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Scrum Mastered

Scrum for creative focus

Are your goals clearly defined? Your next step is to collaborate with likeminded individuals. Work with practical, updated information. Record results and refine your process as you go. To master the practice of scrum, recognise when it is necessary to regroup and realign. Then do it.

Screen caps from the desktop version

The first iteration of this installation was a mass of crawling text that broke WordPress. Yay! But after it broke my phone’s browser, I decided to update this post with a collage of screen caps from Reader and the main site.

Glitched text on main page and in Reader.

Thankfully, I had saved the screen caps for the tweet design below, so it was easy to make another pass with the two typography posters. I hope you enjoy them.

It’s art and it is business
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Schlüsselmeister Grau

Keymaster Grey

These posters are still in a work in progress but I wanted to dedicate the drafts to the German business owner who has left two advertisements for his keymaster business on my feedback form. That’s Schlüsselmeister in German.

I spent the weekend designing posters and video pins while also being professionally petty on social media. And one thought I had was about WordPress throttling my posts, so that I must display my artwork on a Pinterest board. The difference in engagement on both platforms should become a meme because it is so vast. Wow WordPress.

Fast on site

Though I am busy over there, I wanted to post some artwork here for you. I also wanted to say hello to the German business owner before pinning the final versions.

The keymaster’s website is well-presented, but I changed some of the identifying information in the poster. Sir, please be good enough to leave your real email on that form so I can send you the PDFs? You can print them out on your office printer and frame them.

It feels weird not posting weird art on here. Perhaps that is a Church versus State thing. Or, business art versus hobby art, though which one is which, I don’t quite know.

For everyone else, have a great Monday. Allen anderen einen schönen Montag.

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A few rough drafts

Dominate every space
Rough draft one: An app created these effects.

Happy Sunday to everyone reading this. (You might want to grab some popcorn.)

A few weeks ago, I started what should have been a wonderful collaboration with a marketing specialist. I asked a lot of questions to minimise errors. But when the invoice arrived, it seemed someone had used their elbow on the “zero” on a keyboard.

They were asking for the equivalent of 1/3 of my annual salary to do niche research, marketing, and advertising. No samples had been produced, no dry runs executed, nor analytics presented. Which means that in exchange for absolutely nothing, I would be working to keep them in Burberry and Dolce. 

One more test cover and two T-shirt designs

To end the negotiations, I sacrificed my catalog of designs. I told them to sell it all themselves. If they are good as they claim, they should be raking in the cash right now.

If you were me for the past month, you would have discovered some startling truths about advertising firms. Traffic, views and clicks can be purchased, and “stats” can be spun out of whole cloth. I now make sure that I negotiate for “my best outcomes” and ignore their “best efforts”.

Image for web store and Facebook fan page cover graphic
One’s office for social media/fan page cover

If effort alone were enough, each person reading this would be worth billions. Based on effort alone, it might be easy for all of us to set up shop as advertisers. Simply collect fee$ and promise to show your clients’ work to everyone. Then, pack yourself a nice sandwich, a smoothie, a bottle of water, and a muffin. Drive yourself down to the bay and have a picnic. Then, when clients complain that they have no traffic or sales, gaslight them and say they need to spend more money.

I guarantee that with this work ethic, you too will become a successful advertising executive in no time at all. 

Here’s hoping that you have a productive week ahead.

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Everyone wants the cherry on top but it takes work to get there

Commitment Cupcake

Does anyone remember who said, “Follow your joy”? I think this quote is popular because everyone can imagine feeling happy at the final stage of a project. Recently, I told Caring for Art that my nightmares have become work product. I was not exaggerating. Public speakers will never tell you that you must hard work to find the thing to which you can happily commit. If they told you to face reality, nobody would pay them $50,000 to talk about themselves for 30 minutes.

And because I know that the truth is hard to hear, I feel confident that no-one will copy my secret formula, which I am going to share in this post. This is my recipe for staying committed and focused on the way to finding joy. First read it, then scroll down for a taste test. 

