Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Here There Be Dragons

As I was hanging my latest art purchase--a dragon print by Stanley Morrison, purchased while at the Necronomicon last month--I realized my house is slowly being taken over. I've always, always, always loved dragons, and I've had my share of them in many forms over the years, such as t-shirts and candles. I have neither of those anymore (unless you count my Ender's Game Dragon Army tee), but I do have dragons lurking in every room of my house. Today I thought I'd share them with you.

This one hangs by my desk on the side of an armoire. The artist is Rob Carlos. It was given to me by Grace Bridges, my dear friend and Space Kiwi. See that coin on the corner? That's a New Zealand dollar.

These next two are in my hallway. They are the creation of the aforementioned Stanley Morrison, both bought two years ago at Necronomicon. I adore his artwork. I promise you will believe how wholeheartedly I mean that by the end of this post.

A puzzle I put together a few years ago. The only place I could find to hang it where it would fit properly--it is BIG--was my hallway with the thermostat. Well, dragons do heat things up...

Yes, another Stanley Morrison, bought three years ago at Necronomicon. (Are you seeing the pattern?)

A Mother's Day present from my husband and the Beasties. He guards my bookshelf.

Also on my bookshelf, a coffee mug that holds my reading glasses (which I actually use pretty much only for sewing). The mug sports the art of Heather Young

The dragon dagger I bought at the Medieval Times dinner show in Orlando. I refuse to believe I could have gotten it cheaper elsewhere. Also, I paid for the memories. Yeah, that works. 

A ceramic dragon I made at one of those paint-your-own-pottery studios years ago. Yes, he was the inspiration for Spike, the dragon pet of Sir Benjamin, who owns the bookshop on Toch Island.

The best deal I ever got at Disney World. Or maybe Universal Studios? Either way, this necklace was a whopping $12, and I wear it all the time. 

Another two prints I bought at Necronomicon. I don't know the artist for sure on the first one--the signature looks like R. Mayo--but this matches the colors in my bedroom perfectly. The second one is Theresa Mather. They complement and contrast each other nicely. I love the loose sketchy feel of the first one, and the tight, detailed work of the second.

Ah, and here we go....the culprit who started this whole post. The last print I bought from Stanley Morrison at Necronomicon last month. Believe me now? I. Am. Such. A. Fan.

And for more dragons, you can visit the "Dragons!" board on my Pinterest page.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Free Short Horror Reads: Or, a Taste of My Dark Side

I tend to focus most of my writing posts on my YA fantasy series. But from nearly the beginning, back when I first wrote Finding Angel, I was writing short horror stories as well.

They were published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, but over the years the rights reverted back to me, and I've posted them on Wattpad.

In honor of Halloween, I've posted a list of them here so you can have some bites of my dark writing.

In other words, you can read them for FREE by clicking the titles below.

A Day Better Spent

Death has just taken hold, but John is given a chance to relive his last day.

Cat Call

They say you hear the voice of the dead just before you are about to die...

Fire Wall

Day after day they gathered, clustering to watch the fire as it encroached. It moved impossibly slow, like a wall of advancing soldiers surrounding the city.

Frog Face

Just a mean little story about a mean little boy...and the little girl he shouldn't have crossed.

Clay's Fire

A bedtime story...

Hope you found something you enjoyed!

Maybe now, you'd like to try my ebook novella, Ordinary Folk? It's only 99 cents:

Ordinary Folk (on*

Janey's symptoms are getting stronger, and stranger. Nothing her doctor and Dawson say can get the idea out of her head: It's all tied to the full moon. She knows they think she's being irrational, but she feels the connection in a way she can't even begin to explain.

She needs answers, and the only way she can think to get them is to visit the town where her parents grew up. But the visit is nothing like she expects...the odd looks, the whispers behind her back. And the old man who seems to know her secrets. Is there something in this tiny town's history--and Janey's--that's not so ordinary?

(novelette, 26 pages)

*Also available in Nook format on

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Time Vortex Ate September: Or, why I haven't posted in a month, plus Necronomicon 2015 photos

Well, snap. I really didn't realize it'd been THIS long since writing my last blog post. September was apparently sucked into some sort of time vortex. In truth, it was eaten away by birthdays, homeschooling, and writing.
Giving out awards!

Yeah, that last one--working on Toch Island 3.

October's a little different. It's been eaten away by conferences. I spent the first week of October prepping for the Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat. Being on the planning committee, I had to help set up the space and pick up all sorts of things...discovering I had a nail in my tire while doing that running around was kinda panicky.

 Also, I and my buddy Rick Christensen were in charge of running and judging the creative writing contest -- a contest in which entrants have to tell a story in 55 words or less. Not that we like putting pressure on writers or anything. (One of the winners was author friend Kerry Johnson, pictured here.)

The very next week was the Necronomicon!

