Sunday, December 26, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

Well, after interviewing Karina Fabian here last week, and now that Christmas is over, I'm getting back to the series of posts about my artwork.

You've seen examples of the art work I did in high school, and then some of the stuff I've done since picking up my charcoal pencils after years of not drawing. I started drawing again only for the love of it, with no intentions of trying for anything professional. But that's not how things would turn out.

Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books put out a call for artists to the members of the Lost Genre Guild (an organization for Christians who write speculative fiction). She needed an illustration to be used as an element on a book cover. At first I didn't answer the call-out, thinking the drawing would surely need too be in color. But after speaking with Grace about it, she told me to give it a try and that black and white would most likely be just fine. So I drew the key according the author's description and sent the scanned image to Grace.

Before long I got an email from Grace telling me that she wanted to use the drawing and offering payment. My first professional sale! The drawing can now be found on the cover of The Duke's Handmaid by Caprice Hokstad:

Grace had already gotten the rest of the cover layout done. The dual-sun image is one that she took herself of a sunset and photoshopped to create the two suns referenced in the book. The key was the last element to be added. I personally think the black and white works better than color would have, as a color key would have made the cover too busy, and would not pop out the way it does now against the brilliant sunset.

Of course, Splashdown being a small press, the author's input was strongly considered. From what I've heard, larger publishers give authors very little input when it comes to their cover designs; but small presses work more closely with authors on such things. Caprice gave the overall design and the key itself her seal of approval, and the book was nearly ready to hit the presses.

As a bonus, Grace added the key as interior art, in the upper corners of the pages of each chapter beginning, and also an even smaller version at scene breaks:

How cool is that?

Inside scoop:

The agreement between Grace and I is that I would not resell the image of the key to anyone else. I had no problem with that, of course. I consider it the property of Splashdown Books and Caprice. However, Grace did allow me the freedom to use the key for my own artwork, provided it was infused into a more elaborate piece. I sat on the key image for weeks before being hit with inspiration.

Ah, but I will save that for next time....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Since we're so close to Christmas I haven't had time to prepare another art-centered blog post. I'll pick back up after Christmas. In the mean time, check out this amazing rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by ENYA. Prepare for bone-chilling.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Need a Laugh? Get "Neeta Lyffe"....

OK, hokey blog title. But it's true.

You may remember my last interview with Karina Fabian, and my review of her book Magic, Mensa and Mayhem.

Today, I’m talking with Karina about her latest book, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

Karina’s got quite the list of Christian and Catholic works: Leaps of Faith (Writers' Café Press) and Infinite Space, Infinite God I and II, not to mention her Catholic dragon detective Vern and his partner Sister Grace, who star in her DragonEye, PI novels and stories. Karina also wrote a devotional with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, called Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life.

So what is this Christian writer doing writing a novel about zombies and reality TV? For a publisher called Damnation Books, no less! Let's find out. Welcome Karina.

Karina: Hi, everyone!

Damnation Books?! Seriously?

Karina: Yeah, I appreciate the irony, and Rob calls my royalties from them "the wages of sin." Kim Richards, the publisher, is a good friend from The Writers Chatroom ( a great place for writers who want to learn the biz'.) When she decided to start her own horror publishing company, she chose the name. In addition to the dark horror connotations, there's the catchy slogan, "Damnation, that's good reading!"Even more fun is that she bought Eternal Press, so her authors are wondering if we're subject to Eternal Damnation now. Lots of fun in names!

Speaking of fun in names, where'd you come up with Neeta Lyffe (Need A Life, for the pun-impaired)?

Kim had wanted to publish a small zombie anthology of stories from writers from the Writers Chatroom or those she already knew, and we came up with The Zombie Cookbook ( I'd said I'd try, but I couldn't come up with a fun DragonEye story. Turns out Vern has an aversion to zombies. My friend Becca caught me on IM while Rob and I were on househunting vacation and badgered me, so I decided on something kind of noir-ish--a zombie exterminator who couldn't get a date. She really needed a life. Turned out she had a crush on her partner, and after they take on a huge infestation at a Korean restaurant, he asks her out at last. I wrote in first person and whipped it out in 2 hours, giggling the whole time.

"Wokking Dead" was published in The Zombie Cookbook, and people had such fun with Neeta that a couple asked about her having a novel. Kim badgered me a couple of times, and one day on the Writers Chatroom, we got to talking reality TV, and I had the silliest idea--Neeta training up exterminators on a reality TV show that was The Apprentice crossed with Survivor crossed with Zombieland.

So you’re a fan of reality TV and Zombieland?

Haven't seen Zombieland yet. I don’t watch reality TV, either, except for a few episodes of Chase that Rob and the kids liked because it was kind of like living Terminator. I keep meaning to watch it, though. Truth to tell, I'm not into horror or zombie movies. I think the last horror flick I saw was Friday the 13th, Part Innumerable, which a friend talked me into going to see with her. I've read maybe a handful of horror novels; after an anthology of Stephen King's stuff in college, I swore off.

So why go for a horror novel then?

