Click for our new issue:
It’s finally here! Cover reveal day for my sequel!
What do you guys think? I think it’s quite lovely, and I’m so glad that Christel Michiels is continuing to do the cover art for my books. I’m in love with her style.
Summary: Lady Marguerite Vadnay and her trusty automaton, Outil, have settled into life in New France rather well. Marguerite is top of the class at flight school and her future as an aerpilot is nearly secure. She has everything she wants— except a commission on the pirate hunting dirigible The Renegade. Using every card in her aristocratic arsenal, Marguerite wiggles her way onto the finest warship France has to offer. But as usual, Marguerite’s plans endanger the lives of those she holds dear— only this time no one else is going to save them. As Marguerite and Outil set off on a rescue mission they may not return from, she finally realizes it’s time to reorder her cogs.
This steampunk adventure is littered with facts from The Golden Age of Piracy and follows (not too closely) some of the lives and adventures of the brave men and women who sailed the seas as privateers, pirates and soldiers.
Have you read book one, The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl? If you have and you liked it, please leave a review on Amazon. Amazing things happen when you get 100 positive(ish) reviews there!
Thanks for hanging with me, Gnomies. This book comes out October 15, and you can bet your goggles I’ll be sending you readers out some free copies. Stay tuned!
As we prepare for Friday’s cover reveal, I was thinking about all of the amazing covers out there that I wish were mine! Here are a few of my favorites:
They all do one thing: they make me want to read the book!
For today’s exercise, go to Amazon and find a genre you love or do a search on Pinterest. Peruse until you find a cover of a book you haven’t read yet that you wish was yours. Now sit and write a summary of YOUR book with that cover. You’ll be surprised how they can help the creative juices flow!
Bonus points if you share your summary below!
This month, we’re talking movies with the Gnomies. I asked each of them what their favorite recent movie was, and you may be surprised at what some of them had to say!
Why? That’s so easy–WONDER WOMAN!! She was amazing. Made the whole movie. All my little girl dreams came true. Can’t wait to see it again!
THE RUBY-EYED CYBORG: Zootopia
Zootopia unexpectedly became my all-time favorite animated movie when I saw it a couple weeks ago with my family. Not only was my four-year-old daughter captivated by the movie, but my husband and I loved it just as much. I loved the plot twists, humor, and yes, the references to Breaking Bad. To top things off, the movie had a great message that lead to some interesting discussion with my family afterward. I highly recommend it!
I was so excited about the movie from the moment I saw the trailer. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now! From the trailer, I thought I knew what to expect, but when the thing I thought would happen happened within the first ten minutes of the movie, the rest of it kept me totally guessing and on the edge of my seat. AND THEN…. I thought it was over. But wait! There was more! It was like a movie within a movie. I wouldn’t call it horror, like I thought it would be. Maybe a suspense thriller or something like that, with a tiny dash of science fiction. It was one of my favorite movies in a long time!
THE PRINCESS PEEPS:
My favorite recent movie is kind of a weird one, but I can be into that sort of thing because I’m an art major. I’ll show you my badge to prove it. It’s covered in glitter and spikes to illustrate the plight of the brooding artist. Anyway! The movie. It’s called “Anomalisa” and it was made by the guy who did “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (yeah, THAT kind of weird). It was nominated for best animated picture this year, and rightfully so! Not only is the animation gorgeous in its surreal, semi-realistic, very uncanny sort of style, but the story is absolutely chilling! So yeah, it’s pretty great and I recommend it. Be forewarned: contains gratuitous puppet sex.
Cinderella, because I’m obsessed with Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden, Lily James, and all things Disney.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for two reasons: 1) good start for a new saga, and 2) only movie I saw in last year. Yes, folks, online or at the theater, I haven’t watched another movie since Despicable Me 2. This was a good story anyway, so still tops and here’s why:
Shaun the Sheep: The Movie
While I’ve been a fan of stop-motion animation since a child, and Aardman productions has produced multiple films and television series of the highest caliber, they really outdid themselves with the Shaun the Sheep movie. Like the Pixar movie Wall-E, this film has virtually no dialogue and instead relies on action and demonstration to carry the story line along. And the story is beautiful. It is warm. It is humorous, poignant, and lovely. It made me cry in a darkened theater surrounded by other sniffling adults (though the children were noticeably dry-eyed). I won’t summarize the plot or give spoilers, I will merely say that the movie encapsulates the best elements of narrative and whimsy, imagination and resourcefulness. This is a film devoid of slick CGI elements, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Because of the animation format, the practical effects are wonderfully tangible; I mean, I dare anyone to watch it and not want to touch the abundant, fluffy sheep fur through the screen. Although, I would recommend keeping all appendages away from Shirley 😉
Now it’s your turn! What movies are you digging on these days?
