Monday, December 16, 2013

How I Stopped Crying over my Computer and Learned to Love the Pen

About two weeks ago, my computer went down. It made me lose out on things I wanted to do, such as illustrating for the winter issue of Under the Juniper Tree Magazine or posting for Insecure Writers Support Group. I didn't even get to post the announcement about my novsketches.

I had to email the art director at Juniper Tree and tell her I wasn't able to participate this issue. I hated doing that. I hated not posting for IWSG. I really hated not being able to get back to people about their novsketches, but when computer trouble happens, you're very rarely prepared for it.

The good thing about all this computer trouble is that it's led to a massive breakthrough with my YA novel. Here's the story.

The first few days without my pc, I read voraciously, watched too much tv, and greatly lamented my digital loss. Then, I had an epiphany. Before I had my computer, I wrote all my stories longhand in notebooks. If it worked for me then, there was no reason it wouldn't work for me now. So, I took up a ballpoint pen, and a notebook that still had empty pages in it. I sat myself down on the couch as the snow fell outside, and wrote. First it was a scene, then it was another. I found myself eager to get home from work so I could write. The spark I'd been missing for over a year was back and there was no stopping it. By the time my computer was fixed, I had a brand spankin' new opening chapter for my novel - one I knew would hook the reader in the jaw and not let go til they were invested. And it didn't stop there.

When I got access to my pc again, I went straight to Word, pulled up the rest of the manuscript, and tore into it. I deleted and rewrote nearly all my former first chapter, changing scenes, removing anything unneeded, and stripping descriptions down to their most vital words.

I felt reborn, like I'd cracked open the dusty shell of creativity and this new firey self sprang out - a self who'd forgotten how much she loved to write, a self who'd been so trapped by her own words, she forgot she could change them. Now she was free and once again madly in love with her story.

I learned from this experience that all the digital clutter can just get in the way, and completely stifle my creativity and love for writing. I may be on top of my blog or gathering new followers on Twitter, but it isn't as important as the writing itself. The stories need to be written, the worlds need to be built, the characters need to live and grow and struggle.

I'm going to use my sick computer as an excuse to focus on what's important right now, and that's family, work, reading, and this glorious dance that is revision. (I never ever thought I'd be happy about revising, but I'm so happy! You have no idea!)

Whatever your plans are this month, I hope you have a great one, and may the joy of writing be with you always.

Merry Christmas! And if I don't post until then, Happy New Year!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Novsketch: the Last Batch

While I didn't meet my goal of 30 sketches in November, I did get 21, so I consider that a triumph. I also had a lot I can use in my portfolio. Remember, all novsketches are up for sale through December - the originals, not prints. And now, on with the novsketches!


Nov. 18: showed me a cute pic from , but I took it in a different
direction. If you've ever read Discworld, you've heard of the Death of Rats. Here, I give you - The Death of Birds!
Original sketch fills out my 9"x12" paper, done in ink and black brush pen. Original doesn't include text.

Nov. 19: A personal piece inspired by one of my favorite Wonderland denizens and the song "I'm Mad" by The Dead Weather.
This sketch is almost 12" high, done in ink, brush pen, and colored pencil. It looks much better than this scan. One of my few colored novsketches.

 I'd like to help you, Alice, but my hands are tied...


Nov. 23: inspired by 's tweet, 's title SCENT OF TRIUMPH and NaNoWriMo. I've posted this one before, but here it is in all its smelly glory again.
5.5"x4" in ink, does include text, since it's handwritten.

Nov. 25: This is as an agent/dictator, because she tweeted "This must be how dictators feel."
5.5"x4" done in ink in about an hour.

Nov. 25: inspired by and "Some say dare to dream. I say, dare to nightmare." Great quote from 's novel. She said: " hehe, this is awesome! I'm honored. I use the phrase in The Last Monster. (@ 45,000 words;"
5"x6" colored novsketch in ink and brush pen.

 Nov. 26: My own version of a Whangdoogle, inspired by 's link to the Greatest Monsters in Children's literature. Another 9"x12" novsketch, fully shaded and done in ink and grayscale brush pens. He's quite a creepy fellow. I lost track of how long I worked on him.

Nov. 29: Inspired after reading Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by . I call it The Showdown. 7"x8" ink, done in about 2 hours.

