Monday, December 17, 2012

Return to Yourself

Have you ever heard those little voices in your head and realized they weren't yours? They're tidbits of 'advice' you pick up here and there, designed to make you feel bad about yourself, the direction you're headed, and the choices you've made. They might wear the mask of guidance or friendship, or professional comradery, but when you get them in the light, they reveal themselves for what they are: bullies, designed to tear you down as they build others up. They remind me of spellcheck or grammar check in Microsoft Word, and just like these, you can turn them off. You know how to write. You know the rules. Now write what you want, how you want. Draw what you want. Live how you want. The chance doesn't come around again.

This post didn't come from out of the blue. It's just another reminder, to myself and to you. All of you. Get away from the voices that aren't yours so that you can hear yourself better. Get quiet, get alone, and get back to who you are when those voices aren't badgering you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Good Fridays: Yes, Virginia, You Can Unclutter!

This Friday I have to share with you a book I picked up at the library entitled Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland. I admit, I'm leery of books that make lofty promises or pitch drastic organizational techniques. I often read a little bit of one, try to do what it suggests, and end up burning out, my house and attitude reverting right back to how it was. But this book is different. It doesn't just promise to help you unclutter your house, but to simplify your life so that you enjoy what you have more. It includes your work experiences, your obligations, social interactions, and time management.

Reading this book has actually lifted my mood and given me a goal beyond just getting my house clean: making myself happy. The author suggests that readers envision something that makes them happy to use as inspiration for following the steps in the book. Do you know what my inspiration is? Decorating for Christmas.

I know it might seem small, but I have massive guilt over buying and setting up seasonal decorations. I have a small house, and nowhere to really store anything. No closets or corners for bins. So even if I see something seasonal in the store, I talk myself out of buying it. I envy the sprawling decorations at the library where I work, the decorations outside the houses I pass as I drive home, but I always feel that I can't have them because I have nowhere to put them.
Unclutter Your Life in One Week gives me hope that I can decorate for the holidays just like everyone else. It makes me think of my clutter in small manageable pieces, and offers steps and checklists to help me deal with it. There are even lists to keep me from bringing anything I don't need or can't use into my house. And one of the points on the list includes if the item brings you joy (or helps you "develop the remarkable life you want to live").

I'm still reading this book, but already it's one that I don't want to put down. When I have to return it, I might even buy my own copy (or ask for one for Christmas). It doesn't depress me like other organizational books. It doesn't make me feel inadequate if I don't keep up the cleaning regiment it suggests. It offers a change bigger than the stuff in my house and I love that.

What good thing do you have to share this Friday?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why Jack Frost?

Most of you have heard by now about the Dreamworks movie Rise of the Guardians (and if you haven't, I don't know what rock you've been living under). A lot of you have probably already seen it, and, as one artist on Devianart surmised, probably because of Jack Frost. I'll admit, I'm one of those hooked by the trailers featuring Jack. So, I'm wondering why are people so drawn to him?

Dreamworks has a great version of Jack: a simple design with a lot of personality injected into it. But it's what Jack represents that makes his character so appealing. 60% youth and beauty, 40% freedom and power.

Our society worships youth and beauty. It's heavy in our advertisements, our television shows, the cultures we try to emulate (like Japan). But youth doesn't just include appearance. It also includes a playful attitude, and freedom from consequence that childhood is. Of course, Jack isn't the first to embody this concept.

Freedom and power, coupled with the attitude of a boy about twelve years old - we all know who that reminds us of. It's a strong childhood tie that no marketing can challenge, a concept that's been visited and revisited in many forms since J.M. Barrie first brought the story to life. So, why not bring it back?

I applaud Dreamworks for taking this approach to Jack, since it's one we can't seem to get enough of. The UK has a penchant for turning out larger-than-life, forever young adventurers and it's time America got one of its own.

Girls want to date him and boys want to be him. That's why so many people love Jack Frost. One opinion, anyway.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Good Fridays: My Blog Rebirthday

Today's a Good Fridays Post, which means I highlight a good experience of the week and ask about yours.

This blog has been through so much in a year - and it's been about a year since I started blogging regularly. Even in that time, I feel like I'm still trying to get a handle on navigating the blogging world. I've changed the look of my blog a few times, experimented with different types of posts to see which readers respond to, participated in bloghops and contests. I've learned a lot and met a lot of new people. I've also had lots of fun.

This past Fall I got a new job which takes time away from the blog, but supplements my life in wonderful ways. I'll try to share more about it, so that you won't just be reading about my writing/querying experiences, my illustration and hobbies, but also my library work.

In the spirit of improving this blog, I've finally bitten the bullet and installed Disqus. I avoided it for a long time because I was afraid of losing my old comments, but hopefully they'll import just fine. In the meantime, comments might be a little wonky.

The reason for Disqus is that I miss interacting with blog readers. I miss making friends through my blog and sharing interests with other people. I've fallen behind in visiting everyone's blogs since the new job, but I'm eager to pick back up again.

