Tuesday, February 26, 2013

13 Questions Writer Meme

Time and time again I've been told that blogs are ways writers connect with their audiences, but not by talking about their books, by talking about themselves. I'm still groping my way around the blogosphere, finding my niche. So, I decided to create a little question meme for people who are new to the blog.

13 Questions Meme/Writer Meme

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
An artist. Because I love to draw. This is why I put 'illustrator' in front of 'writer' when I post info about myself.

2. Do you have a day job? What is it?
Yes. I work at a library, which is a really great way to accumulate piles of books.

3. What do you most love to do in your spare time?
When I'm not drawing, writing, or doing something for work, I game on my pc.

4. What do you like to read the most?
I like to read books filled with adventurous quests and magic in far-from-ordinary settings, with characters developing strengths and abilities they didn't have at the beginning, and learning things that will carry them into the sequel. Lately I've been into Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter type stories, only with a female MC.

5. What do you like to write?
Kidlit - everything from Picture Books to YA, but it has to have fantasy elements, low romance, adventure, maybe a little mystery, another world, and at least one strong female character.

6. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in junior high I decided I wanted to write and illustrate my own book series.

7. Do you have any pets?
Yes. Two cats - a black manx male named Figaro and a little tabby female named Squirrel.

8. What about your family?
I come from a big, close family who always encouraged me in my creative pursuits and told me I could be and do anything I wanted when I grew up. I am very thankful.

9. What are your creative influences?
Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki, Lewis Carroll, Gerald Brom and many others.

10. Do you have a favorite snack/beverage?
I drink nearly any kind of tea, but lately it's been lapsang souchong and camomile with honey. I also love sourdough pretzels, gummi candy and conversation hearts.

11. Any favorite movies?
Yes! Labyrinth, Legend, and The 10th Kingdom (although it's really a mini-series). I also love any version of Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan (including the mini-series called Neverland).

12. What about favorite books?
(see #11) Also, anything by Terry Pratchett, the Harry Potter series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, the Fly By Night books by Frances Hardinge and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

13. What 'truth' (as in truth or dare) about yourself do you feel comfortable sharing?
I used to be shy. (People I admit this to are often very surprised.)

Feel free to answer these questions on your own blog and post a link back in the comments!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Because You Write What You Love

            Then suddenly, like a change in the weather, she sensed him – a presence that made her frightened and curious. It was strong and familiar, like nostalgia, and reminded her of warm blankets in the wintertime. What confused and frustrated her was that she didn’t know why.
She fixed her gaze upon the door to the study, and waited the length of a few heartbeats, but no one emerged. Meanwhile, the little shadow creatures drew nearer, their ranks expanding as they came from everywhere. Every corner and shadowed surface seemed to offer up a shuddering darkling. She pressed her back to the bookshelf behind her, unable to escape any further. 
~ from A Shadow Story (Chapter Seven: Burglary and Black Buttons) 
by Donelle Lacy

This is why I still love my YA Victorian novel. Even after I've gotten rejection after rejection. Even after I've felt like maybe it's just not what's popular right now. I don't care. I love everything from it's atmosphere to its characters, and I love the feeling I get when I read it again after months of letting it sit.

Try reading something of yours and fall in love all over again.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Good Fridays: The Apple Project

Fourteen children! That's how many kids showed up for my library art class on Thursday. And that's my Good Fridays item. Good Fridays is a spot on the blog when I highlight something good I've discovered, done, or dreamed up over the past week.

fully shaded apple drawn by me
Eager homeschoolers between the ages of 11 and 14 clustered around me at a long table at the back of the library where I work. When I spoke, they absorbed, and when I started them off, they drew, they listened, they tried. The thrill over so many young faces staring at me in anticipation still hasn't worn off. I'm giddy they all seem to really want to know about art!

Our project for the class, and to take home after, was to do with apples. Drawing them realistically and creatively. Why apples? Because they're a simple shape that can be as detailed or as basic as you want to make them.

my apple sketches
The kids weren't terribly eager for apples (though one boy did suggest eating them). I told them how you can take a shape like an apple and do countless creative things with it, while still making it look like an apple. They got a kick out of drawings I'd done the night before showing what I meant. I had an apple in jeans (applebottom jeans), an apple as a lady's rump (which got lots of giggles), an apple as an angler fish ready to chomp down on a pair of nervous cherries, and an apple sun rising behind a range of mountains.

By the end of class, they'd drawn some still-life apples and were ready to be creative with apples at home. I look forward to seeing what they come up with!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Don't Look Down

Living a productive life is sometimes like walking a tightrope. The view is beautiful and the journey is exciting, but if you don't keep your focus, you can easily slip off. Plus, there are people armed with peashooters who're only too happy to take a ping at you.

