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Monday, June 25, 2012

Goodbye, Ken. You'll be greatly missed.

There is really no black-and-white to life.  There's no hard and fast rules that are universally followed.  There's no determining the reason things happen sometimes.

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine passed away.  He was young (only 43) and had a lot of life still ahead of him.

I never met Ken in real life, but I had come to know him on Twitter over the last few years.  He had a knack for making people laugh, getting people motivated, and just enjoying his space in the Twitterverse.  Everyone who knew him on Twitter counted him as a friend; that's just how he was.  We friended each other on FaceBook and emailed about acting from time to time.  He was always there to offer some advice, encouragement, or make a quick joke to liven the mood.  Even though I had never shook his hand, I would often forget that I had only ever met him electronically.

It's interesting how you can come to know people without meeting them face-to-face.  I've got a few friends I've known via the Internet that I've never met face-to-face, and they're still dear friends to me.

What's strange is how out-of-nowhere this appears to be.  Ken was very healthy; often he would Tweet about going to the gym, improving his workout, and staying active.  So why is it we lost him at such at young age?  There's no way to tell the reasons, or even if there really is one.  Sometimes we just have to be okay with not knowing the answers.

It really makes you think of taking a hold of your destiny.  Who knows why some people smoke, drink, are jerks and live to be 98 years old while others who take good care of themselves and are greatly compassionate live to only 21 years old.  Where's the reason?  Where's the fairness?  That's one of the things that makes life exciting and beautiful- it's completely unpredictable, and we're here to enjoy the ride to the fullest and spread love and joy to others as best we can.

We don't have a choice of how old we will live to be.  We can prolong our lives by taking care of our health, but that doesn't prevent accidents and other things from happening.  (Not that I'm saying we should disregard our health- being healthy is the best way to enjoy life!)  What we can control is what we do with our life, what we make of ourselves, how we treat others, and how happy we are.

Happiness isn't in the circumstances; it's in the heart.  It's a conscious choice, and one that many ignore when they constantly want more or look at the negative side of life.  I forget what it was I was watching, but there was a man who had been in a serious accident and lost his leg below the knee.  He said "I can look at this one of two ways: I can be bitter because I almost died and lost my leg, or I can be grateful because I survived and only lost a leg."

There's a boldness is not adhering to what is expected of you and taking the easy route in life.  So many people just fall into what they think they're supposed to do and float through life instead of taking risks and going for their dreams.  Why?  There is no do-overs, no second chances; you only get to live this life once.  There's an audacity in saying "You know what?  I don't want to have this steady job where I work 9 to 5 in an office and get a paycheck every week from something mundane and boring.  I'm passionate about painting and sculpting- I'm going to do that, and I'm going to make a living doing it!"

When I realized I wanted to be a writer and an actress, it didn't take long to realize I had fallen in love with two of the hardest professions there are to be successful at.  Millions and millions of people want to be writers; millions and millions of people want to be actors; few actually get to make one or the other their life's work, and here I am trying to do BOTH in the long run.  Wanting two careers that are so difficult and with such slim odds of success is probably the scariest thing I've ever done (and I've been skydiving)!  Maybe I'm a fool, but at least I get a sense of fulfillment every day.  When my time comes, I want to look back and saw how awesome my life was, how much fun I had, and that I took every chance I got to share love with others.

We spend so much time worrying about things that we forget to do what makes us happy.   Ken always seemed so happy, so positive, so excited about everything, and so willing to spread those feelings.  People like him, who radiate genuine positivity, are hard to come by.

What do you love to do?  Are you doing it, or pursuing routes to be able to do it?  If not, why?  If not now, then when?

Life is beautiful, and your time is a limited edition.  Spend it wisely!

"It's not the years in your life that count; it's the life in your years."
-Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Silence of Souls" Special Preview

 Hello everyone!  I'm back from Texas and am getting so close to finishing the novel.  As a special treat, I'm giving you all a preview of Silence of Souls.  Below the cut, you'll be the first to see the cover and read an excerpt from Chapter 1!  I hope you'll like it.

Be aware, you're getting the raw, unedited version here.  You might find some typos or errors that need to be fixed, and I assure you I'm working on it to give you the best product I possibly can.  This is for your enjoyment, to get a little taste of what's coming soon.  This is copyright Stefanie Oberhansley, so please respect my work and don't copy it without giving credit.  (Otherwise I won't be able to do special previews like this in the future.  However, please DO share the link to the page and invite your friends to come check out this special preview.

The book will be released early August 2012.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Zombies! Zombie apocalypse!

Lately, I've been spending more time on my computer than anywhere else.  The good news is that I've been getting a lot of work done in preparation for the release of Silence of Souls.  The bad news is that my eyes have been redder and dryer than ever before.

