2018 ACCOMPLISHMENTS LIST

2018 was an EFFING EXCEPTIONAL year, beyond any expectations I had of it, & beyond measure. I began the year feeling hopeful, but also really struggling with depression & anxiety. But due to me taking positive actions to improve my life, my life itself went from “barely getting by”, “surviving”, to me actively creating & shaping the kind of world I wanted to live in, & then beginning to live there. My essay MAGIC HOURS sums these feelings up best, but here is a VERY BIG & comprehensive list of all the things & actions I took & progress I made that took those feelings & made them REAL.

CREATIVITY & BUSINESS

CONCERTS

I saw a whopping 67 BANDS IN CONCERT IN 2018!!! (List in chronological order!)

  1. AJR (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  2. Al Stewart (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  3. Alan Parsons Project (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  4. Alice Merton (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  5. Andrew McMahon & The Wilderness (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  6. Ann Wilson (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  7. The Association (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  8. Bastille (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  9. The Beach Boys (With Special Guest John Stamos) (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  10. Beat Root Revival (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  11. Billy Joel (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  12. Blackfoot (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  13. Bob Dylan (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  14. Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  15. Brian Wilson (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  16. Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  17. Chicago (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  18. Chuck Negron (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  19. Chvrches (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  20. The Cowsills (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  21. Daryl Hall & John Oates (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  22. Dawes (Pepsi Center – Denver, CO)
  23. Deborah Bonham (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  24. The Doobie Brothers (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  25. The Eagles (Camping World Stadium – Orlando, FL)
  26. Elle King (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  27. Firefall (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  28. Foreigner (With Rock Symphony Orchestra) (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  29. Foster the People (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  30. Gary Puckett & The Union Gap (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  31. Greg Kihn (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  32. Jeff Beck (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  33. Jeff Lynne’s ELO/Electric Light Orchestra (Pepsi Center – Denver, CO)
  34. Jimmie Vaughn Trio (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  35. Jimmy Buffet (with special guest Caroline Jones) (Camping World Stadium – Orlando, FL)
  36. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  37. John Fogerty (Coachman Park – Clearwater, FL)
  38. Julian Frampton (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  39. Kandance Springs (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  40. KC & The Sunshine Band (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  41. LANY (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  42. Lords of 52nd Street (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  43. Lynyrd Skynyrd (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  44. Mark Lindsay (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  45. Michael Tolcher (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  46. Nathanial Racliffe & The Night Sweats (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  47. Panic! At the Disco (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  48. Paul Dowers (Elfers Community Center – Elfers, FL)
  49. Paul Rodgers (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  50. Paul Simon (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  51. Queensryche (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  52. REO Speedwagon (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  53. Rick Springfield (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  54. Roy Orbison (HOLOGRAPHIC CONCERT – Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  55. Ryan Kinder (Coachman Park – Clearwater, FL)
  56. Scorpions (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  57. Steely Dan (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  58. Styx (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  59. Tesla (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  60. The Turtles (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  61. Three Dog Night (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  62. Todd Rundgren (The Capitol Theatre – Clearwater, FL)
  63. Tommy Tutone (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  64. Toto (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  65. Train (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  66. Young the Giant (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  67. ZZ Top (Coachman Park – Clearwater)

FOODS

  • Went the whole month of October without eating any sweets as part of my self-directed NO SWEETS OCTOBER CHALLENGE!
  • Ate five servings of veggies & fruits every day for a month, as part of a FRUITS & VEGGIES challenge I did in August.
  • Tried macarons for the FIRST TIME EVER! Got a pistachio one from a local grocery store.
  • Went to Le Macaron for the first time & tried some AMAZING rose & coffee flavored macarons.
  • DRANK BOBA TEA FOR THE FIRST TIME, at the very wonderful Buttermilk Provisions in Wesley Chapel, FL.
  • Ate my first vegan doughnut ever at the aforementioned Buttermilk Provisions.
  • Made my first smoothie bowl ever (those acai-bowl looking things) & they are AMAZING so I make them a lot now.
  • Ate fried pickles for the first time ever (from Sam’s Beach Bar in Hudson, FL!). Ate them while sitting on the beach in the middle of break from jury duty.
  • Ate a mincemeat pie for the first time (from That Little Bakery Cafe in Elfers, FL!)
  • I have a screened in back porch now, & it’s lovely to sit out there on a warm morning & drink a cup of tea.
  • Got really good frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog.
  • Amazing combo I tried: vanilla white balsamic reduction over vanilla Haagen-Daaz ice cream with organic ribbon-sliced basil (thanks to the back description on the Alessi balsamic reduction for this recommendation!)
  • Tried a cherry mash candy for the first time.
  • Ate raw snap peas for the first time. I also really like to mix them with raw wild tomatoes.
  • Tried tostones for the first time (the lime ones are AMAZING).
  • Tried szechuan for the first time!
  • One of the best products I discovered was the Fat Toad Farm caramel, which is OUT OF THIS WORLD.
  • Decided I liked sparkling water after spending like a decade hating it. Favorite brands? Perrier (obviously), any La Croix in the slim cans (especially the blackberry cucumber one), & Icelandic.

