Daisy Yellow zine giveaway winners

I shook the magic random number generator, and the winners of Daisy Yellow Zine #8 are…


S. M. Hutchins and kort!

Congratulations, winners. Tammy will be contacting you shortly.

giveaway: Daisy Yellow Zine #8

I’m super-excited to announce a giveaway of Daisy Yellow Zine (Issue 8). This digital art journaling zine is full of inspiration, including blogging ideas for creatives and journal prompts. My article, Embrace Imperfection, also appears in it.

Daisy Yellow Zine #8

Tammy, the awesomely creative person behind the zine and the site, has graciously offered to give away TWO copies of Issue 8 (available only in digital format). Please leave a comment if you’d like to enter. Giveaway is open until Monday, July 29th, 10pm EST. 

If this is your first introduction to Tammy and Daisy Yellow, check out some of my favorite parts on her site, such as the Index-Card-A-Day Challenge she runs every summer. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Tammy’s post on What Can You Do With an Index Card? She also introduced me to the delights of drawing mandalas and the fun of practicing fonts.

If you art journal–or have ever thought of doing so–Daisy Yellow is a great place to go for ideas, tips, and inspiration.

Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc

One of my favorite pieces of art


 Edited with links to other bloggers posting one of their favorite pieces of art:

cartoon jaguars talk art and business

Last week, I talked about what I’ve learned from my favorite how-to freelance book, The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The week prior to that, I shared 4 things I’m doing as a working writer.

Now that I have a writing-as-business theme going, I’m going to continue it.

Back when I first self-published Shattered, I had little clue about how to go about running my brand-new business. Luckily, I stumbled on to another of my favorite art business resources, this time by author and artist M. C. A. Hogarth. She uses three cartoon jaguars to illustrate business principles, first in her columns and most recently in a webcomic. What I love about Hogarth’s approach is that she puts both the right and left sides of the brain to work for the professional artist.

Hogarth separates the roles of a working artist into three: Artist, Marketer, and Business Manager (hence, the three jaguars). This trichotomy (oh look, it’s actually a real word) makes it easier to put needed walls between the various roles–and also the doors that act as communication channels between them.

Hogarth has a ton of great insights, but my single biggest takeaway from her columns (we’re talking about fireworks going off in my head, people) is this one.


copyright M. C. A. Hogarth, used with permission from the artist

copyright M. C. A. Hogarth, used with permission from the artist

Every artist should internalize this principle–preferably before you bring your work into the marketplace (or else the economic realities might well crush your very soul).

Every piece of art–a one-of-kind costume, a story, a musical composition–has inherent value. Its value is in what it means to the artist and/or the emotional response it evokes in someone who experiences it. This is not a value you can put a dollar price on.

However, what you put on the marketplace is not art, but a product. A short story that sells to an anthology is a product. A song available as a digital download is a product. The handmade doll on the vendor’s table at the Renfest is a product. And products are subject to economic realities like demand and supply to determine their prices.

Making that distinction is helpful because it separates artistic merit (or value) from monetary compensation. It keeps the Artist part of you from sinking into a funk because you put the novel that took you a year to write on sale for 99 cents. It keeps you from tying your artistic identity too closely to sales and money.

It also helps to realize, as Hogarth explains in a different column, that a single piece of art can be the basis of many products.

Before reading the three jaguars columns, I had the attitude that once I sold a story, it was gone. First rights had been all used up, and there was nothing else I could do with it.  If I was very very lucky, and the stars were aligned just so, an editor might ride up on a white horse contact me for reprint rights, but I wasn’t holding my breath.

Hogarth’s examples showed me how limited my thinking was.

Today, thanks in large part to a changing industry, I can create many different products from that one short story I sold to the anthology. I could bundle it with other short stories and sell it on Amazon. I could license its audio rights to a podzine. I could have it translated into different languages. I could sell it to a magazine that accepts reprints.

Each time that one story is re-released in a different format or venue. One story becomes many products.