It's comedic horror. High on humor, some grossness, no heart-thumping terror. I love playing all the clichés, and mixing them up. One zombie with his legs chopped off is still hobbling after his prey shouting, "Flesh wound!" Neeta commandeers a Hummer and runs down zombies--the disk player is blasting ABBA. There are conspiracy theories, environmentalists (though Global Cooling is the crisis du jour). Of course, there's the whole Hollywood aspect. I was giggling for months.

You're known well among Christian spec-fic circles. What kind of Christian values are in this book?

That's a tough one. There's nothing overt. It's definitely not Catholic, as Neeta chops off the head of a guy who's infected because that's worse than the alternative. One contestant is actively gay--or is he just not particular? Roscoe never even told me. He was the most fun to write, though. Incidentally, he says "Oh, Gawd!" all the time, but the one time he was thanking God, he says, "Thank God." But the zombies are simply reanimated meat with instincts and some "residual cultural influences." Their souls are gone. Neeta tells her boyfriend she's waiting for marriage (and she does). Except for some mild innuendo (thanks, Roscoe) and a little swearing and drinking, it's a clean book. Definitely mainstream, though.

So why did you write it?

Because I was asked and because it was fun. I got to exercise my sarcastic side, have some fun with political and social trends, and come up with a really unique zombie story. I don’t write stories with intentional "messages," anyway. It's just a rollicking ride through the absurdities of reality and reality TV--and even the after-reality of zombie-ism.

Thanks, Karina! And now for my review....

"Hell's Kitchen" with heart. Pretty much sums it up :). Neeta's got to whip her students into shape, so they can learn to slice and dice zombies. She's not the heartless terror that Chef What's-his-name is, but she can't afford to be soft when dealing with the undead.

I laughed SO hard while reading Neeta Lyffe. But humor is not Karina's only strong point. The book has an actual plot and real characterization--two things that often lack in parody and humor writing. I became a fan of Karina's writing with the first Dragon Eye, P.I. short story, and then a bigger fan after reading Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem. She did not disappoint me with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.

The book is available through Amazon in both print and Kindle, and through Barnes and Noble in print. (Hm, guess I'm going to have to bug her to get it in Nookbook format!)

You can also purchase directly through Damnation Books. Visit the site to see the trailer and read an excerpt.

Again, thanks, Karina!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The In-Between

As I said at the end of my last post, this will focus on my more recent drawings. A hodge-podge of sorts, I suppose, but then my next art post will get into the illustrating-for-a-small-press thing, and my inordinate fondness for beetles.

During college my artistic passion waned a bit, and I changed my major to biology. Yes, I know, that's pretty random. But I didn't give up on my creative side. I spent some time painting store-bought figurines, including a Nativity set that took weeks to complete and is still my most cherished Christmas decoration.

I love the camel :).

I also got into scrapbooking after my son was born. Don't let anyone tell you that doesn't take creativity. (And a bit of an obsessive personality....) But it's not the same as drawing when that's something you really loved doing.

So I grabbed my sketchpad a few years ago and drew my old boxer, Rocky.

OK, yes, I posted this before, but he's just so adorable.

Then I decided to draw a friend's cow. Don't ask.

An artist friend of mine saw this and said, "Whoa, trippy cow." And it is thus titled.

But my world is not limited to the mundane, and I had to try my hands at some fantasy work.

Of course nothing says "fantasy" like a blue-skinned elf :P. This was my first attempt at using oil pastels for something other than background (like the scribbling behind the trippy cow).

I also discovered the fun of digital editing...

...and blue-skinned elf becomes green-skinned elf with purple hair :).

And last but not least, since we're talking digital editing, here's a photo I'm particularly proud of:

Yes, photography counts as art! Especially when it is not just "point and shoot." This is a gargoyle that normally guards my bedroom door. I placed him against the tile floor in my bathroom. Got him angled just right and took a few shots on the macro (close-up) setting. I turned the whole image sepia with my photo-editing software, and played with the contrast a bit. I love how his little fanged face just pops out. I'm totally tempted to write a book about a gargoyle just so I can use this guy for cover art.

Alright, that brings us pretty up to date. My next post will technically be a book review and interview with Karina Fabian. Her latest release, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, just released and I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy. (Sneak peek here--I loved the book. Karina is hilarious.) So, look for that on the 19th, and then we'll get back into the art mode.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Beginnings of Kat the Artist

I said I was going to get more specific about my artwork. Should I do this chronologically? I suppose that's as good a way as any.

So let's start from the beginning. I loved to draw from the time I was little. Unfortunately, I don't have any of my childhood artwork. Not sure why none of it was saved, but rest assured I was better than the average seven-year-old (or ten-year-old, or twelve-year old).

(OK, so not quite that good...hehe.)

I really started improving in junior high when I discovered a book on drawing in my 7th grade art classroom. The only thing I remember about the book was a drawing of a dog that I copied using charcoal for the very first time. Finding charcoal pencil was like finding my soul mate :). Again, I don't have that drawing--because I gave it to my high school boyfriend, who never gave it back. (Loser.)

Then in high school, I was blessed with an amazing art teacher. Actually, I had a couple of great teachers, but Mrs. Meyer was the best. We just connected, and she knew how to push me and help me improve.

