Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Category: Animals (Page 1 of 2)

“What is this place?”

A bumble bee buzzes among the myriad spring blooms of wildflowers… (Tap image to learn more.)

Today on SCRAWLS, we’ll pick up where we left off last week with Katja and Queen Manasa trying to contact Master Caleb using the Ott vre Caerwyn mirror’s magic shards. A good bit of mystery and history awaits them as they search. Let’s see what happens.

~

“It is as I’ve feared; I cannot use the mirror shards alone,” Manasa said in answer to the wraithwalker’s thought. “Come Katja. Come dreamwalk with me between the folds of reality tonight. Let us see if your strength can be the difference between victory and defeat.”

Katja nodded and followed the queen along the shoreline beside the rolling sea until the pair came to the entrance of a small cave hidden in a cleft of the cliff. Without a word, Katja followed the queen into the stony darkness—the wan blue glow from Damya’s sapphire necklace lighting their path. Together they threaded their way into the heart of the cliff—the crashing waves of the sea becoming less and less thunderous with each step.

The narrow tunnel coiled around itself like the body of a huge basal snake, but Manasa followed its winding course with unerring certainty. The tunnel widened out into a stone gallery complete with carved figures and paintings adorning its walls.

“What is this place?” Katja asked as they rounded a corner and she found herself staring at the half-revealed carving of a griffin and a dryad locked in battle with a gargoyle. The griffin looked so much like King Canuche that it made the werecat stop in surprise.

“Freedom,” Manasa said as she rubbed a gentle hand over the chiseled wall. “This place began as a simple cave, which my father, King Aedus, expanded into a family chapel during the first decade of his reign. You’ll see many scenes from the Second War of Ages carved into the walls here since my father was an avid scholar of that period. He even knew several mages who had survived the war and had gone on to help rebuild the Sylvan Continent after that war and after the subsequent Clan Wars.”

The Tyglesean Queen walked on and Katja followed—still looking at Canuche’s visage. The pair walked on as the tunnel narrowed again and then gave way to a jagged tunnel of rock that looked as if it had been no different from the cliff.

Katja touched the splintered stone and frowned at its familiarity. “Are we close to the dungeons?”

Manasa nodded. “This tunnel system served a dual purpose. It was both a private way for my family to get to the chapel and an escape route to use should we ever need to flee the castle. My family never was able to flee through here during the Tyglesean Uprisings, but I did. My valet Arlis and I managed to make it through the tunnel and to our horses before any beings realized we were gone. In that way, my father’s piety saved my life. Kaylor walled all of this off and turned the chapel into a dungeon system after I escaped, but your companions have done my family and our country a great service by helping to restore what Kaylor tried to bury.”

The pair turned a corner and climbed through a gap in the broken rock that Lauraisha’s fire had created and crawled into the dungeon where Katja’s father Kevros had built the wraithwalking altar. As the human and werecat knelt before it, Katja once again read the language of her kin aloud: “Dei Dyvesé it unmygn ort ol restel. Nur dei reinen ol sere finden Me frieden.”

The Feliconian werecat let out a breath heavy with sorrow and longing, then she translated: “The Creator is our refuge. Only the pure of soul will find His freedom.”

A twinkle of silver lit the room, and then a small, silver tree grew out of the offering basin at the altar’s center. Its entwined trunks untwisted to form a translucent oval and the sylph Cyrena greeted them from within its frame. “Creator keep you, my madams. Queen Manasa, I know that you both seek a way to contact the Reformed Mirror and its keeper. The shards alone will not give you enough strength as you have likely guessed. The power you seek is in the Wraith Realm itself, but finding it is more dangerous than you know. You will need a guide if the pair of you are to survive this night,” she said.

~

I hope you enjoyed this week’s entry in the SCRAWLS Diary from my in-progress book Fireforger. We’ll pick up with more of this scene next week. In the meantime, I welcome your comments on what I’ve shared with you today.

As always, SCRAWLS is designed to be a public journal of my fiction and artwork as I create it. In the way of writing, you’ll see new scenes, rich characters, and, of course, enchanting worlds. In the way of art, you’ll see everything from vivid photography to intriguing drawings. As always, my goal is to bring you both finished work and the rough stuff. After all, showing you some of the behind-the-scenes scaffolding that I use to create my work allows you to truly walk the creative journey with me through all of its ups and downs.

