Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Category: Publishing (Page 1 of 3)

Why I Lost My Way

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“Stream Leaves” – Tap to enlarge and create customized gifts.

Let me apologize…

I’m sorry, but I’ve lost my way. For months, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with this blog. I’ve had little motivation to write it and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. I mistreated my creative subconscious and now it’s enacting its revenge.

The worse writer’s block that I ever have when writing a novel always happens when I make my characters do something out of character. When I put them in a situation where they act against their own natures, the half-oiled wheel that is my writing squeaks to a sudden, inexorable halt. I end up with my muse and my characters giving me the silent treatment—refusing to talk or to budge from their stilted position on the page until I fix the scene and solve the problem. I’m afraid the same thing has happened here on my blog.

Let me explain…

If we are all the main characters in our own lives, then I have acted out-of-character on this blog and I am sorry. I really haven’t been writing to my strengths and the creativity here has suffered for it.

For the past several months, I’ve been writing more and more frequently about the self-publishing process because it’s a very relative topic which many readers and writers find interesting. I’ve shared my expertise about the process of self-publishing as I’ve experienced it. But here is the problem: self-publishing isn’t really my passion and neither is teaching.

I chose to pursue self-publishing as a more direct and efficient way to interact with my readers, not because I necessarily prefer it over traditional publishing. Like anything else in life worth pursuing, indie publishing is very challenging. If I’m honest, I’ve developed a bit of a chip on my shoulder toward the publishing process (both traditional and independent) because it is such a difficult slog. There are no short cuts in this business, not even as an indie author. I am an indie author because I must be. At the end of the day, I am still the person most passionate about my own art and so I am the person most qualified to share my art with others.

So in the end, it is still my soft voice up against the roar of the world’s vast creative oceans. As much as I care about the work I’ve done, how can I ever hope to share it with others? How do I get my work distributed into the hands of my readers? My website blog and book distribution partners like Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords have certainly given me a toehold in the game—far more than what I ever had ten years ago. And yet I am still one small voice adrift in the sea. Albeit one with a raft.

The real problem is…

And then, just I was learning to steer that raft, I became convinced that such an endeavor was useless unless I also taught others how I do it. I believed the lie that my work was not as valuable in and of its own right unless I taught others the method I used to produce it. The problem with this is two-fold. First, it means that I lost confidence in my own unique work. Second, it means that I’ve tried to be something I’m not.

I’m not a teacher. I’m a mentor. I work best with one or two people under my wing at a time, not an entire lecture hall. I’m far more interested in why things happen, then how they occur. It’s just how I am—how God built me. Instead of trusting in my Father’s plan, I tried to push one discipline into the other and make it work. Shame on me. Believe me, I didn’t mean to undermine my own God-given strengths, but I did it anyway. That’s usually what happens when I let doubt gnaw at me.

So now that I’m too exhausted fighting against myself to keep up this charade, it’s time to return to my roots. I’m an artist, after all, so my energy and inspiration are renewed with each new creative discovery. Although I tend to be a deep-thinker, my natural artistic tendencies mean that I’m much better at portraying the flowers and the thorns of the world around us than I am actually teaching how they grow.

Let me make this promise to you…

All this is to say that I’m going to take this blog in a renewed direction. Instead of talking about the ins and outs of how writing, publishing, or photography work, let me instead show you the beauty of why they work and why I love them as I do. I want to do what I do best: take you along on a creative journey and share with you all of the adventures (and misadventures) along the way.

These scrawls of mine should not contain wasted ink. That just muddies the ocean of creativity more than it already is. Instead, I believe, that my scrawls should help you view the world from a new perspective and a wondrous heart.

Finally, let me also warn you…

I can’t say with certainty say how this new writing chapter will unfold in our lives together, but I’m willing to give it my best effort in the hope that I can do what I set out to do in the first place: rewrite the world for the better. Thank you for patiently sticking with me thus far. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me, even with the missteps. Hopefully, together, we will find more love and inspiration than we ever thought possible.

Sincerely,
Alycia

~

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

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

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

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 2

As I explained in my last blog post, I’m beginning a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I need to make sure that you are in the proper mindset when it comes to self-publishing. Consequently, the last post and this post deal with several self-publishing myths. If you haven’t read the first three self-publishing myths, I suggest you do that before tackling the ones today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.

Myth #4: If You Publish It, They Will Read

In the beginning of the self-published book gold rush during 2008-2011, tons of indie authors hit pay dirt just by writing books and clicking the “publish” button on Amazon. Now, not so much. The book market is flooded with tons of self-published titles now and that makes it all the more difficult to compete with your own work.