If you read my last blog post, you got to see a couple of my high school drawings. Here are a few more:

The Indian girl won the annual art contest at my high school. The girl is done in charcoal pencil and the background is done in pastels.

Not sure what kind of bird this is. I just found some images in a magazine and combined them. This is called a scratch board. The whole thing is coated in India ink, and the white parts are literally scratched away with a sharp point.

"Welcome to the jungle..." Yep, Axl Rose from Guns-n-Roses. I was a big fan :). This is done in charcoal.

As you can see, I've never been much for doing color art. I prefer to work in black and white, either charcoal or regular pencil. I like close-up work, like portraits or individual items rather than entire scenes. And realism. Even if I draw something fantasy, like a dragon or an elf, I want it to look realistic. I don't have a problem with other styles, this is just what I enjoy working on myself. (Although, I've learned recently that my old high school art teacher holds painting classes over the summer, so I may just have to sign up and let her work her magic again!)

Next time, we'll fast-forward to my more recent stuff, and then after that move into the backstage happenings of doing artwork for a small press.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Other Side of Me

I realized I've spent a huge amount of time on this blog talking about my writing. Well, that was, of course, the original intent for this puppy.

But I'm not JUST a writer.

You know this, I'm sure, as you've seen me slip in here and there about my artwork. But it's been sorely neglected, really, considering that was my first and only love for many, many years.

When I was a kid, you'd catch me drawing any time a pencil or pen and paper was within reach. Actually, anything I could draw on without getting in trouble was fair game. My jeans and sneakers were always covered in doodles.

Everyone expected me to "be an artist" when I grew up. I had no idea what that meant, though, and my passion ended up fizzling out after I graduated high school. Oddly, though, it came back when I start writing.

This is the first thing I drew after probably 15 years of not drawing:

My sweet, sweet old boxer, Rocky :).

The really cool thing is that my connections to other writers opened a door for my art. Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books posted a call-out for artists on a writers forum. I answered the call-out, and my drawing of a key ended up on the cover of Caprice Hokstad's "The Duke's Handmaid."

This was a double honor, because Caprice's writing is top-notch!

Sooooo.....what I've decided is to do some blogging here over the next few weeks about my artwork. Get a little more specific, and give you an insider's look at doing work for publishers.

In the meantime, check out Caprice's book. You can find it on Amazon in both print and Kindle edition (the Kindle version is only $4.99!). Also, at Barnes and Noble in print and NOOKbook. (Again, the Nookbook is only $4.99!) If you need it in a different ebook format, you can find that on Smashwords.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inspired by a Turtle

Robynn Tolbert, aka The Ranunculus Turtle, has inspired me to post a list in which I was tagged on Facebook. Instead of just sending out to certain tagged people, I'm putting it here, like she did hers.

So here goes. I'm supposed to list fifteen movies that affected me in some way. Not my favorite movies, per se, but those that struck me emotionally.

1) "When Harry Met Sally"--Alright, look at me, breaking the rules with the very first one. This is a favorite movie of mine, but it's because it is SO quotable. I'm not one who easily remembers movie lines, but this one is different. I can remember almost every line of this movie, and it seems there is a quote for every occasion.

2) "The Joy Luck Club"--I resisted watching this movie for a long time. I thought it was going to be one of those the-critics-loved-it-which-means-I'll-hate-it kind of movies. I came home from college one day and started flipping through channels, and Joy Luck Club was on. I was immediately sucked in. This movie did a beautiful job of portraying the roller-coaster that is the mother-daughter relationship.

3) "Funny Farm"--The story of a sports reporter who moves to the country to write a novel, only to discover he's better off a sports reporter and his wife is the novelist. I've watched this movie over and over for many years, and for a long time I couldn't pinpoint the feeling I had at the end. It's a comedy, so why did I always feel kind of down and...longing...after watching it? It hit me, though, one day. Jealousy. It was one of the first indicators to me that I really wanted to start writing.

4) "Nightmare on Elm Street"--I grew up watching old black and white horror flicks on Saturday mornings, so when some friends of mine got the first Elm Street video I was all in. I was fourteen. I could barely make it through, and ended up having nightmares every night for a month. I thought for years it meant I didn't like horror movies. It took a long time, but after seeing....

5) "Silence of the Lambs"--the movie I saw on my first date with my husband. I realized it's not "horror" I have issues with, it's mindless slasher movies. Psychological thrillers and "thinking" horror movies are great.

6) "The Lion King"--the only movie that every made me cry during the opening scene. Oh my gosh, I can't believe I just admitted that....

7) "The Passion of the Christ"--well, if you don't understand this one, there's no point in me explaining.

8) "Highlander"--OK, here I am breaking the rule again. This is just flat-out one of my favorite movies. Not the sequels, not the TV series. Just this one. I love the whole medieval thing, the whole sword thing, the whole immortal thing. And the villain in Highlander--Kurgan--is the best villain ever. "There can be only one!"

