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Monday, July 28, 2014

Missing the weekend.

Ahhhh, weekends. I adore them. It's an early Monday morning as I type and I'll admit that I'm not quite as fond of Mondays so before I head off into the craziness, I'm going to bask in the weekend just a little longer.


Sometimes I have a specific project or plan when I work in the studio, and this weekend was no different. I should have been working on a series of art which is the result of some awesome creative coaching I've been getting from Tara Leaver. Never one to argue with the muse, I did something completely different instead. I pulled my sewing machine out of the closet and tried my hand at adding fabric to art journal pages. 


As with anything, more experience and practice will improve the results, but I'm excited about the new textures and possibilities that it offers.


I just started sewing without a plan and let it develop naturally. I really like this deep red flower. 


It was time to see what surprises my small press held and when I opened it up, there were lots of interesting bits. I wanted to incorporate them into a page somehow and this is the result. Other materials include: watercolor paper, waxed paper, fabric, thread, and acrylic paint.


I couldn't decide which I liked better - the front or the back. Luckily, I don't have to choose. I'm going to insert the page so that both sides show because I think they're both lovely in their own way.


I've been doing quite a bit of art journaling lately because it's a great way to experiment with colors and materials in a way that isn't risky. It's small so it's not a huge commitment of time or materials. If you don't like it, you can paint over it. And the best thing about it - if you've got space to leave your project out, you can add things whenever the mood strikes. Sometimes I find a beautiful piece of paper or see a shape that I want to add and I take 5 minutes to add this to my journal(s). Over time, the layers build up into something thick and gorgeous. Bits and pieces of your life captured on paper.

And you're getting better and braver at creating art with every little step.

I work on three journals at a time. This means that there is always an open page available, even if paint or glue is drying on the other ones. I don't buy expensive journals. As with most of my art supplies, I prefer to work with inexpensive or found objects. I find that it takes the pressure off and I don't get stressed out if something doesn't turn out the way I expect. And if I leave my brushes soaking in water for too long, it's okay. (This happens regularly.)

I've gathered together a list of online resources and inspiration as I've collected as I've been art journaling and I plan to send these out in a newsletter (a way, way overdue newsletter) very soon.

You can see more art journal pics (among a smattering of other things)  in my Flickr portfolio.


Yes, that is a tarantula. We ran across this bad boy on the trail yesterday at the Golden Open Space. Of course, I screamed and all that jazz. If you ask me, jumping up and down and hollaring at the top of your lungs is required behavior when encountering a spider with legs this long and hairy. I was just trying to get with the program. My husband helpfully (and correctly) pointed out that the spider was dead and was therefore unlikely to devour my leg.


We're hiking from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Albuquerque Edition, and I'm in charge of planning the hikes. This is an interesting assignment for someone who is untethered in time and space. I also tend to skim over details because I'm always in a hurry. Like that time the guidebook clearly recommended long pants to protect from the pointy and evil desert plants as we hacked our way through undergrowth.

(An aside: I'm sorry, Don. It was just coincidence that I showed up in long pants while you were wearing shorts. I'm sure the scars will eventually heal and I have learned an important lesson - actually read the guidebook.)


Here's how a hike typically begins:

D: So, where are we heading? Pleasant smile, expectant expression on his face.
R: Just get on the expressway. I'll let you know in a minute. This is accompanied by frantic page flipping to recall (or decide) where the hike will be.

D rolls eyes and accelerates. He's been through this before and is numb.

We eventually end up hiking, but not until we've overcome some small obstacle. We have arrived at hiking areas only to find that one must request access to a private road before hiking. We've driven miles up winding mountain roads only to discover what the entire state already knows - everything is closed due to high risk of forest fires.

I am an optimist. I always think that the drive will be shorter, the hike will be easier, and that there will be more shade. Don is a good sport about it, but each and every one of these things are immediately obvious to him because he is firmly rooted in the detail of life. He could guess what time it is within 3 minutes even if he hasn't seen a clock for hours and has been wandering aimlessly in the wilderness or an underground cave. He counts and measures things in his head without even being aware of it.


