Alycia Christine

Enchanting Art, Encouraging Tales

Tag: story (Page 1 of 2)

“Paper Castles” Is Out Today!

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

Story synopsis:

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

Want to buy it? Go HERE.

Want to read the excerpt? Go HERE.

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

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

Now on to our somewhat regularly scheduled blog…

Cactus_Colors-4x6ACCactus Colors

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

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

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

Alycia


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

“Paper Castles” Pre-Order Time!

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

Here is the story synopsis:

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

Want more? Check out the excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shook my head. “No, not yet.”

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

“A swan,” I said eagerly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alycia


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

Thanksgiving Recipe: Orange Spiced Tea and a Short Story

Twirling_Ballerina_Cover-1600x2400Since Thanksgiving is a mere nine days away, I’m working double-time to make sure that all of my writing and photography work is finished before the holiday hits. I plan to sit back, relax, and enjoy my time with family next week. Okay, truthfully I plan to enjoy my time with family and help cook, but cooking for me is fun anyway so I don’t mind.

Now that the final preparations are finished for “The Twirling Ballerina” short story’s publication date on December 1, I’m feeling pretty festive. I’m also practically bouncing off the walls with excitement over this story because it’s one I’ve wanted to tell for a while now. It’s a story about faith, family, love, and grief. As excited as I am about its publication, I have to ask that no one try to pre-order it yet because I want to make “The Twirling Ballerina” free as a Christmas gift to everyone. Since Amazon is weird about free e-books, I have planned a 24-hour sale in which you can pick up the story for free as soon as it’s released. Don’t worry, I’ll make a blog and newsletter announcement when all of this takes place. Until then, please DO NOT purchase it unless you just want to spend the extra $0.99.

Since I am prepping for holiday feasting, I thought I should post a fun recipe for everyone. It’s a hot beverage that won me several smiles last night when I served it for the first time. Here is my version of Orange Spiced Tea. Enjoy!

Orange Spiced Tea

Ingredients:
3 quarts (18 cups) water (purified water makes better tea than tap)
3 teaspoons whole cloves (McCormick seasonings work best)
3 1 inch cinnamon stick pieces (McCormick seasonings work best)
6 tea bags black tea (Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea works wonders for this recipe; although you could use Lipton if needed.)
2 12-ounce cans frozen Orange Juice concentrate (I use Minute Maid)
1 12-ounce can frozen Lemonade concentrate (I use Minute Maid)
2 cups sugar

Pour the water into an 8 quart pot; add the cinnamon sticks and cloves (I use a loose-leaf tea infuser to hold everything). Bring water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea bags to the water and set tea mixture aside to steep. You want the liquid to have a nice dark red coloring throughout (steeping about 7-9 minutes should do the trick). Remove the tea bags, cloves, and cinnamon sticks (you can reuse these to brew a second batch of plain Spiced Tea later if you wish. If not, just discard them.).

Add orange juice, lemonade, and sugar together in a 4 quart pot and bring it to a boil. Be sure to stir the mixture until the sugar completely dissolves. Carefully pour the juice mixture into the spiced tea pot and stir until completely mixed. Serve hot. This makes about 6 quarts or 24 servings. Cheers!

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!

Soapy Introductions, a Thorn and Thistle Excerpt

Waterbug_Ripples-AC4x6For your reading enjoyment today, I thought I would share a fun scene from my in-progress novella Thorn and Thistle. For those who haven’t read the first excerpt from this story, I highly suggest doing so before reading today’s entry since this is the sequel to that one. Have fun!

“You’re late,” a quiet voice said.

Thorn jumped and then glowered at the shadows to his left. “How can I be punctual when you choose to be early, Ebenezer?”

The gray-haired wizard motioned the younger man to his side. “Emperor Sung raised the bounty; he now offers 20 rubes for your head on a pike.”

The captain hefted the mercenary’s bulging coin purse in his hand. “How thoughtful of him! He must have known I was feeling unimportant,” he mocked.

“Be careful, Sea Wolf; he will start sending Ashara hunting parties after you next.”

“And what makes you think he didn’t already?” Thorn asked sourly, looking down at his ruined raiment.

“How did you escape then?”

“A couple of concealment magic tricks you once showed me took care of the first. Snapdragon powder got the second and a knife to the singer dropped the third. Look, can we talk in a cozier spot? The Panthea City Watch will notice those bodies at any moment and I don’t fancy being around when they start asking pointed questions.”

