Some Progress on “The Cephalopod Maid” and Life!

Writing of “The Cephalopod Maid” is going along swimmingly!  (See what I did there?  It’s a joke, cuz cephalopods live in the ocean!)  I need to think a little more about where the story wants to grow, but that’s okay, because I have to focus my time and efforts on commissioned work for the next week.  Well, commissioned work and drumming up more paid-for work.  So unfortunately, a free short story needs to take the back seat.  Which makes me sad, because I’ve also added another two layers to the cover art, and now I can’t touch that until next week either.

Here she is!  I’ve got one layer of shading left to do on the maid, and then I get to add the details.  You can’t see in this photo, but there is a really lovely green shade to her face that goes into her body.

Cephalopod cover art in progress

In other news, our office/work space is almost completely set up.  We’ve got several different pots on the fire, and we’re hoping that we can keep it all going.  And we’re trying to settle into a work routine.  We’re still weighing whether or not we’ll look for a part or full time job for one of us or try to push the freelancing.  I think right now the plan is to keep all door opens, apply for positions as they come up and we find them interesting, and push the freelance.  It’s tough to find a balance of doing paid work, looking for future paid work, and developing art and writing that will hopefully eventually become paid work and to grow as an artist.

Starting Friday, I’ll be taking part in a Discover Authors blog tour for Penumbra, so for ten days, I’ll be posting the books for the other authors on the tour.  I’m excited to participate.  I’ll also be running an ebook giveaway for Penumbra as part of the tour, so keep watch for that!

“The Cephalopod Maid” Cover Art in Progress

I’ve started laying in paint on the cover art.  What do you think?

Cover art for The Cephalopod Maid

Cover art for The Cephalopod Maid

The figure will be white and brown and orange, with a greenish cast to the skin.  The watercolor brushwork will look less harsh once I do a nice scan.

I hope to finish both the cover design and the story this week, but we’ll see if that happens.  I have three commissions I’m working on, as well as work to develop samples for my online business, on top of my two year old still working on those pesky molars, so none of us are getting a lot of sleep at night.  But, plan big and even if you fall short, you’ll still have accomplished more than if you had never planned at all!


Writing Confessions

Confession: I have a hard time keeping deadlines that I set for myself.  Meeting contracted obligations are no problem at all, but meeting the deadlines I set for myself are next to impossible for me.  Maybe I need to write myself contracts?

I was supposed to have finished “The Cephalopod Maid” Friday.  Then I was supposed to have finished it today.  But I am having a really difficult time keeping focused for longer periods of writing time.  I had gotten so used to carving out 100 words here, 300 words there, 500 words on an absolutely glorious writing day that now that I have an hour or more to write every day, I let myself get distracted after only a few paragraphs.  Not good, so not good.

But I will get used to the shift.  I’ll finish this story, because I’m really enjoying the two main characters.  Maybe it will lead to a longer story with them down the road.  And I’ll get my daily wordcount higher.  My brain will adjust to focusing for longer periods on writing again. I can’t beat myself up too much.  Well, I can, but there’s no reason to… this time.

Sword of Truth Illustration Progress

I FINALLY have some pictures to share of my Sword of Truth illustration.  Please excuse the quality of the photos.  I unfortunately do most of my painting at night, and the quality of light is not optimal for photography.  They will be scanned in before being added to the poetry collection.  You probably don’t remember, but a long time ago I posted this image of the pencils (darkened to actually show the image):

Sword of Truth with Serpents

And here are the layers of ink as I’ve painted them.

First I painted in the sword with a mid-level gray (achieved by mixing water into the black ink only).


Then I decided that since I really wanted a dark background, I better do that next in case I messed it up.  No point spending hours detailing the serpents in the background if I mess up the black background.


Here is round two of the black background!  No major mistakes, but you can still see the wetness from the ink.  Both these layers were done in straight ink, although I did wet my brush a few times when the bristles started to, well, get too bristly.


And here is the final layers that I’ve added.


I’m excited to have most of the basic wash done on all eight illustrations.  Soon I will get to go back in and add the shading, then detailed line work with pen(s), and finish with popping highlights with white ink.



We have a title!

A novella title, that is.  And it is (drum roll…) Penumbra.  Here is the dictionary definition, if you need it:


[pi-nuhm-bruh] Show IPA

noun, plural pe·num·brae [-bree] Show IPA , pe·num·bras.

