Alycia Christine

Enchanting Art, Encouraging Tales

Category: Website

Writing as a Business: Knowing the Tools of the Trade

CookfireACS4x6While preparing for my blog article today, it dawned on me that I have discussed the fiction writing career more from the perspective of an artist rather than a business professional. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I should point out that writing is as much a business as it is an art form. If I or any other author is to succeed in this business then we must treat our writing like the long term investment that it is.

To that end, I wanted to switch focus from basic writing mechanics like plot and grammar to discuss successful business practices. Today, for example, I would like to discuss a few tools of the writing trade and why they are important.

Writing can be a fairly cheap hobby/occupation. Your starting expenses may range anywhere from $450 to $5000 depending how deep into the writing profession that you want to dive and how much equipment you already have on hand. I actually started out writing with a pen and a spiral notebook. Once I learned the manuscript formatting requirements for publication submission; however, I switched to writing all of my stories on the computer because editing and reformatting was so much easier once the tale was typed. Below is my personal list of writing tools and why I use each of them.

Required tools:

My desktop computer. I write most of my work on my desktop computer for several reasons. I have fewer distractions in the computer office than I do elsewhere in my house. My computer has a full-sized keyboard, which I prefer. It also has a large monitor screen, which comes in handy when I need to have two documents open side-by-side at one time. I’ve known other writers who prefer using a laptop computer over a desktop and that is great. As long as you have a computer with access to the internet, you should be fine.

Microsoft Word word-processing software. Other writers I know use Open Office, but I like Word’s treatment of punctuation and .rtf files much better. Some fiction publications accept .doc or .docx files, but many I have seen prefer .rtf format. Open Office has a harder time processing that file format so, despite the fact that Open Office is free, I use Microsoft Word.

Microsoft Excel. I used this program sparingly when I began writing, but now I work with it constantly to keep track of my daily writing word count and to chronicle my finances. At the beginning of each year I set a yearly word count goal and then break that overall goal into monthly, weekly, and daily word count goals. A single Excel spreadsheet helps me keep track of all of these number counts seamlessly and easily. I also use Excel spreadsheets to track my yearly expenses and my annual income for general business and tax purposes.

Reliable flash drive. I do not store my writing on my computer except as a once-a-week backup. Instead I put all of my writing on a reliable flash drive or off-site storage or both. If your computer fries with a month’s worth of unsaved writing on it, it’s all over but the crying. A simple eight gigabyte (GB) flash drive should work perfectly for this purpose because writing does not take up much space. Until 2014, I kept all nine years’ worth of my writing sitting on a little four GB drive with plenty of room to spare. Now that I’ve started creating my own cover art; however, I’ve switched to a 32GB flash drive. I usually back up the flash drive once a week and I back up my computer once a month. Since off-site storage is not an option for me due to our snail-paced internet, I always take my writing flash drive with me on trips in case something bad happens at the house while I’m gone (fire, tornado, theft, etc.).

Writer’s Digest magazine. You will find some of the best general writing advice in this periodical. It also boasts some fascinating interviews with other authors, reports on the changing publishing industry, great tips for submissions, and more. The website also has tutorials and seminars posted, but I would be wary of these as they are a bit overpriced for what you get. A year’s subscription to the magazine is currently roughly $20 for print and $10 for digital.

The Chicago Manual of Style book. Becoming accustomed to reading and finding information in this book takes some time, but it is a wealth of information on everything dealing with correct grammar, punctuation, citations, and more. You can buy the book for about $65 or pick up the online once-a-year subscription for $35. I personally chose the book over the website because it is cheaper in the long run. New additions of the book come out about once every four to seven years, so I will spend $65 every four years for the book instead of $105 every four years for the online subscription. The one catch, of course, is that the website does get updated far faster than the book.

Merriam-Webster dictionary and thesaurus. These are the go-to resources for all wordsmiths. The best part about them is that they are online and free! I also keep hardcopies of both in my research bookcase for days when the internet dies.

Topic-specific research books. My personal research library holds tons of books dealing with topics from horse breeds and tree species to types of poisons and medieval era siege engines. I have all of them in hardcopy instead of electronic because research eBooks still haven’t perfected their glossary and index systems yet (although they are getting better). I always check my local library first for needed research information. Then I scour the bargain sections of bookstores looking for anything interesting. I’m always amazed at what treasures I can find in the sale and clearance sections of libraries and bookstores. The best part about my buying books for research purposes is that they count as a necessary writing business expense when doing my taxes.

