Alycia Christine

Vivid Fiction, Epic Photography

Category: Reading (Page 1 of 2)

Finally, that marathon I promised you…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything because my new day job confiscated my life during the month of January. I’ve been stealing scraps of time to write my newest pirate novella, but haven’t been able to do much else. Consequently, I had to postpone the book reading marathon that was scheduled for January. That being said, I’m excited to announce that we are finally starting The Dryad’s Sacrifice reading marathon on Facebook today. We’ll be reading and discussing the Prologue and Chapter 1 if you want to join us. If you’ve ever wanted to know how a book was created–or at least how this book was created–now is your chance. For the next 10 days, we will have daily inspirational quotes, author insights, a lot of crazy Q&A, and, of course, daily prizes. I can’t wait to see what you have to say! Come join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1695736057307543/!

Warmly,
Alycia

P.S.-If you helped support author Brandon Barr in December and January, thank you so much! His fight with cancer is ongoing thanks in part to stem cell transplants. For updates on his ongoing fight, check out his YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaQbFWrJcQD1VKG_Zeb-TXQ.

“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!

Author Reading of “Raven’s Fall”

Ravens_Fall_Cover-1600x2400Hi, everyone! Since today marks the fifth Tuesday of the month, I decided to do something special for my blog post today. Since I don’t have the financial ability to travel across the country on book tour, I decided to record my first author reading of “Raven’s Fall” and share it with you all via the internet. I hope you enjoy it!

The video blog link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j18LUimPmS0

My new YouTube Channel link is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClkVGjAqCRQLfHhWJ9JP3nw

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!

How Life Has Changed Since Publication Day

Palm_Fans-4x6ACSince the Musings Publication Day on June 20, I have given my first interview and spent much of my time trying to wrap my head around this whole crazy thing called marketing. For someone like me, who quite prefers a life lived behind the curtain rather than in the spotlight, the idea of giving interviews, autographs, speeches, etc. is horribly daunting. I am beyond flattered when people ask me to sign copies of their books, but there is also a severe amount of shock that washes over me when I see someone holding my work in their hands. Even after all of my hard labor, it’s still difficult to believe that my writing is finally public. Because my writing is so personal, the bizarreness of that fact hasn’t worn off yet.

It also seems that publishing a book is, in many ways, the real beginning of the work’s true existence. Now that its packaged and made public, I have to find ways of getting Musings into the hands of more readers and making those readers excited enough to talk about the work themselves. Readers often get excited about a book because they hear how awesome it is from someone else. That means that I need reviews and press coverage, which means I need lots of people to read the book, which means I need to entice readers to read the book without any reviews already given. For a new author, this circular marketing circus is quite overwhelming.

So what have I done in response to this challenge? Well, two of the things I do best: research and writing. I’ve written over 10,000 words in new fiction material in the past four weeks, which is completely unrelated to Musings. That being said, I have also researched as many review outlets as I could, so that I know where best to spend my marketing budget. I’ve done small amounts of marketing already. Now, however, I plan to throw some serious money and time into the game in the next couple of weeks to help spread word of mouth and drive up book sales. Thanks to a few readers, a couple of reviews have already started to trickle in, but I still need many more. If you’ve read the book, please post a short review on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, or another great book seller. I will be forever grateful! Thank you!

In the meantime, here is what else I’ve been doing to occupy my time.

Since the last full update in June, I have:

Writing:

Continued writing Thorn and Thistle. My original assumption that this story would be a novelette was completely wrong. As of yesterday, I’ve jumped into novella territory with 17,700 words written and still going strong. I’m working steadily toward the story’s climax, but have yet to reach that final act. The tension keeps building with every scene. I’m actually on the edge of my seat as I write because I desperately want to know what happens next even though I already have the story’s ending in mind. Writing is so much fun!

Sent a query letter about Skinshifter to a publisher. I’m still waiting for a reply.

Photography and Graphic Design:

Posted new art photography on my website: “Marbled Patterns”, “Palacio del Rio in Christmas Colors”, and “Palm Fans”.

Photographed pieces of real estate for several clients.

Photographed plants and wildlife while in South Texas. The “Palm Fans” photo at the beginning of this post is from the South Texas shoot.

Finished my graphic design project for the West of the Pecos Rodeo. Despite the fact that we had to go back to black and white ads this year, the program turned out great!

Reading:

Continued reading Jesus Today by Sarah Young.

Continued reading the Bible. I am almost finished reading the Gospel of Luke. I love Jesus’ advice in this particular book. He is so straight-forward and to-the-point with his examples, parables, and explanations.

