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)
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