Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Inspired Tuesdays: Wintry Blog Brushes

Inspired Tuesdays are a weekly spot on my blog about the things that inspire me to create. As you might notice, I now have a very wintry-looking blog. Yay! My blog's look needed a revamp, so I turned it blue and black striped. Then I thought it needed something more (since it was already such a wintry shade of blue) so I found these wonderful snowflake brushes from Meldir on Deviantart. If any of you use Photoshop 7 or higher, definitely download these brushes! They rock!

I also improved my blog banner/header, removing the nasty white pixels around the edges, putting a nice blue stroke around it, and including my blog title. Now it's Tim-Burtonish and wintry!

I had a good Christmas. I taught Sunday School, picked up my Christmas treat bag, then went home to help make Christmas lunch. The rest of the day was spent with family and the gift that keeps on giving - a nasty headcold. I'm still stewing in the symptoms of that little 'gift', but spiffing up my blog makes me feel better. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pizza and Free Puppies

There's no Inspired Tuesday post this week. But I did want to welcome all my new followers and say thanks for the comments! Blogs aren't very social things, but I wish they were. Comments feel like a one-way street and posting can seem like sticking a page of your journal up on a bulletin board, surrounded and often covered up by fliers for pizza delivery or free puppies. How can you compete with pizza and free puppies?

With the holidays coming up, I might disappear for awhile. Half my family is going out-of-state to visit in-laws, and I won't see them until after Christmas. We're planning to get together New Year's Day with the new members of the clan.

This year I've gained five new nieces and nephews, plus a sister-in-law. I already had two nephews and a brother-in-law, two sisters, a brother, and a mom. Wrangling all those people isn't an easy task. Neither is finding a date when everyone is free. (Here's hoping everyone else's holiday family-wrangling goes smoothly!)

For all my friendly followers and commenters, here's a bit of my odd music taste! These songs make me happy. Hope you like them too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Taste of Wrath and Envy

Tis the season for Full Metal Alchemist fanart. Meet my two favorite homunculi Envy and Wrath. (they're even red and green!) Click the images for a bigger view of each. For those not familiar with FMA, Wrath is on the top of the lefthand card and Envy is on the top of the right. (I flipped them so you could see Envy better.) I used artistic license a bit here, since Wrath's hair isn't really red, and his face isn't really that scary. Also, as far as I know, Envy doesn't have a tongue that long, but it fit the concept.

What are your favorite homunculi? Or if you're not an FMA fan, the Seven Deadly Sins?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest - Lividia Story Teaser

It's time for the Deja Vu blogfest! This blogfest is all about reposting an old post that you feel is worthy of a larger audience.

I chose for my post a teaser of the novel I'm currently submitting to agents. I call it Lividia: A Shadow Story. It's a YA historical fantasy with dark nursery rhyme and fairytale elements, and plenty of shadows. It's the story of a Victorian girl who reawakens to herself and a world only she can see. I'm so excited over this book and the series that it's given rise to for me, that I had to share it - again!

(Nox Arcana's Lullaby played through many of Lividia's night-time scenes.)

Chapter One: The Man in the Dream

Lividia lay awake, gazing at the ceiling past the posts of her bed, and wondering what secrets her mother never told her. At seventeen, she had learned to live without her, learned to be a proper young lady, with proper goals and dreams. But there was always something there, an uncertainty that plagued upon her mind.

With fingers folded atop an old gothic novel, Lividia pondered for hours, until the wick of her candle had burnt down, and the wax was filling the dish. The shadows cast were long and gaping, engulfing most of the room, except for the halo of light around her side of the bed. Within that vast amount of shadow something stirred, but Lividia didn’t notice, for she had fallen asleep.

In her dream there was a corridor, a set of stairs, a carpet, and then a room – her room. Finally, she was looking upon herself in her own bed as she saw herself sleeping. She wasn’t alone in the room. Beside her bed was a figure, just a little taller than she was. What skin she saw was so pale in the light that it looked white. Only a face, and gray, fingerless gloves, but she could tell it was a man. He was dressed in a dark blue jacket with a high collar and loose bowtie. Shadows consumed the lower half of him, making it too dark to see.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dare to Dream

I haven't had a lot of time online for a couple days, and wasn't able to participate in this week's Roadtrip Wednesday (which looked like fun), so I thought I'd get on for a quick inspiring entry tonight.