Continued reading Duty by former Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates. I seem to be stalled on this book. I read voraciously for a few minutes and then get distracted by some project that must be done. I fault myself far more than Gates for this since political memoirs are not my usual choice of reading material. I’ll keep working on it.

Finished reading the From the Indie Side anthology. It is a very entertaining and well-written collection of short stories boasting a wide range of voices, styles, and themes. Anyone who thinks that self-published authors can’t write as well as traditionally-published authors will be pleasantly proven wrong by this book. 4 out 5 stars.

Finished reading On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. On the whole, I found this pirate book to be a mixed bag. Its unique blend of historical figures and places in combination with fictional characters and magic was certainly interesting and well-developed. Powers’ action scenes are also great. Overall, though, the book’s pacing and character continuity just felt off. Several action scenes of serious swashbuckling proportion are followed by lots and lots of drinking and lazing about on the beach. Our protagonist is gung-ho about righting the wrongs in his life and protecting the damsel in distress and then he isn’t until once again he is. The main character’s mercurial attitude and wishy-washy motivations confused me. I found myself relating better to the book’s villains (who were absolutely horrible people) more than the hero because I at least understood their motivations and could clearly see those motivations inspire their actions. I also wish that the voodoo magic system had been a little more spelled out in terms of the loa and how they interacted directly with the characters and the world. We find that one loa in particular favors the main character, but we’re never really told why. This book was well-written in terms of grammar, spelling, imagery, and world-building, but it felt like the story needed more developmental editing to tie all of the sub-plots together better and clarify some of the characters actions. I give the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Read all of Getting Life by Michael Morton. This was one of those rare nonfiction books that I devoured over a single weekend. Morton’s account of his wrongful conviction for the murder of his wife and then his subsequent 25-year incarceration in some of Texas’ scariest prisons is riveting and, seemingly, quite accurate. Throughout the work Morton’s dry humor helps to propel the story forward and defuse some of the angst in his account. I found his writing style both honest and well-balanced. 5 out of 5 stars.

Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

Played Munin. This is a puzzle game that is based on Norse mythology. The puzzles are challenging, but not stupidly so. So far, I’m really enjoying this game.

Played Peggle Deluxe. Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights are goof-off games in the best sense of the phrase. They are somewhat similar to a pinball game. The main objective is to hit and destroy all of the orange pegs on a particular level of the game before you run out of balls to shoot. Sometimes this can prove quite easy; many other times, it’s the most frustrating thing in the world. I love it!

Other:

Enjoyed the MUSINGS Release Day on June 20 with my friends and family.

Took the full weekend of June 21-22 off to help celebrate Musings publication.

Accidentally glued my eye shut while trying to repair a car headliner. Don’t worry, after four days of warm water compresses, my left eye was thankfully back to normal with no damage done. There are still traces of superglue in my eyelashes though. Next time, I absolutely will wear safety gear!

Talked with my husband on the phone a lot while he was his three-week-long business trip.

Volunteered during the West of the Pecos Rodeo.

Took a short road trip to South Texas to visit family.

Had to repair my broken car door window. Thanks to the West Texas heat (110+ degrees F in summer), the rear passenger door window motor quit working. Consequently I had a local auto repair man work on my vehicle this morning. Not only did he fix the window for a reasonable price, but he also restored my headlights. My car looks almost brand new!

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Continue work on the rough draft of Thorn and Thistle. I would love to see this story finished by the end of August, but that depends on the story’s final length. At this point, I have given up on word count estimates. I assume that the story is a novella (a story that is somewhere between 17,501-40,000 words in length), but that is all I’m willing to assume.

Find out more about how to set up book readings and signings for Musings around my local area.

Begin 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!

“Thorn Smirked at His Attacker…” A Swashbuckling Excerpt from Thorn and Thistle

Jolly_Rogger_BW-4x6I can’t believe it’s already July! With all of the work to get Musings into the hands of readers on June 20, I’ve barely noticed the past six months vanish. All that being said, I look forward to slowing down a little and writing some more fiction for you guys.

Right now, I’m working on a fantasy adventure set on the high seas that is sure to be a fun read (since it has been a blast to write). The tale is tentatively titled Thorn and Thistle. So far, I have just over 13,000 words written on the novella’s rough draft with ship wrecks, sword fights, shark attacks, and more already packed into the manuscript. I expect to finish the story somewhere around 20,000 words before doing some serious polishing, but we’ll see. I’ve never been very good at estimating story lengths. In my progress report blog a couple weeks ago, I thought that Thorn and Thistle would finish around 12,500 words. I blew past that marker yesterday with no end to the action yet in sight. I’m really grateful for that miscalculation because it means that I get to explore these characters and their world in far more depth. In any event, I hope you enjoy this introduction to Thorn and Thistle’s main character Captain Thornton Tobias Tarok, one of the most successful and fearless privateers to ever sail the Jewel Sea.