So, what's your good news for the week?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Do Writers Handle the Holidays?

Lighten up, James. And don't sue me.
After this recent blog break and getting through Thanksgiving, I'm wondering how other writers are managing the stress and excitement of the holidays. A writing schedule can be hard to keep up during the rest of the year, but toward Christmas, things seem to speed up for the downhill ride to New Year. It can be a depressing time of the year for a lot of people. Days are shorter, nights are colder, and memories hang a little closer to our hearts.

For a lot of writers, December means the start of revisions for Nano, and the planning of another year's projects. Whether this means querying, starting something new, or taking a well-deserved break, it's all about change and new challenges.

I use December as a time to get cozy with the family and settle in to writing more on my current projects. I find myself gravitating to other writers to share ideas and encourage each other. While the world is in high-gear madness, I put the brakes on. Or at least I try to. It's hard to move slowly in a fast world, but the longer I live, the less I feel like rushing.

How do you handle the holidays? Do you think it's a time to speed up or slow down?

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Cube Game

If you've heard of this game before, you can either share your own parts of the cube in the comments or pass the game on to your friends and see what their answers are. (And if you've done the Cube Game before, don't post spoilers, please.) The Cube game is from the book Secrets of the Cube.

I did this game recently with both of my sisters and we had a ball with it. Then I did it with my mom and nearly cried over her horse (when you find out what that means, you'll understand). The game is an imagination game that's supposed to reveal your true self to you, but I just think it's an interesting game. Also, once you've played the game, you're not supposed to tell anyone else what the pieces in the game mean until they've played the game or you'll spoil the fun.

Here it goes!

Imagine a desert. Simple. Just sand and horizon. Picture your desert.
Now, imagine a cube in that desert.
What does it look like?
How big is it?
What is it made of?
What color is it?
Where is it located?

 Next, imagine a ladder in the landscape with the cube. Describe the ladder.
What is it made of?
How tall is it?
Where is it in relation to the cube?

Third, there is a horse in the landscape.
What kind of a horse is it?
What color?
What is it doing?
How close is it to the cube and the ladder?

Fourth, there are flowers in the landscape. Describe them.
What kind are they?
What color and size?
How many?
Where are they located?

And lastly, there is a storm in the landscape. Describe the storm.
Where in the landscape is it?
What kind of a storm?
How does it affect or not affect the cube, the ladder and the horse?

Now that you have your image and your landscape is complete, click here and find out what all of your pieces mean. 

Feel free to share your own cube, ladder, horse, flowers and storm in the comments, but don't reveal the answers! Have fun! (Later on, I'll share the parts of my own cube.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Are you Ready for Winter?

I don't know about you, but there's something about Winter - especially in books and movies - that's magical. Even though it's cold, uncomfortable, and dark for way too long, there's beauty in the ice and snow.

A lot of books (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for instance) focus on Winter in a magical or supernatural way. My own novel A Shadow Story begins with a Winter storm.

How many books have you read with Winter as a theme or integral part of the setting? How does it affect the tone of the book? Does it help to make it more magical/spooky/uncomfortable for you or the MC?


Winter Nymph 6x2.5 inches, air-dry clay
I also wanted to share with you a neat little discovery I made today. A sculpture I created two years ago of a tree nymph with bare winter branches has this year sprouted what looks like crystals. At first I was surprised and then I was delighted because the crystals were exactly what the piece needed to come alive!

I proceeded to take tons of pictures of her to try and capture the glittering effect. This is as close as I got.

The nymph is made out of Crayola air-dry clay, untreated, unpainted, and left sitting in a china cabinet. I've never seen anything like it before!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Living Dead Girl

2003 pen and ink illustration
No, not the song by Rob Zombie. That's just how I feel today. It's been a very hard week. I went to the viewing for my aunt over the weekend, and last night after work I got an email from an agent with a full rejection. Then there was the election. The stress of everything just left me feeling threadbare. It was a long day, followed by an even longer night.

Since the weekend, I've experienced anger, frustration, despair, more anger, sorrow, disappointment, resentment. All the fun ones. Last night it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I found that family is the best support in a time like this. They understand, they agree, and they sympathize.

Things feel somewhat better today. I'm moving through the stages of grief and into acceptance - of everything. I'm starting with the things I can actually do something about.

I'm thinking I approached queries from the wrong angle. I might have to query my novel as middle grade to get the right response from agents. I've considered it before, but made it hard on myself because I thought I'd have to change my entire story to fit the middle grade label. Maybe I don't.

How many of you have had to alter your query approach or relabel your manuscript? How did it work out for you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Old Ghosts and New Glitter

Velvet In My Veins - 2005
Today I decided to redo an old piece from 2005 which needed redoing since the anatomy was horrible. The new piece isn't full-body, but it's a start. I got to play around with my tablet, starting with an all black layer. Then it was up to adding the highlights and details (and SPARKLES). Step back, Edward Cullen! This is my OC Silvan - a very old OC who hasn't made it into novels yet.

