Work in Progress

Paintingpainting in progress

I pulled out a canvas I’ve been meaning to use for years and gave myself permission to use it.  ”But I’m not good at this.  I’ll ruin it.”  Right.  How is a blank canvas helping anyone, and who is going to cry if it’s been painted on?

The first face came out the way I wanted it to, the second one has the perspective wrong, especially for the eyes.  But, it was fun to make, and I’m not angry for “wasting a canvas.” Instead I’m thinking of how I will finish it, what I need to learn about perspective, pre-sketching, and color balance for noses.  I’m thinking about getting real paints instead of the 50 cent bottles of acrylic I got (blue, red, yellow, white, and black).  I’m thinking about brushes and techniques, books to read and artists to study.

Creativity is often about giving yourself permission to take risks and mess up.

Egg Dye Art

Recycled Egg Dye project

dye3

My son and I decorated eggs using a basic dye kit.  When we were finished, we had all these cups of dye. On a whim, I made a design on a piece of paper with a white crayon, taped it to a cutting board, and poured the dye over the paper into the sink.  My son really enjoyed making one himself.  Anyone else have ideas for recycling egg dye?

eggsdye art

Middles

penniesThe Muddle in the Middle

I haven’t posted in a while. I gave myself a deadline for finishing the second draft of my novel, and then life happened. Nothing serious, but my life is pretty full.  Still, I’ve been doing my best to slog through the middle of the rewrite.  I’m narrowing it down from four viewpoints to two.  I’m bringing in foreshadowing for events that I didn’t know about in the first writing.  The hardest part of doing this is getting started, it takes at least a half hour of dithering to really get into it.  If I’m not careful, I get sucked into the internet and lose the time I have.  I’ve started turning off my wi-fi before writing time.

I have developed a new behavior system with my son.  He has twenty points, which are represented by pennies in a cup.  When he has all twenty points, he has all privileges. Misbehavior means taking away points.  We emphasize adding points for any small good deed or kindness.  I should do this myself.  When I’m slogging away in the middle and it feels like I will never be able to untangle and smooth out my writing in time, I should give myself points for every effort instead of focusing on feeling bad for not doing more.

 

 

 

Blurbs and Pitches

WordItOut-word-cloud-354403

Word cloud made with WordItOut

In a World…

I’m taking a short break from revising (I’ve gotten through the first five chapters!) to work on my blurb.  That’s the catchy description of the book that is supposed to draw you in.  I’ve looked at quite a few examples.  Unless I make up something, I can skip the favorable reviews from journals and magazines (“Simply amazing storytelling…” The New York Times). 

What seems to be standard is two paragraphs, setting up the situation and then asking questions the reader wants answered, like “will he finally find the lost broomstick before the blight destroys the forest?” or more often “which man will she pick, the naughty rogue or the simple but sweet neighbor?”

A pitch is slightly different, it is meant for a gatekeeper like an agent or editor.  The imagined scenario is that you happen to bump into an agent in an elevator and strike up a conversation, and between the second floor and the fourteenth, she asks about your book and you come out with your pitch.  ”It’s a love story between a bat and a bird, it’s “Stellaluna” meets “Pride and Prejudice”.  This scenario seems far-fetched, perhaps a little more likely at a convention where the elevator line can take hours.  More often you are sending these pitches as part of a query letter to agents and editors.

The Book Doctors discuss pitches and their annual contest related to NaNoWriMo, and they limit a pitch to 250 words.

Here’s a start for my blurb:

Flying ships, wild magic, a land in trouble and a toy duck.  Three women and a shapeshifter accidentally save their world.

Long ago, it used to be easy for pilgrims to journey to the northern temple and get a new, adult name.  Now wild magic is flowing like lava across the land, cutting off the route.  A nameless girl hires a guard named Brynn, and they venture into the cursed dreamlands, guided by a mad sorceress and her shapeshifting companion.  They fight their way past monsters, dangers and frightening wonders to reach the temple, where they will be tested to see who they truly are.

Anything can happen in the dreamlands, and there is more at stake than the three women realize.  Their actions will not only effect the rulership of a country, but the fate of their whole world.

*** too much?  Need to keep working on this.

 

 

Revision

Rewriting for “Pantsers”

If you write by the seat of your pants instead of carefully outlining, rewriting can be difficult.  I’m revising a first draft that I merrily wrote without any restrictions.  It was wonderfully freeing, and gave me a full, rich story I might not have gotten from a tidy little outline.  However, trying to follow the plot now is like following Billy in  a “Family Circus” comic strip.

I have four main characters and alternating points of view (close third person) with all of them.  The antagonist is on another continent and doesn’t actually show up for the final confrontation.  I separate the characters and have them “scooby-dooing” through most of the book.  At one point, I even gave one character the temporary ability to fly in order to get her where I needed her to be!

I am not giving up, for I really feel that there is a good story in this mess.  It is definitely encouraging me to have at least some preplanning before starting my next project!
13126099I am reading a great book right now- Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.  It talks about the science behind good story telling.

Book Cover Design

People judge books by their covers

As a Librarian, I stare at hundreds of book covers a day, not only in our collection but in book review journals, online reviews, book stores, Goodreads and Pinterest.  I know that a great book won’t get checked out by browsers if it has an ugly cover.  A cover has to do many things, including conveying genre, target audience and tone.

