Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: Alycia C. Cooke (Page 1 of 9)

What I’m Doing During My Summer Vacation: Not Resting

Musings_Cover-4x6ACIt’s been a crazy summer…heck, it’s been a crazy year. I’m trying to remember the last time I didn’t work at all on a weekend. April? February? I think it was one of those two months. If I’m not writing, I’m editing. When I’m not editing, I’m formatting. When I am doing anything publishing-related, I’m shooting photography, tweaking graphic art designs, or sleeping.

And why am I doing all of this? Well, simply put, I’m doing it for you. I want my readers, fans, and clients to have the absolute best work I can produce, so I have done everything I can to ensure that projects like the book MUSINGS are finished on time in top quality. When MUSINGS finally becomes available this Friday, June 20, 2014, it will have a gorgeous cover and (hopefully) zero typos because of the hard work and long hours that the book’s editor, beta readers, designer, formatter, printer, distributors, and I have put into it.

Yes, my world has largely revolved around the short story collection for the past several months, but MUSINGS is not the only project on which I’ve been laboring. Below is a look at other things that have occupied my time.

Since the last full update in April, I have:

Finished writing the rough draft of my novel DREAMDRIFTER! The current version stands just over 126,000 words. I have lots of personal editing, beta reader critiques, formal editing to do before the book will be ready for publication, but having the first draft done is a great accomplishment.

Continued writing The S.E.E.D. Keeper novella. This piece started out as a short story originally titled “Zoo Tales” and grew from there. The current word count is about 11,000. I am not resolutely focused on this story so its germination will likely be slower than other works on my writing desk.

Continued writing “Thorn and Thistle” story. I assume that this swashbuckling fantasy story will end up being a midsized novelette (around 12,500 words), but I could be wrong. So far I’ve written 7800 words on it and am having a blast with the characters.

Logged 15,000 words total in fiction writing during April, May, and the first half of June—a bit less than what I would normally prefer (I like a minimum of 6500 words a month), but good progress nonetheless.

Made lots of updates to AlyciaChristine.com including creating a special Fan Corner and adding sidebar images of my published stories. I plan to add more features to the Fan Corner and to the website in general as fans request it.

Finished creating cover art for short stories and a book. “A Song for Naia”, “Chosen Sacrifice”, “Of Kelpie Lullabies”, “Raven’s Fall”, and MUSINGS all sport cover art that I designed from photographs that I shot and/or art that I drew. The five final images represent a combined total of 12 photos from nine different photo shoots and countless hours of graphic design work.

Proofed, formatted, and published for eBook versions of four different short stories: “A Song for Naia”, “Chosen Sacrifice”, “Of Kelpie Lullabies”, and “Raven’s Fall”.

Proofed, formatted, and pre-published eBook and print book versions of the book MUSINGS.

Changed my author name from Alycia C. Cooke to Alycia Christine. Find out why HERE.

Photographed a wedding reception party for friends and clients of mine.

Photographed several residential properties for a client.

Created two new company logos for Purple Thorn Press for use in all print and electronic communications.

Created 24 advertising pages for inclusion in the print edition of the 131st West of the Pecos Rodeo program.

Helped replace our home’s defunct water heater.

Upgraded our home’s outdoor lighting.

Reading:

Began reading Jesus Today by Sarah Young. I like Young’s devotional books. Their daily readings are short, but always poignant.

Continued reading the Bible. I have finished the books of Titus and Philemon. I am currently reading the Gospel of Luke.

Continued reading Duty by former Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates.

Continued reading the From the Indie Side anthology.

Finished The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore. The book’s world-building is wonderful, but I must confess that the pacing felt off to me. There were times in which the characters were in supposed situations of mortal danger and I found myself yawning through the fight scenes. Salvatore writes well overall, but this first book lacks tension. As the author has gone on to write many more books, I do suspect that that aspect does improve in future books, but I haven’t had the chance to test my theory. Overall rating: 3 of 5.

