Friday, February 17, 2017

Books for Adults: Keep Your Inner Kid (Or, Don't Be An Empty Onion)




I recently started watching a series called The Magicians...and before reaching the end of the first season I have decided to abandon it. Sorry, call me a prude, but I simply couldn't stand sitting through the sex scenes and drug abuse to get to the story, to the magic.

I've read some descriptions of this series, and as I suspected, I found a lot of "Harry Potter for adults" and "Narnia for adults."

Can we please, please, please stop saying this?

Listen, there are things that are adults-only, because they are not appropriate for younger viewers. This is why we rate movies and TV shows. We don't want someone watching something they are not emotionally developed to handle.

But something being "adults-only" is not -- I repeat, not -- the same as something being "for adults."

Folks, Harry Potter and Narnia are just as much "for adults" as they are for kids and teens.

Fantasy and fairy tales are just as much for adults as they are for kids.

There is a short story called "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros, in which the main character (an eleven year old girl) explains getting older:

"Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one."

Yes, we change and we grow as we age and mature, but that doesn't mean we abandon magic and adventure. It doesn't mean that suddenly the only things we concern ourselves with are adults-only. Shouldn't adults be more complex than that? Shouldn't we be adding and adding, not replacing? We want to be the full set of dolls, not just the outer one. We ought to be a solid tree trunk, not a hollow one, the center eaten away by the disease of aging. Imagine an onion with only the skin, no center--flimsy and flavorless.

The irony is that The Magicians really is making an attempt to combine those things--adult themes and child-like love of magic and fairy tale. The main character is a college-age guy who hits bottom emotionally when he is forced to give up his childish belief that a storybook world is real...until he finds out that it is real, and so is magic. What a concept! But more and more the onion is losing its center as the brittle skin of sex and drugs take its place.

A story can have romance and grit and deal with deep topics. It can have cussing and darkness and rage. I love stories that dig deep and get dark. I love stories that challenge me as an adult. The thing is, I end up finding more of that in middle grade and teen literature than I do in shows like The Magicians. I don't just want gratuitous adults-only content to make me feel like I'm getting something mature. I want real complexity. I want layers.

Madeleine L'Engle said, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

And "for children" means it goes deep, to the core of the onion, to the center tree ring, to the innermost doll. Stories like that work their way through the layers -- they don't stop at the outer skin. They keep us, as adults, filled from the inside out.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year, New Book, New Prices

2017 slipped in with little notice for me. Basically from October to mid-January, my life is a whirlwind. Necronomicon, family birthday, Thanksgiving, another birthday, Christmas and all the busyness that goes with it...and then New Year's Day, which is also my wedding anniversary. 

Advice to anyone thinking of getting married: Do NOT pick New Year's Day. It makes trying to celebrate nearly impossible. For one, your anniversary is shared with a holiday. There's not a lot to do, and traveling is crazy expensive that time of year. 

Now, it's finally time to settle in and get things back to normal. This year is starting off with a couple of things for me...

A New Book

I had to show ya'll the cool wrap-around cover. 

Mythic Orbits just released. It's, as the Amazon description reads, "fourteen of the best speculative fiction stories by Christian authors, spinning science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal genres into worlds of intrigue and delight." It features a short story by Kerry Nietz, author of Amish Vampires in Space and A Star Curiously Singing.

It also earned a couple of pretty snazzy endorsements:
"A collection of brief, delightful departures--and a few welcome chills.A truly enjoyable and impressive anthology."
--Tosca Lee, New York Times Bestselling author

 "This collection presents a satisfying spectrum of storytellers, some familiar and others new on the scene. Some of the tales are unsettling and some are comforting; many are thought- provoking. Enjoy the ride."
--Kathy Tyers, author of the"Firebird"series, CrystalWitness, Shivering World, One Mind's Eye, and Star Wars: TheTruce at Bakura
Order it in print or Kindle version HERE

New Prices

To kick off 2017, I've put my entire Toch Island Chronicles trilogy on sale in Kindle format. For the month of January, and possibly beyond since I'm just now getting to posting here, you can snag each book for only $1.39. Which means, you get the trilogy for less than $5.



HERE IS THE NIFTY LINK that takes you to the series page on Amazon.

BTW--always feel free to share the links for anything you see on my blog. We indie authors survive more by word-of-mouth than anything, and every time you tell someone about our work you are doing an invaluable service that is more appreciated than you can possibly know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Catching Up Before Thanksgiving (and a Special Offer)

I can hardly believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I'm seriously behind on posting here, as usual. Quick catch-up:

Necronomicon was AWESOME. Probably the best one yet. I was on ten panels, and got to judge the costume contest. And I dressed up in costume myself (although, of course, did not enter the contest). And for the first time I entered some of my artwork into the art show--and I sold several piecees!