I’m currently serializing Quartz, a science fantasy set in a sunless world, using the same model Hogarth uses for her serials. Quartz updates weekly on Tuesdays, but a $5 donation gets you an extra episode on Saturday. Once the serial is run, I’m going to have it formatted into an e-book and put it up on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and all. Someday, I might even hire a narrator to do an audio version. One story becomes three products–each reaching a different market.

This concept also takes the pressure off me as an artist. I’m working on increasing my productivity (mainly by plugging my biggest leak, the Internet), but I can also enlist my Marketer’s help in finding new places for my existing work. Artist’s output may vary from month to month, but it’s the Marketer’s job to impose regularity in the production schedule.

All of Hogarth’s columns are well worth the read. Also be sure to catch the webcomic’s current storyline about why any artist being paid for her work needs to pay attention to the business side of things. It could save you a world of trouble.

The Next Big Thing

Many of you have seen the Next Big Thing meme going around, in which we writers hold forth on our latest books (either works-in-progress or newly-released). Thanks to Jo Anderton, who tagged me, you can find out more about (one of) my newest project(s)!

1. What is the working title of your next book?

The working—and final—title of my novella is Mourning Cloak. 

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was on a family hike over Memorial Day weekend in 2011 when I saw dozens of gorgeous dark butterflies, with blue spots and cream edging along the wings. Being the kind of nerd I am, I pulled out my Audubon field guide to New England and identified the butterflies as mourning cloaks. My muse instantly pounced on the name and insisted that mourning cloaks would make great fantasy characters (and it was right!).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Since there’s both magic and nanotechnology–but no steam-powered anything–I guess I’ll have to call it science fantasy.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I have no clue. Isn’t that the director’s job, anyway?

Actually, I think this world and story would work better as a video game than a movie. It has strange races like mourning cloaks, eerie men, and wind swifts; battle-suits and mecha; prayer magic and blood-formed wards; passion and faith and betrayal and clashing armies. Definitely video game material.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A failed hero deserted by his God and living in exile encounters a wounded demon who offers him a chance to regain what he lost. 

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published, and coming out in January 2013! (Not 2012, like I’d originally said. Thanks for the catch, Alina!)

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Um, I have no idea. I did it in bits and pieces over the course of a really busy year in which my husband got a new job, we sold our house in Vermont and moved to Virginia. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I beta-read Suited by Jo Anderton around the same time I wrote the first draft of Mourning Cloak, so I know similarities abound. (Battle suits, anyone?)

But really, I think this story is more like role playing games of the Final Fantasy bent than any novel I can think of at the top of my head. Amnesiac characters? Check. Strange races? Check. Fantastical magic swords alongside science-fictional bots? Check. Transformation? Check check check!

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

You mean besides the butterflies? *wry smile*

I wanted very much to write a story about faith. My failed hero has lost his. My altered assassin clings to hers. What they have faith in. How the faith helps–or doesn’t help–in the face of adversity.

I also wanted to write about older characters weighed down by their past. As I grow older, I’m less interested in the blank-slate, youthful protagonists and more intrigued by characters who have been worn by life, who have seen darkness both inside and outside their own souls.

 10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

A man transformed from within to become a battle machine. A woman so altered that she can dissolve into mist and drip through the ground. A cold, mountain city of steel and electricity, warding bells and safe roads. A hot land of deserts and plains, of bronze arcana and prayer magic. Nano-tech and string theory in fantasy trappings.


I tag Liana Mir, Lisa Ahn, and Miquela Faure. And if anyone else would like to play along, just leave a comment below and I’ll add you to this list!

childhood influences: why I write what I do

In the past few weeks, I posted about why I think I write science fantasy. When that turned out to be a discussion on how to define the genre, I went on to elaborate how the different languages and vocabularies of fantasy and science fiction are blended in science fantasy.

Today I have a confession: The reason why I write science fantasy has very little to do with a reasoned, thoughtful approach to writing fiction and everything to do with my childhood influences. Behold.