With Christmas fast approaching, family feels closer than ever before, and the new year is sparkling ahead (or looming ahead, in some cases). What is on your mind this time of year? Getting through the holidays? Taking that trip to visit in-laws? Making your list of New Year's resolutions?

I have a ton of things on my mind. The energy in the air makes me want to get out, but the crowds of people make me want to run back home again. (I'm so torn!) I'm thinking of a new job, but the one I have is just now starting to take off. I want to freelance illustrate, but I also need time to work on my second book and get an agent for the first one. It's like candy-colored chaos in my head!

The approaching New Year feels like a new beginning to me, and it didn't used to. I was always a little wary of it, unsure of what lay ahead. But this year I have resolutions to spare, plans I haven't even thought of, and goals that dangle like a carrot, waiting for me to come get them.

What are your plans, and aspirations for this New Year? How about for the holidays? (Survival is always a good answer.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Inspired Tuesdays: Starry-Ebooks

It's time for another Inspired Tuesday! Inspired Tuesdays are all about inspiration, what inspires us, what motivates us to do what we do. I love these installments.

Last night I met a writer in a chatroom who heavily inspired this particular post. She told me she was going to self-publish and, as I was cringing and asking her if that's what she really wanted, she told me why. It made me really take a harder look at the self-pub ebook phenomenon. That's what this Inspired Tuesday's post is about.

Before I start, I'd like to clarify that this post is about ebook publication, not self-publishing printed books. Ebooks have become a huge phenomenon, providing another means for writers to get their work to readers in our tech-happy society. This electronic book craze is scaring the crud out of agents and publishing companies, because they no longer have the keys to the kingdom. It should also offer new authors hope that maybe 'no' from an agent (or a hundred) isn't the final word in their writing career.

I started out very wary of ebooks. Worried how they would affect my chances at traditional publishing, worried how I would promote my books, worried I wouldn't get any money out of it if my book didn't do well. There are no advances in self-pub, but you do get royalties. In this article at How to Write a Book Now Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing the money issues are outlined pretty well. Sort of a "publishing ebooks for dummies".

A lot of my concerns about self-publishing ebooks was grounded in my ignorance of what it is and how it worked. Other writers who shared my fears probably did for the same reason. We saw it as a backup option if you tried and failed at traditional publishing, or we saw it as a means for a 'quick and easy' author title. In some cases, that's just what it is, but not all cases. The Seduction of Self-Publishing, over at Terrible Minds has a litmus test to see if self-publication is right for you. If you're considering self-pubbing an ebook, I highly recommend reading that first.

At one end of the spectrum you have writers (and publishers) who don't take ebooks seriously and who don't see it as 'real' publishing, and at the other end you have writers who laud ebooks as the best thing since sliced bread. They say self-publishing is the new 'it' thing and that ebooks will pave the road to glamor and success. They paint a pretty picture, but it's really paved with a lot of hard work, money spent on advertising your ebook, and methods to get your book edited professionally before you hit the big bucks. And some writers never do.

A number of ebook-published writers make enough royalties on their sales to get by, or to add a secondary income to their household, but I haven't heard of many who hit the bigtime. In the article How I Became a Best-Selling Author one ebook-published writer recounts her success, and how she did hit the bigtime. After reading her story, I can nod and say "yes, that was the perfect path for her." But it isn't the perfect path for everyone.

A big lesson I've learned from my venture into YA publishing, is that you have to know your audience. You have to know who you're writing to. Are you writing to adults, or children? What about teenagers? Do you know how to reach them? Do you know what type of materials they read, or how they access those materials?