9) "Blazing Saddles"--I think this movie makes a statement that the world needs right now. Political correctness has gone too far. It's making us look too closely at race in an attempt to pretend we don't see it. Blazing Saddles looked race straight in the eye, and by mocking it showed us how ridiculous we are for making it an issue. We are people--black, white, red, green, purple, whatever. It's a color, for crying out loud. We can be different colors, and recognize that we are different colors, and still love and respect each other.

10) "The Number 23"--dark and disturbing and wormed its way into the recesses of my mind. Another film that hit that hidden spot of wanting to be a writer--the spot I didn't know existed for so long.

11) "Sid and Nancy"--this one is too hard to explain. If you've seen this movie, your imagination will probably take you to some bizarre places. Some of it might be accurate.

12) "Maximum Overdrive"--I saw this in the theater, and was fortunate enough to be among an audience of people who liked to heckle. It was a blast, listening to all the jokes being thrown out. Sometimes, a movie being awful is what makes it great.

13) "Heathers"--because I am from this generation. And yes, this is pretty much how I felt about "the populars." Not that I'd go to such extremes, of course. Good grief. But going to my twenty year reunion a couple years ago showed me that the popular girls from MY high school are STILL the snobs they were as teens. It made me think how accurate fiction can be.

14) Bram Stoker's "Dracula"--I loved this movie when it came out. Then I actually read the book. Now, I can't get through it. The only redeeming thing it has for me now is Gary Oldman's performance. Everything that made this book amazing was twisted into something rotten for the movie. Sigh....

15) "A Clockwork Orange"--a movie that should be pretty well disturbing to anyone who sees it, yet developed a bit of a cult following. I've seen it a few times, and can't really say I "like" it, but I surely couldn't forget it. And there's a funny story related to it. I was in college, in an Animal Behavior class, and the prof was talking about negative reinforcement. He mentioned "a movie" that illustrated that concept really well, and the words "A Clockwork Orange" slipped out of my mouth, just loud enough for the guy sitting in front of me to hear. Moments later, the prof said that the name of the movie was, of course, A Clockwork Orange. The guy in front of me turned around and looked at me like I was an alien: a mix of amazement, respect for me knowing the answer, and complete weirdness--for me knowing the answer. I will never forget that movie because I will never forget that guy's expression.

OK, there you have it. A dive into the movie mind of Kat Heckenbach. A little comedy, a little touching drama, and a seemingly large portion steeped in shadow and weirdness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Write It Raw

I have read many blog posts and Facebook discussions lately about Christian fiction and why it seems to be substandard compared to secular fiction. A lot of people--Christians and non-Christians alike--find it contrived, hokey, watered down, unrealistic, and pretty much overall wimpy. There are some amazing Christian books out there, but they are few and far between. Even some of the ones I like very much don't really compare to the truly powerful secular books out there.

Why is this?

It seems that many Christian writers hold back. They are afraid of putting raw emotion into their writing. Partly because so many Christian readers don't want that in their books. They read for "escape" or "entertainment"--they want to get away from the harsh realities of life. I can understand that to a degree. I like fun reads. But I also like to be touched, to be torn part by books.

I just finished reading a secular novel that did exactly that. It's called Hold Still, by Nina LaCour.

It is the story of Caitlin, a sixteen year old girl dealing with her best friend's suicide. Talk about raw emotion. This book holds nothing back. It deals with some serious issues in a touching and believable way. It's beautifully written, full of "voice"...but it is not pretty.

I can't imagine finding a book like this in the Christian section of the book store. Not just because it doesn't even come close to addressing spiritual matters, but because it shows life in all its ugliness--and portrays certain types of people in a way that would never make it in the mainstream Christian market.

What do I mean?

Well, first there is cussing. Yep, the f-bomb to boot. Quite a few times. You know what, though--it's true to the character. She's not being raised in an obviously Christian home. She's sixteen and angry.

Second, there is sex. Not a lot, not in detail, but realistic. It's not shown in a way that glorifies teen sex either. It actually quite well illustrates the dangers of it. But most Christian books would never dare something like this. Which bugs me to no end. Christian romance has no problem with heat and passion as long as sex isn't involved. This book takes it the other way, and shows just how a worldly view of sex distorts what it was meant to be.

Third, there is a gay character. She's not stereotyped. She doesn't seem shoved in there as a "token gay" either like so many TV shows, movies, and other books seem to have. There's nothing in the book that is leading in any way, nothing that screams, "Hey, you must accept this kind of person!" Yet she is real, compassionate, loving, interesting, and necessary to the story. Could you even imagine a mainstream Christian book staying neutral on this? Is there a single Christian book out there that would not use this as a soap box?

I was moved by this book, and nearly brought to tears at times. I'm quite sure many readers HAVE been brought to tears by this book. (I think maybe the only reason I wasn't is that I'd already read a teen suicide book called Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, and kinda gotten some of that emotion out of the way already. If you'd like to read my review of 13RW, click HERE.)

My point with this post? When the Christian market starts putting out books like this, books that hit real emotion, that are raw and deep and passionate, that deal with sex and can show it without making it porn, that can work in controversial topics and people without preaching, then the secular market will start taking it seriously.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Medieval Times

I'm finally gaining some energy back after camping for four days. We stayed at a really nice campground right down the road from the Medieval Fair we were attending as part of our homeschool group. Yay for field trips!