🧁 Commitment Cupcake 🧁

Ingredients
Absolutely everything real about you right now. 

Directions 

  1. Write down every idea you have but stay loosely attached.
  2. Seek advice from qualified experts. 
  3. Listen to advice and evaluate for quality.  
  4. Search for useful ideas in negative feedback.
  5. Be assertive but never argue, no matter what.
  6. Lose fixation on irrelevant details.
  7. Shut down anyone who attempts to devalue you. 
  8. Transfer your idea from a “hard” medium to a “soft” one. 
  9. Follow up on each new idea (see item 1).  
  10. Table, pin, or expunge unworkable ideas. 
  11. Shred your lists.  
  12. Start over. 
  13. Keep at it. 

The taste testCovers only
Item 8 became especially important this week when my plans came to a full stop. And though I was feeling isolated and trapped, I decided to shred everything and start over.  

Contessa Magazine: Cover 2 in Icelandic

One of many ideas I had written down was “launch a magazine”. However, I threw it out because there are billions of writers, millions of magazines, and only a handful of subscribers.

From that, I imagined what it would be like for a young writer to dream of launching a magazine only to hit roadblock after roadblock. How would this writer solve these problems? The answers to that question became the treatment for a writing project. My preferred medium for presenting that story is a “hard” one, so I pinned it for later.

The transfer to a “soft” medium was a frictionless fusion of my interests. After careful research, I did some math: photography + fashion + world cultures + health + making stuff up + graphic design = a concept that I really like.

That is to say, I will only produce the covers. I’ve posted two test copies for you and I hope you like them. 

Contessa Magazine: Cover 1 in English
(Spoiled it, so don’t look too closely)

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Sunday, at the (home) office


On Saturday afternoon, I was waiting to take down an art exhibition and while I was waiting in the car, I decided to pull an Oracle card. I bought them because they’ve got a matte velvety finish and the gold inlay looks pretty. I could not for the life of me understand what it was trying to say.

Threads of Fate Oracle Cards "Patience"
“Patience” from the Threads of Fate Oracle cards

Hello everyone. Are you enjoying your Sunday? I have been at my “home” office all day. I am chuckling at the moment, because when I was searching my phone’s image library, I noticed that photo from yesterday and suddenly, my entire Sunday makes sense. This, for once, is not a rant.

I’ve had the most insane day. I had a vague project deadline circa now: Thirty episodes for a Japanese/English animated series. Sounds fun, right? Except, the criteria changed three hours before I submitted the scripts for TEN episodes.

There is a budget issue. “Smaller budget: remove characters.” So I asked three friends to help me out of a jam. Halfway through, when I presented a snippet of the draft, the graphic artist/animator demanded I write the script for the trailer first.

Now, the reason his company hired me was that the project team was led by a talented graphic designer and animator who was not a writer. Because I understood that, I explained to him that the writing process is not linear. One never starts with the summary. It appears that way because that’s how a story is presented to us. But you can start in the middle and work your way backwards or forwards. You know what I’m talking about, right? You’re all writers.

Colors of love by Thomas Bergersen

And of course, I might be the most non-linear writer of them all. I was giggling because he probably thought I was being unreasonable.

I say, “Should we have notes on the first ten episodes and then write the trailer script, which will happen very fast because we will know what the story is all about?” Doesn’t budge.

That’s how four of us were at one point editing the same sentence at the same time. I would like to give a special big up to Google Docs for facilitating that. When we were all finally done tweaking the scripts, the graphic artist texted, “I’ll take a look in two hours because I am going out.”

What?! It’s 7 past 22 o’clock (two hours later) and he wants to have a meeting at 23 o’clock. I, on the other hand, will be going to bed.

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A short video, with thanks

(If you’re having any problems viewing the video embedded above, please tell me. It’s in my WordPress media library. The point of upgrading was to not have this issue, WordPreeeeeess.)

