The Herd blog challenge continues with the theme of Art.
I decided to display art created by my talented artist friends. Most of the featured artists I met through my Nevada Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators group, and they have illustrated children’s books. One of the artists I met playing tennis and another I met from her book review blog. I have listed their websites where you can check out more of their amazing work. Enjoy!
Mayumi Kosaka has several books available featuring her wonderful artwork. Her stories and paintings are influenced from her native Japan.
Sharon Mann creates fantastic art with material as well as paint, pens, and graphics. She has a creative blog, Make Art Magic Happens where you can get a daily dose of art. She has illustrated many books including Draw Doodle Color Write (author Ann Pashak illustrator Sharon Mann).
Sharleen Collicott has written and illustrated several picture book series. Her illustrations are adorable, and she can even make bugs look cute.
Jerry Blank is not only artistic, but he has one heck of a tennis forehand. His new non-fiction, illustrated book is titled Backroads Nevada. The book delves into what you can find off the state’s major highways along with pen and ink and watercolor illustrations by Jerry.
Currently, he’s not selling paintings online, but you can contact him directly at http://www.goblankart.com/.
Jazz Impressions: oil on canvas, framed, 48”x30″, Celebration: oil on canvas, framed, 48”x30″, Tango: oil on canvas, 28”x40″, Lennon: Mixed media original. 22”x28”, Pirates: Mixed media original, 22”x28″, Einstein: oil on canvas, 20″x20″
Natasha Murray lives in England. She is the author of several books including 3004 and Jack Solar’s Journal. Her Authors, Readers, Good Books and Book Promotions blog features book reviews (she provides free reviews to indie authors-check her guidelines) and author interviews as well as a page of book promotion ideas. Check out her books on the blog, too!
Author Interview by Ashley’s Bookshelf
Ashley’s Bookshelf has been awesome in posting author interviews for indie authors. You can read about Town from Hell at Ashley’s Bookshelf, my favorite character from the book, some writing quirks, and my advice to writers.
Ashley’s Bookshelf, listed as a reviewer on The Indie View, features in-depth book reviews for paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, romance, Christian fiction, YA, mystery, and suspense as well as cover reveals.
The story of “Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell” is told from Racer Roane’s point of view. He and his girlfriend Arloe Vitteo experienced the worst vacation ever when they chose to go to Winthrop, Nevada, over glittering Las Vegas. Unlike Vegas’ motto “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” this book tells all about Winthrop, the town from hell.
Just Books caught up with Racer Roane to get an interview about the experience. Read all about it at Just Books blog. You may find out what the factory really is, why the coyotes won’t go near the town, and why the remaining residents are more than a little strange.
Read an excerpt from Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell at Fallen Over Book Reviews. It will give you an idea why the coyotes won’t venture into Winthrop.
Also, learn more about Town from Hell’s author with Fallen Over’s interview questions.
Have you ever had a nightmare and were able to remember it?
The right pairings of anything can make a spectacular combination. Mouth-watering combos that prove the point include pretzels and ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate, and apples and caramel. Duets that combine musical artists of different genres, such as country singer Kenny Chesney with rocker Pink (Setting the World on Fire), can create wonderful results as well. In writing, plot points are also paired, and the combinations can make or break a story.
Winning and Losing – A Game of High Stakes
Well-defined plot points, or plot elements, are what give a story depth and stir emotions in a reader. The most important element that a character needs is a goal or problem, which must be resolved by the story’s end. A goal cannot stand alone. It is paired with another element, consequence. Failure to attain that goal or solve a problem leads to the consequence. If a character is willing to do anything to avoid failure, a story will have high-stakes tension. Life and death situations are an example of a high-stakes goal/consequence.
A Good Rollercoaster Ride
Along the way to conquering a goal, a character must have smaller successes and failures. These plot points are called requirements and forewarnings. The combination of these is what gives a story the rollercoaster effect—humps to get over, picking up speed downhill, sharp turns—the fun stuff that leaves a rider (and reader) on the edge of their seat. Requirements give readers a sense of relief that the protagonist is well on his/her way. Forewarnings are setbacks that make a reader turn the pages to see if the protagonist is going to get out of another jam.
Pairings: Dog Quiz
Now for the fun stuff. Speaking of things that go well together, some pairings in the dog world can make adorable pooches. Take the following quiz to see if you can determine what these hybrid canines are. Answers are at the bottom of the blog. No cheating, and yes, there are duplicates.
