Life's Too Short: Make a Bucket List

Life is full of potential to explore amazing opportunities, view different perspectives, and enjoy precious, priceless moments. I happen to believe this. I also happen to understand that life is too short to be wasted.

There are so many things I want to do, so many places I want to go, and so many different skills I want to acquire; so I decided when I was nineteen to make a bucket list and actively work on it as I live life. Here is my own personal list, which, consists of items I've completed, items that are in progress, and items that I plan to check off in the future. Those marked with an "X" are completed items, those marked with "IP" are in progress and those not marked at all are those I plan to eventually work on. So, without further ado: My Bucket list.

1) Work with inner city children X
2) Get married to the love of my life X
3) Have children X
4) Travel to England X
5) Go zip-lining X
6) Visit Disney World X
7) Stay on Disney property X
8) Learn how to coupon X
9) Run a 5k X
10) Write a book (Woot!) X
11) Learn Spanish fluently
12) Go on a Disney Cruise
15) Become a teacher IP
14) Earn my masters degree
15) Learn MMA
16) Teach free women's self-defense classes
17) Run a 10k IP
18) Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon IP
19) Become a higher education scholarship donor
20) Go skydiving
21) Visit Rome, Italy
22) Visit all of the Disney Parks
23) Pay off my house IP
24) Take my nieces to Disney World
25) Participate in a Savage Race
26) Be used to change a life X
27) Make a difference in this world IP

Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen: My Bucket List! If you haven't already compiled your own list, I encourage you to do so.

As I stated earlier, life is too short to waste and before we know it, it will be gone.

Live life to its fullest and rock every part of it. Don't wait until it's too late, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Make your mark on the world and start working on it now. :)

So, now that you've read what's currently written on my list, share yours with us! Is there anything on mine that you've always wanted to do? Tell us in the comments below. :)



How to Get a (Totally Awesome) Book Idea

Book ideas. Where do they come from? One word: imagination.

"Yeah, but, how do I use my imagination to think up a whole story, complete with characters, setting, plot, and the whole shebang?" you're probably asking yourself. "How do I get inspired with a book know, the kind that sell, Heather?"

The answer? You use your imagination!

Get this: you're walking to your cubicle and you happen to notice Chelsea- the new office intern, attempting to make copies on the "everything but the kitchen sink" copier. You see a confused look on her face as she tries to read the button labels. She leans in closer to try and figure out where the
paper feeds into the machine and where it spews out the finished product. She lifts up the head and you witness a flash of light and then, she disappears. Nowhere to be found. Gone. Like she was never there in the first place. Even the clipboard and stack of papers she was holding with her left arm have vanished...

You figure you must actually be dreaming some strange recall of events from working long hours at the office today, because there's no way what you saw happen, actually just happened.

You walk over to the copier in order to prove to yourself that no one was even just there, by expecting to view a screen in hibernation mode. But to your surprise and horror, it's on, and it's anything from being blank. Written on the screen in front of you is a message that reads, "YOU'RE NEXT." 

Like my little story idea I literally just made up while typing up this post for you? Want to know how I did it? I took an ordinary, maybe even boring setting and used my imagination to dream up something more exciting. Something that would take the ordinary, and make it into an extraordinary adventure. It may have been twenty years (or two days) since you watched a "children's" movie like Peter Pan, but that does not mean that you have the inability to think of a wonderful thought! Maybe even one that could produce a storyline, characters, setting, plot, and the whole shebang.

No, I don't believe that about you one bit. Here, let's practice and I'll prove to you once and for all that your imagination did not die with your childhood. ;)

Imagine yourself somewhere, anywhere, at any point in time and with anyone (or no one) of your choosing. (Take a few moments to answer each of these questions so that you're ready for the next step). Got a scenario in your head? Good. Now, begin to ask yourself questions about the picture you've created.

1) Where are you?
2) Who are you with?
3) What time of day is it? Month? Year? How old are you and the people around you? Younger than you are now? Older? The same age?
4) What's your current mood? Bored? Irritated? Happy? Relaxed? Worried?
5) Why did you picture this scene in your head? What's significant about it?
...and here comes the fun part: what-if?