Read Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Butcher’s main character Harry Dresden is interesting, but I’m not sure if the series is quite my cup of tea. Generally speaking, I have a very difficult time getting into murder mysteries (with the exception of the Castle TV series) because I’m not a huge fan of the macabre. When you add a pretty deep introduction to occult ritual magic into the mix, I start to feel downright queasy. Harry is written as a smart-alecky anti-hero character with a bit of old-fashioned charm thrown in to help lighten the mood in an otherwise extremely dark book, but I found his character to be far more of a jerk than perhaps the author intended. I made a promise to Ian to give the Dresden Files series another chance. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Overall rating: 2 of 5.

Began reading On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Began reading The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg

Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

Played Cubis 2.

Played Mahjong. The casual games have abounded these past two months because I just don’t have time for anything more in depth.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Continue work on the rough draft of “Thorn and Thistle”.

Proof and submit SKINSHIFTER for publication.

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

Find out how to set up book readings and signings around my local area.

Take a full weekend off.

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!

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!

Werewolves in Central Park?

Treasure_Chest-AC_4x6It’s only Tuesday and already this week is busy. I’m hard at work finishing the last preparations for the publication of “Raven’s Fall” this Friday and before the entire short story collection of Musings becomes available for preorder in a couple of weeks. I cannot wait for the Musings book cover unveiling! The cover art is so beautiful! For now though, I hope you’ll be content with a short story excerpt from the book. The short story “City of Twilight” is about a pack of werewolves living in Central Park. It is also the first fiction short story I ever wrote. Enjoy!

The setting sun peeked through the gray clouds, illuminating the cracked concrete with its wan light. Darkness would soon overtake the city and once again release the Nightmares, but for now the sunlit ruins were relatively safe.

“I hope so anyway,” Carn murmured.

The shaggy black werewolf sat quietly at his post on the grassy hill and surveyed the shattered buildings closest to his forest home. His hazel eyes constantly darted from shadow to lengthening shadow as he searched for movement among the ruined streets while his nose continually sampled the damp air for unnatural odors.

He could still make out the architectural details of the crumbling building nearest to his section of forest—a stone virgin stared at him with blackened eyes as she knelt beneath the remnants of a cracked cross. There was little left of the structure’s steep roof and even less of its flower-shaped, stained-glass windows. What had the church looked like when it was whole? How manicured had Carn’s forest been when it still acted as the central park to this enormous American metropolis? The Human Plague had reduced the city surrounding Carn’s home to a necropolis. Then the subsequent 40 years of Nightmare Wars had twisted it further into a ruin. It was a pity that so much beauty had come to such spoil.

“A pity, but not unexpected. As my father always said, ‘Pride goes before destruction.’ And the human scientists had more pride than even the worst angels,” Carn said and shook his head. “If the fools hadn’t tried to kill us off with the Henbane Virus, most of them would still be alive to threaten us today. How ironic.”

Carn’s tongue lolled out, but his silent laugh quickly faded as a cold tingle suddenly crawled the length of his spine. Frowning, he checked the nearby underground cache of Henbane Catalyst that he and his packmates used to bolster their shape-shifting abilities. Carefully he pulled out the black rubber stopper of one of the glass vials with his fangs and took a small sip before resealing the container. His laugh returned as the warmth of the formula spread out from his stomach to his extremities. He flexed the muscles in his limbs appreciatively as the serum took full effect. He would be ready to shift from a wolf into a human and back again in a few moments’ time if the need came.

He took a quick inventory of the full vials as he stashed his brew once again. More than enough to last the month. Good, he thought. We’ll not have to run to the Sinai Ruins for more until the next full moon, then.

And speaking of running…

Carn’s ears perked at the sound of fast footfalls. His eyes followed his ears to the corner of a half-shattered apartment complex and spied a frantic human female sprinting across the broken pavement toward the safety of the trees.

Her eyes and voice were filled with terror. “Help me, someone, please!”

The werewolf growled in surprise. He knew of only two human families still living on the outskirts of his forest territory. His pack held protection pacts with both of them, which allowed their members to come to the forest on hunting and bartering trips. This female belonged to neither of those clans. Carn howled a warning to his scattered pack as he ran to intercept the stranger…

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!

