Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: self-publishing

Why I Lost My Way

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Let me apologize…

I’m sorry, but I’ve lost my way. For months, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with this blog. I’ve had little motivation to write it and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know. I mistreated my creative subconscious and now it’s enacting its revenge.

The worse writer’s block that I ever have when writing a novel always happens when I make my characters do something out of character. When I put them in a situation where they act against their own natures, the half-oiled wheel that is my writing squeaks to a sudden, inexorable halt. I end up with my muse and my characters giving me the silent treatment—refusing to talk or to budge from their stilted position on the page until I fix the scene and solve the problem. I’m afraid the same thing has happened here on my blog.

Let me explain…

If we are all the main characters in our own lives, then I have acted out-of-character on this blog and I am sorry. I really haven’t been writing to my strengths and the creativity here has suffered for it.

For the past several months, I’ve been writing more and more frequently about the self-publishing process because it’s a very relative topic which many readers and writers find interesting. I’ve shared my expertise about the process of self-publishing as I’ve experienced it. But here is the problem: self-publishing isn’t really my passion and neither is teaching.

I chose to pursue self-publishing as a more direct and efficient way to interact with my readers, not because I necessarily prefer it over traditional publishing. Like anything else in life worth pursuing, indie publishing is very challenging. If I’m honest, I’ve developed a bit of a chip on my shoulder toward the publishing process (both traditional and independent) because it is such a difficult slog. There are no short cuts in this business, not even as an indie author. I am an indie author because I must be. At the end of the day, I am still the person most passionate about my own art and so I am the person most qualified to share my art with others.

So in the end, it is still my soft voice up against the roar of the world’s vast creative oceans. As much as I care about the work I’ve done, how can I ever hope to share it with others? How do I get my work distributed into the hands of my readers? My website blog and book distribution partners like Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords have certainly given me a toehold in the game—far more than what I ever had ten years ago. And yet I am still one small voice adrift in the sea. Albeit one with a raft.

The real problem is…

And then, just I was learning to steer that raft, I became convinced that such an endeavor was useless unless I also taught others how I do it. I believed the lie that my work was not as valuable in and of its own right unless I taught others the method I used to produce it. The problem with this is two-fold. First, it means that I lost confidence in my own unique work. Second, it means that I’ve tried to be something I’m not.

I’m not a teacher. I’m a mentor. I work best with one or two people under my wing at a time, not an entire lecture hall. I’m far more interested in why things happen, then how they occur. It’s just how I am—how God built me. Instead of trusting in my Father’s plan, I tried to push one discipline into the other and make it work. Shame on me. Believe me, I didn’t mean to undermine my own God-given strengths, but I did it anyway. That’s usually what happens when I let doubt gnaw at me.

So now that I’m too exhausted fighting against myself to keep up this charade, it’s time to return to my roots. I’m an artist, after all, so my energy and inspiration are renewed with each new creative discovery. Although I tend to be a deep-thinker, my natural artistic tendencies mean that I’m much better at portraying the flowers and the thorns of the world around us than I am actually teaching how they grow.

Let me make this promise to you…

All this is to say that I’m going to take this blog in a renewed direction. Instead of talking about the ins and outs of how writing, publishing, or photography work, let me instead show you the beauty of why they work and why I love them as I do. I want to do what I do best: take you along on a creative journey and share with you all of the adventures (and misadventures) along the way.

These scrawls of mine should not contain wasted ink. That just muddies the ocean of creativity more than it already is. Instead, I believe, that my scrawls should help you view the world from a new perspective and a wondrous heart.

Finally, let me also warn you…

I can’t say with certainty say how this new writing chapter will unfold in our lives together, but I’m willing to give it my best effort in the hope that I can do what I set out to do in the first place: rewrite the world for the better. Thank you for patiently sticking with me thus far. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me, even with the missteps. Hopefully, together, we will find more love and inspiration than we ever thought possible.

Sincerely,
Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 3

A few weeks ago, I began a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I wanted to prepare by writing several posts dealing with some common self-publishing myths that can cause stumbling blocks for those new to the game. If you haven’t read the first or second self-publishing myths articles, I suggest you do that before tackling the article today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.