An Author Website. It is never too early for a writer to start building his or her online presence. Being easily accessible to potential fans is a must in today’s information age. I use my WordPress website AlyciaChristine.com in combination with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and a dedicated photography website to help others stay informed about what I’m doing. I publish weekly blog articles on my main site so that there is always something new on my site. The cost of running and maintaining my online presence through two sites is roughly $60 a year because I don’t include advanced features like videos or podcasts on my site. For others who do use more advanced features, it will be more expensive. For those who only want to maintain a simple blog, the cost is much cheaper or even free. However, I do highly suggest that you maintain your own dedicated website as soon as you can afford it so that you have the rights to your own domain name and written material.

Optional Tools:

My laptop computer. I use my laptop to write while I am on trips because it is fairly small and has a great battery life. The cheapest laptop on the market will be just fine for writing because writing is not a very graphic-intensive pastime. My little laptop has enough storage capacity to hold my writing, music, and quite a few high and low resolution photos in case I need to write while on the road.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software. I have a love/hate relationship with this program. Because I am so soft-spoken, the program is not nearly as accurate for me as it is for other users. However, it does do a fairly good job of recording and transcribing any dialogue scenes that I voice. My best advice about this program is to pick up the home edition at Christmas time when it is on sale. Normally it is around $150, but I have seen it on Amazon.com for sell prices as low as $50.

Encyclopedia Britannica. A current online subscription to the encyclopedia will cost you about $70 per year and has far more accurate information than Wikipedia. It is worth the investment only if your library research fails first or if you just like the convenience of searching credible online sources for your information. Because of my cranky internet, I mark this tool as optional.

Quicken or QuickBooks financial software. Because I am my writing business’s own owner, I have to know the ends and outs of doing my own finances. This includes tracking my company’s income, expenses, required taxes, and other accounting things. In order to help me keep track of my finances and create expense reports, I have given serious thought to using Quicken instead of the more cumbersome Excel spreadsheets that I used at the beginning of my business. As my business grows, I’ll likely invest in QuickBooks software over Quicken because it has more versatility.

Duotrope.com website. Whenever you are looking for a place to submit stories for publication, this site has current information on all of the latest publishing markets in an easy searchable database. At a cost of $5 per month, the site even allows you to search by length of work that you wish to submit, whether it is flash fiction (less than 1000 words long), a short story (1001-7500 words long), a novelette (7501-17,500 words long), a novella (17,501-40,000 words long), or a novel (40,001 words long or longer). The site will also help you keep your submissions to different publications organized. Always double-check and follow the submission requirements of the specific publisher before submitting your work.

A projects tracker. My personal projects tracker is simply a Microsoft Word document in which I keep a bulleted list of all of the different projects I did each day in a specific year. It is also the place where I keep a basic list of yearly business and personal project goals and a To-Do List. I do all of this as a way to keep myself more organized, which paramount when running a business. A fictitious daily entry in the Projects Tracker looks like this:

Monday, September 1, 2014: Labor Day

-Devotional: read Bible, Romans 1
-Exercised: 30 minute stationary bike ride
-Writing: “A Masterpiece” short story: edited wrote 600 new words (5000 words total)
-Photography: photographed and processed cover art for “A Masterpiece” novella
-Editing: continued reading and implemented beta readers’ edits on Great and Wonderful book, stopped on page 250
-Formatting/Publishing: finished formatting and uploaded “Lovely Work” Smashwords Edition (ISBN: 000-0-000000-00-0)
-Formatting/Publishing: finished formatting and uploaded “Lovely Work” Kindle Edition (ISBN: 000-0-000000-01-0)
-Emailed contact regarding author interview
-Blog: wrote rough draft of “Inspiring and Awesome” blog article for tomorrow’s publication
-Graphic Design: began work on cover art for “A Masterpiece” novella
-Laundry: darks, whites, delicates, towels, sheets
-Folded and put up: darks, whites, towels, sheets
-Cooked spaghetti for dinner
-Watched Great Movie during and after dinner with husband
-Played Great Video Game before bed

Most of these daily project entries are fulfillments of the To-Do List located at the top of the document and they therefore help me work toward my stated year-end goals located at the end of the document thus helping me stay on track throughout the year.

My bedside scratch-pad. Sometimes the inspiration of certain story scenes will actually come to me through a dream. Consequently I always keep a scratch pad and pen beside my bed in case I need to write down one of these unconscious epiphanies.