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
Alycia

~

The Seared Cranium Report: An Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fantasy fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

A Marathon of Perspectives

Thank you to those who were kind enough to join me for the Skinshifter and Dreamdrifter Reading Marathons! I hope you enjoyed all of the games, quotes, prizes, and, of course, the daily photos. For those wanting more information on each of the 50 daily photos, I have them listed below in the order that they were shown during the marathon:

“Damsel Daintiness”
“Doorway to Wonderland”
“Living Sculpture”
“Thrush”
“Vitality”
“Flora”
“Window’s Many Faces”
“Twilight Mushrooms”
“Fanciful Feathers”
“Cheetah, Inverted”
“Metallic Pinwheels”
“Stone Straws”
“Lemur Looks”
“Peekaboo”
“Pansy Passion”
“The Pollinator”
“A Monarch for Granny”
“A Patch of Sky”
“Crying Monkey in Clock Faces”
“Marfa Yucca”
“Tuscan Sunrise”
“Windmill Promises: Old and New”
“Contrast”
“Afternoon Reflections”
“Dragon Warriors”
“Asteraceae Gilded”
“Agave Spikes in Autumn”
“Along the Tracks”
“Marbled Patterns”
“Winter Flower Silhouettes”
“Arched Elegance for Mom”
“Ask the Owl”
“Mountain Cloaked”
“Blue Jay Among Blossoms”
“Banana Leaf Lines”
“Blue Beneath”
“Weathered Hyperbolas”
“Misty Mountains”
“Split Sea Falls”
“Z Stripes”
“Yellow Gazer”
“The Lord God Loves Them All”
“Twig Window”
“Sun Dabbled Dune”
“Tulips Kindled”
“Texas Star for Bekah”
“Toucan Gaze”
“Moss Stream”
“Oryx”

Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
Alycia

~

This inspirational image is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

FREE STUFF

Books:
Skinshifter | Dreamdrifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

A Toucan’s Gaze

"Toucan Gaze" - click the image to enlarge or buy.

“Toucan Gaze” – click the image to enlarge or buy.

Today finds me hard at work editing Dreamdrifter, the sequel to Skinshifter. I wanted to take a break from my productivity to share this beautiful image with you. The keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) is one I photographed in April of this year when my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting the Dallas World Aquarium. Aside from one much beloved tea mug, the image of this flamboyant fellow was one of my favorite souvenirs from the trip. The bird was kind enough to pose for me for fifteen minutes of different photos. I think he had as much fun watching me as I did watching him!

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with fine art, love, speculative fiction books, and tea suggestions for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: What Jurassic Park and Jurassic World can teach us About Writing Trends

"Squish" Click to view larger or buy.

“Squish” Click to view larger or buy.

My husband and I finally went to see Jurassic World this weekend and we loved it! The movie packed solid action and great special effects into a storyline that seemed at once familiar and surprising. I didn’t expect the plot to be terribly sophisticated, but I thoroughly enjoyed running around with the characters nonetheless.

I remember seeing Jurassic Park when I was a teenager and being so excited (and scared) to see such lifelike dinosaurs on the silver screen. After two hours of watching them interact with one another and with humans, I really did believe them to be real animals instead of computer-generated models. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Now, some 20 years later, a reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise has once again taken movie-going audiences by storm. Jurassic World boasts more of our favorite species of dinosaurs and a new set of characters to love packaged inside a man-verses-nature plot that’s a bit of a spicy, new twist on the old recipe.

The fact that Jurassic World is in theaters now excites me as a writer because it follows a hypothesis about entertainment franchise trends that I’ve had for a while now. My hypothesis is namely that sci-fi movie franchises tend to run in roughly 13 and 23-year cycles. And as a writer, 13 and 23-year cycles make my life a very happy one. Before I explain why, let’s follow my logic on trend timing for a minute. Jurassic World which released in 2015 is a reboot of Jurassic Park which was released in 1993. This dinosaur-ridden pair occurred 22 years apart, but Jurassic World and Jurassic Park III (2001) came just 14 years apart. Jurassic World is a sci-fi action movie that comes just months before another iconic sci-fi action movie is set to hit theaters: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Episode VII comes 10 years after Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) and 15 years after Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). If we back up a bit further with the Star Wars franchise, we see the trend again. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope wowed audiences in 1977, which was 22 years before The Phantom Menace, but Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) occurred only 16 years before The Phantom Menace.

Going even further with my theory, let’s look at Lord of the Rings. In 1978, one really bad attempt to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth to life occurred in The Lord of the Rings movie. Then in the early 2000s, we see Middle-Earth finally portrayed as it should be in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Then audiences were transported back to Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). This trend sees a reboot of the original 1978 film some 23 years later with a related franchise beginning nine years after the first franchise reached its glorious conclusion.

