Saturday, December 6, 2014

Why I want to be like Carrie Bradshaw

You know who I miss? Carrie Bradshaw.  Can I get an amen, ladies?
If you're an American woman, you're probably also a fan of this HBO gem, Sex in the City.
Time passes, we must move on from our savage fandom, but it's still a fantastic show.  I don't care how many years ago the pilot was filmed.  I still watch it.  I still play every slot machine with that theme, without ever winning a dime.
Sex in the City is a stroke of pure genius, one that reflected so much of the challenges women face in the modern world, including all the stuff that happens behind closed doors.  Nothing is off limits, but always presented in a way that makes it okay to talk about.  The things that most would call taboo are laid out for us in a flippantly honest, but cleverly playful way that isn't offensive.  I cheer on the girls when they talk about sex toys as openly as they do fashion.  The glamorous New Yorker lifestyle theme helps keep things interesting, too.
I know I'm treading into fanatic territory here, so let me get to my point.
I want to be just like Carrie Bradshaw when I grow up.  Never you mind that I'm already thirty-something.  She doesn't have to be quite as annoyingly noncommittal though (sorry, its true).  If you're not familiar, let me give you a quick rundown of the character:
She is cool, confident, and yet, somewhat self destructive.  She's smart, funny, ambitious and articulate.  She drinks too much and makes foolish mistakes, but you love her for it because she has so much fun. She fumbles through life like we all do, but she always learns something valuable.  She explores many sides of herself and she tries on ten million dresses.  Most of those dresses are fucking fabulous, some are tragically not.  She has flair and femininity.  She's daring, sophisticated and down-to-earth, all at the same time.  Her style is a undiluted expression of her creativity as an individual, always original.
She's vulnerable, but never shies away from the chance for a new adventure, especially in matters of the heart.  She dares to ask questions that we all wonder, but rarely give much expression to. What's more, she epitomizes the independent career woman, (hello, no 9-5 slavery) while rocking an awesome hairstyle and overly expensive shoes.
Most importantly, she never stops looking for love (and frequently succeeds).
I would like to be able to put my name in place of "she" in that description, wouldn't you?  Sure, Carrie is just a character, but she has many attributes that I think most women want (and how about her wardrobe? yes, please!).  If Carrie is a reflection of the American woman, I want to be able to successfully take life in stride despite all its ups and downs, while working it in a couture gown. Now, if only I could afford the shoes.    



Tonight's Full Moon

If you had the pleasure of looking up to the night sky yesterday, you might have noticed that the moon looked full and brilliant.  Today marks December's full moon, known to some as the Long Nights Moon.  If you don't follow the patterns of the moon, you're not alone.  There aren't many of us dorky enough to actually pay attention to something that might be completely unrelated to our day-to-day lives. (or is it?)
Regardless of whether you believe the phases of the moon might be playing a role in your personal rhythm, it lends a beautiful metaphor to the ever changing nature of our lives.  Nothing ever stays the same for long.  We ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean, or, say, the varying reflection of the sun's rays off a big rock hanging out several million miles from here.
The phases of my life go something like a pendulum swing, rather than the forward force of a locomotive.  It's desperately annoying. I take two bold strides forward, but inevitably fall two paces backward quickly thereafter.  I strike out to accomplish something then lose my focus or get scared and run away.  It's a ridiculous pattern of behavior that leaves me exhausted and never getting anywhere. I've been treading water in nearly every in practically aspect of my life, never really choosing a direct to swim.    
I've identified this about myself, so at least there's some opportunity to make improvements, whereas most of us linger in denial about such things.  If your life is feeling like a hamster's wheel, I invite you to notice that and CHANGE IT.
This month's full moon means that tomorrow marks the renewal of the cycle, and a chance to create a new pattern for the coming month.  Take a few moments out of this busy season to reflect upon yourself and your behavior.  If you see something in your life you want to do better, acknowledge that.  Decide what you're going to do differently during the next phase and implement those changes to see results.  Being on the same arc as the moon just may be the little oomph you need to make some serious improvements in your world.  I'm know I'm hoping it is for me.


