Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: gaming

Showers, Flowers, and Keyboard Head-Banging

Along_Tracks_AC4x6As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, fall is here and I am excited. I love this time of year for many reasons, but one of the major ones today is that autumn usually brings rain to West Texas. After a sizzling summer, the cooler temperatures and more frequent showers create a wonderful recipe for last-minute eruptions of wildflowers to color the landscape before the bleak, brown vision of winter descends upon the desert.

Consequently I was shooting Black-Eyed Susans and doing happy dances most of last weekend. It was heavenly. I don’t know what it is about wildflowers that make me so deliriously joyful, but they do. Of course, the last few weeks haven’t all been sunshine and flowers. I’ve also been hard at work on other projects as well. Some of these projects have gone very well and some have caused me to bash my head against my keyboard more than once.

Since the last full update in August, I have:

Writing:

Wrote, edited, and published “The Cleaning” short story. This fiction piece is a much darker tale dealing with the problems of corruption and censorship.

Finished writing “The Twirling Ballerina” short story. This story is short and bittersweet at about 2800 words. It’s making the beta reading rounds right now it seems to be jerking tearful smiles from just about everyone who reads it. We’ll see what my editor says, but I’m really hoping to release this story around December 1 as an early Christmas present for everyone.

Wrote “A Hero’s Moment” short story. This is a 6500-word tale that won’t hit eBook screens until 2015, but I think the wait will be well worth it. This was a fun writing-romp and I think it will just enjoyable of a read…once I get it polished, of course.

Continued writing Thorn and Thistle. The story has been inexplicably frustrating for the past month with one bout of writer’s block after another. Since the first 25,000 words came so easily, I wondered when the other shoe would drop and it finally did at 28,000 words and 10 chapters into the tale. Since then, it seems that I have trekked uphill in the freezing snow to capture every single new word. I finally had to reread the story from the beginning so that I could double-check plot inconsistencies and momentum problems before moving forward. That has helped matters, but it is still a long slog. Time for more research!
 
Photography and Graphic Design:

Photographed pieces of real estate, industrial equipment, and a historical building for clients.

Photographed wildlife including birds and dragonflies near Weslaco, Texas. Several of my blog photos during September were taken during this shoot.

Photographed wildflowers near Monahans, Texas. Today’s photo is from that shoot.

Posted new art photography on my website: “Along the Tracks”, “Gossamer Beauty”, “Orb Cloud”, “Three Beauties and a Beast”, and “Water Bug Ripples”.
 
Reading:

Continued reading the Bible. I finished Acts, Philippians, Colossians. I began reading Romans and 1 Corinthians.

Finished reading The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing. This book is a great source of knowledge for indie authors. I took notes while I read it, which saved me the hassle of trying to remember all of the tips and tricks tucked into this little volume. Last month, I began implementing some of the authors’ advice with good results.

Read Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas by Edward Klein. A fascinating and sometimes unsettling look at these key players in the Democratic Party. The book read like a fast-paced soap opera. If the real-life people are anything close to Klein’s portrayal of them, I pity them.

Read “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Anderson. While I enjoyed the premise of the story, I forgot how dry some of the author’s tales can be.

Read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I finally read this classic story! It’s a truly beautiful and thought-provoking tale.

Read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This was an interesting, but sometimes frustrating story to read. I found it a bit of a mixed bag with characters that I alternately enjoyed and disliked. It was real and, at times, very gritty in its portrayal of life and death. All in all, it pulled no punches as a cancer book.

Read Broken Aro by Jen Wylie. This book had great potential, but ultimately flopped on delivery. I liked the characters, but the plot was horribly cliché. The writing needed serious editing, especially in regard to punctuation. All in all, this story lacked substance and refinement from beginning to end.

Read Divergent by Veronica Roth. Wow, this story was incredible. I loved the characters. The plot was fast-paced and engaging. The vivid writing grabbed and drug me kicking and screaming straight into Tris’s world. I loved the Dauntless culture and yet I plainly saw its flaws.