Finally we have the Batman franchise. The original Batman movie came out in 1943 with Batman: The Movie following 23 years later in 1966. Twenty-three years after this came the franchise of the early 1990s that I grew up with: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman & Robin (1997). By the time Batman & Robin hit the theaters, the franchise had gone from dark and moody to just plain campy. If ever there needed to be a decent reboot, this franchise was it. Sixteen years after Batman and eight years after Batman & Robin, Batman Begins thundered into theaters with an image makeover so complete that the Bat Mobil was a black tank instead of a car. Following Batman Begins (2005), we saw The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)—a strong trilogy that excited new fans and old.

So to recap, we see a trend of 22 years and 14 years, 10 years and 15 years, 22 years and 16 years, 23 years and nine years, 23 years, 23 years, 16 years, and eight years between movies and franchises with reboots of box-office hits coming faster than failures. Averaged out we get 13 years between more successful franchise reboots and 23 between less successful franchises.

So why do I care so much about all of this movie trend trivia? I care because these trends offer a massive ray of hope for writers like me. You see, movie genre trends often follow book genre trends. Generally speaking, whatever general types of successful movies are popular now are often the same types of books that were immensely popular about six years ago. Case in point, the movies World War Z and Zombieland both came out in 2013 just six years after the book World War Z hit store shelves. The movies found audiences just as the resurgent trend of zombie stories hit its high point. Now in 2015, we see this zombie-loving trend tapering off.

This becomes very important for genre fiction writers because we can use movie franchise success to help us understand to overall genre trends. Case in point, the last major pirate movie series began with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003 and will likely end with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017. That is a 14-year cycle. Based on that information, I can probably assume that my own pirate-based book Thorn & Thistle has a good chance of selling well this year because we’re still in the middle of a pirate-loving trend. However, I probably shouldn’t stretch the series too long or it might outlive the hype.

I could also expect that launching a major vampire teen book series right now might be a bad idea because we’re still on the downward slope of that trend thanks to the Twilight movie series finishing just three years ago. The first book that inspired the vampire teen craze just hit its ten year anniversary. If I’m smelling the winds right, I think we’ll need another six to eight years before teen vampire books can gain momentum in popular culture again. If this is correct, then we’ll probably see another hot vampire teen movie hit theaters around 2026. Of course there are plenty of other factors to consider in my trend theory, which is why nothing is ever fool-proof. But, even if my theory is way wrong in its timing, knowing that genre trends do repeat with regularity gives me an advantage as a writer.

As an author in the digital age, repeating trends give me a chance that each book I write can have something more than a simple first-run shelf life. Because e-books and Print-on-Demand books don’t go out of print the way regular hardbacks and mass market paperbacks do, repeating genre trends mean that each book might get a second or third shot at glory in the hands of readers. It means that I might not have to be the world’s most formidable marketing genius to make a living at this crazy passion of mine. As long as my body of work is timeless in its appeal and varied in its subgenre material, I have an opportunity to impact multiple generations of people with my writing. That possibility is something to celebrate no matter when a book is published or when its same genre film is produced.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia

P.S. – Don’t forget, Skinshifter, The Dryad’s Sacrifice, and Thorn and Thistle will release on Amazon on September 25th, and on Kobo, Smashwords, Apple, and Barnes & Noble on December 24th. Pre-order purchasing is now available for all three in all places. You can read other excerpts for Skinshifter HERE, The Dryad’s Sacrifice HERE, and Thorn and Thistle HERE.

Also, don’t miss the official Skinshifter Blog Tour starting on September 28! I’ll be stopping by several websites and giving away some awesome prizes to readers! Watch my blog and the news page for more details. Thanks!


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Flashes of Perspective: My Face-Off with a Gorgeous Dragonfly

Gossamer_Beauty-AC4x6Hi, everyone! Sorry I’m so late in posting this. I would love to tell all of you some witty and charming excuse as to why my blog article is coming this late on a Tuesday, but the truth is that I flat forgot that it was Tuesday!

Anyway, for today’s photography lesson I wanted to show you one of the photos I shot while I was visiting South Texas last week. I had some time to shoot one afternoon and so my camera and I investigated the drainage creek running behind the Weslaco hotel where I was staying. The entire area had become this amazing microcosm of a wetland with cattails, tall grass, willows, flowering shrubs, fungus, frogs, ducks, fishing birds, water bugs and more. There were tons of dragonflies all around and I was lucky enough to get one of them to pose for me. The result was the best dragonfly portrait photo that I’ve ever shot!

I took this particular photo with an f-stop of f/8, a slow shutter speed of 1/160 seconds, a medium intensity ISO speed of 400, a long focal length of 300mm (i.e. I drug out the big zoom lens for this shot), and no flash. Since I was shooting under an overcast sky, I did use Photoshop to punch up the color a bit. However, what you see in the finished photo is practically identical to the colors that I saw when the sun was out earlier that day. I hope you all like the photo. If you have any questions about the technical aspects of it or want to know more about how to shoot something like it, let me know.

