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Friday, March 29, 2013

Is 28 my lucky number?

Well, I got yet another rejection letter today for The Crystal Needle. Eventually I'll get the idea and stop trying. But, I am a stubborn person. Yet, with each rejection my confidence is chipped away just that much more. I want to believe my book is good, but I am having a hard time right now. I have averaged 1 sale a month since Christmas, and haven't had a new review since November I think. There is a little green eyed monster inside me that screams to get out each time I see one of my author friends talking about yet another great review, the dozens of sales this month, their book being in an actual store not just online. I curb that monster and lock him away. It isn't fair for me to be angry or jealous of others success, I should be happy for them and I am. I know what kind of work, time, and heart goes into the production of a book. I respect that they have achieved through their honest efforts.

As the title should indicate, I just sent out query number 28. I will not name the agency at this time, but if you are praying person, keep me in your prayers about this. Two years ago I gave myself till 30. Once I have been rejected 30 times, I will know that what I am pushing simply isn't good enough. Now, though, that I face 30 coming quickly upon me, I wonder if I will hold to that. Will I continue? Will I still have any confidence left? Or, will I face the inevitable and let it go? I guess only time will tell.

Now, so that this post isn't entirely a downer. Here are some totally unrelated drawings that I have done recently. Enjoy:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Year Later

Reposted from 3/23/2012

Gone but never forgotten

         Eleven (now twelve) years ago, this month, I did something that will forever change my life.

Okay, let me start with some preliminary info. I grew up in a town that has a sister city in Japan. As such, I grew up with a lot of Japanese influence in my life. I have mentioned this before, if you have been paying attention. I also grew up dancing. I started tap and jazz when I was in fourth grade. It was a fun and exciting experience that I wanted to take with me my entire life.

Fast forward to 2000. My father changed jobs and moved us to a town in East Tennessee. I found a place that did not have any dance studios for people over the age of 12. My stage time seemed to be coming to an end. In 2001, my mother and I decided to go and see if we could help with the international festival being put together by the community center. At that meeting I met Nanae Ramey. She was there to help and see that her Okinawan dance school participated. I didn’t find anything in the festival I could help with, but I wanted to know more about this dance school. I asked her and she gave me her number. I went to her home and found that she had a small studio built to the back of the house and that was where she taught school. I joined that day and started a new dance career, Okinawan traditional and modern dance.

Over the years we performed all over the south and east. We went to California to celebrate the Masters 50th anniversary for being part of the school. (An impressive accomplishment.) I joined up with the Okinawan Kenjin Kai of Atlanta and met a lot of very wonderful people. We traveled a lot each year, heading to Atlanta to teach others this dance, and heading all over the place to perform. I started learning the Taiko, a modern drumming style in Okinawa that uses rock music and karate. Recently I also dabbled in learning the Shami-sen, a Japanese instrument that is similar to the banjo in shape and size. I got to really know my sensei after spending hours with her in a car talking and traveling. She taught me much more than dance. She taught me about life.

2008: A large spot was discovered on her lung and she went in for tests. It was soon discovered that she had a large cancer tumor and would have to undergo treatments. The doctors gave her less than 2 years to live. She beat that and in 2 years she was still teaching and even performing. Her health was not quite the same, but she persisted and proved the medical community wrong, for a while. In a heartbreaking piece of news, she found out that the cancer had spread. It moved to her brain and her bones. She struggled against that for a time, fighting with hope, prayer, and faith. I am very happy to know that in this time she became a Christian and accepted Jesus Christ as her savior. Unfortunately for us, her time had come and the Lord called her home. She passed away March 20, 2012.

I wish I could tell her how much she meant to me. I looked up to her. She did not get angry fast, she always displayed an element of wisdom that I strive to emulate. Most importantly she cared for everyone she knew. I will miss her every day, and I will think often of the many, many good times we had together. She taught me about life and I will honor her memory by trying to put those lessons to good use.

Rest in the peace of our Lord.

Note: I must say this. She never smoked, yet lung cancer took her life. Keep that in mind when you want to light up near others, with a child in your car, or a kind person in your life.  

Friday, March 15, 2013


I have finished the Dragonwand story. I have mentioned that several times already. Okay, so I finished the first draft. There is still a lot to do from here. Editing involves many, many things. It isn't just screening a piece of writing for grammatical flaws. Editing includes tightening up the story, fixing scenes that simply don't work, adding what is needed to make the story better. A lot of writers find editing their own work is difficult, but I am not one of them. I love it. Now, I will always tell everyone that you should show your work to several people before you officially publish it in any way, especially if you are presenting it to an agent/publisher for their attention. But, it is your story, it is your work, you should be the first and last to edit it. Of course that is my opinion.

What I do is spend my writing time each day on editing. I will go through ten to twenty pages, sometimes more, and just read. Along the way I fix the writing where I feel it falls short, or is too wordy. If I am reading along and see a passage that makes little sense to me, I can't image it will make any sense to another reader. 

