You’re supposed to shout that header like you’re a soccer announcer.  Not sure that was clear.

First things first — I want to show you something.

It’s not dirty.  We save dirty for Fridays.  🙂


TOTALLY want to hear your thoughts on it, but first… my post about goals (which will lead us back to the trailer, I promise).

My favorite movie — and this will probably come as no shock to anyone by now — is The Muppet Movie.  It opens with Kermit the Frog, hanging out in the swamp, strumming his banjo and singing about the power of dreams.  Kermit ends up following his dreams all the way to Hollywood, and along the way he gathers a rag-tag group of misfits who band together as the best of friends, and at the end of the movie get their “Standard Rich and Famous Contract,” as signed by Orson Welles.  Kermit and his pals didn’t have a step-by-step plan; they just followed their hearts, followed their passions, followed their dreams, and achieved everything they ever wanted.

This has pretty much been my blueprint for life.  I came out to L.A. the week after I graduated school.  I had two distant cousins I’d never met who lived out here, but otherwise I knew no one.  I thought I wanted to act, but I knew for certain I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry, and papered the town with my resume.  I got hired to answer phones for a TV show, and that got my foot in the door.  Like The Muppets (yes, I know The Muppet Movie is their fictional story, but work with me here), I had no Grand Plan.  I jumped at opportunities when they arose, following my dreams, and because of that, I’ve had a very eclectic career, which I love.


I’ve just now gotten to a place where I realize there’s a big difference between DREAMS and GOALS.  I dreamed of being a famous actor.  I suck at acting, but if it had really been a goal, I could have taken classes, networked, sent my headshots everywhere, and devoted all my energy to getting better and making it happen.  The truth was I didn’t want it that badly.  When I realized I both preferred and was far better at writing, the switch was simple.

I dreamed that my Marathoner’s Travel Guide would turn me into the Rachael Ray of Running.  It would sell through the roof, I’d pitch it as a TV show starring, oh, me, and I’d do episode after episode where I’d travel city to city, showcasing both the marathon and the great hotels, restaurants, and activities that would help runners and their families make the most of the experience.

That was the dream.

If it had been a goal, I’d have spent countless hours doing the legwork to make sure the book was in every running store possible; I’d have researched and traveled like crazy to make myself THE expert in marathon vacations… again, there are a zillion things I could have done.  Honestly?  I have a husband, a daughter, and a dog.  I didn’t really want a career based on traveling.  Plus I had other writing projects that appealed to me more.

I don’t beat up on myself for not turning those dreams into goals.  I accomplished a lot of incredibly fun and rewarding things following dreams.  But in the end, the reason the dreams never came to fruition was because I didn’t want them as goals… I just didn’t realize it when I was dreaming.

Now, however… for the first time in my career… I have a goal.

I love writing novels.  I still love TV and film too, and happily, the two disciplines go well together.  Creating worlds in book form, then turning them into TV shows and/or movies… I’d say it would be a dream come true, but I’ve learned what happens to dreams.  They only get you so far, then you get distracted by the next shiny thing.  That’s terrific if it pulls you off a path that isn’t right, but when you find the thing that really fits, it’s worthy of the upgrade to Goal.

So now I’ve done it — I’ve laid out my goal for all to see.  Doesn’t mean I won’t keep doing other things (have to pay the bills in the meantime), but it means I’m going to veer away from the Tao of Muppet and make a plan.  A big plan, with lots of steps, all laid out in big print that I can’t ignore.  And just to amuse myself, as I tick off each step along the way, I’ll take a deep breath and shout:


I’m shouting it now, actually, because the trailer is one of the steps on the Grand Plan.  Please feel free to spread the word about it, link to it, like it on YouTube, or even go to my web site to enter a drawing to win awesome new music from The Stone Coyotes, the band that did the trailer; or even a signed ARC of Populazzi.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the trailer, and I’d love to know… have you ever made a Grand Plan in your career or in your personal life?  How did it influence how you focused each day?  What are your goals, and what do you do to make sure they happen?

It’s a long post this time, I know — thanks for bearing with me, and I look forward to your thoughts!


Deb Elise

39 Replies to “GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAALS!!!! (by Deb Elise)”

  1. Well now I feel as though I must be dirty on Wednesday – if you’re of a certain age and from Boston, you know Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day, and Anthony is still a young boy who runs home through The North End to supper. Not this week friends.

    Dream v. goal is genius. Only one implies action. I love that.

    1. Prince Spaghetti Day is something I know about from fiction, but I can’t for the life of me remember what book.

      And doesn’t Anthony work in the grocery store, saving his pennies for someday?

      YOU, my friend, are a great example of setting goals and not dreams.

      Are you at the conference now? Hope it’s going wonderfully!

      1. That’s the original commercial. “Anthony Martingnetti lives in Boston’s North End…”: I think Dick Cavett did the voice over. I’ll bet the ad has ended up in a book or two. He’s just a kid who runs home, eager to eat his Prince Spaghetti i the ad.