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Updates: Of Business Consolidation and Dental Work

WeatheredHyperbolasACS4x6These past few weeks have, unfortunately, not gone well. While I have managed to accomplish many related-work projects, I have not been in the best of moods. Part of that is that my poor husband has had a horrible toothache since January 10th and won’t be able to see our dentist until tomorrow afternoon (hence why I’m posting the blog early today). Matt has been in special agony for most of the weekend and the only thing I’ve been able to do to ease his discomfort has been to cook him soft foods.

As with almost everything else, our trip to the dentist means a 170 mile round trip from Pecos to Odessa. It also means that we must take an entire weekday as a sick day just to go to a simple appointment. I get so tired of not being able to find all of the food, clothing, and supplies I need locally. I also get frustrated by the high prices and lack of variety when it comes to home, appliance, and car repairs.

Lately these aggravations of living in a small town have irked me more than usual. I think grief added onto the stress of trying to achieve my writing dreams is responsible for my being far more irritable than usual. Ever since the two-year anniversary of Bekah’s aneurysm, I’ve been far less joyful than normal. Last week was especially difficult. Consequently, I’ve decided to get some counseling so that I can talk out my feelings a bit more and hopefully resolve a few things. As far as other things are concerned, here are the main projects I’ve finished.

Since the last update, I have:

Consolidated my photography business and writing business under a new name: Purple Thorn Press and Photography. Over the next few months, I will build Purple Thorn Press into the true business that I want it to be, starting with its website. I will continue to use alyciachristine.com as my main personal website, while PurpleThornPress.com will act more as an official business website devoted to my writing products.

Continued my self-publishing research using The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book and similar resources. This month’s lessons centered on ISBNs, Library of Congress catalogue numbers, and book trailers.

Watched a great seminar by Andrew Stanton of Pixar about storytelling for my story craft research. Thank you, Hugh Howey, for sharing it!

Finished personal edits on my short story “City of Twilight” and implementing beta readers’ critiques of the piece.

Finished writing my short story “The Soul Wrangler” and sent it to beta readers for their critiques.

Created my first newsletter in six months using new software. I’m so happy it worked!

Finally finished culling and reorganizing my photography website.

Created, labeled, and mailed over 60 Christmas photo cards to friends, family, and clients. These also arrived on time, which is a much better situation than last year.

Oversaw the repair of our home’s wayward fence. It looks almost new now!

Enjoyed two Christmas celebrations with family and friends. Thank you so much, everyone, for the phenomenal memories and gifts!

Watched the History Channel’s The Men Who Built America series. This is a must see series for any entrepreneur.

Watched Disney’s and Pixar’s Frozen with family at the theater. I can only describe the movie as all of the best aspects of Disney classic fairy tales woven into Pixar’s ingenious storytelling. The story is rife with dynamic characters, plot twists, magic, tension, laughs, and, yes, even singing. This is a must-see for all ages.

Read When Invisible Children Sing by Dr. Chi Huang. I found this book to be a heart-rending tale about homeless children in Bolivia. The children are portrayed as neither good nor bad, but simply real. If you ever want to truly understand how the fight for mere survival can psychologically and socially degrade human beings, this book is a graphic example. If you ever want to see how hope can bloom in the darkest of circumstances, this book is also a deep-touching example.

Read How to Train Your Dragon. Oddly enough, I like the movie better than the book. The movie’s plot is stronger and the characters feel far richer to me. Plus I’m not a huge fan of bathroom humor and the book has a ton of that. While I am definitely the wrong target audience for this book, little boys should love it!

Read the memoir We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee. I loved the movie and wanted to read the original book. Because I have worked in a zoo and in a pet store before, I was familiar with many of the situations described in the book. I found myself giggling (and in some cases grimacing) with the narrator as events unfolded.

Began reading Lisa Shearin’s The Grendel Affair: A SPI Files Novel. The book’s first four chapters are posted free on her website at http://www.lisashearin.com/sample-chapters-the-grendel-affair/?b=1&ch=1. I loved Lisa’s Raine Benaires series and I expect this new book will be just as good.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Add new content to PurpleThornPress.com. I want to complete copy for the Home page at least.

I am putting Dreamdrifter writing on hold until after I finish Musings. Once that project is finished, I will continue work on Chapter 19.

Finish organizing all of the book contents for Musings (including its front and back matter) and send the book to my editor for final critique.

Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

🙂 Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

SCRAWLS: Musings Edits, Alaska Aftermath, Book Reviews, and Other Updates

Ask_the_Owl-4x6ACThis morning found me sitting in my office chair with the sun streaming through the curtains of my window and the air outside registering a crisp 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Talk about a stark contrast from the high 90s of last week! Today would have been a perfect day to curl up under the covers and sleep late, but I think talking to all of you is far more fun.

