Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Versatile Blogger, Am I?

I've actually been wondering what my blogging style would be labeled as. I seem to have found out: It's apparently "versatile."

Special thanks to Fred Warren for tagging me with the "Versatile Blogger Award" (see over there -->) and putting my mind at ease :).

The "award" comes with "rules" and they are thus:

1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
(Like Fred, I don't think I can do 15, but I'm game for more than the 3 he chose, so we'll do the average, 9.)

2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
(Done, as I have already pointed out...)

3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
(Also done, and with "special" even.)

4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
(That will be next.)

5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
(Er, yeah, you're reading them.)

6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs. (That will be last, I suppose.)

So, with no further Seven Random Facts:

1--I played hand bells at church when I was in middle school.

2--When I was in elementary school, there were exactly two kids who were taller than me: my friend Sharon and a guy named David (who are both still taller than me). I'm now 5' 9 1/2" and I have always resented that I couldn't have at least been an even 5' 10"--or better yet, a full 6'.

3--Height reminded me of this: In Pretty Woman the main character Vivian says, "My leg is 44 inches from hip to toe." Of course that made me curious and I took my own measurement. Guess what? 44 inches.Yep, I share the leg length of a fictional hooker.

4--I hate the band Rush. I mean, with a passion. And I cannot understand how every guy I have ever met adores them when the lead singer sounds like his boys are being squeezed in a vice.

5--I love my lips. (Yes, I stole the Veggie Tales song idea from Fred. But it's because....)

6--When I was around 20, everyone told me I looked like Molly Ringwald. Much of it had to do with my red hair, but the other feature often noted was my lips. (I don't so much look like her these days, btw.) (And bonus fact, inspired by the picture there--I had a major crush on Judd Nelson back then.)

7--I still remember Simon LeBon's birthday every year. NO, I don't celebrate it, but it never fails to pop into my head on Oct. 27th.

OK....more than you ever wanted to know, eh?

And 9 tags:

Robynn Tolbert, because I enjoy giving her annoying things to do.

Caprice Hokstad, because she's always in search of blog topics.

Grace Bridges, because Space Kiwis always have unusual things to say.

Diane Graham, because she is Diane! 'Nuff said.

Becky Minor, because she is a fellow author/artist with a "versatile" blog like mine and a really cool new book out, which will very soon be in print.

Kessie, because she's another author/artist with a penchant for "versatile" blogging and shares my love for dragons.

Heather Titus, because she writes steampunk, and she voted Finding Angel "Book of the Year" for 2011. She's also a new Featured Author on NAF. (Oh, and she loves my book.) She's going to have a baby, too. (And did I mention, she loves my book?)

Christian Miles, because his last post was one of these, too :P.

Keven Newsome, again, because I like to be annoying :).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


To be honest, I've got very little to say here this week. I've been submerged in writing the sequel to Finding Angel. I considered writing about that, but I can't unwind my brain.

Anyway, since the Daytona 500 was postponed to last night, my evening was filled with the TV blaring the roar of cars, well...driving in circles. (I do not, and doubt I ever will, understand the appeal of that. But my husband does, hence the TV. Sigh.)

Because I could not concentrate on writing, even with massive headphones on (projecting a not-quite-comparable-to-the-cars blare of music), I decided to draw. This is the (unfinished) result:

She's based on a photo of a girl I took at the Sarasota Medieval Fair a little over a year ago:

So, yes, I know mine is different. I didn't tackle the glasses, and changed some details. But I had fun drawing it. I felt like a dork asking this girl if I could take her picture, but I just loved her costume--does she not look adorable? I sure hope she's okay with me posting it. If you are ever at a Medieval Fair and see her, go buy something at her vendor booth so she doesn't get mad at me :).

I'm not sure if I'll finish off this drawing or start a new one that's not so animationy.

And maybe I'll turn her into a character in my book....

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brilliant Drivers

For some people this sign should be mandatory...
I have never claimed to be the best driver in the world. Yet I am amazed by the level of, um, brilliance on the roads these days. So for today's post, I felt the need to honor these amazing road warriors.

