My Favorite Cinderella-Related Things!

Cinderella has always been my favorite princess.

When it came time to do a fun, fractured fairy tale retelling, there was no contest --- I wanted PPP to be a fresh, original, creative spin on the story. But almost every variation out there is told from the perspective of the cinder-girl herself. I think it's important, when doing your own version of something well-known, to make it as different as possible from everything out there. So my teen fairy godmother, Noelle, was born!

Here are some of my favorite Cinderella-related movies, shows, and music, from which I took PPP inspiration:

"Ever After" is my favorite movie version of Cinderella. The way they spun the tale into a more realistic story is lovely. And I love the idea of Leonardo da Vinci playing the role of the fairy godmother... or godfather!

I've also had George Fenton's gorgeous soundtrack for it in my iTunes playlist forever:

Of course, I can't make a list of my favorite Cinderella things without listing the original Disney movie. When I was little, it and Sleeping Beauty were the only movies I would watch over and over and over again.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical has amazing songs. I haven't gotten around to seeing it on Broadway yet, but I would love to. I saw a huge advertisement for it when I was in NYC seeing Phantom at the original Majestic Theatre, but haven't had time!

And you can totally judge me for this, but I love that super cheesy version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston. I think it is so creative the way they brought in a colorful, diverse cast --- Cinderella, one stepsister, the fairy godmother, and the queen are all black, the king and the other stepsister and stepmother are white, the prince is Asian, etc. I absolutely loved it!

The ballroom scene was a huge inspiration for PPP. The choreography and the colors blew my mind. I can't find a clip of it on YouTube anymore, but here's the music:

"Enchanted" isn't a straight-up Cinderella retelling, but I also love the music in it. This is the song that inspired a ballroom scene in Chapter 25 (to be posted this Friday, for those of you who are reading PPP!):

And these are some great Cinderella-related books:

  • SHADOWS ON THE MOON by Zoe Marriott: A Japanese retelling of Cinderella!
  • ASH by Malinda Lo: An LGBTQ version of Cinderella. Loved this one.
  • CINDER by Marissa Meyer: I haven't read this one yet (still in my TBR pile), but I've heard great things!
  • ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine: One of the comp titles I use for PPP. I love the humor and the heart.

Can you recommend any other Cinderella-related books, movies, or music?


Fall Goals and New Stories!

Happy, happy fall! It is the most wonderful time of the year where I live, in my humble opinion. Our nights are already cold enough for flannel PJs (went down to the 30s last week!), there are pumpkins on sale everywhere, and the apple picking is spectacular. I made an apple pie from scratch the other day, along with turnovers and a delicious jam spread for toast. You bet I loaded everything up with cinnamon and brown sugar - yum-O.

I'm trying to cut back on social media in order to focus on my writing goals for fall. I won't be on Twitter as much, you'll notice, but I can't seem to stay away from PPP. I keep checking on it like it's my kid at daycare! So I'll likely still be answering comments on Wattpad and posting the odd picture or two on Instagram, but I really need to unplug a bit so I can focus on my projects.

What are these projects of which I speak?

YA Epic Fantasy:

October means a fresh new page on the calendar with which to cover with stickers! Reward stickers for hitting my writing goals, that is. I'm trying to write 3K new words every single day this week. So far, so good. The schedule I've made for myself consists of writing fresh words on weekdays and outlining on the weekends.

If I keep this up, the manuscript should grow by 15K every single week. That'll help me stay on track to finish by early-to-mid November, at which point I'll send to a few trusted CPs and then prepare to revise! Then it's off to Tamar hopefully well before the holidays (depending on when said CPs can get it back to me). I'm thinking positive!


I am so proud and honored by PPP's success on Wattpad so far!

Writing is one of those rare professions where you can work your ass off for YEARS and literally receive no reward. Not a single one. (Except for the joy and fulfillment of completing a novel, that is!)

So I am truly grateful that I can share this story with my intended audience. The comments I get from readers are pure gold. I know what works for them and what doesn't, and how they relate to certain things. It's given me so much insight into what my target audience enjoys and what they don't enjoy.

They've already started hinting that they want another book in this series, which I am more than happy to provide - if time allows, that is! I'm planning a companion book that will also be posted for fun and exclusively on Wattpad. I think I'll wait until PPP is completely posted, first, and I'd like to hit a solid 50K-75K views before that happens. We're at about 25K right now, with six or so chapters left to publish.

MG Action/Adventure:

I don't have a title for it yet, so it's just going to be referred to as ADVENTURE BOOK whenever I speak of it. This will be prioritized above PPP2 once I get a solid outline going! I've tried writing two books at the same time in the past, but I think they are often too similar in theme and that's tripped me up. This story is different enough from FOTL that I think I can get a solid chunk written whenever I want to take a fantasy break. I'm already in love with my characters - or the idea of them, I suppose, since they haven't come to life on the page just yet - and I cannot wait to write about their adventures!

