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...








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.