Indies’ saving solution to this problem is direct marketing and networking. Since self-publishing cuts out the middleman (publishers) between authors and our potential readers, it means that direct marketing is one of our best options to engage readers. Thanks to the internet and social media, authors and readers can enjoy a more direct relationship than ever before. Direct contact to readers allows authors the ability to find out what readers want and when they want it.

However, direct marketing gets tricky. The last thing most readers want is to be spammed with “Read my book!” every time they turn around. Instead authors need to use social media to build relationships with potential readers around common interests. That is time-consuming work, but part of being a professional author is being sincere and truthful with your readers in every piece of writing you create—whether it’s a novel or a text message. After all, readers are the reason writers exist, so they deserve our best efforts.

Again this is a slow-growth game. Since most authors—indie or traditional—start out with zero marketing power behind their names, we all have to rely on direct marketing and networking to reach potential readers. The simple act of being available on social media is the first step toward finding like-minded readers. Through natural discussion, we can build relationships with those potential readers. As with anything, we must prove ourselves to be trustworthy toward others. Only after we build that relational trust in ourselves, will we begin to see readers’ trust in our products.

So what does this all mean in terms of your writing and publishing career? It means that you must be prepared to make a monetary loss on your first few books because beginning relationships with your clients is more important than profits at this point. You need to be willing to invest money to insure product quality without expecting an immediate return on investment. You need use the quality of your books and the sincerity of your actions to build reader trust in your unique products and the brand that they represent: you.

Myth #5: Self-Published Books Don’t Have Much Value

In ancient times, the written word was hand-copied and distributed as tablets, scrolls, and, much later, leather-bound books. This painstaking process meant that books were scarce and therefore of high value and price. For millennia, only the nobility and the rich owned books and benefitted from their information. This began to change as advances in printing press technology and the rise of pulp fiction began to make books much more affordable for the poorer masses. Gone were the leather bindings and hand-tipped gilt pages in favor of full-color paperbacks. The downgrade in material quality paired with cheaper prices and wider distribution meant that more people of less financial means could read and, possibly, better their circumstances through the education gleaned through books.

Fast forward to today when the cheapest and most cost-efficient book format choice is e-books, which don’t even incur a cost for printing on paper. Now, anyone with a smart phone and an internet connection can read hundreds of books for cheap or free. Thus the once-prohibitive cost of education and entertainment via even paperback books has once again plummeted for readers. Does this mean that e-books are worth less? Not remotely. The gilt pages and hand-tipped illustrations may be gone from the pages, but what they leave behind is a great story. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that readers buy a book for the story or information that it holds, not the pretty frills that it includes. This is one thing that makes e-books such a powerful tool for indie authors.

Even more important than this, though, is the fact that e-books enjoy far greater distribution to a worldwide audience through internet distribution than any book in hardback or paperback has previously enjoyed. This huge customer-base and high demand means that what self-published books lack in price, they can make up for in sales volume. This means that my self-published books can be read by people I will never meet in countries whose names I might not even be able to properly pronounce. It means that a worldwide reading phenomenon like the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series can and will be repeated with more and more frequency as readership expands across the globe.

Even with the cheaper prices requiring bulk sales, I’d argue that the perceived value of a good book is a thing measured by more than just dollars and cents. After all, I can still remember the name of the book that first turned me into a lifetime reader as a young girl. I also remember the name and the author of the book that started me down my writing career path. Such books are almost as precious as long-time friends to me—as they are to any reader whose life they’ve helped improve. If written, edited, distributed, and marketed well, my own self-published books have the potential power to help someone else find hope and better education in the darkest and humblest of circumstances. That is a priceless fact.

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

Alycia

~

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

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

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

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

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“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!

FREE “When the Medium Shatters” Ranked #17!

When_the_Medium_Shatters-4x6I hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day! I know I am. I can’t wait to dig into some more good brisket and great conversation with loved ones tonight! But first I have to say a huge THANK YOU to my wonderful newsletter subscribers! In honor of the holiday that means so much to my own family, I released my latest short story “When the Medium Shatters” Friday. I invited my newsletter subscribers to download the short story for free on Amazon and they have launched the short story into the top #17 rank for Free Science Fiction & Fantasy! Thank you so much, everyone! I wanted to extend the invitation for everyone to download the story for FREE this weekend, so that as many people as possible have a chance to read it (as well as the bonus chapter from The Dryad’s Sacrifice that is included in the back) and tell me what you think. The give-away ends on Tuesday, so please pass the link on to anyone interested!