Pitch Wars:

Lorien turned in her revised manuscript to me last week, and I've been reading and making notes! We are well ahead of schedule, which makes me super happy. I'm confident we will collect all of the materials we need in time and have them ready for the Agent Round in November. I'm proud of her and her story, and I really think they are going to do well - if not in the contest, then querying afterward! Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed!

Check out her great new blog here: https://lorienwordpresscom.wordpress.com/ 

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the start of fall! What projects have you been working on lately?


Ireland: End of the Trip Photos!

I can't believe my vacation was already a month ago! September has flown by, and here I am recapping the last two days of my amazing trip to Ireland.

Saturday was a hybrid day for us: a couple of workshops in the morning, then touring in the afternoon.

In our Public Speaking For Writers workshop, I publicly confessed my fear of public speaking. It's weird because I am a VERY extroverted introvert. I am very social, and I make friends easily wherever I go, and I have no problem talking to anyone and everyone. But when you put me on a podium in front of an audience, and I'm the only one speaking with all eyes on me, I get insanely anxious. Once I get going, I relax and do just fine, but it's the anticipation of getting up there that gets me.

Susan pointed out that people who are afraid of public speaking are not so much afraid as they are overly concerned about doing a good job. Anxiety is normal... we just need to channel it into solid preparation. If you know exactly what you want to say, and you know what you're saying is what you genuinely believe, you'll do well. Such a great way of thinking about it!

We also talked about doing book events, interviews (both live and radio), and panel discussions. Some great points came up that I'll be paying attention to when I go to my next author's book event or panel! It'll probably be the Boston Book Festival next month, which I attend every year. Are any of you going?

On our last day together, we took a scenic drive to the village of Roundstone. It was one of my favorite places on the entire trip! The village had cute little shops, restaurants, and pubs, and gave me an excuse to use up the rest of my euros before coming home.

That tower above is actually a tiny jewelry shop! They were having a big sale the day we came, and I snagged two pairs of earrings: pink enameled bows, and two gold doves in flight. I also picked up a few pieces of jewelry for my mom and friends back home.

We stopped by the Eldon Bar for drinks and snacks! I think it was only 2:00pm, but we were in Ireland, so that called for an alcoholic drink no matter what time of day:

Susan and I both ordered these Irish coffees, which were delicious but approximately 75% Jameson and 25% coffee. We know because we watched the bartender whip them up for us.

So the ride to our next castle destination was a little bit giddy...

That beautiful lake cottage is my dream writing sanctuary. Anyone want to go in on it with me? I call dibs on November through February, but you can have it any other time of the year...

Then, with heavy hearts, we went back to our favorite restaurant - The Thatch Pub near our hotel - for a big goodbye dinner! If you're ever in Headford village, you need to eat at this place. Therese and all her staff are awesome, and I had one of the best burgers of my life there. The fish and chips meal is also pretty darn spectacular!

I am missing all of my new friends. I'm grateful we keep in touch on Facebook with our own private group and share our successes, both large and small!

On Sunday, we parted ways and I returned to Galway to spend the night.

I wanted a good night of sleep before my crazy day of travel on Monday --- three hours on a bus back to Dublin Airport, about two hours of going through customs (it is crazy hard to get back into the U.S., even as an American with an American passport!), and then a six-hour flight, two-hour layover, and an hour-long connecting flight.

Back in Galway, I did the stereotypical writer thing and found a cute cafe where I could scribble and people-watch. My hot chocolate was deeeee-lish!

I promised Corinne I would go back to the Galway Cathedral and actually go inside (which I didn't the first time), and I'm so glad I did. It was beautiful:

And my return trip would not have been complete without another yummy lunch in my B&B's tearoom. I ordered the tomato and spinach quiche, and it was awesome. I also caught up on Twitter and Pitch Wars goodness while eating!

All in all, I had a fantastic time in Ireland. It was one of the countries high up on my bucket list, and I know I would love to come back someday.

I stepped out of my comfort zone in traveling alone, and as a reward, I made a dozen new friends who I hope will be part of my writing life for the long run!

I learned a lot about myself as a person and a writer, and I did some critical thinking about FOTL. The book - and the series I envision for it - will be a lot stronger because I went on this trip, and pushed myself, and absorbed all of the feedback and information I gleaned from better, more experienced writers.

I'm really happy I did it, and I encourage you to do the same! I think our tour guide, Fiona, is planning another Ireland retreat for 2016, so if you are interested, feel free to send me an email and I'll forward her contact information!

Now I just have to figure out where I'd like to go next. I'm thinking Italy... or New Zealand!!!


Ireland: Days Five and Six, and My Wattpad and Instagram News!

Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone's week has gone well so far!

I had a busy but very fun weekend. My cousin got married in Glen Cove, Long Island, and I was one of her bridesmaids, so Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were packed with battling NYC traffic, making the seating chart, steaming wrinkled dresses, and lugging bags from hotel to limo to venue to hotel. But it was truly a gorgeous wedding, and it was wonderful catching up with family and dancing the night away! We were literally on the dance floor all night! I only left to wolf down my delicious steak. Still waiting for official pictures but here's one somebody took of the sparklers at the end of the night:

My cousin and her new husband started a hashtag on both Facebook and Instagram where all of the wedding guests could share their photos of the event. So, naturally - and against my better judgment - I had to join in order to see all of the pictures!