On a side note, most of the pictured dogs were rescues. Rescued does not mean damaged—it just means a wonderful dog hasn’t met the right person. Consider a rescue when you are ready to adopt. I can personally give you five good reasons why, and four of them are pictured here.
A Jack-A-Ranian (Jack Russell Terrier/Pomeranian)
B Aussiedor (Australian Shepherd/Labrador Retriever) looks like an Aussie
C Aussiedor (Australian Shepherd/Labrador Retriever) looks like a Lab
D Chiweenie (Chihuahua/Dachshund) Also known as the Taco Bell dog meets a Weiner Dog, no her ears aren’t Photoshopped!
E Morkie (Maltese/Yorkshire Terrier)
F Doxiepoo (Dachshund/Poodle)
G Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle) A large, standard poodle and light golden mix
H Chiweenie (version 2) This one looks more like a dachshund
Racer finds out what’s under the step. You can, too.
Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. Amazon .99 SALE.
Writing tips and bearded men in one blog—just go with it. To make a fictional story come alive, writers need to create meaningful and memorable characters. The best characters, bearded or otherwise, are the ones that make the readers feel emotion while they read. If a protagonist is well-written, readers will want them to overcome conflict. They will feel heartbreak at a character’s misfortune. Readers will turn pages in hopes their beloved protagonist wins in the end. Unless, or course, the reader doesn’t like the protagonist.
Characters need a variety of traits. A character who is courageous and humorous could also be obnoxious and selfish. Antagonists shouldn’t be perfect, just like everyone else. Tony Stark saves the world and is likable, but he is a bit egotistical, too. However, egotistical people may not see a big ego as a flaw. Creating characters with a mixture of different traits allows readers to decide for themselves if they like a character or not.
Hunk, Babe, Troll
Creating a great character takes a lot more effort than describing what they look like. For example, “the older man with a beard” could describe many guys, including the band ZZ Top and Santa. To add a little fun to this informational blog, here’s a history lesson that involves older men with beards. The answers will be at the end of the blog.
Men with Beards
See if you can name all the bearded men. Getting all of them correct would be amazing. A score of five, six, or seven is impressive. Two to four correct answers is probably average. One correct answer is bad.
Writing that is done well takes a lot of hard work. Many people underestimate what a good writer can do to make a story come alive, sway opinions, or make a company look good. It is a craft. It takes time, effort, and multiple revisions for writers to get an article, essay, or story from an idea to a finished product. Yet, many writers get paid .01 per word for their effort. This article would be worth $4.29.
A. President Rutherford B. Hayes
B. Edmund Gwenn (Santa from the original movie Miracle on 34th Street)
C. Bram Stoker, author of Dracula
D. President Ulysses S. Grant
E. John Harvey Kellogg inventor of Corn Flakes and other breakfast cereals
F. John C. Fremont, American explorer
G. Buffalo Bill Cody, American scout and showman
H. President James A. Garfield
Credits for photos: Hayes – biography.com; Grant – quotesgram.com; the rest – Pinterest
Employers often compose job descriptions for a multitude of positions to include qualifications such as “You look forward to the challenge,” “You are a great communicator,” “You have strong organizational skills and attention to detail,” “You’re good at overcoming challenges,” “You are creative, self-motivated, and able to take constructive criticism.” After running those qualifications by the potential candidate, employers get to the nitty-gritty and list about a thousand things they need to be skilled in—along with several years of experience. Usually, typos are in many of the job ads. “Proficiency in using a spell checker” should be included as well as utilized.
Writers may not realize they have all these qualifications, but they do. It’s a given that successful writers self-motivate. Words won’t appear on the paper/screen unless a writer puts them there. They draw inspiration from many sources, and it’s imperative. A writer needs to find what inspires them to overcome writer’s block and procrastination. A writer’s skill set can easily match the above list.
Up for the Challenge—Ideas, Grammar, Content, Acceptance
Writing is a challenge. Coming up with ideas and finally finishing a poem, short story or novel is a challenge. Tweaking it until the writer feels it is perfect—challenging. Getting it published—greatest challenge of them all. Writers look forward to the challenge of creating something new, researching material to make their work complete and finding a new and creative way to get as well as hold a reader’s interest. They must overcome rejection of their work—tons of it, mostly in the form of agent rejection letters—or they will never succeed. Writers can’t give up if they want to become published authors one day. This is a driving force for many.