PERSONAL

  • 2018 IS THE YEAR I BEAT MY DEPRESSION. It was clinical, it was scary, I discovered the tools I needed to teach myself how to be happy, I reinvented myself, learned how to be happy, & for the first time in nearly a decade, I AM DEPRESSION FREE. You can read more about that here.
  • Was part of writer & personal development expert Benjamin Hardy’s outstanding AMP Program (originally called 52 Weeks of Momentum) for the entire year. Thanks to this course & the people in it & the things I learned from it & the books I read because of it, I was able to TOTALLY TRANSFORM my life throughout the course of 2018.
  • Although I am usually amazed by & impressed by how much progress I am able to make in a year, 2018 is one for the books when it comes to reinventing myself. I started the year as a depressed & anxious person struggling to survive, & I ended the year as a confident, happy person with so many exceptional & exciting things in the works.
  • Quit the job that was a huge source of unhappiness & stress in my life so I could do a job I enjoyed more, even if the job I enjoy more still isn’t what I ultimately want to do. This was one of the biggest ways I upgraded this year.
  • Donated a HUGE amount of stuff to Goodwill, the Veteran’s Administration, Kidney Foundation, etc, & donated a bicycle to the amazing Eileen’s Place bike shop in Hudson, FL.
  • Got my hair cut short for the first time in a decade, & I love it so much more than having long hair! That was in February, & in September I got it cut even shorter. I LOVE IT.
  • Participated in Lake Jovita’s 5k Reindeer Run with my mom (it was her first 5k!) & won third place for my age category (by default, because I was one of three people in my category)!!! You were encouraged to wear a festive costume, so I dressed as “Indiana Jones, Christmas Tree Wrangler”. Did not win any costume prizes, but EVERYONE knows I had the best costume 🙂
  • Started listening to vinyl albums! We got a record player last Christmas, & I EFFING LOVE THE SOUND OF VINYL. Bought myself a few used vinyl albums, & I have listened to a good number of albums now on vinyl. And there are a whole bunch more of my favorites I’ve never heard on vinyl that I’m super-looking-forward to hearing on vinyl in the upcoming year. It just sounds so warm & wonderful.
  • Best things I discovered this year: Edgar Wright films, Chris Fleming, Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard/A True Star, Melissa Strype, The Mighty Boosh, Noel Fielding, Shrek Retold, Mission Impossible: Fallout, the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, the new-ish Star Trek movies, & watching musicals live.
  • Began investing, more officially, in the stock market & building a portfolio that I’m proud of!
  • Began listening to audiobooks frequently thanks to Hoopla, where I can listen to books for free using my library card! I highly recommend it, & they also have movies, ebooks, & albums!
  • Moved across town to a nice new house!
  • Improved my wealth mindset.
  • Connected with so many amazing, creative, kind, & intelligent people out in the world & by networking with people online.
  • For Halloween, dressed as an owl with flamingos!
  • Bought an AMAZING polka dot jumpsuit so I can be covered head to toe in polka dots. AND I also got a rainbow feather boa, which is so funky & is pretty much the funkiest thing ever when I wear it with my polka dot jumpsuit.
  • Participated in the Hillsborough River Half Marathon, hosted by Endeavor Racing! This was the first marathon event I participated in, I walked it rather than running because I don’t like running, & I had a marvelous time!
  • Bought some more plants, including a really great parlor palm. I’m setting up a mini makeshift plant room in my bedroom!
  • Got a lot more adorable plush animals, including some Geico gecko plush, more plush owls, & a whole bunch of funky plush reptiles & dinosaurs, among other critters!
  • BOUGHT MYSELF A CHICKEN SUIT & A RUBBER CHICKEN, which I have made good use of in my comedy so far 🙂
  • Colored my hair a caramel auburn color, purplish black, dark brown, & probably some other colors I can’t think of right now.
  • FIRST TIMES:
    • Drove a moving truck for the first time! It was a 15′ U-Haul truck, which obviously isn’t big for a truck but the biggest thing I had ever driven prior to that was a Kia minivan, & I my car now is a Smart Car. My mom, who followed behind me in the moving truck (as I drove it by myself, nonetheless) said that I “drove it like I had been born in it”. The first thing I had to do as soon as I started driving it was do a u-turn on the highway, & I swung out enough not to run over the median strip AND managed to also not hit the other side of the road. I got the truck back in one piece & was very proud of myself.
    • Went to a skate park for the first time! Went down some ramps (I still couldn’t do an ollie) which freaked me out & I had a good time.
    • Used my weed eater as an edger in my yard to edge my sidewalks for the first time! I had been using one of these.
    • Got my first root canal! Not something to be proud of, but still an experience in itself. Video coming soon. The dentists all thought I did really well, especially considering I have never even had a cavity filled before.
    • Bought some wigs for the first time, which I use in my comedy videos.
    • Used a drill by myself for the first time to build a bin for my discoid roaches that I breed for my reptiles to live in!
    • Used a Hoover Floormate mop vacuum for the first time.
    • Used regular latex paint (from the paint section of Home Depot) for the first time ever! Got them to mix me up a really gorgeous shade of amethyst purple to paint my gemstone shelf/altar with.
    • Tried on a dress (one I can’t yet afford!) at Nordstorm. It was my first time doing something like this (trying on something really nice). I tried on the INCREDIBLY GORGEOUS Galvan London Clara dress, which was covered in hand-sewn gold sequins. So much fun to think big & think ahead!
    • Went to an At Home store for the first time! They have so much great stuff.
    • Changed the brake pads on my Smart Car for the first time that I’ve done it entirely by myself! (I’ve only ever done it one other time, & I did most of the work then but my dad did help direct me & this time I did it totally alone, & successfully too!)
    • Calculated my net worth for the first time.
    • Began making something I call “mind dump lists” to help organize my thoughts & keep my always-on mind working its best. Article coming soon!

PETS

  • Got my first pet reptiles ever!
  • Went to Repticon (the big reptile expo) for the first time ever!
  • Got 3 crested geckos – Toe Bean, Pinwheel Shark, & Baby Pineapple!
  • Got a pet leopard gecko – Squiggles!
  • Got a pet albino Pac-Man Frog, Frogecoin!
  • GOT A PET MILLIPEDE, which I’ve wanted since I was 10.
  • Got a pet Texas Gold Millipede & 5 pet bumblebee millipedes.
  • Got pet/feeder superworms & have been caring for them for the past 6+ months.
  • Raised a dermastid beetle larvae to an adult.
  • Bought & began raising & breeding discoid roaches to feed to my reptiles & my frog once their colony gets going.
  • Got dwarf isopods (pillbug-looking things) & other things I need for setting up bioactive vivariums.
  • Bought & began raising mealworms to feed to my reptiles.
  • Finally bought a one of those plastic poop scoops for my dog Sparky, which makes cleaning up the yard so much easier & I wonder why I didn’t get one sooner.
  • Bought my guinea pigs an EFFING ADORABLE bumblebee costume (video coming soon!)
  • Switched Moose, Olive, & Oreo (my guinea pigs) & Starlight (my/my sister’s rabbit) to Aspen shaving bedding, which is more cost effective & seems to work as well as the paper CareFresh-style bedding I had been using.
  • Upgraded my betta tank from a 1-gallon with no filter that I had been using for years to a 5-gallon with a nice filter & a heater, & again, it’s another thing that I should have gotten a lot sooner.
  • Upgraded my guinea pigs to eating Oxbow premium guinea pig food instead of the old cheaper brand they had been eating.

READING

  • Read a total of 61 books, up from 57 in 2017.

TRAVEL & EXPERIENCES

  • Traveled to Denver, CO for the first time ever!!! I specifically went there to see Jeff Lynne’s ELO in concert (like how I traveled to Houston, TX in 2017 to see Queen in concert) & had an absolute BLAST, even though I was only there for less than 20 hours in total.
  • Visited Rocky Mountain National Park & drove the entire Trail Ridge Road! This was one of the highlights of my year. The Rocky Mountains are GORGEOUS. I drove through the Arapaho National Forest as I drove from Denver to the Rockies & drove back through Estes Park. The whole area was beautiful, & at the highest point along Trail Ridge Road, I experienced an altitude of more than 11,000 feet! Jogged back to my car at this altitude & felt like I’d run a marathon (that altitude is a lot anyways, especially when you hail from Florida & had only been in Colorado for less than a day, like me!)
  • Tried rocky mountain “oysters” for the first time while I was in Denver, from the Buckhorn Exchange! They were delicious!
  • Toured Alpaca Magic, an alpaca farm & got to pet & feed alpacas for the first time ever! It was my first time seeing an alpaca in real life too. I also got to make a piece of wool out of alpaca fiber, as part of the alpaca farm tour experience & it was SO AWESOME.
  • HELD AN OWL FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! At Tampa Repticon in February of 2018. (Thanks, Friends of Largo Nature Parks!)
  • Picked blackberries for the first time at a farm with my mom (Bob’s Blueberry/Blackberry Farm in Hudson, FL)! We had such a good time & the blackberries were delicious.
  • Toured the awesome Wildlife Survival Sanctuary in Spring Hill, FL & saw tigers, lemurs, mountain lions, tortoises, leopards, & more!
  • Went to a movie theater to watch a film for the first time since I was a young teenager, so probably the first time in 7+ years or so! Went to see Bohemian Rhapsody on its opening night, & it was fantastic!
  • Went to a wind chime making class & made a funky beaded wind chime.
  • Went to Jury Duty for the first time & turned it into something awesome by TOTALLY SEIZING THE MOMENT. Will write an article about this soon!
  • Took the world’s most satisfying nap in my hammock on my screened back porch, after getting up early for an audition. The weather was PERFECT, it was warm & slightly breezy & birds were chirping but the air was quiet like a weekend afternoon.
  • Visited Citrus Mall in Citrus Park, FL for the first time. They’ve got some great shops there!

