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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Readying for Realm Makers

In two days, I'll be heading to St. Louis for the Realm Makers writers conference. This is my third year attending, and I'm just as excited this year as I was the previous two.

Actually a bit more so, as there's bigger names than every before, and I'm getting to meet a slew of people I've been friends with online for ages. Not to mention I'll get to find out who'll win the short story contest in which I have an entry.

This year is different in other ways. For one, I won't be dressing in costume at the Award Banquet. I simply had less time and motivation this year, and the one costume I did try working on for a little while quickly became obvious that it was not going to come out the way I'd hoped. It's okay, though. I'm looking forward to seeing the cosplayers that are present, and sitting with my non-costumed peeps.

Also, I've actually got some work to pitch to agents/editors this year--something I couldn't do the last couple of years partly because I didn't have anything ready and partly because there wasn't so much agents and editors to pitch to. This part has me really nervous, but fortunately my buddy Mike Duran wrote an excellent article about writers conferences that reminded me to just chill out.

Another cool new thing is that in addition to selling books, I'll be selling pendants with my artwork. Here's an example:

(If you want to see some more of them, I posted on Facebook.)

I'm looking forward to checking out some of the other artsy stuff for sale, too!

I promise I will try to post updates and photos on Facebook-- you can follow my author page, or my personal page. And if you don't do Facebook, I'll be posting a summary here afterward.

So, wish me luck...and say a little prayer for me Thursday because I hate flying :P. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Best Book Sales

*This is my table buddy, Rick, and Beastie 2 with me
at the Christmas in July Craft Fair.
No, I'm not giving advice on where to get bargains on books. I'm talking about this from the perspective of an author who is trying to sell her own books, and what makes a sale "good" for me.

As an indie author, I admit that a lot of my sales are to people I know personally. Friends and family, fellow homeschoolers, former coworkers...other things that start with F ;). (Sorry, alliteration is amusing!) These types of sales are great. Indie authors need these for lots of reasons, from sheer numbers to emotional validation for our hard work.

But there are other sales that are so much better.

This past January I participated in an author event. A teen girl and her mom walked over to my table and began looking at my books. The girl and I immediately connected because she was wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt. I commented, we talked a bit, and she picked up Finding Angel and decided to buy a copy.

That was cool right? Well, that's just the intro, because it could be construed as kinda sales-y, right? I mean, maybe she felt obligated to buy because we'd talked or whatever. But things changed when she and her mom walked away from the table and went to go check out the other authors. She had a chance to sit and read the first chapter of Finding Angel while her mom looked at books for herself. And a little while later, they were back at my table to buy Seeking Unseen.

THAT is the cool part. Because it wasn't me, it wasn't the fellow Whovian who is a local author looking for support that made the sale--it was the first book. It was the story.

A similar thing happened a couple of months ago, when I ran a Goodreads giveaway of Finding Angel. The girl who won the book was excited and agreed to write a review. Well, sure, she was getting a free book. But the story got her even more excited about wanting to read Seeking Unseen. I don't know if she's officially bought it yet, but just the idea that she wants to because she loved the first book, and she's someone who before entering the contest had never even heard of me or the series--that means something,

The most recent incident was just a few days ago. My church has started an annual craft fair and I have participated all three years so far. This past Saturday, I sold several books at the event, some of them to fellow church members--but one sale had me walking on air.

A young boy, about middle school age, came over to my table. He had a grin that would light up a room, and a well-worn copy of a Harry Potter novel in his hand. He told me he loves to read, and to write as well, and someone at the craft fair had shown him my table. I handed him a copy of Finding Angel and said he was free to take a look at it.

He did, and handed me back the book with a grin even bigger and light-ier than before, all the while nodding and saying, "Yes, yes." He left to go tell his dad.

A while later, as I walked back from buying myself a burger for lunch, I noticed him and his dad at the table again, but by the time I got there they'd left. My table buddy* said the boy had told his dad all about the book, and then his dad moved him along. I was disappointed--not because of the money,  but because I had been excited about seeing a kid--a boy in particular--so enthusiastic about reading.