        Autism One is this week – I leave Thursday for Chicago. Can only get a 3 day hallpass!

        Love the trailer. Who is the model?

        1. Her name is Clare, and she’s graduating from a performing arts high school to go to a performing arts college program. Super-talented, and sweet as pie — we shot the trailer at the house and she pretty much adopted Miss M as her tiny BFF. I became friendly with her mom too, who’s also wonderful.

  2. Really like the trailer… it’s a YA book, yes?

    My dream? Be the next JK Rowling. My goal? Get the 3 1/2 novels I’ve been working on FINISHED, REVISED, and ready to send out to agents. And it won’t happen unless I get to work.

    I’m revising one. With a bunch of work, I should have it done soon.

    1. It is a YA book — I’m YA Deb this year. So glad you like the trailer!

      Your goal is a great one. I’m curious — do you give yourself due dates to shoot for, or just keep the goal in mind and move as swiftly as you can given day-to-day circumstances?

  3. Love the trailer! It’s short, simple, and full of appeal. Makes me want to read the book, so it gets the job done. 🙂

    I’ve never really made a “grand plan” for my life or my career. I think I’m too superstitious to do that. You know the old saying: “Man plans, God laughs.” Not that I have any objection to giving God a good laugh now and again, but… 😉

    1. Hooray! Thanks, Linda — that’s indeed the goal!

      I get the superstition thing — believe me, I was cringing against Queen Kinehera just putting my goal out here in black and white like this. But for me at least — and maybe it’s because I’m suddenly obsessed with Eat That Frog — I’m finding it helpful to set my sights on something specific, i.e. “I want to write novels and bring them to life on TV and/or film,” vs. “I want to write for a living.” While life will no doubt slap me in the face on the way, the specific is bringing me more focus and clarity when it comes to prioritizing my daily to-do list.

  4. Great post! (And I now have that song – “the Rainbow Connection,” wasn’t it? – in my head. But there are worse things…:) )

    I’m learning that it’s also about what I can and cannot control. I can’t control an agent or an editor or a reader but I CAN control the work and drive and passion I put into my writing. Some things you do have to leave to the Universe.

    1. It was INDEED Rainbow Connection, though my favorite is The Magic Store at the end with “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending, we’ve done just what we set out to do…”

      So, so good!!!!

  5. I already told you that I love the trailer and I’ll say it again. Amazing!

    I’m really interested in the difference you draw between dreams and goals – I’m going to have to think about that one. I once took a writing class in which the teacher said, “Many people want to have written a novel, but not many people want to write a novel.” That stuck with me, and I think that’s the core of what you’re getting at.

    I, personally, want to have finished a sprint triathlon, but I don’t particularly want to do it. Can I have my medal now?

    1. The Dreams v. Goals thing is similar to that… though I think you can go ahead and write a novel without it being a GOAL. The difference I’m finding is in prioritizing your time, and making choices that will further the goal, even if it’s stuff you don’t want to do.

      The Marathon book is a great example. Writing it was fun for me, so I did it. To achieve the dream of making myself the Rachael Ray of Running, I’d have had to do a lot of things that WEREN’T fun for me, like lots of additional research and traveling.

      If something is really a goal, you’re willing to do both the fun and the not-so-fun things to make it happen. I’ve been reading EAT THAT FROG, and it really resonates with me. For me, if I don’t eat the frogs, I’m dreaming… but I’m not doing what it takes to make that dream a reality.

      Not sure I’ve been any clearer… this is why I have an amazing editor… I might need one in real life, too… 🙂

  6. LOVE IT! I’ve been watching the Elise show from the ‘answer the phones for a TV show” days and it definitely has been like watching dreams unfold. I’m SURE you will not only reach your GOAL but get surprised where it takes you.

    “Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me…”

    Thanks for sharing.

    – Brett (am I the only guy who reads here?)

    1. Brett Dewey, ladies and gentlemen, the man responsible for naming an Under-Five after me in “California Dreams”… a role I actually got to play (poorly) on TV.

      Movin’ Right Along is among the best songs ever written. Just sayin’.

      Thanks for coming to the Ball, and for all your support!!!!

    1. High praise from a major butt-kicker. Miss M is anxiously awaiting the next installment of Fourth Grade Fairy. Harry Potter is tiding her over, but she’s anxious to see what happens to Willow and Winston.

      For my part, I’m 3/4 of the way through Hailey Kendrick, at which point I’ll have read everything you’ve had published. So get moving — I need more stuff to read!

  7. Actually found the TRAILER on your website this weekend and wondered why you were keeping it under wraps. Now I realize it was for today’s debut!

    Congratulations on that dream/goal coming true! 😀

    1. STEALTH trailer!!!!

      The shoot was crazy-fun. I’m going to put up some Behind the Scenes footage that should be lots of fun.