And so we muddle through, each in our own world but somehow, miraculously together.


The book said there was a cave, but we were standing right on top of it and didn't see it at first because it requires scrambling down off the rim of the trail to enter. Afterwards, we realized that this cairn marked the spot and we added our own rock on top for posterity.


The Don contemplates the world.


For the record, it was incredibly hot out there and except for this cave, there was not a bit of shade to be found. 



This entire area is a series of interconnected arroyos and watersheds, striated with red-clay. Looking down from the top into the drainage basin is striking and beautiful but it was impossible for me to capture adequately on camera.

On Sunday afternoon, a friend came over and we painted for a couple of hours in the studio. We watched a Flora Bowley video and paged through her book, Brave Intuitive Painting for a creative jump start.

Here are the results so far:

Painting in progress by Sarah Reynolds.

This one is mine.

All in all, a wonderful weekend and I'm missing it already. I wish you a lovely and creative week, my friends. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

After the Frost - Free ebook

July 23rd - Free ebook day!


 In the Pacific Northwest of 1928, Julian Powell lives a life that for most appears to be one of privilege—a perfect life in a huge house, servants, and carefully groomed grounds. No matter how idyllic it might seem, it has become a prison for Julian. His days are filled with the endless monotony of family gatherings, gossip, and brown suits. Overshadowing him is a life-long illness. Julian finds his only freedom from his overbearing family in secretly writing books celebrating the beauty of nature. Occasionally he escapes to the local bookstore, with the hope of seeing the town’s eccentric, William Neill. Julian’s life changes forever when he makes the boldest decision of his life. He leaves to take care of an ailing childhood friend, moving to a place that will take him away from all he has ever known to an unexpected new life. He becomes part of a family of his own choosing, and it brings him closer to the man that he’s been secretly falling for—a man who has a prison of his own to escape. As William and Julian struggle to overcome their pasts, will their secrets bring them together or drive them apart?


 

Please don't forget to visit the author, PG Owyns, on

Facebook.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Heyyyyyy - why wasn't my art featured? And get a website, will ya?

In recent weeks, I have had two queries asking me how I decide which art to feature at Ink & Alchemy.


Mostly, I wing it. 

I try to be fair. I have a method of keeping track of all the creative people I feature (including writers) and I do pay attention in a handwaving, don't-really-care-all-that-much way. I started doing this several years ago because I was seeking inspiration for myself and even though it has morphed into something bigger, that is still one of the underlying goals. I don't want to take the fun out of it by imposing strict guidelines upon myself because I'm just compulsive enough to feel pressured by it.


I feature what I like. I post things that catch my eye on a given day. It's not a whole lot more complicated than that. 

I like color. I try to stretch my boundaries because I don't like to get stuck in small places. I like shiny, glittery bits and I live almost wholly in the moment. This means that sometimes I start out with a certain artist or medium in mind, but when I sit down at the computer, something fabulous pops up in my feed or email that I just can't ignore. I'm kind of fickle like that when it comes to art. There are many places in my life in which I must, by necessity, operate according to rules and regulations but I stubbornly refuse to operate from a place of  rigidity with regard to creative things. They are my refuge and I refuse to codify them too much.


And if I'm being completely honest, those who interact on the page regularly probably end up featured more often. It's not a conscious decision, but I'm a busy person and when I see your name pop up, it may prompt me to click over to your page or website and see what wonderful thing you have created lately.

Some things that cause certain names to be passed over time and time again: 


no new art

poor photography
lack of color 



And a huge pet peeve of mine: if you are using a personal FB profile instead of a page, I am unlikely to post your work. Why? Because unless they are friends with you on FB, my followers cannot see most of your content and it's not the most effective way to do it. One of my goals at Ink & Alchemy is to help others learn how to connect online and I often lead by (good) example. 

There are two under-utilized ways to get featured. 