By the way, I will have pre-orders up in late June for my upcoming books Skinshifter and The Dryad’s Sacrifice, both of which are due out in September. I wanted to have pre-orders available to you now, but my main distributor will does not offer pre-order periods for small publishers that are longer than 90 days. Heaven only knows why. In any event, the first full three chapters of Skinshifter continue to be available in the Treasure Chest for my newsletter subscribers’ reading pleasure, so please sign up if you haven’t yet.

Also, you should know that I’ll likely scale back my weekly blog posts to every other week for the rest of this summer. With all of the work going into the different books’ publication as well as several other major projects, I don’t have time for everything. I would rather cut down my weekly blog than my major obligations to readers and clients. Don’t worry. I promise to continue having lots of photos and fiction for you!

Happy Memorial Day once again! God bless our troops, veterans, and all of those amazing men and women who give of themselves each and every day to protect us!

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!

“Paper Castles” Is Out Today!

Paper_Castles_Cover_2-4x6Just wanted to remind everyone know that my new short story “Paper Castles” is available today!

Story synopsis:

When Kate Bennett first meets Jo Hitachi, she isn’t sure what to think. How can a person make a decent living selling origami in Washington, D.C.? But with each new paper sculpture that he makes, the simple artist hints that he’s more than he seems. He’s asking her to trust him, but can Kate really afford to trade in the security of her ambitious career for a life built out of love and paper castles?

Want to buy it? Go HERE.

Want to read the excerpt? Go HERE.

Want to ask me questions about the story? Contact me HERE.

By the way, I’ll have a full newsletter with new Treasure Chest loot in April, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t yet.

Now on to our somewhat regularly scheduled blog…

Cactus_Colors-4x6ACCactus Colors

Since I didn’t get the chance to send out a blog post on Tuesday due to being horribly sick, I thought I should at least show an awesome photo to everyone today. I took this particular photograph while traveling between Alpine and Fort Davis a few weeks ago. I love the contrast of the deep blue sky with the bright green cactus.

I shot the photo with an f-stop of f/6.3. I used a semi-fast shutter speed of 1/500 seconds to keep the rich, crisp detail of the cactus and its droplets of rain water. To keep the deep blue sky from getting washed out, I chose a low light sensitivity ISO speed of 100 with no flash. I photographed the subject with a small zoom lens and a fairly short focal length of 55 mm. As always, I used Photoshop to add some of the contrast between my dark and light colors back into the image.

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!

Writing as a Business: What Writers Really Do All Day

Serpentine_Trails-4x6ACWriting fiction is a delightful hobby and a grueling profession. There is really no other way to explain it. I’ve run into many people who think that fiction writers must have the easiest job in the world because we get “to sit around all day and make stuff up.” Thank you, guys and gals, for that awesome assessment. It’s a sweet notion, it really is, but playing in the sandbox of my own imagination is only a small part of what I actually do on a daily basis.

The real truth is that while I deal in a form of written entertainment based on invented worlds and made-up characters, the business side of my profession is anything but make-believe. On the economic side, I need to know how consumer demand affects my book supply and the revenue stream that comes from the resulting sales. On the accounting side, I have to understand my company’s profit margins, gross income, net income, required taxes, and a slew of other things. On the organizational side of things, I have budget my time between making new product (writing story rough drafts), refining that product (rewriting my stories), quality control (copy editing and proof reading), producing the product (publishing books in e-book formats like .mobi or .epub and publishing print books in hardback or paperback versions), distributing my books online (through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or even my own website), distributing in person (through conventions and writing events), and marketing my stories (in person at events and online through different websites and social media).

In the beginning of my career when writing was little more than a glorified hobby, I didn’t worry about most of this stuff. I just wrote and rewrote my work. I figured that economics, production, design, and book marketing were things that my publisher would always handle. Then I went indie. Now all of a sudden, my business model has expanded to include every stage of book production and all of the extra responsibilities that go with it. I love the challenge, but the amount of work has left me breathless more than once.

I am my own company. If something doesn’t get accomplished at my office, it’s usually because I didn’t do it. I do everything from the actual writing and rewriting of a book to its cover art design, its final formatting, publishing, and distribution. What I don’t do myself (for quality control and time-constraint reasons), I still oversee. I’m charge of finding the beta readers, copy editor, proof reader, and publicists for each book I publish.

As hard as I work, I simply can’t do it all. To make sure that each and every story I produce is the best that it can be, I need thorough, honest, dependable collaborators at every stage of the process. Good beta readers are just as essential to a book’s development as a professional editor. A savvy publicist is just as important to a book’s visibility as a wide-ranging distributor. And good writing is the beating heart of it all. This means that if I can’t deliver my very best, no one else can give their best either.

