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Monday, August 25, 2014

Why I don't give up

I realized something today. I looked at the calendar and it dawned on me that this was the last week of August and September is just around the corner. Something about that made me happy, excited to be more precise. But why? I asked myself this question and pondered the various things about next month that should make me so happy to see it come along. A few items stuck out, but nothing that would make me this eager for the change of months. In fact, if you know me very well, you should think that I would lament the changing of the months. I love spring/summer and am not all that fond of fall/winter. So, the further toward fall we head, the more I am unhappy with the seasons. What could it be?

It finally hit me. I submitted my book, Legacy of the Dragonwand, to an agency/publisher early in August. And, unlike a good many I have submitted to before, this one gives an exact number of days before you can accept rejection. Some are vague about when you should give up. They leave you hanging, hopeful that one day they will call, send a letter, email, blow smoke signals....something. But, instead you are left in the lurch and finally when you get to the point of giving up on them you can go with someone else. This one actually said 30 days. If 30 days pass without any word then they have rejected my manuscript and I can look for someone else.

"Why on earth would that make you happy?" You might be asking. Glad you did. After all this time and a mountain of rejections spread across six years of attempting to be a traditionally published author it seems odd that rejection would give me any thrills. It doesn't. Honestly if they take the time to send me a form letter of rejection it hurts deeply every time. I question my choice of goals, I question my quality as a writer, I question my very reason for sitting here and typing words. Rejection isn't what I'm looking forward to.

What I look forward to is submitting to someone else. For a brief moment of time, a few days at most, I feel hopeful again. The old ideas of actually being accepted flutter about in my head. The daydreams of seeing my book on the shelf of a store are renewed as if they were fresh dreams. There is an unmitigated joy in those dreams, those hopes of a chance at success. The smiling face on the picture of the agent/publisher I just submitted to, and his/her statement that they LOVE to represent new authors and LOVE fantasy/sci-fi only fan the flames of that optimism. For a few fleeting seconds I am moving forward with my life goals. Success seems a little closer.

But, like a mirage in the desert. The hope slowly fades, the hazy heat of reality steals the dreams, and the empty loneliness of patience sets in. Time to wait for a response.

I have all but given up hope for actually being accepted. Even getting a new review on one of my self published books seems impossible any more. But, oh, those few moments of hope are something I relish and look forward to. It seems that I have replaced my enthusiasm for publishing with just submitting.

 This revelation about myself answered a question that had plagued me. Recently I have started looking at the big players, the biggest names in the industry who would let me submit to them. These giants wouldn't give me the time of day let along actually consider publishing my book. Why would I waste my time like that? Now I know. If submitting to a small time player gives me a rush and a high of hope, consider what kind of hope teasing my imagination with the big boys? It's like taking a Jaguar out for a test drive when you can hardly afford to buy lunch.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blue ribbons at the Fair

Yes, it's time of year again, fair time. Round these parts it comes a bit early compared to other areas. For the second year in a row mom and I entered some items into the fair. For the first time, at this fair, I won blue ribbons. Yes 2 of them. Here are the items I entered.


If you recall from my pictures earlier this year, this is a piece I have been working on all year long. It is a style of embroidery called blackwork. This took first place in the "other" category for embroidery. (I actually beat mom in this one.)













In the "pencil" category of the fine art area I got third place with this drawing. I almost didn't enter him and went with something else, but decided it would be alright.















Mom convinced me to enter a second pencil drawing. This one was in the "Holiday hanging art: Halloween" category. Mom took first place with a stitched piece, I got second with this. I almost didn't even enter it and never believed I would've won anything for it. Now I'm glad I did.














As a side thought I decided to throw one of my knitted hats into the knitted category. I loom knit so I didn't expect this to win anything, but thought it would be fun to show it. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that it took 4th place. Mind you I think knitting has some of the most entrants in this fair, next to canned foods.












Last, and most entertaining. After we put in our craft items we learned what they were looking for in the baked goods area. The day to enter items for that was two days after the craft stuff, so we had time if we wanted to enter something. Mom wanted to put in some chocolate chip cookies, a treat this family is famous for. And I decided to put in one of our world famous vinegar cakes. It is an old recipe that isn't really complicated and very tasty. It was tasty enough to win first place! Now this long time family recipe can add "blue ribbon" to its title. I was over joyed to see it had won. (Note: What I gave them was a full sheet  cake and what was left was a tiny bite to show for the event. They did a lot of "tasting" to determine the winner.....or they really liked the cake.)





A little bit of humor struck me as I was leaving. This is the big wall at the end were some of the top winners are placed. As I passed it I realized that the top picture, the map, that's moms. You can see my dragon. AND that small piece between ours that's hard to make out, that's also moms. So, the top half of this wall was nothing but Peyton family stuff.







