Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: alaska

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:


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”.


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.


Played Jumbline.

Played Munin.

Played Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights.

Played Minecraft.


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

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!


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!

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

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

🙂 Alycia

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

Flashes of Perspective: Saturation Makes Perfect

Egg_Tentacles_AC4x6For this article of Flashes of Perspective, I thought I would discuss with all of you the photography rule of Photo Saturation. Photo Saturation is a very important aspect of photography, especially if you are going to shoot photography professionally. It was the first rule that I learned to use in the classroom and it is always the first tool that I employ in the field.

Let’s Get Started

The rule of Photo Saturation is a simple one. Basically it is the idea of photographing a specific subject several times in order to get the best possible representation of that subject. Many artists and craftsmen will create rough sketches of their work before they actually execute the final product. A writer, for example, might create an outline of a story before he or she actually writes it. Then the writer will take the rough draft and refine it correcting grammar issues, punctuation problems, consistency errors, and other mistakes until at last she has a final draft. In photography these rough sketches or rough drafts come from repeated attempts to shoot the perfect photograph (i.e. photo saturation).

Let’s Break It Down

My personal approach to Photo Saturation is to have a rough idea in my head of what I want the final image look like before I start shooting a subject. Sometimes I have a clearer image in mind that others, but always I strive to shoot a subject from as many different angles and vantage points as possible so that I can create the best quality image. These multiple images are my rough drafts. I always have to stay flexible while I am photographing because sometimes the rough idea that I have in my head is not always as good as the best photo that I actually shoot in the field. The give and take between planned photos and the spontaneous bonus images that I get on-site is the main reasons why I photography so much. No matter how much I plan a shot beforehand there are always surprises once I step behind the lens. Photo saturation helps me make the most of the surprises and the planned shots.

Most of the time I shoot a ratio of 10 to 15 photographs for every one final image that I show others. When I started shooting photography at the age of 10, I was lucky if I had one good photograph out of every role of 36 that I shot. Years of practice, better equipment, and continuous tutelage has led me to have a far better photo ratio than when I began. My eventual goal is to have a photo ratio of closer to 1 in 5, but for now I am very pleased with what I have accomplished.

When my husband and I vacationed in Alaska this last month, I purposely overshot everything I saw. My use of Photo Saturation meant that I came home after a 10 day trip with over 2700 photos. Of those 2700 photos, I will upload maybe 200 total shots to my website. I will be the first to tell you that shooting that many photos for so few publishable results is a bit extreme, especially for me, but doing going to the extreme of Photo Saturation has allowed me to bring back and showcase the very best images possible from the trip. While so many photos from the trip were very good and my photo ratio averaged about 1 in 8, I only want to upload the photos that I think are of award-winning quality. After all, I think my art collectors deserve the best quality products possible.

Last week I presented 14 photos from my Alaska trip. This week I wanted to reveal 14 more photos to further share my adventures with you. I have also included the number of photos I took before finally getting that final awesome image to give you an idea of my personal use of Photo Saturation.

Static or Slow Subjects

I took 5 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Boardwalk Parasols”.

I took 4 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Flower Pack”.

I took 7 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Ice Streams”.

I took 23 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Mountain Ice”.

I took 4 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Sawed Rust”.

I took 3 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Wall Walker”.

I took 4 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Wooden Waterway”.

Moving Subjects

I took 36 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Cumulus Pontoon”.

I took 18 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Egg Tentacles”.

I took 21 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Pale Mountain Moon”.

I took 30 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Steller Beach”.

I took 13 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Triple Starbursts”.

I took 17 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Urban Salmon”.

I took 11 rough photos before I shot this final image of “Victoria Legislative Lights”. By the way, this photo is under moving subjects because I was riding in a bus at the time I shot the photos.

Photographer’s Note

It is important to remember that different subjects often require different amounts of Photo Saturation. In some cases, the photographer may have a lot of time to shoot a subject from different angles and vantage points. In other cases, you may only be able to snap a single photo. This last situation is especially true when dealing with moving subjects such as animals or small children. Do your best in each circumstance and stay adaptable. If you have the time use your Photo Saturation techniques to practice some of the other Rules of Photography. If not, just use your instincts to shoot the best possible photo of the subject that you can.