1.) Drop me a line with a good image attached and ask. It's not a guarantee, but it's worth a shot.
2.) Post your own work at More Ink. This page is intended for just that purpose. While I typically curate Ink & Alchemy (with the exception of link sharing days like today), More Ink is always available for you to showcase your work and practice your networking skills. I'd love to see what you've been up to!

I try to notice when someone needs a helping hand and put new artists out there. I appreciate reciprocity and repay favors when I can. I encourage you to do that same.


I've got some new ideas stewing over here. In addition to daily features, I've been running month-long promotions for artists and writers on my website. If you're on either of my featured lists (here & here), it's just a matter of time until the spotlight is on you. :)

I'm in the beginning phase of a new effort to assist those without a website to get up and running. Why? Because it's important. If you're trying to manage a platform and create an online presence, you need to have a website. It's your home base. I hear from many people in all types of creative disciplines that they either don't want to spend the time creating a website or they don't have the skills to do so. 

I also hear that they don't have the funds to pay for a designer. Understandable, but that doesn't negate the need to have one. 


I'm trying an experiment and will take a few initial clients at a ridiculously low price. I'm doing this because I need to work out the kinks in the process and see how it goes. If you're thinking guinea pig, you're on the right track. But don't worry, you're in good hands. You can find the details on my website, but here's what I'll do in a nutshell: I'll create a free website for you and give you a tutorial so that you can manage it yourself going forward. I'll also provide some recommendations about how to get connected online and build a platform. 


These sites won't have all the latest bells and whistles, but they will have functionality and provide a static place for you to send your customers. My website is an example of what might result from an effort like this. Do me a favor and take a look and then drop me a line if you'd be willing to partner with me in this new endeavor. Of course, you will need to provide certain pieces of information (your bio, images with titles, etc.).

Personally, I think the service I'm offering is much more valuable than paying someone to design and manage your site for you. If you learn how to do it yourself, you'll have much more flexibility and retain the ability to make changes without paying exorbitant fees to do it. Take my word for it - it's easier than you think!


All of the art in this post was created by the super fabulous Treasure Frey. Visit her website to see more of her creations. 

I'm wishing you a wonderful week filled with many opportunities to create something beautiful! 





Thursday, May 22, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stone Patrick on Smashwords

The following guest post was written by Stone Patrick, author of The Fallen Body


**************************

I just came across Smashwords.com, which is a great website for publishing your books, novels, poetry, short stories, etc. It only took a moment for me to convert my .doc file to the site, and they converted it to other ebook formats for me! It was so easy.       


 The site includes ebooks of every kind of category, and there are a number of them that are free or included at discount prices. The nice thing about Smashwords is that it is free for all authors to make their ebooks available. They also make your ebook available to their distribution network as long as it passes a 2-3 day review period. Smashwords mission statement is as follows: "Our mission is simple: we want to create the world's single best ebook publishing and distribution platform for our indie authors, publishers, literary agents and retailers." - Mark Coker, CEO and Founder of Smashwords. There are a three ebooks written by Mark Coker that are offered for free on the site. These books have helped me tremendously. 

The first one is Smashwords Style Guide.
    

 This book provides a step-by-step guide on how to style your manuscript so that it is readable on the different ebook platforms, i.e. MOBI (Kindle), EPUB, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, and TXT. It is required reading if you want to submit your books to the major ebook retailers.

The second book is Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

  

 This is an ebook marketing primer that gives easy-to-implement advice on how to market books at Smashwords and other ebook retailers. It starts with an overview of how Smashwords helps promote your ebook, and then provides 41 simple DIY marketing tips that will help you promote your ebook. You get to choose to which ebook retailers you want to upload your novel.     


   

 This book is a must-read for new or veteran authors who want to take their marketing to the next level. Finally, Mark Coker produces relevant and interesting industry content on the Smashword.com blog, which can be found here. His most recent posting about the Indie Author Manifesto is brilliant writing. It is loaded with talking points and culminates in 10 self-evident truths.   For an example of what I have done, you can find me on Smashwords here:

   

 Try it for yourself and see the power behind this website!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Just be yourself.