As I have not posted an update about my general activities since July, I thought I really should do that today. As many of you know, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alaska vacation photos and Musingsshort story collection edits. And while much of my time has been spent on these two major projects, there is a lot more that goes on around the Cooke-Sears household than these. So here is the rundown of the many tasks that I have accomplished and the few chores still left on my agenda for October.

Since the last update, I have:

  • Finished all of my personal edits and completed the first round of beta readers’ edits for the novel Skinshifter. Now I am waiting on second-round beta readers to finish their edits so that I can give the book a final polish.
  • Rewrote two chapters of Dreamdrifter. I now have the rough drafts of chapters 1 through 16 completed and about 85,000 words written.
  • Continued editing and organizing the contents my soon-to-be-published Musings anthology. Anyone interested in beta-reading this or future projects should contact me HERE.
  • Read the Self Publishing Attack!: The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books by James Scott Bell. This is an informative and insightful book about the self-publishing movement and what it takes to maintain your professionalism as a self-published author.
  • Read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas. This is an incredible book about the craft of writing. I highly recommend it to novices and experts alike.
  • Read One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke. This book is based on the journal of Richard “Dick” Proenneke, a man who decided to leave civilization behind for a year and a half in lieu of building his own log cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and surviving off the land. It is an interesting read for those wishing to understand what life is like beyond the hum of electricity or the convenience of running water.
  • Read Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School) by Gail Carriger. I am usually not much of a steam-punk fan, but this young adult fantasy book kept me turning the pages with gusto. All that I can say is that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is anything but a boring place to learn your p’s and q’s. Even though I’m in my 30s, I’d gladly go back to school if I could attend here!
  • Read the Bible during daily devotions. I am so proud of myself for doing this because I have not taken the time to do a daily devotional in recent years. Yay for a new habit turning into a good routine! By the way, if you are a new student of the Bible, I suggest beginning with the book of Romans and then following that by reading the gospel of John. These two books will help you understand the core principles that the Bible teaches. Also, I recommend using either the New International Version or the New King James Version (NKJV) translation. In my experience, these two English translations seem far more accurate than many others. If you prefer using a devotional in lieu of studying scripture chapter by chapter, you might try my First Fruits book.
  • Posted eight SCRAWLS blog posts discussing different writing topics and showcasing excerpts of my fiction work. In case you missed them, here are the links to the story excerpts from “Chosen Sacrifice”, “Raven’s Fall”, and “What Tendrils Echo”.
  • Posted three Flashes of Perspective blog posts teaching various photography techniques and sharing over 30 pieces of my art photography.
  • Finished several commercial photography shoots for private clients.
  • Processed and uploaded about 35 photos to my AlyciaChristine.artistwebsites.com photography website. Find them all HERE.
  • Reorganized the AlyciaChristine.com website. If anyone has any more suggestions to improve the site, contact me please!
  • Went on a seven-day cruise with my husband through Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage. Read the blog post about the journey HERE.
  • Culled through 2700 vacation photos to find the best photographs from the Alaska trip. I am still in the process of tweaking and uploading the best, so please be patient with me.
  • Learned how to use my camera’s video recording feature. Sometime soon I hope to include a few videos on Alycia Christine.com.
  • My husband and I visited my parents and friends of ours in Lubbock, Texas and visited Matt’s family in Laredo, Texas.
  • Helped my husband prepare and go through his Walk to Emmaus. He loved his walk as much as I loved mine!
  • Helped my husband prepare and leave on a three-week-long business trip. I was so bored without him that I made up chores just to have something to do.
  • Helped cook lunch after the funeral of one of my church’s members. It was a sad, but good gathering.
  • Took on a part-time job to help make ends meet. The government shut down has hit our family hard.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

  • Finish all beta reader’s edits for Skinshifter.
  • Continue to pull older photos off of the alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com photography website as I add new photography. I expect to add another 50 photos from vacation and an additional 20 from other photo shoots before I am finished redoing the photography website.
  • Finish the last personal edits of Musings and send it to my editor for final critique.
  • Continue to write the rough draft of Dreamdrifter. I will continue working on the book during NaNoWriMo this year. Since Musings has my main attention right now, I don’t expect to get 50,000 words written on Dreamdrifter. However, I do hope to add 20,000-30,000 words to it by the end of November.