Me on a panel..I forget which one. I must have been looking at my phone?

My art, both the panel and the table (left of the pink mushroom thing).


Costumes from the contest.


Me and costume contest contestant (and dear friend and fellow author) David Berger. 

There were also some very STRANGE THINGS at Necro this year. Like...the wall from Stranger Things and the one and only Dr. Paul Bearer Jr. from Creature Feature. He is, of course, not the original with whom I grew up, but I was completely star-struck nonetheless. 

RIGHT HERE. RUN. 
SQUEEEEEE!

For more pictures, visit my Facebook album HERE.

After that came Halloween. Then a trip to Universal Studios to celebrate family birthdays. If you haven't seen my bazillion previous posts with pictures from this oft-visited theme park, here's a few:

Beastie 2 and one of her heroes. 

This is in Sapphire Falls (a Universal Studios hotel we walked around).
I WANT THIS ROOM.

Obligatory dragon photo from Diagon Alley.

Having fun with monsters in the Prop Shop.

Whilst most of this was happening, I have been painting and whatnot. I have several pieces on display at Center Place, next to the Brandon Library (in, of course, Brandon, FL). If you're local, go check it out.

If you haven't seen my artwork, visit my Fine Art America page HERE. (You can also buy prints there.)

And speaking of art...I am running a special at my Etsy store. Free shipping on everything from now until Christmas day. This includes mixed media (most 6"x6"), pendants, and wands. There is also one original acrylic painting (4"x4" plus a frame). To keep things simple, the code is FREESHIPPING. Just click HERE.






Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Heading to Necronomicon 2016

Me at last year's Necro.
Yes, I know, I should have posted this before now. But I've been working on getting ready for this!

In just a few days I'll be heading to the Necronomicon, a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/gaming convention in Tampa. I've been a guest author there the last few years, and will be again this year. But this time I'm also participating in their art show, which means I'll have my paintings, mixed media, and wands on display and for sale!

If you want to see the wands and mixed media that will be there, check out my Etsy shop (which will be on vacation while I'm gone so I don't double-sell anything). Also, if you can't make it to Necro and are wanting something from my shop, might want to grab it now...Just sayin'. 

If you want to see examples of my acrylic paintings, visit my Fine Art America page. No, not all of those will be at Necro, and there are a couple paintings that will be there that aren't available as prints. But this will give you an idea of what to expect.

Another thing to expect is a lot of geeky fun, including a vendor room full of cool stuff and costumes everywhere--like these from two years ago:





And now, the details....

Necronomicon 2016

Grand Hyatt, Tampa, FL
October 28-30, 2016

Click HERE for more info and registration. 

My panel schedule:

Friday 1:00:00 PM Maintaining Mystery without Losing Your Reader
Friday 4:00:00 PM Writing for the YA Market
Friday 6:00:00 PM Point of View: Head Hopping  HOST
Friday 9:00:00 PM Plotting a Mystery
Saturday 12:00:00 PM Writing Novels: Ending it Right 
Saturday 3:00:00 PM Why I Write Short Fiction
Saturday 4:00:00 PM Characters That Aren't a Reflection of You
Saturday 6:00:00 PM The Fine Art of Exposition
Sunday 11:00:00 AM The Care and Feeding of Your Creative Process
Sunday 1:00:00 PM Seeing What Nobody Else Sees: Art in the Eye of the Artist

Hope to see you there! 

BTW--I won't have an author table, but I'll be running all over the convention area the whole weekend. Don't be afraid to hunt me down if you want signed books, or just to say hello!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Art For Sale Online! #Etsy #FineArtAmerica

As you can see,
I can use some more "favorites."
And sales.
And I need to charge my phone :P.
I've spent ages thinking I needed to start an Etsy store. Well, I've done it!

Jumping Rails is now officially live, and stocked with:

  • My mixed media art (on 6"x6" and 8"x8" canvases)
  • Pendants that feature my drawings, pendants that feature images from my book covers, and even a few that are designs painted directly on the glass
  • Hand-crafted Harry Potter type wands (although, no, none of them are replicas of actual HP wands)
You can see examples of all the above in my previous blog post


You may be wondering where the name of my store came from...

Well, I think I told you about my experience at the end of the 2016 Realm Makers conference. I, along with two other Realmies, needed to catch a train back to the airport, but the side of the station that train stopped at was opposite the side of the tracks our dorm at Villanova was. Which normally wasn't an issue as a tunnel runs underneath the tracks--but that morning, the tunnel was flooded.