Ebenezer nodded and then firmly gripped Thorn’s hand. With the old man’s muttered incantation, a gust of wind wrapped around the pair and flung them onto the nearest rooftop. They raced their way across the tiles with the wind magic assisting their strides and leaps. Thorn had to give the wizard credit; he had no idea how such a fossil could still be so spry.

Neither of the pair dared slow their pace until they were safe inside Ebenezer’s home within the Enchanters’ Guild district. The wizard lived above his apothecary shop and training house close to Panthea’s main waterfront. Although the furnishings were sparse, Thorn knew better than to doubt either the old man’s instructive skill or the wealth he had accrued from teaching his numerous students. Ebenezer had never put much faith in material possessions and so much of his wealth had ended up distributed to the poor—including, at one time, into Thorn’s own cold, chapped hands. The only true luxury that the wizard had ever invested in was the ornate iron bathtub that sat in the corner of his kitchen near the cooking hearth.

“Off with your clothes then, Thornton, so I can draw a nettle-soak for you,” Ebenezer said in a businesslike tone as he threw herbs into a large black kettle and then gestured for the man to follow him downstairs. Thorn helped Ebenezer fill the great iron tub with buckets of cool water from one of the rain barrels downstairs and then sat in a chair and stripped out of his high black boots, mud-spattered pants, and sweaty stockings while the old man set the kettle to boil in the fireplace hearth. The captain dropped his clothes into the nearby washtub to soak in a soapberry wash and then regrettably tossed his ripped and bloody shirt into the fire.

Thorn watched his mentor prepare the iron tub with the steaming kettle of herb-imbued water and then add his signature healing chant for extra remedial strength. The man cringed at the prospect of being dipped in the essence of stinging nettles, but obediently thrust himself into the familiar liquid nonetheless. The bath would not only ease his many aches, but it would also help disinfect his wounds. He’d gained two deep gashes during the bout with the mercenaries and, now that his nerves were relatively calm in the safety of Ebenezer’s home, Thorn could feel every new throb of his injuries acutely.

The wizard handed him a wash rag and then fit the modesty panel back on top of the tub to help hold in the water’s warmth while the younger man bathed.

“So…who is this young magician you want me to protect?” Thorn asked after settling into his current pungent torture.

“Oh, of course, I should introduce you,” the old tutor said and quickly strode to the guest quarters door. He knocked once and it opened almost immediately from the other side.
“Come now and meet your knight protector.”

“I think rogue protector is more appropriate,” Thorn muttered. He thought about standing to formally greet the new arrival and then, upon seeing just who and what the newcomer was, he quickly sank as low into the reeking water as possible.

“Captain Thornton Tobias Tarok may I present the Lady Zana Cynara,” Ebenezer almost purred with smug satisfaction.

Never in his life was Thorn more grateful for a bathtub modesty panel than at this moment. He would dearly enjoy repaying the old man for this supreme embarrassment! Although he had been naked around females a time or two before—mostly in the public baths of Poulapaus—this was not his preferred method to meet a woman.

Doing his best to keep a sincere smile despite the extreme awkwardness of the situation, Thorn extended his hand for hers. “My Lady,” he said formally.

To her credit, the dryad did not blush when the bathtub-trapped man kissed her hand. Instead she simply inclined her head toward him. “Captain Tarok.”

Thorn and Thistle currently stands at 28,350 words (about 103 pages) and is the first novella in the Tempest Maiden series. I plan to continue writing it as soon as I finish the rough drafts of four upcoming short stories. As always, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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!

Cover Reveal for “The Cleaning” Short Story

Cleaning_cover-1600x2400It’s cover-revealing time! My new short story “The Cleaning” is being released this week and I have a sneak-peek to show everyone the cover art! I absolutely love this eBook cover! I had a very difficult time creating it, but I think it turned out really well. It definitely fits the story itself—dark, moody, and mysterious. I hope you all like it, but more importantly I hope that you really love the story itself.

Pre-order “The Cleaning” right now on…

    Amazon
    Smashwords

Or wait until September 17 for it to be available on…

    Amazon
    Apple
    Barnes & Noble
    Smashwords

In other news, I want to shout out a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Simonetta, Jodilyn, Mary, Brandyn, Jon, James, Joshua, Melanie, Kimberly, and Irene! These awesome people were the recent winners of my Goodreads Contest Giveaway. Each of them received an autographed copy of Musings. I hope you all enjoy the book! Please leave a review to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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

Alycia


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

“Thorn Smirked at His Attacker…” A Swashbuckling Excerpt from Thorn and Thistle

Jolly_Rogger_BW-4x6I can’t believe it’s already July! With all of the work to get Musings into the hands of readers on June 20, I’ve barely noticed the past six months vanish. All that being said, I look forward to slowing down a little and writing some more fiction for you guys.