Writing Myth #6: Getting It Right on the First Draft

No matter the area of expertise, the difference between a professional and amateur is lots of practice. Consequently, you need to prove yourself as a professional by putting in the work required of you. In the case of writers, this means that the first draft of a manuscript is never good enough to publish no matter who you are or how long you have been writing. Professional writers know that publishable material only comes after several drafts of a manuscript are complete.

In my case, I finish a rough draft and let it “rest” for at least a couple of weeks. I come back to it with fresh eyes, and rewrite a second draft of the manuscript. If the second draft meets my expectations of quality then I’ll send it to my alpha readers. I write a third draft based on their suggestions, send the third draft to my copy editor, and write the fourth draft based on her critique. With four drafts under my belt, I should be done, right? Wrong! Instead, I’ll send the fourth draft to beta readers and write the fifth draft based on their comments. If all things turn out well, the fifth draft of the novel goes to the proofreader and the sixth draft is the one that sees final publication. However, before I click that publish button, I have to oversee the manuscript’s formatting for multiple book additions including three e-book formats and, at least, one print version of the work.

What about the streamlined version of the writing/publishing process?

Sorry but what you just read is my streamlined version of how to take a manuscript from rough draft to publishable form. If I find plot holes or other inconsistences in the book at any point during the second draft revision process, it will require additional rewrites for part or all of the manuscript. Skinshifter, for example, required about eight drafts before it ever even saw my editor. Dreamdrifter only took three.

If this all sounds like a lot of work to you, well it is. I know other writers—independent and traditional—who are far less picky in their revision process and, quite frankly, their lack of effort shows. They may call themselves professionals, but their writing still proves them as amateurs because they haven’t revised their manuscripts enough. To put it in simple terms, they haven’t put in the amount of practice required to write on a professional level.

So how much practice is needed?

That depends entirely on the writer. I’ve heard estimates of five to twenty years before a writer can be considered a master of the craft. I’ve also heard the 10,000-hour-rule applied to writing proficiency. One writer, the popular blogger and author Hugh Howey, recommends that the amount of practice a writer needs to be adept at his or her craft can be achieved by writing five hours a day, five days a week, for five years. If you do the math on that you get: 5 hours x 5 days x 52 weeks x 5 years = 6500 hours total. This is considerably less than the rule of 10,000 hours of practice that I’ve heard from other sources, but I suppose it’s possible to write on a professional level after five years if the practice is deep enough and the writer adept enough in skill. The truth, though, is that writers never really master our craft because there is always more to be learned.

For me, that journey of discovery and learning is part of the joy of the vocation. I love learning and so I try to discover something new about writing every day. I’m always reading to increase my general knowledge and to deepen my understanding of writing. As I read and as I practice the act of writing itself, I grow in my appreciation of this incredible craft as a means of shared communication and artistic expression.

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

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 2

As I explained in my last blog post, I’m beginning a new mini-series on my Writing as a Business blog outlining a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. Before we begin the main guide, however, I need to make sure that you are in the proper mindset when it comes to self-publishing. Consequently, the last post and this post deal with several self-publishing myths. If you haven’t read the first three self-publishing myths, I suggest you do that before tackling the ones today. For those of you who are all caught up, let’s continue.

Myth #4: If You Publish It, They Will Read

In the beginning of the self-published book gold rush during 2008-2011, tons of indie authors hit pay dirt just by writing books and clicking the “publish” button on Amazon. Now, not so much. The book market is flooded with tons of self-published titles now and that makes it all the more difficult to compete with your own work.

Indies’ saving solution to this problem is direct marketing and networking. Since self-publishing cuts out the middleman (publishers) between authors and our potential readers, it means that direct marketing is one of our best options to engage readers. Thanks to the internet and social media, authors and readers can enjoy a more direct relationship than ever before. Direct contact to readers allows authors the ability to find out what readers want and when they want it.

However, direct marketing gets tricky. The last thing most readers want is to be spammed with “Read my book!” every time they turn around. Instead authors need to use social media to build relationships with potential readers around common interests. That is time-consuming work, but part of being a professional author is being sincere and truthful with your readers in every piece of writing you create—whether it’s a novel or a text message. After all, readers are the reason writers exist, so they deserve our best efforts.