The "what-ifs" are what dream up the story, plot, and characters. They are the fuel for your writing engine- what gets everything moving. It's what puts life into a lifeless "body." Or what we writers refer to as the milk in the milkshake. It's what fills the outline of the story, and there'd be no story without it. Are you beginning to understand how important what-ifs are to a book idea? Excellent! I knew you were brilliant! Let's try some together. 

Take the scene you just created in your head and ask some what-if questions. 
What-if someone suddenly appeared behind your car with a gun and told you that you didn't deserve to live. What-if they said that you needed to pay for the sins of the past and that they'd been dreaming of this day since you ruined their life, this same day, five years ago. What-if they shot you and when you "woke up" it was one hundred years into the future. You're lying in the same exact spot as you were when you were shot to the ground. People are standing around you asking if you're okay. They wear strange clothing and all have silver teeth. They're human, but you suddenly wonder where you are and why everyone appears so peculiar to you. The buildings you once knew to surround the area have been torn down and replaced with smaller, all-glass looking buildings, instead of the skyscrapers you once knew to litter the skies above you. What-if you started to try and sit up and noticed you were a woman instead of a man. (I'm not referencing reincarnation here, but instead some type of clever sci-fi explanation that you'd need to read on to learn what it was. ;) ) What-if?

Or think about this one: you're playing in the backyard with your younger brother as children and everything appears to be like any typical day in the backyard. That is, until he jumps off the side of the storage shed, attempting to fly by using the contraption you both just designed, and he actually does fly. Not because of the contraption however, because the wind broke it into a million pieces the moment it was thrust off the shed on your brother's back; but because your brother suddenly had wings that sprouted from his back and were gone again as fast as they'd come. What-if?

What-if your first love came back into your life after twenty-years of you being forced to move on without them? During your first encounter together they look at you like it was just yesterday you were in love and your stomach twists as they tell you that they'd been forced by their parents to skip town all those years ago, because of a dangerous criminal case they had testified against and that had landed themselves into the Witness Protection Program? What-if your first love standing in front of you still, only had eyes for you after all of these years? What will your fiancé think? What-if?

Are you catching my drift? Thoughts inspire imagination, and imagination causes more thoughts. It's a never-ending tool-bag for coming up with story ideas, planning out the plot and creating the characters, and the best part? All of us have one!

If your imagination is rusty, or severely out of shape, start exercising it again! Just like if you haven't jogged in years, it doesn't mean you can't, it just means you need to start reminding your body what the idea of jogging is again. They even have couch to 5k apps and great stuff like that to get you back on track to obtaining that fitness goal. ;) Your imagination is similar. The way to exercise your imagination is to start using it again, by noticing the scenes around you and asking the Who, Why, Where, What, and When questions. Then put that engine into full-force by adding the what-if fuel to it. 

Interested in more tips for coming up with book ideas? Try these:

1) Take a walk and observe the life around you.
2) Listen to an old CD that's been gathering dust on your shelf ever since the mp3 player was first introduced.
3) Sit on a bench in a park, at a booth in a restaurant, or on your front porch and do some people watching. Imagine what may be going on in that perfect stranger's life and what their current struggles may be.
4) Watch a Lifetime Channel movie and think about how messed up humanity can be towards itself.
5) Write down a bucket-list for yourself and imagine if you were only given one more month to live. How would you spend that time? Would you be able to accomplish all of your goals before you kick the bucket? Who would you spend those last precious moments of life with and why? 

I hope you were inspired today by reading my totally awesome post about how to get a book idea, and that you walk about inspiring someone else because you were inspired. ;) Are you feeling inspired now? Share your inspired thoughts with us in the comments below. :)


Once a Writer, Always a Writer


I've been a writer all my life. Not like the "I've been writing poems since I was six and had my first novel idea when I was eight," (although that's totally awesome for anyone who can say that!) type of writer. No, I've been a journaler (is that a word? Don't think so, but I'm going with it!) since longer than I can remember. I wrote about my first crush in a diary accessorized with a lock and key. I wrote about how I wanted to change the world (Yes, I was one of those weird kids that sat on the side of the tub one day and said to my mother, "Mom, I want to do everything right. I always want to make the right decisions and be a good person in this world," out of nowhere. My mom looked at me shocked, but impressed with such a statement coming out of a ten-year-old's mouth and said, "Right on! Sounds good to me!" Anyways, back to our topic here...). ;) I also wrote when I was upset, angry, excited, or just because it's what I did...write. And I did it daily. (Did I just start a sentence with "And?" Ahh the liberty of blogging...I can escape the bonds of written rules and be grammatically incorrect whenever I feel like it!)