This assignment will be an odd one. I want you to shoot 30 images or more photos of only 2 different subjects. I suggest using static subjects for this round of homework. Statues or monuments work well for this project, but you can find other things too like architecture. Make sure that you look for unique subjects with lots of interesting angles because you will be shooting each subject a lot! Work until you get the very best portrait of that subject. Have fun!

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

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: The Beauty of Alaska

Blue_Fluke-AC4x6Matt and I had extraordinary vacation this year. For our five-year wedding anniversary, we took a seven-day cruise through Alaska’s Inner Passage. We began our journey by flying into Seattle, Washington on August 17. Since our cruise was scheduled to begin the next day, we decided to spend the afternoon and evening exploring Pikes Place market, riding the wharf Ferris wheel, and eating at one of my favorite Seattle restaurants: The Crab Pot. Unfortunately, Hemp Fest was going on while we were touring the city, so we had to take some roundabout paths to avoid all of the drug dealers and their usual patrons on our trips along the piers. Thanks to the help of our intrepid hotel concierge, we survived the ordeal and enjoyed our day’s brief sightseeing excursion.

Sunday, August 18, found us sleeping in, packing, and boarding the hotel shuttle bound for our ship the Golden Princess at noon. Within an hour we were on board our temporary floating home and enjoying the view of the Seattle harbor over the ship’s railing on Deck 14. The ship itself was absolutely beautiful and delightful. It featured 18 decks complete with three dining rooms, two specialty restaurants, a theater, a nightclub, a casino, an art gallery, several shops, multiple bars and lounges, four pools, a spa, a library, a wedding chapel, a video arcade, adults-only areas, teen-only areas, children-only areas, and lots of sleeping cabins. Our particular cabin was in the upper forward part of the ship near the spa and pool areas, which came in handy for whale-watching and dining trips.

Our first day aboard ship was spent entirely at sea. That morning proved especially rough for me since I apparently do get seasick fairly easily. Breakfast proved the worst part of my ordeal and so my saintly husband went to the medical bay in search of medicine, while I stared cross-eyed at my plate. After swallowing a couple of pills to relieve my motion sickness and strapping acupuncture bands around my wrists for good measure, I was fine for the rest of the day. Our evening proved quite enjoyable. My husband and I went to a formal dinner and were treated afterwards to a wonderful magic show, followed by the dance performance of two former members of the Russian ballet.

The morning of August 20 dawned bright but cold as our ship pulled into the harbor at Ketchikan, Alaska. I was on deck 14 with my camera to see the first rays of sun break the mists of the mountains upon our arrival. It was simply an extraordinary site and yet it paled in comparison to the beauty that awaited us on shore. Matt’s and my first excursion in Alaska was a visit to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary just outside the city. While touring the forest of moss-draped alder and spruce, our tour group came across the remarkable site of a mother black bear and her two cubs hunting salmon in the stream. The salmon were swimming upstream to spawn and the bears, ravens, and seagulls were all watching their fill of fish. Our trip through the sanctuary was topped off by having the chance to feed a local herd of caribou and see a master totem pole carver at work. After a few hours of gift shopping in town, my husband and I climbed back aboard the ship and made ready to sail to Juneau.

Our voyage to Juneau, Alaska cut through the heart of beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord. I was on deck 14 and 15 for hours in the bitter cold shooting photos of glaciers, icebergs, snowcapped mountains, green sea, and waterfalls. Those who know me understand how much I loathe being cold; however, my personal discomfort was well worth the result. Once we arrived in Juneau, Matt and I took a mile hike to see Mendenhall Glacier and its neighboring waterfall before hopping a bus back to the harbor and boarding a tour boat in search of whales. We saw not one but five humpback whales feeding in the waters. Four of the humpbacks were feeding together – a very rare habit for that particular species of whale. We also saw Steller sea lions basking in the sun. The surprise highlight of the trip; however, was the moment two bald eagles locked talons just outside the windows of our boat. Unfortunately, I did not get a clear photograph of the exchange, but the image of those two magnificent birds freefalling toward the ocean will remain in my mind for many years to come.

