The Big New Year’s Announcement Post for 2016!

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

Here we all are in 2016, a futuretime beyond our wildest imaginations where terrible things are in the news every single day and our student loan debt continues to threaten to devour us just like Artax in the Swamp of Sadness. And yet also in this futuretime we have some pretty badass ladies in big budget major motion pictures, the triumphant reawakening of Star Wars, the arrival of Doctor Who LEGO sets, the ability to watch cute animal videos on our phones nearly anywhere, the applications to allow us to order food without talking to people on the phone and coloring books for meditation and relaxation.

Coloring books, you guys. Coloring books and GrubHub. This is basically Utopia.

But there’s more than that. The Internet is a shocking place both in good ways and bad. On the better end of that spectrum, we have amazing abilities to connect not just through social media, but through community fundraising websites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, and other variations. Artists, musicians, writers, performers, producers, and other creators can reach out to one another and their audiences online and come together in a totally new way to reinvent the relationship between artist and patron.

Since the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the concept of patronage has provided circulation of funds from the wealthy or powerful to those who require assistance to create new things. Artists weren’t the only ones who received funding from patrons – scientists, scholars, astronomers and alchemists have all benefited from the financial backing of wealthy nobles or government officials throughout the ages. Here in the modern era, we’ve confused the act of patronage with the popular concept of “lazy artist people begging for money,” but there are a lot of folks who are working their butts off to change that cultural concept to a better model for creators and consumers alike.

Enter Patreon.

If you aren’t familiar with Patreon, it is an online platform for creators to build a community with their supporters, fans, and fellow creators. A creator can open up their metaphorical toy box to the fans, who then offer up whatever monetary amount they’d like to support that creator’s ongoing projects. Unlike Kickstarter or IndieGoGo which are limited-time fundraisers for a single focused project or event, Patreon allows for continual funds, thus creating a constant flow between created content and the patrons’ financial contributions. A creator can ask for support on a monthly basis, or they can choose to have their patrons offer money “per Thing created.” A patron can edit their contribution at any time, and if it’s per Thing, they can limit how much per month they allow their contributions to amount to, that way nobody is donating more than they’d like to, or more than they can afford to.

What’s the bottom line here?

The bottom line is that through Patreon, patrons can have an opportunity to connect on a much more personal level with their favorite creators, and have the immense golden satisfaction of personally contributing to those creators’ success. Through Patreon, creators have the chance to connect with the people who like their work and want to support them, and get paid to keep making new things.

Creators get paid for the things they create by people who love them and want to help them keep making cool things.

Mindblowing? Yes.

Awesome? Definitely!

So here it is, my big New Year’s Resolution Revolution:

I’m launching a Patreon!

Since I was a little kid, I have always known that I wanted to tell stories. I wrote them and acted them out for family all the time – so it makes sense that I grew up a little bit and became an actor and an author. I have spent the last several years performing and growing as an actor as well as writing and publishing my first novel and sundry short stories. People keep asking me what’s next, and I can finally tell you that I have a ton of ideas to share and cultivate and create. There is so much that I want to write, perform, produce, and release into the wild.

These ideas include (but are not limited to):

  • two (count ’em: TWO) audio fiction productions
    • one of them is a space comedy about pirates, tiny hats, talking plants, and bipedal corgis
    • one of them is a Waiting For Guffman-meets-Lord of the Rings public radio program about an orc-based community theatre company
  • a customizable choose-your-format fiction commission program
    • does your tabletop RPG need background content? letters? songs for your bard? a short story featuring your character(s)? a legend or folktale about an object/ruined temple/ancient hero/MacGuffin? I will write it for you.
    • including the much-hyped Audio Commentary tracks
    • very MST3K
    • much wow
  • a brand-new serial fiction project set in a fantasy world that I’m creating completely from scratch… The Fella will run a D&D 5e game set in this world, and I will write up the fictionalized accounts of gameplay for your reading pleasure. There will also be short stories, flash fiction, and even (gasp) possibly a novel or two down the line.

All of this is really, really exciting, you guys. I am thrilled that the blog has gotten so much positive feedback this year, and I am really looking forward to continuing with Disney Odyssey and regularly scheduled blog content as well as tackling these big new awesome projects… but none of this is possible without your help.