I once ran a half-marathon; not so long ago as of this writing. I’ll never do that again. I’m just not a running man (sorry Schwartz). Fitness is a subjective thing, anyway. I’m active enough to keep guilt at bay, but my brain’s another matter. Gray matter, that is. Pump up the fat cells, pump up the fat cells, pump up the fat cells, think, think.
Gotta keep that lump active to come up with awesome new tattoo ideas and creative solutions to “gourmet leftovers” night, y’know? Can’t do them without imagination, but imagination can get stale without exercise, especially as this thing called ‘time’ propels us toward universal entropy (i.e., as we get older). Gotta practice that power of manifestation to keep it fit, avoiding laser treatments and expensive takeout, and maybe even helping to tell a story or two along the way.
So here are five tips to keep your imagination from getting toOOo lazy — workouts that will energize your mind and keep it thinking things that have never been thought before.
In no particular order, but starting with my personal favorite…
In scientific terms, the brain is a wonderful, interconnected quantum jellyfish of energy and fat. Sometimes it needs to be left to its own devices. Like when we sleep, for example, which helps to mellow bad memories and heal our bodies. Or in a sensory deprivation tank, where you can experience intense hallucinations as a direct result of being cut off from external stimuli. Then there’s meditation (not medication), consistently linked to stress reduction (especially in conjunction with running), lower blood pressure, and boosting the immune system.
I’m already out of breath.
Let’s take it down a notch.
Close your eyes for five minutes.
If you have ten minutes to spare on days, go for it, and prepare to have your mind blown.
But you must keep your eyes closed the whole time! It’s essential. It may take a good three to four minutes to get over the initial, Why am I just sitting here? compulsion, but after that, the breathing kicks in and it’s all good.
It’s best without earbuds or TV, but sometimes depends. Trance-like music or a familiar show can sometimes contribute to the benefits.
During normal vision, information flows from the visual cortex and to the sensory lobes, where you interpret the signals into sensible material. Scientists have found that when people imagine things, information flows the other way. First the inner-senses fire, which then send signals to the visual processor. Bing! One rainbow sherbet mountainside with unicorn sprinkles!
So you see, if you close your eyes, you are automatically cutting off the signal of optical-to-sensory, and so the brain has to do something. So it’ll go sensory-to-optical, and you’ll automatically regenerate your imagination.
At first, the images are all recent events and planning for the next day, but when you force it for at least three to five minutes, and up to fifteen, it’s a more profound effect. You get over those immediate thoughts, and the brain takes over for itself, like a tablet on sleep mode, ready to wake in an instant, but content to be shut down.
I like 15-minute spells, and find that enough. Very energizing.
Don’t take a long breath before the prepositional phrase, there. When the brain learns, it forms new synaptic connections, which can then be used as an imagination arsenal.
So the brain is a whole bunch of inter-connected spindly connectoids that look like elongated spider web sacks called neurons. When neurons connect to each other — like during a new experience — they form tendril-like tentacles called synapses. So then later, when these same synapses fire, or send electrical signals between neurons, you remember that event, or feeling, or image, or whatever it is you’re thinking about, since a memory is a large construct of connections between emotions and images and words and feelings, many synaptic connections are formed in their making. They are formed, however, and remain. Scientists are even trying methods to encode the entire synaptic pattern of a human brain, wondering whether, if they can reconstruct a brain with those same connections in the future, could they resurrect the individual?
But I digress.
Doing new things forms new synaptic connections in your brain. That’s it. So when you’re imagining later on, you have a deeper reserve upon which to draw, a fuller arsenal to trigger memories.
These don’t have to be profoundly new experiences; there is a spectrum. Take a new route to work. Use your opposite hand to brush your teeth. Sign up for a short community class. Whatever. Just do something new.
If I’m 3D printed in the future, I want a long rendering time.
Thanks to Bionic Banshee’s Friday Finds blog post, I read Wil Wheaton’s post on drawing – how he wasn’t any good at it, but always loved the idea of creating something out of nothing, such as a blank sheet of paper. He likened it to his abilities to convey emotion with his body movements and especially voice; so he acknowledged his creative abilities.