An ebook cover has to do even more.  I started working on ideas for my work in progress, Name Quest.  At first I tried sketching out a scene from the book, but realized that when it was rendered down to a thumbnail, it would be hard to see clearly.  An ebook cover should be readable at thumbnail size.  Many great print book covers would become too busy or unreadable when rendered down.  I decided to convey the tone (lighthearted fantasy) with a doodle background and the three main characters’ faces.  This is my first sketch, it’s not quite right yet.  I especially want to redo the character on the right.  I’m trying to decide if the final cover should be painted, done as computer art, or kept as colored pencils.

drawing name quest

Future of writing

Hybrid writers, the writing business and my own plans

I just read an article in Writer’s Digest (2/2014) by Chuck Wendig about “hybrid publishing”.  This is where an author pursues both traditional publishing and self publishing simultaneously.  He likens it to diversifying your portfolio.  Put all the eggs in all the baskets!

I’ve concluded my experiment that I started last year, where I self-published a novel into Barnes and Noble and Amazon.  I did no promotion beyond telling my friends and family it existed and putting a link here.  I sold 15 books at Amazon and 27 books at Barnes and Noble.  The book was not my best work, it was a quirky mystery/humor book.  I could be discouraged by the low numbers, or encouraged.  I choose to be encouraged.  What can happen if I really work at promotion, quantity and quality?  If I have ten great books on all the ebook places, with promotion, I can see a real side business.  I am going to rewrite and polish a fantasy novella  (Name Quest) and self-publish it.

At the same time I will continue to keep looking for an agent for my paranormal romance, “Seeking Clarity”.  After I finish my rewrite, I will start looking for publishers and agents for my kid’s book, “Other People’s Magic.”

For my self-published work I need to have a great cover, a great description, and promotional materials.  I am doing research on covers, looking through my own bookshelf for inspiration.  A great resource I found was Joel Friedlander’s site, the Book Designer.  He does a monthly contest and talks about what makes a great cover and what just bombs (no plain white background without borders, check!).

best day ever

Craft felt fun!

51hYtQWybZL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Home-made felt gifts

I had a blast making things after reading the book “Big Little Felt Universe” by Jeanette Lin.

P1090051P1090031

I made a hammer and a slice of cake from her book, using just sheets of craft felt, needle, thread, cardboard and stuffing.  I then went nuts looking for ideas on Pinterest.  Just by eyeballing pictures I was able to make a few more things.

Cupcakes and the TARDIS

P1090050

Dave the Minion

P1090034

The world (I used a world map from Skidmore College)

P1090056 P1090053

I have found a new hobby!  Since I gave these all as gifts, my kids want some too- one wants a hammer, the other a TARDIS. The two best tips I learned from making these things is that you need a good pair of small, sharp scissors, and you should stuff your creations, not just cover a hollow cardboard shape (my son crushed the TARDIS and it had to have emergency repairs.)

Creative Writing Encouraged

logo

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for many years, and this year my daughter is joining in with the young writers program.  Classrooms and individuals can sign up to write a novel in a month.  They encourage creative writing in a judgement-free, entertaining way.  There are pep talks, writing prompts, trackers and forums.

I find NaNoWriMo to be helpful in emphasizing getting words on paper (or screen) and avoiding the self doubt that can block creativity.  It’s not about the finished product, it’s about the act of writing.

2013_Participant_Facebook_Cover

Kid’s skeleton costume

Home-made skeleton costume

P1080659

Materials:

  • glow-in-the-dark fabric paint (optional)
  • black thermal underwear your child’s size
  • sheets of white felt- (I used 5)
  • needle and thread, pins
  • For mask- white flannel, a piece of elastic, a small amount of pillow fluff, embroidery thread, needle and regular thread.

I was not able to find black footy pajamas, and buying a shirt and pants seemed expensive for something he will only wear once, so I was very happy to see the thermal underwear.  The disadvantage of this is that he can’t wear it over other clothes.

After laying it out, I was able to estimate what size the bones should be.  It was very tempting to try to make exact, anatomical bones, but it is much simpler to just go with a cartoonish style when cutting out felt!

Cut out the bones out of the sheets of white felt and pin in place on the thermal underwear.    Hand-sew them on.  Be sure to put something inside the clothes to avoid accidentally sewing all the way through ( I used a rolled up magazine for the arms and legs).

pin on felt bones

 

Outline the edges of the bones in the fabric paint and let it dry out of reach of meddling kids and their dog.

The mask was made by cutting out two pieces of white flannel (it was actually white with blue stars, but I used the plain side).  Cut the eye holes generously.  Sew it right sides together, leaving a side open.  Turn right side out and stuff lightly.  Sew the open side.  Sew a piece of elastic to go around the back of your child’s head (measure to fit).  I decided to decorate the mask in the style of Mexican Day of the Dead.  If you are looking for designs online, use the keywords calaveras and Dia De Los Muertos.  Anyone who has more experience with embroidery would have done a better job.  Another idea would be to sew or glue on decorations to the mask.

skull mask