I currently work a full-time day job. I’m able to continue producing blog content on the regular with that job schedule, but adding these new projects will require time. Time to write, record, edit, and produce. Time to research, play, create, and explore. I am chomping at the bit to get started – in fact, brainstorming and writing has already begun on several of these new projects. These are things I am going to work on no matter what – but the support you give through Patreon will help expedite and smooth out the process of making new stuff, and making it all bigger and better than ever before.

And on top of that, you’ll get sweet perks for being a patron, including early access to blog posts, the audio commentaries, voting rights, Altered Egos for access to RPG/original character fiction commissions, monthly Google Hangouts, unique one-of-a-kind ukulele ballads, and so much more!

Get excited. Get in. Get on it. I’m really pumped to build, create, move it, and share it all with you.

*orchestral arrangement of “A Whole New World” starts playing as underscore*

Let me share this whole new world with you….

Click click click to check out my Patreon page and choose your contribution level. I cannot wait to see you all there!



Disney Odyssey #12 – If the Shoe Fits, Marry Her Immediately

Glory be! We finally made it to Cinderella! It’s been an appropriately long time since I watched this one, and I’m glad we got through the odd and inconsistent 1940s package films to reach the golden, dreamy 1950s. Cinderella is in many ways the ‘number one’ Disney Princess, although Snow White is the first. If you check Google Images, Cindy is usually pictured at the center of the Disney Princess flying-v line-up. Observe:



While perhaps our modern sensibilities and craving for fierce, fearless ladies in leading roles may tell us that the earlier Disney Princesses are weak or wimpy, I’d like to encourage you all to remember that Snow White was fourteen years old and Cinderella was one of the most humble, dignified, good-hearted people on the planet. Let’s begin, shall we?

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.34.54 AM

The Film: Cinderella (1950)

The Facts:

  • At the time Cinderella was made, Disney was $4 million in debt. The film cost $3 million to make. The profits from the film, however, were enough to bankroll several later films, save the entire company from bankruptcy, and fund the initial work on building Disneyland. Also during the 2005 re-release, it made $64 million, selling 3.2 million copies in the first week.
  • The story came from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale, which – for those of you playing along at home – is an Aarne-Thompson type 510A – “the persecuted heroine.” There are hundreds of variants of this type of story the world over, the oldest of which (dating back to 7 BC) is the story of Rhodopis, a Greek slave who marries the King of Egypt.
  • This is rated one of the best animated films of all time by the American Film Institute.
  • Live action reference was used to keep animation costs down – in fact, approximately 90% of it was filmed live.
  • Cinderella marks the first time that Disney sought its musical composition from Tin Pan Alley – and you can tell. The music in this film is iconic, catchy, and unified in a way that previous Disney films are not. It was also the first film where Disney copyrighted and released the soundtrack under the newly minted Walt Disney Music Company.
  • This film also features one of the pioneer examples of double track vocals long before it was used in pop music.
  • Walt said later that the torn-up dress Cinderella wears was inspired by Salvador Dali, and the impeccable ballgown she wears is heavily influenced by Christian Dior, who was just becoming a worldwide presence in the fashion industry.
  • Walt had two films in progress at once: Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Rather than schedule them himself, he challenged the production teams to race each other to finish and determine which film would release first.

Continue reading

Okay. So I leapt. Now what?

My name is Aly Grauer, and two days ago, I quit my day job.

Gosh, that sounds crazy. Completely insane. In fact, I’m sitting here at my desk at home, on a very uncomfortable stool-chair (my apartment is too small for a decent desk chair) listening to the clock tick and my stomach rumble. I’m thinking about how I’m going to cover bills when my small savings cushion runs out. I’m wondering how I can get more people to buy my book. I’m worried about my parents. My dad is finally coming home from the hospital today and my mom has surgery scheduled on Monday. I’m thinking about my brother and his wife and their baby, and how amazing and strange and miraculous life is, even with all the twists and turns and sudden drops and stops. I’m wondering how many people will think it’s selfish of me to quit my job at a time like this. At any time. I’m wondering how many people will say, “I mean, I know you published a novel, but you’re not exactly Stephen King, so why did you quit your day job?” My heart is pounding as I think about having to go to rehearsal tonight, have previews for my show this weekend, and film another episode of Space Happens on Saturday. There’s just so much going on.