Adobe Photoshop image software. I have Photoshop listed only because of the program’s value for marketing purposes. I highly recommend this product if you ever plan to create your own book cover art, convention table banners, bookmarks, and other promotional memorabilia. That being said, make sure that whatever you create looks perfectly professional otherwise you’ll do more harm to your personal brand than good. Also Adobe programs are graphic-intensive and so they tend to be computer memory hogs. I therefore only use them on my desktop computer, which has a much higher processing capability than my laptop.

Adobe InDesign software. Large and small presses alike often use the Adobe InDesign program to create professional layouts of books for print runs. I myself just created a beautiful print version of my book MUSINGS using InDesign. Again I caution anyone tempted to purchase this software. Make sure that you are sufficiently familiar with the software to make your products look professional. I myself had lots of past experience creating magazine layouts with InDesign long before I actually used the software to create a print book.

Finally for those of you on a tight budget, I suggest investing in a laptop (~$300-700), Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition software (~$140), a small flash drive ($10-30), free online dictionaries, free library books, and a personal website ($15-30). As your business grows, you can buy more tools with your profits. Also please remember that buying software outright is almost always cheaper and more reliable than subscribing or renting software online. I also do not suggest buying any electronic equipment either refurbished or used.

I hope these tools help charge your creative juices! 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, 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!

Announcement: Author Name Change!

Fallen_Angel-4x6ACI have decided to do something drastic. I know it is a change that should have been many months long ago, but I suppose doing something late is better than not doing it at all. I am changing author names from Alycia C. Cooke to Alycia Christine.

When I published my first fiction short story over six years ago, I originally wrote under the pseudonym of Alycia C. Cooke. I did this for two reasons. The first was the fact that I had already published several journalism stories under my more complicated maiden name and I didn’t want to confuse early fiction fans with a bunch of news articles popping up in their internet search results. Hardly anyone could spell my maiden name anyway, so I wanted to use a simpler surname for fiction. The second reason that I wanted to write as Alycia C. Cooke was because my Granny had died two years earlier and I wanted to do something to honor her memory.

However, after many months of contemplation and several talks with my awesome beta readers, I have decided to publish Musings and all new fiction under Alycia Christine. After nine years, I think it is finally time let my grandmother go and completely be my own person just as she would want me to be. One way to do that is to publish all of my creative work under a name all my own. Since most people already know me from my Alycia Christine art photographs, it feels right to publish my fiction under Alycia Christine as well.

So this is my official announcement: I am changing all social media profiles to Alycia Christine. Hopefully this will make it much easier for fans to connect with me using any social media they wish whether they want to talk about my writing or my photography. My main website and my Facebook are under Alycia Christine already so I might as well make sure that Twitter, Goodreads, WattPad, etc. match as well.

This of course means that I will be rereleasing the short stories “Chosen Sacrifice” and “Raven’s Fall” under Alycia Christine in the next few weeks and that “Of Kelpie Lullabies”, “A Song for Naia”, and MUSINGS will all be published under Alycia Christine as well. As annoying as all this will be in the short run, I think the across-the-board name change will help add far more transparency and clarity to my web presence in the long run. I’m so sorry for the confusion, everyone! If you have any questions, let me know! Thank you so much!

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 (now) Alycia Christine 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!

SCRAWLS: A Warm and Fuzzy Excerpt from “Winter’s Charge” (Plus a 15% Off Sale)

Mountain_Ice_AC4x6Welcome to December and the snowy cold of winter! Okay, technically my corner of West Texas will likely see temperatures in the 70s today, but that was not the case early last week. We saw freezing temperatures and our first dusting of snow four days before Thanksgiving. Of course the weather cleared just in time for Turkey Day travel, but we expect winter to return this weekend.

In the middle of all of this crazy temperature change, I have been hard at work on a tale crafted especially for those of you who love the snow. The short story is tentatively titled “Winter’s Charge” and its rough draft is about 6000 words long. I have included an excerpt for your reading pleasure today. I hope you like it.

I stayed next to the graves of my clan members long after the fire died, the temperature dropped, and the winds rose again. I was trembling so violently that I was sure I would break my chattering teeth before the end, but if I must die, then at least I would die alongside my kin.

A shuffling sound roused me from my fevered thoughts and I looked up to see a miracle materialize out of the starry darkness. The miracle came in the form of one of the most dangerous creatures an Alawaeun hunter can encounter: a polar bear.