Michael Parkes - Leda's Daughter
I've suffered a lot of setbacks from peashooters in the form of friendly advice, rules, guidelines, social expectations, even other people's achievements. Sometimes I thought looking at them was helping me, only to find myself staring up at my goal miles overhead after I've fallen off the rope.

Following your goals is a lot like putting on earphones before jogging through a crowded park. If you tune into what you want out of life and play that as a constant soundtrack, the distractions can't affect you as much. If you remain a moving target, the peashooters have a hard time getting a bead on you.

So, keep busy. Keep goals in front and take steps to reach them. Ignore the noise and chaos on either side. If you have more than one goal, trade off. Build toward one while planning another, but always keep moving.

Lately, I've been thankful for all the tasks on my plate because it means I'm never bored. I'm never boring. I'm always moving toward something. If I haven't gotten an agent, that's okay, because I've gotten an art class. If I'm not working on a manuscript, that's okay, because I'm making a lesson plan. If I can't read all those books in a month, that's okay, because I'm drawing instead.

Replace, don't regret. It might be the right time for one goal and not the right time for another. Then you can always move that goal up the queue and check it off when its time comes.

Don't let the distractions get to you. And don't look down.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Am I Too Hard on YA Authors?

I'm participating in my library's Teen Read Challenge, which is basically a contest to see how many YA books we can read between Feb. 1 and April 30. So far I'm off to a rough start. I've ordered in books from other libraries. I've pulled some off the shelves, but I haven't hit the jackpot yet. This year I'm having a hard time finding teen and tween books that keep me absorbed and entertained.

What doesn't help is that I've just finished a stint of Terry Pratchett novels, and reading YA after that is the equivalent of drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. Am I just expecting too much from YA?

To let you know what I've picked up lately, it's Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede, The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery, and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.

So far Dealing With Dragons is a fun middle-grade with an MC that I really love. I'll be finishing this one. I just think I'd have enjoyed it more when I was the right age for it.

Anne of the Island is good as well. I loved the other books I've read in this series, but again, it's just not the right time for it. I'll probably hold this one off til later.

Ship Breaker promises to be an active, grungey, dystopian read, but I have too many other books jockeying for my attention. After I read it, I'll probably read the second novel The Drowned Cities. They have great titles and their concept is interesting. Not to mention, there's a male MC.

Incarceron doesn't remind me of anything I've read before - except maybe a little of the settings in Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series. It promises to be a good book as well, but I'll let you know more after I've finished it.

I've only gotten a little way into The Iron Thorn, but it bothers me and I'll tell you why. The concept sounded amazing when I read it on Goodreads, and I'm hopelessly attracted to the steampunk setting, but the beginning of the novel grates on a few different levels. I've read and enjoyed first-person post-apoc/dystopian before, but I really have to like the MC's voice. In this case, I don't. Also, Aoife's name is hard to pronounce, unless you're familiar with Irish girl names. She's also not 'one of the only girls in the School of Engines' she is the only girl. It feels a bit like a 'chosen one' trope and like the author is trying too hard to make her special.

I appreciate an author's nod to a writer she admired, but in this case, she's done more than just nod to H.P. Lovecraft. She's borrowed his lore with the Great Old Ones, she's dedicated the book to him, and she's named the main city after him. I haven't discovered what other Lovecraftian concepts she's used yet, but I've already rolled my eyes once or twice. This is where I ask, am I being too hard?

When I draw from authors I admire, I use their influence in as subtle a way as possible, to shore up and strengthen my own original concepts. I also borrow from many different sources and mingle them in a sort of stew of my own creation. I don't want someone to read my work and be reminded so much of another author they drop my book and pick up the real thing. I want to create a concept other writers want to imitate. And I expect other writers to do the same.

So, should I give The Iron Thorn another chance? If I hold on, will the wonderful, creepy steampunk concept I read about on Goodreads turn up and sweep me off my feet? Or is it just going to be a lot of references to Lovecraft and an MC whose voice grates my nerves?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Are You In Your Right Mind?

Do you see faces or a vase?
I'm introducing my little art class to the right-brain method of unlocking creative vision from the book Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This book is awesome. And the method for learning to tap into a creative perspective is invaluable for anyone, artist or not.

In the book, readers learn that the left hemisphere (the dominant one in most people) is in charge of speech, logic, and most intellectual pursuits like analyzing, using symbols, and thinking abstractly. It also keeps track of time and presents things in a linear, sequential fashion. The right-brain is in charge of nonverbal communication, intuition, spacial relationships between objects, object recognition, nonlinear thinking (thinking 'outside the box'), and holistic perspectives (seeing the 'big picture' and the patterns in it).