That’s when it hit me: There is just so much going on… and a lot of it is art.

People say, if you love the thing, do the thing. Do it with all your heart, do it because you love it, make your life about what you love to do. It’s hard for artists to do that in a way that doesn’t look completely selfish – because it is inherently selfish. We are artists because we want to create art, and we want people to know about it and appreciate it and love it. So to stop going to one’s day job in order to Make More Art is a huge decision. A huge risk, and a huge potential for reward.

Recently, someone whom I love very much took my hands, looked me in the eye, and said “Aly, you need to write full time. You need this. You need to learn, and grow, and write as much as you can, and make this happen for yourself. You’ve already written a novel, and people like it. It’s good. You’re off to a great start. You know deep down that you’re capable of more greatness… so do it. Drop what you’re stressing about and just do it. I’m here to catch you if you stumble, and I’m here to make sure you don’t sabotage yourself. I’m here. Just do it.”

It stunned me. I’ve always wanted to be a full-time writer. But it isn’t exactly something you can just become out of nowhere – there is a ton of work, study, experience, and change involved in that particular metamorphosis as literally anyone who writes full-time (or mostly full-time) can tell you. I had no idea that it could be something I could at least try; I thought I had to wait until I had three books out, a literary agent, a husband, preferably one with steady income, etc etc etc. I thought there were other hoops I had to jump through to get there.

Maybe that’s true. But I know that when I started telling people I wanted to try this on for size, no one said: “Why?” No one said: “But you don’t have enough experience.” No one said: “You aren’t good enough for that.” No one said: “But how will you live?”

Every single person I told said: “That’s fantastic! You have my support. Let me know how I can help.”

I recently read internet queen and permanent hot topic buzzword Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking.” It’s part memoir, part meditation, part philosophy, and it’s very moving and incredibly fascinating. I knew a lot of the material already, having been an avid Twitter follower of Amanda’s for several years running, but the depth to which she allows the reader to peer into her memory and her soul and watch her life tangle, untangle, crystalize, and erupt is pretty astonishing. I felt myself living certain stories of hers with similarities to my own experiences as a performer and as a longing, yearning writer.

When I graduated from college, I told myself: “All right. You used to write stories all the time. You have a novel draft that needs revising. How’s about you learn to write short stories, and find an anthology to get published in?” So I spent a year or two reading anthologies, researching contests and publications, and studying social media for clues as to how exactly I could climb the beanstalk into the Realm of Real Authors. I had some considerable rejections on short stories (which deserved those rejections) and learned to do better, each and every time I wrote or revised something. I thrived on finding things to submit to, on following new authors on Twitter with similar genres and interests to me, on watching how the internet has bloomed into an incredible grocery store produce section of authors ripe for publication, agents ripe for querying, and ideas ripe for writing. (Seriously, Twitter. TWITTER, you guys.)

When I finally got a short story published, I said to myself: “Great! This is great! Now we can begin to learn about working with editors. And revision. And marketing. And we can revise a novel and start prepping that to query.” It didn’t occur to me that a month after that anthology was released, the publishers would come to me and say, “Hey, do you have any novels ready to publish?” I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was way too soon… but I said yes, and in November 2014 they released my first novel, “On The Isle of Sound and Wonder.”

Writing has been the one thing that consistently I have created for myself and of myself. I have been actively writing a long time, and the last three years have shown how quickly I can achieve the goals I set reasonably for myself. So now it’s time for some new goals. Big, serious, specific goals.

I want to write my next novel. I want to revise it. I want to polish it. I want to query it, and find representation with an awesome literary agent. I want to grow and learn and hone my skills and take all of this to the Next Level.

I’m leaping. And I have faith that there’s a net in case I fall.


On the Subject of Nets Appearing When Leaps Are Taken

Leap and the net will appear.

Leap – and the net will appear.

Leap! And the net will appear!

The scariest part of it is not that we might fall from that height when we leap. The scariest part (I’ve discovered) is that we might soar – we might succeed, we might excel, we might win.

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” – Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: “Fear of Falling”

Can’t know if you don’t try it, right? Worst case scenario is it fails miserably and I need to get a new job.

Best case? Well…