Without further ado, here are the photos of the fair. And, I'm not in any of them. I'm always stuck with camera duty. :P

We were met at the gate by King Arthur's court:

My daughter was abducted by a band of faeries:

My son was challenged to a duel. He's the one on the left. Little did his tunic-clad opponent know, he's been taking fencing lessons. Yep, my boy won, hands-down. :D

This was a cool ride:

Notice that the chair my son is sitting in is hanging by ropes. Those are attached to what looks like a huge umbrella, which was turned by a huge geared contraption, run by these two guys:

Yes, they run every ride by hand, and build the whole thing by hand. Gotta respect that.

There was a human chess match, complete with sword fighting:

And, of course, the joust:

There's one more really cool picture I took, but I can't share it yet. And, no, I'm not going to tell you why. It's a surprise. But if all goes as planned it will be worth the wait ;).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So Much and So Many

I'm going to be honest. Blogging lately has felt like a real chore. Not because I don't want to communicate with you all! But because I just haven't been sure what to put up here.

It's easy when I have things to announce. Lately, though, other than the Chicken Soup story, I haven't gotten any new acceptances. There are some submissions floating around out there, still waiting on replies. And a couple stories that will be coming out next month as well.

Oh, and there are things...happenings....stuff I can't tell you about right now.

Not that I don't trust you. I'm just sworn to secrecy.

You have no idea how it breaks my heart to keep secrets from you! It really does! But some things need time to "settle" before they can be talked about. I'm sure you understand.

I've also been rather all-consumed with editing for other writers. Something I find really fun. The timing was good on these projects because my own writing has needed a chance to simmer before I "submerge" back into it. I already told you about I Am Ocilla, by Diane Graham. Well, I finished critiquing that one. A beautiful story. Oh, my. I am very looking forward to holding a copy of I Am Ocilla in true book form someday. Yes, yes, I am.

Diane is a member of a group called New Authors' Fellowship.

This is a group of authors founded by Keven Newsome, who has written a paranormal thriller called Winter. I've read this one as well, and it's a name to keep your eye on ;).

And since we're on the subject of NAF authors....we CANNOT forget P. A. Baines, author of the newly-released book Alpha Redemption. I have been slack on posting about this book, and I have no excuse that justifies that. The book is wonderful. Check out the awesome cover art:

So there you have it. Maybe it's not having enough to write about, but having too much!

By the by...I'll be posting some clues about those secrets before too long.

(Maybe I already have.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I have started maybe five times to post a blog this week. Nothing. Can't think of a decent thing to say that isn't a ramble or a rant.

So, I guess we go with ramble:

If you haven't seen the pumpkins this guy carves, check out James Roy Daley's blog where he posts pictures of Ray Villafane's pumpkin carvings. And if you go to the comments you'll see where I left a link to a video of Villfane that appeared on "Sunday Morning" on CBS.

On that holiday note, let's switch to Christmas. My story "Lights of Hope" appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic, which is out in all the major bookstores right now. Here's me posing with the book at my local Borders:

And speaking of books--I posted a review of J.R. Parker's Kestrel's Midnight Song on the Splashdown Review Blog. Check it out. J.R.'s got a lot of talent for a such a young author!

And for another book review by me, check out the Amazon page for Shawna Williams' In All Things. Mine is the first review listed at the moment. You all KNOW, if you have been following my blog for any length of time, that I love Shawna's writing. Yes, it's romance. Yes, it's even historical. But her characterization rocks.

Ahh...what else.

I have read a few other books lately, but unfortunately they really aren't even worth reviewing.

Hm, well, except for the manuscript I'm critiquing right now for Diane Graham. I Am Ocilla. Not published yet, but I have no doubt it someday will be. The title grabbed me ages ago. And when Diane and I finally connected and she said I could read it--well, yeah, I was not going to say no! Loving it so far!

(The above is a concept cover, of course.)

Last but not least, a "Notebook Nugget" that came inside my last fortune cookie. I just love this one:

"Be brave enough to live creatively."

I may have to put that one a t-shirt....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's All Tied Together With ART

And we're back to mish-mash blog posting...but it's all artwork related. Well, mostly.

First, notice the page make-over? I was getting a bit tired of the old look. I went with simple this time. Have no idea how long it will last, though....

Second, I attended the NECRONOMICON this past weekend. It's a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/gaming/anime convention. Lots of fun stuff like costume contests, science panels, writing panels, and games. I won a tote bag and gift card to "Think Geek" catalog by playing "rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock." If you're unfamiliar with that game, check out this clip of "The Big Bang Theory." (No, that's not art-related, but this part is...)

My drawing made the cover of the program for the Necro:

I had no idea until a few days before. Since I thought it hadn't been used I made matching t-shirts for my friend and I to wear. They have the same image, but with the black and white reversed. Also, the T's say, "ZOMBEETLE" and "cerebrum devouricus."

(Check out the scrolling thingie to the right and you can find the above t-shirt and other stuff with my artwork for sale on Zazzle. And right now, you can save $5 on any t-shirt by using the code OCTSHIRTSALE.)