This reminded me very much of the plotters versus pantsers in writing. Those who don't prefer to outline might simply be more right-brained when they work. Meanwhile, the left-brain is concerned with sequence, and order.

Because your right-brain controls your left side and your left-brain controls your right side, ambidextrous and left-handed people have more crossover between the hemispheres of their brain. Their hemispheres 'share' more and they might display more right-brained traits in their everyday life. It doesn't mean they're artists or musicians, but they have a tendency toward great ideas, spacial relationships and 'thinking outside the box'.

I'm right-handed, but I learned recently that I use my left side/right-brain more than a lot of other right-handed people. My right-brain (left hand) dominates in ways I hadn't realized before. I'm also good at seeing spacial relationships between objects, good at non-linear thinking (I'm a pantser), intuitive, and good at picking up the nonverbal queues people give off. I think I inherited this, since my mother has a lot of these same traits.

The point of the vase/faces image is that you draw one side and then you try to draw the other side to compliment it. This exercise is designed to allow the 'shift' between left-brain and right-brain thinking. It's only one of the great exercises in Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain.

What about you? Are you in your Right Mind?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Go Away to College!

I wasn’t one of those teens who was eager to get away from her family or thought she was ready to grow up. (I’m very close to my family and I still don’t want to grow up!) I went away to college because first, I got a scholarship, and second, I chose to. I chose very carefully with lots of financial conjuring. First was college, and second was grad school.

College for me was a state university only forty-five minutes away from my hometown. It wasn’t glamorous or expensive and I probably wouldn’t have chosen it had I not gotten a scholarship, but I’m glad I went. It was the beginning of spreading my wings, my training wheels of higher education.

Disney 2001
At college, I learned that the real me is friendly and can talk to strangers, can handle being hit in the head with a bamboo sword, and can survive being ripped apart. I met some great friends for life. I started to come out of my shell. I learned about roleplay, cosplay, and anime conventions. With my friends, I started a club for our geeky hobbies like anime, sci-fi/fantasy, and gaming. It was called Fantanime. As far as I know, the club is still around.

Through college, I traveled to Disneyworld in Florida, where I worked for about three months at Magic Kingdom. (But that's another story.)

Savannah Sunset
Grad school was inspired by jealousy. It was the result of me outgrowing college and wanting more specific instruction than I was getting. It was inspired by me making an online friend and wishing my college was as cool as hers was. So I applied to her college. And I got in.

The Savannah College of Art and Design. It even sounds spiffy, doesn’t it? SCAD is the kind of college I used to only dream of going to. They were hazy, vague desires of a faraway ‘art school’, but SCAD made them real and solid and even more desirable. Even the dvd they sent in the packet dripped with Spanish moss and sparkled with excited art students laiden with shiny new art supplies.

One of the squares near my apartment
When I traveled to Savannah to start my first quarter, I knew no one. I had no safety net other than living in the dorm. And I didn’t care. I was wrapped in a blanket of the south, surrounded by one of the most gorgeous cities I’d ever seen, and I was learning under professional talent. I was enchanted. I would walk under the bearded trees, gazing up at the historic buildings and appreciate. I would sit in my classes, shaking my head at the bored undergrads, and absorb.

There were no walls of self-consciousness, no silly pride, no hesitation. I was stripped down, open, and eager.

Halloween 2006
At SCAD, I came alive again, my creativity rejuvenated, my social appetite buzzing. I made amazing, talented friends. I became the one American in a cluster of Asian girls, and I fit right in. I went to restaurants, art exhibits, doll meets, Halloween parties. I found out I could be a social butterfly under the right circumstances.

Portfolio Night 2008
I won contests, participated in events, lived in three different places in two years. The last was an elegant old two-story brick apartment building with gaslights out the front and a wrought iron fence. It had six-foot high windows and wood floors. It came with great roommates.

I got loans for SCAD. Loans that I am just starting to pay back. But it was so worth it.

And that’s what I mean by “Go Away to College”. Go away because it’s an adventure. Go away because it’ll help you find out who you are and appreciate what you already know. It’s not the money I think about when I remember my college years. It’s the experience.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Things Second Life Has That I Want

First of all, the 'industrial topper' found in a steampunk hunt on Second Life a few years ago. I would love to make this hat. I could imagine wearing it to a convention or book signing. Or to the library on storytime day.

Second, Trav's jet boots (aerostompers). Bought in a great little shop called Xentricity. These also let off jets of steam during flight.

Third, gear-powered hologram fairy wings - which puff steam and flicker whatever color you want. (In this case, green.) I think these came from a box o' miscellaneous stuff someone gave me.

Am I the only one fascinated in things that puff steam or make you fly?

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