Made It Monday: A Primary Color Wave

This weekend I tried a new-to-me project and did a 3 Color painting of a wave. It’s an interesting technique that relies on blending primary colors (red/yellow/blue) to create all the other colors needed. I enjoy painting because 1) I honestly suck at visual art like drawing and painting and want to improve so 2) I have to focus when painting and it becomes very meditative. Learning a new skill isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea, but I enjoy improving on something, and painting is a nice break from writing.

But, because I’m me and I like patterns, metaphors, and books I couldn’t help but let my mind wander over to how acrylic paintings  – which tend to be ugly up until the very last brush stroke – are so similar to book writing. Since NaNoWriMo is coming up in just a few short weeks I’m going to pull this all together in a quick mini-writing lesson. Because… why not?

If you’re interested in making this painting yourself check out the fabulous Cinnamon Cooney and her Art Sherpa youtube channel.

 

Phase 1: The Outline and Choosing your Colors
Before I could even paint my wave I had to pick which set of primary colors to use. There’s Primary Blue/Yellow/Magenta, or Magenta/Hansa Yellow/Pthalo Blue, or Cad Yellow/Cerulean Blue/Crimson… the different starting tones made different colors. You can see my test splotches in the top corners and the combinations further down.

Starting a story has a similar rhythm. First you need to decide what is going into the book. Are you writing a thriller or a romance? A Romantic thriller with a happy ending? A Thriller with romantic elements and a tragic end? Is your focus on one or two characters, or on the fates of thousands? Is the tone light or dark, somber or joyful, lively or a slow dirge into eternity? Knowing what you want helps you get the foundation of your story correct.

 

 

Phase 2: The Vague Outline of An Idea
The beginning. The end. Not middle visible? Ah, yes, that’s either this painting or anyone rough outline I’ve ever written. You should know where the book starts, and where you intend it to end, but the middle is always a murky mess when you begin. That’s fine. Draw in the ideas you know belong and figure out the rest as you go.

 

Phase 3: Color Blocking And The First Details
What do we have here? It’s a basic wave, you can see the shape of it now, and the middle has been filled with a purple blob that doesn’t really add much, but that’s okay. It’s there. This is the visual representation of a a rough draft. Everything is colored in. Technically, the wave has been painted. It’s not a blank canvas. You could probably sell this at a flea market for $5 and call it a day. It’s also painfully ugly and that ugliness makes too many people throw away their brushes (and their books) and give up in frustration. This looks nothing like the wave I envisioned! A rough draft doesn’t have the mental heft and weight of the book in my head! All is woe and sadness!

Okay, not really. This is a rough draft. The bones of a painting, or a story, are there. Now the fine details need to be added.

 

Phase 4: A Finished Work 
What changed? I added details. The foamy white crest splashing everywhere, reflections of light, more clouds, more color, more paint… And, again, this is a decent enough painting. It could be called done and hung on the wall. The equivalent of a book is one that has a couple rounds of edits and gets a nod. For most books, this is where they hit the query trenches or the publishing trenches. A lot of effort and time has been put into the project and the painter (me!) or the writer (you!) should feel justifiably proud of the effort.

 

Phase 5: The Polished Work
I’ll be 100% honest here… I could do more with this painting. I quit last night because I’d already gone over the 2 hours I’d set aside for painting and I needed to get some sleep. There are little details I’m not super happy with, things I’d still like to change, and I am seriously tempted to repaint this next week and do better

And, while I’m being honest, I can say I’ve felt that way about every book I’ve ever published. Most authors feel this way. There’s always something you think of at the last moment. There is an art to letting go, to knowing when any further effort and embellishment will only add noise, not improvement. It’s a hard skill to learn, and you only learn it if you are willing to take the risk of failing. If you can’t take that risk, can’t let yourself fall, then you’ll never find the point where you can fly.

Worth A Watch – Love O2O

Hello, my lovelies, I’ve found another show that earns a place as Worth A Watch. In keeping with the theme of finding non-American TV to enjoy this fantastically geeky show comes from China and has subtitles for English-speaking audiences on Drama Fever. There are actually two versions of this story, the movie (which I haven’t watched but enjoy the GIFs of) and the TV show that I’m actually going to talk about.

