Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: Alycia Christine Sears (Page 1 of 8)

“Paper Castles” Is Out Today!

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

Story synopsis:

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

Want to buy it? Go HERE.

Want to read the excerpt? Go HERE.

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

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

Now on to our somewhat regularly scheduled blog…

Cactus_Colors-4x6ACCactus Colors

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

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

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

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Writing as a Business: What Writers Really Do All Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

“Paper Castles” Pre-Order Time!

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

Here is the story synopsis:

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

Want more? Check out the excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shook my head. “No, not yet.”

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

“A swan,” I said eagerly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alycia


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

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!

What is the Best Tool in a Writer’s Arsenal? The Answer Might Surprise You

Dune_Trek-AC4x6Today I thought I would let you in on a writing secret that isn’t so little. It is one of the most important things I’ve learned as a writer and it is a fact of which I constantly remind myself. It is simply this: writing is a marathon not a sprint, so be patient.

Let me repeat, your writing career is a marathon not a sprint, so be patient and persistent with yourself and your work. Make no mistake that this is a career choice—one that has a long gestation period. I have heard it said that to be an expert in a certain field requires you to practice the associated skill set consistently for ten to fifteen years. For writing, this is particularly true. Most new writers are so excited and inspired about crafting the “next great book” that they try to rush through the writing process instead of enjoying the journey. I know I certainly did. However, most newcomers to the profession have no idea what a long slog they are about to undertake. Almost every person who has ever been inspired by a great book swears that she has a novel or two floating around in somewhere in her head. While that is probably true, most normal people do have the necessary level of patience, persistence, and discipline to contribute the sheer amount of work and time required to empty that story from their brains and hearts into a cohesive collection of chapters.

How much work are we discussing? Well, let us suppose that you write 400 words every single weekday just as I have suggested you do in previous articles. Writing 400 words per weekday gives you 2000 words per week and 104,000 words at the end of a single year. A good average length for a fantasy book, for example, is between 80,000-120,000 words, so writing 100,000 words in a year is very good. If you do finish a 100,000 word novel within the first year of your writing career, then congratulations! Please take a moment to pat yourself on the back because you have just achieved something that most others will fail at doing.

So, now is the time to take your beautiful book and submit it for publication to your favorite publishing house or self-publish it, right? Wrong! Do not make your baby in any way, shape, or form public (yes, that includes posting all of it on your website blog for people to read)! Instead take your manuscript and lovingly file it away in the bowels of your computer and/or in the back your sock drawer for a while.

Now that that you work is safely archived and backed up in case of the Apocalypse, go treat yourself to a little vacation time. Take a few days off from writing. Take a fun trip, paint your toenails, throw a party, knit a new scarf, or whatever else you want to do. You’ve earned it! After all, you have just done something that you weren’t sure you could accomplish a year earlier. Seriously take a little time to celebrate! You will need the time off before you begin the next part of your writing journey.

When you come back from your vacation, sit down and plan your next project. Work on it for a few weeks and give your first novel time to “rest”. I recommend leaving the first novel alone for about two months. The reason for this is because the resting time will help you read your baby with fresh, unbiased eyes. This is extremely important. I am sorry to tell you that when you finally do look at the manuscript, you’ll be shocked to see that it is not quite as perfect as you remembered. There will be misspellings, comma-splices, run-on sentences, clichés, and phrases that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. If you are like me, you will want to bang your head on the keyboard when you realize the amount of edits you need to make.

This is where patience comes into play. While I was writing my Skinshifter novel off and on from 2006 to early 2009, I also wrote other shorter works. Short stories like “Sumari’s Solitude” helped me refine my skills using dialogue and sprinkling in underlying tension. This translated into better and better writing when working on the book. Even so, “Sumari’s Solitude” and other short stories of that time period have each undergone at least four revisions each to clean up their prose and double-check their plot continuity. I just finished my fourth draft of Skinshifter in August 2013 and then promptly sent it off to beta readers to critique it again. My current copy is now the fifth version of the manuscript.

Why would I do this five times? I’m insane, right? Remember that Skinshifter was my first novel—the book I used to learn how to write fiction in the first place. Many authors I know have their first novel manuscript printed and permanently locked in the bottom of a drawer. Most of them have sworn that their first novel will never ever see the eye of an editor, much less a reader. Most first novels are too poorly written to be made public, but they serve as important reminders to their authors of all they achieved and all that they learned.