Flashes of Perspective: Shooting a Bloody Moon

Blood_Moon_AC4x6Early on the morning of April 15, 2014, people around the world watched as the lunar eclipse produced a blood red moon. Thanks to the help of my awesome husband, I was able to photograph the event while lounging with my injured foot propped up beneath a pile of blankets. That night has been the only time in the last month that I have been physically able to shoot anything so it was a rare treat. Another thing that made that 2AM shoot so special was because it required all of my understanding of shutter speed and ISO to actually successfully capture the moon.

Let’s Get Started

As I discussed in my 2/3/2012 Flashes of Perspective lesson: Illuminating a Camera’s ISO, the ISO setting controls a camera’s sensitivity to environmental light. This in combination with the camera’s aperture and its shutter speed will affect how light or dark a specific photograph develops. If you are unfamiliar with camera ISO, I highly suggest you read the Illuminating a Camera’s ISO lesson before you continue this article, otherwise what I have to say won’t make much sense. Also keep in mind that since the article was written two years ago, the ISO range on professional series cameras has increased quite a bit (50-102400 ISO range on some models instead of the ISO range of 100-6400) even if the general principles remain the same. For now, let us discuss shutter speed.

Shutter speed, also known as exposure rate, is the measure of how quickly a camera takes a photo. It is usually measured in seconds. Let’s say that I want to take a photo of a flower on a sunny day. I already know that I need to set my ISO at 100 or 200 because there is so much light available, but what should I use for a shutter speed? I cannot afford to make my shutter speed too slow, otherwise the photo’s subject will have too much light exposure and look washed out (also known as a blown out photo). Therefore I need to set my shutter speed to something fast like 1/2000 of a second to make sure that the photo isn’t too light or too dark and has a good color balance.

Shooting photos at night are much trickier than shooting photos during the bright day because nighttime shots tend to require a camera’s light sensor to overcompensate for the lack of light. This often creates very grainy photos that have a lot of noise in them. To try to reduce noise in their shots, most people tend to turn on the camera flash and let it flare. Doing this, though, can kill a shot just as easily as sun glare because it means your photo will be blown out even though it was actually taken in darkness. I don’t recommend this. Not only will a flash flare look unprofessional, it also will not work on subjects as far away as the moon.

So how did I successfully shoot the lunar eclipse? Well, I used my knowledge of shutter speed and ISO to cheat the system, so to speak. On a cloudless night, a normal full moon gives off enough light that you can shoot it using 100 ISO (the same ISO used on a bright sunny day). The trick to getting all of those lovely crater details is to manipulate your shutter speed so that your camera shoots just a little slower than it would during daylight (1/1000 or 1/800 will likely work well for this). My experimentation with this technique during the eclipse’s beginning produced some very good shots; however, as I lost more and more valuable light in the end stages of the eclipse, I had become more and more drastic with the ISO settings and shutter speed that I used.

Let’s Break It Down

I shot the photo seen at the beginning of this article at an ISO of 6400 (my personal camera’s highest light sensitivity setting) and a shutter speed exposure of 1/25 of a second. For anyone unfamiliar with 1/25, this is a shutter speed that is slow enough to cause very serious camera shake if you don’t brace the camera. I usually don’t recommend using any shutter speed below 1/125 of a second without having the camera properly braced on a tripod or you’ll likely produce a blurry photograph.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the Rules of Photography are more like guidelines than actual rules and on the morning of April 15, I was definitely treating them as such. The photo seen below is of the blood moon as shot with an ISO of 6400 and an exposure of 2.5 seconds. I purposely set the shutter speed so low because I wanted to blur the moon and its sidekick star. I started the shot by placing the moon in the upper left corner of the photograph. I held my breath to reduce camera shake and then moved the camera in a swirl to create a pattern with the moon’s afterimage.

Blood_Moon_Dance-AC4x6I love both of these photos, but for different reasons. The first is far more of a standard photography shot documenting a specific event. The second photo is far more whimsical in its style and presentation. Both photos have equal merit, but I would expect to submit the first to a newspaper and the second to an art gallery. This idea of these contrasting images of the same subject brings me to this lesson’s homework.