JANUARY 2019 AT A GLANCE

Highlights: Published my first Udemy course ever, walked a marathon, started learning Spanish, published 1 book, visited the Tampa Museum of Art & got to experience an exhibit by Yayoi Kusama (one of my favorite artists), began releasing 4th album & released two songs from it, released 1 short film, interviewed 1 person for my blog, sat in the front row at a concert for the first time ever thanks to some amazing serendipity, saw 4 concerts, read 7 books, set up my first biactive vivarium for my pet frog, got a new pet betta, designed a new logo for my company, & more!

CREATIVITY & BUSINESS

  • BOOKS: Published Flowers, 3 (a zine, this one of flowers I photographed at the Mercer Botanical Gardens in Humble, TX in 2017).
  • SHORT FILMS: Released “Birth of a Rock Star“, an awesome stop motion/silent animated film with a killer soundtrack by yours truly about an alien creature that crash lands in a strange world.
  • INTERVIEWS: Interviewed guitarist virtuoso Paul Bielactowicz!
  • MUSIC: Began releasing fourth album, “Down Past the Fountains“, which is a previously unreleased album I recorded when I was 16 & really into folk music & Bob Dylan. It was the predecessor to “Fields of Destiny”. I recently rediscovered the album & realized how much I liked it, so I’m putting it out there one song at a time over the span of the next few months! Released two songs from it – “You Can Try, But You’ll Never Own Me” & “Hard Road Blues” (which IMO really really sounds something Bob Dylan would have done, even down to the Dylan-esque harmonica solos). This makes me proud.
  • ART: Released two designs I’m especially proud of, “Valentine Owls” & “I AM EVERYTHING I NEED“. Made a lot of small art projects too & did a lot of things that I felt expressed my creativity in awesome ways.
  • RELEASED MY FIRST UDEMY COURSE EVER!!! “How to Make 3 Styles of Plush Bumbleebees”.
  • Designed a new logo for SHOP Ashlee Craft! It’s never really had an official logo before, & the one I designed is so fun & funky.
  • Helped my mom set up her first Etsy shop, “Amy Craft Studios“. She makes some amazing macrame, which you can check out here!
  • Researched hiring independent contractors, marketing ideas, vaudeville, & circuses, among other things.
  • Working on a really really cool short film! Downloaded the awesome 8mm Film app (for iPhone & possibly other platforms) to use for it, which is so amazing.
  • Did standup comedy at The Improv Comedy Club in Tampa, FL!
  • Made the first one I’ve made since I was a kid of an epic new product I’m launching soon! Also made some more art I will be listing in the near future!
  • Made a handmade pom-pom from scratch (aka without a pom-pom kit) for the first time since I was a kid!
  • Published the first Benjamin the Chicken video on my comedy channel!
  • Conceived & began planning a one-person show.
  • Did my first livestream ever on Instagram – a comedy livestream where I did a short standup set!

CONCERTS

  • Saw Diana Ross at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL.
  • Saw Gladys Knight at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL.
  • Saw Air Supply at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater, FL. Had a seat in the middle of the audience, but through a stroke of completely random good fortune & the kindness of a stranger, ended up sitting in the center of the SECOND ROW. Got to stand up against the stage, got to shake hands with both Russell & Graham, & got two souvenir guitar picks from the two of them. IT WAS OUTSTANDING!!! First front-row seats EVER!
  • Saw America at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL.

 

FOODS

  • TOP 3 FOODS: Sparkling water (especially Blackberry Cucumber La Croix in the slim cans), blue cheese (I wanna put it on almost EVERYTHING), & dark chocolate. Oh, & I’m also going through a yogurt phase.
  • Favorite invention of the month was a “brie burrito”. Recipe coming soon.
  • Ate at Panera for the first time ever! Had a good bacon tomato toasted cheese & a cappuccino 🙂
  • Used a tea pot to make tea for the first time & it tastes SO AMAZINGLY BETTER than just microwaving the water for a bit.

MEDIA

  • STARTED READING: (* means a re-read; everything else is new to me) Free Prize Inside (Seth Godin), Relentless* (Tim S. Grover), Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (T. Harv Eker), If You’re Not First, You’re Last (Grant Cardone), The 10x Rule* (Grant Cardone), Level Up Your Life (Steve Kamb), Show Your Work (Austin Kleon), Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis), The 4-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferris).
  • FINISHED READING: (* means a re-read; everything else is new to me) The Whole30 (Melissa & Dan Hartwig), Mindfrick: Master Your Inner World & Succeed at Anything (T. Harv Eker), Free Prize Inside (Seth Godin), Relentless* (Tim S. Grover), Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (T. Harv Eker), If You’re Not First, You’re Last (Grant Cardone), The 10x Rule* (Grant Cardone). TOTAL: 7
  • WATCHED: (episodes in parenthesis for shows; all others are films; * means rewatches, all others are things I’ve never seen) Pee Wee’s Playhouse (Now You See Me, Now You Don’t), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Diaper (3, 4, & 5), The Big Lebowski, Shaun of the Dead, Imaginaria*, Austin Power in Goldmember, The Mighty Boosh (Electro), & 555 (Mom). TOTAL: 11
  • ALBUMS I LISTENED TO: (*First time listening to this album!) Listened to Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles), A Wizard/A True Star (Todd Rundgren), Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys), Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan), Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan), Pray for the Wicked* (Panic! At the Disco, & The Hermit of Mink Hollow (Todd Rundgren). TOTAL: 7.
  • First song I listened to in 2019 was my FAVORITE (which has been my favorite for a few months now) – Todd Rundgren’s Just One Victory.
  • But the favorite music video I discovered this month is Mint Royale’s “Blue Song“, featuring one of my favorite comedians ever (Noel Fielding), plus Julian Barratt AND NICK FROST AND IT WAS DIRECTED BY EDGAR WRIGHT.
  • Also, rediscovered the songs Paper Birds by Parachutes & I Want Your Wonderwall, both of which together were a vital song combination for me when I was 18.
  • I also really love the song Feel it Still by Portugal. The Man.

PETS

  • Got a new betta (the first female one I’ve owned!) who I named Amethyst! My sister & I are sharing her. The betta we had before lived for close to three years but passed away at the end of 2018, so we were ready for another betta again.
  • Set up my first bioactive vivarium ever – for Frogecoin, my Pac-Man frog! A bioactive vivarium is a self-sustaining mini-ecosystem involving the use of isopods & other small invertebrates to keep the cage clean & they have a lot of benefits for pet reptiles & amphibians.
  • Got & began using this critter playpen so guinea pigs & rabbit can have more safe time out of their cages, even when I’m not able to supervise them.
  • Sparky, my Boston Terrier/Shih Tzu/Chihuahua mix, turned 9 years old!
  • Got a free aquarium that’s somewhere between 15 & 25 gallons I think that someone was giving away!