Now I can add award winning pencil artist, embroiderer, and baker to my list of accomplishments.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MIA but not dead.


Sorry I've been MIA for the past few weeks. Been busy. Back to writing again, this time working on a unique idea. I am writing a Christian Science Fiction novel. I will give more details later as the book progresses. If you want to keep up with my daily word count, check out my facebook page. I can always use the encouragement of my friends to keep up the writing.

Now just for the fun of it, here's a couple silly things.

First is a picture I drew for no reason other than to draw.




















Next is a really silly ad I made for my book. Share it if you want.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Serious Art

Each year the TVR region of the Embroiderers Guild of America hold an event called Share-A-Stitch, or SAS to those of us in the chapter. What happens at a SAS? There is a shop set up with a lot of embroidery related items. There are banquets and dinners that bring in special speakers to educate and entertain. There are meetings for the officials of the TVR region. But, most importantly for me, there are classes. Each SAS has a list of specialized classes in embroidery techniques. This years SAS was held near me as it was put on by my local chapter of the EGA. This brings me to how I participated.

Back, about a year ago, my chapter gave out a door prize at one of the quarterly meetings of a class at the SAS. The classes cost and so what I won was the money to take one. This was great news considering that I don't often have the money for these kinds of events.

At first I was excited and intrigued. I have never done anything like this before, it would be a great new experience. But, as it approached, I became nervous. Am I good enough? Will I succeed or fail?

Lets take a step back and think about what I did over a year ago. This same group was awesome enough to give me a scholarship to take a correspondence course offered by the EGA national. It was on pulled thread embroidery, a style/technique I have never tried. I was equally nervous then, but pushed through to complete it because someone else paid for it, I shouldn't let them down. What I learned from that experience was that all I can do is fail. But, if I never  try then the ONLY thing I would do is fail, so why not attempt to NOT fail and actually try. I succeeded then, I will succeed a second time.

With my confidence bolstered and my needles ready, I went to the Knoxville Chapter Share-A-Stitch and had a blast. The theme of the event was Foothills Fantasy, and so the teachers often incorporated that idea into their classes.

My class was called Appalachian Charm. The pattern is a mix media embroidery piece, meaning it has more than just stitching on it. The design showcases one of the oldest exports of this region, tobacco. But, the focal point of the piece is a cantilever barn, a unique and very region specific structure that isn't uncommon out here.






Knowing that success is just a choice between fear and courage, I have ventured out further than I ever thought possible when it comes to embroidery. Over the past year, since I finished that first piece, I taught myself a new form of blackwork and finished this piece. It wasn't a class and no one paid for me to do this, it was a choice to stretch out on my own.




I have been a stitcher most of my life. But, it has been since I joined the Embroiderers Guild of America that I have learned just how far that this art can go. I also have learned that embroidery isn't just a little hobby, it is a serious art form. The EGA isn't a little group of like minded friends sitting around and decorating tea-towels, it is a guild of artists expanding their work, pushing their limits, and helping the world learn about the art of embroidery. (Kinda like stitching witches...wink wink)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Castles, Dragons, Gods, and more.

This week I am involved with an event we call Share-A-Stitch. It is a regional seminar for the Embroiderers Guild of America. We take classes learning new embroidery, have dinners, learn whats going on in EGA, and just have fun. But, it is very time consuming, so my post this week will be short and sweet. Just another art post. Enjoy!!

Note: I am considering opening up a little side business in drawing for others, doing characters and such. What do you think? Based on what I have shown you over the last  few years of this blog, do you think I have a marketable talent?


My first piece to present today is a bit different than my others. I started this by staring at a small model of a castle and then went crazy with it. It was just for fun as I had nothing to do and pencil and paper near my hands. As I drew the castle I added the mountain. Then I turned the tallest tower into some sort of smoke stack. Then I thought it needed something funny behind it and added the dragon. Then, I thought it could use color, and viola....color.



My next contribution to the arts is this little number. I discovered a free app for my smartphone that let me draw on the phone itself. It was fun so I attempted to draw my main character. I found a picture of this handsome fellow and worked on the drawing. I have never worked on such a small area before, it was a challenge.




 This bit was a quick drawing of Bark. He is re-imagined into a different storyline of a different game. The game is set in the ancient world and the story is about all the mythical gods of the ancient world turning on humans when humans realize that they can actually kill a god. This version of Bark is only named Joshua and is from the lands of ancient Egypt. He was cursed by a wicked Djinn to look like an Egyptian god, when all Joshua wanted was to be a big strong handsome man to impress a woman he loved. The story, potentially, will involve his journey to kill the Djinn so he can change back, and what he learns along the way.