Growing up, I also acquired a love for reading. Goosebumps, The Babysitters Club, and stories about famous historical heroes filled my bookshelves. I remember falling in love with my first novel in middle school, when I read Fortune's Journey by Bruce Coville. I was hungry for good works of literature-- ones that consumed me and left me thinking about them for days. The ones that took me on great adventures, right in the midst of my bedroom's four walls. The ones with epic characters that had qualities I admired, but that I could also relate with in other areas.

I read several more titles that upon finishing I felt compelled to own, so that I could have it in my collection for the day I'd "forget" the storyline and read it all over again (I still do that, and my friends and family still ask me why I must own each of them when "you'll only read them once!" and I still tell them over and over again, "I hate to break it to you, but I own them so that I could go back and read it one day, when I forget some of the details!) And life changed forever.

I was in high school- a Junior to be exact, and I was assigned the book 1984 by George Orwell in English class. I became obsessed with the title...OBSESSED! My younger sister would glance at me and shake her head whenever I'd come up for air between paragraphs, with comments like, "What the heck? Are you kidding me? This is ridiculous! I can't believe they're allowed to do this! If I was them I'd..." as if I were having a heated conversation with a real-live person. Nope, I was fighting with the plot of a book that was written by imagination.

Then I read more titles from the Dystopian Genre of my school's library... Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. get the idea. I was consumed by the "what-ifs" of humanity really screwing up and trying to put itself back together again. I was haunted by the horror of their leaders making decisions with the "common good" in mind.

Then two years ago happened. I read The Hunger Games series and was horrified all over again, but inspired by it all. I cried over the idea of people in the Capitol being so obsessed over stupid things like (hideous) fashion sense, titles, money, and gossip, when people were being enslaved in the districts to provide for their every need in exchange for "protection." Yeah, okay.

I cried when Peeta and Katnis were at President Snow's lavish party for the new victors and the capitol citizens instructed them to drink a solution that would cause them to vomit everything they'd just eaten, so that they could go back to the banquet table and eat some more. I was angry because mothers were watching their babies die of starvation and knowing there was nothing they could do but stand by and watch. When children were summoned and forced to participate in "games" that would escort them to their nationally televised death. I was angry at such ideas and then I realized, that many citizens of the United States (although I love, love, love my country) are much like the people of the capitol. I've been to third-world countries and have fed, clothed, and helped people build roofs for their houses, dug holes for simple sanitation outposts and have seen orphans walking around dirty and in rags, with no hope of even acquiring their next meal. And here I am, thinking about what new outfit I'm going to purchase for the next social event in my life, or what designer purse I'm going to fork out a few hundred dollars for next. (I like nice stuff, but between the basic needs of people not being met and the correlation of one of The Hunger Games' underlying messages, it really got me thinking again).

I was inspired by George Orwell initially, then experiences in Kenya, Mexico and Puerto Rico, and then again by Suzanne Collins. I decided that one day, I'd like to write something that would inspire someone else...that would make them really think. I decided that one day, I would like to  write something that I would want to read. Something that would have me on the edge of my seat and that would consume me long after I'd read the last page...and that's where my writers journey has me now. :)

In July (2014), I got my first plot idea. Then came the storyline, characters, and scene after a matter of hours. Once I had outlined my ideas for all three books in my series, I dove into sleepless nights of writing chapter after chapter. That is, until my University decided to reel us all back into reality to work towards earning our degrees. Lame...I know. So now I juggle finishing the last few chapters on the first installment of (you guessed it!) my dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA novel, between six college classes, my wonderful hunk-of-a-husband, three beautiful daughters, softball life, and training for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2016, and of course, all of you wonderful people! I don't know where I find time for all of the priceless aspects of my life, but I guess I just believe that we make time for the things we want to do. So, if you're wondering how to become a writer, how to inspire people about the things you feel passionate about, or how to write the next bestseller, I'll tell you what they all have in common: a brain, an imagination, and something to write with. If you have all of these (which, if you're reading this right now I sure hope that you do!) I'd say you're in good shape to make it happen. ;) Needless to say (but I'm going to anyways), "Once a writer...always a writer."



