Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: The Republic of Pirates

The Clock is Ticking

Bone_Tree_AC_4x6Since the beginning of January, I’ve felt like my life’s clock has done nothing but inexorably chip more and more time away between me and my looming publishing deadlines—which, of course, it has. Somehow though, this passage of time seems like more of a chaotic mess than an orderly procession.

Perhaps the feeling exists because I still have a little bit of an organizational hangover from the Christmas and New Year’s holiday schedules. Perhaps it’s there because I have several different people all begging me to become more active in whatever volunteer activity they think is important. Perhaps it’s there because I put way too much pressure on myself to make good on my promises, in general. (I’m very old-fashioned in that I view reneging on my promises as tantamount to lying and lying as synonymous with the ultimate dishonor toward myself and others. Therefore I don’t make promises lightly.) Whatever the reason or reasons, I feel squeezed in several different directions right now.

I finished 2014 strong, but I also know that I have lots to do before all of the writing and other creative projects that I’ve been doing for so long finally come to completion. I think you’ll see what I mean when you look at my updates.

Since the last full update in October, I have:

Writing and Publishing:

  • Participated in November’s NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t seen my blog post and my progress meter for the event, please read them.
  • Finished writing Thorn and Thistle novella rough draft. The manuscript is almost 40,000 words long, so I may end up releasing it as a short book later this year. We’ll see. Regardless, beta reading won’t happen until March or April.
  • Continued writing The Dryad’s Sacrifice novella rough draft. I have about 23,000 words written on this story with more to come. I want the rough draft finished by February 1 with beta reading to follow in mid-February. The cover art is, oddly enough, finished.
  • Finished writing “Paper Castles” short story. This story has already been through the ringer of multiple drafts, beta reads, edits, and formatting. February 27, 2015 is its official publication date. The cover art is the only thing holding up pre-orders right now.
  • Finished writing “Hero’s Moment” short story. This story has also seen multiple drafts, beta reads, and edits. It’s going through proof-reading and formatting right now and cover art creation is scheduled to happen next month. May 22, 2015 is its official publication date.
  • Finished writing “When the Medium Shatters” short story. This was originally a piece of flash fiction written for a writer’s workshop challenge. It has undergone multiple drafts, beta reads, edits, and formatting, but has no cover art yet. Official publication date is set for August 21, 2015.
  • Published “The Twirling Ballerina” short story in November. I have had really good response to this sad-but-sweet short story and I look forward to more people enjoying it.

Photography and Graphic Design:

  • Photographed a wedding and several properties for clients.
  • Created a LAUNDRY ROOM sign out of my “letter photography” for a loved one.
  • Uploaded several art photographs (“Union Pacific Yellow, No. 1”, “Scrub Brush Sunrise”, “Ash Bloom”, “Three Does”, and “Bone Tree”) to my photography website.
  • Redesigned the book cover art for The Dryad’s Sacrifice. The font looks so much better now!
  • Created cover art for “The Twirling Ballerina” short story. It’s probably not my best cover ever, but it fits the story very well.
  • Began creating cover art for “Paper Castles” short story. My first attempt at this cover was terrible, so I reworked it. It looks much better now, but I still need to tweak it a bit before it’s ready for its public debut.
  • Began creating cover art for Thorn and Thistle novella. This cover is still in its rough stages, but perfecting it will have to wait until some of my other projects are done.


  • Continued reading the Bible. I finished Romans, II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, Galatians, and Ephesians.
  • Continued reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Sadly I haven’t read much further on the book, but what I have read has been very informative.
  • Read Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth. Since I love the Divergent series, this was a fun read which added a little more depth to the world. Even so, I wouldn’t call it essential reading for Divergent fans.
  • Read The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe. This book, with its beautiful descriptions and vivid characters, was a wonderful journey into a place where songs are magic and the tick of time is almost lost between the notes. I enjoyed the read, although I will say that the juxtaposition of the flowing songs and prose against the coarse jokes and speech of the characters set my teeth on edge at times.
  • Read Wild Card novella by Lisa Shearin. Shearin’s snarky humor and dry wit is downright charming. I’ve enjoyed reading her Rain Benares series for many years and this book was a short, fun addition to the collection.
  • Began reading The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. This book is a spectacular read for anyone interested in the real history behind the lore of Caribbean pirates. Often the truth about these buccaneers is even more fantastic than the legends! I plan to put much of this fascinating information to good use in my Tempest Maiden series.
  • Began reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. This has been a difficult book to read because it hits close to home in so many ways. No, I haven’t lost a spouse (thank God), but I have dealt with the living death of my best friend as well as the deaths of close family members and friends. Grief is a weird beast to tame. Every time you think you have it cornered and crushed, it slithers past your guard and strikes you anew.
  • Began reading My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke. This is an interesting book from one of the favorite actors of my childhood.
  • Began reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I’ve known about this book for a few years and finally purchased it. We’ll see how it reads.


  • Played Jumbline.
  • Played Dragon Gem.
  • Played Minecraft. Lately my husband and I have been building a fortress on our own private Minecraft Realms server. We also found a massive cave system with loads of goodies to mine and baddies to fight. Too fun!
  • Played Munin.
  • Played Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights.


  • Helped my church put together and run our Harvest Festival for the community on Halloween.
  • Attended several volunteer organization functions including a couple of Christmas parties.
  • Created a few Christmas tree ornaments for family and friends. I did not make all of the ornaments that I wanted to because I ran out of time.
  • Created and mailed Christmas cards to people. It’s always hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun.
  • Made lots of updates to my three websites. I’ve upload new photos, creating new book webpages, updating existing content, updated widgets, and posted new blog articles all in hope that my readers get the most out of my websites.
  • Saw The Penguins of Madascar, Interstellar, Mockingjay, Part 1, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. Since we live in a rural area of Texas, making it to the movie theater requires a 180 mile round trip. Consequently it’s a big deal for me to see this many movies in a two-month timespan. Hurray for my husband and me!