I wish I could tell you that I behaved in a manner befitting my new status as an Alawaeun warrior, but I am ashamed to say that I did not. When I first saw the bear, I screamed like a woman in labor. Death had found me and our first meeting was about to be far more painful than death’s original greeting to my frozen clansmen.

As the bear moved closer, I shut my eyes and waited for the strong swipe of a paw to permanently tear my spirit free of my body. I waited and waited, but death did not come. Finally, I cautiously peeked with one eye at the world around me. My eyes widened when I found the bear simply sitting and watching me. Although I am no judge of emotions in animals, I remember thinking that she seemed quite sad.

“What are you doing here, child?” the polar bear asked.

I mouth fell open in surprise. Surely I was dreaming. Surely the Aurora had given me some last wild vision of peace before death finally claimed me.

She repeated the question plaintively and I quickly sat up from where I had laid against the cold stone wall. “How can you speak? What are you?”

The polar bear slowly shifted her head, studying me with an expression far different from any other predator’s that I had ever seen. “I am your guardian…for now at least,” she said.

“My father once told me the story of how the Father Spirit sent an orca to save a fisherman from drowning,” I replied. “The orca used the fisherman’s net to drag his leaking boat back to shore. I have heard the same sorts of stories about belugas and ravens, but never a polar bear.”

“Never a polar bear…” The sadness seemed to deepen her dark eyes. “My kind and yours are often enemies, but even I will not thwart the will of the Father Spirit when he decides to favor one of man.”

I said nothing.

“Come,” she said as she rolled her massive body pack onto her four large paws, “You need warmth and food and you will find neither here.”

I crossed my arms in stubbornness and stayed firmly seated on the tumbled ice and snow. If it was even possible, she laughed when she saw my resoluteness. “Come, little one,” she said to me. “Death has no purpose for you yet.”

“What is your name?” I asked.

“Ukiuq,” she said the Alawaeun name for winter. “You may call me Ukiuq.”

I rapped my little hand against my fur-clad chest in a traditional tribal salute. “I am honored to know your name,” I said. “I am Ataniq.”

She bowed so deeply toward me that her black nose almost touched the snow beneath her white-furred paws. “I am honored as well. Ataniq…yours is a strong name. Now come before you further drain it of its power.”

As you might have guessed, this is one of the short stories that will be included in the soon-to-be-published Musings short story collection. If you enjoyed the excerpt and wish to know the rest of the story, please look for the full version in the upcoming book!

Finally, I need to mention that I have a 15% OFF SALE going on all of my artwork from now until December 31st! If you are wondering what to get your loved ones for Christmas, look no further than the beautiful, high-quality prints on my photography website! I offer everything from custom greeting cards and phone case covers to framed prints, metal wall art, and stretched canvases. My work is reproduced and shipped through Fine Art America so you can be sure of its quality and its timely delivery.

To redeem your discount, simply type in the promo code YMHLAA in the indicated box when you check out. Your 15% discount will then be applied to all of your products that are sitting in the buyer’s shopping cart at the time of checkout. If buying for Christmas, please remember that December 15 equals the last day for FedEx and UPS Ground Shipments and December 18 equals the last day for FedEx and UPS Overnight Shipments. All profits will go toward the production and marketing of Musings and related projects. Thanks so much!

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: November Updates

Mayonnaise-AC4x6November has been a weird and crazy month. Despite the fact that I tried to keep things simple, life has inevitably slipped in a few complications. First my granddaddy (Mom’s Dad) was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 80. For the sake of his privacy, I’ll skip most of the details about the disease; however, I can say that the particular form of cancer is treatable.

I have not had the chance to visit Granddaddy in person; however, I did talk to him on the phone during his first week of treatment. He sounded strong and in good spirits, so that is a great encouragement. In other news, my grandma (Dad’s Mom) continues to heal after falling and breaking her right arm, so life in our family continues to limp along.

I did have a close encounter of the arachnid kind when I discovered a black widow spider nesting in the hinge area of my car’s driver side door. After screaming like a three-year-old, I proceeded to shoot half of a gallon of poison into the affected area and watched with satisfaction as the potentially-lethal passenger died a curly-legged death. Matt and I have double-checked and treated both of our cars and the rest of the garage since that little revelation.

Aside from those three events, my life has mainly revolved around work and volunteer activities with a little bit of fun thrown in for good measure.