Thanks for coming over here to support me when I re-launched as a brand-new entity last Saturday.

Earlier, WordPress responded to the altar call and got right with the Lord, but is now backsliding and error coding my videos. I cannot penetrate this chaos with code, scripts, tags, or commands. Nothing can defeat it. And I have tried everything.

I wish you a brilliant, glitch-free Thursday. (It’s Friday.)

*Big ups to @TonyWijsVA (Twitter) for the ‘frustrated Kylo Ren’ voice over.

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That went well…

Hello everyone, I went and did another thing. Sabiscuit’s Catalog is now Saint Joan, a creative studio which will be work and/or play. It is evolving. Welcome, in every language.

Saint Joan Creative Studio by Lily Nicole
Saint Joan : Creative Studio

But, to be clear, I have done several things. One was to set my blog to private after WordPress said they were going to publish posts from other bloggers here. It was going to be a matter of time before some antisocial idiot ended up next to my art work.

Signed, sealed, delivered ….

During the break, I was writing a lot of scenes for my upcoming creative project. While doing some research on a character, I went so far down the digital rabbit hole, that when I shook myself awake, it was a brand new year.

Don’t get me started on what has happened already. I left you alone for three months and you bring dogecoin back? Not to mention, amid the mayhem on Wall Street, Demi Moore managed to break the Internet. This tells you that star power is real. Because, let’s be honest, how many of you wear $600 Fendi tights?

Saint Joan  Creative Studio by Lily Nicole
Creative Studio – I love books and retro stuff

Miraculously, after eight frustrating months, WordPress has finally allowed me to upgrade to my own domain. I am grateful for the buffer of time. This domain, saintjoan.studio, is named for the Congregation of St. Joan, an orthodox religion I created for my first novel, The Quarter Percent. It was referenced only once in the final chapter. However, a breakaway sect called St. Joan’s Parish is featured in the next novel. Special thanks go to Draculauren for interviewing me about both projects last year. It was a fun experience.

After brainstorming ideas, I thought the church needed a governing body that behaved like it was running a global sportswear brand. When I thought of the outrage this concept would induce, I decided to bring the Blessed Lady into this timeline.

How are you all doing? Please let me know.

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Better is one day

Better is one day, from Hymn by Sarah Brightman

Therapy is working. I had to complain to my therapist about this because, for two weeks, I have been staring at a wall of text that usually my brain would gather up and frappé into a poem.

However, my therapist and I have worked out my underlying issues. The stuff that was causing me to be codependent, passive-aggressive, resentful, angry, and vindictive had helped me to write poetry. There is no better way to cloak my hostility or deny my own needs. Now, the magic is gone. Nice job, doctor. 

I am able to confidently state my needs, and sometimes that involves screaming to the world that I’m not okay. This always happens when I am in traffic on Sundays, but I think that’s true for everyone. Anyway, she says I need to ping my brain with music. I say that it is a meditative process that only works for writing prose fiction. We also talk about feeling sad about the tragic passing of someone we all know.

After that conversation, I swear to Jesus, I went to YouTube and I see Sarah Brightman posed like the Columbia Torch Lady. I had no idea that she released an album in 2018. I listened out of curiosity, and realised that YouTube did not suggest this to me before because I avoid songs that praise the Lord Almighty, in English. I made a face at first, but it stuck and I had to play it again. The song is based on A German Requiem by Brahms. It sounds uplifting, cheerful, and transporting.

How did this happen? Google’s neural networks are getting better at listening to my private chats (!) and/or analysing my emails. I strongly suspect the latter because yesterday, I emailed myself the ecclesiastical portion of a coronation scene that I am writing. It’s for a new novel, but the machine believes that I’m Catholic or something. Oops.

I love the song. And I still can’t write poetry.

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Back on the Ferris wheel

My novel has been released into the wild, and I should be celebrating, but I am back on the Ferris wheel. I finally understand why some writers don’t even try. The book promotion game is not necessarily about self-confidence, diligence, originality, or skill. What happened?