Wow, remind me not to wait so long between updates! If you made it through all of that, you deserve a cookie! In any event, I am off to write some fiction. Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

🙂 Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia Christine Sears and/or Alycia C. Cooke with love and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts on this particular topic and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Flashes of Perspective: You Cut Off My What! (More Lessons in Cropping)

IronMantisACS4x6Since we dealt with cropping in the last post, I think it is time for a little anatomy lesson in photography. When shooting people and animals, photographers must pay attention to where they crop their subjects. The reason why has to do with, believe it or not, amputation. Have you ever seen a photograph in which a person’s chest and neck are visible, but her head has been accidentally “cut off”? I have. In fact, that was one of my first photos that I took of my mother. I was about eight years old at the time, but I kept that photo in my scrapbook until well into my teens to remind myself to be nice to my subjects and not amputate their faces.

The bodies of living organisms have natural breaks. These breaks exist because we need joints to help us move. I couldn’t imagine going through life without an ankle, neck, elbow, wrist, or waist. If my bones are my body’s structure, then joints are my physical form’s means of flexibility. I can’t function without having both of these characteristics and neither can my photos.

Let’s Get Started

So how do we photographers achieve a well-cropped photo without making our subjects look amputated? The short answer is that we avoid cropping at the body’s joints. While most people are probably not going to commit my cardinal sin of cutting off their mothers’ heads in photographs, many people do tend to chop off others’ feet. It is almost like we are so focused on getting the rest of a person in the photo that we forget about including the foundation on which they stand.

Let’s say that I want to shoot a portrait of an actress walking down the red carpet at a movie premier. She is wearing the latest fashions from her perfectly quaffed hair to her breathtaking gown to her stunning shoes. I set up my camera to shoot a vertical photo of her curving silhouette and click the button. The resulting shot is gorgeous, endearing, and sure to be a fan favorite except for one thing: I left out her shoes. She was wearing one-of-a-kind lace and satin pumps and I cut off her feet at the ankles. Now she looks amputated and I look to be fired.

My sudden unemployment as a photographer will happen if I: crop out the actress’s feet at the ankles, her legs at the knees, her upper body at the waist, her arms at the wrists or elbows, or her head at the neck. Why? Because instead of following the photography rule of Leading Lines, I instead broke up the photo by cropping at natural body joints.

If I want to make my photos of the actress outstanding so that I can keep my job, then I need to shoot sections of her body that are cropped where there are no natural breaks and joints. I can shoot a dynamic vertical headshot showing of her latest hairdo, makeup, and jewelry by cropping at her shoulders so that all of her head and neck are shown. I can shoot a photo of her cute short dress by cropping midway up her thighs or at the mid-part of her calves. These crop techniques allow the actress’s body’s lines to still “flow” out of the photo without any jarring sense of amputation.

Animal photos follow the same basic principle as people shots. Do not crop your photos at a narrow part of an animal’s body like a joint. Instead try to crop in a wider part of the body such as at mid thigh or shoulder. Cropping flowers within a photo are usually harder to accomplish because most flowers are round. However, they can be successfully cropped at the widest parts of the flower’s petals if at least one full petal is shown in the photo. Please see my photos below for examples of this.

Let’s Break It Down

People:

“Midland62Class-0301”
Cropping the legs of this gentleman at the thighs instead of the knees, allows the viewer to pay more attention to his upper body with worrying about where his lower legs or feet have gone.

“Flora”
I cropped this strange beauty a bit below her shoulders so that viewers would pay attention to her facial expression and her towering headdress. I did not bother showing all of her headdress because the narrowing lines of its silhouette allow the viewer to imagine that it eventually does taper to a point at the end.

“Pecos79Class-0136”
During the Pecos High School Class of 1979 Reunion, I shot the hostess as she made drinks for guests. I cropped the photo so that it showed the relationship between the hostess, her actions, and the guests outside her bar’s window.

Animals:

“Egret Alphabet”
This body crop allows the viewer to focus more on the graceful curve of the bird’s head and neck without being distracted by its body.

“Iron Mantis”
Okay, technically this is photo subject is an object, but I am putting it in the animal category because it is modeled after a praying mantis insect. This photo shows how you can crop the arms and chest of an upright-walking creature without “amputating” them.

“Red Roos”
Cropping in the middle of this kangaroo’s stomach allows me to use the line of his back to point viewers’ eyes to the most important part of his body: his head.

Flowers and Plants:

“Agave Spikes in Autumn”
The agave cactus’s spines are cropped at their widest width to help the viewer realize that the plant does extend past the frame of the photo.

“Bloom’s Blush”
Both the full and the cropped petals of this lotus bloom all seem to point back to its center, which is the flower’s most important part because it visually holds everything else together.

“Chastity”
A single petal is shown in its entirety while the others are cropped close to their widest widths.

“Red Stalk”
The plant stalk in the background is shown in its entirety to help balance out the close cropping of the stalk in the foreground.