The train was due in just a few minutes and we couldn't see any other way across. (I later found out there was a bridge farther down, but even if we'd known about it, I don't think we'd have had time to truck over, across, and back, dragging all our luggage.) So, we jumped this fence:


I recounted this tale in a Realm Makers forum, and then in another, completely unrelated conversation, I used the phrase "I don't mean to jump rails here" and someone cleverly replied, "Oh, you know all about jumping rails."

It got me thinking, that yes, I do. I'm constantly jumping rails. In college, I jumped from art education as a major to biology, then worked teaching math, then started homeschooling, then writing, and back to painting....and my art itself ranges from drawing to painting to mixed media to pendant-making to woodworking. I am forever jumping to a new rail.

 To see all I have for sale at Jumping Rails, click HERE.

AND....if you're simply wanting prints of my paintings or drawings, I have some posted on Fine Art America. You can order a variety of sizes, and even have those images put on different items such as phone cases and pillows. To visit my Fine Art America store, click HERE.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Return of Artist Me

I've been doing artwork of one type or another my whole life. Started off drawing, mostly pencil and charcoal, particularly in high school:

This one an annual art contest at my high school.

For years after that, I pulled back from drawing and focused on more craftsy things. Scrapbooking. Painting plaster figurines. Using my art skills to make custom cornices for my windows and to re-purpose items to be used around my house. All artsy, all creative, but not the "real" art I'd aspired to when I was younger.

A few years ago, after I started my writing journey, I did spend some time drawing again. Mostly beetles like this:



And things like this Elf Girl:


I draw off and on in spurts, but haven't really *done* anything with these works. Got a couple in small press magazines and books, but I haven't pursued trying to sell my work, other than in pendant form:



A few months ago, though, that shifted. I visited a friend's house where I got to play around with some of her mixed media stuff. It was great fun, and I immediately went out and bought some canvases, paint, and a few new brushes. I started playing around, and pretty soon I had some mixed media art of my own:

One of my very first pieces

Having fun with steampunk effects

For Halloween - This one sold at a local art show!

The image directly above included some actual hand-painted feathers, as opposed to just background painting and layering techniques I used in the previous pieces. 

Which got me in the mood to do some actual painting:


That Sun Dream-catcher has been in my head for months. I think it took me tackling the other works to give me the confidence to finally paint it.

And then...



And fairies....


And it hasn't stopped yet. I find myself thinking all day about what piece to do next, looking for inspiration everywhere, and shopping for more supplies :).

It has all culminated so far in having my very first table at an Art Show!


You can see that I have quite a bit done now. Still making pendants, too. And wands! (Which I'm pretty sure I've posted about before.) My books are on the table, too, of course -- writing is still my passion! I've got to figure out how to balance the two, as right now I'm on a massive art streak, but writing will not be going away.

So, this has been my life lately -- the return of Artist Me in full force. I'm looking forward to more art shows, and over the next few weeks I'll be working on putting up an Etsy store so I can sell everything online as well. I promise to keep you posted!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Lost Science of Bagging Groceries

I've been wanting to post this for a very long time, because every time I go to the grocery store it drives me friggin-bananas that no one knows how to bag groceries anymore. It really shouldn't take a college degree, but I guess basic physics properties are no longer common knowledge.

When I learned to bag groceries, lo, so many years ago, it was taught that to the best of your ability, you try to make every bag look approximately like this:

The heavy items go on the bottom, then not so heavy, and finally things like bread and bags of chips go on top.

You do not put all the heavy things in one bag, and all the light things in another:


This is why:


Even though you are probably pushing the bags out to your car in a cart, at some point you do have to carry them, and it's so much easier if you are not forced to walk like a human question mark.

The same goes for this:

Yes, that's a messy drawing. But that's what you get when you bag groceries like this--a mess. Everything spills out of one bag, The other looks like a sad, pathetic little crumpled thing. Seriously, how unfair is this?

Not that I'm saying everything needs to be homogenized here. While the weight distribution of your bags really should be about equal, the temperature is a different matter altogether.

Let's look at this informative diagram of the direction heat moves:

Notice that heat moves away from its source and toward areas of no heat (or less heat).

This is why we separate warm items from cold items:


When we don't separate them, what we get is this:


I will note here that separation can be taken too far. Seriously--what is going through the minds of the baggers who put one or two items in each bag? How is this easier for the customer? Or are you just showing off how quickly you can whip open those clingy plastic bags? Sorry, but save it for America's Got Talent and don't make me wrangle 47 sets of handles to get my groceries into the car/house.

OK, thanks for letting me get that off my chest finally. For my next lecture....

Just kidding.