THE QUARTER PERCENT is on Amazon.
FREE downloads through Friday, August 7.
Click that link and find out what the fuss is all about.

Playing with stickers on paper. Cucumber.

Friday, July 31, 06:20. I am on an influencer’s website binge-reading suggested articles. In twelve hours, it will dawn on me that this is an elaborate scheme to drive up page views and create demand for her services.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Onion.

Only an hour after expressing my confusion with her process, I see two blog posts demonstrating the effectiveness of promoting free books for a limited time. They presented statistics, and graphs, as well as screen captures. My plan should work fine, but the influencer insists that people will never download a free copy of a book unless it has at least ONE five-star review on Amazon.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Pink.

Keep calm, I get it: readers want to know what to expect, and they want to hear it from another reader. I completely agree. This is why I’m doing the promotion in the first place.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Orange slice lip.

The influencer now advises me to get on social media and spend literally hundreds of hours tweeting and emailing strangers to ask them to read and review a free copy of my book. This contradicts her assertion that people won’t download my book unless it has reviews already.

Screen capture from my publisher’s desktop monitor. Click the image to grab a free copy from Amazon.

I go back to the first message I sent her. Sure enough, in my pitch, there is a longer description and a link to the trailer. There is also an invitation to download a free copy when the promotion starts. It takes me a full day to realise that “books with five-star reviews on Amazon” was code for “don’t wanna read it.”

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Cucumber eyes.

Her next suggestion is that I pay almost US$900 to an elite online book club in exchange for a single honest review by a team, on their website, a process that could take seven weeks.

I need to get off this Ferris wheel. I am told that I can’t promote my book without reviews, and that I won’t get reviews if I don’t promote my book. I stop reading, and in a panic, compose an email to my publisher.

🌺🧡💚❤️🌺

Paperback format available soon. Big ups to my publisher, StelaEVF, for making this possible. Thank you, everyone, for your support.

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Oh my gosh…

Google is doing a terrible job stalking me on my new iPhone SE. Look at the ad they showed me (renting out your property circa death) while I was watching that Nicki Minaj video. Like, what exactly are they trying to imply? The Anaconda music video is at 943 million views, so I know you all saw it.

I don’t want none of this ad, hon

I am preparing to publish my first novel, The Quarter Percent, while working on new projects. Hurricane Nisto is still angry but her story will unfold in a different part of this solar system.

The Quarter Percent pays homage to Greek tragedies and is written in an episodic format with a ‘time-as-protagonist’ feel. I wonder if I should worry that some readers may not understand this even after I have suggested “focus on the timeline” in the two blurbs and the trailer? The story itself is based on William Shakespeare’s play Lear of Britain. We meet King Cordial on a Sunday morning and almost two weeks later, on a Friday morning, … read the novel.

Don’t judge me…

I grew up around famous people and I know that for them, every problem is an image problem. The narrative style of The Quarter Percent is meant to illustrate the superficiality of this world. Quarter percenters are obsessed with what others think, and are doomed to live from one crisis to the next.

My question for you is do I need to create a long blurb for the back cover or should I trust readers to work things out for themselves?

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One is selling out, but will they buy it?

Image by Carolyn V via Unsplash.

For my next project, I was planning to sell out and write a romance novel. Not sure how, because I can’t even watch people kiss on telly. On top of that, real research with live participants is going to be a dead end, as I have no game.

After reading the treatment, I realised it wasn’t romantic. So I set it aside and tried to write a few scenes. Still nothing. To procrastinate, I googled name generators. That was when I spied an automatic romantic plot generator. The software gobbles up keywords and spews out plots in mere seconds. Here, you will see what I got when, just for fun, I tried it on for my new fiction project.