What’s the story? The adorable Wei Wei is a STEM lady working on her computer science degree at a university in Beijing and working as a math tutor on the side. She’s smart, funny, and super sweet. Literally the nicest person ever (which is shown again and again). She lives with three dorm mates in the nicest dorm you’ve ever seen, and in her free time (don’t even ask me how she finds it) she plays an online MMO where she’s the Red Bandit and one of the top ranked players on the server. Interestingly enough, in a refreshing change from most Geek Girl stories she doesn’t play a bard or healer, but an aggressive tanking character. When the story opens she has a crush on the university hottie and a virtual husband on the game (because there are couple-only quests). In the opening episode her online husband dumps her for a character named Enchantress, but she’s not single for long because the #1 player on the game ( a bard-class dude) proposes to her.

The story spans 30 episodes and 2 years as Wei Wei works on her degree, meets her online husband offline, helps him build a new gaming company, and they take over the world. Basically. In a nice way.

Who’s it for? This is for the gamers and romance fans. If you liked The Guild, or anything with Felicia Day, this is the show for you. It’s cute, it’s funny, the characters are (mostly) mature enough to make responsible choices, and there is enough plot to keep you watching for the whole 30 hours. If you love Meet Cute stories about people who find each other online, this is the show for you!

What’s the culture like? The major things that are going to jump out to an American audience are the use of the words Master, Junior, and Senior. In Chinese dramas it’s fairly common for the boss/leader of a group to be called Master (think apprentice/journeyman/master not slave/master). Junior and Senior are used to denote both age and seniority within a company. There’s a healthy bit of nepotism on the Bad Guy side of the spectrum, and some lingering Machismo. Chinese dramas haven’t fully broken away from the Domineering Male Knows Best point of view, but the male lead is fairly modern and fully respects Wei Wei’s opinions and her ability to handle her own problems.

Like Korean Dramas you’ll see more same-sex PDA between friends than between couples. Wei Wei and her friends are a close knit group and stay that way for the most part.

A fun cultural bonus is the Chinese poetry and history that gets slipped into the story. At one point the male lead tells Wei Wei “The flowers are blooming by the road. Enjoy them on your way home.” which sounds kind of weird without context. The context is that this is from am Emperor of China whose wife was visiting her mother, he didn’t want to order her back to the palace, but he missed her and this is what he wrote. The literally translation would be, “I love you and I miss you every day and I want you to come home but I respect your need to be with family and I’ll wait patiently until you’re ready to come back.”

Also, there’s a ton of basketball. I forgot how much Chinese liked the game until I watched this and remembered they do pretty well in the Olympics. They might not be Michael Jordan (but who is?), but they do like to dunk. It’s a better way to solve problems than the standard Boy Brawl, and I enjoyed it.

Bonuses? There’s no dramatic misunderstanding! The mainstay of the rom-com genre is done away because this is a nice couple who gets to be a couple for most the show. There’s also a m/m ship that is written and filmed as a romantic duo although we never see a kiss (only the main couple gets a kiss – sorry!). I found the pairing cute, although [name redacted] deserves a more mature hubby in my mind. Come for the cute warrior queen and stay for her adorable dad, her friends, and the bros.

Extra Bonus: There are some really awesome costumes in the fantasy game scenes. Enjoy!

What to watch out for? The sound dubbing in the first few episodes was a bit echo-y, especially in the dorm room scenes. Other than that, expect some bad behavior from the Jealous Dude who thinks Wei Wei should love him (because he has a crush – so obvs she’ll just adore him). There’s a minor redemption arc there, but not enough for me to forgive him.

How many seasons? Only one season, but it has 30 episodes each an hour long. Watch out, those last five minutes always result in a cliffhanger. If you need to go to bed stop at 50 minutes in and watch the last bit before going on to the next episode.

 

Thank you for reading BODIES IN MOTION!

Dear Reader,

Thank you for coming along on the journey that is BODIES IN MOTION.

When I first came up with this story it was something much shorter, with much less depth and impact. It was a story about a missed opportunity, a war, and a second chance at love. I toyed with the idea of writing the war itself, and decided that the war never mattered. Wars happen all the time. Wars are universally painful. Wars are universally tragic. Even when a war wins something crucial – like freedom or safety – everyone who survives walks away scarred. What is unique is how those survivors live with the scars.

The common wisdom is that wars and collapses of society are exciting, but rebuilding is boring. I hope BODIES IN MOTION gave you a different perspective. Personally, I’ve seen enough war in my lifetime. I’ll probably live to see more war and more scars. But with every war will come the challenge to rebuild. With every scar we’re given a chance to rebuild ourselves, or let the wound seep, rot, and inevitably destroy us. I’d rather rebuild than rot.