That's all of my novsketches. I'll make a post linking you to all of them soon, as well as details to owning one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The End of Novsketch: December Plans

December will be the end of Novsketch, but that doesn't mean I'll stop drawing, just the next step in moving forward with my work. In December, I'll be selling my novsketches. Yep. That's right. Any sketch you've seen posted here this month (aside from those already spoken for), could be yours in its original size, original inkwork signed by me. I'll post the details later.

Also in December, I'll be revising my novel, with the help of some wonderful new beta readers. So I'll be switching tracks from the sketch-mad month I've just spent. It'll be a great switch, though. My novel's been hammering at my mind's backdoor all month, whispering enticingly.

It's been a wonderful month. With a few sparks of invention, I turned a time I dreaded into something productive and amazing. I used to feel so left out with Nano. This year, I shone.

Things I learned this month:
- I love illustrating. Really love it. I need to get paid for it... and I will.
- Networking can be seriously fun and exciting if you do it right.
- Creating something to make others happy is so much more rewarding than creating only for yourself.
- I am more creative when inspired by others. They bring out the best in me.

Here's a Nano-inspired novsketch prompted by Jan Moran's book title The Scent of Triumph

What did you learn this month?

Monday, November 18, 2013

3rd Novsketch with Frances Hardinge and Shannon Hale

Time for another round of November Sketch Challenge work! Yaaaay! This month has been so full of awesome.

Nov. 9 - A brief stint of fanart, started by @Bisky_Scribbles talking about anime. The result was a new sketch of an old love (Gojyo from Saiyuki) and a trip down nostalgia lane. Then I drew the Joker, because... Joker.

Nov. 10 - @haleshannon tweeted this: "I love slow dancing with my husband. He's so comfy. Like a vertical love seat." So I drew this. And she loved it, which made me very happy.

Nov. 11 - @RachelPud told me why she likes mermaids which inspired me to draw one for her. It took at least two hours, but I'm very proud of it, and it made her happy.

 Nov. 13 - Inspired by @Juliana_Haygert's eyecatching Pinterest board, I drew Taeyang her favorite singer/dancer from the kpop band BigBang. Another 2-hour sketch, mostly because of the hair.

Nov. 15 - Inspiration came from @Holli_Moncrieff 's tweet "She wanted to write, but the 15 pound cat had other ideas...." She now uses the image as her Facebook profile pic. She also showed the sketch off on her blog post here. Thanks, Holli! And thanks for such a fun tweet!

  Nov. 16 - I drew Mosca Mye the main character of @FrancesHardinge's books Fly By Night and Fly Trap with her homicidal goose Saracen as a special fanart for the author. She loved it so much she plans to post it on her website. Thanks, Ms. Hardinge!

Nov. 17 I wrote a flash fiction instead of drawing. It's another installment of the adventures of Captain Trav and his crew. I'll post it later or you can read it here. (password is flashed)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November Sketch Challenge: The 2nd Batch

The November Sketch Challenge is a personal drawing challenge where I choose a tweet daily from someone I follow on Twitter and illustrate it. Most of the sketches are quick and uneditted, inspired by the rules of NaNoWriMo - yes, even the pen sketches.

Nov. 4 inspired by @Bisky_Scribbles "I write to empty my mind so my new ideas have plenty of room."

Nov. 5 inspired by the wonderful @HutchingsJulie with a phrase from her story Running Away. "Only death and fire live here."

This one took 2 hours, longer than most.
It was drawn completely freehand without a pencil sketch underneath.

 Nov. 6 inspired by @ChuckWendig's phrase "entrenched stubborn donkey battle" in a tweet about his toddler. It was such a great image I just had to draw it.

Nov. 8 inspired by a quote posted by @AdvicetoWriters tweeter Jon Winokur, and the face and work of Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself).

Those are all my novsketches for now. Hope you enjoyed them! If you want updates on the sketching as it happens, follow me @DonelleLacy or search the hashtag #novsketch to see my work. And remember, the more retweets I get, the happier I am! Thanks for the support!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Being Productive When You're Sick

Late with my Insecure Writers post, but I've had a busy month so far. I've been sick, still am sick, but I'm determined to be productive.