(Note: science fiction elements in red, fantasy in blue, science fantasy in purple)

Exhibit A: ThunderCats

Feline humanoids with super powers flee their dying planet in spaceships and crash-land on another planet. There they encounter new friends  (unicorn-herding sorcerers, warrior maidens, galactic cops, and robotic fruit-harvesting bears), make a powerful new enemy (a five-thousand-year-old living mummy), and build a fortress and a cool tank. Their leader, a hotheaded young warrior with a magic sword, is constantly in and out of trouble.


These robotic bears must run on ethanol


Exhibit B: Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer

A magical girl who brings spring to earth travels across the universe to confront an evil space princess who is bent on adding a diamond planet to her collection of jewels. Features talking horses, both real and robotic, robots and spaceships, lizard creatures and magical belts.

I may have been one of the few people who, upon learning of the discovery of this planet, exclaimed, “They found Spectra!”


“Nobody can own Spectra! It’s the light of the whole universe!”


Exhibit C: Warriors of the Wind

I know, I know this is the horribly-mangled English-language version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, but I loved it as a kid and I don’t care that it cut out all the heavy-handed environmentalism. I’m grateful to the newer English version of Nausicaa for clearing up some plot points that had always puzzled me, but the dialog of Warriors of the Wind was funnier and I knew most of it by heart.

So. Blurb: In a post-apocalyptic world taken over by a toxic jungle and giant insects, a small peaceful kingdom is brutally attacked by a warlike state (with airplanes, tanks, and guns) when an ancient weapon is uncovered within its borders. Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, who has a strange connection with the giant insects, struggles to bring peace between the nations, and between humanity and the denizens of the jungle. There is also a prophecy.


I covet that glider.


It’s no wonder that I write genre soup, happily tossing fantasy and science fiction elements into my fiction.

What were your childhood influences? How have they affected your writing or other art?


happy weekend

5 favorite lesser known fairy tales

Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. Beauty and the Beast. These popular fairy tales (along with a few more I haven’t mentioned) have been illustrated, retold, fractured, and adapted countless times, and they are still going strong. They’re only a small handful of the great number of fairy tales available to us, though. Today I want to highlight five of my favorite lesser-known fairy tales.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

via SurLaLune Fairy Tales

This is the most popular of the lesser-known fairy tales on this list. It’s enjoying a resurgence in YA fantasy fiction, with such offerings as Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George and Entwined by Heather Dixon.

I loved the imagery of this tale–the tattered shoes, the princesses in their ball finery, the magic staircase and the invisibility cloak,  the groves of silver, gold, and diamond leaves, the well-lit castle in the center of the lake. That, and I’m a sucker for the kind man of humble origins solving the mystery and winning the princess.

Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins

I didn’t discover this until a few years ago when I got the Lauren Mills’ picture book retelling out of the library for my children. I instantly adored the wild-haired feisty Tatterhood with her red cloak and her white goat and her big wooden spoon for whacking hobgoblins with. I loved her fierce bond of loyalty to her sister, her courage, her adventurous spirit. And when she does finally settle down to become more of a conventional fairy tale princess, it’s with a twinkle in her eye and on her own terms.

King Thrushbeard

I hesitate to add this one, though I loved it as a child. A haughty princess taunts and rejects all her noble suitors. After dismissing the last one, mockingly calling him “Thrushbeard”, her father loses patience with her and declares he will marry her to the next man to come to his gates. The weeping princess thus finds herself wed to a beggar, who insists she earn her keep. Long story short, the beggar is really King Thrushbeard and the princesses, humbled and kinder, takes her place as his queen at the end.

I like fish-out-of-water stories, and lesson-learned tales, but I don’t like the Taming of the Shrew method of a husband schooling his wayward wife. I include this tale–but with reservations. That, and because I think it would be fun to break some time!

Snow White and Rose Red

I  enjoyed the rural setting and loved the non-romantic relationships in this one–the love between mother and daughters, the sisterly bond between Snow White and Rose Red, and the friendship between the bear and the girls. I also found it highly amusing that the girls’ every encounter with the ill-natured dwarf led to the latter losing a piece of his beard as a result of their help!