While our excursions in Ketchikan and Juneau proved surprisingly sunny, Skagway by odd contrast was very foggy. Consequently, our bus tour of Skagway and part of the Klondike Highway was shrouded in mist and gave the inuksuks built on the mountain tops a truly mystical appearance. Of the towns we visited, Skagway is by far the smallest. While Juneau sports 35,000 people and Ketchikan supports a few thousand, Skagway is home to only about 700 people during the winter. With the town lacks in population, it makes up for in rich history. Skagway was one of the main gateway cities for people coming from the lower 48 states in search of gold during the Klondike Gold Rush. During the height of the rush, the town topped 20,000 people–mostly living in tents. Despite the cleanliness of its buildings, there is still a rough-and-tumble spirit about the place left over from those earlier times. You can see it in the rock paintings that town artists use to welcome the cruise ships every summer. I suppose a town so dwarfed by the great wilderness would have to have a bit of a gritty streak to survive.

Our last stop before heading home was Victoria Island, British Columbia, Canada. We had little time to truly see the island since our ship docked at 7 o’clock in the evening on August 24. Matt and I ran through the Butchart Gardens as quickly as we could, so that we could see as much of the colorful flowers and plants in the waning daylight as possible. While the garden is lit at night, there really are not enough lamps to properly see the gardens after sunset. I am sad to admit that our tour of the garden was a bit of a bust, but our moods brightened considerably when the garden staff put on an exceptional fireworks display.

We were back on the ship and sailing home to Seattle for the next full day. Once we disembarked in Seattle, Matt and I checked into our hotel room and then spent the rest of our day touring museums, viewing the city from atop the Space Needle, and walking through the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture gardens. Finally, a plane ride, a quick stay at my aunt and uncle’s house, and a car drive brought Matt and I home to West Texas. While Alaska was absolutely gorgeous and I would love to go back, there is one thing that Texas just seems to do bigger than that huge state: gloriously-colored sunrises.

Obviously there are many more photos to come, but I hope this journal gives you all a good taste of the beauty and adventure we encountered during vacation. Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

SCRAWLS: Story Excerpt from “Raven’s Fall”

Totems_to_Sky-AC4x6Happy September, everyone! I can’t believe that we have begun the last quarter of 2013. It seems like just last month I was finishing off my New Year’s resolution list. Interestingly enough, one of those resolutions was to have weekly blog updates instead of monthly entries. Nine months later and I am proud to say that I continue to meet that particular goal. Yeah!

I am also happy to report that my husband’s and my vacation in Alaska was absolutely spectacular! We had a wonderful time cruising from Seattle, Washington, up to Ketchikan, Alaska, through Tracy Arm Fjord to Juneau, Alaska, and on to the small town of Skagway, Alaska. In each of these towns, we had the opportunity to see a small bit of the magnificent wilderness that often makes Alaska so awe-inspiring to its visitors. We saw more snow-capped mountains and clear waterfalls than I can count along with sightings of salmon, black bears, humpback whales, stellar sea lions, and other wildlife. To top off the trip, our cruise ship docked in lovely Victoria Island in British Columbia, Canada before sailing back to Seattle. I promise to give a full report of the trip and show you a few of the beautiful photos I shot later in the month, but for now I’ll give you a teaser photo from the trip.

I shot this particular photo while in Ketchikan, Alaska. The totem pole in the photo was commissioned by the City of Ketchikan to honor the Tongass Tlingit people and depict their story of “Raven Stealing the Sun”. I call the photo “Totems to the Sky”. I think it fits well with today’s excerpt, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Today’s particular excerpt comes from the flash fiction story “Raven’s Fall” which I wrote in late 2012 and saw published by my friends over at in January 2013 as a part of author and illustrator Robert Stikmanz’s 3000 Weeks celebration in Austin, Texas. “Raven’s Fall” is a tale loosely inspired by some of the oral traditions of Native American peoples indigenous to the Northwestern United States and Canada. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had writing it!