Just be yourself.


 Life is too short to waste even one moment of it trying to be someone else.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Yes, you need an editor.

C.S. Maynard is the author of Blood of the Wolf and she has agreed to share her self-publishing experiences  with us today. Thank you so much, Charlotte! 


C.S Maynard on Self-Publishing and Editors

I had worked on a couple of books and written a couple of novels before my husband sat me down and said, this next one we're going to publish. We're going to go all the way. We did our research, we looked at the numbers, we read about traditionally published authors who were actively choosing self-publishing over traditional and then we decided. We chose the self-publish option.

We won't go into the stigmas of self-publishing or the quality of it versus traditional. We won't go into how or why an author should choose that over the other options. That's another post. I want to talk about editors.

If you go the traditional route and you get a contract, you will have an editor. Sometimes not one, but several, depending on how big the publisher. They understand how important it is to have someone else give it a look over.

My husband and I fought over this concept as we pushed to write this novel that we were insisting that we were going to go all the way to the end. He kept insisting that we didn't need one, couldn't afford one, he could help me, we had good beta readers. The list of his explanations and excuses went on and on and it was always something so important that we just couldn't make it happen.

I finished the book, we started having our beta readers do their work. I have some really good beta readers, some writers themselves and they all found important things. I learned a lot in the process, I'm still learning, and everything I had experienced told me that we needed that final editor, someone with grammar and punctuation skills that could give it that final polish.
Still, my husband fought me, insisting that we could do it on our own. Nothing I could say mattered. Then, he went to the most critical of our beta readers to get her opinion just on the first chapter. She was polite, non-specific, too nice in her opinions and he realized there was more to what she wasn't saying than what she was.

They talked for awhile and he discovered that she did have issues. All manuscripts have flaws. You can be the most experienced, talented writer and there will always be something that you miss. In fact, there were so many issues that this very experienced reader couldn't get past that first chapter. She didn't finish it.

We had a real problem if we were going to take this book to publishing. Finally, I had that second opinion, that firework in the sky to convince him that maybe there was something to what I had been trying to tell him all along. We needed an editor.

I had worked with a free service before and they had some really good options, opening up their editors to doing original fiction. However, these were volunteers and not professionally trained. You roll the dice and hope that you get assigned to someone who not only reads and enjoys your genre, but has the skills and training to accomplish what you want. When I used the service, I found just that. It is possible, but you might have to go through a few to find the one that works best with you.

This is an option if you don't know anyone. It's an amazing service and I recommend at least trying it if you choose to self-publish. Especially with your first few books, money is very tight and every little penny counts.

In my case, I have a neighbor who does technical editing for a local University and she was willing to help me out. We paid her a pittance, but it was important to us to give her something for the really amazing job that she did. The difference was outstanding. She didn't change the story or the characters or mess with my theme in any way. A good editor won't.


She took what I had, the rough cut, fogged gem and cut away the detritus. After her polishing, my gem wasn't the dirty, ragged thing I had given her. I won't say it had become a diamond. It might be more accurately likened to a bit of topaz that you can find out on the ground in the mountains near where my story is set. But it was a far sight more beautiful after her touch than before.


I recommend self-publishing if you can put in the time and effort into promoting it. You will have to deal with the fact that it's definitely not as fast growing and most don't sell 100 books in the first month.

If you do choose to self-publish, however, find yourself an editor. You don't have to pay the $2500 for some that I saw being offered, there are other options. Let the master do the work they love, put the polish on your baby and know that you really did put yourself out there in new and exciting ways that you can really be proud of.



You can find out more about Charlotte or preview the first chapter of Blood of the Wolf on her website. If you just want to go hog wild and purchase the entire book, click here



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How I sit down to write my stories - a guest post by Susan Mac Nicol


Today's post was written by guest blogger Susan Mac Nicols, author of recently released Double Alchemy. Of course I LOVE the title! Here is Susan to share a little about her writing process:

Often one of the questions people will ask is me is ‘How do you write- do you have a real idea when you sit down which direction the book is going or do you just type and make it up as you go along?’ The answer to this so far has been the second approach.  I’m not one for plotting in too much detail. I have a few set guidelines I use when I begin and I’ve noted these below.