I feel like a big cheater with this post. I know the group is for writers, about writing, but all I want to talk about right now is my November Sketch Challenge. This is the first year I've done anything like this, and because it's the first time, I really don't want to let myself down. So, sick or not, I've drawn. In fact, somehow this challenge has pushed me on through the sickness. Even on days that I felt so awful all I wanted to do was stay in bed, I'd rest, and by evening I'd be drawing again.

When I go to work, I look forward to coming home and doing my nightly sketch. During the day, I'm hoping someone has seen the sketches and smiled at them. The idea was a brainstorm of mixed notions that turned out better than I expected. And the social aspect is one of my favorite parts. No one likes to do art (or writing) just to hide it in a corner.

So, my question for this month's post is: How do you handle productivity when you're facing sickness and other obstacles?

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Sketch Challenge: My NaNo

Every year I consider doing Nano, and every year I get crabby because it's not for me. This year I decided to do something to focus the powerful Nano energy that's buzzing around. I'm doing a sketch challenge through the month of November, but it's not like other sketch challenges. This one depends heavily on the random words of wisdom and silliness I find on Twitter.

How the Challenge Works: 
Every day in November I'll browse Twitter for some nugget of imagery that'll prompt my creative juices to start flowing. Then, for at least a half hour, I'll sketch my interpretation. Later, I'll post the new illustration on Twitter, along with the tweet of the person who inspired me. I'll also post updates on the blog so my blog followers won't miss anything.

I might do a few sketches a day, I might do only one, but at least one of them will be inspired by a person on Twitter. If you want to follow me, I'm @DonelleLacy and the hashtag I'm using for this challenge is #novsketch

I don't know who or what will be my next inspiration, so you're free to come along for the ride!

What inspired me:
NaNo, of course! But mostly it was a quote from @BiskyScribbles on Twitter that read "Writing is the place I go to pet all my demons." had illustrated it and I was inspired, so I did too.
pen and ink without pencil sketch first

That went over so well and was so fun that I decided to combine it with a Nanoish challenge for myself - something that would flex my rusty drawing muscles and help me work toward getting an illustration agent next year. I've been so frozen by needing to make 'portfolio quality' work that I kept myself from drawing anything. So far this challenge has been loads of fun and is also social, which is something I've missed since grad school.

The Sketches:
The point of this challenge is to draw from short phrases that inspire instant images in my head. It's also to sketch without 'editing', much like Nanoers are encouraged to do. So, I'll try to draw my ink sketches without using pencil first, and I'll try to keep erasers away from my pencil sketches. I'll be working without a net. So, you'll see wonky anatomy and probably extra lines. And, unlike most nano manuscripts, I'm going to show it all to you!

Here are the Twitter-inspired sketches so far:

Nov. 2 Angry Birds of War (pencil sketch) inspired by a tweeted review by @KMWeiland on the book Early Birds of War by Thomas R. Funderburk.

I was a little concerned someone would be offended by this, since the birds are wearing military hats from WW2. But it was so funny-looking, I opted to post it anyway.

Nov. 3 Social Butterfly (pencil sketch) inspired by a tweet from @KirkusMacGowan where he claimed not to be a social butterfly, so I turned him into one. I don't know what he thinks of it yet (since he's probably not seen it) but I hope he's flattered.

And lastly,

Nov. 2 Serious Gamer Girl (ink and brush pen, no sketch, no eraser, lots of anatomy issues) inspired by this song:

My themesong for this challenge seems to be Katy Perry's Roar. I can't stop listening to it since my nephew shared it with me.

If you're participating in NaNo, I hope it's going well for you and that you're having lots of fun, because I'm having a blast!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Autumn Fog Wanderings

I love fog and Fall, so I took pictures. No words can capture the beauty of God's paintbrush.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

They're Coming for Me Now...and then They'll Come for You

I feel bad because I haven't blogged for a week. So here's a scary story.


Once upon a time there was a writer. She had a vacation she had waited for for a long time. She was certain she would use it to write and write until she had a new draft for her beta reader to crit in November. But she didn't know that the monster Procrastination was waiting for her.

When the vacation came, she was tempted to sleep in because she could. Procrastination liked that. Then her family needed her to help move. She hauled boxes, cleaned, and moved heavy furniture. She felt productive, and she was happy because she could see her accomplishments. But she hadn't written anything.