The next step is the most painful, but also the most important for the polishing of your work. Structure editing. I let someone else do that, for I miss the obvious grammar mistakes since in my brain the story flows perfectly. My first editor is my most critical, my mother. She is willing to tell me where something doesn't make sense, is just stupid, or needs to be rewritten. How is this painful you might ask? Well I am glad you asked. It is in this step that your work gets its first review. You have spent months, sometimes years writing those characters, that story, envisioning the scenes, smelling the flowers, tasting the food. You want to be there, you want to have lunch with your main character. Now, someone is going to tell you that there are flaws in your masterpiece....HOW DARE THEY! Well, after the steam settles down, you realize that this is highly important for you want others to enjoy the book, and if your very first reader finds issues that need to make the book better, listen to them. You don't always have to agree. Sometimes mom makes suggestions that I simply don't comply with, but that often comes with difference in tastes. But, I never, ever let my feelings of pride in my work let me ignore her suggestions, for that is a fools way of living. 

The pain continues, but it's getting better. The next step for me is to put my work in the hands of another editor. Recently I have had a friend who is a retired English teacher go after my work. This truly is just structure editing, not story editing. Very seldomly has she made any suggestions about story content, and when she has it has just been how something is said, not what is said. So, I can handle it. More often than not, she is correct and her suggestion simply clarifies a sentence. 

After all that, I go through it again, reading along as I put in the corrections suggested to me. It is at this point that I am doing the final editing. So, I started the process and I am ending the process. 

Do I dread editing....not entirely. But, I always prepare myself for it. I know it has to be and so I simply grin and bear it because it is the tempering of the story that refines it into a book. Thus, I declare a new word...which has probably already been made up....Dreaditing, a necessary form of pain for the betterment of bookkind everywhere.

And since you got through that and did not fall asleep or decide to check facebook, here is a picture that has absolutely nothing to do with editing......or dreaditing. 

p.s please don't edit this post just to be funny. It's the internet, you should be glad that I use complete words.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Journey with Kai

Recently I have had the pleasure of doing some cover art for a friends books. As you should know by now, I like to draw. A few of my author friends have suggested that I do some cover art and I sort of dismissed it as I don't feel that I am that good.

A while back a friend was trying to find some coveart for her book Kai's Journey . The cover art it currently has just wasn't cutting it for them anymore. So she posted some drawings online that she had found and was hoping to use them for her book. Unfortunately she was having a difficult time getting in touch with the original artist and even at that she needed some changes to the art as it wasn't exactly what she was looking for. Trust me, authors are never pickier than when they are trying to find that perfect cover art. I know, I am terrible about the cover never being good enough. When I saw what she was looking at I thought, "hey, I can draw something like that"  So, I drew one.

This is what I came up with and she loved it. It had the elements she wanted in the cover. She did have some suggestions to make about color and a few details that needed to be added. I was happy to oblige, though I made no promises about the outcome.

This was the final product. The only part that I simply couldn't add without it looking terrible was a background. She was alright with that and said she could find a way to put the background in. She was thrilled, but probably no more than I. I had never done anything like this, it was a shot in the dark and I was so happy with the final product that I even let her pay me. (Trust me, I wasn't going to, but she can be a very, very insistent person.)

After all this, she came back to me and asked if I would do the cover for their second book, which is still in the production stages. I agreed and she gave me details. I didn't realize what I had gotten myself into. I have drawn people and people-like things, and the wolf in the first picture was hard enough, but the next one would be a full on DRAGON. Oh my lord in heaven, had I made the stupidest mistake of my life? It took me some trial and error but I finally came up with something. First I drew the character, then I drew the dragon, then I combined them. The whole time I had this little voice in my head telling me that it was terrible, awful, don't show it to her, and so on. But, I told that voice to shut up and pushed onward. If she didn't like it, then I would know what not to do.

 “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” 
― Thomas A. Edison

Fortunate for me, she liked my work. 

First the character. I had to take a model and then fix him to look more like the first cover art image. I couldn't have two different people as the same person. This isn't Bewitched. I did try to add a little age to him, not much, but enough to show the progression of the stories.

Next the Dragon. This dragon was supposed to incorporate elements of wolf into the features. Mostly what I did was in the mouth and eyes to bring out the lupine side. My hand was actually shaking at times working on this I was so worried that it would come out crummy.   

Then the blend. I had the darnedest time with this part. I don't have any fancy computer programs to help me with this, I don't exactly have that kind of money. So, I went with some old, old school programming. Scissors and glue. I tell you what, I sat with those scissors in front of me for half a hour clicking and clicking on them before I remembered that it required something called manual labor. Man, how did they survive in the olden days! Oh well, with some snipping, a touch of glue, I had my two images crossed over. 

The final product. Again with the old school software. This was done with colored pencils and artist wax. I learned a lot in just the coloring alone. My living room was a mess with all the tools I had out working through this. But, I must say I liked the outcome. Of course I am bias, blue is my absolute favorite color, thus it wasn't that hard to stare at it for so long. You might've noticed the absence of the fin/wing thing on its back. The author asked for that little change for the cover. Not a problem, it is her cover art after all.

Do I want to make a career as a cover artist....I am not sure that will ever happen. Will I do other covers as requested, probably. I do have limits, more than most artists, but if my simple skill is enough to please someone and help them achieve what they want, then I will do what I can. (making a little money isn't so bad either)