All My Work

My elementary-aged daughter loves designing houses using a free house plans software. Today, she spent all of her screen time working on this really amazing house with ball rooms and chandeliers and rooms for cat families, etc.

But she didn’t save her work, and the program crashed. I just held her and let her cry. I’m so sad for her to have to experience this so early in life, but it’s something most of us experience at some point in our lives. We work really hard finally finishing that first draft, and the computer crashes and goes back to factory settings. We spend a couple hours writing a breathtakingly amazing scene, but the program closes and auto recovery doesn’t auto-recovery it. We work hard knitting a pair of mittens so our fingers will stay warm this winter, and then they disappear along with the coat in whose pockets they were. Then you start a second pair of mittens, and this time, the whole work bag disappears with all of your crochet utensils and special yarn and needles and . . .

Not that I’m speaking from experience. . . .

I’m happy to report that my daughter is doing okay and working on another house. It’s really difficult to lose our hard work, but it doesn’t have to be the end. It may take some time. We might have to set it aside for weeks before we can face it again. The second time around might not be as breathtaking as the first time, but it can still be good. The third pair of mittens will stick around and keep your fingers warm for years. 😉

So remember to save often! But if something does happen to your hard work, it’s okay to grieve. It’s also okay to try again.

Happy Writing!

Look Back on 2022

In spite of my health being not great, 2022 was actually a pretty good year for writing/authoring.

I had my first ever author event at This House of Books in Billings, Montana.

I represented Chicken Scratch Books at a homeschool conference in Houston, Texas. Talking with all of the homeschool families, and especially kids interested in writing, was so much fun.

I gave my first in-person writing workshop for kids, in East Texas. It was a blast!

And the big thing (for me): I realized a week or two ago that I actually wrote 30,000 words this fall!! For the way I’ve been feeling the last couple of years, this is a huge accomplishment. I think it’s pretty choppy writing thus far, but the story itself is actually going smoothly for the first time in ages. So yay!

I hope you all had a decent 2022 and that 2023 will be a good year.

Writing Communities and Secret Santa

Now that it’s after December 20, I can finally share the digital art I made for The Silver Eye Secret Santa 2022!

One of things I have enjoyed about reading The Silver Eye is the fandom. I love how the author gets to interact with the fans and see their reactions in real time. Some fan ideas have even become almost (or actual) canon.

When I was in high school, I had a group of friends who were also writers. We loved talking stories together, telling about our favorite characters, and sharing moments of deep emotion.

I had great friends in college, but none of them were fiction writers. I really missed being able to share all of my discoveries and progress (although, my friends did listen to me A LOT and even read some of my terrible early drafts).

When I got to Vermont for my masters, I was so excited to be around writers again! But to my surprise, they almost never talked story. The focus was entirely on craft and publishing. Those are great things to talk about (especially in a school for improving craft), but I’ve found that trend continue in all of my interactions with writers. They just talk about craft and publishing. Nobody gets excited about their characters or shares heartbreaking moments.

The only times I’ve had great story conversations as an adult have been when I’ve met up with those friends from college.

So one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about The Silver Eye is that excitement about story and characters and heartrending moments. It reminded me of that group in high school.

Of course, then I realized that a lot of the fans ARE in high school, so that might explain things. 😂 I definitely writing for young people is what I need to do since I seem to have more in common taste-wise with middle and high schoolers than I do with my fellow adults.

Anyway, that was sort of a rambling retrospective just to say that one of the things I enjoy about The Silver Eye is the fan base, and it was super fun to participate in The Secret Santa.

(Also, the interaction with fans is making dream about doing The Epic Novel as a web comic or serial. 😁 )

The Silver Eye–Go Read It Now! It’s Amazing!

For your Christmas Present, I am going to introduce you to The Silver Eye.

I have long admired the artwork of Laura Hollingsworth, but somehow, I missed the fact that she is writing a webcomic. Then about three months ago, she posted in a writer’s group we both belong to that all her notifications for the day were angry, “Don’t kill Marcus!” notifications because of her most recent page.