Communication—Persuade, Inform, Entertain
Whether to persuade, inform or entertain, writers need to communicate with readers. Material must be well-written to sway someone into taking a side or to teach them a concept. Even if material is purely for entertainment, a writer does their best to captivate the reader. The characters, setting and plot is communicated from the writer’s imagination to the reader through word choice and attention to detail. Writing isn’t easy, and not everyone can or wants to do it. That’s why companies hire writers.
What exactly is constructive criticism? Definitions.net sums it up perfectly. “Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.” In other words, all writers need to be open to feedback to grow and improve. A first or tenth draft can be improved. Successful writers learn this. After presenting material for feedback from critique groups, agents and reviewers, writers toughen up if they want to remain writers.
Writing is an art. It takes creativity, time, patience and a lot of other skills. Writers are artists who enjoy their craft because it’s a creative release and good therapy. A side note: If someone makes an impression on a writer–good or bad–there’s a good chance they’ve just given them inspiration for more material.
When I first starting my writing endeavor over nine years ago, it was exciting, and I had a blast creating and learning. I bought and read the book, The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard, and it sent me on my way. The author suggested joining a writing group, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which I did, and finding critique groups to bounce around ideas and share material with other writers. I did that as well, and it was a great piece of advice. It was the best step I took to improve my writing, meet great people, and have lasting friendships with people who support what I do.
Ways to Improve Writing Skills
I’ve been to many conferences and lectures to hear authors, agents, and writers’ advice on how to improve my writing. I’ve also paid to have agents critique my manuscripts at these events. All of these steps have improved my writing tremendously—or so I believe. I’ve always learned something from any writing event I’ve attended. If you do the research, you can find free and low-cost events as well as big conferences.
So Where Are the Big Bucks?
Good question. I went into writing knowing children’s authors overall don’t make much. I’ve actually spent more money than I’ve ever earned from book sales. I’ve bought more of my own books and given away for promotion than I can count. I don’t write just for the money because I have yet to see any. If anyone has tips on this, I’d like to hear them.
The Joys of Getting Published
I had my first book, Pirates Off the Deep End, published in 2013 by Short on Time Books, a small publisher. I was beyond thrilled to see my work escape the jammed-packed folders of my computer and sit on a shelf with a beautiful, glossy cover. I still am thrilled. Although I don’t have a huge following or really even a small following, many people have enjoyed my books, and it makes me happy. Good reviews make me even happier.
That’s the bottom line for me—writing makes me happy, and I want my writing to make others happy as well. If you’ve read this far, you’re now going to get the best advice I have to offer.
The Old Man, Boy, and Donkey
If you don’t know the Aesop’s fable with the old man, boy, and donkey about trying to please everyone, it’s worth reading. It ends with the old man and boy carrying the donkey over a bridge because someone shamed them into it. The donkey fell off the bridge. Use its moral in your writing, too. Getting a critique is great, but you can often wind up with contrasting opinions: too much detail vs. not enough; too much dialogue vs. not enough; etc.– you get the picture. You can change your manuscript back and forth forever, and not everyone that reads it will be satisfied. At some point, stop changing it when YOU’RE happy with it.
The “It Takes Over 100 Query Letters” Rule
I’ve read time and time again if authors haven’t sent out at least 100 query letters to agents for a single manuscript, they haven’t given it a chance. I would agree with that statement. Persistence is the key to getting published, but it can be frustrating.
For instance, I write children’s books specifically geared for boys but the majority of agents seem to be women. Thus, my dilemma is I have to “sell” manuscripts to women that have humor meant for little boys. Little boys and women don’t have the same taste in “funny.” Let’s do the math:
Subject + Boys’ Reaction – Agent’s Reaction = Accept/Reject
Alien blue fart bubble Laughs hysterically Grimaces No thank you.
Alien ninja skills Laughs hysterically Moans Doesn’t reply
I think I could send 10,000 query letters, and Aliens at Camp will reside in my computer. I’ve read it several times and laughed out loud. It makes ME happy. All I can do is keep trying to find that one agent who shares the same sense of humor and wants a wacky boy’s book. In the meantime, I keep writing because I enjoy it.
Bottom line, I can’t lose sight of the fact that writing is fun for me, and when bad critiques, agent rejections, and non-existent sales get me down, I need to take a step back and rewind. My favorite quote came from a very wise man, Captain Jack Sparrow, and it applies here. “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.”
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