It started off with an awesome writing panel called "Yes, Mom, Science Fiction and Fantasy are Real Literature."

The guy there in the middle was one of our guests of honor, Eric Flint. Super nice. And his wife bought a copy of Finding Angel. Yes, I totally did a happy dance, right in the middle of the conference area!

This was the first of SEVEN panels I was assigned. 
The others were:

What a Girl Wants in Sci-fi/fantasy
The Perils of Premature Publishing
Marvel Universe
Harry Potter
What Star Trek Means to Me

They were all loads of fun, although only one person showed up for Zombiemania. As I said to my fellow panelists...."Well, we knew this would be dead."

Yeah, sorry. usual, the Necro was AWESOME. I had a blast hanging out with friends, participating in panels, selling books (my best year yet!), and shopping the vendor hall.

Here's my haul from this year's shopping:

The dragon print is by Stanley Morrison. If you are not already a massive fan, go check out his work here. NOW,

And the leather wrist cuff was created by the same guy (Modern Armour) who made this awesome dog armor:

FYI--the guy with this sweetie-pie dog is Timothy Zahn.  Yes, *that* Timothy Zahn.
The dog, of course, was not the only one dressed up. There were loads of costumes everywhere, especially on Saturday. This group was my favorite:

Plenty more to check out though in the Necronomicon 2015 album on my Facebook page and TONS of photos on the official Necronomicon Facebook page.

So, again I've shared about Necronomicon. If you haven't come to see me there, maybe this has convinced you? If not,'re just missing out. So, come next year! I'll be there!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway: Two copies of Finding Angel up for grabs!

OK, folks, I'm running another giveaway on Goodreads! Please enter, and share the link to this post!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach

Finding Angel

by Kat Heckenbach

Giveaway ends September 30, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tips for Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

When you have been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as many times as I have, you come home with only about four new pictures on your camera. My last trip--which will literally be my last for a while because our passes are expiring and we're switching to Busch Gardens--ended a few days ago, and I realized I dragged my camera around needlessly. Oh well, fun was had.

So, instead of sharing images of my trip (although I'll include a few) I'm going to give you some tips:

1-- Ride the train both ways. If you have passes to both parks, you can ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The train rides have their own form of entertainment, including a view out the "window" and some cool stuff that happens inside the train as well. These are different each way. If you want the full experience, ride both ways.

Side note: the line for the train in Hogsmeade Station is pretty boring, but the line in Kings Cross Station is really cool.

2-- You can take food and drinks on the Hogwarts Express. You know how when you get in most lines, some costumed person tells you that you have to finish your drink before you get on? Well, not on the train. You can bring open drinks and food right on, even beer. Actually, in the line at Kings Cross there is a small store that sells snacks and drinks (including beer), although I've found it closed more often than open.

3-- In Diagon Alley, you don't have to wait in that horrendous line for Butterbeer ice cream. There is a place called The Fountain of Fair Fortune right next to the ice cream shop (Florean Fortescue's) that serves Butterbeer and regular beer, and if all you're getting is a Butterbeer ice cream in a cup (not cone, and not any other flavor), they have a secret little door they go through to get it for you. Shhhhhh......

4-- Speaking of secret doors, there are actually three entrances to Knockturn Alley at Diagon Alley. Let's see if you can find them.

5-- Actually, let's see if you can find Diagon Alley. For real, it's not marked, and once you know where it is and how to get in, sit outside the entrance and watch all the noobs with their maps and their confused expressions walking right past. It's true entertainment.

6-- Outside Diagon Alley sits the Knight Bus. Everyone lines up at the front of the bus to get pictures with the snarky talking head and Stan Shunpike. You need to go to the back of the bus. There are steps that lead up to where you can see into the bus really well, and you can't see inside from the front. The detail is amazing. I even smells like an old bus.

7-- Universal Studios got it ALL WRONG when they put Ollivanders in Hogsmeade. Any true Harry Potter fan will tell you that. They sort of fixed that by putting an Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, but most people don't realize that it's there, or that it's much bigger than the other one. The line is shorter because there are several wand rooms there. Also, there's more inside waiting room, and in Florida that means air conditioning! So, do yourself a favor and go to the real Ollivanders, and maybe people will think you've actually paid attention to the books and movies as well.

8-- You can buy interactive wands at either Ollivanders, and use them at various places in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. You probably know that. What you may not know is that there are secret, unmarked places where the wands work. They are not marked on the map you get with the wand, nor is the ground marked where you stand. You have to find those places, and the local wizards and witches are generally more than happy to help you.

9-- Some of the coolest interactive wand sites are in Knockturn Alley. Some of the coolest witches and wizards are back there, too. Watch out for the creepy ones....they'll follow you around.