Characters - I outline about ten lines of the character
·         DOB - Month and year. That way I don’t trip up on their age J
·         Physical appearance - hair, eyes, body shape, anything distinguishing like Cade’s nipple piercing
·         Profession -Cade is an anthropologist
·         Where they work -  geographically and the type of place -museum, office, restaurant etc.
·         Some basic character traits - I actually use star signs to do this so I choose their DOB based on what I think my character is going to be like. Quinn for example was always going to be a Leo both in physical appearance and nature. I had this idea for him being King of the Jungle.
Family
·         If family is going to play an important part in my character’s life, then I’ll jot down a couple of sentences about each of them. Name, sex and a brief description of why they are in the story.

Location/s
·         My stories usually have the main location in mind when I’m setting the story - for Double Alchemy it was Hampstead Heath in London. Quinn has his house there, the magyckal Sprite pond is there and it’s also where Quinn and Jomo have their office.

·         Other locations I write about arise as and when I need them. The Clapham Common Fairground for example, because I wanted the rather nasty Jeremy found at a local funfair.

·         Scotland was important as Cade is studying the Picts for his dissertation and this is where they originated.

Plot
·         I’ll then write about one A4 page of the plot. Very basic details - where they meet, what happens when they do, what I intend happening as they develop, and how the story needs to develop. It’s a very brief skeleton that I use to at least remind me where I want to get to.

Then I sit down with laptop on knee on my couch in the corner of the my lounge, write the first sentence and it all takes on a life of its own and begins to knit together. The characters develop quirks, frailties, strengths and senses of humour, and really become their own people.

It might not work for everyone. I know people who take an inordinate amount of time mapping out their stories using techniques like the Snowflake method.

I do know that for the book series I’m writing, I am going to need to be more organised and structured as writing a series of six books all moving on from one another is a challenge. I bought some story writing software called New Novelist V3 to help me do this and so far I’m pretty impressed with it. It’s very easy to use and as I’m a visual person, this meets my needs.



Susan Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, UK, and left for South Africa when she was eight. She returned to the UK thirty years later and now lives in Essex. Her debut novel Cassandra by Starlight, the first in a trilogy, was published last year by Boroughs Publishing Group in the US. Sue’s latest story, Double Alchemy is her fifth m/m romance.

Sue has written since she was very young, and never thought she would see herself becoming a Romance writer, being a horror/psychological thriller reader all her life. But the Romance genre is now something very close to her heart and she intends continuing the trend.

Sue is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association here in the UK.

Social Links: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

Here's summary of Double Alchemy:

Powerful yet tormented modern warlock Quinn Fairmont must initiate the silver-eyed Cade Mairston into the world of witchfinders, Withinners, and what can happen when two men fall truly, madly, deeply in love.

THE WORLD IN SHADOW



In modern London there lurks a warlock, Quinn Fairmont. Dangerous, powerful, tortured, sharing his body with the soul of an ancient Welsh sorcerer, Quinn is never alone—and never wholly himself. He fights against all those who would exploit his kind. He takes pleasure where he can find it.

In the forest of Hampstead Heath, Quinn’s hometown, Cade Mairston appears to him like a waking dream. Lithe, lean and silver-eyed, he evokes feelings in Quinn unlike any other: lust with true affection, immediate and shocking. Cade is clearly more than he seems. And yet, if a man of the world, Cade is innocent. He knows nothing of warlocks, witchfinders or Withinners. He knows nothing of what he is, what he might be, or what he might feel. For him, the story is just beginning. Magyck, peril and passion await.

I'm part of a blog tour arranged by Virtual Writers. You can click the banner to find out more about the tour and to discover other interesting book bloggers. Susan's book can be found here.

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