Her baby nephew was so adorable she had to play with him. Her mother was so lovable she had to spend quality time with her. She was so hungry she had to go shopping for food. And she had to buy pumpkins because it was almost Halloween.

The vacation was almost over, everything was taken care of except for the writing. Everyone had been helped, played with, and loved. Then procrastination came.
It showed her shiny things like the internet, like television shows she hadn't seen before. Addictive ones. Procrastination was tempting.

"It's been a year," it said, "A few more days can't hurt."

The writer stared at the shiny screen and vowed, "I will write tomorrow."

All the while, procrastination was creeping up behind her, getting closer and closer as she stared at the shiny screen. And when she leaned in to type the last letter of her post -

the end.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Good Fridays: Artist Appreciation

We all know about art appreciation. Most people agree that it's a good thing in schools, libraries, and homes. But what about artist appreciation? Often artists are underpaid and undervalued for their skills, so recognition for the things they do and the effort they put in is important. I tasted a little of that this past week and I'm still floating.

I teach a short art class to older kids (ages 11-16) on Thursdays at the library where I work, and I love it. I love when I have new kids, I love when kids show me things they've done on their own, and I love when they thank me for providing the class for them. I have the most grateful bunch, always willing to help clean up, always trying even if they've never attempted the medium or subject before.

This past week I had a mom of two of my kids come to me and tell me how she appreciated what I do. She said people have been seeing the work her kids bring home and asking about it, how they did it, what they used and who's teaching them. The kids have fun trying media they've never used before and they love coming to the class. I've noticed it too. Even new to the class, they're enthusiastic, eager, and absorbed. If she hadn't come and thanked me, I would've gotten satisfaction just from seeing them at work, but hearing it made my day brighter.

Though artists are taught to be thick-skinned dealing with crit, and patient working toward success, we get discouraged just like anyone else. We like to be praised for a job well done. Sometimes that encouragement is all it takes to keep a discouraged artist from laying down her pencil.

So, the next time you compliment an artist friend or even someone whose work you've admired from afar - especially if you show off their work online or to someone else - it means a lot to them.

And from me to you, I thank everyone who's complimented my work and I appreciate everyone who reads this blog. I know all of you are artist appreciators. ^_^

Monday, October 14, 2013

Honest to Blog: Staff Day

On Monday when you are reading this I will be in a library 'staff day' which is like an inservice. It lasts from 8:30 to 4:30 and makes me tired just thinking about it. We'll get breaks to stretch our legs, but it'll still be a very long day. So, if you're having a rotten Monday, imagine me sitting at a table for eight hours, listening to the guest speakers, feeling like this:

When it's over, I'll be feeling like this:

And probably when I get home, I'll feel like this:

All that time, you'll be like this:

I'm glad my discomfort amuses you. You heartless, heartless people.
Have a great Monday!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Good Fridays: Ridiculous Fluff

Have you ever spent a half hour watching squeaking frogs on youtube? It's at this point you reevaluate your time-management skills and seek something that will make you productive again.

I am here to help!

I recently discovered this positive website which has great articles Like This One that help point me in a better direction than the distracting internet does. I have a horrible time with distractions, procrastination, pretty much everything lifehack warns me against. I am proud to say that... I'm working on it.

Since this is a Good Fridays post, I will also share with you some fun things I've done and/or discovered this past week.

What I'm reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I'm whizzing through this book. It started out slow, but now that I'm about midway through it's much more compelling. I love that it's in first-person - something I hadn't realized before I read it. I prefer the creature's tale to Frankenstein's, and I think the language is... something I have to be awake to read properly unless I want to reread a lot of sentences. Formal, for a start. Good reference for my Victorian YA series.

What I just finished reading: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.
I can't say enough glowing things about this book. It is about a bunch of teenage girls at an academy, hoping to become princesses, but they are deep and earthy and strong, not pampered and fluffy and shallow. The academy is also on a treacherous mountain, with avalanches, bitter winters, and bandits to contend with. Princesses indeed.

I didn't realize this was a Newbery Honor Book until I saw the seal on the cover.

(Side Note: the 'book' I read before this one was Deadpool Classic Vol. 3. Talk about an ecclectic mix! I'm currently nearly done with Batman and Son. Older comics, but still good. Not as good as Planet Hulk, though.)