Objects:

“Aqua Dust”
I have shown this photo to you in my previous post, but I want to show it again to really emphasis the relationship that cropping has with the width of a subject. By cropping at the widest part of the bottle, I have subtly drawn the viewer’s eye along the subject’s curving form into and out of the photograph. This allows the viewer to realize that there is more to the subject than what is just in the photo itself.

“Tread and Tendril”
See how the center of the wheel is in the center of the photo and in sharp focus, but the sides of the tire are shaved? This is a fun cropping trick to try when you really want viewers to pay attention to the round center of a circular subject (i.e. the circle within a circle).

Photographer’s Note

Remember that while cropping is a way to help eliminate the unnecessary extra details of a scene, it is also an aid to viewers’ imagination. I liken a well-cropped photo to a mystery novel. A good mystery novel weaves together a full story by sprinkling clues for the reader to find and use to solve the story’s crime. When a photo is correctly cropped, it too can hold mystery for the viewer. While the viewer may not see the entire scene in a cropped photo, there are enough hints left on the edges of the photo to help him or her fill in the gaps of the photo’s story.

Keep these points in mind as you begin your homework. And by all means, please refer back to my lesson on Leading Lines if you need to refresh your memory before shooting your own photos.

Homework

Shoot 20 images or more focusing on correctly cropping different parts of the body. Since I usually do not focus specifically on people, try creating at least 15 people portraits for this assignment. The other five can be animals, flowers, or objects. Challenge yourself by looking for and cropping things that are oddly shaped. Have fun and experiment. You can shoot vertical or horizontal shots for this assignment, but remember that long thin subjects (like people and trees) usually show best in vertical photos while short wide subjects (like cows or tables) show best in horizontal shots.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Ink Blots and Tea Stains: Valentines, Secrets, and Chapter Shuffles (Archive)

LeafLove4x6ACSFirst of all, I apologize for posting this blog on Wednesday instead of its regular scheduled debut on Monday. Between travel and internet crashes, I am finding it next to impossible to meet deadlines this week. All that being said, Happy Valentine’s Day early! I have two special surprises as my Valentine’s Day gifts to you all: the first is a short story recently published as part of the 3000 Weeks festival, the second is more information about my top secret project for you all.

This weekend saw me participating in an outdoor arts and crafts show in the small town of Boerne just northwest of San Antonio, Texas. The weekend before that my husband and I went to Abilene, Texas to check on my granddaddy (Mom’s dad) after his surgery. As of this post, Granddaddy is in good health and better spirits after undergoing a risky procedure and passing through that gauntlet with flying colors. The last weekend of January found me in Austin, Texas, for the 3000 Weeks Festival hosted by my dear friend Robert Stikmanz. I have also traveled to and from Midland twice and expect to make another trip early next week. There was the possibility that I would have to go to California for a funeral, but that trip has since been cancelled with the family’s consent due to monetary constraints.

The 3000 Weeks Festival was a special time for me because it included over 50 different artists, authors, and musicians whose lives have all brushed paths with Robert’s. While some of the experimental music and art was not my cup of tea, I found the company inspiring nonetheless. Likewise, even though Boerne Market Days proved a poor show for me in terms of sales, I learned much from the other booth vendors. I am grateful that I learned so much at both venues.

For those of you interested in reading a brand-new short story created especially for the 3000 Weeks event, you can find it here at the confabule.com website. The piece is called “Raven’s Fall” and it is a bit of an an ode to certain Native American creation myths. You can find it be going to http://www.confabule.com/alycia-christine-sears and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Oh, and speaking of stories, my Dreamdrifter novel has caused me no end of grief for the past fortnight. While driving home from Austin, I spent several hours trying to determine why I was having writer’s block during the previous week. It finally dawned on me that I had solved a problem between two characters too early in the book and thus destroyed the underlying tension that had helped propel the plot. The solution for this, of course, was to play story plot shuffle with chapters 13 through 16. I absolutely did not want to do that, but it was the only way to solve the problem of relieving tension within the story a little too quickly. So I spent most of the next week reorganizing book scenes in chapters 13 through 21 and followed it up with lots of rewriting to fill the gaps in between those reorganized scenes last week and this week. While the work has been difficult, I think the end result will be worth all of the sweat and tears.

In other news, I continue work on the “Zoo Tales” short story and hope to add it as part of my top-secret project for you guys, which I am proud to announce is an all new e-book! This e-book will be a special collection of short stories, photographs, drawings, and poetry exclusively available for FREE to my most loyal fans. I am pleased to unveil the title of this new body of work; it will be called Musings. I am asking all of you for your help with this project. To make it truly special, I would like you to tell me what type of stories you would like to read within this collection. Your feedback will help me create the tone of this project, so please email, tweet, and/or post your comments and help me make this collection the best body of work I can.