BODIES IN MOTION became not just a larger novel, but also my first serial novel, and that was a fun adventure.

One of my dedicated fans in Australia wrote to tell me she was late to work because a chapter posted and she had to read before leaving home (Sorry!). People from all around the globe found BODIES IN MOTION. We chatted about who was guilty, who was falling in love, and speculated on who Rowena would find love with in LAWS OF ATTRACTION. Can I tell you a secret? Up until June Rowena was slotted for a very different story arc and One True Love. Up until early June, she was actually going to meet a new character in LAWS OF ATTRACTION.

One scene changed that.

The interaction was too good between Rowena and (SPOILER!) so I threw out everything I had for Book 2 and took LAWS OF ATTRACTION in a completely different direction. I have the first quarter of the book written and I think you’ll like it. But you’ll have to wait until 2018 to read.

For now, BODIES IN MOTION will stay up in all it’s drafty glory on the blog. Most of you already know how to get EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE for free (hint: sign up for my newsletter), but I think for other readers who stumble across here in the next year or so BODIES IN MOTION is a good place to start.

 

What’s With The Rainbow Socks?

Ah, my beloved (be-holed) rainbow socks. They’ve been my Twitter avatar almost since the beginning. Which leaves a lot of people asking.. WHY??? Why is a sensible adult using rainbow socks for their public image?

It’s actually kind of a sad story. Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you all about it…

Way back in the day, when I was young and airports didn’t have security lines, I was poor. My parents were divorced, my mother worked hard to pay the bills, we lived paycheck-to-paycheck, but we never had money for extras. My clothes were hand-me-downs. My socks were the cheap 10-to-a-pack white ones. I had clothes but they never were things I got to choose. They were simply there to be functional.

By the time I graduated high school all the colors I had in my closet were black, white, and gray (school colors and school shirts) and a couple pairs of ragged jeans. It looked depressing and I really hated it. So my first act of rebellion was to spend $10 on an obnoxiously bright pink shirt with a silver lotus on it. My college roommate told me it was a slutty color and I happily wore it any time I wanted to annoy her.

Over time I slowly built a colorful wardrobe, still heavy on black, but I added more gem tones. I loved the bright colors but not every bright color works with my skin tone. But socks? Socks go with everything. Fun socks can be worn to serious meetings. Bright colors on my feet make me happy on a gray winter day. And after a childhood spent envying the girls with pretty, lacy, fun socks I was not going to go back to 10-to-a-pack socks unless the zombies ate every tie-dye kit in the coming apocalypse.

The rainbow socks were added to my closet about the same time that I joined Twitter. On a particularly bad day, sitting in the winter sunshine of Alabama, I snapped a pic and posted it as my Twitter avatar. It was meant to be a silly, momentary thing. I changed it a few weeks later and got yelled at! Eeep!

The socks stayed. The background has changed a few times. I’ve added tags. But the socks have stayed. Their a little punch of light in the darkness. A reminder of the things I’ve gone through to get to a place where I can enjoy my colors. I like being a bright spot in the darkness, don’t you?

A Very Belated Birthday Post

Every year around my birthday I do a review post. Kind of like a New Year’s Resolutions thing, but evaluating my year and my schedule in my own time. This year’s post is running late but here it is…

In the past year I’ve published one novel (DECOHERENCE came out last fall) and written two new novels. I found this kind of interesting because I usually have 60-80 plot bunnies running loose at any given moment. Writing folders from years past are filled with snippets, ideas for new universes, lists of unwritten characters, and this year that hasn’t happened.

In 2016 I started 14 new writing folders (meaning I had outlines for more than one book in the series) and about 50 partially-sketched outlines for random ideas that popped up. In 2017 I have 5 folders. One of those belongs to BODIES IN MOTION and the Newton’s Laws universe and already has a finished novel in it. Another belongs to the FREE FALL universe and also has a finished novel in it. The other three are series ideas I carried over from 2016 and might write in November. Finishing two novels from start to polished in a year is a new accomplishment for me, and I think it’s largely due to the fact that I didn’t go chasing off after every idea that came along. I’m getting pickier.

It wasn’t perfect. BODIES IN MOTION was meant to be a novella under 40k and it became an 85,000 word novel. The story I wanted to tell couldn’t be trimmed down that far, and it kept spawning side stories. But they’re fun so I let them grow. Interesting things happen when you let stories run wild.