Monday, December 1, 2014

The most reluctant author, ever

The Most Reluctant Author, Ever.
JoAnna Santanen

I have spent the better part of the past two years running away from being an author.  I have backed away from my career in shame, aburptly, and for no apparent reason.  Maybe the stacks of form rejection letters from agents and publishers broke my stride or the fact that I haven't had much success in business lead me to believe I wouldn't be successful in publishing.  I don't know what really happened.  I started making some progress in building my readership, then I just abandoned ship.
When my friends, who are also fans of my work, would mention my novels, I would feel a twinge of grief.  I knew I was letting the dream (of being a full-time self-sustaining author) die inside me. The grass is always greener where you water it, but man, I had turned off the sprinkler.  I quit writing.
I told myself that I didn't like the aspect of self promotion in indie publishing. I thought that letting people know about my books, which they might even really enjoy, was somehow dirty.  I was letting the business of being an indie publisher make me feel like I was being dishonest in some way.  I would tell myself that the business had ruined the art.  
I hold a damned Business Management Bachelor's degree.  Business is my business.  I was lying to myself.  I was making excuses for my "failure" which hadn't actually occurred.  My books weren't raking in the dough, but they were bringing in something, which meant in that regard, they were already a success.  That's probably what scared me the most.
I can't just declare that I'm an author and then suddenly, be one, could I? Yes, I could.  I wrote a book and published it (two, actually).  Is there another definition of author that I'm missing here? No.  There isn't. I'm an author and where I was once proud to admit it, I had suddenly become ashamed.  I had let myself go so far down the shame spiral, I almost couldn't bear to call myself an author anymore.
It all boils down to self confidence.  As with anything, self confidence is key to getting what you want.  You have to be willing to put yourself out there, to risk looking like a fool.  I was shaken by some changes in my family, my life and my employment. I let my fears overtake my goals.  I let my insecurities spread into my work, and though nothing had changed, suddenly I was telling myself that I'm a hack who shouldn't quit my day job (if I actually had one).  My negative self-talk bled into my identity (as a person and as an author) and suddenly, I felt like an impostor. 
I was a horse who was out to pasture so long I forgot there was a barn I could go back to.  
I have a room in my house that's crammed full of art supplies and papers and books.  Its my studio & office.  I am so lucky to have space that's just for creation.  I let it get sullied with a bunch of stuff that shouldn't be there and it stopped feeling like a room of inspiration and more like a storage locker.  Yet another obvious resistance to writing, I was treating my work space like a junk drawer.
Last week, I went to the library searching for some inspiration. I picked up the 2015 copy of Writer's Market, even though I already knew I wasn't going to query my work to any publishers or agents anymore.  I just wanted to feel a little pride in the idea of being an author.  I also grabbed a book about self-publishing.  Unlike Writer's Market (which has been sitting on my counter for the past week unopened), that indie publishing  book took me by the hand and drug me out of my self-imposed prison. I devoured it.  I am a changed woman.  (If you're into writing, you MUST READ: Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.)
This book just reminded me that I was doing everything right before.  Being an author is a career.  One that takes work and perseverance.  I have all the skills and I love to write. Though I have neglected my career for more than a year, I don't have to start over. I can pick right up where I had left off.  I am back in the driver's seat.  I am finding my voice, again, and it feels really good.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Writing blog posts that generate traffic to your website

I recently wrote this article for a local company, but I wanted to share it with those of you are fellow bloggers and writers.  If you haven't considered a blog to enhance your writing awareness, you should!  Here's a few ways to help generate traffic to your site, regardless of the topic or theme:

Most bloggers seek to generate as much traffic to their site as possible, in the interest of increasing readership of their blog and other works, or to generate income from advertising.  Many strategies exist to accomplish the goal of driving visitors to one’s blog.  This article will examine a few of the many elements necessary to write a successful, click-encouraging blog post.
One of the paramount elements of blog posting is the relevance to one’s target audience.  A masterpiece will not likely produce much excitement if the topic is incompatible with one’s readership.   Often the most successful blogs are ones that have a specific theme or topic.  For example, a post about life insurance wouldn’t entice many if the readers are generally teenagers, who have no need for such a product.   Understanding what people are interested in reading will help identify inviting topics for the audience to enjoy.  Reading popular blogs will demonstrate which articles are generating the most “likes” or comments, in order to identify what readers are responding to most.  Another way to determine topics to write about is by researching news, trending keywords on web search engines, and social media buzz.
In addition to relevance, one’s work post needs to be informative and accurate.  A well written post will include some research, even if the post is mere opinion.  The reason for researching accuracy is if the potential reader finds the information unfounded, the post may not create traffic.  Enlightening posts will contain some facts in order to substantiate one’s opinion, and create validity for the reader.
Another element of the traffic-generating blog post is the photo.  Pictures are an absolutely necessary accessory to the writing.  Not only do photos aid the reader in quickly and easily identifying the topic of the post, the image will be an aid in search engine relevance.   Keywords are just as important with images as they are with articles.  A Google search for “avoiding tooth decay” will render results that include pictures of teeth, but also floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes and other related images.
Apart from writing a tempting, relevant and accurate post, one must consider announcement of its arrival on one’s blog.  Once the post is active, one must inform potential readers of its presence.  Posting links on social media web sites and community message boards and sending emails to subscribers and associates are essential ways to alert potential readers of the new post.  Generating initial awareness of the post is the responsibility of the author, because even the best post will not produce traffic if no one knows about it.
Bloggers who understand the elements essential to compelling readers to visit their site will have a greater likelihood of accomplishing their goal.  A thorough post that is interesting, informative and coupled with an image will have a greater chance of increasing the number of visitors it generates.  The better a post is constructed and announced, the greater likelihood of clickable success.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bohemian Style Obsession

Photo Credit:
Hello my lovelies! Thanks for popping in!

Recently, I've become pretty infatuated with the bohemian style.  Looking back, I've always been a little bit hippie, if only in an underlying way.  I'm crafty & artsy, with a particular affinity for tie-dye & turquoise.  I'm even dressing as a boho-hippie for my Halloween costume this year, if that's the only way I can get away with it.  I find it fairly amusing that I am calling it a costume, when really, its just a style I want to infuse more into my wardrobe without too much overhaul of what I already own.  I have some reservations about allowing my style to migrate towards the offbeat, and here's why.

The difficulty I have with going full-on boho myself is the negative stigma that has been (rather unfairly) attached to the style.  I mean, what's so bizarre about a crochet sweater? A long skirt? Or a sun hat? I really can't figure out why some might see a women dressed a certain way, (we'll call it a hippie, if we must) and assume she's an idiot or unclean.  I'll never understand some folks' discrimination tendencies.  Call me crazy but I believe in accepting others as they are, not as I want them to be so that they fit into some preconceived mold.

Another aspect that is holding me back is the inclination towards showing so much (too much) skin.  I feel like the body is a beautiful thing, but that beauty doesn't need to be shown off to everyone.  I'm sure that I can get around it, but generally, I see boho style dresses as being meant for thin women that have no issue with overexposure (hello, sheer fabric...).  I strive to be healthy and lose weight, but the reality is, regardless of whether I'll ever arrive at the weight I want, I will always be a bit modest.  Am I alone here?

The last issue I'm struggling with this the handmade nature of a lot of the fashion and accessories.  Mainstream clothes are simply too mainstream to be bohemian, and so that lays the necessity to create one's own clothing, which is dreadfully time consuming and difficult if you're not blessed with excellent sewing skills.  Thank goodness for sites like Etsy, where handmade items are easy to come by, albeit maybe not so affordable.  I suppose I should be checking out the farmer's markets for handmade things to add to my collection.

What are your thoughts on the bohemian style? Love it or lose it?

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Happy Reading!
XoXo- JoAnna

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'm baaaack!

Hi There!
Welcome (back)!