Brilliant Stuff I've Seen on the Road Lately:

A woman driving a Smart Car while another woman (the driver's mother?) sat in the passenger seat, with what must have been the driver's son in her lap. Well, what there was of a lap. The passenger woman had most of her lap covered by an ample stomach, which meant the kid was really more like standing on the floorboard leaning back against her--and with such a small car that meant he was nearly smushed against the windshield. No seat belt. Of course. Regardless of the fact that this is, hello, illegal, it is a brilliant set up when you live in a city full of yuppie rednecks where everyone drives big ol' SUVs that will turn your Smart Car into instant recycle scrap while leaving not so much as a mark on the SUV.

The other day I went to Goodwill to drop off some donations. The driveway for donations is also used for pick-ups of larger items, like furniture. The brilliant guy in front of me had apparently bought a desk. He was loading it into a car about two cubic inches larger than the desk. This was after he let the Goodwill employee set the desk three feet away, and the guy dragged it on end across the concrete to his car. No worries. I'm sure the finish on that side is fine. Maybe they were gonna put it up against the wall on that side anyway...

Someone brilliant driving a pick-up truck with a rolling cart in the back. Not strapped down. Surely that is not a worry. And of course it was fun for me as I drove behind him, watching him turn corners and the cart rooooolllleeedd to one side, tipped (nearly over the side), untipped, rooooollllleeeedd to the other side, tipped, untipped, roooolllleeeedd......

After he turned off, though, leaving me going my separate way, I got to see the brilliant guy who'd been in front of him. Another pick-up with stuff in the back--mattresses this time. Not strapped down, of course. Why would they be? (There is no such thing as wind, right?) And the top one had a fitted sheet on it. Well, partly on it. Mostly it was billowing like a sail. I bet that white sheet was nice and clean when they got home, too.

Heading onto the toll road the other day, I got to witness, and almost slam into, brilliance I've never seen before. The guy in front of me, I don't know, realized he'd gotten on the on-ramp by mistake? Whatever the reason, he stopped. Just like that. On a ramp where one is supposed to be gaining speed, he is suddenly not moving. And. Just. Sits. There. BTW, my brakes work really well :D. Good thing, as my truck was about three times the size of his car. (He was driving a BMW. As the wife of a BMW lover, I must say, "Dude, for real??")

Well, that's a good sampling. But I want to leave off with some general remarks:

People, learn the rules of a four-way stop. It is NOT okay to barely stop and then just go when it is not your turn. Nor is okay to sit there and wave everyone else on--you are both messing up the order for the other lanes and pissing off the people behind you.

Bikes go WITH the flow of traffic. Walkers go opposite. And, dear old man I saw the other day, do not ever walk down the road next to the median under the shade of trees. You should never be in the middle of the road anyway, but definitely not where you are hard. to. see.

Jaywalking across an eight-lane road (four lanes each way) is stupid, and if you get hit I feel no sympathy. It is at times like that I happen to agree with survival of the fittest.

When you are in the wrong lane on a busy road, deal with it. Follow the lane you are in (even if it means turning) until you can safely get yourself moved over or turned around or whatever, but do NOT cut people off or sit there blocking traffic with your turn signal on because you just suddenly realize, "Oh, crap, I'm supposed to be over there."

I'm not sure what astrological phenomenon is happening right now, but the crazy drivers seem to be on the rampage around here lately. Just passing on the experience ;).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Passion Post: Cover Art, Part III

Well, we were supposed to be spending today at Disney world, but apparently the combination of some NBA All-Star game and the Daytona 500 has turned central Florida into a logistical nightmare and has filled it with hundreds of thousands of visitors. In other words: Disney is going to be mobbed. So, we stay home. Which means, I have time to blog...

Let's wrap this whole monster up. Books I love with art I love just as much:

Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher.

Oh, holy cow, these covers made me drool. The simple key and lock, the depth of the background with the cool collage of images, the font of the titles, the shiny...

There is nothing I don't love about these covers. And just about nothing I don't love about the stories inside! Steampunk meets sci-fi, with a dystopian feel. The characterization is awesome, the story world rich and imaginative, the plot very well-done, the writing clean. Love, love, love!

Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma.

This is a MG novel, with voice, baby. The plot is nothing super-duper special, but it is SUCH a fun read. The main character is into classic, noir movies, and sees her life through that lens. Written in first person present, which is starting to feel overdone because so many writers think writing in that pov gives automatic voice...but it does not. First person present takes skill, and Nova Ren Suma's got it.

What I love about this cover--the black and white with that tiny splash of color. The animation style that is done perfectly for the feel of the book. The image is relevant to the story. And I love how the scene wraps around the book.

Winter by Keven Newsome.

Some of you may call "foul" on this one. It's a book published by my publisher. I edited it (well, I was one of the two main editors). Keven is the creator of New Authors' Fellowship where I was a featured author and am now an alumni.

But hear me out.

I read this manuscript long before it got published. NO, I did not actually know Keven at that point. I'd somehow friended him on FB via another friend, and he'd put it up for free on Lulu. I was simply curious. I found out while I was reading it that he'd submitted to Splashdown, but Grace had not started reading it. I knew--knew--she'd offer him a contract though. The story simply rocked. A Goth Christian who becomes a prophetess and battles a demon. I jumped at the chance to edit it.

And then when I saw what was happening with the cover art. OMG. I think I may have actually "squee"d. The girl is a friend of Keven's and his wife did the photography. An amazing artist named Holly Heisey did the  digital painting and such. The font is SO cool. The blue, the feel. And by "feel" I don't just mean atmosphere--Winter was the first Splashdown book to have a matte cover. It feels like a cross between satin and suede. (And yes, I so got matte for my cover because of that!)

A few other books/series I loved:

Eragon and the Inheritance Cycle. Love the series (although I still need to read the last one!) and the dragons are just awesomely done. I love how each is a different color scheme. I love the simplicity. And those eyes...

The Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I. McAllister. These covers took me back to my childhood. They reminded me of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, even though the style is very different. (Somehow, I remember the cover of the copy of Mrs. Frisby I had as a kid being very similar, but the copy I have now is way different and a Google image search is not giving me what I remember anywhere...sorry, mini-vent there.) These are juvenile level, btw, and unfortunately not easy to find :(.

Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.

That's just the first three pictured there. The series has five books. All so, so fun and imaginative! I found some of the writing a little, well, annoying. The ridiculous array of dialog tags, the overuse of adverbs, and it was a bit wordy in places. BUT, read it anyway. You won't regret it.

The covers match the feel and stories, and they're just so eye-catching and flat-out well done artistically.

Alrighty then...this is getting pretty long. But I am pleased to realize I found a lot of books for which cover art and interior prose are well suited and awesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fairy and Faery Taling

I haven't forgotten about the last cover art post (next time, promise), but I'm taking a break today because I have found myself surrounded by fairies this week.

First, teen writer and artist Mirriam Neal has posted an awesome article on her blog, Thoughts of a Sheildmaiden, about fairy tales* and why they are not, in fact, evil or occult and are a legitimate genre for Christians to read. I adore the points she makes. CLICK HERE.

Second, Mike Duran (yes, him again :P) has posted an interview with YA fantasy author R.J. Anderson. Mrs. Anderson also describes the draw to faery tales*, and tackles Mike's question about the distinction between YA and adult fiction. Her answer nails it, imho. CLICK HERE.

*In case you're not familiar with the difference, Miss Neal is talking fairy tales, as in stories with magic and such, while Mrs. Anderson is talking fae. Not that that helps if you don't know what fae is. Just go read the posts--you'll figure it out ;).

And last, but oh-so-not least....

My dear friend Diane Graham's book I Am Ocilla is finally out!!!! It is the latest release from my publisher, Splashdown Books, and I got to be one of the two main editors.

Here's the back cover copy:

Open your heart and mind to the simplicity and complexity of a name.

I know only my name. Beyond that is confusion, a void where fantasy and reality swirl together. Fairies, Giants, Elves, Dwarves, ancient Keepers, and…Dragons?