AUTO GENERATED PLOT

Madeleine Locke is a stunning, fit and focused actress. Her life is going nowhere until she meets Badger Mulroney, a slim, tall man with a passion for wealth. Madeleine takes an instant disliking to Badger and his stubborn and obsessive ways. However, when a stalker tries to smear Madeleine, Badger springs to the rescue. Madeleine begins to notice that Badger is naive at heart. But, the pressures of Badger’s job as an intimacy coach leave him blind to Madeleine’s affections. Madeleine focuses on fame to try and distract herself. Finally, when controlling model, Hurricane Nisto, threatens to come between them, Badger has to act fast. But will they ever find the sizzling love that they deserve?

Auto-generated plot for a romance novel

Brilliant! Even I couldn’t have come up with an outline as terrible as that on my own. Then, I wondered, “Is there, like, an automatic novel generator, because I don’t wanna, like, you know, write a whole novel?” The answer is, yes, there is.

I plugged in the name of my main character, some adjectives, emotions, objects, place names, et cetera, and put the software to work. This is supposed to be a romantic short story, but as you can see, the software does not believe me.

Image from Arno Senoner via Unsplash.

ANGRY HURRICANE NISTO
An auto-generated story

Hurricane Nisto looked at the shattered shovel in her hands and felt angry. She walked over to the window and reflected on her freezing surroundings. She hated isolated Skartoya with its greasy, glamorous glacier. Then she saw someone in the distance. It was Madeleine Locke, a stubborn diva with hot hands and tight legs. Hurricane gulped and glanced at her own reflection. She was an angry, obsessive, wine drinker with skinny hands and tall legs.

Once, she had rescued Madeleine’s career from a burning building. But not even an angry person was prepared for Madeleine today. The blizzard teased like posing cheetahs. As Hurricane stepped outside, Madeleine glared at her with all the wrath of 8,484 controlling vigorous vixens.

They looked at each other with frustrated feelings, like two crispy, calm cougars acting at a very ruthless press conference, which had violin music playing in the background, and two vile uncles shilling to the beat. Madeleine looked jealous, her emotions blushing like a smooth, stinky satellite antenna. Then she stepped inside for a nice drink of red wine.

THE END

Thank you for reading my word soup. Have a great weekend coming up.

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Motion picture, baby

The Quarter Percent by Lily Nicole is available on Amazon. Trailer created by Ateeb Khan.

The Quarter Percent - novel by Lily Nicole
Cover art by Emanuel Malu.

Blurb B
It is summer, 2030. Truth is the weapon, and profit is the territory. Behind the screens, Marvin Stone is a wealthy recluse who uses powerful, cutting-edge technology to rewrite the rules of the game. As the rules change, Augustine Santa Clara, a former social media star, struggles to adjust. On the Continent, the popular and charismatic King Cordial of Vale works covertly to undermine his rivals. His youngest daughter, Costmary, is in his cross-hairs. Rue, his older daughter, takes on an exciting new challenge. Gala is the King’s firstborn. When she is named Princess Regent, she forges new ties and unveils her master plan.

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North to South

Illustration by Poelosophy

Indonesian artist, Poelosophy, created some concept art for my novel. There is an exhibit in Dublin, ‘North to South’, which features aboriginal art from Northern Europe and South America. The exhibit is the setting for a scene entitled ‘Big Daddy Pharma’.

Thank you for leaving encouraging words for me when I wrote about the impossible task of getting promotional work done. I’m still processing ideas and will be working on them as I go. Feeling like giving up is part of the journey. But I was amused at suggestions that I should actually toss my project. Hold on a second. I haven’t tried everything yet.

North to South – illustration by Poelosophy

And I am quite sure that if someone were to lend me their celebrity friends and let me slobber all over them in the club, my novel would get downloaded really fast. A Russian woman who pretended to be a German heiress, and stole millions, has deals with Netflix and Shonda Rhimes. Other people, who look different, would be rotting, anonymously, in jail. So let’s be realistic about what’s going on out here.