Again this is a slow-growth game. Since most authors—indie or traditional—start out with zero marketing power behind their names, we all have to rely on direct marketing and networking to reach potential readers. The simple act of being available on social media is the first step toward finding like-minded readers. Through natural discussion, we can build relationships with those potential readers. As with anything, we must prove ourselves to be trustworthy toward others. Only after we build that relational trust in ourselves, will we begin to see readers’ trust in our products.

So what does this all mean in terms of your writing and publishing career? It means that you must be prepared to make a monetary loss on your first few books because beginning relationships with your clients is more important than profits at this point. You need to be willing to invest money to insure product quality without expecting an immediate return on investment. You need use the quality of your books and the sincerity of your actions to build reader trust in your unique products and the brand that they represent: you.

Myth #5: Self-Published Books Don’t Have Much Value

In ancient times, the written word was hand-copied and distributed as tablets, scrolls, and, much later, leather-bound books. This painstaking process meant that books were scarce and therefore of high value and price. For millennia, only the nobility and the rich owned books and benefitted from their information. This began to change as advances in printing press technology and the rise of pulp fiction began to make books much more affordable for the poorer masses. Gone were the leather bindings and hand-tipped gilt pages in favor of full-color paperbacks. The downgrade in material quality paired with cheaper prices and wider distribution meant that more people of less financial means could read and, possibly, better their circumstances through the education gleaned through books.

Fast forward to today when the cheapest and most cost-efficient book format choice is e-books, which don’t even incur a cost for printing on paper. Now, anyone with a smart phone and an internet connection can read hundreds of books for cheap or free. Thus the once-prohibitive cost of education and entertainment via even paperback books has once again plummeted for readers. Does this mean that e-books are worth less? Not remotely. The gilt pages and hand-tipped illustrations may be gone from the pages, but what they leave behind is a great story. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that readers buy a book for the story or information that it holds, not the pretty frills that it includes. This is one thing that makes e-books such a powerful tool for indie authors.

Even more important than this, though, is the fact that e-books enjoy far greater distribution to a worldwide audience through internet distribution than any book in hardback or paperback has previously enjoyed. This huge customer-base and high demand means that what self-published books lack in price, they can make up for in sales volume. This means that my self-published books can be read by people I will never meet in countries whose names I might not even be able to properly pronounce. It means that a worldwide reading phenomenon like the success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series can and will be repeated with more and more frequency as readership expands across the globe.

Even with the cheaper prices requiring bulk sales, I’d argue that the perceived value of a good book is a thing measured by more than just dollars and cents. After all, I can still remember the name of the book that first turned me into a lifetime reader as a young girl. I also remember the name and the author of the book that started me down my writing career path. Such books are almost as precious as long-time friends to me—as they are to any reader whose life they’ve helped improve. If written, edited, distributed, and marketed well, my own self-published books have the potential power to help someone else find hope and better education in the darkest and humblest of circumstances. That is a priceless fact.

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

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Drawn Art | BW & Sepia | Animal | Earth | Flowers | Trees | Mountains | Objects | Urban | Water | MORE

Writing as a Business: The Myths of Self-Publishing, Part 1

At the request of a reader, I’m beginning a new mini-series in the next few weeks on my Writing as a Business blog. My dastardly plan is to give all of you a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. I plan to start with a general overview of the steps I personally take to publish each book. I’ll then discuss each step in the process in more detail during subsequent posts. Depending on your feedback, I can change and add to the blog schedule as needed. Before we begin the main guide, however, I need to make sure that you are in the proper mindset when it comes to self-publishing. This means that this week and next week, we’re going to be busting several self-publishing myths.

Myth #1: The Ease of Self-Publishing

People think that self-publishing is easy and I can’t really blame them. Compared to the seemingly endless cycle of submissions and rejections that a single book manuscript can go through in the traditional publishing world, self-publishing a book looks easy. It isn’t. Self-publishing may be a simplified publishing process, but that doesn’t make it easy. Anyone who tells you differently is likely trying to sell you the literary equivalent of snake oil.