Try drawing or modeling clay (that stuff is fun). Art has very therapeutic properties. It helps comprehend things about ourselves and provide new insights into the creative process.
You can have a plan or just put pencil to paper or hand to clay and see where it takes you. Stick figures are perfetly acceptable, as are patterns and random doodles. If you’re working on a story, jot down plot lines and scenes and interconnect them with veins of flowers or machine-gun fire.
Express your imagination in more ways than one.
This is an easy one. Whenever you’re able, see things around you that are only in your mind. A ninja on a rooftop, spaceship terminal on the bathroom wall, dragon on the water tower – like wearing augmented reality goggles, use your imagination to populate the ordinary world with your creations. This touches on the playful side of our imagination, allowing the mind to wander and fill in the blanks with infite potential. I like doing this exercise instead of playing with my phone sometimes.
In Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, one of his prerequisites before one is allowed to start writing a screenplay is to run your idea by others and get their reactions. First, of course, you need to develop a killer title and logline, which are tootin’ good exercises in and of themselves!
Getting feedback is probably one of the most effective and emotionally devastating ways to stimulate new ideas. Sometimes these other perspectives can expose one of our greatest weaknesses, blindness to our flaws, but they also open new avenues of thinking when we’re presented with an idea that never crossed our own mind. Present drafts or even paragraphs to folks, or just bring up your story idea during conversation.
A decent logline does go a long way to helping conversations along, and check out Blake’s book for more advice on talking through your idea with others.
Jeanette is a super awesome artist I found on Etsy last fall. I wanted to commission some paintings for my critique partners inspired by their novels, and she basically read my crazy-person mind to get them just right. It’s been a lovely experience working with her, and she did a fantastic job. She even agreed to let me interview her!
These are a few of Jeanette’s favorite things…
Book: The Stand
Song: Eleanor Rigby
Show: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Movie: Fight Club. I know I’ve never even remotely been the target audience for this movie, but I love it’s cynicism and dark humor.
Fairytale: The Little Mermaid, both the Disney and original Hans Christian Andersen version
Motivational Quote: “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” -Bob Ross
What does your art mean to you?
I don’t have a ton of sentimental attachment to my work, except that I want it to look good. I paint because I enjoy it. I’m not trying to make a big important statement. I don’t think my art will change the world. I just want to make something aesthetically pleasing, something fun to look at.
What medium/media do you prefer to work with?
I work mostly with acrylics, with markers and pens sometimes thrown in. I’d love to work with oil paints more, but they stay wet and malleable for up to six months, and I just don’t have the room to let them sit out.
Who is your biggest artistic influence? Why?
Weird as it sounds, I’m pretty sure I’ve been more influenced by art teachers than anyone famous, especially my high school art teacher, Eric Kuehn. He taught me most of the basic rules of composition and design, and when I screw up, it’s usually his voice that I hear words of criticism or encouragement in.
What’s the one piece of art you’d love to own?
Do you have any other hobbies?
I read a lot – sci-fi, fantasy, a little horror – and I’m starting to get back in to comic books, but only in trade paperbacks or graphic novels, so I can cherry pick the good stuff. I do some pretty nerdy tabletop gaming, although I haven’t mustered up the courage to go full D&D yet. Oh, and I spend way too much time on the internet. I guess that’s a hobby.
It’s totally a hobby. Describe that moment when you knew you were an artist—when you knew that this is what you’re meant to be doing with your life.
Is that a feeling I’m supposed to have…? Honestly, I don’t know if this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life, but I like doing it. It’s extremely gratifying to hear when other people like my work too, especially when they like it enough to spend their money on it. That still blows my mind.
I browse a lot of other art and color palettes. Usually an interesting color palette will inspire me, and then I’ll try to figure out what to do with it. When I do character or any kind of representational work, I start with a vague idea of what I want and then just collect a ton of references until something clicks.
And what keeps you motivated?
Etsy, Facebook, friends and family, and clients… basically just knowing that there are people out there who want and even expect to see new stuff from me.
What kind of music puts you in the mood while you’re painting?
I typically either listen to 60s and 70s type rock – The Beatles, Queen, The Rolling Stones – or to a customized Pandora station that I don’t know what the genre is called – Fiona Apple, Ben Folds, Muse, Regina Spektor.
What are you working on now?
