Monday, November 30, 2009

Encouragements


I don't have much time right now, nor much energy. Working on our house to get it "show" ready has taken over my life. It looks like things may slow down a bit soon, though.

But amidst this chaos, I've received two bits of encouragement that have really meant a lot to me. One came as a phone call from a friend in my critique group. She wanted to make a suggestion for another agent for me to try, and to let me know she believes in me and is praying for me one day every week. As someone who has gone through some seriously hard times, I fully understand the power of prayer. So when someone tells me they are praying for me and my book, I take that very seriously.

Also, another friend from that same group is in the middle of reading Finding Angel and she wrote this comment on my Facebook wall: "This HAS to get published! I've been transported to a magical island and I don't want to come back. It is sooooo good!"

Those are the words I want to hear from my readers--that they feel submerged in the world created in my books and don't want to leave. It's the feeling I get when I read my favorites, and the desire to create that feeling in someone else was my whole motivation to write fiction in the first place!

So, thank you, Jan and Janet, for the words of encouragement. And to all of you who have told me you're praying for me, and/or sent me great comments on my first chapter or short stories. I'm working SO hard to make this dream come true--to get my novel in print--but it's been a long and trying road so far. Without the words of encouragement I get from my fellow writers and my readers, I doubt I would be persevering like this.

Hangin' in there...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Checking in



I normally don't go so long without posting. And I try to at least have a topic when I do, but this time it's a little different. I've been consumed lately with packing boxes because...I'm moving! This is a first for me. I mean, of course I've moved before, but it was always local and this time I'm moving out of state. Plus, we're selling our house, and since it's the first one we've owned I'm getting to experience the whole process of putting a house on the market for the first time, too.

Well, I suppose I can relate this to writing in a way. Moving has brought up concerns I never thought I'd have to deal with. Changing my contact information and getting that to all the places I've submitted has been a big chore. I cannot stress enough the importance of being organized when it comes to submissions! Imagine what would happen if someone actually wanted to use one of my stories...but I hadn't kept track and never sent them my new info!

I'm also going to have to change my website. The web space I've been using is tied to my current internet account, which will be changing when we move. Now, I have to find another web host (or maybe my new internet service will come with web space). The point is, if you'd told me two years ago that I'd be worrying about my website, I'd have laughed at you!

Another thing I'm discovering is that at a time like this I just have to let go of my writing for a bit. It's frustrating, but with so much to do, writing has had to be pushed to the back burner. Boy, it's hard!

Also, right now, I'm mourning the fact that all my precious books are in boxes in my son's closet :(. Yep, in the house-sellin' business books equal "clutter." Heart-breaking!

One of my top priorities for a new house--lots of space for bookshelves. Or even better yet, built-in bookshelves. My dream has always been to have a house with a library, and now that I'm writing, I want a writing desk in that room. Ever seen the movie "Funny Farm"--the one where Chevy Chase moves to the country to write the great American novel? I want an old house like that, with an upstairs writing room and a window overlooking something other than the palm tree in my front yard! I could do without the bodies buried in the garden, though :).

Anyway, I'll try to keep my head about me in all this and still post now and then, with something intelligent to say :). So, be patient with me please.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You say "Self publish" like it's a bad thing....

OK, I admit, I stole that title. It was the name of a panel I sat in while attending the 2009 Necronomicon last month. I was, of course, intensely curious to hear what the panel of four self-published authors had to say.

We all know there is a stigma about self-pubbing, and some authors/agents/editors are horribly against it (for obvious reasons). I've even seen a few authors that are horribly for it (read that last: defensive and control-freaky).

One of the authors who spoke at the Necro was Chris A. Jackson. He discussed intelligently both the wonderful freedoms provided by and the heavy responsibilities bound to self-pubbing. He also participated in a panel on small presses, so he has experience with both self- and traditional publishing, which made me take him even more seriously.

So, after the first night of the Necro, I went home and checked out Chris's website, www.jaxbooks.com. I read the first few pages of a couple of his books.