PERSONAL

  • WALKED A MARATHON without any training. First marathon I’ve both attempted & completed. Super proud of myself for this one, & a video & some blog posts on this topic are coming soon!
  • Began learning Spanish (again; I learned some last year but then fell off the bandwagon; this month I got back on!)
  • The first person I paid this year was myself, & the first person I worked for this year was myself.
  • I’m part of Benjamin Hardy’s AMP mastermind group this year too!
  • Began using the gamified to-do list app Habitica & it has been seriously been a productivity & organization game-changer, & it is seriously SO FUN.
  • Got rid of a good number of clothes & some knickknacks that I did not enjoy owning! Also worked more on sorting & organizing photos from my phone. Also improved (by embellishing or painting or changing in some way) several other “belongings of conflict” that it always bothered me that I owned because I thought they were bland even though they had cute, redeeming qualities about them. More on “belongings of conflict” coming soon!
  • Made my amazing dream trash can for my bedroom, which can be described as “yellow round trash can with sharks & rainbow gemstones”.
  • Painted & put adorable stickers on my new custom light switch plate cover, which I installed in my bedroom!
  • Told my mom I wanted to see Les Miserables live this year. Ended up seeing billboard for Les Miserables while out & about, just a few hours later!
  • Finally cleaned up one half of my bedroom, put stuffed animals on top shelf of closet, & decorated room more!
  • Began using a daily exfoliating facial cleanser, which I think has improved my skin!
  • Put my entire enamel pin collection up on the pin bulletin board I decorated!
  • Experimenting with taking the brain health supplement GABA to compliment the L-Theanine I’ve been taking for a long time.

THINGS I PURCHASED

  • Power-scented dog fragrance for Sparky
  • Lots of SUPER ADORABLE clearance Christmas ornaments
  • A GIANT YELLOW POM POM (like 6″ diameter)
  • A pink blown glass stegosaurus ornament
  • A winter TY Beanie Baby owl plush (one I don’t have for my collection of TY owls!), which I was prepared to pay $7 for but when it got run up it was on clearance for $1.74!
  • Mini burgers & sausages meant for dogs, for Sparky (for his 9th birthday!)
  • Bought so many effing adorable sloth/dinosaur/alligator & more themed Valentines things in that amazing cheap colorful front section at Target!
  • A FLUFFY RAINBOW ALPACA.
  • Valentines reusable bags which read “Peas be my Valentine. I carrot lot about you.” with effing adorable peas & carrots on them 🙂
  • FINALLY purchased one of artist CatRabbit’s INCREDIBLY PRECIOUS egg breakfast plate pins. Check them out here.
  • Got two more dinosaur Pez dispensers for my collection that I didn’t have yet!
  • A GIANT YELLOW POM POM PILLOW to match my other “GIANT POM POM”.

TRAVEL & EXPERIENCES

  • Went to the Tampa Museum of Art for the first time & saw the outstanding YAYOI KUSAMA (!!!!!!!!) exhibit – “Love is Calling, which is one of her famed “infinity rooms”, which was SO SO SO EFFING GREAT. I LOVE immersive art, multimedia, & hyper-realities. Yayoi Kusama has been one of my favorite artists for years, & this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see her work in person. Of course I wore my polka dot jumpsuit there! 😀 Also saw an exhibit from Robert Indiana & got to stand in front of one of the iconic “LOVE” sculptures.
  • Saw the play “Spamalot” at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater for the first time. I had never seen Spamalot before but I EFFING LOVE IT. It’s such a hilarious play. I love me some British comedy & Monty Python is just brilliant. There was no one on either side of me for 5+ seats & no one directly in front of me (I was in the very back row!) so I was just chillin’ & enjoying the show. My favorite scene ever is the “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” scene & I loved the “Find Your Grail” song.
  • Went to a new Goodwill store for the first time & bought an awesome electric yellow blouse.
  • Sat on the back porch with my dog & my sister on a trampoline on a breezy day & we just talked & it was great.
  • Saw a truck that said “POPCORN REMOVAL” on the side of it & I LOVE that idea.
  • Saw three cows with standing with their foreheads together in a field alongside the road, like friends.
  • Went to the Container Store for the first time! THEY HAVE SO MUCH COOL COLORFUL STUFF! Bought 20 yellow hangers, which is what I went there for because I need more hangers for my closet & I have standards so I would only accept YELLOW hangers. Yellow hangers were super hard to find & The Container Store was one of the few places with any decent price I could find them at.

MAGIC HOURS: 2018 WAS THE YEAR I DECIDED WHICH WORLD I WANT TO LIVE IN

I started out in the blackest pit, but I could still see a small patch of yellow sunlight as I lied in the bottom of the hole. I scribbled on papers around me; this time I’m going to get out this time I’m going to get out. With moist yearning eyes I raised my eyes towards the sky & hoped that some bit of warmth would make its way through to the inside.

That I would not only make it, but making SOMETHING of it. Something I could be proud of.

The roaring cacophony of quiet drowned out myself as I stood at the edge of a sea I had no knowledge of, falling into the same coping pattern I had always escaped from radical change by using.

 

Wokandapix / Pixabay

She stood at the top of the pit, spitting down onto me & shrieking with laughter. I was dragged through the dirt. They threw putrid mud down into the hole, cackling at my inability to rise up. I numbed out, tried to dissociate from my experience in any way possible. Even if the whole numbing was a temporary fix, a question, possibly dangerous. But it couldn’t be more dangerous than it would be to leave me unchecked, left to my own devices, exposed & able to do worse things. She was not my worst enemy, nor was he, nor were they. I was. So I faded back just enough that I could crawl through each day & wake up again the next. Never enough time. That was okay though, maybe better. But I could never escape enough.

Was there really anything beautiful about acting as the tragic figure I’d written myself to be, but never really wanted to become?

I had just come out of the whirlpool with the new knowledge that what I had been seeking HAD NOT BEEN THERE. I finally had the experience, but it was worth much less than the price of admission.

Rakicevic Nenad

Then the world exploded; all that I knew fell out from under me & was replaced, rebuilt, reinvented.

In the best way possible.

I woke up one day. It felt sudden, but I’d been slowly waking up for the past few weeks. And it struck me as soon as sunlight touched my skin: I was becoming sad less often. I had realized my sorrow for what it was: an illusion I had firmly believed in & lived, but one that didn’t have to be real for me any longer. It HAD been real: the pain was too fresh, the blood too vivid, the scars too deep for it to have been all in my mind. But as easily as it had planted its deadly seed deep inside the soil of my meadow, I could slowly pull the roots out from under the soil & destroy the plant before it destroyed the whole world I saw. The whole world I wanted to believe in.

And once I realized I had let the tiny yearning to feel something, the tiny yearning to understand melancholy, grow to such ugly proportions, it began to dissolve. It ceased to grow. It began to fade back into the darkness which it had come from.

jplenio / Pixabay

And then another day, I woke up & realized I wasn’t sad anymore.

I have discovered that joy is always more interesting than sorrow. Each day I bask in the pure gloriousness of living that way. I am already a success. The binary of success & failure has always been an illusion. I have cut the threads holding me to what I once was: afraid of the future & afraid of what people would think. And now I am myself again.