I’ve got a small series (4 paintings) of baby dragons that I’m working on, a set of 3 baby elephant paintings commissioned for a girl’s nursery that are “due” in May, and maybe a few 80s cartoon nostalgia pieces that are ruminating.
Do you work on multiple projects at once or focus on one at a time?
I usually have several things in various stages of progress at a time, although saying I work on them all at once may be stretching it a bit.
Some kind of comic book probably. Time would definitely have to not be an issue, because I work crazy slow.
What about when you get stuck? What keeps you going?
I stop and step back. That may sound like a terrible cop-out, but it’s way worse to keep working on something when I’m frustrated with it. If I can’t tell what is wrong with a painting, I take a photo of it and look at that instead of the physical painting. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about getting that kind of distance from a piece that allows me to see errors better. And then, after a day or so of not painting (mostly ;)) and only looking, I can usually get back into a painting without too much trouble.
What do you think is the hardest thing about painting? The easiest?
The hardest part for me is keeping it simple and deciding it’s done. There always seems to be one more thing I can add, one little something that doesn’t look quite right. And I don’t know if this is the easiest part, but my favorite is mixing and combining colors. There’s something very satisfying about getting the right color combination to pop on canvas.
Do you have any painting or drawing books you’d recommend to those just starting out?
I had a ton of specialized “Draw the Marvel Way” type books when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend any of them. They’re more about developing style than skill.
Look at things. Collect references and inspiration. If you want to draw or paint a horse, don’t just assume you know what it looks like. Get as many pictures of horses as you can, study them, and look at them while you work. Google is your friend.
Great advice! Thanks so much Jeanette! We can’t wait to see what you paint next!
If you’d like to check out more of Jeanette’s work, you can find her here:
Jeanette Koch is a full-time geek who makes her spending money as a Pharmacy Technician. Sources close to her claim that she was born an overly friendly talker, but years of practice have enabled her to grow into a healthy, well-adjusted introvert. She has three friends, watches cartoons and comic book movies, and falls asleep on the couch by 9 pm. Like a rock star.
Tuesday we talked about researching history and how it can help build our fictional worlds and characters.
For today’s prompt, choose an event from history, pick one prominent person you’d like to know more about, and use the events, people, and decisions surrounding them to create your character sheet.
Have fun, and we’d love to see how it goes!
Perhaps it’s weird lumping these together, but whatever. I’m weird. Sue me. (Actually, don’t. I’m poor. It’s not worth it.) And there is a point. Whether you’re working on historical fiction, an epic fantasy, or even the next big space opera, if it takes place on our planet or on a planet entirely your own, history will always play a role, however small.
DO YOUR RESEARCH:
This will be more relevant to anyone writing historical fiction or fiction that is heavily inspired by history, but if you’re creating a world from scratch, it doesn’t hurt to create parallels and brush up on the ways in which we Earthlings have evolved (and not evolved).
If you’re just diving in, your first step is choosing a topic. Make a list about what interests you. Odds are you aren’t the only weirdo out there fascinated by this.
Anything you personally want to know more about has story potential if you’re open to finding it.
Get Your Read On:
Obvious maybe, but once you’ve chosen your topic it’s book-cracking time. READ. Then read some more. Now do it again, and be sure to take notes (we’ll dive into this more later, promise).
All of it, the legit and the fictional. Documentaries and biographies are super informative, but look at shows and movies created solely for entertainment as well. How did they do it? Why is it so loved or hated? Feel like writing a novel about a guy at an advertising firm in the 60s? Hop on Netlflix and binge watch Mad Men. Fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots? Time for some Reign.
This is last for a reason. This should never ever ever be your sole tool when researching history. But once you have a very firm grasp on your topic, it’s okay to peek around. (I personally don’t move on to this stage until I feel like I could win Jeopardy with my topic. That may sound extreme for some, but despite my extensive notes, the less I have to go back to them while the creative juices are flowing, the better. They’ll be there if I need them, but my brain is my biggest tool here.) I love Google and Wikipedia for quick fact checks, but you need to know your topic well enough to recognize when things are wrong.
TAKING NOTES (AND THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUILDING WORLDS):
With so many moving parts and intricacies, our notes can get messy, so it’s important to stay organized and keep your notes separate.
So crack open those books, get to reading, and remember to stay organized. Research can be tedious work, but if you get the legwork done before you dive in, the creative process will be that much easier.