Now I was even more impressed.

I returned to the Necro and headed straight for Chris's table in the vendor hall. I bought his book Weapon of Flesh, as much for the wicked cover art as the impressive first chapter.


(Chris was super-nice and happened to be giving away t-shirts along with the purchase of a book, so now I get to wear that awesome artwork!)

Weapon of Flesh has a really interesting mesh of elements. It combines a martial arts feel with a touch of organized crime, all mixed with traditional fantasy. Sounds a little strange--you're thinking ninja-Godfather with Elves in tunics aren't you? Well, you'd be right. And believe me, it actually works!

The story begins with a boy, stolen from his mother and magically altered into a killing machine. (I found it amazing that the author made me connect with a character who was almost completely emotionless.) His training complete at the age of 16, the boy leaves with the man who has "made" him--a man he only knows as "Master"--to be handed over to the tyrant who has commissioned him.

But the boy is not delivered as promised, when his Master is killed and he suddenly finds himself alone, no idea where his destiny lies, but consumed with the need to find purpose.

This book shows that self-published authors are not always such because of lack of talent. As a matter of fact, I have stopped reading a lot of traditionally published books lately because they were boring and poorly written. The proof is in the pudding...not in the name of the publishing house.

You can buy Weapon of Flesh and Chris's other writing either through Amazon (look up Chris A. Jackson under sci-fi/fantasy) or at his website, www.jaxbooks.com.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"The Gift" in Digital Dragon


My latest story is out!

"The Gift" can be found online in Digital Dragon magazine.

Like "The Artist" which is currently running in Mindflights,
"The Gift" is based on my novel, Finding Angel.

I am so excited to have these two stories running concurrently. If my book can't be published (yet!) then at least my concept and characters are finding homes.

Check them both out and don't be shy letting me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Horse of a Different Camel...or...Star Trek at the Nerd Table


Yes, this blog has two titles. I had two ideas for posts and realized as I was planning them out that they actually go quite well together. Let's hope I can keep this from getting too long :).

First, we must go back to a time long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

I began a series of posts many months ago that used a high school cafeteria as an analogy for the fiction section of a book store. To refresh your memory (or, if you're new here), it all has to do with my experience in high school as both a punk-rocker and nerd. The brains occupied the far-corner table of the cafeteria, which happened to be right next to the punk table. With me as a bridge, two groups of kids who would have otherwise completely ignored each other actually interacted.

The Christian section is the nerd table of the book store. Always in the far-back corner, looked upon as a separate culture than the rest of the high school class. Some of my posts illustrated that Christian books can be both inspirational AND fantasy (punkers), horror (metalheads), action (ROTC), romance (prom queen)...you get the idea.

That brings us to Christian sci-fi. I am reading a book called When the Sky Fell, by Mike Lynch and Brandon Barr. Here we have the techno geeks at the nerd table.

Now, one would think those groups naturally overlap, and to a certain extent they do. Although, I'm sure there are Christians who don't quite go for the whole books-and-movies-about-aliens thing. It's not such an issue these days, but I remember having a conversation with an older friend years ago who said she'd gotten a lot of flak for being a "Christian" who actually watched, and loved, Star Trek.

In my opinion, though, sci-fi and a Christian world view are not at odds. And sci-fi is a strong part of the growing spec-fic area of Christian fiction.

Which brings me to the "Horse of a Different Camel" title. A friend of mine who had read and critiqued my manuscript for Finding Angel gave me a piece of advice: "Remember, a camel is a horse designed by committee." I've made that same comment to others and gotten a few "HUH?"s and a couple of strange looks, so let me explain:

When an author starts a new book, he has a concept of exactly what kind of book he's planning to write. Eventually, he's going to have to get feedback on that book. Well, you know the old saying about opinions...everyone's got one. And while you may have written the greatest spy novel ever, a romance reader is going to wish there was a little more focus on the protag's relationships. A fantasy fan may miss that element of magic. A historical fiction fan may not fully appreciate you setting your book in modern times. But you CANNOT change your books to please everyone--just like you can't give a horse the features to please everyone, or you end up with something completely UNlike a horse. (If you're still having a hard time with this analogy, think "too many cooks spoil the soup.")