Third, I'm still waiting on the decision from a small press that is looking at both my manuscript for Finding Angel and a short story. I'm trying to not get my hopes up too high. I'm trying not to be nervous. Trying. Hm. (Okay, that's not technically artwork, but I will most likely be doing some drawings for this press as well, in the anthology that will hopefully contain my short story. There, now it is art-related.)

Fourth, my latest drawing will soon be out for all to see on the cover of Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Caprice Hokstad. This is the sequel to her book The Duke's Handmaid, on which you'll find my rendering of a key.

Here's the cover to The Duke's Handmaid:

And here's the cover of Nor Iron Bars a Cage. The shackles are my handiwork. (Not a statement I ever thought I'd be making....)

This will be releasing next month, and I will of course let you know immediately :).

And to finish off, since I haven't posted a notebook nugget for a long, long time...I'm including one of my favorite quotes (by one of my favorite authors):

" is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain,

and art is an interpretation of that miracle..."

--Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Blogging?

I follow quite a few blogs and have noticed that each person has a different focus. As far as writers go, some blog about writing craft, others primarily review books, and others talk about their experiences with writing and publishing. One in particular tends to grab onto controversial topics related to Christian fiction. Another posts mostly fun stuff, like videos and "guess the movie quotes." (Yes, Lynn, I'm talking about you!)

The point is, we each have a different reason for blogging. I've realized lately, I still haven't honed in on mine.

When I first started, I had hopes of being published rather quickly. (Ok, get the laughing out of your system so we can move on....) My main intent was to have a place to announce things about my writing, such as release dates, book signings, etc. I quickly realized just how naive that really was.

So, I moved into trying to use my blog as a way to make connections. This was before Facebook hit big, of course. I shifted to posting some of my experiences with writing and a few opinions and frustrations, but my main goal was trying to find "followers"--build a platform so I could sell my book to an agent or publisher. I was advised at one point to do give-aways to attract followers. I tried a couple, and did gain a few followers, but mostly realized there are a lot of people out there who blog-hop hoping to win free books and then forget you exist.

After that, I just started posting, well, whatever. Things that interested me, more experiences regarding writing and opinions on the process of publishing. A book review here and there, and the occasional announcement when something of mine gets published.

I have yet to figure out if this is actually interesting stuff, or I'm boring you poor folks to tears...

So, what I'm wondering is--why do you blog? Why do you follow blogs? You don't have to tell me specifically why you're following me (this is SO not an attempt to fish for compliments!) but I'd like to know what makes you return to a blog you follow. What makes you think a blog post was worth the time it took to read?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Looking Forward

It's Monday morning. Start of a new day, start of a whole new week.

Maybe start of a new attitude?

Yes, I was getting into the doldrums, as apparent by my last post. It's a hazard of writing, I believe. This is a very competitive business. It takes time and dedication. A bit of crazy doesn't hurt either ;).

I decided to write today about some things I'm looking forward to:

1) My box of Chicken Soup books should be arriving any day. I've ordered a case of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic that contains my story "Lights of Hope." Some of my wonderful friends and fellow homeschoolers want to buy copies and have me sign them. Cool, eh?

1 1/2) Ok, this is one-and-a-half because it's part of number one. I'm looking forward to seeing the copy of the local paper where I made the front page! It's not like the big "Tampa Tribune"--it's a smaller one, but it's produced by the Tribune and is distributed all over my area in several different versions. The one I got had the story inside, but several people I know who live in neighboring towns have told me I was on the cover of theirs. I'm waiting to be handed a copy by one of them soon. If you want to read the story, it's online HERE.

2) My daughter's birthday. She turns eight years old this week. We already had her party--a girlie tea party. She had a blast.

3) A few girls from my homeschool group coming over to talk writing. We're not having a formal class, but are doing a sort of mini-workshop where I help them along and teach them about characterization and plot and such. We've all had such fun so far!

4) The NECRONOMICON. This is a sci-fi/fantasy/horror convention I attended last year. It was so much fun I'm going again. They've got writing panels and cool artwork and stuff to buy. Games and a "Necronomi-prom" dance. What a hoot.

4 1/2) I had entered a design of mine in hopes of it being the official Necronomicon t-shirt, but it didn't make it. So, I decided to make a t-shirt just for me with the design and wear it there. You can see the shirt HERE. Even buy one for yourself, if you'd like! While you're checking it out, check out the other stuff you can buy with my artwork on it.

5) Getting my muse back. I think once this week of busyness is past, I can get my focus back on writing. I'm sure the Necro will fill my head with ideas (you see some seriously crazy stuff there!). And just knowing I'll have some uninterrupted time next week should be of help.

So, there you go. A new day, a new week, a new list. What more can you ask for? :D

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Missing My Muse

I'm going to be dead honest here. I've been wanting to post something truly cohesive lately, but it's been all bits and pieces as you know. Why is that? Busyness for sure, but that's not all.

I'm frustrated.

Writing has felt tedious for me lately. I'm completely uninspired. It's a scary feeling. For so long short stories were all but blasting out of me. Now I have several started, but am pretty much stuck on all of them.