Raven sat stone still watching light ripple and flow along the banks of darkness. She clutched the cattail reed tightly in one gray talon and pondered the light’s myriad weavings through shadow into the world beyond the Falls. Could a world of dawn be so much better than this domain of dusk? The red cattail could give her the answer, but did she dare use it?

“Well, what have you decided?” cried a voice behind her.

Raven’s black feathers ruffed up in irritation. “That this is some of your usual subversion, Wolf.”

The gray canine spirit’s tongue lolled out with his yipping laughter. “I cannot hope to trick one so wise as you, Raven.”

The great bird spirit said nothing, but continued to stare at the light winding its way out of their world into the world of light.

“I know you tire of this shadow realm as do I, High Spirit. Would it not be a great adventure to see beyond the darkness?”

“Dawn light has no place for us, Wolf. We rule the night as is proper. Only the foolish would wish otherwise.”

Wolf nodded. “Oh, indeed. I merely suggested you visit the world of light to better understand the contrasts between black and light. The red cattail will allow you to come back whenever you like.”

Raven’s eyes narrowed. “How do I know your words are true?”

“Because you know that I would never wish you harm,” Wolf’s eyes were soft as he replied. She stared at him a long while until he lowered his gaze.

“I have made my decision then. I will go and see what is to be seen. Will you wait for my return?”

Wolf nodded and stepped back to give Raven proper room for her dive into the river of light. Raven stretched out her lustrous black wings and pumped them hard to hover over the sparkling eddies. She then swooped to grab a surprised Wolf before banking toward the river. Into the rolling light they both plunged. The waves washed away their darkness as they tumbled over the falls together…

I hope you enjoyed today’s writing. Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

🙂 Alycia

P.S. – I will be reorganizing website and my photography website through the end of September. Expect to some of the first Alaska photos on the photography website by Friday, September 6, 2013. Thanks!

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!

SCRAWLS: A Dash of Writing Advice – Chopping Down Your Giant Problems

Red_Balconies-AC4x6Instead of my regularly scheduled Flashes of Perspective blog, today I will continue our discussion of SCRAWLS writing advice with the caveat that September will hold not one but two Flashes of Perspective posts. I want to publish two in September so that I can show you some of the breathtaking photos that I shot while on vacation with my husband in Alaska this month.

In our previous writing lessons we discussed the fact that perseverance is the key to successful writing (and to life in general). Today I think I should give you some valuable tools to help you build your perseverance. Let’s talk about how to cut your giants down to size.

Lesson 3: Breaking up your projects so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

Getting overwhelmed is the fastest way to develop writer’s block. You should look at the big, grand scope of your story only three times: when you first create your story plot outline/summary at the very beginning of the project, when you have finished writing the rough draft’s last sentence, and when you are editing the final draft with an eye for story continuity. At these three points you can look at the big picture. However, do not pay attention to the big picture while you are actually writing. Doing so will leave you feeling daunted by the task, especially in the beginning.

Even if you are extremely disciplined, there will still be times when you feel like you are fighting an indomitable giant. When those feelings overshadow your confidence, just remember that all you have to do to defeat the giant is to knock him off his feet and then hack him into manageable pieces. As the old saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. I do this all the time with my writing. Instead of looking at my book as a book, I look at it as a collection of chapters. Then I look at the chapters as a collection of different scenes. Then I look at the scenes as a collection of paragraphs and the paragraphs as a collection of words.

Remember that every fiction story begins with a single idea. If that idea is good enough to sprout when planted in the fertile soil of your imagination, it will grow and branch with other ideas blossoming outward from its stem. The best stories are written records of these idea trees, organized in such a way that other readers besides you can follow the pattern of these ideas and grow to care very deeply about each upcoming idea within the overall woven pattern of the story. Most, but not all, stories are told in a chronological order because time is the easiest pattern for most readers to follow.