Last is something you should recognize. It is a compilation of several works of mine. This is the third, and perhaps final, bookcover for the Kai's Journey series by my friends Charles and Wendy Siefken. As you can see I put two figure drawings of mine together and imposed them over a painting based on a photo I took of a nearby lake.











I hope you enjoy my work, I certainly enjoy doing it. Let me know what you think. Good words go a long way to help an artist keep doing what he's doing. (That is assuming you enjoy what he is doing.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Yarn about Goats

My mother and several friends are participating in a local event that is very interesting. The yarn shops around East Tennessee have gotten together and created an event called the Yarn Crawl. In this event you have one month to travel to each store on the crawl and get a stamp on your "passport" from that shop. If you fill your passport with all the shops stamps you are entered into a drawing for a basket of stuff that is, I believe, worth more than 500 dollars (us). Also, at each stop there is a free gift from that shop.

Due to this crawl we have encountered new people and shops we probably would've never found. For me, they are interesting but not exactly my cup of tea. I'm a stitcher, not a crochet or knitter.

However, there was one that caught my attention over the others, It is called Mountain Hollow Farm, in Tazewell Tennessee. The shop is situated in some antique buildings off the beaten path. Surrounding it is a farm, in fact it is a farm belonging to the shop owner. What would you have on a farm around a yarn shop? Goats of course. Well, goats, ducks, peahens, llamas, cats, dogs, and a Shetland pony. If you want to get to know the origins of that lovely cashmere wool you just purchased, go out and say hi.

Here's a photo journal of my little trip:

Heading over Cherokee lake, up through Indian Gap, we headed for Tazewell. The lilies are in bloom all over the place.









 I was immediately greeted by the welcoming party of Leo the cat, as well as two enormous happy dogs who watch over the distant pasture of animals.
















I said hi to the mommy goats as they ate their breakfast. They are used to guests, especially since the shop hosts classes of kids to learn about farming, animals, and yarn making.








Said hi to the Daddy goats, who were sequestered away from the mommy goats. The moms weren't as photogenic as the dads. In fact several of the males came up and stared until I took the picture.

















Of course what do you get when you have mom and dad goats on the same farm? Baby goats. romping, eating, and playing.















I also met the peahens, the horses, and the llamas.





 This was my morning. Meeting animals, feeling very soft wool, and getting pictures. They enjoyed the experience and so did I. I was impressed by the shop and the animals. The owner was nice and very informative. If you ever get the opportunity to make your way out to Tazewell, Tennessee, I suggest taking the time to stop and say hi to the myriad of animals that provide soft wool and warm humor.



Check out their website here: http://www.mtnhollow.com/

Oh, and I also met a very mouthy duck, who wouldn't shut up.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Here I go again

A while back....okay a long time ago, I talked about a book I started as a short story and then let it get out of control. The book is called Legacy of the Dragonwand, at least tentatively. The first post about it is HERE.

What have I been doing since them? Well, I have written two other novels, a few short stories, a play, and edited enough material to fill an isle at the Library of Congress. Is this to say that I set Dragonwand aside and left it to collect dust....hardly.

I decided that this book was good. That might sound odd, but if you know anything about writing you know that as an author you have the lowest opinion of your work. It takes a
lot for me to agree that my work is even worthy of showing to someone, least of all consider it publishable. But, after sitting back and looking at this story I was convinced by a few people that it had merit. It has the quality to actually make it as its own book. So, what did I do with that? I RAN WITH IT!

I have published several books on my own over the past few years, as well as short stories and a few other items. I have learned a thing or two from my mistakes and successes. One thing I learned, if I want to get this out there, polish it like a diamond, not leave it a lump of coal. I edited myself, which is very common. Then I let my mother edit it, which is also my norm. Usually I stop at that and let it go, mom is pretty good and the books come out looking relatively decent. But, I didn't stop there. I wanted more. So, I asked other friends to read it and comment. This would be my first ever attempt at beta-reading. After that I had enough money saved up to pay for a professional editor. This is where I am at now, the editor sent the book back a few weeks ago and since then I have worked, worked, worked to get the corrections made and finish the book.

Am I confident now that the book is as good as it could look? No. As the author of the work I will never feel it is at his best. That is just the nature of being a creative person. But, am I more comfortable now with the work? Yes. I am now willing to believe that the book will stand on its own story and voice when viewed by a publisher and not be just a pile of glaring mistakes.

Next starts a process I am very familiar with, submitting. I will craft the best pitch, cover letter, and synopsis as I can to begin the long, painful process of attempting to garner the interest of an agent or publisher.

P.S. Not only did I work on other things during all this process, I worked on the art for the book. I did the cover and this unique textural picture of the Barren Mountains from the story itself. If they actually get used for the book if/when it gets published is uncertain, but it kept me busy.