As I have little faith in literary cure-alls and have zero patience for their petty proselytizers, let me tell it like it is instead of wasting all of our time by sugar-coating things. Self-publishing is a slow-growth business. If you want to be an indie author, then you need to understand that you are in this for the long term. You as an indie author are a self-employed entrepreneur. And, like most starting, self-employed businesses, you won’t get rich quick. In fact, you may not get rich at all.

Myth #2: Getting Rich Quick

It’s rare that I meet an author—indie or traditional—who can make a full-time living through his or her writing. Those that do are usually the ones willing to do whatever it takes to put out the best-quality, more-professional products they can as quickly as they can. Full-time professional authors are the ones who have broken their backs writing and revising book after book. As I’ve said in a previous post, it’s usually the most persistent and persevering authors who win this race even over the most talented authors. Of course, those who strike it rich in this business usually do so because they have all of the talent, persistence, and luck on their side. To use a baseball metaphor, full-time authors are the major league players in our field. They are the fortunate few that spectators want to pay to watch even though there are millions of kids and adults who actually play the sport. To make a living as an indie author, I have to play harder, smarter, and better than many of the major league players hitting home runs in my genre.

The reason that getting rich as an author is so difficult is because book authors are the ultimate freelance writers. Unlike regular employees in any regular service industry, authors aren’t paid for the time that we work; we’re paid only for our end product. That means that we need a variety of products (books) to satisfy our customers (readers), and that we’re going to incur production, marketing, and distribution costs before we can ever see our product in the hands of our customers.

Authors get paid from the royalty off of every book we sell. For traditional authors, that royalty is usually 12-30 percent of every book’s sale price (not including any sales or vat tax). For indie authors, that royalty is often 30-70 percent. Indie authors get a larger cut than traditional authors because we do more work. Indies act as both the author and the publisher, which means that we are ultimately in charge of all aspects of the book. We deal with the writing of the book as well as its editing, formatting, legal protection, cover art, back copy/marketing description, retail distribution, pricing, and more. The extra royalty isn’t free cash for indies; every extra cent is well-earned.

Myth #3: The Small Cost of Self-Publishing

One of the biggest misconceptions I find among new authors is the notion that self-publishing costs less than traditional publishing. I never have understood that idea because when you self-publish as an author you are taking on the responsibility of publishing your own book in addition to writing it. This means that you will incur every single cost that an author and publisher will incur just to see your book as a finished product. Consequently, self-publishing costs more time, money, more commitment than traditional publishing.

If you are going to self-publish, you need to understand this high cost of self-publishing. While writing a book can be a hobby, publishing a book is never anything less than a job—complete with overhead costs, distribution deals, sales figures, taxes, and more. You as the publisher of your book will be in charge paying for the costs of editing, proofreading, cover art, marketing, and distributing your books. Note that I said books, not book. As I have previously said, a wise publisher knows that a profitable publishing business is built on a variety of products, not a one-shot wonder.

Such publishing projects can cost anywhere from $500-$10,000 per book. Depending on your individual strengths and skills, you may be able to mitigate publishing costs by taking on one or two of the publishing projects yourself; however, I caution you against doing things yourself or on-the-cheap unless you have a professional background dealing with the project in question. Remember what I said earlier about playing harder, smarter, and better than many of the major leaguers in the same genre? If your book’s writing, editing, cover art, or marketing copy can’t compete with the professional players, then you don’t have a prayer of stepping up to bat with readers.

Of course, my reasons for telling you all of this is not to discourage you, but keep you from walking into the role of an indie author blind. This publishing route is a very rewarding pursuit as long as you remember that it has its drawbacks just as traditional publishing does. I hope this helps dispel some of the misnomers associated with being an indie author. Next week, I’ll bust three more self-publishing myths.

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

Alycia

P.S.-I am happy to announce that I’m looking for beta readers for my book Dreamdrifter, the sequel to Skinshifter. If you’re interested, contact me!

