Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Cover Art: A Superhero for Christmas

I've asked author H.L. Burke to post today about the cover art for her upcoming release, A Superhero for Christmas, part of her Superhero Rehabilitation Project series. 

Here's what she has to say:

I definitely know better than to attempt my own art. Both my daughters are (for their age) pretty good at drawing, but I have no attention to visual details, so generally speaking, I just give a vague idea to my cover artist and let them come up with something. I like to be surprised.

For my superhero universe, however, I always knew I wanted artwork that could reasonably fit in a comic book page, so drawn figures of people instead of photo manipulation or graphic design-type work.

I’ve known K.M. Carroll (on Deviant Art as NetRaptor… you should check her out. She’s got her own webcomic too https://www.deviantart.com/netraptor), and she’s done the artwork for this series ever since. I like the illustrated style because it feels comic-booky without looking like it
is for kids (except for maybe the YA series which IS arguably for kids).

Sometimes I’ll just give her a general list of traits, but for this one, I actually had casting in mind
for the characters. This is rare for me. Most actors or known people are too attractive to be my
characters who I generally imagine as everyday people, but with Glint, who is supposed to be
an overly charming, Superman stand-in with a sparkling smile and kind of a cheesy charisma, I
always felt he needed to be played by Nathan Fillion–and for the laughs, since this is a Hallmark
movie, I decided that the female lead would be Maggie Lawson (from Psych as well as some
Hallmark movies). I specifically asked for characters who looked a little like those actors but not
enough that I could be sued for using their likenesses without permission.
I love what she came up with.


Marvel hero action collides with Hallmark Holiday goodness in this new superhero romantic
comedy by Award-Winning author H.L Burke. Launches November 5th, 2022!

A Superhero for Christmas

When superhero, Glint's, aka Henry Nichols's, powers go on the fritz after a supervillain attack,
he finds himself rethinking his priorities. Years of devotion to public service have left him with
little for himself, and with forty swiftly approaching, he finds himself longing for his youth on his
grandfather's farm. An incognito vacation is just what he needs.

Former reporter Lara Landis lost her career and her only long-term relationship all in one
humiliating blow. Broke and rudderless, she retreats to her parents' small town grocery store to
try and make one last career rally, but how is she going to get a big scoop living in the middle of
nowhere? When a poorly disguised superhero lands in her neighborhood, insisting that he's just
a normal guy, she can't help but smell a story.

As their chance encounters turn into a begrudging friendship, Lara is surprised to find a caring,
sincere human beneath Henry's press-conference-ready exterior. When the truth comes out,
though, her big story could turn into his worst nightmare.

What readers are saying about A Superhero For Christmas:
Hallmark and Marvel got together to have a baby, Superhero for Christmas. An adorable
heart-warming cozy read for the reader looking for some superhero charm with their
rom-com.~Ticia
Christmas, romance, and superheroes...this story lifted my heart up, up, and away!~Ernie
Laurence, Jr, author of the Islands of Loar series.
A cozy Christmas rom-com with superheroes... it doesn’t get better than this! ~ Brianna
This story has all of the feels with, thankfully, not a thing that was sappy. This is how I have
always wished Hallmark holiday stories were written. ~ Veronica Lynn, AKA Mrs. Spellsmith

About the Author:
H. L. Burke has written more books than she can count—because she's written a lot of books,
not just because she can't count very high. Easily distracted by shinies, she has published in many subgenres including fantasy romance, Steampunk, and superhero, and always creates story worlds with snark, feels, and wonder. Married to her high school crush, she spends her time writing, spoiling her cat, and supervising her two supervillains in training (aka her precocious daughters). An Oregon native, she wilts without trees and doesn't mind the rain. She is a fan of delicious flavor, a follower of the Light, and a believer in happily ever after.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Altered Additions -- My Newest Altered Thrift Paintings

Just popping on to share some of the newest art you can find on my Etsy shop. Prints (8x10) are available of all these.

My altered thrift painting featuring the most hard-working sponge on the bottom of the ocean. 