A dark soul threatens the Five Kingdoms, but I am powerless to stand against him, overwhelmed by phantom memories, broken and lost.

Somehow, I must live. I must find my purpose. There are friends to love and battles to fight.

I know my name. Perhaps that is enough.

I am Ocilla.

This is my story.

And my endorsement:

Fairy tale and fantasy, adventure and emotion--I am Ocilla took me on a journey that had me laughing, cheering, crying, and contemplating. It is a story of self-discovery, of love, of good and evil, all told in a voice that captured me from the first page.

Buy it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble*. Yes, now.

(*Nook version coming soon.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Passion Post: Cover Art, Part II

I decided this time I'd post about book covers I loved that go with books I hated. I quickly discovered this is easier said than done. I realized I don't often grab a book based on cover art. I go by title and recommendation most of the time. And when I am scanning through blogs or whatever and a cover grabs me, if I'm not taken with the description or sample, I simply move on and forget the book.

But say I find a cover that is really cool, and get the book from the library, I'll not finish it if I don't like it. And again, move on and forget it.

And hence the difficulty. Trying to dredge up the memory of books I thought looked cool based on cover art but have purposely forgot.

But I did find a couple of examples:


I'm not sure exactly what drew me to this. Maybe the desolate look on her face? The colors? It was one of the first "pretty girl in flowy dress" covers I saw before they started showing up freaking everywhere and I got completely sick of seeing them?

Whatever it is, this cover totally grabbed me. But the book did not. I simply didn't buy the concept--the whole virus that kills you at a certain age. Nah. And I was totally turned off by the whole twenty-something impregnating a 13 yr old thing. Seriously? The author couldn't have at least made her a little older so it doesn't fall into the category of child molestation?

And why didn't Rhine ask what's-his-face to just bring her brother? He's not making her sleep with him, and they have the room, and he seems to want to make her happy. I bet anything he'd have sent his goons off to pick up her brother. They could all live happily ever after (well, you know, for another four years before they all die of the virus) in the rich guy's mansion.

Anyway, the cover actually captures the mood of the book quite well. The whole bird in a gilded cage thing is very appropriate. But the book itself--bleh.

The Butterfly Clues.

I got this book through Amazon vine. The way the newsletters come, I do happen to go by book cover image when choosing. There is such a long list, I scan through looking for "intriguing."

This one captured me because of its simplicity. The butterfly looks so fragile, and the blood splattered across it made me assume it must be something dark.

But as simple as the cover is, the book inside is equally cluttered. Too many things going on, confusing prose, and a story that meandered. You can read my whole review here if you'd like. Suffice it to say, I got maybe half-way through.

Oh, and when I'd quit reading, I still had no clue what the significance of the butterfly even was.

Honestly, other than that I can't think of anything specific. Maybe the Twilight series? As much as I HATED Twilight--didn't get past page 150 in the first book, never read the rest--I actually thought the book covers were striking. Not terribly representative of the story itself, but definitely eye-catching. And Ted Dekker's books usually have some nifty dark and creepy covers, but I've discovered his endings makes me want to scream and throw the books across the room.

Next time, I think I'll do books I loved for both cover art and story to even this all out.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Passion Post: Cover Art

In my recent post about my "passions" I included art. I didn't say specifically cover art, but that is definitely part of my passion.

I am as guilty as anyone of "judging a book by its cover." But I have realized over the past few years that books with beautiful covers are not necessarily brilliant on the inside, and vice versa. Today, I want to give some examples of book covers I have loved and hated, that illustrate that lack of correspondence. You may or may not agree with me. I get that. It's all personal taste.

Well, mostly :P. Some art just simply sucks.


I'm going to start with the book that was the subject of my post on Monday. Harry Potter.
Yep, as much as I adore these books, I have never liked the covers. I don't like the style of painting, the nearly monochromatic color schemes, the lack of contrast in the images. I find them un-eye-catching. If I had not been told about these books with such enthusiasm by my next door neighbor, I may not have ever opened one.