Read Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I was so sad to leave the Dauntless culture behind, but the larger cultural world of the factions and their political affiliations was very thought-provoking. As usual the tension of the plot me and the vibrant characters kept me reading well into the night.

Read Allegiant by Veronica Roth. This book was a much slower read for me than its predecessors. The plot was neither as strong or as well-paced as Divergent or Insurgent for me. The writing, while good, lacked the same strong flow due to the split narrative. All this being said, though, I loved the book’s conclusion. I know other people who were less than enthusiastic about it, but I found the ending quite powerful and moving.

Continued reading of Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. I’m stalled on this book, not because it isn’t good, but because my pirate research for Thorn and Thistle has taken me elsewhere. I hope to finish Crichton’s book soon.

Began Real Pirates by Barry Clifford and Kenneth J. Kinkor. I had picked this book up a few years ago at The Denver Museum of Nature & Science and now I’m finally getting the chance to put its information to good writing use. Yeah!

Began reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. While I am not a huge fan of King’s books, he is a master storyteller. His book, so far, is interesting from a biographical point-of-view. It’s laced with stories from the author’s life as well as his opinions on what makes quality writing. Like me, King adores Strunk and White’s book The Elements of Style and makes regular references to it in his own book. We’ll see how it turns out.

Read a few Wall Street Journal articles.

Read a few Writer’s Digest articles.
 
Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

Played Mahjong.

Played Minecraft.

Played Munin.

Played Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights.
 
Other:

Finished writing my 2015 business plan including a complete publishing schedule for 2015.

Created an “Authors Goals” poster detailing my business dreams and aspirations to hang on my office wall.

Attended the Laredo Comic Con. This was a tiny convention with a few panels and booths available. It was fun, but not a con that I’ll likely attend again anytime soon.

Began a workout regimen alternating between Karate and bike-riding. I studied Karate during and after college, so I’m excited to train in it again. Hopefully it and the biking will give me more energy and keep me healthier.

Taught Children’s Church while my husband was gone on business trips.

Purchased a new phone since mine was no longer holding a proper charge.

Purchased a new, more comfortable office chair.

Replaced the kitchen faucet.

Repaired both my husband’s and my cars.
 
My goals for the next six weeks are to:

Create e-book cover art for “The Twirling Ballerina” short story.

Publish “The Twirling Ballerina” short story.

Finish cleaning up “A Hero’s Moment” short story and send it to my beta readers.

Write “Space Junkers” short story rough draft.

Finish the rough draft of Thorn and Thistle.

Participate in National Novel Writing Month. I know that writing 50,000 words in a month on a story unrelated to any of the work mentioned above probably won’t happen, but I enjoy trying to kiss the wind.

Continue my workout program.

Prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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!

The Flights of August

Green_Sea_Flock-4x6ACAugust is going well so far. My intrepid forays into flights of fancy have resulted in my working on three very different writing projects at once. I’m having a thoroughly fun time putting each of the stories together as well as doing several other good things.

Since the last full update in July, I have:

Writing:

Continued writing Thorn and Thistle. As of yesterday, I’ve completed 23,800 words on the project. The story has taken a couple of interesting twist that I’ll have to resolve very soon so progress is a hair slower than I expected, but taking the extra time is proving valuable. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Began writing “The Ballerina” short story. I’m not very far along on this story. Right now it is little more than a single scene. I expect this story to be a bit of tear-jerker when I get finished with it, but we’ll see.

Wrote “The Cleaning” short story. This is a short story that topped out around 1800 words. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in pure power. It still needs a decent round of edits, but I can’t wait to publish this!

Received a rejection letter about Skinshifter from a publisher. The company cannot take on new authors at this time, but the editor did ask me to resubmit in six months, so I’m quite pleased about that.

Photography and Graphic Design:

Photographed pieces of real estate for several clients.

Posted new art photography on my website: “Rivulets in Gray” and “Green Sea Flock”.

Drew and inked a new design called “Frond Droplets”.

Reading:

Continued reading the Bible. I finished the Gospel of Luke and am now reading Acts.