Homework

For this assignment, I want you to shoot four different subjects using different ISO and shutter speed settings to photograph each. Each of these subjects must be photographed in low light. You must photograph them in such a way that you show your understanding of how to use ISO and shutter speed to achieve the best possible photograph in low light conditions. This means that there should be very little noise or camera shake evident within the photo. Once you have achieved at least one photo of each of these subjects that any newspaper would be proud to feature, you can purposely blur the subject in creative ways to show off the wild side of shutter speed. I want to see a minimum of 12 good photos captured of these four subjects. I highly suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework, although that is not manditory. Good luck and have fun!

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

[ O*] Alycia

“Chosen Sacrifice” is Finally Published! (And Other News)

Chosen_Sacrifice_f-1563x2500After a long week of formatting, I proud to announce that “Chosen Sacrifice” has been published! All of you demanding a copy of the short story can now own one for $0.99 no matter where you shop. The Smashwords edition is live and ready for download right now and the Amazon Kindle edition will go live tomorrow. The editions for Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Diesel should all be live by May 2nd at the latest (depending on the speed of individual company departments) and more likely available this Friday. In the future, I’ll do some tweaking so that the different editions’ release dates are much closer together. For now though, you can find just about every single file format type right now at Smashwords or you can wait a couple days to download from your favorite store. It’s completely up to you. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep you all entertained with a few updates and other such tidbits.

Since the last full update on March 18, I have:

Sat on my duff writing, reading, and not much else. The reason why is because I injured my right foot while running across an uneven parking lot. This has to be one of the dumbest injuries I’ve ever had and it also is one of the longest to heal. Consequently I have been relegated to the couch with a mound of pillows to keep my foot elevated while I continue to work using my laptop and a handful of books. The lack of solid footing has made photography and landman work largely impossible. Fortunately my clients have been beyond understanding and supportive of me as I take the necessary “down time” to rest my foot. The doctor thinks and I hope I’ll be back to normal in another couple of weeks.

Written, edited, and formatted a lot of fiction. Because I cannot sit still for very long without going crazy, I have filled my “down time” with lots of writing and related activities to help keep me sane. I received and finished implementing my editor, Lorelei Logsdon’s, corrections on Musings. I also finished writing all of Chapter 21 and most of Chapter 22 on Dreamdrifter. Chapter 22 has caused me more problems than I ever anticipated, but I think I can finally finish it this week. I spent most of last week formatting Musings and the “Chosen Sacrifice” ebooks according to Smashwords Edition and Kindle Edition standards.

Created book covers. I made a mockup of the Musings book cover using two photos that I shot months ago during unrelated projects. I also edited the book cover for “Chosen Sacrifice” (new cover featured at the top of this article) so that it complies with updated ebook cover standards. I think both covers look fabulous and I’m quite excited to see what you readers think this week with “Chosen Sacrifice” and next month when I reveal the cover for Musings!

Visited two friends in the hospital. Both friends had to undergo open heart surgery—one had a quadruple bypass, the other had a double bypass. Both of them are doing well, but it will take time for each to recover fully.

Visited friends and family San Antonio. Last weekend (actually April 11-13), my husband was kind enough to get me out of the house for a mini-vacation. We loaded me plus luggage, pillows, crutches, and a borrowed wheelchair into the car and then he drove us to and from San Antonio, Texas. The six-hour road trip was definitely worth the strategic nightmare. Matt and I ate lunch on Friday with my aunt at La Madeleine’s and then stayed with dear friends for the rest of the weekend. Hanging out with Ian and Chrissy and their family was a much needed reprieve for me. Ian is one of my closest friends, in fact I call him “bro” because he pretty much is the brother I never had growing up. Even though we talk regularly, I hadn’t seen him, Chrissy, or the kids in over two years. The four of us adults went to Oyster Bake while the kids were babysat by Ian’s mom. We were worried that my being on crutches and/or in a wheel chair during the weekend would cause problems, but there were enough handicap access routes to make our lives much easier. That being said, the bedroom and bathroom arrangements proved a little interesting once we got back to the Macs’ home. Since I couldn’t climb stairs, we had four adults using the same shower. Matt and I also had to take up temporary residence in the nursery while the baby slept in the master bedroom. (Chrissy, Ian, you’re saints!) On Saturday, Ian, Chrissy, Matt, me, and the kids went to the Farmers Market at the old Pearl Brewery for breakfast and shopping. As I expected, the food was just as spectacular as the company. That night saw even more great food thanks to a catered birthday party at Ian’s parents’ house. The food was divine, the company sublime, and we were sad to leave. On Sunday, Matt and I ate a good breakfast with the Mac family, ate lunch with my husband’s parents, sister, and our new nephew, and then we drove home from a weekend adventure that was too short.