Thorn smirked at his attacker, which was not a comfortable thing to do with a split lip. “Really? That was your best?”

The Ashara mercenary growled and charged again with his drawn saber. Thorn pulled out the two extra blades hidden up his sleeves to replace the short sword lost moments ago and continued his grim work. The right dagger blade ripped through both shirt linen and skin as it deflected the opponent’s thrust. The mercenary screamed at the loss of a finger, but Thorn was quick to silence him with a left-handed knife strike to the throat. The gurgling man fell back onto the crimson cobblestones even as his opponent retrieved his own sword.

Thorn quickly dug through the dead man’s clothes and rescued a fat coin purse and two well-balanced throwing knives from his assailant’s robe pockets. He checked the other two dead mercenaries’ bodies as well before slipping stealthily from the street. It was a shame to leave the men’s beautiful sabers behind, but there would be no easy way to carry them and his own blades without looking even more conspicuous than he already did. Ah well, hopefully the beggars would find them before the City Watch did, and thus change their poor fortune. Swords like those would easily trade for a month’s worth of choice meat!

As Captain Thornton Tobias Tarok turned down a third alleyway, he stopped to splash water from a rain barrel on his bloody and mud-smeared face and clothes. He looked irritably at the tattered, blood-spattered sleeves of his silk shirt and sighed. “Yet another shirt to be tossed in the canal. That makes three. Where are these maoi-sug bounty hunters coming from?”

“You’re late,” a quiet voice said.

Thorn jumped and then glowered at the shadows to his left. “How can I be punctual when you choose to be early, Ebenezer?”

The gray-haired wizard motioned the younger man to his side. “Emperor Sung raised the bounty; he now offers 20 rubes for your head on a pike.”

The captain hefted the mercenary’s bulging coin purse in his hand. “How thoughtful of him! He must have known I was feeling unimportant,” he mocked.

“Be careful, Sea Wolf; he will start sending Ashara hunting parties after you next.”

“And what makes you think he didn’t already?” Thorn asked sourly, looking down at his ruined raiment.

“How did you escape then?”

“A couple of concealment magic tricks you once showed me took care of the first. Snapdragon powder got the second and a knife to the singer dropped the third. Look, can we talk in a cozier spot? The Panthea City Watch will notice those bodies at any moment and I don’t fancy being around when they start asking pointed questions.”

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!

Why Critique Groups are so Important

WeatheredHyperbolasACS4x6NEWS FLASH! My short story “Chosen Sacrifice” is available as an eBook for $0.99 at Amazon, the Apple iBook store, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Buy and read it now or wait until MUSINGS is available on June 20 and read the whole short story collection then!

Now on to our regularly scheduled blog…

This week on SCRAWLS, I wanted to address why writers should get involved with other writers. I talked last month about the fact that writer’s should never live in a bubble (even if they do often work in one) and I wanted to continue that train of thought today with a couple of very useful practices.

The writing community is called that for a reason. After all, the publishing industry is filled with far more people than just writers. There are agents, editors, story cover artists, marketing consultants, public relations workers, and most importantly, readers. All writers are readers. We read our own work and we read others’ work. This fact means that we naturally want to talk about our work and the work of others with other writers. One of the healthiest ways to accomplish this is to get involved in a writing critique group. If you can do nothing else in the writing community, please join a good writing group!

An honest critique of your work is sometimes painful, but it is worth ten insincere pats on the back. Your ultimate goal for your work needs to be to make as good and memorable of a piece of entertainment for your readers as possible. The work should please you and please your readers. If it does not do both of these things, it has failed as a piece of writing. Often it is hard for a writer to see the flaws in his or her own work and that is why a writing critique group is so wonderful. The whole purpose of your writing critique group should be to show you your strengths, but also to graciously indicate where your words are weak. Part of the fun of being a writer is the fact that the more I learn about this business, the more I appreciate reading the written word itself. I get excited about my writing sessions and cannot wait to give my critiques on my friends’ stories and receive their critiques on mine in turn. This group give and take is not only healthy, it is also far more efficient of a learning environment than a lone writer trying to work out all of the “kinks” by himself.

My suggestion is to find a local group or start your own group with writers that share your genre interests. One of the easiest ways to do this is to check if any colleges or universities in your area offer creative writing classes. Talk to the teachers of those classes to find out about either taking the course or joining any known private critique groups. You can also find numerous online writing courses and join cyber critique groups.

