t really monitoring my diet much.

For me, even if I exercise regularly, if I don’t eat better it doesn’t do much of anything apparently. So I was getting my legs much more toned and a better overall appearance but not losing all that much weight.

A casual glance at my daily diet would reveal why: fast food, lots of processed, high-salt and fat foods, lots of sugar. And, lots of soda.

Apparently this whole fitness revelation was going to involve even more pain and frustration than it already had – I was going to have to start cutting calories.

Allow me to preface this by saying that I am a female who has NEVER counted calories, never even really dieted. Oh sure, I would flirt with eating better occasionally, but I just could never turn down that bowl of crab bisque. Or that freshly baked Krispy Kreme donut. Or…okay, I’d better stop now.

I have a pretty positive body image, but even I couldn’t imagine putting on my wedding dress and having everything squish out. 
So here is my SUPER SECRET CALORIE CUTTING PLAN.
1) No Moar Soda
This was actually a hard one for me. Really hard. I love Coca Cola Classic. I cannot drink diet drinks, they leave a funny aftertaste on my tongue. But a 12 oz. can of Coke has 140 calories. And who can stop at one? My fiance pointed out that I’m likely one of those people who needs to stop cold turkey. So I did.
I had my last soda on Monday, October 22nd. It was delicious. But I also realized that it’s keeping me chubby. 1 soda/day x 365 days x 10 years = MANY POUNDS OF SUGAR FAT.
See how good I am at math? This calorie counting thing would be a breeze.
So, no soda. No lemonade or coffee (can only drink with major sugar anyway) or any other equally sugared substitute. I’ve only had water or a few glasses of orange juice since.
2) No Moar Fast Food
My last two years in Florida were a string of fast food meals. I mean it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner came in a little greasy bag. My car smelled like fries. When I cleaned it out, I would throw away 2-4 fast food bags filled with sticky wrappers. McDonalds, Wendys, Chik-fil-A, Arby’s, Sonic, Taco Bell, Burger King, you name it. 
There were two simple reasons for this. One, I was poorer than I have been in a long time. I could eat at McDonalds for $3.18. Two, I worked a great deal and was always in the car. I am not very organized when I am busy and grocery shopping became a time-consuming expense that I couldn’t manage.
Two years of this took its toll, which leads me to this moment when I am sharing all kinds of fun Anna facts with you.
 
3) No Moar Potato Chips, Candy or Other Delicious Junk Food
 
I have a sweet tooth and a major weakness for junk food. So I had to outsmart my brain. I found these new flavored Quaker Rice Cake Chips that crunch, so I feel like I am eating chips. The candy is more difficult. I do like Fruit Leathers, as they taste just like Fruit Roll-ups. 
I gave away all of our leftover Halloween candy in desperation, just took it into the office in a basket that had a hand-lettered sign that read:

PLEASE HELP ME WITH BRIDE DIET AND TAKE ALL CANDY PLEASE

Very poignant, neh? But moderation in all things. I did have some Skittles today…and they were yummy!
 
4) Face Stuffing Accountability
I got a handy little free app for my phone, courtesy of Angela Goff. It’s called MyFitnessPal and it allows me to log everything I eat. I turn it into a little game, trying to get under my 1400 daily calories. Not so easy. I had a banana mini-shake at Sonic, less than 10 bleeping ounces, and it was 542 CALORIES. 
So my learning curve was a little steep. But I’m doing much better now, except on Saturday when I misread the serving size for a dish. Apparently dieters eat a two-inch wrap portion whereas I would naturally eat all four inches. Sheesh.
5) Zombie Running
Let us not forget the central focus of #ZAP or Zombie Apocalypse Preparation: train like a moofawonker (sorry, this blog is PG-13). It is quite cold now by the time I get home, so I have to come up with some creative solutions as I can no longer run the neighborhood.

I have started high-speed Mall Walking with my mom, which I consider equally good #ZAP training. All the good zombie movies have a mall sequence. I’ll know where everything is. And yes, I haven’t missed the hilarity of it. 

Anyone have any innovative inside workout ideas that doesn’t involve a gym membership?
I’d love to hear your calorie counting/diet/exercise WINS and FAILS. 
Even with a FAIL, even when you fall down, the only rule is you have to pick yourself back up.