I have finally decided what world I want to live in.

I do not have to beat myself down & stay hidden & bleeding under the highway overpass in the darkest night. There is a whole other world on top of this one, layers of worlds, & I am the explorer discovering them all. Each one feeling better than the next, & I am the one finally letting myself feel good. The world I lived in was not tied to circumstance, but to choice. My choice.

I have seen both sides of the coin. I have lived in both dimensions. Both are equally as real, but it is always me who decides which one I will live in. And by the simple shift in perspective; flipping the switch & crawling through folds of energy until I am firmly back on the level I rebirthed myself on. The Vortex is real.

The Universe always had my back. It was always sitting there, hidden in the back row but cheering the loudest of all. It was always rooting for me even when I was afraid that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. Just when I thought all the lights had gone out, the Universe always showed up holding candles, slipping a crumpled piece of paper into my hand which contained a clue for what I should do next.

I found myself. She sat there alone & frightened, but I brought her back into the light. Alone on that dark sacred highway at night, as I drove under the warm yellow streetlights illuminating the smooth dark highway, with the jazz playing deep & quiet & ineffable in the background. & the feeling bubbled up inside me, it frightened me because it was so strong & so sudden, the pure vibrating eternal radiance of the sincerest relieved joy. I found myself on that drive home on the pitch-dark highway as I trusted in the golden radiance & recorded the exact color of moonlight on my arm. The moon shone down around me on the sacred fields & the tiny farmhouse & the sleeping cattle, quiet & smiling & deeply nurturing in the pale blue sacred light.

It turns out, the environment I most needed to change was the environment inside me.

And there I was, slowly & quietly chipping away at the darkness which had held me back for so long. Slowly building a better foundation, brick by brick.

I was afraid to let myself be happy because I was so used to being sad & afraid that a future that felt good was also an uncertain one. At least with sorrow, I had its cold stale hand to hold, a familiarity I knew I could always return to. With sorrow, at least I knew what my future would feel like & how I would cope with it.

When I realized it had all been a sham, the walls shattered, & I found myself free in a meadow of sunlight.

What had once been a darkness I relished & lovingly extracted every ounce of pain from now became a song I’d never liked but heard play too many times on the radio. My old standby patterns weren’t beautiful & tragic – they were just boring, & didn’t allow half enough time for me to merely exist & simply be. Too much of it was shrouded in routine & in monotonous pandering to the politics touted by over-idolized figures I wanted nothing to do with.

Sometimes before I would wonder what it would be like to disappear & reappear somewhere else, my future free & with my slate cleaned.

No baggage to carry, no fight against my own glass ceiling upper limits. And in a way, I have. I have found the hidden door in the forest, concealed behind twisted wooden vines, & I have stepped firmly from the land of darkness & into the light. I have approached the door & grasped the gold handle, stepped in the fallen leaves & heard the crunch of the new moon in the starless sky. I have stood in sudden afternoon light holding that door handle, hand frozen, afraid to move forward, refusing to accept that I AM WORTHY ALREADY.

Too separated to accept that the Universe will always love me anyways.

Too devastated by the secret knowledge that all along, another world has been parading in tandem with this one, & I could have stepped into it at any moment had I been ready sooner.

And then I opened the door.

Sunlight spilled forth. I trust you, I trust you. I picked the road leading in the direction of the same breeze I’d felt on the beach & in the city, one which wordlessly murmurs of home. And I have found that home.

The whole world is fresh. The whole world has been reborn. The Phoenix has risen from the ashes, ready to believe in its own greatness again. She would be proud if she saw me, to see what she becomes. To see she becomes the person she needed when she was a kid.

I know now that I have what it takes & have the tools to do anything & become anything that I choose to. The whole world is new, & yet it’s been there all along, waiting for me. Everything looks different, everything feels different, because now I see everything through the lens of vibrant optimism instead of the mournful, violent grays of sadness. I realized I have a choice in how I feel & what world I choose to see. In whether I struggle to survive, or flourish & thrive.

I feel like I finally decided which world I want to live in.

I have found the magic again.

INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST PAUL BIELATOWICZ

I am so thrilled that I had the opportunity to interview Paul Bielatowicz, who is one of the best guitarists I’ve had the chance to see live. I saw him play guitar as part of the Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy concert I attended in 2018 & was immediately impressed. Paul manages to combine a killer virtuoso technique with truly beautiful, evocative playing, which can be a challenging combination to find. Paul pulls it off perfectly, & I’m so grateful that I got to pick his brain about music & creativity.

1. Is creating music something you HAVE to & feel a deep & necessary compulsion to do? Has being such a creative person sometimes made your life more difficult/painful or less fun, because being very creative is often at odds with what the rest of the world wants from you? If so, how have you dealt with that? Or has this been easy overall?

I’ve not really thought about it in those terms before, but I’ve always felt a deep need to be creative. I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t doing something creative with my life. Thankfully I’ve never felt at odds because of it; in fact the opposite is true, being creative has brought so many great people into my life.

2. How did you end up playing as part of ‪Carl Palmer‬’s ELP Legacy? Did you have to audition? (If you did, what song(s) did you play?) Tell us that story.

Carl was looking for a guitarist and asked around for recommendations. One of his recommendations was a guitarist called Guthrie Govan – he couldn’t do it because of other commitments, so Guthrie kindly recommended me. I sent Carl a CD of demos I had recorded – he liked it, so asked me to join the band. Thankfully there was no audition, the first time I met him was the first of 3 days rehearsals before our first European tour.

3. Do you consider yourself an explorer of the world (particularly the music world) or a collector of experiences & ideas, which you then turn into sounds? What things outside of music influence you, even including random things in the everyday world?

I think everything you experience goes into and comes out of your music. My goal is always to communicate something when I play or create music, so obviously it’s very important to have something to communicate. Inspiration can come from many places, but for me I try to communicate the positive in my music, simply because that’s what I’m drawn toward. So any positive experience or emotion can be inspiration for music.

4. Do you feel that playfulness & fun are important themes in your life & your music, & are taking creative risks a form of play? Do you have fun being yourself? How can creative people integrate more playfulness & creative fun into their lives/creative work?

Absolutely. I think fun and silliness is a big part of who I am, so that’s naturally going to come out in my music. If I can make someone smile, or even laugh, when I performing then I feel like I’ve done my job. As for how people can integrate more playfulness – if you’re that way inclined then just be yourself. An audience appreciates honesty in a performer.

5. Are most of the solos you play planned out or improvised, & why?

I’ll usually improvise solos in the studio until I get a take that I like, then when I’m happy with it I’ll keep it and play it live that way pretty much all the time.

6. What have you found to be the best way to market your music?

For me playing live has been the best marketing tool. Playing with other artists has given me the opportunity to showcase my music to audiences who wouldn’t otherwise discover me.

7. When you are writing a song, how do you know what it should sound like? Can you hear, feel, or see what the parts should be like inside your mind? Do you try to use sound to “paint” a very specific feeling or aesthetic you have in mind, or something else?