My goals for the next few weeks are to:

  • Finish writing The Dryad’s Sacrifice rough draft by February 1, 2015 and finish beta-reading and pre-editing tweaks by March 1, 2015.
  • Finish pre-editing tweaks on Skinshifter by March 1, 2015.
  • Finish the cover art for “Paper Castles” and publish the short story on February 27, 2015.
  • Create “Hero’s Moment” cover art by March 1, 2015.
  • Finish reading the book of Revelation in the Bible.
  • Continued reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
  • Finish reading The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard.
  • Finish reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.
  • Finish reading My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke.
  • Finish reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

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


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’s the Best Weapon against Writer’s Block? Find Out Now!

Rivulets_AC4x6Sometimes writing isn’t fun; sometimes it’s a real chore. I guarantee that you’ll have to trudge through episodes of writer’s block just as much as you’ll skip past easily-crafted scenes. But never fear because we authors have a few weapons in our arsenal to help us break down those ugly creative barriers to get to the beautiful prose on the other side.

One of my favorite personal siege engines against writer’s block is research. Now calm down before your collective groans start drowning out my sentences. Research can actually be a ton of fun because it helps satisfy our natural curiosity as human beings. The other reason research is fun is because it makes our jobs as writers much, much easier.

Imagine this: you are writing a scene where two characters are eating in the middle of a deli-style café, but you’ve never actually set foot inside a deli. It’s going to be very difficult to accurately describe what’s going on around your characters or even what they’re eating if you have no experience in a similar sort of setting, isn’t it?

We writers have words as our only essential tools for building a story, so we must describe everything to our readers. That is extremely difficult to do if we don’t understand how something works or the way an object or person looks. This is why research is so essential to writing and why it becomes one of our most important weapons against writer’s block.

There are essentially two types of research. One is what I call focused research and the other is called ambient research. Ambient research is a type of research that most people don’t even know they are doing when they do it. Ambient research usually happens while writers learn something new about a subject while they are doing something unrelated to an actual focused study of that subject. This could be anything from learning a piece of trivia while playing a game or experiencing a new place for the first time while on a vacation. Ambient research is very different from focused research.

When most people hear the word “research”, they immediately think of hours spent studying dusty volumes in the stacks of a local library. Library reading is part of what I call focused research and it is quite useful when authors need to answer specific questions in their writing. However, focused research is much more than simply wading through library bookshelves. Focused research also means that an author might need to interview a key expert in a particular field or participate in a certain activity in order to “really get a feel” for a specific aspect of his or her story such as its plot, setting, or characters. While focused research seems to happen more often for nonfiction writers, I promise that fiction writers will find it just as useful no matter their genre.

We’ll use me for an example dealing with the two types of research since I am an easy target. Like any good author, I write what I love. I am a fantasy author and I also love watching movies and reading books in the fantasy genre. I learn a lot from fellow speculative fiction authors, but I principally read their stuff because it’s highly entertaining. Keeping all of this in mind, let’s say that while I’m watching the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides movie for the thousandth time that I suddenly become interested in reading more about pirates. I pick up Tim Powers’ book On Stranger Tides, which loosely inspired a couple parts of the movie. After I read that book, I go on to Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes novel because I’m still interested in reading more stories about 18th Century buccaneers—both real and fictitious. This is called ambient research because I have learned more about a particular subject through various forms of entertainment without doing a serious study of it. Some of what I have learned will be inaccurate because the information that I learned came from entertainers instead of scholars; however, some of my new knowledge—like the basic parts of a ship—will be accurate. However, if I suddenly decide that I want a deeper knowledge of the actual pirates who lived in the 1700s, my interest is now intently focused and so my research will be specifically directed toward nonfiction sources such as The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard with the specific goal of gaining a deep understanding of my subject. Hence my research will become focused research.

Because I write what I love, I don’t mind doing research of either type because the research that I do—whether ambient or focused—is about subjects that I find genuinely fascinating in the first place. I often like to approach writing a specific story by reading fiction and nonfiction books of a similar nature or subject-matter before, during, and after the writing process. This constant flow of focused research, ambient research, and general inspiration helps me more easily work around those writer’s blocks caused by a lack of knowledge. I also love to use photographs from my and other people’s travels as a guide to help me describe certain scenes more easily. I use focused research in the form of personal experience, expert interviews, scientific journals, and full-on, library-haunting study sessions for those more persistent blockades.

Whatever research you do, please remember that the key to getting the most out of research is to always make sure your stories reflect your personal interests. Making your stories personal and your subject matters interesting will help drive your passion toward them and your passion will help you ensure that your stories are written accurately. Accurate research is one of the best ways to create high quality writing that readers adore, so make it count. Your readers will pay attention to your story’s details and they will complain when something is incorrect. The last thing you want is to be remembered as a lazy writer, so get your details right before you share you work with the world.

For instance, if your story is set in downtown Chicago, make sure that you know what downtown Chicago looks, feels, and smells like. If your story is set in early 19th Century Montana where horses were the main form of transportation, then talk to cowboys about how they care for their steeds. Study horse anatomy, western-style riding, and tack terminology. Then give subtle hints of your new-found knowledge to build your story’s accuracy. Even if your characters set foot in a completely imaginary realm, you should do some research to find out what realistic place and time period most closely resemble the fantasy world you are trying to build. Remember, good writing drops the reader smack-dab into the middle of a story’s scene. Good research should do the same for the author.

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


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!

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