When I write, the practice of doing so on a constant daily basis helps to decrease my stress about the particular project that I am trying to chop down to size. I know that I cannot write a single novel in a day. After all, my novel Skinshifer is, in total, about 119,000 words long. This is equivalent to a 430-page Word document when using 12-point Times New Roman font and double-spaced paragraphs. Obviously this is a mammoth project for anyone, even a seasoned writer. To make it manageable, I broke it down into daily word counts and scenes. At the beginning of the project, I wrote down the chapter titles of the book as my outline and sometimes added a sentence or two of summary about what was supposed to happen in each particular chapter. Then I took the first scene began to write it. Sometimes I would write in chronological order from the first part of the book to the last and sometimes I would skip ahead to write a scene that would just pop into my head during a moment of musing.

Over the past eight years, I have found that my best writing happens when I give myself a minimum daily word count (300-500 words) and then challenge myself to finish writing one in-progress scene and start a new one. Most of my scenes are longer than 500 words, so I make the commitment to finish whatever scene I stopped on yesterday and then plough on for about 200 words into the next scene. Doing this usually leaves me in good shape for the next day’s work. When I am having a bad writing day and can barely type 300 words without even finishing a scene, the small word count still gives me a little boost of encouragement. When I am having a good writing day, finishing one scene and starting another makes me feel empowered and ready to take on the world. I have had days in which a two-word sentence as the best that I could accomplish and I have had days when I knocked out 3000-4000 words and still wanted to keep writing. Each of these days is a success because I still managed to write something.

My best advice is to find what works for you. Successful writing takes constant commitment. Starting out, I suggest that you make a small writing pledge that you can easily keep: writing for ten minutes a day, writing 200 words a day, finishing a scene a day, finishing a chapter a day, or whatever. Some writers I know will establish a weekly word count to spur them into writing. However you decide to do it, push yourself to keep your writing commitment every day including weekends. Do this until it becomes as habitual as eating or sleeping to you. Once you truly are committed to your writing, you will find that your writing time will stretch naturally.

I started out with reading, writing, drawing, photography, TV-watching, and gaming as my major hobbies. As time went by though, I discovered that I enjoyed life much more when I was behind the lens or had a story document open on my computer screen. Now it is a rare day that I manage even a dungeon crawl in Minecraft or Skyrim. If you told me even three years ago that most of my time would be spent writing and shooting photography, I probably would have panicked about the loss of my games. Now, however, I find myself much more fulfilled than melancholy. Photography and writing have become so much more enjoyable to me even than gaming. I am so happy when I finish a scene and I practically bounce off the walls when I finish a story. My sense of accomplishment is so much more profound when I finish a piece of writing than when I finish a game because I can keep and possibly publish the finished story at the end of the grind. The story that I just trekked through isn’t someone else’s, it is mine. That sense of ownership is wonderfully freeing.

Writing is how I exercise my imagination. What do you do to exercise yours?

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

🙂 Alycia

P.S. – A reminder: I am still performing reorganization maintenance of the main website and on my photography website through the end of September.

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!

SCRAWLS: A Dash of Writing Advice – The Dreaded Day Job

Hammering_the_Sun-AC4x6In our last writing lesson we discussed the fact that perseverance is the key to successful writing. Today I thought we should take perseverance a step further.

Lesson 2: Don’t quit your day job too soon.

Trust me when I say this. The funky thing about this profession is that sometimes it is financially profitable and sometimes it is not. This is one reason why most writers start out with a completely different job. John Grisham was a lawyer. J.R.R. Tolkien was a soldier and then a language scholar and professor. I began as a journalist and continue employment as a photographer. In each case we writers use our life experiences to add depth and authenticity to our stories.

The day job—any day job—is essential to inspiring good writing because of the unique experiences and people that the writer encounters while on the clock. After all John Grisham would have been hard-pressed to write The Pelican Brief or The Firm without his prior knowledge as a lawyer. Likewise I would have had a difficult time building the world of Sylvaeleth and its many animal-like characters without the working knowledge I gleaned from studying wildlife management in college, and my various jobs and volunteer work at a zoo, veterinary clinic, and pet store. Use the day job to your advantage. Persevere through it, have fun with it, and learn every aspect of it. We all hope not to have one someday, but use it while you have it.

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

🙂 Alycia

P.S. – A reminder: I am still performing reorganization maintenance of the main website and on my photography website through the end of September. My goal is to make both sites easier to navigate since I will have a ton of new photos to show you all after my vacation to Alaska!