There’s no fixed formula for me – the writing process happens differently every time. I just wrote a song include 132 names of my patreon patrons in the lyrics. The morning I found out my patron count had passed 100 subscribers I got in the shower and pretty much had the whole thing written by the time I got out. Then I sang it into my phone so I could remember it. Other times I’ve been commissioned by guitar magazines to write pieces in a very specific style; in those instances I usually try to find an existing piece of music to use as a model for the piece I’m writing.
In terms of the aesthetic or meaning of a piece sometimes the musical idea comes first, and that might bring to mind a feeling or narrative to mind, and the rest of the piece is then influenced by that narrative… and it can also happen the other way round. So, for me, there’s no tried and tested method for writing.

8. If you could have written or played on any album (or albums!), which would it be & why? What would you have done differently on it?

Great question! I’m thinking of all my favourite albums, but the problem is they’re perfect exactly how they are, so I wouldn’t want to change them by adding myself. Having said that, I would have loved to have been in the studio when Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road was being recorded – that creative environment must have been been something incredible to witness.

9. Who are some of your biggest musical influences & what most appeals to you about their music? How have they inspired your approach to guitar?

Guitar-wise, I started playing guitar because of Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. Then I discovered Hendrix & Eddie Van Halen and my life changed. With Eddie & Jimi, what really appeals is the organic sound and style of playing – they sound so “human” when they play. One thing I dislike is when a musician, particularly guitar players, sound mechanical & robot-like. Aside from guitar players, a huge influence has been piano music. My favourite pianist is a Hungarian classical musician called Georges Cziffra. Again, he had monster technique, but he also had that organic sound to his playing that I love – that combination is absolutely necessary for virtuoso technique to move and touch people, rather than merely impress them.

10. With someone as virtuosic at guitar as you are, how do you know where to take your playing next? Do you have a mentor or a teacher, people you look up to & aspire to be like, or does the “next level” of honing your skills come from intuition or trying to play what you might hear inside your mind?

I don’t have anyone such as a mentor, but I often imagine doing things that I’m not capable of yet, so I guess that pushes me. I benefit a lot from the fact that I am so influenced by pianists and other instruments – it makes me constantly reassess what is possible on the guitar, and helps me look outside the confines of accepted limits and norms of the instrument.

11. If you had to write a manifesto about your approach to life in the form of a five-item list, what would that list be?

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be original.
  3. Create.
  4. Make the most of every moment.
  5. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

12. Do you have any hobbies outside of music? Tell us about your “son” (aka your cat!).

I adopted a cat from a rescue shelter about 4 years ago. We went to the shelter wanting a cat to pick us, rather than the other way round. The shelter let us meet a few cats, but they all seemed mainly interested in getting treats… then we met one who the shelter had called Rhode Island (that’s where he was rescued from) – there was an instant bond between us. He wasn’t interested in any treats, but followed us around the room whenever we walked away from him. He acted more like a dog than a cat, so we decided to call him Darwin – we figured he was the missing evolutionary link between a cat and a dog! 6 months later we read a heart wrenching story about a cat who had been in the same shelter for a long time; she came from Rhode Island and all her siblings had been adopted months ago; we called the shelter and sure enough it was Darwin’s biological sister, so obviously we had to reunite them. We named her Emma, after Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma Darwin.

13. I love the collaborative combos you make by combining a silent film with your guitar. What is your favorite thing about that type of combination of taking something from the past & combining it with the present?Tell us about that process.

I’ve always liked the idea of working with multimedia, so when the idea of silent movies came up, it just seemed to tick all the boxes. They’re a blank canvas – no dialog or existing soundtrack to get in the way of the music I’m playing, they’re often pieces of art in the their own right (we could dedicate a whole other interview to that idea alone!) and what’s more, they’re now in the public domain so can be used freely without worrying about the treading minefield of copyright!

14. What’s the earliest memory you have of music being important to you? Were you always interested in music & becoming a musician, or was that something you developed over time (if so, when & what inspired you to come to that decision?). If you hadn’t done something with music, what might have you become or done?

I was an only child growing up on the outskirts of a small country village so when music became important to me in my teen years, it became REALLY important – I threw myself into it and it consumed my every thought. When I was at school I loved playing guitar, but never thought it was a viable career choice so didn’t dare tell anyone I wanted to be a musician in case they laughed at me! Then when it came time to chose what to study at college I had a kind of “now or never” moment – it was the closest I’d been to choosing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, so I finally started telling people I wanted to study music. Thankfully my family were very supportive and the rest is history!

15. What is an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love?

Geocaching! Me and Simon (Fitzpatrick – the bass player in Carl Palmer’s band) take part in a worldwide treasure hunt called Geocaching. There are millions of “caches” hidden all over the world – basically small containers containing a log book for you to sign – and we always try to find as many as we can on our travels.

16. Do you ever pretend to be someone else or do you feel as though you are always entirely yourself? Do you ever pretend to be your heroes when you’re up on stage, or does it feel amazing to always be exactly who you are when you’re on stage?

Haha no, definitely always feel like I’m entirely myself. I think my approach to performing is a very personal, communication-based one. So I’m always trying to draw the audience into to the performance and communicate something to them. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable trying to pretend to be someone else as that would lose the element of communication.

17. You can commission a work of art in any medium (including music & film) by any artist, dead or alive. Who is it, & what do you have them make for you?

Beethoven – I’d get him to compose me an electric guitar concerto!

18. Did you have a “point of no return” experience in regards to pursing music, where there was no turning back & you knew you were just going to go for it? What was that decision or moment, & how did it make you feel?

Not really. The thought of doing anything else would have been horrible. There was only ever one thing I wanted to do, and that was to play music, so I’ve always been “going for it”.

19. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit, has most improved your life?

I decided to go vegan a few years ago and I feel like I’m a better person for it. I reached a point where I felt I had to reassess my moral compass and make my own decisions about what was right and wrong. A big influence was adopting Darwin, my cat from a rescue centre – it was the first time I’d really bonded with an animal and all of a sudden the thought that I’d been eating animals really struck home. I realised I had to make that change in my life & I’ve never looked back. Going vegan is one of the most positive things I’ve ever done with my life.

20. What advice do you have for highly creative & eclectic young people pursuing their art?

Be yourself. The world doesn’t need a clone of any other artist out there. Find your own artistic voice and create.
If you’d like to keep up with what Paul is up to in the studio or on tour, they can check out www.patreon.com/paulbielatowicz for daily updates.
 
You can also find Paul on Facebook here.
All photos of Paul from his Facebook page.

PASTEL UNIVERSE :: Outfit of the Day

Green pyramid earrings / Rainbow “I Love the Universe & the Universe Loves Me & I Love Me” t-shirt (AVAILABLE IN MY SHOP!) / zigzag pink pastel shorts / chakra alignment bracelet / Doc Martens with custom colorful laces / flamingo floatie novelty socks

Also, here is a photo of me wearing fluffy yellow ear muffs from Target that I would hella buy if I didn’t live in Florida.

PIANO SUSPENDERS & A BOW TIE :: OUTFIT OF THE DAY, DECEMBER 24, 2018

Piano Suspenders & Red Bow Tie

French Toast boys’ white dress shirt / Dickies’ slim pants / piano key suspenders / red bow tie

Piano Suspenders & Red Bow Tie

This was the outfit I wore for “dress up day” at work, because it was both “dress up day” & “ugly sweater day” so I figured it was okay to wear what I wanted to wear instead of trying to keep everything 100% serious & professional looking. I wanted to make a statement that combined both dress code celebrations, so I decided to wear these rad piano suspenders for the first time. You can get some from my shop here! Also I love my red bow tie. My efforts paid off, because a total of 10 people complimented my suspenders & outfit, so I was a happy circus goer.