Your Disaster - 2012

I think I just wanted to draw Silvan again. His hair is naturally aqua because he's fae (among other things). As such, he's handsome and self-centered, scandalous, and full of turbulent emotions. His tainted nature requires him to feed off of human desire, depleting their energy. He has the ability to entrance humans using pheromones and his singing voice. Women are drawn to him and men dislike him, so he doesn't stay in one place for long. He often chases after those who present the biggest challenge. (Due to an event he prefers not to speak of, he's given up singing)

Silvan is very social, but also selfish and spoiled. He's drawn to the party scene and anywhere humans gather to lose their inhibitions. His relationships rarely last, causing crippling loneliness... until he finds someone new. He keeps his love interests around through boyish charm, fae magic, and the fact he's emotionally immature, bringing out their nurturing tendencies. Silvan's life goal is to find a family with someone strong enough to love him, and to find a purpose other than hunting for his next meal.

This character is much older than 2005 and has a backstory longer than my arm. Here are a couple songs from his playlist:

(This is what I imagine his singing voice to sound like.)

Silvan was inspired by this notorious womanizer (for those of you who know anime):

Sha Gojyo from Gensomaden Saiyuki

I used to draw Silvan with a cigarette poking out of his mouth too, but there are other ways to make a character look like bad news.

Ladies, what is it about the bad boys?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Already?

I'm very glad it's Friday. Somehow all this week I haven't managed to catch up on sleep. So now it's a little after 8pm and I'm exhausted. Sleep debt is no joke, people.

This is a Good Fridays post, though it might be disguised as an update. It can be that too. I had a big fat Monday update planned but I ended up losing interest. I blame the weather.

Since Good Fridays posts are all about something good, I'll tell you something that hasn't happened yet, but has still made my week brighter. My job is fluctuating and talk is going around that things could get better than they already are. More hours, different positions opening - pretty exciting stuff!

Also, working at the library has given me great opportunities to use what I know to help the patrons. This means recommending books to kids and teens, helping other writers find resources, and giving technical assistance to the elderly. One of my favorite parts of my job is working circulation desk to answer people's questions and help them find the books and movies they're looking for. It's so awesome that I'm thankful every time I drive to work. I'm the custodian of all these books and I get to lurk among their shelves and offer them to people to take home! - I'll feel that even more when I'm finally handing my own book across the desk to people to check out. 

What I've been reading lately (if you don't follow me on Goodreads): Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy. What I'm about to read: Veronica Roth's Insurgent. What I just finished reading: Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord. I love Pratchett. Veronica has a pace and style similar to Hunger Games, but I still think her concept sets her apart. I plan to read more by Cornelia soon. Probably Reckless.

A few I plan on reading are: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross, Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr, and The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber. If you've read any of them and would like to give me your opinions, I'd love to hear it.

The last movies I watched: Marvel's The Avengers (in which Hulk was my favorite), Morning Glory on Netflix, and A Thousand Words with Eddie Murphy. All good movies. All taught me something. One of those was that Hulk bashing Loki into the ground like a ragdoll is a vision of beauty.

What about you? What good things do you have to report this Friday?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

RTW: Feeling Halloweeny

 Roadtrip Wednesday today is about our favorite scary books and movies. As for me, I love all the kid movies and cartoons they play on tv this time of year. I'd rather watch those than adult horror movies to get in the Halloween mood. Here are just a few.

If you haven't seen it, you absolutely must see The Halloween Tree (or read the book, which I still need to do). It's a story of the history of Halloween, told to and through a small group of trick-or-treaters whose friend is sick with appendicitis. They go on a journey through Halloweens past to learn the origins of Halloween and also save their friend's life. I loved the animation and the story by Ray Bradbury that went with it.

Another movie I love is Hocus Pocus, followed closely by Casper. And if you're really into the season, you'll have to include The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. Pretty much anything with Christina Ricci being creepy.

That's it for my Halloween books and movies! How about yours?

To get you feeling Halloweeny, here are a couple songs I like:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ashes to Ashes...

And dust to dust.

I kept seeing so many sugar skull illustrations and photos of girls in sugar skull face paint on Deviantart that I had to try it with Lividia. This spontaneous digital illustration was done in roughly two hours.

Spooky, isn't she? She definitely wears skull makeup well. Whether this has bearing on her adventures in A Shadow Story or the books beyond, I'll never tell! Her eyes are closed for a reason.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Self-Imposed Deadlines and the Beauty of the Journey

Over on YA Highway today they're talking about Nanowrimo and who's going to participate. I've gone through a tug-of-war over Nano for two years now and I never end up participating. Once, I tried, but I quickly lost interest in my new concept and preferred to work on the series I'm hopelessly in love with. I also didn't include any word counts for Nano.

from the article: What's the point of Nanowrimo?
I always balk at things that 'everyone's doing' and wonder that a writing race can cause so much stir in the writing community. I'm glad so many are finding comradery in it, but those of us who don't participate have to wait a whole month before we become part of the community again. If you're not Nanoing, you're not cool. I'm not concerned about being cool, though. The cool people peak in high school.