Well, I had to know what everybody was so excited about. I started reading The Silver Eye, and I am now hooked. I haven’t had a fun story to get excited about in ages, and certainly not one with an active fan base. I highly recommend The Silver Eye.

What do I love about it? Well first off, Laura Hollingsworth is an amazing storytelling and astounding artist. But as for the story, it’s a group of characters, which I believe I’ve mentioned before is my favorite kind of story. There is a wonderful mix of humor and seriousness. It’s just the right blend. There is also a lot of great mystery, foreshadowing, flashback. This is like Brandon Sanderson quality weaving together. It’s beautiful.

On top of that, the premise, world, and magic system are intricate, original, and interesting. And the characters are well-rounded, three-dimensional, fun characters. Sometimes, fans ask who is your favorite or least favorite, and I can hardly say because they are all amazing, even the antagonists. But there isn’t really a main villain or anything because the story is about these complex characters making complex decisions.

The webcomic is very clean, and based on some of the fans saying the characters are several years older than they are, it seems middle schoolers are reading it. However, I would caution that it can be violent (think dripping blood from wounds and a smudgy, in-the-distance decapitation). It isn’t gratuitous but might be too much for a sensitive reader. The characters are realistic, so there are some questions of marital unfaithfulness and who is so-and-so’s father. However, it’s all very tastefully done. The only on-screen things are a few mild kisses that I would totally call PG. So, aside from the violence, I’d rate it PG.

Also, Laura Hollingsworth has an Etsy shop where you can buy Silver Eye Merchandise! I would not say no if someone wanted to send me a Silver Eye sticker . . .

Be prepared for much Silver Eye fan-girling in the future. It is really an amazingly well-done story. Also, Laura Hollingsworth came up with the idea when she was around 11, which makes me feel a lot better about coming up with my ideas for the Epic Novel when I was 15.

Now I am daydreaming about commissioning Laura to make character portraits for the Epic Novel characters . . .

A Fall of Survival

I had grand plans for all the posts I was going to write this fall, but this fall has been a season of survival. I had to let go of my blog and marketing my book for a little in favor of personal needs, like my job and being there for my family.

I went to the doctor a lot and received several diagnoses, including POTS, which is a heart/circulation condition. I was told to eat more salt! Yes, more salt. I had been trying not to give in to my salt cravings because I had heard eating salt was bad for you, but like so many things in life, that’s only part of the story. So, as directed, I have been eating more salt, and I’ve actually been feeling a little better. Yay!

I’ve been able to write some. I had hoped to write a middle grade fantasy during November as a pseudo-NaNoWriMo, especially as numerous people are asking when my next (implied MG) book will be coming out.

As much as I want to write and publish another book, I’ve had to be gentle with myself and tell myself that writing anything is a big win for me and my health, even if it won’t become the next published book.

Sometimes writing is just too difficult for my brain or my body or both. I tried drawing, but that was too exhausting, too. For some reason, I had this hunch that digital drawing would work for me. So after feeling much inspired by the webcomic I have recently begun following (post about that to come), I watched some tutorials, did some research, and downloaded Krita.

Here’s my first digital artwork!

This was just playing around. No particular plan or inspiration, but it looked sort of Egyptian-inspired once I was done.

Okay, so not really my first, but my first in a long time. I dabbled in digital art in college, but I thought I was just goofing off. I didn’t know it was a thing. Also (I feel old admitting this), YouTube tutorials weren’t a thing, and I wasn’t great at finding information, so everything I learned was completely on my own. Whenever I am self-taught, I stay mostly with basics. I’m not one of these people who can become amazing at a something just by playing around.

I also drew this after watching a tutorial by Aaron Rutten:

I did this one on the phone!

I’m not planning on selling digital art or anything, but it is very satisfying. It’s something I’m doing just for me. After two years of surviving and spending all of my energy on keeping my family alive, it’s nice to have a hobby.

