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Graphic Design., Inspiration., Projects., Ramblings., REUTS., Writing.

Some New Things…

June 28, 2016
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Since the blog has been experiencing some radio silence lately, I figured I might update you with what’s going on in Ashley land, and what to expect in the future (read: it’s a lot).

Cover Art Tutorial

After all the interest I received from my previous cover art tutorial for REUTS Publications, I’m excited to revive it and offer a new cover art tutorial based on a dear friend’s manuscript. You can expect weekly (or bi-weekly, let’s be real… my summer is p-a-c-k-e-d) posts, from start to finish documenting how a cover design goes from an idea to an advertisement on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf. I’m super excited, so don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list (form below in the footer) to follow along!

From Dill to Dracula

Did I mention I’m busy? From Dill to Dracula is the source for a lot of my daily efforts. Honestly, it started as a joke. I tweeted about how Romanian recipes tend to be unhealthy, and how I should try to create a cookbook of interpreting Romanian recipes with a healthy twist. Playing off this joke-of-a-concept, I tweeted the hypothetical name of my cookbook:

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And then… I fell in love.

I secured the domain name and got to work. From Dill to Dracula has transformed a bit. I dub it A Romanian Food and Folklore Blog where I’m planning on sharing both my family’s Romanian recipes, as well as different cultural tidbits you might not be aware of. There’s already a recipe posted, with a few in queue awaiting release. For the first few months, I’m going to try and be ambitious, posting every week. Then, once there are enough posts in the blog, I’ll be cutting that down to every other week.

If you’re interested in following along, please be sure to sign up for my mailing list. It’s different from the one I use for Eventide & Barley, so you’ll need to make sure you’re signed up for both 😉

A New Writing Project

That’s right. I started writing another book. Except, this time, I already have 15k words written, and (almost) a full plot ready for execution! I can’t explain much about said book, other than the tentative title’s acronym ends up being OTSaON. Any ideas? It’s my first true attempt at Young Adult. Not New Adult. Not Adult. Straight-up Young Adult. And, you know how I feel about Happily Ever Afters, but I’m happy to say OTSaON features a happily ever after… for most everyone 😉

Inspiration., Writing.

A Pantser Finds An Outline.

April 13, 2016
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There’s no denying it—I’m a pantser. Always have been. Always will be.

Wait a minute. I might not be a pantser after all! For years, the traditional method of outlining a plot, whether it be on a screen or by hand, always discouraged me away from my writing. Each plot bunny would have so much energy and enthusiasm at the start, only to wither away as each chapter outline made it seem further from anything I’d be able to write.

Well, friends, things are about to change.

A wild plot appears!

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Welcome to Note App, a site that hasn’t paid me a penny to endorse it, but that I’ve grown to love. Above was the beginning structure to the outline for my WIP Oupia {A Temporary Title}This interface gives you a cloud equivalent to Scrivener’s cork board, at no cost to you (there’s a free version that should suffice).

And look at all the colors! I’ve broken my outline into multiple different sections:

Yellow stickies = Overview of information, so I have the characters going across the top, a key explaining all my colors beneath that, and the big yellow sticky is the premature query I wrote, helping me better define this story.

Green stickies = Full chapters.

Blue stickies = Scenes that need a home. Many of these are elaborated on and eventually become green stickies!

Pink stickies = Plot directions, where I define certain inner workings of my setting, since it’s sci-fi, after all.

Purple stickies = Questions that may or may not go against the established plot, and need to be revisited.

And, you know what? I’ve been having a blast outlining this story. Instead of blooming discouragement, there’s excitement at seeing all the pieces I do have figured out, which encourage me to figure even more out.

So, for those of you looking for a cloud-based non-traditional way to outline, I absolutely recommend Note App, from personal experience. I have a newfound inspiration to go through all my beginning WIPs and try to outline them, and I imagine I’ll walk away with writing a lot quicker first drafts, too.

What do you think? Have a non-traditional method of outlining/plotting your story you’d like to share?
I’d love to hear it!

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Inspiration., Ramblings., Random.

New Year, New Resolutions

January 9, 2016
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New Year’s Resolutions always seem so lofty and out of reach. I almost didn’t want to place any additional stress on myself by coming up with some for 2016. But, at the same time, wandering aimlessly through the year seems like it could be a waste of 365 days. We’re already eight days into this new year, and I definitely feel as if I need some sort of direction, even if they’re small goals, to get me back on track and in the motivated spirit.

And so, with that, I’m setting some resolutions for myself. BUT, instead of just blanket resolutions on the year, I’m breaking these up into short-term and long-term goals, where the long-term goals don’t necessarily have to be completed by the end of the year, but if I’ve at least started them, I’m happy.