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Birds | Bugs | Graphic Art | Flowers | Landscapes | Leaves | Mammals | Romance | Objects | MORE

You’re Not a Real Author

Skinshifter_Cover_9-4x6Since I began independently publishing my books in 2012, I’ve encountered an attitude among the writing and publishing communities that absolutely baffles me. When some people discover that I’m self-published, they often react with a knowing roll of their eyes as if to say, “Oh, no, it’s another one of those aspiring author wannabes.” Imagine my disbelief when someone actually said that I as an indie author wasn’t a real author. Um, ladies and gentlemen, I have five books and over a dozen short stories published in multiple formats and available across five continents. How am I anything but a real author?

Dryad_Sacrifice_Cover-4x6As far as I can remember, a person becomes a writer when someone publishes something that he or she has written and a writer becomes an author when someone publishes a book that he or she has written. If a piece of writing has appeared to the reading public in an easily digestible format (i.e. in a blog, newspaper, magazine, or book), it’s considered published. Consequently, the barrier to entry to be a writer is penning one published article. The barrier to entry to be an author is one published book. To be fair, in order to be considered a professional writer or author, you must be paid for the writing that you publish. Some groups will argue that there is a set amount of money that you should be paid to be considered professional, but money is money. When money is paid for a good or a service, that monetary exchange counts as a business transaction. Therefore, the writer who is paid that money is a professional writer, not an amateur writer and certainly not an aspiring writer.

Thorn_Thistle_3-4x6When I worked as a market reporter and journalist for the Livestock Weekly newspaper, I was paid to write 30-40 articles every week for publication. Over a period of two years, that professional writing workload meant that I produced almost 1,200 published articles. My boss who was the publisher and owner of the newspaper also wrote articles for every LW publication. Those articles were then proofed by our editor, pieced together by our graphic designer, processed by our printer, and then printed on the printing press that we stored in the back of the office building. In effect, my boss Bobby was self-publishing. And he was self-publishing in one of the premier agriculture newspapers in the United States. No one would dare say that Bobby wasn’t a real writer just because his articles were published in his own newspaper. If anything, our readers’ main complaint was that they wanted more of our newspaper with all of its timely information even faster.

Now I’m a few years older and I find myself doing something similar to what Bobby’s father did in his youth: build my own publishing company and write my own published material. Unlike Bobby’s 10-person company, my press is so small that I have to contract out-of-house for everything from editing to printing. Even so, much of the process is the same. Each book is written, rewritten, beta tested, edited, proofed, formatted for print, formatted for electronic publication, proofed again, and sent off into the wild blue yonder via distributors and retailers for purchase and perusal by readers.

Musings_Cover-4x6ACI’ll admit that the quality control process is more in-depth for books than it is for newspapers, yet I would never say that newspapers produce an inferior form of writing. After all, one of the world’s most prestigious writing awards—the Pulitzer—is given to journalists. Whatever the field, it takes a great amount of discipline and dedication to produce informative and engaging writing on a daily basis. Writing is not an easy achievement, but it is a crucial accomplishment.

I think the essential question in this debate is not whether indie authors are “real” authors, but whether indie authors write high-quality work. As in traditional publishing, the answer depends on the writing skill of the individual author in question, not on the method that author uses to achieve publication.

FirstFruitsCover2As for myself, I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to write my best for my readers each and every single day. When I began my writing career, writing my best meant that I worked as a traditionally published journalist and fiction writer. I became an indie author when traditional publishing proved too slow of a system to help me get my books to the people who wanted to read them. Now I work as a hybrid author—constantly flitting back and forth between the two publishing methods. No matter which method I use to get my words out there, my incredible readers are my final indicators of quality. Their opinion is what matters most to me. No matter what anyone else says, it is my readers who make me a real author. Consequently, the only thing left for me to aspire to be is a better writer than I was yesterday. Love and thanks to my readers! You are all amazing!

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

Alycia

~

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) blog is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with vivid fiction, deep love, and epic art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!

Books:
Skinshifter | The Dryad’s Sacrifice | Thorn & Thistle| Musings | First Fruits | FREE STUFF

Artwork:
Birds | Bugs | Graphic Art | Flowers | Landscapes | Leaves | Mammals | Romance | Objects | MORE

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!