Next, The Secret of the Rose by Sarah L. Thomson:

I. Love. This. Book.

I discovered it after reading another book by her, Dragon's Egg. It's cover was much cooler, but I honestly picked it up because of the title (hello, dragon!). I went back to the library to see what other books she'd written, and found The Secret of the Rose. Inside is a beautifully written story. Outside is, well, a very plain, ugly painting and a rose that is pasted in. Bleh.

But please, follow in my footsteps and bypass the cover art!

And the most recent offender--the one which prompted this whole post. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. 

I just finished reading this. The prose in this book is gorgeous. It's what I'd call a paranormal romance/urban fantasy. But the romance didn't get too squishy (except a couple spots) and the author's descriptive ability blew my mind. The story is very deep, with a unique and imaginative story world.

But I bypassed this book many times. The cover, to me, screams "Mardi Gras" and the mask looks pasted in. And once I got into the book, I just got angrier and angrier about the cover. The main character is a tattoo covered chick with peacock blue hair. She is raised by chimeara (creatures composed essentially of human and animal combined--think head of tiger, human torso, reptilian legs--you get the picture). Oh, and she's an artist, who draws these creatures all the time. My mind goes to a million places where this cover could use all of that, yet it is about as un-artistic and un-other-worldly as can be. Not the least bit representative of what is inside. There is actually a mask worn by the MC about three-fourths of the way through the book, but it is not just blue feathers, it is a bird face complete with beak.

Ugh. Seriously.

In preparation for this post, I did some searching to find other posts about the cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and did discover that there is a German version that is quite lovely and closer to what I'd imagine for this story. Although, I still would love to see something--even if just an element of the cover--drawn, because, hello, the MC is a freaking artist (as referenced about a bazillion times in the book).

Hm...okay...this post is getting longer than I expected. So, I'm gonna cut it here, for now, and pick it up next time. Tell me--shall I continue with more books I love with covers I hate, or go on to the other side of the coin and post some books I hate with covers I love?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Speaking Engagements--With Pictures, Not Pictures, Reading Aloud, and Cool Boots

I have put off posting about my recent speaking engagements because I was waiting for an article to come out in a local newspaper so I'd have the link to share along with my update. But that article is still not out (these things can take time) and I really want to tell ya'll about it.

There were two speaking engagements:

The first presentation was at one of the local libraries (yes, I said "one of"--I have several to choose from) and there were ten attendees. One of them was the librarian, of course, four were friends from writers groups, one was a friend from my homeschool group, one was the daughter of an old friend from way back (kindergarten, to be specific), one was the reporter who is writing the story I mentioned, and the other two were random strangers.

It was actually a good mix. And while it resulted in only a few book sales (all anthologies bought by the homeschool friend) because half the people in the room *already own* Finding Angel, and the rest were there for various reasons other than buying books, it was good practice for me. I've not done a lot of public speaking, and I was glad to start small (but also glad it wasn't just people I know :P).

I made these boards to take with me:

The one on the left shows many of the anthologies I'm in, the one in the middle tells about Finding Angel and, well, me :). And the one on the right...okay, my daughter made that. She's very proud of her mommy! You can also see some folders set out with artwork and printouts of stories for people to browse.

And here is me sitting at the table, um...not actually selling books, but looking as if I am....

I do have a few pics people sent me, which they took while I was speaking. They are much appreciated, but no, I'm not posting them here. Imagine that photo of you. You know the one--where you are talking. You know exactly what I am saying. Also, pictures of someone standing taken by someone sitting come out with the focus at waist level. Call me vain, I don't care. Pictures of me where my waistline is the most prominent part do not get posted online, especially when combined with "talking face." Sorry folks. I'll gladly crop some down to the bottom third and you can see how long my legs are. I was, in fact, wearing some really cool boots.

The second presentation was at a writer friend's house. Jan is, to say the least, very enthusiastic about my writing. One of those incredible people who just always wants to do for others, and she's good at getting other people excited about things.

She invited a bunch of friends of hers, and girls from her neighborhood. Again, we ended up with ten attendees, but other than Jan I knew no one. Five of the attendees were teen girls. They were awesome. We had a blast! I talked about my writing, and about Finding Angel, and I read them passages. One of the girls even asked me to read a "scary story" so I chose my flash fiction piece "Cat Call" from the anthology There Was a Crooked House. 