Since the last update, I have:

Painted children’s faces at our church’s Fall Festival event on Halloween night. I think the adults had as much fun as the kids!

Celebrated my 31st birthday with some of my family and friends in Lubbock, Texas. Mom was sick for most of the weekend with a sinus infection, so we didn’t do too much. However, I did get a mouthwatering steak for my birthday dinner followed by delectable banana pudding desert cupcakes and a round of reading hilarious birthday cards. Thank you, family!

Reorganized our home office. Ugh, what a mess. It’s crazy how much clutter can accumulate in a year! I still need to cull and reorganize all of the books in our house, but that is a project best left alone until after Christmas.

Finished a photography shoot of a beautiful fleabitten gray roping horse (see the photo at the beginning of today’s article). Thank you to Doug Miller for helping me capture the majesty of this high-spirited creature.

Updated several pages on the AlyciaChristine.com website including more blogs, widgets, and unique content.

Changed internet service providers. So far the new company has proven much more reliable than the old company, which means that my griping about the slowness of our internet speeds should plummet to a minimum. Thank you all for sticking with me through this frustrating time!

Tried to post my first video blog on alyciachristine.com. As many of you know, it did not succeed even with my more stable internet connection. Even with the limitation on video uploads, I am actually quite happy because I can still provide great written and image content to all of you far more easily than I could before the ISP change.

Watched Thor: The Dark World in movie theaters. This 170-mile round trip movie date was worth the effort. I really enjoyed the story. Spoiler alert: the dark elves with spaceships and guns were awesome! Watching Thor’s character grow up a little more was interesting to see and I loved watching Jane and her fellow scientists finally get the chance to be heroes in their own right. My favorite moment of the whole movie was watching Chris Evans doing an impression of Loki impersonating Captain America. Hilarious!

Reread all of The Hunger Games Trilogy books (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay). I love this series. While the book’s characters can occasionally feel a bit flat to me, the world that they live in is intricately built and quite scary. In some ways, the country of Panem reminds me a bit of Imperialist Rome mixed with Communist Russia. An very creepy combination especially since it’s established on what was formerly American soil.

Read some of the short stories in the Ruins Metropolis anthology. I had, of course, read most of the book’s incredible stories, but somehow had missed a few on my first run through.

Read The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier. This particular guide has proven quite useful in helping me better understand how the publishing industry works. Hopefully my new knowledge about publishing helps me to better market my writing so that more people can discover my work.

Researched several topics to help add depth and accuracy to my fiction writing. During the past few weeks, I studied avalanches, polar bears, Inuit clan traditions, Olmec civilization, and jaguars.

Finished implementing my beta readers’ suggestions of “Of Kelpie Lullabies” and sent off the finished manuscript to a potential publisher. I expect to hear back from the publisher by the end of November. Hopefully the response is an acceptance rather than a rejection letter. We’ll see.

Wrote and edited the rough draft of the “Winter’s Charge” short story. I have sent it off to beta readers last week and look forward to their critiques.

Rewrote the “What Tendrils Echo” short story. After adding and extending several scenes, I think the story flows much better now. I finished the last of my personal edits yesterday, so I will send it to beta readers as soon as they finish their corrections on “Winter’s Charge”.

Not participated in the2013 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). While I made the decision to not participate in NaNoWriMo this year, I have had the wonderful honor of helping a few fellow writers with their NaNo story plots. Good luck to those still pushing toward the 50,000 word mark. I’m still cheering for you!

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Continue to pull older photos off of the alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com photography website as I add new photography.

Finish the last personal edits of Musings and send it to my editor for final critique. This project hit a snag when my awesome beta readers found a serious problem with my short story draft of “Elza and Eliza”. This week I will rewrite and expand several scenes so that the story feels more complete. Until I finalize “Elza and Eliza”, Musings revisions will have to be put on hold.

Continue to write the rough draft of Dreamdrifter. With the other projects taking up so much time, Dreamdrifter is progressing more slowly than I had hoped. However, I am happy to be finished with the rewritten drafts of chapters 17 and 18. I also am happy to report that I finally figured out a way to get my characters out of the dungeon that they have been trapped in for the last few days.

I have sent out newsletters before, but I have not been particularly happy with the services I have previously used. I am learning to use a new service so that I can send out a special Christmas newsletter to all of my supporters and friends in December. We’ll see how it goes.

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: Blog Consolidation and Website Insanity!