In other news… I managed to move my family from Alaska to Washington, safely traverse Yukon Territory, and settle in south of Seattle. Not bad, considering. I also had the opportunity to publish with the Unbound Worlds Cage Match and Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction.

As years go, I feel like this one has been productive and focused. Here’s to another round of that!

 

The Silliness of Butterflies

There’s something a bit magical about butterflies, isn’t there? The bright colors, the paper-thin wings, the way they glide and flit across a summer glade like broken rainbows… I find them fascinating. This little guy (gal?) had an injured wing and was crawling through the grass near a playground full of kids. I took a few pictures and found some nice bushes safely away from small feet. This is a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, native to Canada and Alaska.

Look at that cute furry body! Aren’t butterflies extraordinary?

What are the little things in life you find magical even though they’re ordinary?

 

 

 

 

How To be Successful

It’s been said before by far more brilliant people than me, but there is a single key to success in any creative field: DON’T QUIT.
The difference between every bestselling author and everyone out there who says they want to be those authors is one person hit that goal already and one person hasn’t yet.
People complain about mediocre writers and wonder why their amazing work isn’t getting published, and then they give up. And that’s the answer right there. The writers who give up because it’s too hard, or no one understands their genius, or they aren’t selling well, or they can’t find the market are giving up.
 
Stick with it. Keep publishing. Eventually your backlist will be “discovered” and you’ll sell.
 
People talk about GRRM, and Tolkien, and McCaffery like they always sold well. They didn’t. GRRM has a zillion books. Tolkien wrote short stories and essays on fables before Lord of the Rings. McCaffery has at least three series that only die-hard fans have even heard of.
 
Harry Potter wasn’t a phenomenon until Book 4.
 
Twilight wasn’t big until Book 3.
 
Harry Dresden took 5 books to become huge.
 
The authors people talk about being bestsellers don’t realize most those authors published 5-10 titles before they became recognized, and usually have 20 failed projects unpublished before that. Most of them have been doing this for 10 years before you even know their name.
 
If you quit because your first book was rejected, or you’ve only sold two and your agent can’t sell three, or because it just seems so hard you won’t succeed at publishing. You can’t. The odds are not in your favor.
 
What you have to do is roll with the rejection and write the next book. Find a new way to market. Maybe switch agents. Or genres. Or pen names.
 
Kim Harrison has a wildly successful career that most people say started with DEAD WITCH WALKING. Did you know she published two fantasy novels before DEAD WITCH WALKING and the publisher refused to buy the third? She could have quit writing and done something else, but she didn’t. She switched genres, switched pen names, rebranded herself and came out even stronger. I don’t know her personally, but I know there had to be tears and doubts. I know she was tempted to quit, but she didn’t. 
The path to success is littered with the people who fell down and quit.
If you want this: KEEP GOING.
Keep writing. Even if your progress is slow. Even if there are setbacks. KEEP WRITING. KEEP WORKING. KEEP GOING.

The Great Escape… Leaving Alaska

Getting ready to travel always puts me in a reflective mood. Did I learn anything from being here? Did I do any good? Am I going to bring something better with me on this move that I didn’t have before?
Alaska has been a really interesting trip outside my comfort zone. It’s beautiful. I traveled through most of the United States and good chunks of western Europe, and there’s really nothing that compares to Alaska. The sky is a brighter blue. The vistas stretch for miles. And Alaskan summer is lush, green, and lively in a way that even the tropics can’t compare to. I can here not really expecting to love Alaskan summers, but I did. It’s so charming you can’t help but love it.
While I was here I picked up some new skill sets. Nothing strictly Alaskan, but I found the long winter nights and gray, bleak days left me craving color and I started painting. I failed art in grade school and always hesitated to go back and try again. But my daughter wanted a paint party for her birthday, and youtube had painting tutorials (a lot of painting tutorials). It was a lot easier to paint than I thought.
Am I great at it? No.
Are my paintings original? Not really, they’re more like fanfic of a youtuber’s painting. But it’s a start.
Will I ever be an amazing, museum-worthy painter? I could be if we knocked off a bunch of artists, or I practiced more, or the zombies in the apocalypse ate all the good art… there are options. But, to be great at painting I would need to spend a lot more time on it than I have. And my goal really isn’t being museum-worthy, it’s not even to be etsy-worthy. I’m painting because I enjoy painting. Because I like seeing bright colors and learning new techniques.
Am I a better person leaving Alaska than I was when I arrived? I like to think so.
Just career-wise I made a lot of big jumps while I was in Alaska. I was here when my first novel hit the stores. I did my first book signing at Fireside Books in Palmer. In more personal matters I think I grew up a little, learned to be a better parent, spent more time with the love of my life, spent more time exploring the world. I hope it’s all adding up to making me a better person, even if I still haven’t learned how to get to bed at a decent hour.
And what’s next?
I’m moving 3000 miles at the end of the month, headed for Washington State in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll be landing in the Seattle area, which I’m told is beautiful and full of farmer’s markets. What’s waiting there for me? I’ll let you know when I find out!