Updates: Of Business Consolidation and Dental Work

WeatheredHyperbolasACS4x6These past few weeks have, unfortunately, not gone well. While I have managed to accomplish many related-work projects, I have not been in the best of moods. Part of that is that my poor husband has had a horrible toothache since January 10th and won’t be able to see our dentist until tomorrow afternoon (hence why I’m posting the blog early today). Matt has been in special agony for most of the weekend and the only thing I’ve been able to do to ease his discomfort has been to cook him soft foods.

As with almost everything else, our trip to the dentist means a 170 mile round trip from Pecos to Odessa. It also means that we must take an entire weekday as a sick day just to go to a simple appointment. I get so tired of not being able to find all of the food, clothing, and supplies I need locally. I also get frustrated by the high prices and lack of variety when it comes to home, appliance, and car repairs.

Lately these aggravations of living in a small town have irked me more than usual. I think grief added onto the stress of trying to achieve my writing dreams is responsible for my being far more irritable than usual. Ever since the two-year anniversary of Bekah’s aneurysm, I’ve been far less joyful than normal. Last week was especially difficult. Consequently, I’ve decided to get some counseling so that I can talk out my feelings a bit more and hopefully resolve a few things. As far as other things are concerned, here are the main projects I’ve finished.

Since the last update, I have:

Consolidated my photography business and writing business under a new name: Purple Thorn Press and Photography. Over the next few months, I will build Purple Thorn Press into the true business that I want it to be, starting with its website. I will continue to use alyciachristine.com as my main personal website, while PurpleThornPress.com will act more as an official business website devoted to my writing products.

Continued my self-publishing research using The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book and similar resources. This month’s lessons centered on ISBNs, Library of Congress catalogue numbers, and book trailers.

Watched a great seminar by Andrew Stanton of Pixar about storytelling for my story craft research. Thank you, Hugh Howey, for sharing it!

Finished personal edits on my short story “City of Twilight” and implementing beta readers’ critiques of the piece.

Finished writing my short story “The Soul Wrangler” and sent it to beta readers for their critiques.

Created my first newsletter in six months using new software. I’m so happy it worked!

Finally finished culling and reorganizing my photography website.

Created, labeled, and mailed over 60 Christmas photo cards to friends, family, and clients. These also arrived on time, which is a much better situation than last year.

Oversaw the repair of our home’s wayward fence. It looks almost new now!

Enjoyed two Christmas celebrations with family and friends. Thank you so much, everyone, for the phenomenal memories and gifts!

Watched the History Channel’s The Men Who Built America series. This is a must see series for any entrepreneur.

Watched Disney’s and Pixar’s Frozen with family at the theater. I can only describe the movie as all of the best aspects of Disney classic fairy tales woven into Pixar’s ingenious storytelling. The story is rife with dynamic characters, plot twists, magic, tension, laughs, and, yes, even singing. This is a must-see for all ages.

Read When Invisible Children Sing by Dr. Chi Huang. I found this book to be a heart-rending tale about homeless children in Bolivia. The children are portrayed as neither good nor bad, but simply real. If you ever want to truly understand how the fight for mere survival can psychologically and socially degrade human beings, this book is a graphic example. If you ever want to see how hope can bloom in the darkest of circumstances, this book is also a deep-touching example.

Read How to Train Your Dragon. Oddly enough, I like the movie better than the book. The movie’s plot is stronger and the characters feel far richer to me. Plus I’m not a huge fan of bathroom humor and the book has a ton of that. While I am definitely the wrong target audience for this book, little boys should love it!

Read the memoir We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee. I loved the movie and wanted to read the original book. Because I have worked in a zoo and in a pet store before, I was familiar with many of the situations described in the book. I found myself giggling (and in some cases grimacing) with the narrator as events unfolded.

Began reading Lisa Shearin’s The Grendel Affair: A SPI Files Novel. The book’s first four chapters are posted free on her website at http://www.lisashearin.com/sample-chapters-the-grendel-affair/?b=1&ch=1. I loved Lisa’s Raine Benaires series and I expect this new book will be just as good.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

Add new content to PurpleThornPress.com. I want to complete copy for the Home page at least.

I am putting Dreamdrifter writing on hold until after I finish Musings. Once that project is finished, I will continue work on Chapter 19.

Finish organizing all of the book contents for Musings (including its front and back matter) and send the book to my editor for final critique.