LadysSlipperOrchidAC4x6Many things are happening at once. AggieCon 44 is in two weeks (March 22-24) and not only I have been invited to share my artwork as part of the event’s art show, but I was also asked to participate in the Iron Artist speaker panel. While readying multiple pieces of artwork for the event, I continue creating content for the Musings anthology, Dreamdrifter novel, and AlyciaChristine.com website. In addition to these tasks, I have been hired as a consultant on the Total Nerd Takeover (TNT) podcasting project and the 2013 West of the Pecos Rodeo show program. I am busy, to say the least. Hopefully by the end of the month, I will have all my ducks in a row and will finally be able to announce an official release date for Musings.

Some of you are probably wondering why I have decided to switch websites from AlyciaChristineS.com to my new site AlyciaChristine.com after working with the former site for only a few months. The answer is threefold: money, site flexibility, and marketability. I discovered very quickly that using WordPress would be far more cost-effective than continuing my old sites AlyciaCCooke.com and AlyciaChristineS.com, which are both powered through Weebly. While Weebly’s website building system is very simple and user-friendly, it lacks some of the customization features that I now prize in a website creator. Also the name of AlyciaChristineS.com itself is harder to market than the slightly simpler AlyciaChristine.com. The scant month that I have been working on this website, I have already seen better search engine results for the new website than for the old website and this encourages me that I made the right decision to move hosts and change domain names.

Since I have moved websites, I have decided to consolidate all of my trickling blogs: “Odds and Ends”, “Flashes of Perspective”, and “Ink Blots and Tea Stains” into one steady information stream, I think it is only fair that I give my entire collection of entries one cohesive name. So here it is: the Seared Cookie Report: one Artist-Writer’s Labored Soliloquy or SCRAWLS for short.

I chose this nomenclature as a play on both of my two pen-names: Alycia Christine Sears and Alycia C. Cooke. I believe the blog name and its acronym fit the duality of my life very well. As a photographer and a doodler, I am an artist. Yet as an author of fiction and nonfiction, I am a writer. Likewise the word “scrawls” acronym could refer to my drawings or my writings.

One of the unique features of AlyciaChristine.com is that I now have the ability to create a wider variety of sub-pages. This exciting fact has led me to create special pages for the books Skinshifter and Dreamdrifter. Not only will these dedicated book pages hold synopsis and story tidbits, but I also hope to link illustrated maps, full casts of characters, and a mini-dictionary of special terms to these pages. My goal with all of this work is to make sure that when the series is published, readers have a great place to go for extra information about the worlds described in these novels.

Over the next few months, I will be adding as many sketches, graphics, photos, and other pieces of art work to the website in as many different areas as I can. I want to make the site as welcoming and vibrant to viewers as possible, so if you have any suggestions please tell me.

In the end, I hope to design a virtual space dedicated to people who love art, seek truth, and are passionate about all things fantastical. I long to use my work to help inspire and encourage each of you throughout all of life’s extremes.

Thank you so much for dropping in and, as always, please visit with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoodReads anytime.

Enjoy and welcome to AlyciaChristine.com!


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, email it to me. Thanks!

Ink Blots and Tea Stains: Christmas, Solstice-Style (Archive)

Nutcrackers1-2x3ACSToday equals Winter Solstice, three days until Christmas, 10 days until the end of the year. As I look back at 2012, I am amazed and excited to report that my two-year-old self-employment experimentation has done so well.

I have created not one but two websites (http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com for photography, www.alyciachristines.com for my main site) and am learning how to market those sites through bi-monthly blogs, Facebook, and Twitter messages. I have set up the websites to allow customers all across the world to order prints of my photography and artwork on a variety of merchandise through partnerships with Fine Art America and Zazzle. To date, I have over 300 photos on my http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com site and over 100 different products ready to customize with any of 15 graphic designs in my http://www.zazzle.com/alyciachristine store.

In June, I published a photography devotional e-book called First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective. I wrote First Fruits as a month-long daily devotional to help new Christians and non-Christians understand the meaning of the Fruits of the Spirit discussed in Galatians 5. I am very thankful that the book has been so well received by its niche audience.