Began reading The Naked Truth About Self Publishing. This particular book is an excellent resource for writers who are trying the independent or hybrid publishing routes. One word of caution: the book was written by several bestselling romance authors so, while the advice is great, the chapter titles are pretty raunchy.

Began reading Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton for fun and research. I’m enjoying the read so far.

Read a few Writer’s Digest articles. I love this magazine! Its articles have definitely helped me improve my writing skills over the years.

Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

Played Munin.

Played Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights.

Played Minecraft.

Other:

Updated my 2014 company business plan and began writing my 2015 business plan.

Culled and filled office papers in my filing cabinets.

Completed writing, editing, and sent author interview to BookReview.Ninja.com.

Created a Musings book giveaway on Goodreads. By the way, there are only 11 more days to enter the contest!

Organized the books and decorations in the library.

Taught Children’s Church while my husband was gone on business trips

Had repairs done on a kitchen cabinet.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Finish the rough draft of Thorn and Thistle.

Finish the rough draft of “The Ballerina”.

Finish editing “The Cleaning”.

Create e-book cover art for the three stories.

Continue marketing Musings in places online.

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

Alycia


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

How Life Has Changed Since Publication Day

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

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

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

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

Since the last full update in June, I have:

Writing:

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

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

Photography and Graphic Design:

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

Photographed pieces of real estate for several clients.

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

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

Reading:

Continued reading Jesus Today by Sarah Young.

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

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

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

Other:

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

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

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

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

Volunteered during the West of the Pecos Rodeo.

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

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

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

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

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

Begin marketing Musings in places online.

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

Alycia


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

“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!

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!

SCRAWLS: The Fake Geek Girl, Part 2

Geek_Badge-Color2-4x6ACWelcome to Part 2 of the Fake Geek Girl discussion. Last week, I explained the Fake Geek Girl phenomenon and the pressing problems of prejudice and sexual harassment associated with the Fake Geek Girl perception. Today I want to conclude the Fake Geek Girl discussion with the less obvious but more perilous issue of dehumanization.

So what is dehumanization? Well, to put it bluntly, dehumanization is a mutated form of devaluation. As I said in my previous post, dehumanization is the destructive form of mental and social blindness behind the societal thorns of sexual-harassment, gender-bias, and general prejudice. When you or I see others as less human and therefore less valuable than ourselves, we blind ourselves to the true beauty of that person. Likewise if we dehumanize ourselves, we blind ourselves to our own true worth. The “Fake Geek Girl” is one very prominent example of this blindness, but it is only a symptom of the root cause.

When one person devalues another, he or she usually excludes the offending person outside his or her own social circle. The excluded person then does one of three things: she will either try to reestablish a relationship with the person shunning her or she will establish a relationship with another person or she will remain alone. Because we humans are social creatures, almost all of us will continue to try either reestablishing relationships or establishing new relationships throughout our lives. Almost all of us also exclude others from our social groups based on our personal evaluations of others’ compatibility with our own set of values, morals, and preferences.

There are many reasons why we devalue each other. For example, I might perceive another person as too old or too young to fit into my social group. Someone may not like the same forms of entertainment that I do. They may follow a completely different set of religious or moral principles than I. They may be physically weak, disabled, or otherwise unattractive in some way to me. And the list of examples continues.

So how does the human habit of devaluation and the subsequent problem of dehumanization relate to the geek community? Well, to answer that, let us look at the history of geeks. Since its beginnings in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the geek community has mainly been a group of people would rather immerse themselves in the subcultures of science fiction, fantasy, and horror rather than in more mainstream entertainment. This love of the “weird” over the “normal”, led many other people to devalue, dehumanize, and marginalize these citizens. Indeed many science fiction genre books were originally sold as novelty items in porn shops despite having little or no sex in them at all. Because geeks have historically been sequestered from most of mainstream society, the geek community as a whole has been very open and welcoming toward newcomers. However, within the last 10-20 years, that has begun to change.