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

🙂 Alycia


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

SCRAWLS: Musings Edits, Alaska Aftermath, Book Reviews, and Other Updates

Ask_the_Owl-4x6ACThis morning found me sitting in my office chair with the sun streaming through the curtains of my window and the air outside registering a crisp 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Talk about a stark contrast from the high 90s of last week! Today would have been a perfect day to curl up under the covers and sleep late, but I think talking to all of you is far more fun.

As I have not posted an update about my general activities since July, I thought I really should do that today. As many of you know, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alaska vacation photos and Musingsshort story collection edits. And while much of my time has been spent on these two major projects, there is a lot more that goes on around the Cooke-Sears household than these. So here is the rundown of the many tasks that I have accomplished and the few chores still left on my agenda for October.

Since the last update, I have:

  • Finished all of my personal edits and completed the first round of beta readers’ edits for the novel Skinshifter. Now I am waiting on second-round beta readers to finish their edits so that I can give the book a final polish.
  • Rewrote two chapters of Dreamdrifter. I now have the rough drafts of chapters 1 through 16 completed and about 85,000 words written.
  • Continued editing and organizing the contents my soon-to-be-published Musings anthology. Anyone interested in beta-reading this or future projects should contact me HERE.
  • Read the Self Publishing Attack!: The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books by James Scott Bell. This is an informative and insightful book about the self-publishing movement and what it takes to maintain your professionalism as a self-published author.
  • Read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas. This is an incredible book about the craft of writing. I highly recommend it to novices and experts alike.
  • Read One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke. This book is based on the journal of Richard “Dick” Proenneke, a man who decided to leave civilization behind for a year and a half in lieu of building his own log cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and surviving off the land. It is an interesting read for those wishing to understand what life is like beyond the hum of electricity or the convenience of running water.
  • Read Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School) by Gail Carriger. I am usually not much of a steam-punk fan, but this young adult fantasy book kept me turning the pages with gusto. All that I can say is that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is anything but a boring place to learn your p’s and q’s. Even though I’m in my 30s, I’d gladly go back to school if I could attend here!
  • Read the Bible during daily devotions. I am so proud of myself for doing this because I have not taken the time to do a daily devotional in recent years. Yay for a new habit turning into a good routine! By the way, if you are a new student of the Bible, I suggest beginning with the book of Romans and then following that by reading the gospel of John. These two books will help you understand the core principles that the Bible teaches. Also, I recommend using either the New International Version or the New King James Version (NKJV) translation. In my experience, these two English translations seem far more accurate than many others. If you prefer using a devotional in lieu of studying scripture chapter by chapter, you might try my First Fruits book.
  • Posted eight SCRAWLS blog posts discussing different writing topics and showcasing excerpts of my fiction work. In case you missed them, here are the links to the story excerpts from “Chosen Sacrifice”, “Raven’s Fall”, and “What Tendrils Echo”.
  • Posted three Flashes of Perspective blog posts teaching various photography techniques and sharing over 30 pieces of my art photography.
  • Finished several commercial photography shoots for private clients.
  • Processed and uploaded about 35 photos to my AlyciaChristine.artistwebsites.com photography website. Find them all HERE.
  • Reorganized the AlyciaChristine.com website. If anyone has any more suggestions to improve the site, contact me please!
  • Went on a seven-day cruise with my husband through Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage. Read the blog post about the journey HERE.
  • Culled through 2700 vacation photos to find the best photographs from the Alaska trip. I am still in the process of tweaking and uploading the best, so please be patient with me.
  • Learned how to use my camera’s video recording feature. Sometime soon I hope to include a few videos on Alycia Christine.com.
  • My husband and I visited my parents and friends of ours in Lubbock, Texas and visited Matt’s family in Laredo, Texas.
  • Helped my husband prepare and go through his Walk to Emmaus. He loved his walk as much as I loved mine!
  • Helped my husband prepare and leave on a three-week-long business trip. I was so bored without him that I made up chores just to have something to do.
  • Helped cook lunch after the funeral of one of my church’s members. It was a sad, but good gathering.
  • Took on a part-time job to help make ends meet. The government shut down has hit our family hard.

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

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

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

🙂 Alycia


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

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