A lot of teens still get their books from brick-and-mortar bookstores or their local library. They ask for the latest YA sensation for Christmas or their birthdays and it shows up with a ribbon around it. Most of the time, it isn't an ebook. But with the popularity of Kindles, Nooks, and Ipads, this is changing fast. (Readers may be familiar with the story of YA author Amanda Hocking who exploded ebook sales and went on to sign with St. Martin's Press this year.)

That's why I suggest writers (especially those of YA) do some research. Find out where your readers go to find the stories they love, and then decide how you want to publish your book. It would be crazy for a coloring-book artist to publish ebooks, just as it would be crazy for Darcie Chan to continue getting nowhere with traditional publishing.

I've decided to go down the traditional publishing path. I love the thrill of querying, even when I get rejections, the security of working with a team of people all trained to do a specific job, preventing me from having to do all the work myself. It's a lot of work to write a book and illustrate it, let alone get it out there and publicize it. And if someone else is distributing it, publicizing it is not such a problem.

I'd love to see it on shelves and say "I made that", including the illustrations on the book jacket. And I'm fully prepared to fight tooth and nail to get as much creative freedom as I can, and find an agent who agrees with me. If I didn't want all of that, I'd definitely consider the ebook route.

All you have to do is reach your readers, whether that is with ebooks or traditional publishing. Find the information you need to make your dream happen, and never sell yourself short. I wish you luck in whatever approach you choose!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Who-nouncements and Christmastime Fangirling

My Doctor Who fanart Chasing Starlight will be featured in the fanzine The Terrible Zodin at the end of this month, accompanying reviews of the new season with the 11th Doctor. I felt pretty honored when they asked if they could use it. I also have to give props to Leslie McMurtry for her nonprofit work as editor of the fanzine. It takes a pretty diehard fan to work without pay!

You can help encourage The Terrible Zodin by dropping by their blog and checking out the 'zine. Fellow Whovians might also want to follow them.

Don't forget the Doctor Who Christmas special The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe at 7pm EST on Christmas Day. You can read more and watch the prequel at BBC.com. I've been chomping at the bit for this one. *twitches and foams at the mouth* December 25th can't come soon enough!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Boogie Down!

I just sent six queries out tonight and I'm floating! It's such an incredible rush to write a query you're proud of and take that plunge. And when I plunge, I plunge big. I don't think I could get a better high if I hang-glided off the top of the Empire State building! (and that wouldn't be a high anyway, that'd be pure terror!)

Pardon me while I go dance around my dining room. Feel free to join me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roadtrip: Only if my book had leopard spots

I haven't done a Roadtrip Wednesday in weeks! And I'm glad I chose today to jump back in!

This week's Roadtrip Wednesday Topic:

How far would you go to get published?

Would you:

1.) Jump on the trend train?
2.) Switch to a well-selling genre?
3.) Do minor revisions requested to sign with an agent?
4.) Do major revisions requested by an editor?
(This next one I'm adding because it's one I've tangled with a lot.)
5.) Eliminate the illustrations or let house illustrators do them?

When I first saw this topic, I thought "Wow, does that mean the guy in the fuzzy hat, gold teeth, and walking stick is my agent?" Then I read the sections and I understood a little better.

Rather than just being petulant and giving you a big fat "No!" I'll break it down into what is "no", what is "yes" and what is "it depends". ("It depends" seems to be a very popular answer for these.)

#1 - No. I have a problem with trends, just because they are trends. Most of the time I get so sick of them that I couldn't imagine writing something for them. I'm either ahead of trends, or behind them, and that is fine with me. If it turns out that this book series I'm working on is part of a trend in the future, then WOO-HOO! But just know I didn't do it intentionally.

#2 - Maybe. I write YA. And right now it just so happens to be a well-selling genre. But if it wasn't, I'd base my decision on what I like to read. If I like to read it, chances are someone else does and that means there'd be a market for it somewhere.

#3 - Minor revisions? Oh, heck yes. In fact, I'd expect them. What worries me is this next bit.