I've heard too many stories of Nanoers hating their nano-spawn so that they don't touch it again after they finish. They rush their words to reach the quota instead of enjoying their story and the journey it takes them on. Then they're faced with a daunting pile of words to shape into a publishable story. But not every nanoer's goal is to publish, and not every nanoer hates their finished product at the end of the month. Some simply want to prove they can finish a novel in that time. That's a good enough reason to do Nano.

The main concern I have with Nano is the assumption it can work for everyone. I've learned that my process of writing (pantsing), researching, brainstorming, writing and editing wouldn't work for a goal like Nano. And that's perfectly fine.

This brings me to thanking everyone for their comments on the last post Is Your Path to Publication a Hiking Trail? My path is a hiking trail, but it's a lovely one. We aren't trying to race each other to publishing. If we were, there'd be a whole lot more self-published (and poorly-written) work out there.

So if you're doing Nano or not, don't forget your goals and your reason for having them. When things get tough, remind yourself what you've already accomplished and what you've learned.

Getting anxious on the trail happens, but it helps to remind yourself how far you've come. I've learned I can turn out a novel in a matter of months, going at my own pace, and I'm pretty proud of that.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Is Your Path to Publication a Hiking Trail?

I've reached my 200th blog post (the one before this) and I would've thought by now I'd be writing about the joys of publication, but my path seems to be a hiking trail rather than a sidewalk. It's taking the scenic route.

Here's my question to you. Would you prefer your path to publication be a sidewalk or a hiking trail?

appalachian hiking trail
I get frustrated reading the success stories of writers who have gotten the sidewalk path. It's short, paved, and has clearly marked signs along it. Fate has presented these people with a wonderful, sunlit stroll to publication that the rest of us only dream of. Fate, or the route they chose.

Every writer knows that before you get on the path to publication, you have to go through the forest of process: writing, revision, critique from peers, etc. This, for some, can be a very hard road. So, perhaps the people who get the sunlit sidewalk had a rough tangle of brambles to pass through beforehand. When all the focus is on the final leg of their journey, it's hard to tell.

Those of us who get the hiking trail face the danger of getting lost in the woods. There are no trail signs, no guides to recommend who to submit to, no one to help when our manuscript doesn't fit into a nice little query box. (It's very hard to wrap a query box when you don't know what label to put on it.)

Sometimes we end up doubling back down the trail to find an easier way - self-publication. Sometimes we give up on the trail and take a new one, shelving that manuscript in favor of another. Sometimes we get off the trail and tromp blindly through the underbrush (which I feel like I've been doing lately).

I don't even know if this is the trail I'm supposed to be on, which might be why I haven't gotten as far as I'd hoped. If it was, wouldn't I have been more successful? Wouldn't I have reached the sunlit sidewalk by now?

If you're asking yourself questions like these, share your experience in the comments. At least we know there are other hikers in these woods.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

RTW: What're You Writing in Your Stars?

Today's Roadtrip Wednesday from YA Highway asked the question:  
What do you hope to be writing in three years? Five?

mock-up design for 1st book

That's easy. I'll be writing my series. It's a YA fantasy that starts out in Victorian Boston and winds up in amazing places with amazing characters, creepy nursery figures, magic, the fae, and maybe even political intrigue. This idea is so big that it needs at least 3-5 years to complete. In three years, I hope to have an agent (of course) and to have gotten the first book published, the second book on the way to being published, and the third book in the works. I don't yet know how many books this series is going to have, but hopefully by the end of the second book I'll have a pretty good idea.

I also love my new job and don't think it's going anywhere, so I'll likely be working at the library in three years. (If an agent wants to rep me for my illustrations and that MFA can start paying itself off, I wouldn't mind either.)

What about you? What will you be writing/creating/doing in three years? Five years?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Motivational Advice from a Stone

I've heard all sorts of motivational advice - uplifting, inspirational, encouraging, self-esteem bolstering. Well, this post isn't about your self-esteem. The weak cannot handle this post. The weak also won't become best-selling authors or lauded illustrators, or anything strong-willed people want. You have to be strong-willed to accomplish something in life. Dreaming just won't cut it.

the actual stones
I'm always on the lookout for motivational tools that I can get behind, something that can nudge me in the right direction without being a drill sergeant about it. (Strong-willed people really fight against drill sergeant motivation.) I'd seen those pretty inspirational stones for sale before, but usually they cost more than I wanted to pay. So, when I found one at a thrift store for fifty cents (maybe even twenty-five) I picked it up. It was black and shiny and said "DREAM" in lovely white serif font. Now, I knew that a rock really couldn't inspire me that much... unless perhaps I kept it around my work area and looked at it all the time. So, I decided to set it in front of my keyboard and hope it would inspire me.

It was a lovely thought, but I didn't feel as inspired as I hoped I would. Eventually I realized a stone with the word "DREAM" on it, wasn't going to make me productive. I needed another word. I had to find another stone! I trolled Ebay (another wonderful way to spend a potentially-productive writing day) for such a stone, and eventually I found one. It was mottled white and said in no-nonsense depressed san-serif, "CREATE". This was it! I was sure that this stone, paired with my 'Dream' stone, would help me to finally see my goals through.