Nearly had to shoot someone. Shortly after we returned from San Antonio, an intruder tried to pick the lock to our house’s front door. Matt was working at the time and I was sitting typing on my laptop in the den, so I assume that the would-be thief assumed that the dark house meant that no one was home. When I heard the door handle jiggle, I thought that Matt had come home early from his shift. I realized after five seconds that whoever was on the other side of my door didn’t have a key so it wasn’t my husband or anyone I trusted. I jumped into my office chair and rolled with lightning speed to grab my gun. By the time, I had rolled back to the door, the assailant was gone. A wise decision on his part. One might think that I’d be a little edgy after such an incident, but I slept soundly that night. I guess knowing that, should the worst happen, my husband and I are prepared to defend ourselves helps bring me some peace of mind. That being said, we will be upgrading our exterior lighting and security system this week.

Reading:

Continued reading the Bible. I finished 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians during my daily devotionals. I have supplemented devotional reads with daily entries from the Jesus Today devotional by Sarah Young.

Continued reading Duty by former Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates. Dr. Gates was the president of Texas A&M University when Matt and I attended school there in the early 2000s. He worked as an intelligence professional in various capacities for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for many years (including his years serving as Director of Central Intelligence from 1991-1993) before becoming involved in academia. Ian and I were involved with an on-campus organization called Bonfire Coalition that worked closely with Dr. Gates and other members of the A&M administration to help foster the memory of Aggie Bonfire as an enduring A&M tradition and to lift the moratorium on Bonfire-related merchandise after the tragic collapse of Bonfire ’99. I greatly respect the man.

Read the Ciaphus Cain short story “Fight or Flight” by Sandy Mitchell. While I’ve never been particularly interested in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I have to admit that Ciaphus is a highly entertaining protagonist. I will definitely read more stories featuring him in the future. (Thank you, bro, for the introduction!)

Continued From the Indie Side anthology. As I mentioned before, I found this while reading Hugh Howey’s blog the other day. I’ve finished seven short stories so far.

Continued The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore. While I enjoy the characters of Drizzt and Wulfgar, the book drags too much for me to stick with Salvatore’s series. I need faster-paced writing as well as good world-building to keep me enthralled. While this book has great world-building, it just doesn’t have the pacing for me.

Gaming:

Played Jumbline. I love this smart phone game. Not only does it keep me entertained, it helps me expand my vocabulary a bit, too! A must-have for this writer.

Played Minecraft. I am still playing on peaceful mode even though I finished building my pyramid-style house weeks ago. After all of the conflicts I have to solve in life and in my books, sometimes it’s just nice to go fishing without worrying about getting an arrow in my back.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Finish Chapter 22 of Dreamdrifter. That will leave me with barely two or three chapters left to finish the book’s rough draft! I am so excited.

Format and publish “Raven’s Fall” for FREE through all major stores. I expect the publication date for this ebook short story to be May 9. Watch the blog for more updates!

Continue readying Musings for publication on June 20. I am shooting for at least a four-week long preorder window to give everyone a chance find the book before it launches.

Get back on my feet and shoot more photography. I was able to shoot the blood moon while sitting down thanks to a lot of help from my husband, but I haven’t been able to do anything else.

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!