      Thanks, Larramie!

  8. First of all, The Muppet Movie rocks.

    Second of all, I love this trailer, and I don’t like book trailers much. Just the right amount of information in under a minute. I really don’t need over a minute of a book trailer. I won’t make it.

    1. I’m the same way, Sara. I have the attention span of a gnat. I want to get in, be amused/entertained, and get back out again.

      The Muppet Movie is spectacular, and while they’re not AS spectacular, I also love The Great Muppet Caper (Kermit and Fozzie as identical twins? BRILLIANT!) and even Muppets Take Manhattan. The rhyming frogs Kermit hangs with when he has amnesia make me ridiculously happy.

      I’ve worked with the Jim Henson Company for many years now, and it’s still an EXTREME effort not to geek out every time I’m on the lot. Don’t even get me started on my terrible behavior when I wrote the Muppet web series. I’m very lucky I wasn’t removed from the set.

    1. I understand it doesn’t work for you, Heather, but I appreciate you taking the time to come by and check it out — thanks!

  9. Ms. Allen: I liked the trailer, but why do you have to do a trailer for a book? Dosen’t the publishing house do the publicity?

    1. Totally understandable question, Rhonda! The truth is that the publishing house has a LOT of books at any given time, and there’s only so much they can do for each one. Sometimes a publishing house will finance a trailer, but more often it comes from the author.

      As for the bigger trailer of why a trailer in the first place, it’s becoming more and more common as the internet becomes a larger part of book marketing. and other retailers will show book trailers, as will book bloggers. In a market FULL of books, it’s one more way to get your story noticed.

      Book trailers are especially big in the YA universe (the trailer for SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR by Friend of the Debs Matthew Quick is terrific), but they’re also getting more and more popular for adult fiction, like our own Sarah Jio’s trailer for VIOLETS OF MARCH, or former Deb Sarah Pekkanen’s trailer for SKIPPING A BEAT.

      Do trailers actually help bottom line book sales? It’s hard to say — there’s no concrete data. But if a trailer gets the book on people’s radar, that’s a great thing.

    1. Now THAT’S an excellent question, Chelsea, but you’d have to read the book to find out.

      Thanks for checking out the trailer and commenting!

  10. I loved Elixir. Can’t wait for Populazzi. Tell me though, in fictional writing are the characters totally fictional? Are they based on real people or maybe a composite of both? How about Clea?

    1. I can’t speak for everyone’s fiction, Fran, but I know in mine (Populazzi) and Hilary’s (Elixir), the characters are indeed totally fictional. Of course there are things that are influenced by our own experiences (i.e. I set Populazzi in the suburbs of Philly because I grew up there, and I know it well; Hilary’s a happy newlywed, so it was easy for her to dive into the deep connection of soulmates in Elixir), but individual characters like Clea are fictitious.

    2. Also, I’m so happy you loved Elixir, and I’m thrilled you’re looking forward to Populazzi! Thanks!

  11. Fantastic trailer! Now I want an “I’m Quarky” t-shirt… and your book! Coming from Harcourt this August?
    Don’t forget a cautionary tale from The Muppet Movie: if you have a dream, someone can co-opt it and try to cook up your tasty little legs. To make a dream come true, you definitely need lots of luck and good friends (furry and otherwise) to make good.
    I think you’re right about goals, though– they involve concrete action plans and rely more on hard work than serendipity (although sometimes you still need both, especially in the publishing world).
    It looks like you’re connecting to great advocates through your work and this site, so I have a feeling Rainbow Connections are in your future. Brava!

    1. I LOVE the I’m Quarky T-shirt! Our costumer, Kresta Lins, made it, and I was dancing with glee when she told me.

      Hmmm, might have to look into making those as swag…

      Yup, the book will be out in August (though it’s already available for pre-order from Amazon and other fine retailers).

      Thank you for the word of caution. Makes me think of all those frogs on teeny tiny crutches.

      And yes, serendipity helps (especially if it’s Serendipity 3, and involves a Frozen Hot Chocolate), but it’s all about doing the work — both the really really fun work and the more-of-a-grind work — to make a goal come true. So… off to brew a pot of coffee and get back to eating my frog!



  12. You bring up a good contrast between the yin and yang of dreams and goals. Our dreams help us move down the path to something bigger and better than our current lives. Without setting small reachable goals moving us ever forward towards those bigger dreams we may wander that path forever without ever achieving our dreams or even finding new dreams along the way. I think we’ve all seen people who go through life still waiting for the one “big break” that will set them for life and you know they have done nothing to change their lives in ten or twenty years. You have followed your dreams and seen them evolve along with you as you achieve individual goals. Good luck as you take that to the next level and tie those individual goals together into a project plan for your career.

    1. Nope — it’s fiction. Although like my main character, I do think french fries taste great dipped in chocolate milkshake. 🙂

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