Are all of the time and work and money I put forth, worth it? I think so. The time I spend playing in the sandbox of my imagination has a high cost of admission no matter whether I’m an independent author, a traditionally published author, or a hybrid. That being said, I took on all of this publishing responsibility to make sure my time playing in the sandbox is as valuable to readers as it is to this writer.

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!

“Paper Castles” Pre-Order Time!

Paper_Castles_Cover_2-4x6My new short story “Paper Castles” is available for pre-order today, so I thought I’d share some of it with you!

Here is the story synopsis:

When Kate Bennett first meets Jo Hitachi, she isn’t sure what to think. How can a person make a decent living selling origami in Washington, D.C.? But with each new paper sculpture that he makes, the simple artist hints that he’s more than he seems. He’s asking her to trust him, but can Kate really afford to trade in the security of her ambitious career for a life built out of love and paper castles?

Want more? Check out the excerpt:

If the sun was out and the skies were clear, I would find the paper artist sitting by the water below his pink canopy of cherry blossoms in the National Mall, selling his folded miracles to tourists and children. Most of his washi paper stock was patterned in these fantastic shades of oriental reds and royal purples, but he always kept a few sheets of snowy white on hand just in case I stopped by his table.

“Good morning, Kate! What would you like me to make for you today?” he would always ask in his quiet way.

I would always answer him with a request for an animal of some sort.

“May I have a bear?” I’d ask; or I’d say, “Make me a paper crane, please!”

And he would. His strong, tan hands would fold the warm white paper in a series of crisp-edged angles that would invariably become the very animal I sought. I would give him his money and then I would walk away cradling some new treasure. In one month, I must have collected thirty animals to place on my bookshelf at home beside Jo’s paper cat. By the end of April, I had run out of room on my bedroom bookshelf and had to add them to the top of my desk. May found me hanging all of the birds from my bedroom ceiling with golden thread—my own miniature flock in mock flight. Each bird would wheel and turn at the slightest breeze from my apartment’s second-story window. At night, I would watch them fly until their quiet rustling lulled me to sleep.

One day in May I asked Jo if he could make my animals a zoo. It was better, I reasoned, to house my entire paper art collection all in one place rather than to sacrifice my bookshelves, desk, bedroom ceiling, and half of the kitchen table to display their scattered kind. Such beautiful works of art deserved a true home of their own after all, and I had a blank corner in the living room just waiting for the proper decor.

Jo considered this latest request in serious silence for a moment before answering, “Tell me, Kate, have you gathered every origami figure that you desire?”

I shook my head. “No, not yet.”

“When you have all you want, I will build you a castle!” he declared. “Now, what shall I make for you today?”

“A swan,” I said eagerly.

Jo smiled. “Ah, the elegant swan. Even the ugliest of their ducklings becomes beautiful with enough maturity.”

I smiled. “That’s my favorite Hans Christian Anderson story!”

“Ah, you’re well-acquainted with fairy tales then. Good. I love fairy tales of all kinds, but I must admit that I like those with happy endings the best.” His hands moved like tan lightning across his little table and soon a snowy swan was born from the blank paper twisting between his deft fingers.

“Why is the ‘The Ugly Duckling’ your favorite?” he asked as he finished shaping the bird’s graceful neck.

I rubbed my hands up and down my suit-sleeved arms even though it wasn’t particularly cold.

“Because I’m not a pretty woman,” I finally admitted. “Growing up I felt more than a little like that ugly duckling. Most days I still do. I still hope that maybe I’ll grow out of my awkward nose and bulldog cheeks and become a beautiful swan in my own way, even though I know it isn’t really possible anymore.”

“The truest beauty is the one we carry in our minds, not in our bodies. Besides, you’re beautiful to me in both ways,” Jo said, his expression sincere. “Just like a queen—a swan queen.” He gazed at me a long moment before presenting the paper sculpture to me. “Tell me when she truly flies.”

I blinked at him in astonishment and then nodded. I handed over my monetary thanks, which he refused, and hurried down the blossom-strewn lane so he wouldn’t see the blush overtaking my face or the tears stinging my eyes…

I hope you liked this sample from “Paper Castles”. To pre-order the story, go HERE. Thanks!

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!

Thanksgiving Recipe: Orange Spiced Tea and a Short Story

Twirling_Ballerina_Cover-1600x2400Since Thanksgiving is a mere nine days away, I’m working double-time to make sure that all of my writing and photography work is finished before the holiday hits. I plan to sit back, relax, and enjoy my time with family next week. Okay, truthfully I plan to enjoy my time with family and help cook, but cooking for me is fun anyway so I don’t mind.