Right now, I’m working on a fantasy adventure set on the high seas that is sure to be a fun read (since it has been a blast to write). The tale is tentatively titled Thorn and Thistle. So far, I have just over 13,000 words written on the novella’s rough draft with ship wrecks, sword fights, shark attacks, and more already packed into the manuscript. I expect to finish the story somewhere around 20,000 words before doing some serious polishing, but we’ll see. I’ve never been very good at estimating story lengths. In my progress report blog a couple weeks ago, I thought that Thorn and Thistle would finish around 12,500 words. I blew past that marker yesterday with no end to the action yet in sight. I’m really grateful for that miscalculation because it means that I get to explore these characters and their world in far more depth. In any event, I hope you enjoy this introduction to Thorn and Thistle’s main character Captain Thornton Tobias Tarok, one of the most successful and fearless privateers to ever sail the Jewel Sea.

Thorn smirked at his attacker, which was not a comfortable thing to do with a split lip. “Really? That was your best?”

The Ashara mercenary growled and charged again with his drawn saber. Thorn pulled out the two extra blades hidden up his sleeves to replace the short sword lost moments ago and continued his grim work. The right dagger blade ripped through both shirt linen and skin as it deflected the opponent’s thrust. The mercenary screamed at the loss of a finger, but Thorn was quick to silence him with a left-handed knife strike to the throat. The gurgling man fell back onto the crimson cobblestones even as his opponent retrieved his own sword.

Thorn quickly dug through the dead man’s clothes and rescued a fat coin purse and two well-balanced throwing knives from his assailant’s robe pockets. He checked the other two dead mercenaries’ bodies as well before slipping stealthily from the street. It was a shame to leave the men’s beautiful sabers behind, but there would be no easy way to carry them and his own blades without looking even more conspicuous than he already did. Ah well, hopefully the beggars would find them before the City Watch did, and thus change their poor fortune. Swords like those would easily trade for a month’s worth of choice meat!

As Captain Thornton Tobias Tarok turned down a third alleyway, he stopped to splash water from a rain barrel on his bloody and mud-smeared face and clothes. He looked irritably at the tattered, blood-spattered sleeves of his silk shirt and sighed. “Yet another shirt to be tossed in the canal. That makes three. Where are these maoi-sug bounty hunters coming from?”

“You’re late,” a quiet voice said.

Thorn jumped and then glowered at the shadows to his left. “How can I be punctual when you choose to be early, Ebenezer?”

The gray-haired wizard motioned the younger man to his side. “Emperor Sung raised the bounty; he now offers 20 rubes for your head on a pike.”

The captain hefted the mercenary’s bulging coin purse in his hand. “How thoughtful of him! He must have known I was feeling unimportant,” he mocked.

“Be careful, Sea Wolf; he will start sending Ashara hunting parties after you next.”

“And what makes you think he didn’t already?” Thorn asked sourly, looking down at his ruined raiment.

“How did you escape then?”

“A couple of concealment magic tricks you once showed me took care of the first. Snapdragon powder got the second and a knife to the singer dropped the third. Look, can we talk in a cozier spot? The Panthea City Watch will notice those bodies at any moment and I don’t fancy being around when they start asking pointed questions.”

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!

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

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

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

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

Since the last full update in April, I have:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographed several residential properties for a client.

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

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

Helped replace our home’s defunct water heater.

Upgraded our home’s outdoor lighting.

Reading:

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

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

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

Continued reading the From the Indie Side anthology.

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

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

Began reading On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Began reading The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg

Gaming:

Played Jumbline.

Played Cubis 2.

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

My goals for the next four weeks are to:

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

Proof and submit SKINSHIFTER for publication.

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

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

Take a full weekend off.

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

Alycia


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

The Tale Behind the Story: Chosen Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

Alycia


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alycia


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

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Writing Dynamic Character Arcs

BeautyBeyondtheBarsACS4x6I post this month’s writing advice article with a heavy heart. Whether by divine providence or cosmic coincidence, I actually wrote today’s article several months ago as part of a writing advice letter given to one of my dearest friends. Now, however, I find myself sharing a piece of writing both timely and sad given the recent death of actor/director Philip Seymour Hoffman from a suspected heroin overdose. I had saved this section of the letter dealing with dynamic character growth so that I could publish it in February for the benefit of my fellow story-tellers. Little did I know how poignant my character arc example was about to become. Here is the article:

A good story requires its characters to change and grow from the beginning of the tale to its end.