#4 - Major revisions from an editor. I live in fear of this one. I'm currently unpublished, but everyone tells me this will happen. They say editors like to rip your MS apart and make it into a totally different story. I think that's a bit extreme. (and possibly not altogether true.) I would fight that with every last breath.

Here's an exception: if an editor asked me to alter plot, and I felt it actually helped in the long run (long run being the fact this is going to be a series). I would probably agree to that.

#5 - NO! (I knew I'd get that petulant "no" in here somewhere.) Never ever, ever. And I'll tell you why.

My current MS - I LOVE this story. It's the first in a YA Victorian fantasy series I've been thinking about for a very long time. It has slightly odd, underdog, fish-out-of-water characters. It has dark nursery-rhyme and fairytale elements. It also has illustrations, done by me - chapter headers and a few internal full-pagers. I also plan to do the cover. And I will too.

I have my MFA in Illustration, and I've been drawing longer than I've been writing. Therefore, I am skilled enough to illustrate my own books and anyone else's books who wants me. So, of course I'd have trouble with someone telling me I had to toss out the illustrations I'd worked so hard on.

This is my book, and to take out the illustrations would remove a wonderful element of the story. (For the full rant on that, check out this post.)

To wrap it all up, I wouldn't change my story just to be trendy, just to make the best-seller list. Sure, it would be nice if I made the list. But, I'd rather create something that would trend only in a niche market of those who would really appreciate it.

How about you? How far would you go to sell your book?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Inspired Tuesdays: You

Sometimes it's very hard to get yourself inspired. When the things you love to do don't turn out the way you want, when people don't make you feel validated at all, you just have to validate yourself. Tell yourself that you rock. Play the songs that make you feel like the success you know you are - before the world has found out about you.

Think of it like a big secret. You're the only one in the world who knows it, but soon everyone will. Soon, you'll be so busy you'll have to apologize to the blogging world for being away on tour, working on your next book, talking to your agent/editor/publisher. Sorry, you'll say. I love all of you, but I'm so busy lately! I promise I'll see you at my next book signing!

You won't have the time to check your twitter or email as often. You won't have time to sign into Facebook and spend hours chatting to your friends. Your dream will have arrived, and you'll be embracing it with open arms saying "Where have you been all my life?"

You won't have to wait anymore. Just think of it. This is the last year you'll have this much free time - to worry over queries, to suffer through rejections, to tweet to fellow writers about your #fridayreads, to painstakingly assemble the perfect playlist for that manuscript you're working on.

Enjoy your time, and enjoy every agonizing minute that you're still unpublished. Because we both know it's only a matter of time before you are.

Have an Inspired Tuesday!

(This is a heartfelt message to you amazing aspiring authors, myself included.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

If You've Got the Notion...

Mondays are usually very busy for me, so I'm dropping a quick entry tonight. I love December and all the potential it holds, and I'm revved up by all the energy in the air. Like I told a friend of mine, in small towns where it feels like just you and maybe ten other people, December shopping makes it seem like those ten people have multiplied by hundreds. And they're all out - on backroads, on highways, in the stores. Everywhere!

I've been feeling some pressure lately to get myself a blogging schedule, to improve my posts if there's something I'm missing that people want to read. I don't want to end up like those holiday shoppers - the ones who hyperventilate when the last popular toy is gone and they don't know if they can find another one by Christmas. I want to enjoy the season with my family and remember what's important. (And it's not all the presents.)

Blogging is supposed to be fun. And I am determined to make it fun again. So, what I want to know is, do you like this blog the way it is? Would you like to see something more from it? More book reviews, more writing information, more art posts? Now's the time for constructive criticism!

Here's some oldschool for you (and my song to blogging)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Introducing Lividia

I decided to take a break from a larger illustration I'm working on to show you a piece of it. I wanted to introduce you to Lividia Blackwell, the main character of my YA Victorian fantasy series. Her first book (which I call A Shadow Story) is finished, the second in progress.

This is Lividia.

Lividia Blackwell is the only daughter of Samuel and Elira Blackwell. Her hair is very dark and her eyes are very light. They are gray-blue and always look a little sad. She has the appearance of someone who has seen what no one else can see. And she has.