1.Astronomy .

a.the partial or imperfect shadow outside the complete shadow of an opaque body, as a planet, where the light from the source of illumination is only partly cut off. Compare umbra (  def 3a ) .
b.the grayish marginal portion of a sunspot. Compare umbra (  def 3b ) .
2.a shadowy, indefinite, or marginal area.
Origin:1660–70;  < Neo-Latin,  equivalent to Latin paen- pen- + umbra  shade
I also have a tentative idea for the cover that I am going to sketch out tonight.  I’m thinking of one that’s more graphic-oriented than picture-oriented.  But we’ll see how it goes.
In further updates, my illustrations are coming along finally!  I don’t know how long it will take to finish, since I have a set of eight to complete and I want them to be very detailed, but I’m going to see what I can get done this week.  I may need to make the decision to get Penumbra out before The Little Book of Insurrection, or the Poetry of my Discontent, but we’ll see.  I really wanted to release both ebooks simultaneously and then both paperback versions side by side as well.
I’ve also been thinking about my next big project after that, which will be attempting to raise money to complete my first music album including the songs that are included as part of the poetry collection.  I worry that if I stick with songs only in the vein of the ones in my collection that people will get really depressed listening to the album, but if I include any upbeat songs, it will detract from my message.  Maybe play around with some of the music behind the lyrics?  I feel like I need to include SOME songs of beauty and hope, but a lot of what I write lyrically along those lines comes across as schmaltzy or preachy, and I do NOT want that to happen.  But I’ve got some time to percolate.
Also, I’ve got a post brewing about violence towards women and rape and our current culture, but that needs time to percolate a little too.  It kept me up a while last night thinking about it though.

Final edits are a go!

I am on my final edits for my novella and will hopefully be ready to announce a title (and maybe a rough cover design) very soon!  I will give this particular edit for a strictly grammar/typo editor, then I will go through it one more time for the same and begin the publishing process.

I’m excited but at the same time I’m beginning to hear the ugly doubts in my head as I get closer.  I worry it is too short or not interesting enough or that thematically it falls short.  I know I’m not bored with it yet, but it’s kind of my baby.

Hopefully I will gain more confidence as I get closer to a definitive release date.

Second round of editing/rewrites is done!

I finished the second round of rewrites.  Still no closer to a title, but hopefully a brilliant idea will strike soon. 

I’ve got a commission to do over the next couple of days, and then I will be focusing on the illustrations for my poetry collection while my husband is taking another pass at the novella, so expect some art updates in the next weeks. 


Writing Rituals

Edits are chugging along on my novella.  Not as fast as I would like, but that is life with a toddler.  I was thinking today about how when I was a younger writer, I had certain rituals that I always liked to do.  First, as part of my character breakdown, I would sketch out each outfit that the main characters would wear for the entire book.  Then, I would spend hours creating the perfect playlist.  When I finally sat down to write (weeks later), I would go in a separate room from my husband, light a scented candle, start my playlist going, keep a steady supply of hot coffee by my side, and set to work.  And I realized that for all my rituals, not a whole lot of work was ever produced because if I didn’t have time to make things “just so”, I didn’t bother writing at all.

Nowadays, I still like to write to music, but I don’t make specific playlists for each work because I don’t have the luxury to do so.  Instead, I put on ambient music with no lyrics or foreign lyrics (to avoid directly influencing my writing) so that my subconscious can float above the sound.  And I still like to have something to drink in hand, whether it be coffee or tea or a tall glass of cold local cream-on-top milk.  When I’m creating art, I usually prefer a glass of wine or a beer.  And I’m more likely to put something mindless on T.V. when I’ve already planned a project out and am just working with my hands.  But beyond that, I no longer have a need to set the space or create the “perfect” creative environment.  Because if I keep waiting for “perfect”, I’ll never finish any of my projects.

Do you feel that you have rituals that help or hinder your creative process?  Do you cling to anything as a way to tell yourself you “can’t” instead of clearing out of your own head so you “can”?

Status Update On All Things Creative (and Some Not-So-Creative)

In an effort to continue to hold myself accountable, I am recording how I have begun 2013 thus far, and I must say it hasn’t begun that auspiciously as we’ve gone from bad head colds to lingering sinus issues to two-year molar teething, which all equals severe lack of sleep.  But I can make baby steps, and here I will put them down.