But my disappointment only lasted a few moments, because I noticed him walking--grin bright and wide--back to my table with money in hand. His dad joined him and watched as I signed the boy's book. I could have just burst--because I was, and am, so thrilled by the idea of that boy I'd never met before that day and who had never heard of me or my writing until that moment finding joy reading my novel, reading something I dearly love and put my heart and soul into.

Yes, dear friends, family, and other loved ones, I appreciate you buying my books very much. But when someone with nothing invested in me comes along and buys my books, those are the best sales of all.

*My table buddy, Rick Christensen, writes really cool devotionals. Check him out at

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Join Me on Medieval Mars, and then Escape...

Well, it seems that after a long, quite stretch on this blog, I've suddenly got all these things to post about--mostly releases of very cool stuff. First there was Darkness Brutal by Rachel Marks, then my short story in The Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow. Yesterday, I did a cover reveal for H.A. Titus's Forged Steel.

And today....

Two more bits of news on short stories of mine!

First, I have a short story in the new Medieval Mars anthology, the brainchild of Travis Perry. First, the cover:

Here's the description as found on Amazon:

A future terraformed Mars, where civilization crashed back into a Medieval Era. Christian Knights called “riders” patrol the Pilgrim Road from Olympus to New San Diego, on the Chryse Sea. The technological past is known as the “Age of Magic” and only a handful of people understand how the remaining ancient devices really work. Lighter gravity in dense air makes flying dragons and bird riders a reality; alloys of the past make “magic” swords; and masters of ancient knowledge wield wizard-like power. 

Nine authors spin tales in this unique story world, one which combines elements of science fiction and high fantasy.

The Kindle version is only $1.99 on Amazon, and the print version is coming soon.

The second bit of short story news is....

Voting has opened for the Readers Choice short story contest on the Realm Makers website. I've got a horse in this race, although I'm not allowed to tell you which one. So, go, read the beginnings of the stories, and vote on your favorite! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cover Reveal: Forged Steel by H.A. Titus

I don't normally do things like this, but when you've gotten to know someone's writing through multiple venues and found it skilled and creative, then you break your own rules.

So, today I'm participating in the cover reveal for H.A. Titus's soon-to-release urban fantasy, Forged Steel.

Without further ado....

Is that not so cool??

And more info about the book and author:

Downton. Coffee shop. 2 AM.
One minute, Josh is firing off sarcastic remarks at his best friend Marc – the next, they’re running from shape-shifters. Apparently, even best friends don’t share all their secrets.
Now Josh is in danger. He can see the monsters among the humans.
When Marc is kidnapped, Josh finds himself pulled into the schemes of the fae courts, and throws in his lot with Marc’s allies: the lovely Larae, a human named David, and the fighter, Eliaster. But what began as a rescue mission becomes something much more involved…
And all Josh wants to do is get out before it’s too late.

Forged Steel is a new adult urban fantasy by H. A. Titus, releasing on July 17th. It will be available in print (Amazon) and ebook (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Scribd) If you'd like a chance to win free books, ask questions, and hear trivia about the writing/publishing of Forged Steel, there will be a Facebook event party on July 17th from 7-9 pm eastern time on the author's page, H. A. Titus Author.

The first five chapters are vailable for preview on Wattpad.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Published Short Story at Common Oddities!

So, yeah, this story actually came out a few weeks ago. I think. I'm telling you, I've completely lost my concept of time lately. Things are finally slowing down a bit, though, so it's time to catch up and share the news.

My short story "Different" is featured in Issue #4 of The Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow.

First, check out this awesome cover image:


And then, READ THE OTHER STORIES. (This link is to the homepage for the issue, and there is a button at the bottom of the cover image there that will let you download a pdf of the whole magazine.)

OK, that's my news for today, but I've got more coming this weekend...