The advice of genre-specific critique groups will help you far more in the long run than that of generalized groups. I have enjoyed going through a couple of paid courses over the years, but I will caution you to always choose a course or critique group that deals specifically with the genre of writing that you want to publish. I have been involved in a generalized literary course where I was forced to write mainstream fiction instead of fantasy or science fiction. I will never make that mistake again because my caliber of writing suffers when I cannot write what I love.

If you want interaction beyond the critique group, there are myriads of writers on social networks and forums such as Twitter, Facebook, Kboards.com, etc. that can help involve you in their respective communities and update you about events affecting the writing community in general. You can also follow other writers’ blogs and comment on them.

Certain etiquette is required for blog and social media sites like these: you are welcome to comment, but not to harass. Do not try to hard sell yourself or your work, just be yourself and participate in the community. You will learn great information and make excellent contacts this way. These contacts will come in handy later when you do need to market your stories, but just enjoy the new friendships for now. Case in point, posting the occasional update on a specific story’s progress is fine, but if all people hear is “Please buy my story!”, they will usually start ignoring you because you have no “useful” information to share. You need to engage others about many different common interests. Tell others what excites you: a new book, a new movie, a new game. Then discuss it with other people. Write a blog on your own website about different aspects of writing or other related hobbies that fascinate you and add the links to your posts to your social media pages. Post links to interesting YouTube videos. Have fun with your participation in the community. The more people get to know you as a person, the more likely they will support you in your artistic endeavors if you are tactful in mentioning your work.

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 C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, 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!

Why I Write

PatriotismACS4x6The past week has been difficult. Saturday, March 1, 2014, saw the death of my friend Jake Williamson. At the age of 35, Jake’s passing was sudden, unexplained, and unfathomable. Nearly 200 people crowded into Pecos Funeral Home on Friday afternoon to say goodbye to him one last time. As my hand touched his cold fingers, I couldn’t help but feel simultaneously angry and content with his passing. We had had so little time together and yet we had shared so much.

Jake was a geek like me. He loved science fiction movies, fantasy novels, and comic books. We could spend hours together watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or simply talking. Laughter followed us wherever we went. Finding a fellow nerd in the middle of a small West Texas town was such a relief for me. Finally Matt and I had someone who understood our love of Lord of the Rings and who actually wanted to go to something like Dragon Con.

When Jake found out that I wrote fantasy fiction, he begged me to let him beta read my first novel Skinshifter. I turned the manuscript over to him on a Wednesday and had his corrections back by Sunday. He had read the book in four days! When I asked him about the fast turnaround, he apologized that he would have had it finished in three, but a massive headache had stopped his reading. For a writer used to receiving short story manuscripts weeks or months later, getting corrections on a full novel in mere days was astounding. Even more incredible was the praise that the well-read fantasy buff lavished on the book. Jake handed Skinshifter back to me and exclaimed proudly that I wrote like R.A. Salvatore.

Jake was so excited that I had shared a bit of my heart with him in the form of my fiction writing. He was one of the first people to see the manuscript for “Elza and Eliza” and one of the first that I told about my work on Musings. He even encouraged me by telling me: “Stand strong, little werecat, and be proud of your fur.” Such a reference to Skinshifter’s main character Katja warms the core of my soul.

I haven’t written in the week since Jake’s death. Caring for his family in the depths of grief left little capacity to do anything else. Now that the dust has partially settled from this horrendous storm of life; however, I feel myself staring at my computer screen with purpose once again. Just weeks ago, Jake was bugging me about my writing.

“When are you going to be finished with Dreamdrifter, Alycia?” he had asked. “You can’t just leave Katja hanging. Hurry up! I want to read it as soon as you’re done!”

It is friends and fans like Jake that remind me of why I write. I write because it is the best way I know to encourage and entertain others. Writing is my best personal source of liberation. It gives me the time and the tools to precisely delve into the mire of my emotions and unearth the seed of truth at their core—to meet God directly on the page. Because my writing is so personal, I feel it is too powerful not to be shared. It seemed that Jake agreed.

When I was house-sitting for his parents this week, Jake’s mom handed me a plain black folder. I opened it to discover Jake’s copy of my “Elza and Eliza” manuscript tucked between its covers. Even in death, Jake had found a way to share the work that I had first shared with him.

Okay, Jake, I’m listening. I realize that while your work on earth is finished, my own is just beginning. I’ll continue writing Dreamdrifter today. I don’t know if God will let you read the rest of Katja’s story while perched on a cloud over my shoulder, but I’ll do my best to finish it soon so that the possibility exists at least. Thank you for the encouragement, Bud. I love you.

Until our next meeting, I will strive to rewrite the 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 C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, 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!

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