The geek community has ballooned in size in recent years thanks to the increased popularity of science fiction and fantasy genre movies and TV shows such as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Futurama, and Firefly. Add to that rapid expansion the widening interest in video games, anime, and fantasy books such as the Harry Potter and the Twilight book series and the members of a once vibrant community of “outsiders” have suddenly found themselves thrust screaming and kicking into the mainstream. Consequently this oversized community has ceased to be held together by the common glue of “It’s us verses the world” and instead has begun splintering into factions of “true geeks” versus “fake geeks”. Of course the criteria for “true geeks” varies so widely that it is next to impossible to discover where the boundaries between true and fake lies.

Take me for example. I am not considered “geek enough” by certain members of the gaming community because I do not play serious games like first person shooters (FPS) or massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG). However, I still consider myself a gamer because I love and regularly play games like: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Portal, Portal 2, Minecraft, Sims, Eufloria, Mahjong, Cubis, and Spider Solitaire. And, while I have no interest in personally playing the Mass Effect series, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my husband play through all three games’ story lines. My spouse is certainly a more active gamer than me because he devotes more time to the hobby than I do. But does that make me less of a gamer? Not remotely.

The same could be said about my hobbies of reading, writing, or anything else. I may not have written and published over 20 best-selling novels, but I am still a writer. Does my current publishing count of one devotional, two fantasy short stories, 20 by-lined news articles, and 1000 ghostwritten market reports make me more of an author than someone who has published a single story? No. At the end of the day, both of us can be honestly introduced as authors. The only difference is that I can claim more experience in certain areas than my colleague…for now.

Never has this problem of devaluation-based splintering been more apparent than during the AggieCon 44 “Fake Geek Girl” discussion panel. At one point in the discussion, Dr. Nerdlove commented on the fact that the Twilight Saga book series by Stephanie Meyers had brought a lot of attention to vampire mythology among its fans. At the mere mention of Twilight fans, there was a collective groan among most members of the audience. When the audience recoiled, Dr. Nerdlove warned them not to do so because, as he explained, “These are the people you need to recruit to become the next generation of geeks.”

It worries me that most people in the audience seemed to easily dismiss his statement. Such acts of aversion and dismissal seem to show that geeks are taking their aversion to the Twilight series and automatically transferring that animosity to the Twilight fans themselves. This is the exact thing that so many panel attendees were angry about geek men doing to cosplayers thanks to their aversion to Booth Babes (see The Fake Geek Girl, Part 1 for that discussion).

Admittedly, I sympathize with people who dislike the Twilight Saga. I personally found the books’ writing style prosaic, the themes confused, the characters shallow, and the protagonist of Bella to be a weak-willed and petulant doormat. That being said, I believe that it is my job as a reader, an author, and an all-around geek to make sure that a Twilight fan feels welcome around me. It is not my job as a geek to rake him or her over the proverbial coals for liking the book series; however, it is my job to introduce him to books like Twilight that are better written and truer to historical legends. Perhaps after reading Twilight, a fan becomes genuinely interested in traditional vampire lore. At that point, I can expose him to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the historical accounts of Count Dracula’s real life inspiration, Vlad the Impaler. Perhaps I can encourage him to read the Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi, the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine, or even my own Metamorphosis series. These works are far darker than the sparkly Twilight series, but they are also far more accurate and well-written depictions of vampires and their relationships with humans.

If we well-educated geeks can gently introduce the uninitiated to well-told stories through books, games, movies, and TV series, we will have the opportunity to grow our community into a thriving and welcoming environment. Getting individuals interested in a story that is well-told is the surest way to overcome the social barriers that otherwise divide us as people. If we can do that, then we just might survive the thrust of our community into the center spotlight.


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

SCRAWLS: The Fake Geek Girl, Part 1

FloraACS4x6“What is a Fake Geek Girl?” I asked myself as I headed toward the so-named AggieCon discussion panel on Saturday evening. The answer, I discovered, a true hydra of a problem facing the geek community. The panel itself was moderated by Dr. Nerdlove and was far more of an audience-participation panel than I had expected. I found myself so intrigued and yet perplexed by the audience members’ comments surrounding this age-old problem with a new name that I feel compelled to discuss it anew some three weeks later.