Lividia is seventeen, tall, and very thin. She is so pale that when she wears white she startles people. She has a habit of exploring her large stone house when everyone else has gone to bed. She also has a habit of finding out secrets. Lividia has always been good at finding things - especially things that no one wants found.

Lividia's personality is like a jewelry box with a secret compartment. Beneath what you expect to find is always something more. She's thoughtful, curious, and observant. She is brave but doesn't realized just how brave she is. Her temper flares brighter over an injustice done to a loved one than to herself. If she is faced with a problem, she considers it from all angles before diving into it. She is only frightened by what she can't rationalize. And it's what she can't rationalize that draws her.

Lividia is most comfortable curled up in a chair in her father's library, reading gothic novels. She doesn't mind library dust, since she doesn't trust rooms that are too clean. They remind her of museums.

Lividia's favorite color is emerald green. Blue is her second favorite. She admires purple on other people, but thinks it makes her look like a giant bruise. Red is completely out of the question. (It is also her cousin Nephenia's favorite color, but I'll talk about her later.)

Lividia's favorite animal is actually an arachnid. She's fascinated by spiders. She always has been and she assumes she always will be. They're terribly dangerous for something so delicate, and they are good at sewing. That's why she admires them.

Lividia is a late bloomer. She might be seventeen, but she resents the pressure society and her father has put upon her to grow up. Most of her interest in young men is confined to the heroes in her books. She isn't impressed by money or power. If she were to pick a match for herself, she would want just that. A match. A friend and a companion. Someone with whom she could share her dreams, her thoughts, and her day.

Lividia's mother wasn't human, but Lividia doesn't know just how different she is yet. My first book is the story of her discovery and the path it leads her down.

I really like Lividia so far and I hope you do too. You'll be reading about her as soon as I can get this book published!

The music I listen to the most when writing Lividia is Delirium. Here are two of their songs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yay, blog candy!

Thanks to Bailey at Over Yonder for giving me the Liebster award!
This award is meant to draw attention to blogs that deserve more attention. If you're curious about the name, Bailey shared that liebster is German for "favorite" or "dearest." Sweet, huh?

After you receive this award you:

1. Post this award on your blog.
2. Thank and link to the person who gave it to you.
3. Pass it on to five bloggers who have less than 200 followers.
4. Comment on those five people's blogs to share the good news.

Here are my five:

Cara M. at CP Slayer - so much love!
Zakgirl at Zakgirl On - as nice in chat as she is on her blog!
Skye at Write or Die Trying - this girl should have more followers!
Mara at Now Motivated - brand new blogger. Go make her feel welcome!
Arianna Sterling - been around the blog a few times, but this one's new to her.

Enjoy reading over these new blogs, folks! And keep passing the love around!

Inspired Tuesdays: Where Do You Get Ideas?

I broke my blogging fast to post an Inspired Tuesdays question. Inspired Tuesdays is a blog prompt. You can answer it in comments or link to your own blog post. Don't forget to check back here every Tuesday for a new prompt!

This week's question: Where do you get your ideas?
No, I don't mean what you read, or what you watch. I mean location.

Mine is the bathroom. Specifically, the shower.

(check out this terrifying shower curtain. I wouldn't sleep for weeks!)

It's the one place in my house where I have nothing to do but think. No one can interrupt a shower - well, they can try but it's usually not very effective. There's no information to absorb but bubbles and steam. There're no cats to feed or children to chase after. It's a perfect place to let ideas flow.

The only problem with bathing brainstorming is that if you get an idea, you often lose it before you're dry enough to write it down. When I googled shower brainstorming, I found this, and think it's a great concept:

It can be found on the gadget page of NeatNewStuff.com. What a practical little gadget for writers!