In the past, I would have been totally destroyed by “delete your book” remarks. But Fifty Shades fan fiction 365 Days was optioned by Netflix. The film skyrocketed to first place last weekend. It tells the story of a gangster who kidnaps a woman, ties her up, and assaults her for an entire year so she will fall in love with him. Even the people who said they hated it, watched it to the end, and uploaded reviews to their YouTube channels. In other words, the release was a success.

If that film is out there, it means two things. One, thinking in terms of ‘good writing’ or ‘bad writing’ is unhelpful. Two, the universe now needs to be balanced, so I will be publishing my novel.

Perceived quality is not a metric that can be influenced by hand-wringing. Instead of telling people what they should/shouldn’t like, I should focus on finding (a) people who will read anything, (b) people who like everything they read, (c) people who like to read full-length novels on mobile devices and (d) people who collect ebooks.

The search continues …

Have a great week ahead.

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Cara de la Reina

The mural "Cara de la Reina" is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.
The mural “Cara de la Reina” is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.

As I have discussed before, my amazing book promotion campaign fell flat because everyone I approached wanted me to be a popular author before agreeing to help me promote my book. Gah!

Over the weekend, I decided to beta test the promotion of a promotional copy of my novel, The Quarter Percent. After receiving a copy formatted for Kindle from the book designer, I wanted to see how a free PDF copy would be received by an influencer who has a large audience of avid e-book readers. This person’s audience only wants fiction books that are FREE or which cost $0.99. Perfect for a beta test? Or so I thought.

After three days of discussions, I was floored when this influencer insisted, today, that the book be published to Amazon first. He also asked me, “But how will you benefit from people reading it?” I am confused. Isn’t the point of publishing a novel to have people read it?

In other words, his audience is not interested in books that are cheap or free. They want popular releases for free or at a super discount. Yet, the advice I have received is to give away promotional copies of my novel to generate buzz. That makes no sense, you say? Large film studios deal with this nonsense, too. That is why they leak promotional copies of new releases to torrent sites.

My confusion arises from the fact that official publication on Amazon defeats the purpose of beta testing the novel with readers in different locations, and watching how they respond to it. I need this information so I can know how and where to promote the story. What I don’t want is readers who are not the intended audience to write reviews on the Amazon page complaining that the novel has words and that the themes are ‘difficult’.

I used to joke that I am an alien from outer space. But I am beginning to believe that either I stepped into a wormhole and this is the underverse, or the inhabitants of this planet are insane.

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Illustrations

Gala and Cordial of Vale – Illustrations by Victoria Seow

So after literally a week of gymnastics and writing while standing on my head, I’ve managed to format my fiction novel. And rework the timeline after finding out I have physically shredded five key scenes, which I wrote longhand. The novel is completely re-drafted. Edited, done. Not only that, I’ve managed to weave a coherent timeline for all of the scenes. On top of that, the conclusion is tight, the prologue is tight, and the epilogue is tight. I even have a brilliant idea for cover art.

Augustine Santa Clara- Illustration by Victoria Seow

But guess what? The geopolitics is mucked. The Monarchy of Vale (the fictional name of my country) has to be landlocked for the story to work. My protagonist is an absolute monarch of a fictional country that’s needing to negotiate with trade partners, also fictionalised.

My basis for designing the Continent was Europe, with different borders, same cities but different country names. But the m-effing European Union, in real life, it’s just sat there. It already has a trade bloc and negotiates on behalf of member states. While editing, I realise cannot use the word “Europe” or euro as currency. I could use a pound but then readers will be confused, thinking I’m talking about the UK. I am not.

I know I’m overthinking this. I know it’s fiction. But you know how certain types of people are. They immediately start fact checking your fiction. Do you guys remember Pandora? Pandora, my retelling of a doesn’t exist mythological creature entity person. Got Wikipediaded!!!

I know myself. I will trash that thing if someone bothers me.

I might have to situate this entire story on a completely different planet where the sentient beings are octopuses.

Special thanks to Victoria Seow / sunflowerfox for drawing these characters from my novel.