The Path To Failure

I have another secret to share, come here. Closer… closer… STOP! Right there.

Look around. Do you see everything around you? This, my friend, is the path to failure. This is where dreams are broken. This is where it all falls apart. We call it life, sometimes adulthood, but what it really is the graveyard of our hopes.

Okay, you can back up now.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Shake that negativity off. Take another deep breath and look around. You see this?

This is the path to success. This is where all your dreams come true. This is where everything works for you like you are a Cinderella whose fairy godmother took over the mob and took out those two step-sisters years before you ever had to scrub a floor.

Do you know what the difference is between the path to failure and the road to success? There is none.

There is only one road.

Some days it looks like you are careening towards failure. Everyone else took the express route and found their Prince Charming, their book deal, their million dollar dream and you are still scrubbing floors and writing books by candlelight as you weep into your ink-stained hands.

Suck it up, Buttercup, this is what success looks like before they photoshop it.

It’s hard work, long nights, gut checks, honest chats with friends, and getting knocked back on your butt ninety-nine times. And then you stand up for that hundreth time and punch back. Failure is success that quit. Failure is what happens when you stop standing up when you get punched down. Failure is a step on the long road to success.

Cry if you must. Take a deep breath, look out at the scenery. Take a detour and check out the little things. Then get back on the road and keep going because that’s what turns failure into Success.

If you quit because of a rejection letter, or because you didn’t get the job, or because you failed the first test in a class you aren’t giving yourself a chance to be brilliant. Believe in yourself a little bit longer. Stand back up. You’re getting there.

Where have all the knives gone?

This post is 5 years old, written during out family’s sojourn in Florida. It’s worth sharing because it still amuses me. 🙂

Have you ever seen Sinbad? Not the old black and white (I loved those!) but the animated movie from a decade or so ago? If not you can check out some clips HERE. The thing is, it’s currently Bug’s favorite movie of all time. Especially the opening fight scene where Sinbad has two swords.

At this point that’s the only part of the movie he watches. Once the fight scene is over he runs off to play outside.

On a completely unrelated note (or maybe not) I’ve noticed I’m losing butter knives at an alarming rate. I mean, sure, sometimes you lose a knife or two to kitchen mishaps. You might leave one at a picnic or a church potluck. But I bought new butter knives not two months ago to replace the casualties of last summer’s BBQ season and this morning I couldn’t find a single one!

Enter the three-year-old, running as if his life depended on it, “Hiyah!” He kicked an imaginary foe and light twinkled off his twin blades.

My eyes narrowed. “Son, are those mommy’s knives?”

He blinked, startled by my demand that he re-enter reality. With three years of experience dealing with mom he went with honesty. “No, these are my swords!” And off he raced to save the day.

Every single time Sinbad is on Bug moves his favorite chair in front of the TV and attends the viewing with his trusty swords in hand, a devotee of swashbuckling agog at the animated prowess. And every single time I trail after him trying to find where he stashed all his other weapons.

I finally gave up and sat down on the much-abused recliner to watch with him today. For my pains I was stabbed in the head. By a butter knife. By a butter knife hidden in the stuffing of the headrest. You see, the recliner is ripped open, the stuffing is visible and Bug just couldn’t resist hiding his treasures there.

While he was distracted I emptied the secret hidey hole and hid the hoard in the dishwasher. I have my knives back! At least until he watches Sinbad again…

Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing? It can transform a square patch of grass into the surface of Mars, the depths of the ocean, or the tower of a castle. Imagination can turn dull butter knives that can’t damage a banana into the sharpest swords. Imagination turns a blank page or an empty screen into a life filled with wonder and emotion.

What have you imagined today?