Admittedly, I took a few months off of my writing.  I needed the break for my brain and my typing hands.  I have been enjoying my sabbatical, but missing the creativity, fun & passion that writing is for me.  During my down time, I explored some other interests of mine and sparked a desire to entertain the notion of nonfiction writing. The first effort toward that end is a new blog - Love and Long Lashes.  My new blog will center around many women's interest subjects including makeup, skin care, hair, style, decor, arts & crafts, weight loss & fitness, relationships and more.  I'm still working on new content but it will be packed full of cool posts very soon!

As for Abstract, my intentions for this blog will remain an examination of topics like psychology, critical thinking & human behavior.  I hope to update this blog at least a few days a week, and even more frequently on Love & Long Lashes.

In addition to my blogs, I intend to finish Under The Maple Tree (stillllllllllll...) and begin a nonfiction book that will reflect many of the same topics as my new blog.  More on that idea as soon as it takes shape. :)

Follow me all over the web: Twitter @joannasantanen1, Facebook joanna.santanen, Pinterest jojo728, Google+ joannasantanen, Instagam joanna728

Happy reading!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Letter from the Swedish Necrophiliac!

Back in January, I wrote a post about necrophiliac woman in western Sweden.
Read the Local News story here:
Yesterday, I received an email (through my author site: from a woman claiming to be the offender in question, though there's really no way to verifying her identity because her name was not released.  Of course, I'm skeptical that she's the actual woman who was charged in Sweden.  I hope that she is considering I have so many questions about her condition and the events surrounding her arrest, but the likelihood is slim.  I am conducting an investigation, but I felt it was worth a post regardless of whether the email was from the "Swedish Necrophiliac" or not.  Bearing that in mind, I'd like to relay some of the thoughts she felt compelled to share (again, this could just be someone looking to create a hoax, but if not, it's pretty fascinating).

The woman, Helena, 37, wrote a letter which was surprisingly well-mannered.  I would have expected her words to be more seething, especially considering she was trying to set me straight about how these events completely destroyed her life.  As one can imagine, the news media exploded regarding this bizarre story of a woman who not only possessed human remains, but was discovered to have used the bones to pleasure herself.  The absolute repulsion of the story doesn't negate international intrigue.  Helena describes in her somewhat broken English how the media and police & law officials obliterated her entire life including her relationship (she goes so far as to indicate that she is a lesbian, and prefers LIVING women) and her freedom.

Helena claims to have spent 97 days in isolation during her jail time.  Helena does not elude as to why she was in isolation, but one can imagine that the nature of her crime might beget her some flack from the general population.  Isolation may have simply been a way of protecting her while she served her time.  She states that the prosecutor was seeking prison time, but the murder and necrophilia charges against her were dropped.  She goes on to say that the prosecution is attempting to seek a higher court, but does not have much evidence on her because they were unable to retrieve material from her encrypted hard drives.  I can only imagine what's on those.  (Pause for dramatic Yuck! here.)

Though she does not deny her actions in terms of her "use" of the human remains, she doesn't explain her motivations either.  She simply says that she is trying to change her ways, but has been involved in the black market and profiting from death for so long that she is struggling to find another way.  (Get a job?)

Helena closed her email by saying that she is "stronger than ever" because of this ordeal.  She admits that now that she has lost everything, she is fearless and doesn't have anything more to lose.  I suppose I can applaud that particular revelation, but it doesn't excuse her reprehensible actions or absolve her from the responsibility of buying and selling human remains on the black market.  This story begs the question: how does one even acquire such items? Grave robbing? Thievery from hospitals? Dismemberment? Murder?

I will update my blog once I have had a chance to conduct some more research regarding this story and the origin of the email.  I am assuming that this individual may just be a bored necrophiliac who had combed the internet for material regarding their fascination and happened upon my blog post.  However, if it turns out the email is truly from the actual Swedish woman mentioned in the news, I will be ecstatic to interview her.  I might even write her story for my next project.  A good friend of mine offered up this title: Bad to the Bone: The True Crime Story of the Swedish Necrophiliac.  Hilarious! :)