Skinshifter was not quite to the point of being bottom-drawer fodder, but it was pretty raw when I finished its first draft in February 2009. Due other circumstances in my life, I could not actually pick it up and edit it until early 2011. At that time the book underwent major rewrites in preparation for it to be formally critiqued by a local English teacher. Between her keen eye and my ruthless revision, I managed to make the book presentable to publishers. Or so I thought. After submitting the manuscript for publication and receiving several kind but firm rejections, I decided to drag it back into the editing cycle this past summer to see what I was missing. Thanks to my incredible beta readers, I finally found continuity errors that I had overlooked in the previous three drafts. I am far more confident in it during this round of beta reading, but I also know that there is more work ahead before it is good enough to be published. Such is the life of a writer.

I am not saying that every single story will require five revisions. Some stories need more help and some less help than others. I have about five short story rough drafts which are finished, but which will never see the light of day because their plots are too broken to be fixed. I also have one story that only required a single editing session before it was published. If you pay attention to your story’s needs, you will know when a manuscript is fit for publication. If a story does not feel right, edit it again or send it to a beta reader that you trust. Do this over and over again until the story feels solid.

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 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!

How Does an Artwork Sale Lead to a New Year’s Resolution?

Sparked_Sky-4x6ACI can’t believe it is New Year’s Eve! It seems to me that the year of 2013 just pulled a vanishing act. The month of December in particular has flitted past my awareness faster than a white rabbit disappearing inside a magician’s hat.

Speaking of vanishing, I must remind you all that today marks the last day of my Photography Sale. If you have not had the chance to purchase some of my gorgeous artwork, don’t delay any longer. Remember to use the Discount Code YMHLAA in your shopping cart to receive your savings. Okay, I promise I’m finished advertising. Now it’s on to the rest of today’s post!

Ever since I posted my Christmas sale, I’ve been hard at work doing a thorough review of my work accomplishments this year. If that sounds a little boring to you, believe me when I say that it often is for me, too. I mean I do love seeing all of the things I’ve created and improved over the past 12 months, but I also hate discovering all of the things that I failed to do.

There were several things that I did very well this year:
 

    • Created and scheduled maintenance of AlyciaChristine.com
    • Increased of my blog writing from monthly to weekly
    • Maintained my Tuesday posting schedule
    • Updated my photography website with new photos frequently
    • Used new photos to add interest to my weekly blog posts
    • Kept up with my daily and weekly house chores
    • Began and maintained daily Bible readings
  •  
    All of these things are wonderful personal accomplishments. However, there were several problems this year that must be addressed and corrected. Chief among these is my fiction writing schedule. While my weekly blog writing was regular, my weekly fiction word count was anything but steady. Most weeks saw one or two days in which I wrote strong word counts, while most other days I wrote little more than a sentence. There were also several weeks in which I didn’t manage to write anything at all. This major lack of consistency led to delays in finishing stories of all lengths and consequently caused me to fall behind on most of my year-end tasks.

    If I am going succeed in writing, then I will have to put it first before all of my other major jobs. With that in mind, I made the following list of Goals for 2014:
     
    Writing:

      • 300 or more daily word count total for fiction (1500 words minimum per week)
      • SCRAWLS & Flashes of Perspective blogs maintained weekly
      • Fireforger: at least 3 chapters written

    Photography:

      • Find a stock photography outlet for my work
      • Continue to sale new photos to my photography website (at least 1 new photo uploaded per week)

    Marketing:

      • Twitter maintained daily
      • Facebook maintained weekly
      • Newsletter maintained monthly
      • Amazon.com: Alycia C. Cooke author account made and maintained monthly
      • GoodReads author account maintained monthly
      • Maintain AlyciaChristine.com website with regular updates
      • AlyciaChristine.com: Build an “Opt-In” button for free copy of a short story to build contact list

    Personal:

      • Exercise body at least 20 minutes every weekday (bike rides, karate, weight lifting, etc.)
      • Exercise soul once a day (prayer and Bible-reading time)
      • Exercise mind once a day (learn something new every day; read for fun and information every week)
      • Learn to properly prioritize my jobs
      • Finish what I start (nip procrastination in the bud)

     
    My plan is to use the small daily word count goals to increase my confidence and then increase them later. I have also simplified my goals in other areas to help improve my writing. If I write only 300 words every workday of 2014, I will have a total of 75,000 words by the end of 2014. This word count will allow me to meet and even surpass my larger book-writing goals for the year as long as I stay focused. I find time management and prioritization very difficult, so I hope the smaller daily goals will help me combat those issues.

    One final note on Musings: my beta readers have asked me to reorganize of the book’s included stories. Specifically they feel that the “Elza and Eliza” short story is not a good fit for the overall book and suggest that I publish it on its own or as part of a different collection. I have to agree with their assessment. The story’s longer length and its particular plot have more in common with the Sylvaeleth worlds discussed in Skinshifter and Dreamdrifter than any of the stories in Musings. Although it saddens me not to include “Elza and Eliza”, I promise that readers will see it sometime in the future.