It's a mental thing I believe. My expectations have not been met. I fully understand that many, many authors take years to finally see their novel in print. The overnight success stories are undeniably rare. That does not, however, make it any less frustrating.

Most would say the answer lies in moving forward. Work on the sequel, start a new series. I've done that. Truly. It's not helping. Something in my brain has locked on to the idea that first things must come first. There is this part of me--a rather stubborn part--that wants Finding Angel published before any other novels. And there's a snarky little part of me that says, "Enough with the short stories! I either want to be a novelist or scrap the whole thing."

Ah...I hate sounding like this. I want to look at that part of myself in the mirror and say, "Shut up, ya whiner."

I've been forging along for over three years now. And I'm by no means giving up. The momentum has merely slowed of late. I'm quite sure my muse is taking a well-needed rest and will return when she's regained her energy. But there is an empty hole where I got so used to her presence.

(Giving credit where credit is due--I snagged the image above from online. Probably without right to do so. Check out the site where I found it--beautiful artwork by someone with obvious talent.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blog Bog

Sigh...several of my latest blog posts have been simply playing catch-up. Going a week or so without blogging and then cramming little bits together and calling it a post. Not the best way to keep you all entertained, I admit.

Am I about to do it again? Well, sort of.

Okay, not "sort of." Pretty much straight-up "yes."

First, as I sit here it is nearing the end of October 12th, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic released today. My short story "Lights of Hope" is in there!

Second, I had a wicked cool day at Universal Studios, hanging out in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again. Which is why I totally slacked on posting about the Chicken Soup book earlier. Priorities, yes, I know :).

Third, the dragon puzzle I mentioned starting a few posts ago is done, glued, and hanging on the wall in the hallway.

Fourth, still no word from the small press on Finding Angel. Definite interest in my short story, although a few edits were in order. Tiny edits. Keen-eyed editor spotted a few bits of "telling" and I quickly turned them to "showing" and sent it back. Will let you know as soon as possible the final decision on the short, and whether or not a full manuscript is requested for Finding Angel.

So, there you have it. Another recap of the life of Kat. I'm hoping to find an actual topic to post about next time. Something, you know, with a beginning, middle and end. And a point. That might be nice, eh?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Off to the Wild Blue Yonder

And so, life has moved forward once again and I've had little time to blog. I've been prepping my manuscript of Finding Angel for submission to a small press. I officially submitted three days ago, after spending a looooooong morning participating in the Susan G. Komen cancer walk. Exhaustion is a good motivator to get something over with. I knew if I didn't just send it in, I'd spend an eternity nit-picking. So, off it went.

The day before that, I submitted a short story to the same press. It's one I particularly loved writing. If they don't take it, I'll be shopping it until it finds a home. Let's hope that's not necessary :).

Since my submission, I have been line editing for Shawna Williams, whose first book, No Other, is published in ebook form through Desert Breeze Publishing. I was able to be a big part of that book, critiquing each chapter as Shawna finished. I fell in love with her story and characters. I didn't have time to do quite as much with the sequel, In All Things, but as I read through it now I realize I did get to be pretty involved in a good chunk of it (reading and critiquing, that is). It's a beautiful continuation of the story in No Other. Same rockin' characterization--Shawna's fabulous at that!

Little secret--there are two references to me in the story in In All Things. How cool is that?

I've also been getting a sneak peek at a book that is going to be submitted to the same press I submitted Finding Angel to this week. So far, I've gotten to read nine chapters, and they have been so good :). I won't give way who I'm talking about--not yet. But soon, I'm sure, I'll get to, um, name names.

Anyway, I will of course keep you posted as to the statuses of my submissions once I know them! Nervous, nervous...but excited!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Life of a Slacker

Has it really been nine days since I posted last? I truly am a slacker. So sorry.

I have no excuse. I've just been feeling "quiet" lately. Haven't shown my face much on Facebook either.

But here's a wrap-up of my life lately:

Critiquing some short stories for writer friends. One of those friends sent me an email thanking me for all the help I've given her on her writing. It was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes!

Catching up on some housework. Mountains of laundry. (Yes, I know, boring. Can't change the facts, though.)

Shopping for jeans. And actually finding ones that fit! Woot!

Homeschooling. Yeah, duh. :P

Last week the kids and I made wands since we didn't buy them at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios--see my last post). That was loads of fun. Leave a comment if you want to see pictures and I'll post them. Right now, I have neither time nor patience to figure out Blogger's new M.O. when it comes to pictures.

Watching movies. Harry Potter, of course, as we were put in the mood by our vacation. And last night, Prince of Persia. VERY GOOD, btw. It's a little hard to follow at first, but then something important is revealed and it all clicks into place. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a rent for sure!

Completely stressing over the fact that I'm submitting a short story AND Finding Angel to a small press. Trying to be positive without getting my hopes up so high that the fall might kill them.

And last night I started a wickedly cool jigsaw puzzle. A dragon. One of those cut-to-shape puzzles. I haven't worked on a puzzle for a while. Just so you know, I was raised by a master jigsaw puzzler. My dad. We spent many, many hours doing puzzles when I was growing up, and I love, love, love doing them. I'm as wicked-good at doing them as he is these days, too. I'll post a picture when I'm done.