The concept of the Fake Geek Girl seems to have developed during larger conventions such as ComicCon where major corporations and retailers have hired female models called Booth Babes to dress in provocative outfits and sell merchandise (of which they often know little or nothing) from company booths. The existence of these booth babes has caused an apparent backlash within the geek community. Many geeks, especially male geeks, are now openly hostile toward women (especially beautiful women) who claim that they like such things as science fiction and fantasy video games, TV series, movies, books, comic books, etc.

Many of the men attending the panel commented that most of the warped perception surrounding the supposed Fake Geek Girl comes from men who feel betrayed by the use of Booth Babes in the first place. Several men inferred that they and others have felt duped by the beautiful scantily-clad women who charm them to a booth and then try to sell them something instead of being genuinely interested in the things that they like. Rather than being angry at the corporations responsible for hiring the Booth Babes; however, some of these men express their anger toward the women themselves and allow their mistrust to develop into a wider prejudice toward all convention Booth Babes, all scantily-clad and/or costumed women at conventions, women in general, or some combination thereof.

The women had little to say about the Booth Babes themselves, but several female audience and panel members discussed the fact that they have been sexually harassed, bullied, and quizzed by men to determine whether they were, in fact, Fake Geek Girls. This prejudiced treatment occurred most often when women were dressed as characters from various video games, movies, cartoons, anime, or TV series. Most people attending the panel room vocalized the opinion that wearing a skimpy character outfit should not affect how others treat you.

While I agree with this opinion, I know that it is sadly not a reality. Modern science has confirmed that men are very visually-oriented when dealing with sexual arousal. And even the Bible discusses the fact that “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7b, NIV). While gender-based bias and the subsequent sexual harassment should not exist, they still do.

Women and men, to a lesser extent, have been fighting sexual harassment in and outside of the workplace since time immemorial. This dirty part of human nature is a fact of life. A fact that is part of the reason most companies and schools require and enforce strict dress codes for their employees. Like it or not, the way we dress has an impact on the way others perceive us. If you or I dress in a business suit, we know that people will treat us with respect and deference. If I throw on a pair of faded jeans, I expect others will interact with me more casually than they do when I am in my business best. If I wear a bikini, I assume others will take longer looks at my body because I am covering it with far less clothing. We human beings are socially and mentally wired to pay attention to how others dress. Above all others, marketers know and use this inescapable fact to their advantage. From book covers to movies to coffee cups and everything in between, marketers know that less clothes equals more looks and more looks equals more purchases. This practice is why we have the many barely-clothed characters portrayed in comic books, fantasy games, and anime which are the usual inspiration for cosplayers and other dressed-up con-goers. That being said, corporations have also looked to con attendees for inspiration regarding their Booth Babes’ standard of dress.

If women and men want to fight and specifically weed out sexual-harassment within the geek culture, then they must encourage mutual respect among all participants—whether they are modestly dressed or not. However, geeks should also realize that that respect starts with you and me. If I, as a woman, do not think myself beautiful enough to attract men without showing off amble cleavage or midriff, then what kind of self-respect do I have? How can I expect others to treat me with respect if I do not give it to myself first? What kind of respect am I showing toward men if I willingly invite men to think of me sexually by flaunting my body around them?

If men and women are to ever achieve true respect for each other within (and outside) the geek community, we must stand together to a) push comic book, anime, and game industry leaders into choosing more conservative outfits for their characters, b) inspire decent dress by all participants at cons, c) directly confront and discourage sexual-harassment whenever we find it, and d) educate people what it truly means to dress respectfully. All of these options are controversial, but are nonetheless required if people want to accomplish real social change.

The social thorns of sexual-harassment, gender-bias, and prejudice all sprout from the same ugly seed: dehumanization. When you or I see others as less human or less valuable than ourselves, we blind ourselves to the true beauty of that person. Likewise if we devalue ourselves, we blind ourselves to our own true worth. The Fake Geek Girl is one very prominent symptom of this blindness.

I will discuss dehumanization more fully in my next SCRAWLS post and explain what it means to the geek community at large. For now, though, I hope my post proves as thought-provoking to you as the Fake Geek Girl panel was to me.


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

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