Piano Suspenders & Red Bow Tie

Piano Suspenders & Red Bow Tie

My Interview with Writer PeggySue Wells

My Interview with PeggySue Wells
1) Tell us a little about what you do.
I make stuff up. When writing fiction, anyway. The key is the made up stuff has to be believable and must grab the reader’s attention. Writing non-fiction is compiling true stuff in a way that is fresh, insightful, and provides excellent take-home value for the reader.
"I make stuff up. When writing fiction, anyway. The key is the made up stuff has to be believable and must grab the reader’s attention. Writing non-fiction is compiling true stuff in a way that is fresh, insightful, and provides excellent take-home value for the reader." - PeggySue Wells
 
2) How long have you been writing? Was there a specific moment when you decided to become a writer?
I began as a modern dance major in college. When I blew out my knees, the other option that made my eyes light up was writing which is probably a better fit. My favorite aisle at the store has always been the stationary row with all those splendid pens and reams of paper waiting to be filled. Bookstores and libraries are on the same level as Disney. The foundation of Disney is books and story.
3. What is your favorite part about being a writer? What do you enjoy most about writing fiction?
Writing is a way of connecting with others. It is a gift I give of myself to the world. I fashion story and truth, questions and wonderings, into writing that will outlive me. When I write I am unconscious of time and immersed in the process. My style is tight and connected, weaving in little-known history and real places. My favorite compliment has been from some military guys who said, “You sure don’t write like a girl.”
"With each of my novels, I want readers to close the book having learned something they didn’t know prior to reading my story. Everyone longs to connect and belong. Libraries and bookstores are places where creativity, ideas, and questions are communicated between writers and readers. " - PeggySue Wells
With each of my novels, I want readers to close the book having learned something they didn’t know prior to reading my story. Everyone longs to connect and belong. Libraries and bookstores are places where creativity, ideas, and questions are communicated between writers and readers.
4. How do you approach writing a new book? How do you decide what to write about? Do you write an outline & make plans, or do you just start writing?
I’m always working on four projects simultaneously. It’s how my brain works. Some stories are my idea, like Chasing Sunrise. Some are stories I believe should be shared like The Slave Across the Street, and some stories I tell for others like Voice of Your Childhood that I am finishing now.
5. What is the best investment you’ve made in yourself/your writing career?
"I am continually learning the craft of writing. Writing is like fashion, trends and style are constantly changing and it’s vital in this industry to stay up-to-date. Like playing a musical instrument, writing is a craft that is never mastered yet I work to constantly become better. Writing is a team sport. Investing in key writing conferences is necessary to network. Being an author cannot happen in a vacuum, I need community, connections, and voices other than my own." - PeggySue Wells
The greatest challenge to success are the belief systems that exist between our ears, and I accumulated a boatload early on. The best investments I’ve made have been in myself, joining a personal growth mastermind, an author mastermind, taking personal growth seminars, and having mentors. This year, Benjamin Hardy is one of my mentors.
Additionally, I am continually learning the craft of writing. Writing is like fashion, trends and style are constantly changing and it’s vital in this industry to stay up-to-date. Like playing a musical instrument, writing is a craft that is never mastered yet I work to constantly become better. Writing is a team sport. Investing in key writing conferences is necessary to network. Being an author cannot happen in a vacuum, I need community, connections, and voices other than my own.
6. Who are some of your favorite authors or books & why? What is your favorite underrated book or author?
I read several books at a time – is there any other way to read? – and a big part of my reading is audio. I replaced my car when the CD player couldn’t be fixed because listening to audio books is not optional. All that great drive time for books! I read all genres except horror and erotica. Favorite authors include Saundra Boynton, John Erickson (listen to Hank the Cowdog on audio with all the voices and sound effects!), Richard Paul Evans is an excellent writer and a very kind man, I’ve learned from Jerry Jenkins. I resonate with Clive Cussler and Vince Flynn. Karen Hancock’s Legends of the Guardian King series, and Richard Peck’s Grandma Dowdle series (A Year Down Yonder, A Long Way From Chicago, and A Season of Gifts) are the few I’ve reread. Of course, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a holiday must read and reread. The whole gospel is in that hilarious little book.
7. What advice would you give your younger writer self? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To my younger self I would say, Dream big, follow the dream relentlessly, and stick to the facts about situations. Creating stories in my head about facts, the story becomes my reality and I live from that false reality. For instance, when a publisher loved two of my books but turned down my next two ideas, I assumed they didn’t want to work with me anymore. That’s the story I made up in my head around the simple fact that my next two ideas were not a fit for them.
8. What things outside of other books & authors influence & inspire your work? (Films, music, people, your past, your hopes, the world around you, etc?)
I’m inspired by people, what they do, and why they do it. Chasing Sunrise was born as I sat in classical concerts my daughters played while my son went into special forces. I projected what life might look like for special forces men and for the arts, put the two together on the gorgeous island of St. Croix and added an atmospheric theater like we have an hour from my home. I have a western that has been living in my head for 30 years – probably time to put that story on paper. Listening to particular music genres is inspiring as I’m working on a project. And I take my laptop everywhere – I write at my daughter’s soccer practice, between rodeo events with another daughter, and at any new destination I can travel to from Israel, St. Croix, Hilton Head Island, Hawaii, London, in the mountains, in the car, and on airplanes.
9. What is the best way to market your books?
"Writing and marketing are two completely different skill sets. Today, authors are required to have both. The best marketing is word of mouth. The kindest thing readers can do for authors and books they like is post reviews on Amazon and other sites, and tell others. Ask the library to carry the book, and ask your bookstore to carry it. In today’s loud world, getting noticed is vital." - PeggySue Wells
Writing and marketing are two completely different skill sets. Today, authors are required to have both. The best marketing is word of mouth. The kindest thing readers can do for authors and books they like is post reviews on Amazon and other sites, and tell others. Ask the library to carry the book, and ask your bookstore to carry it. In today’s loud world, getting noticed is vital.
10. What’s a common bad writing habit you’ve noticed with your own work or other writers & how do you fix it? What is one of your favorite GOOD writing habits, tricks, or devices that you love when you see other authors use it?
"All writing must have take home value for the reader. No one cares about your life story unless it benefits the reader." - PeggySue Wells
1) Writers need editors. Get a second pair of eyes to spot and correct bad writing. What I meant may be completely different than what I wrote. When a pre-readers or editor doesn’t understand, or translates my words differently than I meant them, I change the wording so we both read the same meaning. Professional writers do not argue their point. We rewrite for clarity.
2) When I coach writers at conferences and professionally I remind them not to hold back. We can tell when someone is holding back in a relationship. Readers can tell when authors hold back. Give your everything to the project.
3) All writing must have take home value for the reader. No one cares about your life story unless it benefits the reader.
For myself, I write tight and concise, and rarely, rarely use dialog tags (said, explained, asked). Dialog happens in the midst of action. Banned words in my final manuscript include said, very, some, just, really, all, also, literally, has, as, it.