So there ya go. The life of a slacker.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

YES, YES, YES! We spent the week at Universal Studios and I GOT TO GO TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!

Excited much?


In no particular order, here are some of my impressions:

Butter beer is YUMMY.

Pumpkin juice is good, but not nearly as yummy.

Hogsmeade village looks quite authentic. Although, most of the storefronts are fake. There IS a Honeydukes and Zonkos you can shop in for real. And a couple other gift shops with Harry Potter t-shirts and such.

Things are combined. For example, Olivander's is there as if it's part of Hogsmeade. But we all know Olivander's is in Diagon Alley. And Moaning Myrtle is in the bathroom there, but of course she should be in the girls' room in Hogwarts.

Even if you are not a roller coaster person, go through the line at the Dragon Challenge ride. Cool stuff to see!

The line for the big ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is awesomely cool. So many things to look at! The mirror of Erised, Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, and the sorting hat were my favorites. Oh, and the griffin that leads up to Dumbledore's office.

The Flight of the Hippogrif is a pretty small ride, but fun. A step or two above kiddie-coaster. But you get to see Buckbeak, and the top of the incline gives you the BEST view of the whole village.

The Three Broomsticks restaurant and Hog's Head pub were nifty. Good food, too. Get the fish and chips ;).

Oh, and I know you're going to ask about wands. You know, the whole Olivander's experience. Well, gotta tell ya. We did that. First, let me give you a hint. The line is CRAZY long. BUT, if you stay at one of the Universal hotels, you get into the Harry Potter area an hour before the park opens. That is what we did. Totally worth getting up early! We didn't have to wait at all.

So here goes:

Only so many people are allowed in the room at once. A wandmaster (or whatever they're called) greets everyone and picks a kid from the audience.

My son was picked!!!

He's given a wand and asked to point it at specific things in the room--like at a pot of flowers in order to "water" them. Of course, as in the movie, things don't go so smoothly with the first few wands.

Then the kid is handed a wand that "chooses" him.

And here's where the rumors may have you on the edge of your seat....

The fact is....the one who gets chosen does NOT get to keep their wand for free. Oh, no. Thirty bucks, baby. He's told, "If you would like to purchase your wand, there is a cash register through this door."

Color my son a bit disappointed.

"Oh, but didn't you buy it for him?" you ask.

No. He had money, and he chose to buy dragons. And if I bought him one, I'd have to buy his sister one. AND they are NOT made of wood. Molded resin. As in super-hard plastic. As in, you break it there's no fixing it.

Besides. We're homeschoolers. We're going to design and make our own!

Alrighty, then. I had every intention of posting pictures on here. But Blogger for some reason no longer inserts the html code, which can be cut and pasted wherever you want the pic. Now, it just puts the pic itself in the top, and I can't figure out how to move it. So, to avoid delaying the post, I had to do no pictures.

So, I put a few on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's Going On

I got an email the other day from Chicken Soup for the Soul. My story "Lights of Hope" will be in their Christmas Magic anthology.

The book releases on October 12th. But you can pre-order now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Lastly, my word count on Finding Angel dropped by over 8800 words after the edit I just completed. I intend to go through one more time before submitting it to a small press I have my eye on :). I suspect maybe somewhere around another 1000 words coming off, max. So, final count somewhere around 97,500. Quite a drop, but still not a quickie story. I'll also be submitting a short story to that press. October will be a nervous month for me!

I guess that's it. Just wanted to let y'all know.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What today is.

We all know today is 9/11. I'm not going to post a politically charged diatribe, or a heartwarming story about our soldiers giving their lives for our freedom. Not that those things aren't important. Oh, my, they are SO important. But they are all over the internet. (And if you don't get yet how much that all means, I suggest you spend some time web-surfing today and find out.)

I thought I'd share with you, though, what was happening with me personally on that day. You see, my husband was on a plane headed to California. No, thank God with every fiber of my being, NOT one of the ones that got hijacked.

But it could have been. I mean, there wasn't anything different about the plane he was on than the ones that got hijacked. His left at the same time they did. His was headed to the same destination.

I was outside, working in the flower beds, when my sister-in-law called. Frantic. "Have you heard from Jeff????????"

I had no idea what was going on. She told me. I ran in the house and turned on the news.

And freaked out.

Called Jeff's boss's wife, since Jeff and his boss were traveling together. She hadn't heard from him either. We stayed on the phone together most of the morning, glued to the TV. Watching. Waiting.

Finally, after a couple of hours she got a call from her husband. I had to wait a few minutes to hear from Jeff because his phone was in his boss's car and he had to use his boss's phone. They had emergency landed in Dallas, and were renting a car to drive home.

The word relief gained new meaning for me that day.

I feel for the families that lost loved ones. I could have so easily been one of them. So while I fully understand all the political implications of 9/11, and I thank God for the soldiers out there fighting for our freedom, this day is personal for me. I could have lost my true love. I wouldn't have my daughter right now. Everything about my life would be different.

I learned I am not untouchable. None of us are.