Well, here goes…

Short-Term Resolutions:
-Learn to meditate / start meditating. We work out our bodies, I think it’s important to work out our minds, as well. And since my career is primarily a mental strain, I want to do my mind a favor and learn to do… nothing. So, armed with the phone app Headspace I’m making the leap into meditation and mindfulness.
-Blog more, both in a personal and professional setting. And I have some exciting things brewing on the horizon which might help me achieve this resolution.
-Finish writing one novel. I should be putting this under the long-term resolutions, but I’m determined to finish at least one of my WIPs this year. I have to do it.
-Enter a short story competition. I see so many in the writing community who participate in these fun short story/anthology competitions, that I want to join in on the fun, too! A more lofty short-term goal, but that’s the beauty of short stories: they’re short.

Long-Term Resolutions:
-Finish all my WIPs. Not necessarily likely to happen within the 2016 year (though I suppose it could), but if I’m able to make significant progress, I’ll be happy.
-Establish a better work-home balance. The reason this is under a long-term resolution is because I don’t want it to ever end, and I know it’ll be tricky to implement (being the workaholic that I am).
-Learn a new language. Probably my loftiest goals, but I’d like to at least pick up a new language with a basic understanding of how to communicate. I’m deciding between Italian and Romanian, and kind of feel like I need to stick with my roots, and learn how to have riveting conversations with Dracula.
-Volunteer more. I recently was accepted to a local human society to help socialize cats, and I want to make this a permanent part of my life. Nonprofit organizations thrive on volunteer work, and I’m happy to be part of that community.

Do we share any resolutions? Want to learn Romanian with me? Let me know in the comments!

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Inspiration., Ramblings., Random.

Karaoke, and Overcoming Fears.

June 24, 2015
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Funny title, huh?

Trust me, I never thought I’d write those four words in the same sentence.

But there it is. Big and bold. Karaoke, and Overcoming Fears. If I’ve overcome the fears, why do I feel the slinking of dread in the pit of my stomach as I write this? Why does it still feel like a social handicap still follows me like a shadow? And why did I ever think this was a good idea?

Let’s back track a little bit, shall we? I’ve always had a bit of social—or maybe the right word would be presentation—anxiety. The kind where just the thought of having to step in front of a crowd of any size causes your muscles to tense, and your sweat floodgates to open. It doesn’t even matter who the crowd consists of. For my wedding I had a few-sentence speech to present my new husband with a groom’s cake and, in front of family, friends, the very people we wanted there, I felt exactly the same as I imagine I would delivering a speech in front of a sold-out stadium.

Utter terror.

Maybe it’s a bit of the perfectionist mentality, where I don’t want to get anything wrong and thus over-think and begin to stumble over . . . everything. A part of it is pride–caring about what other people think, even though I shouldn’t. But we’re also human. How can you control that side of human nature? It’s not impossible, but it sure as hell isn’t easy.

But there are few things I’m a firm, passionate believer in, and one of those can be summed up in a simple sentence:

The best [things]* exist outside of your comfort zone.

*You can sub out “things” for just about anything: experiences, friends, etc…

Where does karaoke fit into this?

See my comfort zone sitting over there? It’s the little two square feet of things like design, and video games, and reading. Well, you see, karaoke is approximately on the planet Mars in comparison. Just a bit outside of my comfort zone. If you would have asked me five years ago if I’d sing karaoke, I’d probably laugh in your face. I had done it once in college, but that was to Bohemian Rhapsody and it had a vocal track behind it, so it was more a sing along than actual karaoke. And I love singing, but I’ve always been told I was tone deaf, something that doesn’t go hand-in-hand with karaoke (correction: it totally does, but then again I don’t like making that big of a fool of myself . . .)

Then I moved to Wisconsin, and one night we decided to hit up a karaoke bar. Queue all the symptoms I mentioned before–chills, sweat, stuttering. We sat in the back, away from the bar, so I figured it was my lucky night. That is until we moved, and alcohol with peer pressure caused me to do the one thing I never thought I’d do:

Sing karaoke.

But I did it, and I didn’t die, or shrivel into a pit of embarrassment. I wasn’t fantastic, but it’s karaoke, by definition it’s not supposed to be fantastic (correction: “karaoke” actually means empty orchestra, which is hauntingly beautiful). That one night, a night I’ll never forget, has since changed my life. Now it’s 2015, I’ve been doing karaoke for about two years, and might consider myself an addict. I’m not fantastic at it, but there’s something about letting go of your inhibitions and just not caring that makes karaoke fun.

In case you’re curious (and I know you are), my go-to songs are:

  1. Somebody to Love or Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen
  2. Won’t Say I’m In Love or Part of Your World, Disney
  3. Don’t Know Why, Norah Jones
  4. Jar of Hearts** or A Thousand Years***, Christina Perri
  5. I’m Yours, Jason Mraz

So, in addition to this post being largely a ramble, it’s also a PSA to do something you’ve never done, something well outside of, or just a step outside of your comfort zone, and see how the change effects your life. I can’t promise it’ll be positive, but anytime I’ve found myself a good distance outside of my comfort zone, good things happen.

**Fun Fact: This was my first solo karaoke song . . . ever.
***Yes, I bust out a little Twilight soundtrack every once in a while.