10-- Some of the coolest Harry Potter merchandise isn't actually sold in the Harry Potter areas. If you can't make it into the shops in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley--and that's quite possible, as they are far too small (poor planning, dear Universal, poor planning)--you can still find just about everything, and some stuff you can't get in the HP sections, in the big stores up in the fronts of both parks.

11-- Honeydukes sells candy by the pound, and it can often be a bit less expensive than the prepackaged versions. This includes Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. That one in particular is a big savings. So if you've already splurged on the packaged one, and gotten the flavor guide, hold onto that paper and just buy the beans next time. (That said, I have bought so many glass jars of candy there because I love the jars. I use the empties for all kinds of things, like toothbrush holders.)

12-- Saving money on merchandise is easy if you have an annual pass. The Preferred Pass and Premier Pass get you 10% off all food and merchandise. ALL food, and ALL merchandise. The only thing it doesn't apply to is alcoholic beverages. Also, it includes parking, which is normally $17. If you're a Florida resident, though, I recommend having one family member get that pass, so you get all the discounts, then have everyone else get the Power Pass, which does have black-out dates, but who the heck wants to go during the hottest and most crowded times anyway?

13-- For you foodies: The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley has a significantly bigger menu than The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. (Although we like the atmosphere at Three Broomsticks better.) Leaky Couldron also has a full breakfast, which is really good. Fun tip: let your kid order the breakfast with black pudding and don't tell him what it really is....bwahahahahaha....

14-- For you crafties: Beer, that is. Hogsmeade has their own brew, the Hogshead Ale. Diagon Alley has their one as well, Dragon Scale red ale, each of which can NOT be found at the other park. Don't even try. I promise, they are exclusive.

15-- Some miscellaneous ride and hotel stuff:

  • If you stay at a Universal hotel (other than Cabana Bay) your hotel key card is an express pass, from the day you check in until the day you check out. 
  • You also get in an hour early to one or the other Harry Potter section (they let you know which according to which day) and it is totally worth it to be able to walk around and get on those big rides that don't take express passes, like Gringott's and The Forbidden Journey
  • The Hippogriff is a cute ride, but it is really short. We don't even bother unless we've got express passes.
  • All the big rides have walk-through lines that let you see the really cool stuff--and there is REALLY COOL STUFF--without having to go on the ride. This is worth doing even if you want to ride, because you get up close and personal to take pictures without having impatient people behind you wanting to get to the ride.
  • Some of the rides have size limits. No, this is not Univesral's way of fat-shaming. The rides fling you about, and they can only make them so big or we'd be losing our children on the rides. 
  • For the rides where bags are not allowed, if you have a fanny pack (hip pack, whatever you call it) that buckles around your waist, you can wear that on the ride and not have to get a locker. The only exception is The Dragon Challenge. That one actually makes you go through a metal detector and you can have *nothing* in your pockets. 
  • If you AT ALL suffer from motion sickness, reconsider whether you really want to go on The Forbidden Journey (the ride at Hogwarts). I know so many people who get sick on that ride. It doesn't bother me, but be forewarned.
  • To alleviate the above, some choose to just close their eyes during the video segments of the ride, and only open them during the animatronic segments.
  • There are giant spiders (that spit) in The Forbidden Journey. I forgot to tell my arachnophobic friend about that and I suffered such wrath. Again, you have been forewarned.
And....I think that should do it. It's plenty for you to remember if/when you make it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Oh, wait! One more thing. See the puppet shows on the open stage in Diagon Alley! They are amazing!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Homeschooling Among Authors: Creating Creatives

My fellow spec-fic author, homeschooler, and Realm Makers attendee, Aaron DeMott asked in the Realm Makers Alumni Facebook group (sorry, RM alumni only), "So, out of curiosity, how many of us either were homeschooled, or homeschool our kids?"

I expected quite a few to answer "ME!" but I was actually a little overwhelmed by the response.

My last count was 41 group members either homeschool(ed) their kids, were homeschoooled themselves, or both. To put this in perspective: the group has 144 members (although Realm Makers had 155 attendees). According to Facebook, of those only 75 actually saw the post.

41 out of 75 is more than half, for those of you who are math-challenged. More. Than. Half.

That proportion probably doesn't carry over to the other 80 conference attendees who didn't see the post, but even if ten of those people are homeschoolers, that puts the total conference proportion at about one-third, which is pretty high.

Add to that the dozen-ish homeschoolers I know on Facebook alone who write this genre and know about Realm Makers but could not attend this year.

I searched online for reasons people choose to homeschool. The reasons I found after visiting about a dozen articles were:

  • Better academics through home learning 
  • Inferior academics at local public school
  • Can't afford private school
  • Religious reasons
  • Family situation (such as moving a lot)
  • Child(ren) with disabilities or special needs
  • Safety/avoiding bullying
  • Desire for a more tightly bonded family
  • Gifted or self-motivated child who is not challenged by public school
  • Child involved in other pursuits (sports, etc) that take large amounts of time
  • Desire for control of curriculum

Hm. I noticed not one of those includes a desire for more creative pursuits. Yet, most homeschooled kids--at least the ones I know, and I know a lot--are creative. Writers, artists, musicians, video game designers, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, photographers, robotics designers...the list goes on.