The month of November saw my second ever participation in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words on a single fiction novel in 30 days. I managed a little over 35,000 words on the rough draft to Dreamdrifter. I am extremely happy that I took my time during this NaNoWriMo because the prose is much cleaner and the plot structure is far stronger than the writing from previous NaNo attempts. In any event, Dreamdrifter currently stands as the 85,000 word (310 pages) sequel to Skinshifter, the fantasy fiction book that I wrote between the years of 2006 and 2008 (see my SpecFic page for full details). With the help of my genius head reader Sam and the entourage of beta-readers, I finished the final draft of Skinshifter late last year. I have been shopping it around to various publishing houses in 2012. So far several publishers have found the manuscript well-written and interesting, but not the right fit for their company. Right now, the manuscript is under scrutiny by the fine folks at Harper Voyager, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

December finds me finishing Chapter 16 of Dreamdrifter, writing the outline for a second photography devotional tentatively titled The Point of Prayer, doing a public reading of my newest short story “The Twelfth Christmas Eve”, preparing for the 3000 Weeks joint-exhibition in Austin, Texas, with Robert Stikmanz and over 40 other creative minds (See http://www.confabule.com/information for details), and continuing work on a TOP SECRET special gift for all of my wonderful supporters (more details to be announced soon).

Incidentally, expect my Facebook and Twitter presence to be fairly quiet until after the New Year as I enjoy the company of family and friends over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays (and paint a bathroom in between visits). With this in mind, I must now flit away to start my cleaning.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you a joyful Christmas and a beautiful New Year! And of course, may your ink blots be liberal and your tea stains tiny this holiday season!

[~]D Alycia

Ink Blots and Tea Stains: A New Virtual Home… (Archive)

BlueBenchACS4x6After some thought, I have decided to move my main virtual home from AlyciaCCooke.com to AlyciaChristineS.com. When I started AlyciaCCooke.com and alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com many moons ago, I had wanted to have one site dedicated solely to my fiction writing and another dedicated to my photography and art. But things change and I find myself more in need of a unified place where people can go to discover any and all of my mediums of art. So here it is: AlyciaChristineS.com. This site will continue the “Ink Blots and Tea Stains” blog as well as store its archives. It will also hold links to my Photography and Art stores. There is a Fiction page and a Nonfiction page chronicling all of my published writings as well as those stray pieces still needing find a publishing home. I have multiple links helpful to writers, photographers, and other artists on the Resources page. I will also post all sorts of writing extras dealing with my fiction worlds on my Art & Whimsey page. Even though I will be shutting down AlyciaCCooke.com in a few months, I have decided to keep my full photography website at http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com for everyone’s convenience. If you wish to contact me with questions or want to sign up for my newsletter, please go to the Contact page.

In regular news, I posted a new Flashes of Perspective blog entry on my photography website yesterday, which deals with the photography rule of Centering. You can read it at: http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/blogs/flashes-of-perspective-in-a-bulls-eye.html.

Next week I will upload new photos onto the photography website from three separate shoots: a October 19 nature photography shoot near Fort Davis, Balmorhea, and Marfa, Texas, and two October 20 event photography shoots in Pecos, Texas, and Midland, Texas, respectively. For now, I have included a preview photo from my work on October 19 near Balmorhea, Texas, for your enjoyment. “Blue Bench” is not up on the website yet, but it will be by next Friday.

My work on Dreamdrifter continues with full rewrites completed on Chapters 1 through 9 and roughly 47 pages of new material (about 10,000 or 11,000 words) added to the book overall. I look forward to continuing work on Dreamdrifter during November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) writing blitzkrieg. After last year’s absence (see the October 31, 2011 blog), I am so happy to be participating in the challenge this year!

Finally, let us move on to today’s Creature Profile.

Creature Profile: Brownie

Real or imagined: Both

In mythology:

The brownie is a legendary creature popular in folklore around Scotland and England said to be a small, industrious fairy believed to inhabit houses and barns. It is seems to be the Scottish and Northern English counterpart of the Scandinavian tomte, the Slavic domovoi and the German Heinzelmännchen. The brownie may also be related to the mythological hob found in the north and midlands of England. By many accounts, the brownie is helpful if mischievous character. He is rarely seen, but often blamed for cleaning and doing housework as well as sometimes disarranged rooms. Cream and milk are considered favorable gifts to leave him.

In literature and entertainment:

In 1883 author Palmer Cox introduced a series of children’s books depicting brownies with whimsical illustrations and poetry. The fanciful folk were inspired by Scottish folktales but reflected the sensibilities of 19th-century American children. The first of the Brownie books is called The Brownies: Their Book.