Now that the final preparations are finished for “The Twirling Ballerina” short story’s publication date on December 1, I’m feeling pretty festive. I’m also practically bouncing off the walls with excitement over this story because it’s one I’ve wanted to tell for a while now. It’s a story about faith, family, love, and grief. As excited as I am about its publication, I have to ask that no one try to pre-order it yet because I want to make “The Twirling Ballerina” free as a Christmas gift to everyone. Since Amazon is weird about free e-books, I have planned a 24-hour sale in which you can pick up the story for free as soon as it’s released. Don’t worry, I’ll make a blog and newsletter announcement when all of this takes place. Until then, please DO NOT purchase it unless you just want to spend the extra $0.99.

Since I am prepping for holiday feasting, I thought I should post a fun recipe for everyone. It’s a hot beverage that won me several smiles last night when I served it for the first time. Here is my version of Orange Spiced Tea. Enjoy!

Orange Spiced Tea

Ingredients:
3 quarts (18 cups) water (purified water makes better tea than tap)
3 teaspoons whole cloves (McCormick seasonings work best)
3 1 inch cinnamon stick pieces (McCormick seasonings work best)
6 tea bags black tea (Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea works wonders for this recipe; although you could use Lipton if needed.)
2 12-ounce cans frozen Orange Juice concentrate (I use Minute Maid)
1 12-ounce can frozen Lemonade concentrate (I use Minute Maid)
2 cups sugar

Pour the water into an 8 quart pot; add the cinnamon sticks and cloves (I use a loose-leaf tea infuser to hold everything). Bring water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea bags to the water and set tea mixture aside to steep. You want the liquid to have a nice dark red coloring throughout (steeping about 7-9 minutes should do the trick). Remove the tea bags, cloves, and cinnamon sticks (you can reuse these to brew a second batch of plain Spiced Tea later if you wish. If not, just discard them.).

Add orange juice, lemonade, and sugar together in a 4 quart pot and bring it to a boil. Be sure to stir the mixture until the sugar completely dissolves. Carefully pour the juice mixture into the spiced tea pot and stir until completely mixed. Serve hot. This makes about 6 quarts or 24 servings. Cheers!

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!

The Flights of August

Green_Sea_Flock-4x6ACAugust is going well so far. My intrepid forays into flights of fancy have resulted in my working on three very different writing projects at once. I’m having a thoroughly fun time putting each of the stories together as well as doing several other good things.

Since the last full update in July, I have:

Writing:

Continued writing Thorn and Thistle. As of yesterday, I’ve completed 23,800 words on the project. The story has taken a couple of interesting twist that I’ll have to resolve very soon so progress is a hair slower than I expected, but taking the extra time is proving valuable. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Began writing “The Ballerina” short story. I’m not very far along on this story. Right now it is little more than a single scene. I expect this story to be a bit of tear-jerker when I get finished with it, but we’ll see.

Wrote “The Cleaning” short story. This is a short story that topped out around 1800 words. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in pure power. It still needs a decent round of edits, but I can’t wait to publish this!

Received a rejection letter about Skinshifter from a publisher. The company cannot take on new authors at this time, but the editor did ask me to resubmit in six months, so I’m quite pleased about that.

Photography and Graphic Design:

Photographed pieces of real estate for several clients.

Posted new art photography on my website: “Rivulets in Gray” and “Green Sea Flock”.

Drew and inked a new design called “Frond Droplets”.

Reading:

Continued reading the Bible. I finished the Gospel of Luke and am now reading Acts.

Began reading The Naked Truth About Self Publishing. This particular book is an excellent resource for writers who are trying the independent or hybrid publishing routes. One word of caution: the book was written by several bestselling romance authors so, while the advice is great, the chapter titles are pretty raunchy.

Began reading Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton for fun and research. I’m enjoying the read so far.

Read a few Writer’s Digest articles. I love this magazine! Its articles have definitely helped me improve my writing skills over the years.

Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

Played Munin.

Played Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights.

Played Minecraft.

Other:

Updated my 2014 company business plan and began writing my 2015 business plan.

Culled and filled office papers in my filing cabinets.

Completed writing, editing, and sent author interview to BookReview.Ninja.com.

Created a Musings book giveaway on Goodreads. By the way, there are only 11 more days to enter the contest!

Organized the books and decorations in the library.

Taught Children’s Church while my husband was gone on business trips

Had repairs done on a kitchen cabinet.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Finish the rough draft of Thorn and Thistle.

Finish the rough draft of “The Ballerina”.

Finish editing “The Cleaning”.

Create e-book cover art for the three stories.

Continue marketing Musings in places online.

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!

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