Guess what? It didn't. I still have those stones sitting in front of my keyboard, nudging at my conscious mind to DREAM and CREATE, but they mostly just make me feel guilty for not doing it.

Stones cannot do what I really want, and that's stir up the impulse in me to accomplish something. I'm a horrible procrastinator. I'm not proud of it, and try to combat it. The best advice I have for anyone like me is to just do it. Whatever it is. Right now. As soon as you think of it.

Don't write it down. Don't plan it for another day. Right now. Do it, or you never will. 

I seem to work best spontaneously. I spontaneously clean, spontaneously cook, spontaneously write. Eventually I'm going to have to teach myself to do these things on a schedule, but a little rebellious spark always balks against restraint, against control I feel I've lost. The cure to that is to latch onto the thought I get when I spontaneously do something, dwell on it until it's a raging desire to accomplish that goal, and then have at it. Encourage yourself, remind yourself how fun whatever you want to accomplish is, imagine the goal finished and how great it will look/feel/sound/taste.

I can't manage my job, my obligations, my creativity, without making them fun, without thinking how much I love whatever is before me. Eventually, I've found that the love I used to imagine is real and the desire to accomplish the goal is a driving force. I couldn't stop it if I tried.

We are not stones, and the impulse of creativity/productivity is not inert. It is motion. It is fire, and it pulls and pushes and makes you very uncomfortable until you take action. So take action now. No amount of gentle, happy words telling you how great you are can beat that.

(motivational music)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Do You Want To See More Of?

It was a long day and I have no idea what to blog about. I thought about a post on illustration and my feelings about it lately, but thought it was too personal. I thought about a post on what I think of Divergent by Veronica Roth, but I'm not finished with the book. I thought about a post on my library job and what it's taught me, how it makes me feel as a writer to be surrounded by other people's published work all the time. (I'll save that one for later.) I thought that I'd manage to hop on board the bloghop train this week, but ended up not having time.

Honestly, I just miss people reading my blog, miss people commenting on my blog, and miss writing posts so that people can read and comment. I'd love to know what you'd like me to post about, but the last time I left the question so open I received no responses. So, I'll make it easier.

Should I do more book posts? (opinions, reviews, etc)
More personal posts like my career struggles, publication struggles, life struggles and triumphs?
More informational posts like what I've learned from being a librarian, writing tips, illustration tips, query tips, etc?
Or more fluffy fun stuff like shared music or images, or me talking about how much I love a good villain? 

What do you want to see more of?

(watch this while you decide)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Serenading the Wicked Heart

I've been marathoning Once Upon A Time, thinking I was happily slacking off and taking a break from my writing responsibilities. But while my conscious mind thought it was slacking, my creative mind was buzzing. This marathon birthed a massive brainstorming session that keeps going. (proof that writers never stop being writers, no matter what non-writing hobbies they're enjoying) I rained pages of my villain's backstory all over my notebook once I got alone with my thoughts. And that's what prompted this post today.

Say cheese, Scorpi!
Good villains require a lot of development so they don't become flat, cliche stereotypes. Villains, like ogres, should have layers. There are different types of villains, but my favorite are sympathetic villains. These characters might be just a decision or two away from being a hero, and we might be a decision or two away from being them. To me, that's fascinating.

One of my favorite sympathetic villains is Scorpius from the Sci-Fi channel series Farscape. He seeks the same goal as the hero John Crichton, but his methods for getting it are decidedly more evil and underhanded than John's. Scorpius has physical weaknesses that hinder him, but he's used his intellect to overcome them as best he can. This flaw has created a lot of Scorpi's determination and taught him internal strength, building a villain I would side with if it wasn't for the golden-hearted (and handsome) boy-next-door John Crichton.
courtesy LaDracul from DA

On the fringes of villainy, you'll find another character I absolutely love. The Trickster character. He's slippery, seductive, and you never know what side he's on. Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time is both a villain and a trickster. His fingers are in everything and he's constantly three steps ahead of the other characters. He has a sympathetic backstory as well as circumstances in which he might be either truly evil or unusually kind.

After reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, I was charmed by the Marquis De Carabas. The long coat, the hat, the flashy smile, seemed more at home in a Louisiana gin joint than the Underground of London, but he fit perfectly. Gaiman played on all the traditional trickster qualities and produced a character who walks that fine line between reader trust and distrust. You're compelled to read on and find out more about him.

I think what we love most about villains and tricksters is that they do and say the things heroes never could. They cross lines, break hearts, and pull rugs out from under everyone else. They're shifty, sneaky and clever in ways we wish we could be. They don't have to play fair, but they're seldom very happy for long. So they become tragic figures we secretly wish would come out on top. And in some stories, they do.

Writing villains requires inspiration, motivation, and a deep appreciation for the slipperier critters of the literary world. And musical accompaniment. Here's one that reminds me of the Marquis.