The Tale Behind the Story: Chosen Sacrifice

Chosen_Sacrifice_Cover_4x6This Friday will mark the official publication day of my short story “Chosen Sacrifice.” With that in mind, I thought it might be fitting to tell the story behind the making of this beautiful tale.

“Chosen Sacrifice” was a difficult story to write. Essentially, it is my love letter to unwed mothers and their families. Over the course of my short life, I have known many women who have given their bodies over to passion instead of purity. Sometimes the result is simply a broken heart. Sometimes the result is the burden of an ill-timed baby. And very occasionally the result is a newlywed family. In all cases, my heart breaks for these women who must shoulder so much responsibility often at too young of an age. The simple strength and sacrifice of many of these women to become single working mothers astounds me, but I also recognize that many of them could never do what they do so successfully without the love and support of their families. It is with these emotions in mind that I created the character of Miya.

In Miya, I wanted a character who prized honor above all else and yet had committed one of the ultimate dishonors within her society by volunteering herself as a concubine. While her motives for seeking the emperor’s bed were pure, her actions themselves were anything but. As the emperor’s pregnant mistress, Miya has been marked as forever off-limits to other men. And once his heir is born, the emperor will cast Miya aside as something no longer useful to him. Miya cannot marry and make a family of her own and so she follows the last option left to her: she runs back to the person she calls Father for help.

I don’t want to spoil the story for those who have not read it, but suffice it to say that this story really is about Miya’s fight for survival while trying to seek refuge with the one person who might still be able and willing to help her. It is about her struggle to regain the honor that she has lost and to find a way to right her wrongs even in the face of death.

I hope you all enjoy this fantasy fiction story when it becomes available as an eBook on Friday. I will send out links on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook when it is published. Until then, 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!

MUSINGS Publication Day Announcement Means Writing in a Bubble?

Chosen_Sacrifice_Cover_4x6For those of you desperately wanting to know when Musings will be available, wait no longer! I am proud to announce that the official book publication date is June 20, 2014! Mark your calendars so that you can be prepared to journey through Musings in whatever way you prefer. That’s right, the book will be available in print and as an e-book in all the major formats (.mobi, .epub, .pdf, and more)! To help readers celebrate, I am releasing three e-book short stories at free or next-to-nothing prices starting next Friday, April 18th. Be ready and check the blog for announcements, because “Chosen Sacrifice” is coming your way just in time for Easter!

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog article: “Write in a Bubble, But Don’t Live in a Bubble.”

Writing itself is often very solitary. Most writers need a good amount of uninterrupted quiet time to build stories and solve problems. Granted, not every writer’s quiet time is exactly quiet. Many writers I know like to listen to music while they type away at a scene, and some even prefer to have the TV on in the background. I prefer listening to either soft movie soundtrack music or nothing at all. This way, other people’s lyrics don’t distract me from writing my own words. My best writing times are always in the mornings when the neighborhood is quiet and the phone is silent. Whether you prefer little or lots of background noise, your time with your story needs to be uninterrupted. Turn the phone off or leave it on silent in another room. Disconnect your computer’s internet connection so that you are not tempted to surf the web or check email. Your characters have been patiently waiting for you to continue their story and so they now deserve your full attention.

Because I am a natural introvert, I do very well with long periods away from other people. However, this is not always good. Every author needs the social recharge that comes from other people. Likewise every author needs to be recharged creatively. We may need to write in a bubble, but we don’t need live in a bubble. When I first became serious about writing, I tried for a time not to read any other stories besides my own. I made the mistake of thinking that I did not have the time to “waste” on other people’s books because I had my own. What I discovered; however, was that the longer I cloistered myself from others and their creativity, the less creativity I myself possessed. I have learned the hard way to strike a balance between my job, my writing, reading, gaming, exercise, housework, and goof-off time with others. As much as I love to shoot photography or write, I cannot do either all the time any more than I could hang out with my family or friends for all hours of the day and night. I need each facet of my life, but I also need breaks from each, too.