I think some authors are trying to do that, though. They add elements of this and that in an attempt to reach a broader audience. But this can thin your book out, and it loses what made it YOUR book in the first place!

So, back to When the Sky Fell. The authors of this book did not compromise. They stuck to what they set out to write--a book complete with all the elements of a classic hard sci-fi and none of the fluff. Tight writing, loads of technology, alien invasions...

I haven't finished the book, but I didn't want to wait to review it. So far it has been consistent and action-packed, and I don't foresee that changing. I normally don't read hard sci-fi, but I love watching it, so I wanted to give this book a shot. I admit I personally have to read it early in the day--my mind just can't wrap around the techie descriptions if I'm tired. But if you're a tech-minded reader, get your hands on When the Sky Fell, and strap yourself in for a serious ride!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just in time for Halloween...


Kidding :). I do actually know Halloween is over, of course. But thanks to Rick Yancey, we can have monsters all year round.

I just finished reading The Monstrumologist. I hadn't heard of this book, or the author, until a few weeks ago when he came to visit a library in my home town. I was really bummed that I couldn't go hear him speak (my kids and I were all sick) because any chance to listen to a successful writer in your genre--whether you know him or not--is a good thing.

Now, after finishing, I'm really, really bummed I didn't get to hear him!

The story takes place in the confines of a journal, left behind by a man who has just passed away, with no relatives to claim his possessions. A man who claimed to be 130 years old.

Will Henry was orphaned at the age of eleven, and taken in by his father's former employer, a monstrumologist, Dr. Warthrop. A year later, in 1888, a grave robber comes calling on the doctor in the middle of the night, bearing a gruesome find. Will Henry has witnessed many horrible things during his year with the monstrumologist, but nothing has prepared him for what he sees when the "package" is unwrapped.

Soon, Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop are on the hunt for a vicious and blood-thirsty species of monster--with two goals in mind--discover how the beasts arrived, and kill every last one of them before the town becomes a human buffet.

This book is every bit as gory as a Stephen King novel, although I've never read a King with this particular style (or lack of foul language and crudeness). You'll go back in time with the tone of this book. It's flowery descriptions give the feel of the period, but the author holds the reins just enough so that the reader is not frustrated by antiquated language. Perfectly balanced. And the characterization is superb.

Just don't read it alone, late at night. And you may want to make sure you have an empty stomach as well ;).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"The Artist" by the artist :)


I find it ironic and, well, just kinda cool that posting my artwork has gotten so many comments. Ironic because this blog is supposed to be about me as a writer, but cool because who doesn't want to hear nice things about their creations?

Oh, and ironic and cool ALSO because my latest story just came out in Mindflights and the main character happens to be...you guessed it...an artist!

Before I give you the link, I HAVE to mention that this short story is based on a character in my novel, Finding Angel. It is NOT a chapter in the book, or even a rewrite of something that happens in the novel. It is an event that occurred many years before the timeline of Finding Angel, but is nonetheless significant. I am SO thrilled to have SOMETHING related to my novel in print :D.

OK, here's where to find the story:
"The Artist" by Kat Heckenbach in Mindflights.

Please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Playing with Pastels

I'm pretty sure I mentioned before that my favorite medium for drawing is charcoal. I've been playing around with pastels, though, lately. I'm determined to improve my technique. I'm hoping to create something I can submit to one of the magazines where I've been getting my short stories published. I would love, love, love to have something accepted by The Absent Willow Review--they have some of the coolest artwork on their site. I know I could do a charcoal drawing of that caliber, but black and white is just not as appealing for an online mag.

Anyway, here's my latest work:



I call it "Blue Elf." For, um, obvious reasons :).