The personal growth of a character through her dealing with each obstacle in a story’s plot is called character arc. Character arcs occur in “good” characters and “bad” characters just as they happen in “good” and “bad” people in the real world. Good characters can become better or worse just as bad characters can become better or worse.

Often these dynamic changes are spurred by the character’s specific reactions to a certain set of circumstances. Is there some whisper of darkness that will tempt your “good” character to turn evil or, at the very least, rogue? Is there some spark of goodness that will tempt your “bad” character to try to redeem himself? To know your characters is to know their individual journeys and their personal arcs. Whether you prefer to work with your characters to hone the story’s plot or you like to use your characters as tools in service to your plot, please be mindful that different types of stories will require different types of character arcs. Make sure that your character fits the arc and the plot that you want to use.

For example, tragedies usually require that a “good” character be ultimately defeated by the events within a story plot. That character will still grow to overcome many of the obstacles she faces, but ultimately she will be crushed under her adverse circumstances. Such stories prove heart-wrenching because we as the readers become so invested in that character. We relate to that character in some way and so we cheer her on when we see how hard the character works to succeed. Her ultimate defeat feels like a slap in the face to us because the character came so close to triumphing over the hardship in her life.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the oft-mentioned literary example of a tragedy, but one of the best portrayals of tragedy that I know is a real-life example. It is the newspaper headline that reads something like: “Beloved Actor Found Dead in his Beach Home, Drug Overdose Suspected”. Here I see an actor who has proven successful enough in his career to have fame, fans, and fortune enough to own multiple houses. He has fought through the cattle-call auditions to achieve a chance at those starring roles that I love. He has won prestigious awards for his inspiring performances and gained the adoration of legions of fans like me who identify with his on-screen characters. And yet he cannot conquer one thing: the white lady. It started when he was younger; smoking and snorting was a way to beat back the frustration and loneliness of the job and to smooth out his nerves before the next audition. Now cocaine has become his personal nightmare, always dragging him back into its embrace and begging him to sink deeper into the darkness of its clutches. I am sympathetic to his plight. After all I have seen him voluntarily enter rehab clinics time and again to overcome an addiction that he just can’t seem to shake. He has been doing so well; he’s stayed clean for almost a year now! And yet on Monday morning, I scan the news articles and stop dead on his name. The words “drug overdose” repeat over and over in my mind like a scream. The police haven’t confirmed it yet, but I know deep in my heart that the coke finally killed him. I shake my head and whisper, “No, not another good one dead!” I crumple the newspaper and hurl it into the trash, too sick to my stomach to read any more.

Ouch, what a tragedy! What makes this tragedy worse is that it holds a lot of truth. After all, I have friends and family members who have wrestled with the same demon of addiction. But what if, after reading that story, I find a book the next day that details a woman’s rehabilitation from the same substance that killed the actor. In this book, a crack-addicted mother recounts how the loss of her children to CPS spurred her desperate struggle to get clean and get out of the projects. After several ups and downs and by the “grace of God”, this woman has been clean and continually employed for nine years! Then, after years and years of searching through foster agency records, the mother is finally able to be reunited with the children that were taken from her home more than a decade earlier. The book ends with her crying as her two-year-old granddaughter hugs her for the very first time. Instead of watching a mostly “good” person go downhill and die tragically young, I now get the chance to watch a “loser” overcome the bad in her life and find something beautiful.

There are many story arcs and character arcs to discover between the boundaries of the inspirational story and the tragedy. An important note to remember is that not all character-stretching circumstances are bad. Some are actually quite good. Let’s say that I have a character who is totally prejudiced against people of other races, but particularly with people of Asian-descent. What is the easiest way to grow her out of that bad characteristic? How about I have her car crash on the outskirts of Chinatown and she is rescued from the wreckage by a fireman who is second generation Chinese-American? The first situation is life-threatening, but the rescue is actually more stressful for our main character because her world view is being challenged by an act of kindness from someone whom she would have never trusted. Thus a good circumstance actually challenges the character to learn and change.

Have fun interweaving your characters’ arcs with your story plot. If you do this well, you will be amazed at how many events actually surprise you while you are writing a story. You might even end up with more plot twists and turns than you ever thought possible when you began the project.

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

🙂 Alycia

P.S.-I give my deepest condolences to Mr. Hoffman’s family and friends. May you find God’s peace in this troubling time.


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 at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

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