Find a balance between your writing and your recharge that works for you. Some writers need more social interaction and creative stimulus and some need less. Likewise each writer needs different kinds of social interaction and creative stimulus.

The concepts of writers needing different kinds of social interaction and creative stimulus spring from the different personality types that I will briefly explain here: sanguines, cholerics, melancholies, and phlegmatics. Sanguine and choleric personalities are usually extroverted, which means that they recharge by being around other people. Melancholies and phlegmatics are usually introverted, which means that they recharge by being away from other people. All personalities need a balance between being with or away from others, but each usually requires a different balance.

People who have sanguine personalities usually like to be the center of attention. They do well in the role of “the life of the party” because they require lots of direct contact with others to recharge themselves and use charisma and charm to get what they want from others. If others are not having a good time, the sanguine feels like a failure.

People who have choleric personalities are the born leaders and recharge either by leading other people through a project or task or by pushing through it themselves. The choleric loves a good challenge and is rarely afraid to hurt others’ feelings if it means that the job gets done. Cholerics can be seen as bossy or rude in stressful situations, but they are also some of the most logical and self-confident people you will ever meet.

People who have phlegmatic personalities are the peacemakers and relators of the world; the ones who sincerely care about how your day is going. They like social contact, but usually prefer their interactions with others to be on a fairly deep, one-on-one basis. In a group larger than three people, phlegmatics can become very shy and quiet. Of all of the personalities, phlegmatics are the most adaptable—taking on some of the traits from a different personality type depending on what others need. They are also the most stressed when dealing with direct confrontation.

Finally, the melancholy is the most introverted and the moodiest personality of the four. Melancholies tend to be extremely artistically and creatively gifted, but weak in interpersonal and social skills. They also tend to be very organized planners and stubborn perfectionists.

Of the four personalities, sanguines and phlegmatics tend to deal with other people more easily than cholerics or melancholies. Consequently, sanguines and phlegmatics are the personalities that deeply need to be around other people to relieve stress while cholerics and melancholies often need to be left alone.

Most people have two dominant personality types with one slightly stronger than the second. Mine is melancholy with a nice helping of phlegmatic on the side. This means that I need long stints of alone time with a few good helpings of small-group visits to keep me mentally healthy and balanced. It also means that I need as few distractions as possible when I write. Since I am naturally more alert in the mornings, I tend to do my best writing early in the day when distractions are limited and my focus is sharp. Finishing my daily word quota then helps keep me energized to continue hacking down the rest of my To-Do list to size.

Taking a personality test to find out which personality mold you most fit will really help you understand your needs as a writer and a person. It also will help you learn how to better relate with other people and to your characters. What writer wouldn’t want that! Once you determine your particular personality needs, you can take your writing to a whole new creative level.

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’m Not Attending AggieCon (and a Short Story Excerpt)

Split_Sea_Falls-AC4x6As most of you know, March has been a rough month. One of my friends died, another friend had a cardiac episode which led to a quadruple bypass heart surgery (she’s recovering well), one of my editors has been in the hospital since February thanks to a massive stroke, a family member relapsed, and I injured my foot. Last week’s foot injury has left me unable to photograph, drive, or do much of anything aside from write on my laptop from the confines of the couch or bed.

While I’m glad to still have the ability to work in some capacity, I will still miss attending AggieCon this year. For those of you headed to College Station, Texas, this weekend, I hope you have a lot of fun! For those of you who are sticking close to home like me, here is a little fiction reading that I’ve written just to brighten your day. The following excerpt is from “A Song for Naia,” one of the science fiction short stories included in the Musings anthology. Enjoy!

We called the world’s natives the Frozen since they were trapped in the secret places beyond our light. I know not how long they existed inside the glacier’s cold shadow, but I do know that my people were the first to give them fire songs.

My first fire song after our landing lit the night sky with a vision of our ship’s travel through the black void between our rotting world and this sea-blue jewel. The hardship of the journey was still evident in the char streaks along the ship’s dented orange hull. The fire song was full of golden high notes symbolizing hope and I believe it was these notes in particular that woke Naia.