First off, I want to say, "Welcome to All About That Prose!" My heart and my goal for this blog is to share my love for the written word by providing writing tips, promoting good reads (positive reviews only, no haters here!), and my own creative writing works. I love to talk story plots, "what-if" scenarios, and to learn about what fellow authors are working on; so feel free to share about your latest work of art! Also, if you have any questions or requests that you'd like for me to share about, post a comment and we'll get to brainstorming. Until then, happy writing!



Tips For Promoting Your Book: Always Judge a Book By Its Cover


"Never judge a book by its cover..." that's what you were always told right? Grandma said it, Mom said it, your teacher said it, even the librarian said it and she spent forty hours a week in a room full of nothing but books. So why are your eyes focusing intently with a furrowed brow above them as you continue on to read this? Oh yeah, it's because I just told you to do the exact opposite of what you've always been told about books. Let me explain...

The thing is that as authors, we want our books to be read right? An idea comes into our head and we spend countless hours over the next year or so, plotting, writing, editing, and hopefully publishing our piece of art,  in hopes that the story we had to tell will inspire someone with those same words we woke up with in the middle of the night. Those same words that brought our lovable characters to life. The ones who made us laugh, cry, and wish we could hang out if they were real human beings and not just "people" we dreamt up and wrote down by imagination. We want others to be impacted by our creative writing, but how can we do that if countless passerby's reject the cover art that represents our beloved written words? Are you catching my drift now? ;) Our cover art is the most important tool we have that will be used to draw attention to what we've written...or not.
Imagine this: you walk into your local bookstore hungry to read something new, something relatable, something inspiring. You have an appetite for something to take you away from your glamorous (or not so glamorous) life-- if only by imagination, and you're searching for the perfect match that will catch your eye at any only a moment's time.  You walk past the displayed books thinking that your remedy has got to be hidden in some nook or cranny near the back. You spend twenty minutes dragging your pointer finger along titles as you walk sideways down each aisle. You're about to let disappointment get the best of you and then you see it: it stands out like a sore thumb amongst all the other "best sellers" and you can almost hear it calling your name to waltz over and pick it up. You reach for it and proceed to read the title for the first time. It's compelling, mysterious, and full of wonder. The art is intriguing, and almost immediately you begin to ask questions about the small, rectangular shaped compilation of papers you now hold in your hands. Your elementary school teachers always told you and your classmates to ask questions before,  during, and after you read a story. It was instruction back then, but holding this mysterious piece of work right now makes it come on more naturally than we blink without thinking about it. What's this about? Why are the characters glancing at this object like it's about to eat them? Where are they and what brought them to this place to begin with? You open up the cover and search for the synopsis, hoping that it will display the answers to some of your questions.

Then like hook, line, and sinker-- it's got you. Your hearts leaps with excitement as you stride towards the checkout line, anxiously anticipating what this story will tell you about how the plot will change the protagonist and if they will overcome their flaw or not. You wonder if the guy will get the girl, or if the girl will be too occupied by her own survival to prioritize the idea of a romantic relationship or Katnis of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Or if the guy who grew up neglected and alone, will learn that true friendship will help him overcome anything that life throws at him...maybe even Harry Potter? The thing is, that you picked this book up not because there was a huge billboard with lights strung across it screaming, "Pick me! This one has great characters, a great story and plot, and one that will satisfy your inner need to be fed by something that speaks louder than mere words." No, you picked it up because it had an intriguing cover. One that was worth walking over to, picking up, reading the title, and opening up to check out its synopsis. You picked it up because you judged that book by it's cover.

       So, my fellow writers and soon-to-be authors, make sure that the cover art you assign to your masterpiece is one that will be enticing enough to grab your attention (from a reader's perspective) from a distance, and intriguing enough to cause you to ask yourself (again-- as a reader) questions about it; so much that you have no choice but to open it up and give it sixty more seconds of your valuable time. Make sure it's relevant to your story and worthy of the time you spent putting it together in the first place. No pressure though- it will just define how many people choose to be inspired by your creative writing and how many books you'll sell. ;) Until then, happy writing and in the words of my Father-in-Law and fellow author, "See you on the Bestseller's list!" :)