What I'm watching: Call the Midwife
This leaves me up to my eyeballs in estrogen, without the romance. Nearly every episode makes me cry, and I don't usually continue watching shows that do that. So, that's saying something.

What I've been drawing: Pumpkins!

You might've already seen this on my twitter or my Facebook illustrator page, but here he is again! Isn't he cute? He's a jack o'lantern inspired by the shadowlings in my Lividia story. He may even be inhabited by one.

I love pumpkins and jack o'lanterns in the Fall. In fact, I'm teaching my little library art class cubism by attempting it with pumpkins this upcoming week. I'm going to do an example piece for them in oil pastel, so we'll see how that goes. I've never tried cubism on pumpkins before and it's been ages since I've used oil pastel, but it should be loads of fun!

Those are a few of my good things for the week. If you have any, I'd love to hear about them in the comments. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

IWSG: My MS Is An Iceberg!

I have some wonderful things to announce this month and one thing to ask advice on.

A Shadow Story's MC Lividia Blackwell
First, I have a CP - I finally have a CP! You know how when you were younger and that one kid on the block always got the ten-speed first whether he was big enough to ride it or not? I felt like that watching my writer friends with their CPs who later helped them get their agents. I thought if I could only find myself one (and a good one) then the rest would fall into place a lot more quickly. Well, now I have one! In your face, Johnny Ten-Speed!

I've had the MS for my YA Victorian Fantasy novel written for some time, and even queried it, but this past year I realized I needed to work on it some more, including adding maybe 10k more words. It's the first in a series and a hard thing to approach without the rest planned out. It's an expansive series - moreso than I realized when I wrote the first book. It also includes pen and ink illustrations scattered throughout the prose. The more time passes, the more it grows, and the more the backstories of the characters unfold and influence the plot.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that the story is still writing and illustrating itself, even though I don't have it physically written. The bad is that I don't know how long it'll take before it's finished enough for me to query the first book again. I queried prematurely and ultimately didn't get anywhere because the first book is like the tip of an iceberg. I need to discover how deep it goes. (It also sinks other creative ideas that come near it.)

I've written fantasy before, and sequential short stories, but this is the first project of this scale I've undertaken. When it's finished I expect it to span more than a trilogy (unless the books are HUGE), but I'll have to see what the plotting reveals. I'm also a pantser, so this is an even taller order for me.

Have you written a complex fantasy series before? How did you query your first book? Did you finish your world-building and plan the rest of the series before you could?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Halloween Reads: What're Yours?

Terror Tales illustration by me
Now that I've finished Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb, I'm eager to start on something else. Since Tomorrow is the first of October, it would be the perfect time to pick up something with a little bite (pun fully intended). I've been meaning to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and sample some Lovecraft, but I'm still adding spooky, gothic, and dark fantasy books to my list. What Halloween Reads are you planning? What've you read in the past that you really loved?

If I could find a book series as satisfying as Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series but with a spookier atmosphere, I'd be ecstatic.

Let the Halloween reading begin!

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Survive Being a Newb

Newb in the urban dictionary has two spellings and is divided into two classifications: Newb/newbie and noob/n00b. In the online gaming community, the former is a person who is new to the game and inexperienced, but willing to learn and improve. The latter is a person who is inexperienced, but doesn't try to improve, often saying and doing things to annoy and be a nuisance to other players. The term 'newb' can be applied to anyone new or inexperienced at a task or profession.

Being a newb in any profession is awkward and humbling. You're on a constant mission to collect information and experience so that you'll no longer be branded as the 'new guy'. Your best friend is anyone willing to share information and advice without teasing you for your ignorance. The only way to stop being branded a newb is to become competent and experienced in your profession...
or to become more competent and experienced than the newest member of your team. (See how that works?)

In the writing community, being a newb shouldn't be as daunting as being a newb in the gaming community. This all depends on the people you surround yourself with. If you associate with people who tease you, berate you, or discourage you, your experience will be unpleasant and it may even turn you away from the interest you have in writing. You will encounter people like these, even if you're careful what blogs, forums, and websites you visit. The best thing to do when this happens is to ignore them and don't respond to their baiting. (If a person is consistently bothering you or others, chances are he's a troll and you don't want to 'feed' the trolls. Trolls don't respond to reason or logic, since their purpose is to see how angry they can make you.)

