Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Do What You Do

Bad scan of photo of a drawing
I did in high school. The original
was sent in to a contest and not returned.
I didn't win, but
I'm still really proud of this one.
When I was in school, I took as many art classes as I could. I particularly loved drawing. My favorite medium was charcoal. And my goal with pretty much every drawing was to make it look as realistic as possible. My ultimate goal was to someday draw so realistically my drawings would look like photographs. I never achieved that, partly because for years I put my art on hold altogether. And when I started drawing again, my goals had changed. 

My new goals had more to do with being creative. One reason I started painting was to force myself to work with color, rather than the black and white of charcoal pencil drawing. I also wanted to loosen up and create art with more distinctive style rather than just trying to make an image that looks like a photograph.

I have a dear friend who draws with colored pencil and her drawings are almost indistinguishable from photographs. I am in absolute awe of her talent. (You can see her work here.) And yes, there are even twinges of jealousy now and then, but I don't have her patience and dedication to the art of colored pencil drawing. I bring this up because the point of this blog post is: 

That's okay. 

It's okay to do art differently than someone else, even if you absolutely adore and are astounded by their work. 

I recently registered to enter two pieces of art in the Florida State Fair Fine Arts Competition. I've entered a few times before, and always in the "whimsical" painting category. This year, without having actually completed, or even started, the paintings I intended to enter, I chose "whimsical" for one painting but "scene" for the other. My intention was to paint something more traditional and realistic for the "scene" entry. Think Bob Ross or a lovely sunset beach. 

But I started working on that painting....and it was horrible. I got frustrated. And bored. Everything looked so stiff and emotionless, and not at all realistic. So I set it aside and started a different painting. Instead of focusing on trying to paint what I thought the judges expect for this category, I painted what I was in the mood to paint:

The judges are going to scoff, I'm sure. I'm already imagining their comments about not using color, about the overly simplistic composition. Blah, blah, blah. But I don't care. I painted what was in me.

I told my husband about all this, about how frustrating it got trying to work on that other painting, and he said, "It isn't what you do."

Yes. That's exactly it. 

Then, I went back to the other painting and began working on it for "whimsical" category, this time doing what I do.

I'm not quite done with this. It needs a little more pop of color and my daughter who is also an artist has already given me some suggestions. But the important thing is that I now actually like this painting. 

It is what I do. 

It's fine to have goals and push yourself out of your comfort zone, and to be inspired by other artists. Necessary even. But remember that being an artist is being YOU as an artist, not someone else. Your job isn't to do exactly what someone else does -- your job is to do what you do. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Short Story, New Art, and Ebook Sale

My short story is in a magazine called Youth Imagination. "The Guitar" has been published in a couple of anthologies. Now is your chance to read it free online. 

Here's a sneaky peek, including the cool image they chose to highlight my story:

“Dude, please, you gotta take me with you this time.”

Kalek perched on a low branch of a Platinum Oak, his Elven ears poking through a massive mound of ragged curls. I cringed at the way his onyx eyes gleamed. He’d convince me, I was sure, but I wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“No way,” I said, “I’m going camping. Alone. That means without you, so forget it.”

He jumped down from the tree, lithe as a panther, and stood in front of me. “C’mon. I’ve never been off the island. Just this once.”

“Your father will be furious.”

“I know, dude, all the more reason.”

I should have known he’d say that. He’d never admitted it, not outright anyway, but that was pretty much the reason he’d befriended me. There wasn’t a person on the island his old man hated more than me. Why he’d stayed friends with me, I’ll never know. Tattooed Elven rockers and homebody farm boys generally have little in common, but somehow we’d become brothers. My camping trips were the only times I insisted he stay away.

“Uh-uh. Nope. Not a chance,” I said, shaking my head and turning to leave the clearing. As I walked across the carpet of grass and leaves, the forest trees surrounding us began to sway like sentinels.

I suddenly felt trapped by my own will to stay.


I've listed several pieces of art on my Etsy shop over the past couple of months. Some altered thrift store paintings -- most of the originals have sold, but I've got prints of everything available -- and some original acrylic paintings, also with prints available.

A sampling:

If you see anything that suits your fancy, hop over to my shop JUMPING RAILS. Everything has free shipping.

Oh, and...

Thursday, June 24, 2021

New Story in DreamForge Magazine: The Clock-Work Heart


My newest short story has released in DreamForge Anvil, a wonderful online magazine that publishes all sorts of science fiction and fantasy short stories -- and fortunately for me, they publish steampunk! 

"A Clock-Work Heart" is a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" but with a twist.

Here's a bit to get you started: 

The automaton had served me well, but I refused to feel remorse about decommissioning him. It , not him . Automatons are things, not people. Everyone knows that. Everyone insists . And Oscar was no exception. He— I mean it was metal and gears, nuts and bolts, springs and wires, nothing more. I would not lose a single night's sleep over this.