I'll leave it up to you to decide if Gary is running for help, or running away...



This is a painting I found that absolutely screamed for me to add Steampunk elements. I mean, look at that frame! (The original is not listed on Etsy, but I just had to show off the frame. 8x10 prints are available.)


And another adventure for our little green alien.



To find prints of these and more, visit www.JumpingRails.etsy.com




Monday, July 11, 2022

Mark the Days on Mysterion

My short story "Mark the Days" is featured on Mysterion Magazine today! 

Here's a taste...

Denver blinked against the sunlight blaring through his bedroom window, resisting the urge to pull the thick comforter over his face. Moments later, the sunlight shut off. He blinked more, seeing nothing but pitch black for several seconds. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, the furniture in his room appearing as deeper shadows, he noticed the hum of an engine coming from outside.

Blast it, Jerry. Denver groaned and flipped over on his stomach, scrunching his eyes shut again. Why could his housemate never remember to park on the other side when he came home at this time of morning? His headlights lined up exactly with Denver’s window, sending blinding light through the curtains.

The engine cut off, and soon the front lock clicked, followed by the slam of the door against the wall. Then the clomp of Jerry’s boots down the hardwood floor of the hallway that led to Jerry’s room on the other side of the house.

Denver lifted his head and glanced over at the clock. Three-thirty. He exhaled, glad he at least wouldn’t have to deal with Jerry in the morning. Jerry would sleep in, not rising until long after Denver headed to the office. Then he’d be gone again when Denver got home. Jerry working nights meant Denver had the house to himself most evenings. Simple blessings…

The alarm blasted Denver from a heavy sleep, and he grunted as he slammed the off button. Shoving the comforter aside, he dragged himself over to the edge of the bed. When his feet hit the floor, he let out a sigh. Mornings sucked. Even more so with lack of sleep.

When he reached the kitchen, the barest hint of sunrise lit the window, enough to see the coffee maker. He switched it on, listening to the gurgle of heating water with anticipation. While he waited, he snagged a marker from the mug on the counter and marked off the day on the calendar.

Jerry’s snicker startled him, and he spun around to find Jerry slouched over the breakfast bar, coffee in hand. Denver’s own cup sat steaming on the countertop. The room was brighter than five-thirty would allow.

How—?

Denver rubbed his forehead. Had he dozed off standing there?

“Dude,” Jerry said, “you okay?” His blond hair flopped over one eye, and he brushed it back, only to have it flop again.

“What? Yeah. Fine.” But Denver didn’t feel fine. He looked at the calendar he’d just marked. May fifteenth. That wasn’t right. He’d skipped a day.

Jerry snickered again. “I know, I know. You’re fine as long as your little ritual is done. Mark each day, every day. Perfect little X over the number…” He shook his head, eye peeking intermittently from behind his swinging bangs.

Denver stared at the calendar, the number 14 clearly visible with no perfect little X. “You see everything marked through today?” he asked, hoping the alarm didn’t show in his voice.

“Of course.” Jerry slid from the barstool and dumped his mug into the sink. As he walked past, he elbowed Denver’s arm. “What’s wro—I mean…” His voice dropped. “Never mind.” He didn’t say anything more and ducked through the door that led from the kitchen to the back porch. Which would make sense if it were May fifteenth because the fifteenth was Wednesday, Jerry’s day off. He only slept in on the days he had to work.

How was it May fifteenth, though?

To keep reading, visit MysterionOnline.com.



Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Worth Re-reading: Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Have you ever re-read a book or series and discovered that the second time around it just didn't do as much for you? That's happened to me several times. I've bought a series and kept it on my shelf, only to re-read it later and end up donating the books to the library's used bookstore.

That's NOT the case for me with this series. 



I originally got the first book, Jinx, way back when I was in the Amazon Vine program. I loved it so much, I bought the next two as they released. And recently, I dove back in, not sure if it would end for me the way it has with other series.

It only took a couple of chapters, though, for me to remember why I kept these books in the first place.