What songs get you motivated to write a villain?

Friday, September 28, 2012

We Interrupt This Blog...

To bring you a very brief update on my life. I'm launching into a birthday weekend for my mom and sis, along with a visit from the brother's big family. Coming up in October I have the one-year anniversary of a good friend's death, which I'm still hoping to create a commemorative artwork or piece of writing for (but I'm having a really hard time). Next week I have to gather pieces for a library display, which might include my wonderful painterly sister's artwork as well as my own. There are also plans upon plans of things to write and draw so I don't feel like such a creative slacker. However, I've been busy.

Also, I've been reading. The latest I've picked up from the library are Divergent by Veronica Roth and Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings. That and watching Once Upon a Time on netflix pretty much sums up my after work hours. I'll be blogging sporadically until I can set a more regular schedule. So please continue reading and commenting because I really do appreciate it!

How about you? Have any big plans ahead?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Good Stuff Friday: Smooth and Crunchy

Good Fridays are when I focus on the good, the things I've done, the things I want to do, amazing things that've happened. I've been reading inspirational books like Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul and Wild Mind: Living the Writers Life by Natalie Goldberg. I've been making fun plans for the months ahead, and setting goals. I do much better when I'm busy or planning something big and fun - this includes novels, picture books, art commissions. I've written two and a half picture books this week and it feels right. I realize I've limited myself by focusing only on YA. I might've already had an agent if I'd pushed the illustration to the forefront. But now that I've decided, I can change tactics. Who says I have to either do one or the other?

To celebrate Friday, I'm sharing some music. Two smooth and one crunchy. (hint: Skrillex is crunchy)

I recommend turning them up for full effect.

What good stuff do you have to report this Friday?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Your Book Cover

If you had complete creative control, what would you want  the cover of your novel to look like? Would it emulate a cover you've admired or would it be unlike anything you've read before?

Here's a cover I put together for my book A Shadow Story. I know it's not the final design, but I had a lot of fun with it. I really look forward to the ideas my future agent and I can come up with.

Bullied By The Internet

I have a confession. I haven't been writing and I don't feel that guilty about it. The last writing I did was brainstorming a children's book idea last week. But the internet won't leave me alone about it.

istock photo
The internet is like a critical mother who never ceases to remind me of what I should be doing and what I've already missed out on. It tries to guilt me and burden me with concerns that aren't really that concerning. Through Twitter, Facebook, email and blogs, it tells me I'll be the last to find an agent and points out how many of my friends already have one. It says that no one really wants to rep my book, that no one really cares about my blog. It makes me want to stop calling it and stop coming over for visits. It makes me want to spend my time with the 'fun uncle' that is online videogames. And that's just what I've been doing.

I'm tired of the internet bullying me. It knows just what buttons to push and what snide little comments to make. So, I'm going to stop letting it. I'm going to ignore the feeds, the statuses, the announcements, the reminders. I'll use Twitter and Facebook only when I feel like it. I'll blog when I want, when I can, when I get a strikingly profound revelation about writing, or life, or illustration. Right now my strikingly profound revelation is that life is more important than writing. And relaxation and peace of mind are more important than online obligations that render such meager results.

The internet can shove it up its keister.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Twisted Hunt 2012: Favorite Time-Suck

What's your favorite time-suck? 

Let's get Twisted!
Every Fall since 2009 the Twisted Hunt on Second Life has been a favorite time-suck of mine. Even if I've been away from Second Life for months, the Twisted Hunt can always lure me back. I don't know if it's the opportunity for more free stuff to dress my avatar in, the challenge of finding the hunt object in the hardest of all places, or nostalgia that this hunt (in 2009) was my first, but it calls to me. And that's where I've been the past two weeks.

Second Life is a free online virtual world you can explore with an avatar (digital person, animal or thing) that you customize for yourself. There are scavenger hunts across the grid in Second Life that provide you with stuff if you don't want to spend real money. You look for a specific object (dictated by the hunt theme) and when you find it you get a prize - free furniture, clothing, skins, animations, etc. for your avatar. The Twisted Hunt is a gothic-themed, creeptastic hunt boasted as the hardest hunt in SL. And it is. The object (the puzzle box from Hellraiser) is small and dark-colored (this year it's blue) and placed in corners and crevices that are murder to find. There are over a hundred merchants participating in the hunt, delicious prizes, and the chance to make many new online friends. I always end up falling helplessly into it for the good part of the hunt month. This year it's through September.

Here is my avvie before the hunt, wearing a skin from Dilly Dolls. (I'm going to include vendor names in case a fellow hunter stumbles across the blog.)

And two completely different looks inspired by the skins I've found on the Twisted Hunt.

Makeup/Eyes: Songbird
Skin: Aeva//Heartsick


Finally, head to hoof in hunt prizes.
Skin: [Void]
Eyes: Songbird
Wings/makeup: Sn@tch
Hooves: Dilly Dolls
Outfit: Rokumeikan
Necklace: House of Rain
Hair: Gauze(store) Pike(style) in Coal(color) - not hunt.                                    