The night ended with me selling several copies of Finding Angel AND several anthologies.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures. Sigh. I know....

But hey--I was focusing on the guests. We were having so much fun living the event, we weren't thinking of recording it. I think that is a good thing!

The coolest part was that I realized I really enjoy reading my writing aloud in this kind of setting. I even overheard one of the girls comment to her friend about how good I was at it. Man, that made me smile :). I guess all those hours and hours and hours of reading out loud to my kids paid off in more than one way!

(Imagine the link for the article here. Yeah, I know, not quite the same. Maybe next time?)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Passion Post: the Harry Potter Series

In my last blog post I listed some things I'm passionate about and asked which of those things ya'll would like to hear about. The first vote was for "What made me fall so head over heels in love with the Harry Potter books." (BTW--I think what I'll do is label these "passion posts" and put them up maybe once a week for a while. Sound good?)

So here goes....

The first should be obvious. If you've read anything I've ever written, you know I love the idea of magic. And "adolescent boy discovers he's really a wizard" is absolutely a recipe for success with me.

The Britishness of the writing. I don't mean to say all British writers sound the same or anything, but pick up just about any book by a British author and you see similarities. No, I'm not talking about spelling "color" as "colour," nor do I mean the use of words like "Mum" and "mental."  Honestly, I don't know exactly how to put it. Something about the way British humor (humour?) works its way in, even in the darkest moment, and without being intrusive. Americans simply can't pull it off. The British just have a certain tilt with which they see the world.

The train. I simply adore trains. The old-fashioned kind, like the Hogwarts Express. The kind of train you see in Back to the Future III, and Wild Wild West, and the new Sherlock Holmes movie. All wood and big red engine and clackety-clack. My family went on a train trip one time, and it was so not like that. New trains are more like airplanes or buses. My husband did take me on one of those "mystery dinner" trains once, and it was close in feel, but the scenery out the window left a lot to be desired.

The scenery. Okay, so maybe that's for the movies. But the movies did help me fall even more in love with the books. Rolling green hills. The giant forest trees. I am seriously dying to visit Scotland now.

Mystery. I mentioned the mystery dinner train. My husband took me on that because I love mysteries. And at its heart, Harry Potter is a mystery as well as fantasy. (BTW, I think of Finding Angel the same way.) The standard mystery novel rarely holds my attention. After reading a few of them, I've gotten tired of the "whodunit" meaning "who killed the victim." Harry Potter gave us a mystery about someone trying to become immortal. All the sleuth-ness, but no body count.

Hermione Granger. Smart and she knows it. Strong, but she doesn't know it. She learns, though. And watching her do so is grand. I adore the way she really runs the show. I read a blog post not long ago (can't remember where, sorry!) written by someone who claims Hermione is the real Main Character, and that JK Rowling is just slick and sneaky and brilliant by giving her a "side role" to fool us into thinking she's not. 

Snape. Do I even have to elaborate on this one???

The castle. I simply love castles, even more so than trains. The stone, the stairways, the secret passages...and add to it the magic...I want to live there. I just really, really want to live there. 

The creatures. I love her use of mythical creatures, and how she combines traditional ones and original ones, and takes liberties with her use of both. Like house elves are much like traditional brownies, and the resident werewolf is lovable.

Let's dig a little deeper....

The intricacy. This, I think, is actually what I love the most. Harry Potter is plotted so deeply, so intricately. We writers talk about "plot threads." JK Rowling weaves a tapestry of such beauty and detail. The way the tiniest reference in book two will show its significance in, say, book five or six, or even seven! And all the books are filled with such links! I could spend hours, days, weeks, months, just analyzing how it's all plotted out and where this refers to that and ties these two (or more) things together. So subtle, so brilliant

The symbolism. I truly do not understand how anyone (that means Christians, folks) can not see the Christian symbolism in the Harry Potter books. It goes so much farther than good vs. evil. And there are more obvious symbols and more subtle symbols, and they are everywhere. Every. Where. There is an awesome book that addresses this whole thing: Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger. Go buy it, read it, then come back to me.