The screw I'd been turning broke free of its hole and landed on the worktable with a soft tink . I lifted the corroded and warped plate covering the center of Oscar's chest and set it aside. Light from the sconces above the table reflected and shadowed the peaks and valleys of Oscar's form, amplifying the tarnished appearance and highlighting the numerous dents and scratches. The rest of the workshop remained in moonlit dimness.
Just a thing. I'd built... it myself. Designed every feature, carefully placed every part down to the last rivet. I'd given Oscar eyes that could rotate, a hinged jaw, jointed fingers and opposable thumbs, but no one in their right mind could mistake him for human. No skin, no flesh of any kind. Brass plating. Glowing lights. Metal that creaked and clanged with every movement when I failed to keep it oiled properly, and then even with constant oiling— until movement became nearly impossible because of corrosion and other damage. It was imperative the body be obviously mechanical. Machines must be inferior to humans. They have their place. Nothing more than tools.

I had, however, put particular care into Oscar's heart.

If you'd like to read the rest for free, just CLICK HERE

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Art You See

Quick post to share that my latest short story release can be found in Havok Publishing's new anthology. Sensational: Havok Season Four is full of flash fiction all inspired by the five senses, and by what could be termed "sixth sense." 

Here's a little teaser from my story, "The Art You See":

We've all heard the stories of tortured artists. Cutting off ears, attempting suicide, drugs, depression. We see their anguish in horrific images, harsh brushstrokes, deep shadows. 

But those sweet cottages, sunshine-yellow flowers, and cherubic children are painted by happy people. Right?

I wish. 


My sister walks into my apartment and scrunches her nose. "Really, Jace? Another one?"

I sigh as I shut the door behind her. "Hello to you, too, Teagan." I watch her as she looks my newest acquisition up and down. A creepy forest, filled with shadows. Blood-red tentacles snake from between twisted trees. Claw marks rake the pathway into the forest, as though something has been unwillingly dragged off and swallowed up.

Teagan turns to me, giving me that look. The one she gives me every time. Lips pressed flat, brows scrunched, eyes filled with sadness. "It's so dismal." What she means is, What's wrong with you?

I don't bother arguing. Teagan will never understand. 

You can find Sensational: Havok Season Four on Amazon.  And to subscribe to Havok's online magazine, go to www.gohavok.com

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Altered Art Aliens Among Us

 When I first started doing altered thrift store paintings, I wanted to make sure I wasn't just copying the artists already doing them. If you aren't familiar with altered thrift store art, it's basically taking a painting from a thrift or antique store, something very basic like a landscape or flower arrangement, and adding things that obviously don't belong. Dragons and other mythological creatures, space ships, characters from TV shows and movies. Pretty much anything is up for grabs, but I didn't want to just do more of what is already out there.

I found two things that tend to be my favored areas: tentacles, because they are so fun to paint and can be worked in in such creative ways. And a little green alien guy, because, well, come on. He's just cute! 

Here's the first alien one I did:

I found the original landscape and could just see a spaceship crash landed in the water. Of course I had to make it tell more of a story.

And that story-telling aspect is what led to more altered thrift paintings featuring this guy, this time with him landing on purpose:

This original was black and white, so I had to get really creative:

This past week, I added a couple more to the series:

I really just posted here today to have a place where all of the paintings in the series are in one place. 

You can buy prints of the first three -- and will soon find the originals and prints of the last two, as soon as the oil paint is dry enough for shipping -- on my Etsy shop JumpingRails. (The first three originals are sold.) You can also find prints of the tentacle paintings and other altered thrift paintings there as well.

For now, though, I just hope you've enjoyed peeking into the little green alien's world. Maybe someday I'll give him a name. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

My 2021 Goals...er, Guidelines

I've never really been a New Year's Resolution kind of person. Not that I don't believe in making goals, but I know all too well that life can derail you at a moment's notice, and sometimes you simply decide that the track you're on isn't working and you jump rails by choice. (Says the girl whose Etsy shop is named Jumping Rails. Now you know part of the reason why.) So, yeah, I set goals, but I have a very Pirates of the Caribbean attitude about them--they're more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

This year I've come to a realization, though, that has spurred a decision to change direction. I've been working on a novel off and on for several years. It's a middle grade book, a sort of ghost story. I've not shared much about it with anyone until recently because my work on it has been so sporadic. This year, though, come hell or high water, or continuing pandemic, I'm getting that manuscript edited and published one way or another. 

And then, no more novels. For one, I have no real ideas for any. Sure, maybe a vague idea for a sequel to Relent, but since I have all of about 27 readers for that novel, there's not much of a motivation for me to tackle it. Other than that, nothing. Not to mention, marketing books sucks. At least, for me it does. 

One of my paintings, entitled Longing.

My art has been my focus the past few years, and I'm finding myself so much more inspired in that area, and after losing my son in 2018, it became a source of healing for my grief. My Etsy shop has done 1000 times better since reopening than it did originally. I'm finding my niche, learning what my artistic voice is -- even though it too can be a little all-over-the-place like my writing is. (Another reason my Etsy shop is called Jumping Rails.) I love painting, love doing altered thrift store art, even still, now and again, making some mixed media pieces or the once-in-a-blue-moon wand. Doing all that makes it very hard for me to focus on writing longer works, but...