That's enough about mine. What's your favorite time-suck?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bloghop Guilt of an Insecure Writer

I am not allowing myself to do Roadtrip Wednesday this week, on the grounds that I don't have time to comment on everyone else's. Until I catch up on commenting on others' blogs, I feel too guilty.

I might solve this problem by only commenting on a few each time, but instead I promise myself I'll comment on ALL of them (which is not possible with my schedule). So, I end up posting mine, coming home from work late and not commenting on any. I'll have to find a happy medium sometime.

It's also not that I don't have blog ideas, but sometimes they trickle in slowly. Sometimes I doubt whether they're worth posting. I look at other blogs, I take my eyes off what I want, and that does me in. I need to stop comparing my blog with others, wondering if my blog is too open, too haphazard, too full of blackmail potential. (...It is, isn't it?)

Blogging used to be fun, and now I have a hard time even sitting myself down and posting an entry. I used to think "I want to share this!" and then I somehow got into the mindset of "is this appropriate to share?"

It's the same with my writing. When it's just me and my story, it's lovely. It's like a special date. Strolling along the path of creativity, being delightfully surprised by what lies ahead, no one to tell you you're ridiculous, or you're wordy, or you really shouldn't be comparing the MC's eyes to two beady black currants. (You should be comparing them to two polished black marbles.)

The point to all this is there is good to be said for writing suggestions and for considering your blog material. Just don't let it keep you from producing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RTW: Love List for my WIP

This Roadtrip Wednesday topic was inspired by Stephanie Perkins post on 'Love Lists' at Natalie Whipple's Blog. Stephanie writes her list at the beginning of her WIP and grows it as the story grows. It helps to remind her what she loves most about the story.

Here's my list for A Shadow Story's sequel:

translucent floating fish
glowing locket
Tim Burton-style heroine
band of street kids
fae fiddler (like the Pied Piper)
meandering hidden streets
crow sorceress
twin steampunk cities
Sea of Sleep
violent shadows
nursery rhyme villain

What's your WIP's Love List?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Good Fridays: Share Your Last Lines

For this Good Fridays post, I want to spotlight what makes writers write. Before the critiquing, the querying, the revising, there was unbridled imagination that gave birth to the story. And we fell in love with the story.

This is a summons to anyone who has a current work-in-progress or a finished work, or just anything you've been working on lately that you're proud of. Share the last line you wrote! This post is a critique-free zone!

The last lines of my current WIP, the second story in my Lividia Blackwell series are:

And no one could know. It would ruin her.

What're yours?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WriteOnCon - Go to it!

This week is WriteOnCon and I can't stress enough the good impression I'm getting of this forum and the people on it. I posted my first 250 words and my first 5 pages and the feedback I've gotten (including ninja agent feedback!) has been amazing. No one is rude, or critical just for the sake of being critical. Feedback is helpful, constructive, and even enlightening. It's awesome and I highly recommend participating if only to get yourself some great crit too!

Now pardon me while I go post my query and synopsis!
My First 250
My First 5 Pages

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

RTW: My Summer Soundtrack

Boogey Music by Me
This week's Roadtrip Wednesday asks the question:

What music has been your Summer Soundtrack?

Rather than listing an incredibly long number of songs, I decided to include only four. Prepare to be bombarded by my eclectic taste!

Dance and Kpop Mix courtesy DJ Dave on Youtube

Swing - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Shiny new Kpop with rock flavors - JJ Project

Club Trance with Deadmau5

What's your Summer Soundtrack?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mockingjay the Brutal Finale - Review

I finished reading an explosive series - The Hunger Games. Action, more action, death, and violence, combined with heart-wrenching emotional triggers and the ever-enduring love triangle. This series explodes in your face, knocks you in the head, and drags you along for a gut-punch of a ride - especially the last book Mockingjay. (this review includes some spoilers)

The first book was child's play compared to the last one. If you thought a government that sacrifices its people's children in Games was bad, just wait. The stakes in Mockingjay go from high to higher, and finally, to breaking. Just when you think the characters have endured as much as they can, there's more. While I expected everything to improve in Mockingjay, for good to triumph and for Katniss to finally become free, the end turned out to be a depressing disappointment. I was left with a lot of anger and grief over characters I'd followed two books prior.

There were moments of respite from the horror of war and the deaths of those Katniss loved, but they did little to slow the relentless pace of the book, and even less to comfort the grieving reader each time she had to witness another disgustingly brutal act of violence. Hope held out to keep reading because I knew eventually the war would be over and the troubles would be resolved. They just weren't resolved very well. I got angry at the author for the last person she ripped away from Katniss and the manner she did it in. I kept thinking "this is too much!" But it didn't matter.

In the end I gave it four stars over at Goodreads because it was written well and I was already invested in the series. But I would never have the stomach to write a book like this. I worry a little what publishers will expect from writers if Hunger Games is our example. Judging by Graceling, the war machines are still carrying stories along. I just hope that changes.