Liang and the Magic Paintbrush

This is the version I read to my children, though I grew up with a different one, whose illustrations I still remember vividly. Liang, a poor Chinese boy, is gifted with a magic paintbrush that makes pictures come to life. When the greedy emperor discovers this, he hunts Liang down and Liang uses his wits to put an end to the man and escape with his paintbrush.

What are your favorite lesser-known fairy tales?

david farland’s professional writers’ workshop

I’m baaaack from my week in Utah at David Farland’s Professional Writers’ Workshop. Dave is an award-winning, bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction and a great writing teacher.

So, what did I learn during this time? Read on for a sampler of the many many topics Dave covered in this comprehensive workshop…

On the writing side, we learned how to

  • structure our novel (complete with graph)
  • escalate our conflicts
  • write dynamic descriptive passages
  • make readers care about our characters
  • create the right resonance with other great books in our genre (Dave dissected Harry Potter and the movie Avatar to show how Rowling & Cameron did that)

And on the business side, Dave talked about

  • the different ways a fiction writer can generate income
  • the importance of looking after our greatest asset as writers–our brains
  • how to find editors/agents
  • how to promote our books
  • and (of course) today’s trendiest issue for writers: traditional publishing versus self-publishing

It was not all a data-dump, however. Every day, Dave assigned us a writing exercise with a particular focus–say, descriptive writing. After slaving over the assignment in the evenings, we read aloud our scenes the next day and got critiques from everyone. I’ve always hated reading aloud anything I’ve written–it sounds so stupid to my ears–but this was the best way to overcome my fear of public readings. By the end of the week, I was hardly bothered by the Pit of Doom that opened up in my stomach every time it was my turn to read. Dave also had one-on-one sessions with each attendee to answer specific questions (how cool is that!).

The other great thing about the workshop (for me) was the face-time with a diverse group of writers. In our group of seven, we had a professional musician, a copywriter, a lawyer, a bookseller, another stay-at-home mom (like me! yay!), and a guy who really wants to win Writers of the Future (I’m sure he has a job, but I don’t remember what it is). I was impressed by the quality of their writing and the insight displayed in their critiques. I haven’t done much critiquing of anyone else’s work besides Jo’s since I gave up the OWW, so I was a bit rusty. It was another good get-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone experience.

(Flipping through my notes here) Amongst all the nuggets of gold, these ones shone the brightest to me:

1. “Writing style can kill your book”. That’s a big one for me, since I do adore a well-turned phrase or a smooth metaphor. I never begrudge other authors their sales, their fans, their plots, or their characters, but let them use a beautiful sentence or evocative phrase that I wish I had come up with and I am muttering darkly (and enviously) under my breath. So, my takeaway is: write well, but focus on STORY, not style.

2. “Failure of imagination is the biggest failing of any story.” Then Dave proceeded to show us how we’d failed to imagine bigger and better when critiquing the first 20 pages and outlines of our novels in progress. His comments and questions opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities I’d never considered. It felt like fireworks going off in my head. Awesome.

3. Resonance is a good thing. ‘Nuf side. My literary side (see point #1) has a horror of being seen as cliched or derivative. Now it’s been put in its place quite firmly.

So, yes! Going to the workshop was worth every penny and I’m grateful to D. for not allowing me to back out of it when I got spooked by the prices of airline tickets and hotel stays (I have a teeny weeny problem with spending money on myself).

Now I’m home and ready to put all my new-found knowledge to work. How have you been?

poetry by heart

Poetry memorization is a big part of our homeschool. Here are some current poems-in-progress:

Sir I. is working on The Rainbow by Walter de la Mare

I saw the lovely arch
Of Rainbow span the sky,
The gold sun burning
As the rain swept by.

In bright-ringed solitude
The showery foliage shone
One lovely moment,
And the Bow was gone.

Miss M. recently memorized Rain by Robert Louis Stevenson

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

My favorite poem to quote (aside from bits and pieces of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock) is Christina Rossetti’s Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Whereas David prefers something more in the style of Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Which poems do you like to quote? Which ones do you know by heart?