    Consequently, Musings now includes the following stories:

    • “Banner Prophesies”
    • “Chosen Sacrifice”
    • “City of Twilight”
    • “Of Kelpie Lullabies”
    • “Raven’s Fall”
    • “Star Child and the Golden Seed”
    • “Sumari’s Solitude”
    • “What Tendrils Echo”
    • “Winter’s Charge”

    The final book will include a collection of 10 to 12 short stories, but I am not sure which ones will be added to the current list yet. Please keep watching the Blog and News pages for more updates. Thanks so much for your patience!

    Until our next meeting, have a joyful new year! May we each rewrite our world for the better!

    🙂 Alycia


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

    Remembering Rebekah

    TexasStarforBekahACS4x6As we draw closer to the joy of Christmas, today has actually proved to be bittersweet for me. Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of my best friend Rebekah’s near-death and the start of her continued convalescence. Even though she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital on December 16th, I didn’t find out about her brain aneurysm until the 17th. That phone call changed my life in a way that not even the deaths of my grandparents could.

    I’ve known Bekah since we were eight-years-old. She has been my best friend from the Second Grade and beyond. There are photos of us in my family albums holding hands as we skate around the roller rink with bows in our hair. In every one of my birthday photos, Bekah is there—always smiling at the camera in between bites of cake and ice cream or laughing at my strange jokes.

    As we grew past the hair bows and into teenage troubles, Bekah and I cried on each other’s shoulders many times. She was the first person to whom I would tell my secrets and from whom I would ask advice. Bekah never would believe it, but she was one of the smartest people I knew. She always envied me because I was so academically savvy, but I always envied her because she had so much common sense. Her straightforward logic trumped my problems every time.

    Bekah understood me and I understood her in a way that few other people ever have. We were both dyslexic and school was a shared nightmare for us. I handled the pain of reading, writing, and mathematics by burying myself in my studies of the arts and sciences, hoping to get enough good grades to go to a top-ranked university one day. Bekah buried herself in her horse, teaching herself to ride as well as some of the best equestrians in the business. When Bekah was on the back of a horse, she felt free. I, meanwhile, just felt saddle-sore.

    As much as Bekah loved children and horses, I suppose it was inevitable that she would end up volunteering to do Turf Therapy during high school. She loved teaching mentally and physically handicapped kids how to ride a horse. She loved watching their confidence in themselves grow as they mastered the art of directing these 1000-pound steeds.

    We graduated from high school and continued on with our lives: me to Texas A&M University and her to South Plains College. By freshman year’s end, I had come close to suffering a nervous breakdown thanks to dreaded Chemistry and being 400 miles away from my family and friends while Bekah had met the love of her life. By the end my sophomore year, I had switched majors and Bekah had dropped out of school to get married. As she and her husband Cody danced the night away, I had to flick a few tears from my eyes. I had never seen her so happy.

    While I continued to work toward my bachelor’s degree, Bekah and Cody made a life with each other. It was difficult at times, but they always came out on top together. Bekah worked hard to help put Cody through college and then he did the same for her. It had taken Bekah a few years to figure out what she truly wanted to do for her life’s work. She knew she wanted to help kids, but she wasn’t sure in what capacity. After a stint working as a special education teacher’s aide, she had firmly ruled out being a teacher.

    Although she liked the academic setting even less than I did, she was deeply intuitive about children’s needs and extremely passionate about teaching them to succeed. Bekah finally decided to pursue being a Children’s Occupational Therapy Assistant, so that she could continue to help kids in her own way. Her COTA course load made my head spin. Bekah fought through and eventually aced every single course she was thrown from basic biology to anatomy and physiology. School had finally proved a triumph for her.

    By this point in our lives, Bekah and I barely saw each other three or four times a year owing to the fact that we lived across Texas from each other. When we were together; however, our time spent apart suddenly didn’t seem to matter. We had become more than friends; we had become sisters to each other—enjoying our similarities and differences with equal enthusiasm. We laughed and cried together about everything: from the sweetness of our husbands to how frustrating our respective families and friends could sometimes be.

    A few weeks after she’d taken on her first full-time job as a COTA, Bekah and I met for lunch. It was to be our last normal meal together. My 29th birthday and her 30th birthday were fast approaching so we treated each other to a Mediterranean style lunch complete with dolmas, hummus, pita bread, and chicken shawarma gyros. Bekah has always had an adventurous palate, but she had yet to try any of these dishes. We had a wonderful time talking and eating. I think I had definitely convinced her to try more of the gyro sandwiches.