  • I am making good progress with the line edits on my novella and should finish right on schedule at the end of next week.  This is good because we’ve signed up to share a table at a Small Press Expo in Buffalo, NY in April, so I now have a hard deadline to aim for.  And I will reach it.
  • I have been making not-so-good progress on my illustrations for my poetry collection.  My holiday gifts are actually STILL not completed (our final celebration is this Sunday with family & I need to ship out a few things still), so I will be picking up where I left off in early December this coming week and will hopefully finish by the end of the following week (I’m aiming to be done 1/24 but may need one more week depending on how detailed I get).  Again, I have a hard deadline to have this finished by April.  Two books sitting on the table will be much more interesting than one.  And I may also then be able to sell some prints of the illustrations from the book.  Money is good, as is getting my name out there as much as possible.
  • Music… oh my music.  With my husband and I working split shifts, and us living in an apartment complex, I don’t get nearly as much time to play as I’d like.  But this week, I’ve begun practicing piano scales as often as my son gives me time to.  I am self-taught on the piano (I picked it up when my older brother started having lessons, and then I learned flute which reinforced music theory, etc), and I play well enough to accompany myself as I sing, but writing my own music is a slow and laborious process, so I figure I would take the time to learn proper fingering on scales and chords, which is something I’ve never done.  So baby steps forward on the music front! 
  • Morning pages – I’ve been doing them at least four times a week lately.  An improvement, but I really want to make it a daily practice.  Also, I cheat sometimes and don’t do them in the morning because I’m running so late for work.  It doesn’t have quite the same effect if I do them at lunch time because by then my brain is already too wired.  But I’ll take what I can get.
  • Things I need to work on – meditating, sketching, and exercising at least a little bit every day.  It seems like right now I can manage to do one a day, but not all three.  I plan on changing that tonight, but they say it takes 21 days to make something a habit, so this is going to be tough.

Outside of the creative work, I am going to be getting back into my no-processed food eating (at least at home) this coming week.  This, unfortunately, is another time-taker, but for my health and the health of my family, I need to plan out healthy snacks.  For example, I’ve recently tried two homemade cracker recipes that came out really good, so I will try to make those as frequently as I can as an alternative to the soy or canola oil laden store bought variety.  I’m certain that the reason we all got so sick with colds over the holidays is due to the plethora of processed and sugary foods.  Garbage in equals garbage out, after all. 

Also, we made great strides in getting organized, but we still have a ways to go, so I am continuing on that front wherever I can.  We’re using some Christmas money to buy some toy organizers for the boy, and I need about two hours to finish organizing our art supplies.

And finally, my husband and I are going to have a long discussion this weekend about our business goals for the coming years.  We know what we want to achieve, but we need to create an actionable list of how to achieve those goals, and we need to decide if we realistically can do it with our time and money constraints.  This could be a tearful, emotional conversation or maybe not.  That will probably depend on how much sleep our son lets us gets these next couple of nights. 

Writers’ Retreat

Yesterday, when we arrived to our cottage (kindly lent to us by my husband’s aunt), I finished the handwork on the gifts I was giving my friends today, and then I put the finishing touches on the snacks we brought.  Then we were eating said snacks.  So no actual writing happened until today, but that’s all right.

I finished my hand-written notes (got a HUGE chunk of time during my son’s nap, yay!), and the remainder of today/tonight will be going through my document and making those changes, re-writing and adding where I need to do so, and hopefully finishing up my entire draft before the end of the night, with maybe enough time left for sketching before going to bed.

Tomorrow, before we leave, I would like to try my hand at a poem or two, possibly to add into my soon-to-be released collection.  There is just a lot going on right now in regards to both the budget here in the U.S. and the response to the school shooting, and I need to process both. If there is time, I will also delve a little bit more into the next project (graphic novel).

I started getting down on myself a little because the projects that I’m currently working on are the exact same ones that I was beginning to work on during our last New Year’s retreat.  It seems to me that I should have been able to finish a novella and a poetry collection in one year.  But I realized that if I think like that, then I will never finish anything.  Better to have it take twice as long as I anticipate than to never begin at all.

For right now, I’m going to get my son’s snowsuit on and go out and play with him for a little bit.  My mind needs a break.