I can't stop working, it seems.  I'll work during the day, then I'll get back on my computer after dinner for "just one quick thing" and it turns in to working until I go to bed.  Yesterday, I got up at 5am and drove from Albuquerque, NM to Sachse, TX and was exhausted.  I spent the evening with my in-laws and grandparents, playing a game and visiting.  Around 11pm, I headed up to go to bed, but when I got in the bedroom I picked up my phone and thought of one quick email I wanted to send before going to sleep, so I laid in bed and started typing.  One quick email turned in to checking out a zombie website, doing a little research, and a few other things.  I ended up working for two and a half hours before I finally went to sleep a little before 2am.

Then, I dreamed about zombies.  For the last week and a half or so, I've had nothing but zombie dreams.  It's been horrifying (and in a couple of dreams, pretty funny).

I'm on the last leg of my book.  It's coming along so fantastically, but I've been overworking myself to the point of confusion.

The zinger is that I don't want to stop.  I'm tired, worn, confused, frustrated, and I love it.  I feel like it's really coming together and that my goals are going to be hit.

In five weeks is our annual Beach Blast- a week at the beach with lots of great friends/family/friends-who-are-like-family, too much food and too much booze.  It's a lot of fun.  My goal right now is to finish and publish before the Beach Blast so I can actually take the week off and recover from writing my novel.

Friday, June 8, 2012

On The Road and an Announcement

This seems to be the year of traveling.  Between March 2011 and now, I've done more traveling than I did during the entire period of 2006-2011.  Alaska, Washington, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado have all been very welcoming to me.

Tomorrow morning I'll be heading out on the road again.  This time, it's off to Texas; driving all the way there to deliver a car, and then flying home after a week of visiting relatives.  I'm looking forward to it.  The plan is to drive all the way to Albuquerque tomorrow, stay the night, then finish the second half of the trip and be in Dallas Sunday evening.

Appropriately, I'm reading a book right now called On The Road.  It's by Jack Kerouac, and it's fantastic.  It's written in first-person POV, all about this guy Sal who travels across the United States and meets different people along the way.  He and his friend Dean and Dean's wife Marylou go through all sorts of places and do lots of different things.  I'm loving it, and it really captures the simplicity of driving long distances with little money and how adventurous it can feel.

For me, every trip feels like an adventure.  There's always something new to see, interesting people to come across, and places that have such a unique feel to them.  I love driving long distances, especially when it's at a leisurely pace and you can stop and take notice of the sights.  Even a small town, dusty diner can feel like a whole new world, and each person has a different story.  I've come across people who have never actually seen the coast or dipped their feet in the ocean; I've come across people who have done things I could never see myself doing.

If I ever get the chance, I want to spend four weeks on the road, just going wherever the path leads.  I think it would be so much fun and such an amazing experience.

If you get a chance, take a road trip and enjoy every moment of it, even especially when you're lost.  If you don't get to do that anytime soon, at least read this book:
"On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

And now time for a special announcement: I've decided on a title for my zombie novel:  
"Silence of Souls"  

It's coming along very well, and I'm excited that the completion of my novel is just around the corner.  The gentleman who is doing my cover has sent me the first draft of it, and I love it.  I can't wait for everyone to see it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Blood Approves of the Paranormal Activity that was witnessed by Amanda Palmer & Grand Theft Orchestra

The Internet is so full of potential,but I never thought of it as a two-way thing as much as I do right now.  I've always known the power the Internet has for the individual as a receiver of information, but it wasn't until this week that I really began to realize how much reach the individual can have as a giver.

All you readers out there have probably heard of Amanda Hocking, the indie writer from Minnesota who sold a million copies of her work when she self-published on Amazon after years of rejection from publishing companies.

You have probably seen at least one of the films in the Paranormal Activity trilogy, or at least heard of them- they're those "found footage"movies by previously unknown director/writer Oren Peli that beat out records previously held by The Blair Witch Project.

In the last couple of weeks, you may have heard of Amanda Fucking Palmer & Grand Theft Orchestra, who shattered all expectations and goals when their album and tour became the first Kickstarter funded project to receive more than $1million.

So what does Amanda Hocking's books, Oren Peli's movies, and Amanda Palmer's music all have in common?  The Internet!  All of them used the web to reach out, find fans, and get their work noticed.  In past posts on Hocking's blog, you can read about her putting in hours and hours of marketing when she released her books.  Peli and his team did a ton of internet marketing in order to get people to demand Paranormal Activity be shown in theaters near them.  Palmer and her band spent loads of time Tweeting, blogging, and spreading the word about their album and tour.

"I must tell everyone about my romance novel, Secretary Spread!"