I heard her discordant plea inside my mind. “Come! Come! Recover me,” it shrieked.

So I left the safety of our campfire with only my own kindled soul for warmth and sought the cold cave beyond our camp’s radiant circles of light. It was there in the womb of the ice that I made my first memory of Naia’s ethereal face.

She was the Frozen bound closest to the surface. Her blue-black countenance was caught in eternal terror, her six limbs were pushed up to protect her from the icy waves now solidly encasing her. She stared blankly until my fire-laced fingers touched the ice before her oval face. The heat of my song’s passion melted the cold separating us and her green gaze met my glowing red eyes. Awareness awakened after many millennia and she seemed to recognize me.

“Oft have I craved the warmth of your touch, Ryad,” her voice echoed in my mind while her look told me we would be lovers if I could free her.

Naia’s and my combined songs sparked a kinship stronger than her bonds and her spirit’s kindling soon awakened all of her people. The Frozens’ spirit songs cast visions across the blue stars of my people’s bright coming. In sleep they had waited for us, the Fire-bringers, to leave our own scorched planet and melt theirs.

Now their spirits sing constantly in our minds. “Burn away our cold aloofness,” they keen. “Your blazes, dear Embers, fuel our passion and thaw our icy abode.”

“We two are equal parts, Ryad. Together we become balance,” Naia’s thoughts whisper inside me even as I continue to melt my way toward her freedom under the setting blue sun.

Each sundown renders our daily progress futile as the twilight temperatures refreeze our fire songs’ work. Others of my people have given up and will not leave the radiant security of the campfires. They say there is no hope of ever freeing our destined lovers without ourselves being frozen to death in the process, but I say I must try even though I might die in the attempt. Many frostbitten Ember corpses have been consumed in our campfires as their Frozen partners’ spirit songs die with them.

For Naia’s sake I must succeed. As I was her hope in the beginning, now she is my hope to the end…

The story continues in the Musings anthology, which I’m proud to say is in its final draft. Even with cover art delayed for the moment, the book is right in line with its publication date. Next week, I’ll finally be able to announce what that date is! I’m so excited!

Until then, 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!

Flashes of Perspective: A Balloon Story

InWonderACS3x5When artists talk about the different techniques involved in our craft, we sometimes forget that all of the technique in the world cannot replace the creative spark that guides our work. After all, my fondest memories of a particular photograph come not from the techniques I used to capture the shot, but from the beauty that I was able to record with my camera at that particular moment. Consequently I would like to share one of those moments of beauty today and tell you the story of how it came to be.

In 2011, my husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to go on our first vacation together since we have been married. To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to take a road trip from Texas to Colorado to see the sights. We had always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and during our time in Colorado Springs, we finally had our chance. We bought our tickets well in advance and readied ourselves to wake up at 5 a.m. on the morning of the flight. Instead of waking up at 5 a.m., however, I woke up at 4 o’clock with an upset stomach. By the time my husband was awake, I was thoroughly miserable.

I was far too stubborn to stay in the hotel room and miss the possible fulfillment of a childhood dream, so my husband drove to the launch site outside of Larkspur while I rode in the passenger seat clutching a trashcan to my chest just in case. I stayed near the site’s port-a-potties for most of the morning, but finally felt well enough to fly the blue skies. It took a while for the wind to die down enough to make a hot air balloon ride safe, but once the winds and my stomach finally calmed, the journey skyward was spectacular. There were two huge balloons toting 12 passengers apiece. While Matt and I traveled in one, I was able to photograph the other.

I was proud of all my shots that day, but the photo that I call “In Wonder” remains one of my absolute favorites. I captured this particular photograph while our hot air balloon was traveling up the slope of the hill that is visible in the photo. The winds shifted at just the right moment to carry the other balloon into my camera’s field of vision. I waited until the balloon and the hill aligned just across the horizon from each other at more-or-less Rule of Thirds ratios and snapped the photo.

All too soon, we had to land the balloons and end our floating adventure, but the memories and photos of flying beneath a colorful envelope filled with hot air still bring a smile to my lips.

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

[ O*] Alycia

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