Thank you all so much for your help and dedication. Until we meet again, may your ink blots be liberal and your tea stains tiny.

[~]D Alycia

Ink Blots and Tea Stains: Centaurs and the Alpine Artwalk (Archive)

IronMantisACS4x6This weekend saw my expedition to Alpine, Texas, for the Alpine Artwalk. I joined my friend Kip Piper (www.TheRandomBlonde.com) just in time for Saturday’s evening parade. We saw many different art cars, eat fried fair food, and shopped the night away at multiple artists’ booths and galleries. I had the chance to catch up with my artist friends Deborah Allison (http://deborah-allison.artistwebsites.com/) and Petei Caroler (http://www.petei.com/) at their respective art gallery niches as well as purchase a beautiful copper chainmail bracelet from Anne VanLoon (http://annevanloondesigns.vpweb.com/). I had a wonderful time and hope to journey back next year as both a customer and an featured artist.

As we strolled in and out of shops and stands, Kip and I discussed multiple strategies for improving business workflow and efficiency. One of our discussions centered around speech recognition software and its many uses in office productivity. Because of that conversation, I am dictating rather than typing my blog to you today. I am using e-speaking software for this particular blog entry and while I find its speech recognition somewhat coarse with the first day’s trial, I believe it will improve over time. I chose this software over others because while its speech recognition was not as accurate as its competitors, the software was far less expensive than others on the market. Thus far it has shown excellent speech learning capabilities and has already improved its dictation capabilities as I write.

In other news, I continue my participation in NaNoWriMo this year. So far, I have written over 15,500 words on Dreamdrifter, which is several thousand short of NaNo’s usual mid-month 30,000 words goal. Despite the low quantity, I am extremely happy with the quality of the content written thus far and consider that to be far more important. Hopefully, I will be able to complete writing my personal goal of 30,000 new words on the manuscript by the end of the month. We shall see what happens.

I am extremely excited about my current art projects. I continue to upload multiple graphic art templates to my Zazzle art gift store. In the past two weeks, I have uploaded seven templates to my Zazzle site store including: “Feeling Kiwi Green,” “Lady Slipper Orchid,” “I Heart Horses,” “Martinis are Comfort Food,” “Crying Monkey in Clock Faces,” Coffee is Comfort Food,” Beer is my Comfort Food.” By the time this blog entry is posted, my photos from Balmorhea, Texas, Fort Davis, Texas, Alpine, Texas, and Marfa, Texas, will be up on the photography website. I look forward to your comments and critiques on all of the new work.

Now, let us move on to today’s Creature Profile:

Creature Profile: Centaur

Real or imagined: Imagined

In mythology:

The centaurs found in Greek mythology are male creatures that are part human and part horse, which are usually portrayed with the torso and head of a human and the body of a horse. Centaurs are the followers of the wine god Dionysus and are well known for drunkenness and debauchery.

In literature and entertainment:

Centaurs seem to be a relatively common creature among modern fantasy stories and games. They are featured in games like Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft. They also appear in books such as the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling or Divine By Mistake (Partholon #1) by P.C. Cast. In Harry Potter’s world, centaurs are portrayed more as wise seers and astrologers than drunken beasts. Indeed one of them even becomes a regular teacher at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. In my own book Skinshifter as well as in the rest of the Metamorphosis book series, centaurs appear as a migratory race with various clans sharing the Shara Plains east of the Nyghe sol Dyvesé mountain range in relative peace with each other and other races. My centaurs are a bit different from the usual mythological creatures in that they actually have the torso and head of a nymph with the body of a horse instead of a human’s upper body. Male centaurs are bigger than females with a long mane running from the top of their heads to the base of their torsos while females have manes only on their heads. Centaurs are in my literary world are far kinder than those of the original myths. Their numbers produce many gifted warriors, politicians, and magic-wielders. Mages are usually either skinshifters or sproutsingers. Turned centaurs—that is undead centaurs—are called dullahan (a creature which I will explain in a later post).

In reality:

Centaurs are almost impossible to track down in reality unless one considers a diversified engineering company in Cambridge, England, an Indiana-based horse-racing/casino business, or a band from Virginia as part of his or her search (which I don’t).

For more information about centaurs, please see the following links:

The centaur as a mythological creature:
http://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/KentauroiThessalioi.html
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/centaurs.html

The centaur in literature and entertainment:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3.Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer_s_Stone
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30187.Divine_By_Mistake

The centaur in reality:
(The band) http://ronmoodyandthecentaurs.com/
(The engineering company) http://www.centaurs.com/
(The horse-racing/casino business) http://www.centaurgaming.net/

Until we meet again, may your ink blots be liberal and your tea stains tiny.

[~]D Alycia

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