OK, do I need to add more? Hm, I think that's a pretty good list. I'm sure I could go on (and on and on), but a blog post should be only so big :P. 

So my fellow HP fans, do these ring true with any of you?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Passionate About...

I have been charged with finding things I am "passionate about" to post on this blog (*waves at Kessie*). I wasn't really sure where to start. I could dive right in on a specific topic, but I figured I'd give ya'll a heads up as to what you may be in for first.

So here is a list of things that tend to get Kat on her soap box:

Natural foods. In my family, when buying packaged food we do not bring home stuff with: high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, artificial colors or flavors, aspartame or other artificial sweetener (this includes "invert sugar"--the "invert" part does not happen in nature), impossible to pronounce chemicals (even if they are shortened to cute little abbreviations like BHT), or ingredients that should only be found in containers in the garage. Here is a clue--read the outside of a tub of Cool Whip. What you see there, we don't buy. Cool Whip, btw, has no actual food in it.

Natural medicine. This means trying to deal with things nutritionally and with healthy lifestyle choices whenever possible. It does not mean I never go to the doctor or I refuse all forms of Western medicine. But I will NOT take a drug if a natural alternative is available. I search first and foremost always for vitamin deficiency issues or allergies. And my experience has been that natural cures usually work better and faster.

Other natural-y stuff like staying away from nasty chemical cleaners and pesticides. Simple as this: I don't want to be poisoned. I've had cancer once. Not something I care to relive :P.

(If you don't know why this picture is
here, I'm not explaining it.) 
(Aside--you may not know I had cancer, so that last statement may have you kinda going, er, uh... It's okay. No need to walk on eggshells. It was cervical cancer. I did chemo and radiation, and it's now gone. It sucked worse than anything I've ever experienced, but I'm seven years cancer free. Boo-yah!)

Homeschooling. And by that, I do not mean I am some public school hating freakazoid mom. I am passionate about homeschooling MY kids. I am passionate about kids being schooled in a way that makes them thrive. For my family, that is not public school. My kids thrive here, where they can learn at their own pace and dive into the things they are passionate about.

Organizing. At one time I gave serious thought to becoming a professional organizer. I have a superpower that allows me to analyze three dimensional spaces and work out creative ways to use that space efficiently. Ask my husband how many times he's said, "There's no way that will fit," and I have made him eat his words. I think out of the box. And speaking of boxes--get me into a store that sells storage bins and you will see me salivate.

Art. I am an artist, and ya'll know that. I'm not a huge art expert, though. Art history was never of real interest to me, and I can't name/identify all the different styles of art or go into deep descriptions of all the various media. But I love it. I love creating it, I love looking at it, and I love seeing other people's drawings and the steps they take to go from blank canvas to finished masterpiece.

Beetles. Why they are so interesting and why I draw them. I know. It's weird.

Creation science. Okay, so in my post about things I won't post about here, I included Creation science. But it IS a passion of mine. I've had a few church speaking engagements on this topic in years past. My college degree is in biology and I am fascinated by the scientific evidence for Creation. Like I said, I tend to consider it a bit too preachy for here, but I may touch on some of it if I feel so inclined. It did, in fact, influence my writing.

Ah, writing. That's kind of a given, though, eh? But what I'm thinking is, I will find ways to show how I've worked my passions into my writing. That might be the way to kind of tie things in here. Since I started this blog because of and for my writing.

And since writing is on the list, I want to add kind of a subset here of things related to reading and writing. Topics I may want to expand upon:

Magic in fantasy stories and why it is NOT EVIL. (Oh, wait, I already did that :P.)
Dragons, and why they are the freakin' coolest creatures ever.
Why I like sci-fi in movies but generally not in books. With certain exceptions...
Book cover art--things I love and hate.
What made me fall so head over heels in love with the Harry Potter books.

So there you have it. My passions. Oy, I have a lot of work ahead of me. Anyone got a particular topic you want me to start with?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Buckets and Blogging

Today, my awesome fellow writer and NAF member Tymothy Longoria let me guest post on his blog Aspire No More. Prepare to get messy with me and "Put Away the Bucket" as I talk about getting emotion into our writing.