Well, that's the end of this Inspired Tuesdays. Where do you get ideas? What makes that place special? Don't forget to leave a comment.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Deja Vu and Other News

So, this blog hop landed right in my lap, thanks to Bailey at Over Yonder getting it from Colin who got it from the lovely people who started it. (Isn't it great how the blogosphere works?) I'd been thinking about this very thing lately - a chance to repost an old blog post that I don't think got enough attention. It saves me having to write a new post, and it gives me a chance to meet a whole bunch of new people. It also gives me some exposure, which is nice. Never underestimate exposure. If you get a chance, check it out. It's made of win.

Now, on to the 'other news'. I've tried before (unsuccessfully) to cut back my blogging, but instead I became a blog addict. I don't have it organized, I blog on whims, and my followers never know when I'm going to blog. I pretty much break all the blogging rules I've read. (I'll make a post about that sometime. Should be fun.)

I'm trying to work on getting organized, but I've always had a problem with it. They say artists are innately disorganized, but that could just be a myth. So, in effort to get organized, I'm trying to cut back on blogging yet again. It might make it easier on my followers too, since you'll know what to expect and when to expect it. (more or less)

I appreciate all of you. I'll have to do some kind of contest in the future to reward you guys. I'm still thankful my introduction to the blogging world has gone so well. So, here's me signing off until I get a better schedule. (which means I'll probably pop up later this week with a post or two. ...Boy, this isn't going to be easy.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Don't Tell Me 'No'

It's been awhile since my Dance Mix for Rejection and this post is along the same lines. I attended Writers Chatroom last night, and left with new passion and new fire for what I do.

In case you're new to this blog, I'm an illustrator who writes novels. Sometimes I don't feel like I belong completely in either group because of that. I haven't met many other author/illustrators, but I know they're out there, so I know I'm not alone. I also know they are up against a big wall in the publishing industry: house illustrators. I've been told many times that publishers don't want author/illustrators because they have their own illustrators. I've been told this so much, I get tired of hearing it. I've been told this so much, I don't care anymore.

I have a confession: I don't like being told 'no'. I'm not talking "No, you can't have that doll for Christmas". The kind of 'no' I mean is "No, you can't do that/have that/be that because it's hard/only for people who aren't you". When I hear "No, you can't illustrate your own novels" I feel defeated before I even try. I might as well just give up sending my queries now. I might as well hang up my pens and ink. I get defensive, I get passionate, I get ticked off. I feel as though those people telling me 'no' don't believe in me, don't think I'm worth it, and don't understand how good I am at what I do.

I understand when something has been in place for so long that people are loathe to change it. But that doesn't mean it can't be changed. That doesn't mean that the right connections, the right persistence, the right drive, the right query at the right time can't make a difference. From what I've seen and experienced, the publishing industry is all about the right connections, and the right query at the right time to the right person. I believe in that right time, and myself. I also believe in God, and above all, I know He has a right plan for my life. Who's to say this isn't it?

The people I admire have written books that launched vast franchises, illustrated comics that changed the industry, designed characters for movies, games or television that no one will ever forget, and no one can tell them now that they can't do it. No one would have the nerve to tell Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton they couldn't do something. And once upon a time, those men were unpublished, and underappreciated. We all start somewhere. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, the list goes on.

Writers and artists need to be careful who they're talking to when they try to give a 'wake up' call to one of their peers. Even if you mean well, you might be building a wall of "no" and "can't" with your advice that should never be built. Let them face 'no' when the rejections start pouring in. Let them hear "can't" from someone else's lips, but not yours. There are enough naysayers out there without adding to the noise. They need your encouragement, not your negativity.

I first decided to include a few illustrations and chapter headers in my YA novel because an agent suggested it. Not a fellow writer, not myself, but an agent. She told me that agents are starting to want author/illustrators now. They like a package. That was only a few years ago. Since then I've grown my confidence to the point that I won't accept anything less than that dream. If I have to work hard, if I have to go through a mountain of rejections, I will see that dream fulfilled. I will not accept 'no'.

I've just started querying this year. Just started on the path that will lead me to publication. I don't need to hear 'no' this early. And neither does any other new writer. So save your 'no's and 'can't's unless you're saying "No! You can't give up!" Be a motivator, not a demotivator.

Here's a motivational song for ya.
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