To survive being a newb in any community, writing included, you need to find a safe place to learn and mingle with like-minded people. Scout these out carefully through research, exploration, and recommendations from others. A good place (forum, website, coffeehouse, etc) will be where you spend most of your time interacting with the community, so you want to know your way around it, know the atmosphere and the people who frequent it. This will take time in itself, so the research beforehand is a good idea.

Once you've found a place, be friendly, humble, and willing to learn. These are the best qualities a newb could have to propel her out of newb status to leet. Take part in things, reach out to others, don't be afraid to try. If you fail in front of helpful people, they'll support you and encourage you to try again. Seek out someone who could become a good friend, a guide to the profession and its community or even someone just starting out like you. If you're blessed enough to find a mentor who knows the whole thing inside-out, that's great. Never turn down advice from someone who knows more than you do. You might not be able to use it now, but it's good to know for later.

To recap, this is How to Survive Being a Newb:
  1. Find a safe place to mingle and learn
  2. Be friendly, humble, and willing
  3. Make a friend
  4. Listen to advice (and thank them for it)
  5. Don't be afraid to try
If you have advice to share for other newbs, I welcome it in the comments. Good luck!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Good Fridays on Saturday: Style and Motion

It's been a good week.
I didn't blog Monday because I couldn't think of anything to blog about. So, I sketched, and it was productive. I realized two things: I'm rusty, and I need to improve my illustration style. I don't draw badly, but the anatomy looks horrible after so long not drawing much. The second realization is a little trickier. I know the only way to improve my style is to draw anything and everything I can, and it will come of its own accord. You can try to teach style, but it's best to come into it naturally. My style has always been strong, but I don't like it as much as I used to. Style does change over the years, but the more you explore different styles, the more you can adopt your own.

I don't know how similar style in illustration is to style in writing, but I have a feeling the same rule applies. Write as much as you can, play around with it, read a lot of authors and get ideas from them, and soon you'll have your own distinct style. Style is style, whatever the medium.

While sketching I also listened to a lot of upbeat music, including these three songs that always make me want to draw characters in motion.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Confessions of the Literary Kind: Ship of Magic Review

I'm still reading Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series. In my last mention of her books, I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was that irked me about her writing style and I wasn't sure I liked it. Now, I still have problems with the sensuality in her descriptions (that's the word I'd been groping for!), and the abundance of adjectives I sometimes tripped over when I first started reading. There were times when a passage was just so heavy with unnecessary description that I got confused over what it was actually describing. The story itself got me past that.

Ship of Magic is the tale of a liveship (sentient sailing ship with a living figurehead), the family who owns her, and the friends and foes who hope to possess her. It follows the lives, and rides around inside the heads, of the characters. And there are plenty. Each one of them has their own storyline that eventually connects them to the liveship.

I finished Ship of Magic and dove headfirst into Mad Ship, which moves a lot faster than the whopping first book. The first book was 600-some pages and the time spent in the characters' heads sometimes had me so antsy I had to resist the impulse to read ahead, but the worldbuilding, the heady conflicts, and the depth of the characters was tantalizing. I love and hate a few of Hobbs' characters in almost equal measure, but each and every one of them is multi-faceted. It is a character-driven book, made up of a web of fascinatingly interwoven relationships. I particularly love how the characters transform and make unexpected bonds based on those transformations. Their development is fluid, like it should be, and no one of them seems completely good or evil (though there's one I just can't help but hate all around).

Ship of Magic addresses social and political issues, including slavery, treatment of women, political corruption, and financial greed. I've seen these issues rise from the prose of other novels, including the Discworld series. "Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things" is an appropriate quote from I Shall Wear Midnight. Slavery and being treated as things is part of what the female characters in the Liveship Trader series have to deal with on a daily basis, but it's evident in the prose that the author intends readers to feel as disgusted by it as the characters do. From the main character Althea being considered improper and a shame to her family because of her desire to sail instead of run a household, and the Chalcedean treatment of women as objects for men to use, there is a lot to get your righteous indignation up about.