Ironically, that guest post went live the same day that Mike Duran posted on his blog about How the Writing Community Insulates Writers. It has to do with writers focusing their blogs on topics only of interest to other writers, and how that defeats the purpose of reaching readers.

This really has me thinking. Actually, I've BEEN thinking about this a lot. Writers writing about writing is not always the ideal way to reach readers. Which is, of course, what we really want to do if we expect to actually have people read our books.

But writers write. It's what we spend a huge part of our day doing, thinking about doing, and often wishing we were doing more of. So naturally, we write about it. (Yes, we writers do tend to be obsessive types.)

If we're to NOT write about writing, though...what then?

I recently listed on here many of the things I don't post about, including things that are too touchy/preachy/controversial/wasted arguments, things that are too trivial, things I suck at, and things that are frankly none of your ding-dang business.

That leaves me with....

Right. You see now?

I'm going to have to give this more thought. In the mean time, I have already given you plenty of links to keep you busy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Who's to Blame?

So, in my last post I mentioned being frustrated about indie bookstores not carrying books by indie presses. I really meant it as an issue I had with the school that pulled out of letting me speak. It seemed--and I have to guess about this because I never received anymore correspondence from them--that the reason they pulled out was the fact that the local indie bookstore, with which they arrange presales, doesn't carry my book.

After the school situation, I queried the indie bookstore about carrying Finding Angel.

The staff replied to me right away, and they have graciously answered all my questions. It turns out that because I'm with an indie press, part of the issue is the policy that goes along with print-on-demand technology: the books are non-refundable. Also, the distributor gives them no discount, which means they essentially pay retail price. Which then means they'd have to jack the prices up to make money. As they put it, "No one is going to pay $20 for a kids' paperback." Well, duh. I don't blame them!

Really, I mean it. I don't blame them given those facts. But they sent me a form to fill out to submit Finding Angel for possible consignment, which took things to another level. The form explained about what a bookstore goes through when trying to decide which books to carry. And honestly, it's not just about cost and profit--and when it comes to their other points, the place of blame is clear.

Their form says:
"Technology has made publishing easier, often without traditional professional editing, proofreading, and evaluation of marketing and distribution. Consequently, the number of books we are asked to review continues to rise dramatically."
"...many of the books we are asked to try to sell are overpriced compared to similar books, the content is of very limited interest to anyone other than the writer’s friends and family, and/or a lack of editing or even proofreading is obvious. A surprising number of writers acknowledge that they have never paid a similar price for a similar book from an unknown writer and an unknown publisher with no objective reviews, yet expect us to try to sell theirs…"
The bold was not added by me, btw. But I would have added it, had they not done so. I mean, really. We have to admit this is true.

Every small press and self-published author out there thinks their book is worthy of that shelf space. But let's face it--most of them are not. This bookstore is dead-freakin'-right. With the ease of access to publishing these days, any yahoo can publish a book. And far too many do. Far, far too many who don't write well, don't get proper editing, don't invest in decent cover art, and publish through routes that inflate the cost of the books. I've seen this first-hand. First-time authors who chose dubious publishing routes (high-priced vanity presses and such) and whose less than 200-page paperbacks (with generic looking covers) end up on Amazon for $26. Hello, I'm not paying $26 for a hardback version of a favorite author, much less some skinny paperback by someone I've never heard of. And neither would you--don't deny it!

So how do we blame the bookstores? When they have a sea of garbage to wade through when determining what books go on their shelves? Is it really their fault? Or do we look at the authors who insist on pumping out overpriced rubbish?

Don't get me wrong--I think it's awesome we have publishing choices. Those choices are what allowed Splashdown Books to get its start, which is why I'm a published author today. But with those choices come the responsibility to work hard and put out your very best.

I'm not just representative of myself as an author, I'm representative of the small press community. Each and every one of us is--and that, unfortunately, is why so many bookstores turn us away en masse. Not because they are heartless, but because too many of us have made them scared to open their hearts to us.