Whether it is our intent or not, homeschooling families tend to create an environment that fosters creativity. 
  • Maybe it's because we can plow through lessons in fewer hours, leaving more time for creative activities. 
  • Maybe it's because we are forced to be creative as parents in order to teach from home, often multiple grade levels at the same time. We have to be flexible when the school room is the living area, and there are pets running around, and babies and toddlers, and our curriculum is all over the board, and we set that example.
  • Maybe it's because we only have our own children to teach, and we really know them, and can therefore totally see those creative sparks and encourage them to grow.
  • Maybe it's simply genetics--creative people are drawn to schooling that allows/needs creative thinking, and we're making kids with the same tendencies.
  • Or maybe it's related to public schools cutting back on creative classes.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains: Homeschoolers have a high proportion of creatives. And it should not have surprised me at all that there were so many of us at Realm Makers. 

So let's add to that list of Why to Homeschool:


Monday, August 10, 2015

Realm Makers 2015: "Most of" Awards, the unofficial list by Kat Heckenbach

I woke up this morning after finally getting a real night's sleep. Realm Makers was awesome, so I stayed awake far too late every night and woke up far too early every day, which meant I was basically a zombie coming home yesterday. I think I may have enough brain power to post about my adventure now.

Some of my fellow Realm Makers attendees have already posted on their blogs--lovely recaps and great photos. I think I'm going to take a bit of a different twist....

This is going to be sort of a "most of" post. Let's get started:

Most asked question (of me, that is): "Is that new?"

The nose ring. Yes, I got that a couple months ago.

Most anticipated meeting: Mike Duran

Been friends online for years. Mike's been a great support, and I could not wait to meet him in person. Even cooler than expected.

Most unexpected meeting: Tosca Lee

Technically, this is us meeting for the second time. But last year, every single picture I had taken with her didn't come out. She showed up unexpectedly for the Splickety pre-conference critique party and I FINALLY got a good picture with her.

Most years as online friends: Chris Kolmorgen

This guy started following my blog like seven years ago. One of my very first blog followers! We've stayed connected online ever since.  I was so honored to finally meet him in person, and so impressed with the man he's grown up to be so far.

Most adorable couple: Aaron Schlegel and Mary Ruth Pursselley

Steampunk never looked so awesome. 

Most adorable family: Aaron Demott and his lovely ladies

I had the honor of being a secret costume judge at the Award Banquet -- along with Mike Duran and agent Steve Laube -- and it was an easy and unanimous decision to choose this Star Wars loving family as the winners.

Most bitter-sweet moment: Accepting my certificate as finalist in the "Escape" short story contest

Yes, it was massively cool to be a finalist and know that my story "Darkness" will be in the anthology. But I didn't win either the readers' choice or judged first place awards. I was disappointed--I admit--but the edge was definitely taken off when two of the judges paid me very high compliments on my story, one even saying mine was her absolute favorite!

Honored to be a finalist along with Grace Bridges

Most interesting compliment: being called a "conference mom"

Heather Titus (aka H.A. Titus, author of the newly-released Forged Steel) referred to me as her "conference mom" over the weekend. Heather is one of the sweetest people you could ever meet, and I have so much fun hanging with her at Realm Makers. I love that we are both real friends and she sees me as a mentor-type. 

And last, the things that could not be captured on film...

Most heard marketing advice: "You are your brand."

I took the marketing track, which was taught in segments throughout the whole weekend. Three teachers taught about marketing--Amanda Luedeke from the MacGregor Literary Agency, Julie Gwinn from the Seymour Agency, and Suzanne Kuhn of Suzy Q author and book promotion services. All three could not stress enough that the author is their own brand.

(Just sayin'--I was told quite a few times that my look and personality are a complete fit for the kind of writing I do, so hopefully that means I'm branding myself as a writer the correct way. Or even better--my brand has organically developed from who I am.)

Last but by far not the least....

Most profound statement: Keynote speaker Robert Liparulo's words telling us we should pray, "God, make me prepared to do this."

That has been a big theme for me lately. Over the last couple of years it has really sunk in that this is truly a journey--not just to publication or to maybe someday fame as an author, but one of preparedness. I would not ever have been prepared to be even where I am now way back when I started writing. I can see these days that I've needed this time to ready myself for being more than just a writer, more than just a small-press author. I'm learning all the time, gaining confidence. THAT is what I need to pray for, not success or opportunities, but rather for the preparedness I will need when opportunities and success come along.

And hopefully, with the help of Realm Makers, those will come along.