Artists of all types- be they writers, film makers, or musicians- have this amazing resource at the tips of their fingers (quite literally), and many are finally starting to harness its power.  We can no reach our precise audience, thousands of miles around the globe, at any time of the day or night.  You can find a web forum on any topic, from something as broad as "Pet Lovers" to something as specific as "People Who Want To Visit Planet Vulcan for the Sole Purpose of Taking An Elective Class On Historical Technologies of Wild Frog-Bears and How They Were Used To Win The Amphibious Civil War of 2361" and you'll find hundreds of people in them.

But there's another thing all three of them have in common- quality.  They put a lot of work and dedication in to creating something they believed in; something that other people would want to read/see/hear.

Do you want to reach an endless amount of people and share your work?  There's never been a better time to do so.  Before the Internet, artists (writers, film makers, musicians, et al) were limited to who they could connect to via snail mail, having to wait months to hear back, if ever, and more often than not it would be a rejection that came back.  The outlook was pretty bleak- send in your work, hope it didn't get lost under the mountains of others who were hoping to be discovered just like you, and hope that the person who could do something about it (producer, publisher, etc) would be willing to take a chance on it.  More often than not, it would pass through an intern first, and you'd have to hope they liked it enough to pass along to their boss.  Once it got that far, you'd have to hope that the company would be willing to front the money for printing, publishing, production, and marketing.  If your project was lucky enough to actually get made, you then had to hope that the right people would walk in to the right stores and go to the right section, see your work, and be intrigued enough to pick it up and buy it.  A long shot, for sure.  (Did you know that the majority of traditionally published authors make $300 a year?  A YEAR!)

With the Internet, it's MUCH easier to get noticed.  That is, if you work for it.  You need a quality product, something you can be proud of, to put out there.  The cost of getting it out there yourself is virtually eliminated because of the Internet.  For example, publishing on Amazon does not cost the author a cent, which makes it possible for authors who would never have been discovered to become a best-seller.  The downside to this is that it is completely YOUR responsibility to get yourself and your work known because you don't have a marketing team doing it for you.  None of the three previously mentioned artists just sat back and *hoped* people would happen to Google the right terms to find their work- they went out and let people know about it!  So go, get out there, make something incredible, and let people know about it.  And please tell me about it, too- I love indie stuff!

P.S.- If you're looking for some great indie music, check out Hey Geronimo.  They have a new song out called "Carbon Affair," and it's free to download.  They have a great sound!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Don't Be A Lazy Writer

Last night I could barely sleep, and for three reasons:

1. It was far too hot.

2. I had zombies on my brain (pun totally intended) and every little noise was making me jump.

3. Ideas for my next novel were flooding in and couldn't be stopped! (Not that I'd want them to be stopped, of course.)

"I just want a hug.  That's all."

When ideas rush to me, I have to write them down before they escape into thin air.  I can't tell you how many times I used to say "I'll remember this in the morning" and then wake up the next morning and not be able to recall what it was.  Usually, I'd remember that I had an earth-shattering idea that would alternate reality as we know it, but couldn't remember for the life of me what that idea was.  I could've ended hunger, demolished the obesity epidemic, cured cancer, wiped away the national debt, and so much more if only I had written down those lost ideas!  Seriously!  (Okay, maybe I exaggerate here, but I've lost a lot of story ideas because of not writing them down.)

I'm totally in love with this idea.  So much so that I already have ten (10!) pages of notes on it, including character backgrounds and an underlying plot.  The best part is, after searching all around, I can't find any book out there yet even remotely similar to this idea!  (I've been waiting for an idea to come to me that is completely new and fresh and has nothing similar to it out there.)  It combines two (maybe three) of the most popular genres but does not seem to have been done yet, which makes me very happy.  I don't think the idea is too "out there" to be completely rejected by the reading community, especially people who enjoy these two major genres.

Seriously, I can't wait to start writing this story.  It's becoming so clear to me that I have to actually try to take the notes and then mute it so I can focus on my current project.

But what excites me so much about this idea isn't the thought of when it'll be done, published, and read by others (well, that thought does excite me, too), it's the thought of being able to explore this idea and see where it goes, to be able to dive into this world and become the characters.

The thing I've loved so much about writing my zombie novel is the fact that I'm there experiencing it all as it happens.  Each character is a part of me, and when I write I become them (I call it "method writing," but I'm not sure if there's actually a term for it or not), one at a time.  I know everything there is to know about every single one of them, even things they don't know about themselves.

So here's a big tip for all of you writers out there: don't be lazy!  Write an idea down when it comes to you!  You'll be thankful you did.  There has been dozens of times when I look back over notes to find part of an idea that I completely forgot about and then incorporate it right in to my story, and it makes the story so much stronger.  My whole zombie novel is based on a series of dreams, and most of the notes I have were written at 2am, 3am, or 4am after having seen something in a dream (so keep a notepad next to your bed, or do what I do: use a "Notes" app on your phone or text it to yourself).

Keep writing, and keep taking notes!