To sum it up, Mockingjay was a long, painful fairytale written to scare adults into being good, a very dark ending to a startling series that I wish hadn't been so violently aimed at children. If I had to read this series over after knowing how the third book ends, I don't think I would.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Good Fridays: Mockingjay

This Good Fridays spot belongs to a book I've been waiting to read for a long time. I'm glad I finally get to read it now. I'm only a third into this book and I'm already tearing up, devouring each sentence, and eager to see what happens next. (Not kidding. I sat in the break room at work munching my sandwich and trying not to cry.)

If you haven't read the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins yet, you should. That said, I'm already loving Mockingjay better than its predecessor Catching Fire, and about as much as The Hunger Games itself.

Is there a book you've been waiting for that you've finally gotten your hands on? How about a long-awaited read from the past?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do You Have a Good Plot?

I haven't posted a writing-related entry in awhile, so I thought it was high time. Here's a great question for any writer: How do you know if your plot is good? Or rather, how do you create a good plot? And by 'good plot' I mean something readers can get behind, cheer for, wait with baited breath to see if it works out in the end.

spot illustration from A Shadow Story
If you google 'crafting a good plot' you come up with a lot of helpful websites and information, but some of us didn't read all of those when we first started. We just wrote. That's what I did. I trusted my gut and I pantsed my first novel. I also read avidly, and wrote for practice years beforehand.

If we're new to writing, we can't always trust our gut. What we think is the most amazing plot ever written can fall flat to agents and publishers. So, how do you know when a plot is good?

One thing I think it takes to craft a good plot is a compelling conflict. The main character wants something that's hard to achieve. But more than that, it should be a sympathetic goal. The reader wants it for her. The more difficult it is, the more she and the reader wants it, the more satisfying it is when it's finally achieved.

What do you think it takes to make a good plot?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

RTW: Reincarnation or Regeneration?

I haven't participated in Roadtrip Wednesday in a long time, but I happened to catch the prompt today and I just had to get on board. Being a former roleplay junkie, this question is something I've thought about more than once. When I was a kid I made believe I was other people all the time. Now I write about other people and go along for the ride.

This week's prompt: If you could be reincarnated as any fictional character, which would it be?

(Hold on to your hats folks!) If I could be any fictional character (tv and movies included) why not be a legend?

And so:

 The Doctor

Why not?

Sure, there's the perpetual loneliness, the incredible weight of responsibility, eventually losing those you love. But there's also the travel, the companions, other races you get to meet, and the sheer uncanny ability to always come out on top. He's a protector, I'm a protector. People don't question him (if they know what's good for them). He's larger than life and just the mention of his name sets villains trembling in their metal boots (kind of like Batman).

Now, if I had to choose a character who wasn't quite as renowned, I'd either choose Lydia Deetz (from the cartoon Beetlejuice) or Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series. Lydia because she has the most amazing imaginary friend ever, and Tiffany because she's a powerful witch with a good head on her shoulders. I absolutely love Tiffany. The fact a troupe of feegles follows her around doesn't hurt either.

Who would you choose?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shelf Envy

My new job is about to make my brain explode. And I'll tell you why.

Working with books all day, shelving YA novels, watching people check out YA novels and hearing people asking for recommendations of YA novels, I'm sometimes at my wit's end. I want to see my novel on those shelves, hear my novel in topics of conversation, but I'm still in the query trenches.

It's like asking a person on a diet to give you the best recipe for bbq ribs. Or even more appropriate, it's like asking a woman who's desperate to have children what she thinks of your beautiful baby girl - and then asking her to hold the baby while you go to the bathroom.

Anyone who's ever wanted something very badly has probably been through this - especially when they're reminded of that something they want every day.

I love my new job. I love it like a kid would love working in a candy store. I just feel my creative clock ticking. So, I'm curious. Has anyone else ever felt like this? What do you do to ease the discomfort of 'shelf envy'?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Illustrative Influences: Elfquest

I've been rediscovering the comic that embedded itself in my mind when I was a kid, and became one of the biggest influences on my illustration style: Wendy and Richard Pini's Elfquest.

My older brother introduced me to this comic (and supervised the reading of it) when I was eleven or twelve. It's stayed in my mind, reflected in my own style, ever since. I've absorbed many influences through the years - Brian Froud, Gerald Brom, Tim Burton, Kazuya Minekura - but Wendy's style will always be the first to make an impression. Later, when I discovered she was influenced by anime and manga, it all made perfect sense.

Jakin 2007
Silvan 2007


I've gone through phases with my illustration style - the big-head phase, the too-skinny anime phase, the long torso phase, but through them all a few elements have stayed strong and similar. My characters usually have large slanted eyes and very pronounced facial features, lean builds, and elfin qualities.

I credit Wendy for inspiring a lot of this, though it was also due to Brian Froud.

My style will continue evolving, changing and adapting, but I won't ever lose my love for fine-featured characters with elf-like builds.

What's one of your creative influences? 

Silvan 2009
Strawman 2011

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