In the 1988 movie “Willow,” two brownies are part of a colorful cast of characters which rally around protecting a baby girl from a dangerous and powerful queen. In my own book of Skinshifter and its accompanying books in the Metamorphosis series, Brownies are nicknamed “Toadstool folk” because of their habits of making their homes and some of their clothing from different forms of fungi. Brownies are friendly but mischievous characters. Turned brownies (that is undead brownies) are called boggarts in my series.

In reality:

The term “brownie” often refers to a specific type of camera created by the Kodak camera company in 1900. Designed and marketed for children, the Brownie camera was named after the popular characters created by Palmer Cox. Frank A. Brownell designed and manufactured the first Brownie camera, which quickly became popular thanks in part to its inexpensiveness and ease of use. Today, there over 125 Brownie models.

The brownie, as a baked good, is one of my favorite deserts and is tied to many fond childhood memories. Since I was allergic to milk and all milk-based products until I was in my late teens, my mom made special milk-free brownies for me as a kid. Her lip-smacking recipe is as follows:

Mom’s Moist Brownies:

1 ½ cup flour
2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
¼ cup water
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup cocoa
½ cup pecans (optional)

Mix all ingredients by hand until well blended and bake in large pyrex glass (9 x 13 ½ inches) pan on 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE!

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

The Brownie as a mythological creature: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownie_%28folklore%29 and http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/81831/brownie

The Brownie in literature and entertainment: http://www.amazon.com/The-Brownies-Their-Childrens-Classics/dp/0486212653/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351273356&sr=8-1&keywords=the+brownies and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096446/

The Brownie as a desert: see above recipe

The Brownie as a camera: http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/features/brownieCam/ and http://www.brownie-camera.com/

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

[~]D Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Happy Halloween from one Tired-out Texan (Archives)

Life in West Texas has been busy and sickly of late. The beginning of October saw the arrival of the 67th Annual Reeves County Fall Fair & Livestock Show and my first attempt at running a photography and art sale booth. My work showed beautifully and attracted a lot of interest. I’m hoping to build upon the experience with an even better booth during the Alpine Artwalk November 18 and 19.

I have also been hard at work editing a fantasy novel that I wrote a couple of years ago and the rewriting process in combination several rounds of stomach bugs and sinus infections have left me little time to shoot or process new photos for the website. I’ve finally begun to upload the Alpine and Big Bend Balloon Bash shots today and expect to finish the project by Wednesday. I also hope to capture some good wildlife photos on my upcoming trip to the Texas panhandle. This is the time of year that flocks of Canada geese invade the Texas panhandle. I cannot wait to capture their precise flight patterns!

By the way, when I “process” digital photos, I take the best shots from a photo shoot and correct the light levels and size of each photo. I save my photos at high resolution in both .TIFF and .JPG formats so they can be printed clearly. Each photo receives a special artwork title so that customers and place orders more easily. Occasionally I will do additional corrections to my photography such as cropping or color enhancements. Most of the time; however, I prefer to leave my photos as natural as possible.

Since it is Halloween, I will leave you with this spooky image (2869) taken in March of this year. The cloud covering the moon reminds me of a lioness, hence the title “Lioness’s Moon.” I hope you enjoy it. I’m off to finish my processing. You can find all of this week’s uploaded photos in the “Objects”, “Scapes”, or “Human Nature” galleries of the photography website. If you want more information about my fiction, please visit my regular website. Thanks!

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

[ O*] Alycia

Ink Blots and Tea Stains: New Website (Archive)

LionessMoonACS4x6
I’m taking a couple of hours away from my book editing today spruce up the new website. If any of you are curious about the misty “Lion Moon” photo at the top of the website, I photographed it about two months ago on a blustery night and did absolutely nothing to digitally enhance it. Since I’m working on edits to my novel Skinshifter, I thought it was appropriate to have something related to Katja’s world as my site’s main photo. I hope all of you enjoy it.

For those of you who are not acquainted Skinshifter or its characters, my protagonist Katja Eskari is a werecat (an upright-walking lioness) who absolutely hates the full moon phase because it causes her to turn into a human!

I’ve had tons of fun writing the novel and half of its sequel Dreamdrifter, but now it’s time for me to edit all of the junk out of Skinshifter and submit it for publication. A local editor and I have been tweaking the book since June and so far it has gone very well. I will try to send Chapters 17, 18, and 19 to her for edits be the end of the week…i.e. tomorrow. Yikes better get back to it! I will keep you all posted on our progress.

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

[~]D Alycia

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