Reading this book is an emotional rollercoaster, sometimes satisfying and sometimes frustrating, making your inner feminist ball up her fists in outrage. There are large parts that drag with exposition, making the second book a lot lighter in comparison. Hobb doesn't viciously kill off her characters like some authors do, but tortures them a lot more than I expected, having never read her before. Because of that, the series is sometimes difficult to read and yet I still want to find out if it ends well, or if certain characters get paid back for what they've done. Since Ship of Magic is the first book, a lot of the payback doesn't happen until the second, and even then drama is high and torture is staple.

I'd recommend Ship of Magic for someone who's in the mood for a big, thick epic fantasy story, heavy on dynamic female characters, piratey escapades and magical vessels. Either Hobb's style tightens up by the second book or I don't notice it as much, so if you can get past her over-decorated descriptions in Ship of Magic, you'll find it worth it.
Ship of Magic (Hobb's writing) as a cake

 Just for fun, here's my impression of Terry Pratchett's and Robin Hobb's writing as cakes. I have no idea how the cake on the right would taste, but it's certainly pretty to look at! I'll let you decide why I chose them.

Discworld (Pratchett's writing) as a cake

Monday, September 2, 2013

Get off the Island!

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island. 

Those are some of the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel's song "I Am a Rock". In high school, I used to love this song. It spoke to the literary buff and poet in me who had such a small circle of friends that liked the same things I did. Even so, the lyrics were lonely and depressing. I eventually stopped listening to the song, but there are times when I flash back to that teen.

During my blog hiatus, and from time-to-time in my creative life, I've felt like I was on an island, cut off from inspiration and creative social contact. I haven't written in a long time and I've gotten sour on the publishing process, but this past week I began to brainstorm again for my book series. It's a start, and it's got me wanting to reach out to the collective consciousness for the inspiration I've been lacking.

After a month's blog break, I've decided it's time to get off the island. 

If you're on an island and need a little help finding your way off, you might want to check this out:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Things Update: Baby Pictures!

My newest nephew Jackson is out in the big world and I've never seen a kid (who wasn't the child of a famous movie star) have more pictures taken of him. Here he is!

7lb. 8oz. 20in.
Dear God, please help me not to drive my parents too crazy before I am a year old. Amen.

Other new things that happened this past week: 

New Doctor:  the 12th Doctor is actor Peter Capaldi, which I'm actually really excited about. I haven't seen him in anything else, but I get the feeling he'll do a great job as the Doctor. He's pretty darn likeable, from what I've seen on the BBC Interview.

New Website: I've been working on my site for the past few weeks and it's almost good to go. Just nitpicking over a few things before the big reveal. After that I'll be querying as an illustrator! I'm both nervous and excited!

New Games: Since the Steam Summer Sale, my oldest nephew Andrew (13) and I have been gaming with our newly aquired booty. At first it was Dungeon Defenders, then it spread to F2P (Free to Play) games like Everquest and Tera: Rising. I just can't keep that kid in games, though! He bored with the MMORPGs fast (since my machine's processor is too slow for Tera, so we can't play together on it) and now he's on Castle Storm which looks like an incredibly fun tower defense game.
It's a new release on Steam and only costs $10.

If anyone has mini gamers in their family, I'd highly recommend Steam for its inexpensive and easily-downloadable games. Kids can spend their allowances on them and still have something left over. As always, be aware of what your kids play and download. Watch out for those M ratings!

New Nonfiction Book Idea: Speaking of being aware, I've been toying with turning that idea into a handbook for parents. It would introduce parents who might not already be geeks themselves to anime, manga, and gaming for their children. It would share terminology, ratings, culture, and genres, putting parents 'in the know' about their kids' newest interests. The more parents understand about these forms of entertainment, the better they can share with and supervise their children in them.

This idea has been boiling in the back of my mind for months now and I keep getting the nudge to start working on it. It was inspired by my own nephews' gaming habits as well as the huge popularity manga has with children at my local library. Even children who don't normally like to read can read manga, and I don't think manga is bad for them. The one thing I do want to emphasize is the rating system most manga has and some parents seem unaware of. It bothers me to see 11-year-olds check out titles that are rated M for sex, drug use, and prostitution while their parents stand beside them, happily oblivious.

Do you think the world could do with a book that introduces parents to anime, manga, and gaming?

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