    It would be at another lunch a month and a half later that my world would collapse. My husband and I were just finishing our seafood meal when my mother called. I picked up the phone expecting to hear news about my ailing grandfather and instead almost dropped it when Mom uttered “Bekah” and “aneurysm” in same sentence.

    Matt and I drove over seven hours that night to find Bekah lying in a darkened ICU room with her head bandaged and her face swollen past identifiability. I thought—all of her loved ones thought—that we would bury Bekah within the week, but that was not to be. Bekah is a fighter even when she shouldn’t be. She fought to live; she fought hard and she won—sort of. Within days of her sudden, inexplicable brain trauma, Bekah’s mind showed more electrical and blood flow activity than the doctors thought possible. Within weeks she was breathing on her own. Within months she could move her head and the tips of her fingers.

    As the months went by, though, her improvements slowed. Now she stares and smiles silently at me in between bouts of sudden sleep. When we were younger, I was sometimes frustrated by her tendency to be a motor mouth when excited. Now I can’t stand her silence.

    This morning I dreamed about her. We were sitting in her room at the special care facility where she now lives and Bekah’s roommate was griping at the two of us because we were being so loud with our talking and laughing together. Time had once again stood still to listen to the sounds of our mutual joy. As I awoke, the echoes of the dream faded and I realized once again that our time with each other had been cut too short.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I said nothing.

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

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

    “What is your name?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    🙂 Alycia


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

    Flashes of Perspective: Why My Thanksgiving is Golden

    Alycia Christine Sears (a.k.a. Alycia C. Cooke)

    Alycia Christine Sears (a.k.a. Alycia C. Cooke)

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This week is such a special week for me because it offers an opportunity for me to thank God very specifically for the many blessings He has given me. Above all of the many material things with which God has blessed my husband and me (a comfortable home, decent health, enough money to provide for our needs, etc.), we are fortunate enough to have each other and a family that loves and supports us. I can’t wait to spend this beautiful holiday with our family members and friends.

    Because I want you to have the same opportunity, there will be no lesson today. Instead I have put together a special FOP blog post with photos of things for which I am thankful. Enjoy.

    I am thankful for:

    The joys of art and creativity:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/iron-mantis-alycia-christine.html

    A working government:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/victoria-legislative-lights-alycia-christine.html

    Quiet, thoughtful moments:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/swinging-into-oblivion-alycia-christine.html

    My wonderful, creative, frustrating, crazy job:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/chosen-sacrifice-book-cover-alycia-christine.html

    The Lone Star State which I call home:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/welcome-to-texas-alycia-christine.html

    The people who grow my food and make my clothes, so I don’t have to:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/typical-west-texas-alycia-christine.html

    Moments of entertainment:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/ferris-blues-alycia-christine.html

    My freedom:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/beauty-beyond-the-bars-alycia-christine.html

    Those who put their lives on the line to protect me and my freedom (Thank you, Husband, Dad, Uncle, Grandfathers, friends, and blessed strangers): http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/patriotism-alycia-christine.html

    A well-build, comfortable home:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/constructs-of-wood-alycia-christine.html

    Electricity:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/arched-elegance-for-mom-alycia-christine.html

    The freedom to believe and worship as I wish:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/christs-red-door-alycia-christine.html

    The opportunities to witness the magnificence of nature:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/blue-fluke-alycia-christine.html
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/mountain-ice-alycia-christine.html

    That this guy isn’t still around:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/squish-alycia-christine.html

    The beauty, steadfastness, and unity of love:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/the-lord-god-loves-them-all-alycia-christine.html

    The brilliance of color:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/vibrant-alycia-christine.html

    Spending time with family and friends:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/midnight-carnival-alycia-christine.html

    Reliable transportation and the open road:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/along-highway-17-alycia-christine.html

    Receiving some of the coolest toys:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/soft-silhouette-alycia-christine.html

    Sunsets:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/sky-fire-alycia-christine.html

    The changing seasons:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/gilded-autumn-alycia-christine.html

    That a rainbow always follows the storm:
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/windmill-promises-old-and-new-alycia-christine.html

    What Jesus Christ did for all of us (Read Isaiah 53, Romans 5 and 6, John 3):
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/bleeding-purity-alycia-christine.html
    http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com/featured/leaf-among-thorns-alycia-christine.html

    Finally I am thankful for all of you. Thank you for your support and encouragement of me as I continue this crazy quest called self-employment. You truly help make my life golden!

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

    [ O*] Alycia

    SCRAWLS: November Updates

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

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

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

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

    Since the last update, I have:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    My goals for the next four weeks are to:

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

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

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

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

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

    🙂 Alycia


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

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