The best writers are brave enough to dig deep and feel the best and the worst feelings, regret, remorse, joy, love, loss. If I am not courageous to go there and truly feel these hard emotions, I cannot write them.
11. Have you published books with a traditional publisher or self-published? What are some of the pros & cons of each?
"Whether you publish traditionally or independently, marketing spells the difference between success and staying invisible." - PeggySue Wells
Most of my 28 books are traditionally published. Traditional publishing is a team effort. We need others to come alongside with their unique skills in design, editing, brainstorming, and marketing. Traditional publishing requires a large platform in addition to excellent writing.
If you have a large platform, indie publishing means you get all the income. Indie publishing gives everyone the opportunity to publish. Indie publishing is preferred for projects for small and niche markets.
If you do indie publishing, get your work edited first. If your project is poorly written, badly formatted, and has spelling and grammar issues you can kiss your reputation as a writer good-bye. Whether you publish traditionally or independently, marketing spells the difference between success and staying invisible.
12. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Does any aspect of it relate to what you do now? What was your favorite book as a kid?
As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, oceanographer, and author. I began college as a modern dance major. When I blew out my knees, the other option that made my eyes light up was writing which is probably a better fit. Even as a kid, my favorite aisle at the store has always been the stationary row with all those splendid pens and reams of paper waiting to be filled. Sitting in the mulberry tree, I used to write when I was in grade school. And I read like crazy. Books I remember were Amelia Bedelia, Ramona, Green Dolphin Street,and Zane Grey westerns.
13. What has been your biggest challenge or setback, & how did you handle it? How did it help your writing?
Growing up unanchored to family and relationships, learning how to do life without guidance has been a disadvantage. I adored being a mom to my seven now grown children, and I see huge holes in their hearts and mine because their dad chose out of the marriage and parenting. You can imagine the stories I told myself about those facts. My dream has been to share life with a soul mate. I’m a team player so doing life on my own is not what I would put on my life script. The paradox of having a voice and sharing with the world when simultaneously I feel invisible can be incentive to play small rather than full blast and full out. I feel I would have done better with loving guidance and a life’s partner who recognized my talents and supported my success. And I am certainly not alone in this setting. One in four homes are single parent led.
14. Why do you do what you do? What drives you to be successful/keeps you interested in what you do?
"With writing there is an unlimited scope for projects, research, learning, producing, creativity, art, and wonder. Everything I do and experience is material. I can write anywhere and anytime." - PeggySue Wells
I do three things well: write, talk, connect people. Math is a four-letter word in my vocabulary. Truly there is nothing I want to do more than write and teach the skill of writing to others. I adore teaching at conferences, events, retreats, schools, and universities.
With writing there is an unlimited scope for projects, research, learning, producing, creativity, art, and wonder. Everything I do and experience is material. I can write anywhere and anytime.
15. What’s your favorite quote, & how does it relate to or inspire you & your approach to your writing?
Ephesians 3:16-19 according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
16. If you could be the author of any book ever written, what book would it be & why?
Imagine being one of the 40 authors who wrote the Bible under the inspiration of God. Being that connected to the Creator of the Universe, being in the center of a great work that has survived all of time, persecution, and has changed hearts.
In a contemporary setting, I wish I had thought of something as brilliant as Hank the Cowdog. John Erickson’s books are hilarious, appeal to all ages, have had healing impact on children, and we learn without effort. Writing for the longest running radio drama, Adventures in Odyssey, would be a dream come true. Heard by 1.2 million people around the globe each week, AIO has impacted three generations. How fun to be part of that team. I would love to write for Disney, and hope that one day one of my stories is turned into a blockbuster film.
17. What are some of your biggest goals for the year ahead?
My goal is to be self-supporting as an author. I want to publish books that will outlive me by 500 years. And to coach others how to write their own message.
18. What are some of your longer-term goals?
To write the books and articles, and teach the classes I was created to do. To connect people to others who can help them achieve their full potential.
19. You have a new book out October 8, “Homeless for the Holidays”. Can you tell us more about that? I understand it’s a novelization of a film. What drew you to the story & what did you enjoy most about writing it?
Homeless for the Holidays, is the hope-filled novelization of a film with the same name, based on the real life experiences of producer George Johnson. Unemployed, Johnson penned the screenplay in three weeks. Though the usual budget for a film like this is $1.5 million, George kept costs to $30 thousand. Expecting fifty people might show, open auditions were announced in the Auburn, Indiana newspaper. Eight hundred actor-hopefuls auditioned. All together, there were five hundred people in the cast, including the woman who played Sheryl Baker – who was homeless herself when she acted the role.
The film featured local residents including media personalities who played themselves in the scene where main character, Jack Baker, opened his front door to find his cul-de-sac filled with television and radio crews. In the media crowd was Marsha Wright, Johnson’s friend who loaned her house—decorated for Christmas—as the setting for the Baker family home. Marsha agreed to novelize the story, invited me into the writing process.
"A screenplay tells a story in 120 minutes. A book allows the author to tell a far longer, embellished tale. Writing from a screenplay is akin to receiving a newly constructed home on a bare lot and having the freedom of an unlimited budget to decorate and landscape." - PeggySue Wells
A screenplay tells a story in 120 minutes. A book allows the author to tell a far longer, embellished tale. Writing from a screenplay is akin to receiving a newly constructed home on a bare lot and having the freedom of an unlimited budget to decorate and landscape. I enjoy novelizing screenplays.
Drawing from seasons I experienced growing up, and as an adult, when employment and finances were less than adequate, I added the between-the-scenes details of what life could look like as a family faced an extensive period of unemployment. Then I shared the completed manuscript with folks who had been unemployed and homeless, adding what I learned from them to the manuscript.
My  favorite character in Homeless for the Holidays is the Baker’s son, Adam. The mother of seven, I mined Adam’s sense of humor and quick wit from quips made by my own young adults. The generous review provided by The King of Christmas, Richard Paul Evans, made my heart happy.
The world needs hope more than advice. Throughout Homeless for the Holidays hope shines bright.
You can find out more about PeggySue & her work at the following links:
Homeless for the Holidays: Available in ebook and paperback, order Homeless for the Holidays through your local bookstore and on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2yoVVN9.

You Obviously Love Owls – YOLO #1 – New Short Film!

You Obviously Love Owls – #1 is an amusing short film by director & artist Ashlee Craft for the art project website “www.youobviouslyloveowls.com“.

 

Directed by Ashlee Craft
Written by Ashlee Craft
Produced by Ashlee Craft
Animation by Ashlee Craft
Edited by Ashlee Craft

Duration // 1 minute
Release Date // September 28, 2018
Themes // Amusing, weird, owls

Electric Rainbow Road – New Animated Short Film Released!

Ashlee Craft’s newest short film, “Electric Rainbow Road”, is a short, motivational short film about how beautiful the world becomes when you find & become yourself.

Directed by Ashlee Craft
Written by Ashlee Craft
Produced by Ashlee Craft
Animation by Ashlee Craft
Edited by Ashlee Craft
Narrated by Ashlee Craft

Duration // 2 minutes
Release Date // June 22, 2018
Themes // Becoming yourself, stop-motion animation