Cinema Therapy

Recently, I have really been enjoying Cinema Therapy videos on YouTube. They are definitely for adults (some swearing and adult references), but they are pretty clean. They analyze movie characters from the perspective of a therapist. However, the two hosts are a therapist and a film maker, so they have some neat insights into film making, too. For example, in their video on Stardust, they mention how the montage is a storytelling device unique to film. You don’t know how many times I’ve paused in the middle of writing and wished I could just do a montage! 😆

I’ve appreciated the character insights. Now I want my (as yet, unpublished) book to be turned into a movie so they can analyze my characters because I’m really curious what they would say. 🙂

Happy Writing!

Book Review: Shadow and Sword

I am quite behind on my book reviews. Actually, I’m behind on everything. Since my diagnosis with ME, that’s pretty much become my life. But in the midst of everything I have to do in order to survive, it’s good to take a little time to myself when I can. So hopefully, I’ll catch up.

First up, Shadow and Sword by N. K. Carlson. I got an ARC of this book before it was released last spring, and I eagerly dove in. It started a little slow for me. I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind the choice of opening. It starts with the main character running away, and then shows in flashback the reason why he was running. As an editor, I would have recommended opening with the scene that causes him to run. I felt like I missed all the action. The first three chapters or so read like a travel log, so I would lose interest and put it down. It definitely felt like there was a lot of telling.

But here’s the thing–I don’t know if I would have noticed any of that as a teenager (and it’s YA, so teens are the target audience). I’m pretty sure as a teen, I would have devoured the story. And even if I hadn’t (it’s on the edge of what I liked as a teen), most of my teenage friends would have. I’m not as big on high fantasy myself, but for fans of Lord of the Rings, the Eragon series, and similar books, I think they would really enjoy it.

I found the villain strange. He was supposed to seem really intimidating, but he just seemed childish to me (not in a scary way), so I had a hard time believing him.

I confess that I haven’t finished the book yet due to life circumstances, so I can’t give a full review. My current opinion is that the writing could have been tightened up to make it fantastic, but that won’t stop avid fantasy readers from loving it.

July Fundraiser Update

Fundraiser update! We have enough donations to purchase 6 handbooks! Thank you for the support! I currently have 10 students enrolled who NEED handbooks and 6 more who would benefit from handbooks. To purchase 4 more handbooks, we need to raise just $80 more. To purchase each enrolled student a handbook, we need to raise just $120 more than that.

I still have a month before the start of school to raise funds. Please continue your support. Again, just $80 will purchase enough handbooks for currently enrolled students who have to have them.

I’d still love to raise more than that so I can purchase the short story collection and literature resources. Please keep sharing!

My First In-Person Workshop!

This June, I had the opportunity to lead my first in-person story workshop for ages 8-13. I had a blast. All of the organizers were wonderful, and the venue was beautiful. I was a little nervous about leading a 4 1/2 hour workshop because of my health, but with my wheelchair, it went fine.

The kids were so creative and so much fun. At the end, we had a Q&A session, and I got asked questions like what’s my favorite color. I also had the help of a wonderful teacher friend, who had great ideas for how to organize things. I’m so excited for my next workshop! If you would like to host a workshop, either in-person or virtual, contact me! I also offer author events where I talk about being an author and kids can ask questions.

To respect privacy, I haven’t posted any pictures with people’s faces.

P.S. Don’t forget to spread the word about the fundraiser for my English classrooms this year!

Author Signing at my Homeschool Alma Mater

I’m so excited tomorrow to go to the family picnic and new member meeting of the homeschool group I was a part of in high school. SHINE even sponsored a full-fledged graduation for me and the other seniors my last year of high school. We joked that we were a graduating class of eight valedictorians. 🙂

I’ll be sharing some about my journey from homeschool grad to published author. I’ll also be signing books and just talking with fellow homeschoolers. I hope to encourage some burgeoning authors.

The heat in Texas has been intense, so hopefully it won’t be as bad tomorrow. I’ll try to get some pictures to post, but I often wind up having so much fun I forget to pause and take them. 🙂

Happy weekend and Happy Writing!