The story world is so cool -- the Urwald with its mystical trees and the Clearings where the people of the Urwald dwell. The "evil" magician Simon, smart but cursed Elfwyn, and of course Jinx, the unlikely hero who makes you want to take him under your wing as soon as you meet him.

This is a series I've recommended to many parents in the past when they're looking for books for middle schoolers and upper elementary kids. And now, well, I will be doing so even more emphatically!

Find the series on Amazon.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Author Feature: H.L. Burke

I've decided I need to spend more time on here sharing about some of the books I've really enjoyed over the years. I'm starting with a few by the same author, H.L. Burke. Oh, and at the end I've got a few interview questions answered by Heidi.

My favorite of hers so far is Heart of the Curiosity. Gotta be honest: about 90% of the reason I bought this book (and bought it in paperback rather than ebook) is because I am in love with the cover. That said, the story totally lived up to the expectations set by that beautiful art. Steampunk set in a theater, with ballet and fairy tale performances and automatons, cool magic, mystery, and a sweet romance. I loved everything about this story.



If you want more steampunk, I recommend the Spellsmith and Carver series. It's simply a well-told tale with likable characters, and hands-down one of the coolest magic systems I've come across. 




For something a bit different, and for the younger set, I highly recommend Cora and the Nurse Dragon. This is actually one of the first books I remember hearing about by H.L. Burke, but I put off reading it for some time. I could scold myself for not jumping on it, or I could say it was worth the wait. I suppose both are right! Just loved the main character and the unique take on dragon lore. 



Lastly, I want to at least share about the Supervillain Rehabilitation Project series that has been Heidi's latest focus. I haven't actually read any in this series yet. The key word here is "yet" because I have every intention of diving into these at some point. They just look way too fun to pass up. 




And now for the questions I promised:

OK, so I don't want to feel all traditional and boring asking a writer about her writing, but I would like to know, to add to my post, how it is that you are so freaking prolific.

I can’t seem to stop. Please send help … or coffee … actually, the coffee might be the problem.

Part of it is years of practice. I write pretty clean copy so it needs less rewriting/editing. I don’t write absurd amounts per day, but I can do a thousand words in a half hour, so I usually get at little more than that done a night, and if I have more time, I get more done, so it adds up pretty quickly. Plus I’ve learned a plotting method that works for me and I know my personal tricks and motivators, so unless I’m sick or there’s some sort of exceptional thing going on, I can usually get my words in.

The second part is, I still really like writing. Sometimes there will be periods where it’s mildly frustrating, but I’d much rather be doing writing than almost anything else. Like there’s that meme that writers will clean their house and your house and all the houses to avoid writing … I will write and write and write to avoid vacuuming because cleaning is the worst. Makes me a very prolific writer. Not a great housekeeper, but … you know we can’t have it all.


Also, you jump all over genre-wise. I can totally relate to this, because I write in a lot of different genres myself, and my art is all over the board (one of the reasons my Etsy shop is named Jumping Rails is because I feel like a train barreling in one direction, then suddenly changing tracks, all the time). Is there something that ties your writing all together? Some element of Heidi-ness that you think comes through in all your writing no matter the genre?

I do tend towards certain types of feelz and while I don’t like filler content, I also don’t do action packed stuff. I plot the emotional beats of my story first and work the story and action around it, so the story kind of frames the character relationships and development. I also have a fairly consistent sense of humor, though when I do contemporary stuff it gets a little more directly referential.


And since you're writing a superhero series at present: What, other than prolific writing and cat wrangling, is your superpower?

Snarky, referential humor and flexibility. My family didn’t move around or change things much at all growing up, but when I got married to a Marine at 21, my life became constant changes and moves and adjustments, and I’ve learned how to roll with it. Occasionally some of it has been hard, but I feel I’ve learned to adapt pretty well overall.

Plus I know how to work references into just about anything.  

***

You can find all the amazing literary offerings by H.L. Burke on her Amazon Author Page

And follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram to keep up with, and sometimes participate in, her shenanigans. 



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.

CLICK TO CONTINUE


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...