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!

SCRAWLS: A Dash of Writing Advice – Perseverance Verses Talent

Dune_Trek-AC4x6Several days ago, I talked to a friend who is just beginning her journey as a writer. Since I’m a little more seasoned than she, she asked for my advice. As daunting as that request may be, I thought I would share with her and with the rest of you what I’ve learned as I’ve paddled to this point in the writing river. Since I’m always learning new things, I thought I would make this a writing advice series so you all can know the craziness of my discoveries on the subject. I hope these thoughts are helpful to you in your own writing journey. While I can’t promise you that we won’t always stay dry on our voyage downriver, I will do my best to keep us from colliding with any partially submerged boulders along the way. Now, strap on your life-jackets and let’s get started.

Lesson 1: Great writing requires more perseverance than talent.

Just as any like road trip you have ever taken, writing is a journey through grand vistas and dinky little shanty towns with several miles in between passed in absolute boredom. This means that you will have some inspired times of creative writing and some absolute slumps. Write through all of them. Write through every circumstance and emotion. If you can train yourself to write everyday whether you feel like it or not or whether you “have the time” or not, you will be a successful writer.

All writers begin the same way: illiterate. Think about this a moment. If we were born with the ability to read, then I might agree with the notion that writers are great because they have lots of talent. But writers don’t start out great—ever. It takes years of education for us to learn to read stories, let alone write them. This is why persistence is so much more important to a writer’s success than initial talent. If you persistently practice your craft and strive to make each writing session better than the last, your improvement in skill will come naturally. Yes, there are some of us that have more imagination than others or are better at turning a phrase, but these are all things that can be improved with practice. So please practice! Practice writing every day. I won’t go so far as to claim that practice makes perfect, but I do believe that practice makes better.

More to the point, you cannot publish and make money off of an unfinished project no matter how “good” the writing is. People often think that successful writers are people like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling because they make tons of money and have quit their day jobs to write full-time. This is actually a lie. King, Rowling, and all the rest are not successful authors because they make money at their chosen profession, but because they have the discipline to finish what they start.

Let me repeat, finish what you start. I can personally attest to the power of this practice. My best days are the days that I finish what I start because being able to push away from the computer keyboard after a job well-done is the most freeing and empowering feeling in the world, especially after a hard-fought battle with the story. Finishing what you start is one of the hardest battles that writers have to face because the temptation to quit when writing gets difficult is so monstrously easy. All I have to do is save and close out the document so that I don’t have to look at it anymore. Wouldn’t that be so much nicer than writing through with the problem that I am facing right now? It is painless to write when the muse strikes you, but it is so agonizing to continue to write when you feel that you creative energies are null.

I myself have great difficulty writing through my stories’ problems. Evidence of this is the stack of twenty short stories and two novels currently sitting in my computer. Only half of these are publishable, because only half of these are complete. When considering this, the hard fact is that I am sitting at about a fifty percent success rate. I am working to improve that percentage, but it will always fluctuate up and down whenever I finish a project or tackle something new.

The main reason why I have so many incomplete manuscripts is because I like having at two different projects going at any given time so that I can flip from one to the other when writer’s block wedges itself firmly in my path. While not a bad strategy per se, I have a problem of just keeping my projects limited to two. Often times I will start more than I can finish and end up abandoning certain projects.

To solve the problem of abandoned stories, I have decided to only tackle one large project and one small project at a time. My overall personal goal is to finish as many as four of my in-progress short story rough drafts and have all of my currently finished rough drafts edited and ready to publish by Christmas this year. That is still a ton of work to finish up, but it is far more manageable than trying to hop between ten different projects at once. It would have been far better if I had not started and then pushed so many projects to the back burner in the first place. This is my reward for not writing through my creative slumps. Please don’t make my mistake. Always finish what you start. You’ll be a wiser and more confident writer in the end, if you do.

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

🙂 Alycia

P.S. – Please be patient with me as I continue to perform reorganization maintenance of the main website and on my photography website through the end of September. My goal is to make both sites easier to navigate since I will have a ton of new photos to show you all after my upcoming vacation to Alaska!

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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