There are short stories.

Back when I first started writing, I pumped out short stories like crazy. My main goal (see, I do make goals) in doing so was to build an audience for my novels. I honestly don't know if it helped at all. Most of the short stories were very different from my YA fantasy Toch Island Chronicles series. I wrote all different genres, for all different ages. (And there's that Jumping Rails thing again.) But, see, that's one thing I loved about short story writing. I never had to limit myself. Didn't have to worry about my "brand" and whether my stories tied together. Publishers of magazines and anthologies don't really care if your stories are all consistent, they just care whether or not the story you've submitted fits the magazine/issue/anthology they're publishing at the moment. 

One of the anthologies
I was asked to write for.
(This story is not on Wattpad,
but you can buy the antho
on Amazon.)

Anyway, I got away from short story writing. Over the past few years, the only short stories I've written were solicited ones--meaning, some small publishers came to me and requested I write stories for specific anthologies they were planning. That was an honor for me, and of course I agreed. But I had gotten away from just writing what popped into my head and shopping for markets. I think it was maybe the thing that had to give. I couldn't juggle novel writing and art and short stories, all while homeschooling, and definitely not after losing my son. 

But I'm so close to having my middle grade novel done. I feel like, if I can just get it finished and published, I can let go and shift over to short stories, which I can balance with my art. 

And folks, I'll tell you it's bizarre: I was kind of needing confirmation that this was the right decision, all while planning this blog post for the past few days. Then, today, when I was finally ready to sit down and type this, I noticed I was getting comments on some of my short stories on Wattpad, which hasn't happened in ages. So, yeah, here we go!

And if you are interested at all in my short story writing, you can check out some free stories on Wattpad for yourself (no membership needed to read them).  CLICK HERE

Some of those stories have been published in anthologies that can be purchased on Amazon, and of course there are other anthologies on Amazon that have stories which are not on Wattpad--you can find them by going to my Amazon Author Page

PS--I've turned off comments, and intend to continue keeping comments turned off on this blog. To be honest, for years (literally, I'm not exaggerating) the only comments I ever get on here have been spam. So, sorry. I will, as always, post links to these blogs on my Facebook Author Page, so you can always follow me there and comment if you have something to say. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Bringing the Focus in on Middle Grade Fiction

It's been a long time since I've written about writing on here. But this past weekend I participated in the online Realm Makers Conference (The Pandemic Edition) and I watched a session on editing that focused a lot on Middle Grade fiction. The speaker, an editor named Brian Kohl, said something I wish more people understood.

Young readers, with every page of a book they read, want to know three things: who the main character is, what they are doing, and what they are feeling. Anything else doesn't belong in the story. (That's, I think, pretty close to his words, if not exact.)

This has been a stumbling block for me while writing my MG ghost story. Critique group members will point out that certain things are not explained. They're looking for more exposition. More details that show why things are the way they are. For example, I once asked, in a Facebook group for writers, a bunch of questions regarding body decomposition for a specific scene. I got soooooo much information. I put sooooooo little of it in the actual scene. I simply didn't want to get the facts wrong, but the truth is, the character is going to see what she sees, and only what she sees, and the reader doesn't need to know one jot more.

I've been stressing so much about other research I need to do for this book. Worried readers are going to find historical inaccuracies, worried they'll find things inconsistent and implausible. Worried I need to do lots of explaining to make sure it all ties together neatly. But the fact is, I don't. Yes, I need to do the research because I don't want misinformation in my story. But I do not need the reader to understand anything the main character either doesn't understand or doesn't concern herself with.

Middle grade fiction is aimed at kids for whom the universe consists of what directly affects them, and no more. I'm not saying youngsters aren't smart--they are wicked smart. I'm not saying they're selfish--they are incredibly caring. I'm saying that developmentally they haven't reached a point where they're looking to find their place in the world. That's what being a teenager is about. That's the function of YA fiction--teens are finally looking outward, seeking footing in an ever-expanding universe, figuring out their positioning in relation to everything and everyone else. But middle graders want books that bring them in, books that connect with them where they are, stories that make them heroes in a universe of which they are the center.

I personally think that is part of the reason I love MG fiction even now. It allows me to let go of the rest of the world. Especially these days, with the world gone mad. Yes, it's kind of an escape, which makes my love of MG fiction a bit different from its function for actual middle graders, but we shouldn't put adult fiction expectations on MG fiction. It has nothing to do with dumbing things down -- it's all about a shift in perspective. It's not limiting the view, but seeing things through different eyes, reconnecting with the child inside us who doesn't have to filter everything through life experience.

Anyway the session did what I had hoped it would: it got me motivated to get working on my manuscript again because I've been reminded what I knew all along, which is to stay focused on the story itself and keep telling it the way I've been doing so.

Just a note: Yes, I know the images (of my original art) I added to this post seemingly have nothing to do with the topic. But, if you look closely, they actually illustrate what I'm talking about. A different perspective. Bringing the focus in. Seeing how someone's world may be big to them even though it looks small to you.