I needed another social media outlet like a punch in the face, but y'know... follow me anyway?

Instagram - @juliecdao

That brings me to some BIG news for PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS!

I came back from my five-hour drive on Monday to a wonderful and happy surprise! You may have seen me share this picture on Twitter:

UH-HUH. That's right. That's my book on the front flippin' page of the Wattpad Teen Fiction section! Last week, Wattpad HQ got in touch with me about featuring PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS, and that happened yesterday! I'm beyond psyched that this book I love with all my heart is having its moment in the sun. The print market was always going to be tough for it, but I'm thrilled that instead of languishing on a shelf, it's being spotlighted on such a huge community of readers and writers.

PPP will be pinned to the top of that list for a long while to come. It's already attracting a ton of new readers, which makes me so proud and happy. That was always my sole objective in posting it on Wattpad: to find an audience for my fun little story. So this feels like a big goal accomplished before the two-month mark! I'm a lucky girl! Thank you to Gav and Alessandra and the whole team at Wattpad!

And now, back to my Ireland recap. There's only one more post after this (sad)!

Thursday was another workshop day, so we were in classes from morning til late afternoon. All of the sessions were held in various rooms in our hotel, from two large conference areas in the back to a cozy sitting room in the lobby. Today, we had a couple choices since some sessions happened simultaneously, so I picked the ones most relevant and/or interesting to me.

Here's a little recap of what I learned:

  • Young Adult Workshop. Spending time with young adults is the best way to write YA. Seems obvious, right? I don't think I'm the only YA writer without much opportunity to chat with or observe teens. We talked about typical teen characteristics that make the YA voice authentic. This age category is about first experiences, both emotionally intense and vulnerable; there should be a yearning to be understood and fit in somehow; and it should explore the dark side of humanity as young people learn to work through their feelings and figure out why/how they are important.

  • Fantasy and Adventure Workshop. This was an amazing session to go through, as someone who is writing an epic fantasy. We learned all about the different types of fantasy and the tropes/necessities of each; how to describe unusual details of your world in an engaging, show-vs.-tell way; how to avoid cliches and to write a fresh story; and the myriad ways in which fantasy reveals human weaknesses. I loved when Susan said that fantasy writers are often people who feel deeply about the world around them and see how it could be a better place.

  • Advanced Social Media Workshop. We talked about the best ways to engage through the tools we use. I realized that I've been using my blog wrong. Well, not wrong, but I haven't helped it realize its full potential yet because I've been targeting other writers, and not potential readers. More on this later! We also learned how best to use Twitter and Facebook, and how to get the most views on each tweet or post.

  • Author Promotion Workshop. Heather discussed ways to create your own personal author brand, from the verbal and visual to the kinetic. We also learned about ways to maintain momentum and relevance once we are published, and how to best market our products. She shared her experiences regarding publicists, author events, and press interviews, which was really cool to hear about.

  • Publishing and Legal Pitfalls. Susan is a brilliant publishing lawyer. You may have seen her on the Twitter hashtag #PubLaw with great advice. In this workshop, she talked about avoiding traps in publisher contracts and in writing contest rules. I have to admit my head was spinning after hearing all that legalese, but Susan stressed that is it important to understand these concepts as best you can, even with an agent. The more you know about the business (even if it's not your favorite part of the writing journey), the more you'll be able to protect yourself and your work.

  • Guided Meditation. Heather led us through a meditative writing session in which we got up close and personal with our main characters. I understand my evil queen SO much better after this workshop!

That evening, we had dinner in a haunted castle! That's the castle in those two photos you see above. And below:

Creepy, right?! But we had a glorious time eating the delicious food, drinking champagne, and telling each other ghost stories as only a room full of writers can properly do.

On Friday, we woke up early and took the ferry to the Aran Islands, where the famous sheep's wool sweaters are made! The ferry ride out there was pretty barf-inducing --- the waves were tossing us around like a toy boat, and it was a relief to everyone onboard to step onto Inis Mor at last.

The group split up because some of us wanted to shop, some of us wanted to eat, and some of us wanted to tour some more.

I took a bus around the island with Laura, Cassidy, and Alissa, and we had a grand old time climbing across the rocky terrain, visiting the Worm Hole, and keeping an eye out for seals!

Yes, my eyes are closed in that picture above, but let's just pretend I'm enjoying the breeze, shall we?

And that is a bowl of seafood stew you see in the second-to-last picture! With the omnipresent slice of brown bread and butter, of course :)

One more Ireland recap post to go! I'll share pictures of the village of Roundstone, where we went on our last day together, and a couple more photos of Galway, where I returned on Sunday night before my looooong day of traveling back to the States on Monday.

Hope you're still enjoying these posts! Have a great rest of the week!
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