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Blog Challenge September – Escape

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The Herding Cats & Burning Soup September blog challenge is Escape.

When a weekend away isn’t in the cards, several other activities can make a good escape. Yoga is always a good reboot. An hour of stretching with relaxing music lets me tune everything else out. A couple hours of tennis works, too.

My hubby and I take the dogs for a long walk at the park every morning. It is a relaxing start to our day—an escape of sorts—unless the chiweenie acts like psycho dog. The dogs love the walk as well. Watching the sun rise in the early morning over the large pond at the park is peaceful. The ducks and geese that live there are fun to watch.

Painting and writing are good escapes. Concentrating on a painting or figuring out what to do with characters and putting them in tough situations will take my mind off everything else.

On the flip side to writing a book, reading a book is a good escape. I’m currently reading Vicki Pettersson’s The Scent of Shadows. So far, it’s a good read. I just finished, Kelley Armstong’s Omens and really enjoyed it. I will be reading the rest of that series.

A good movie can be an escape, too. Recently, we watched Game Night with Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. It has two of my favorite actors in the first place, but it was hysterical. I can’t wait for Game Night Two—I hope they decide to make one.

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July Blog Challenge…”Spirit”

Vegas StrongVegas Strong. It is a promise, a bond, and the spirit of a community pulling together. Las Vegas is not just my home, it’s where I was born and raised.

I saw most of the signs that are now in the Neon Museum when they were glowing in front of hotels. I remember when Sunset Park was the edge of town going south and hardly anything was between Rainbow Blvd. and Mt. Charleston. When I was a kid, Green Valley, Anthem, and Summerlin didn’t exist, and the water level of Lake Mead was 20 feet higher. In other words, I’ve seen a lot of the town’s history.

Vegas is known for its bright lights and the craziness of the Strip and Downtown, but there is much more to the city than that. Residents don’t live in the casinos–yes, I’ve been asked that. Our community, like any other, has had its share of tragedies–the Thunderbirds crashing during an exhibition, the MGM Grand Hotel fire, and several severe flash floods–to name a few. The tragedy of October 1, 2017 was unreal. My heart goes out to the people affected that day. I don’t want to recap the events of October 1, I want to write about the spirit of the community after it happened.

In my lifetime, I’ve never seen Vegas, a city where the population is so transient, rally together like they did after Oct 1. It was truly unbelievable. Residents went above and beyond like never before. The debut of our  Vegas Golden Knights hockey team couldn’t have come at a better time. They really did help to boost our community spirit after something so horrific and give us something to root for. A city united. Finally. Unless you’ve been a resident of Vegas for any amount of time, you may not understand. #VegasStrong

The above painting was done at a fundraiser hosted by Pinot’s Palette in Henderson, NV.

This Blog Challenge is hosted by Herding Cats & Burning Soup.

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May Blog Challenge

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Herding Cats & Burning Soup’s monthly blog challenge for May is “organize.” This one is a tough one for me. I’m organized…and I’m not. I could do better at organizing, but who has the time? Actually, that’s a bad excuse. Prioritizing my organizing helps me to get the job done. I’m better at prioritizing than organizing, and even with electronic calendars and reminders, I still use paper checklists. My current checklist is: drips plants, spray statues, white jeans, video footage, fairy jar, and organized blog. At first glance (or even second), my list may seem insane, but I know the codes.

Before I break down my list of items for you, I’ll explain “prioritizing my organizing.” Many things can be organized or re-organized from time to time such as my purse, tennis bag, art desk, pantry, etc. Of course, it’s impossible to organize everything in one day, so I put unorganized items on a Things to Do list (once the chaos disturbs me enough). I choose a few tasks per day to accomplish and cross them off the list. Usually, by having the list stare me in the face on the kitchen counter, I will get everything completed by the end of the week. The time of day, amount of energy I have, and amount of time I have to complete the organization all fall into play to prioritize the list.

Drips plants. I live in a desert. Plants require a drip/sprinkler system unless you grow cactus. I have three new pots with flowers that require drip lines. Time required to complete the task – 10 minutes. Obviously, this isn’t a nighttime project.

Spray statues. I’ve had some outdoor bunny/raccoon/squirrel statues that my dogs (as puppies) turned into apocalyptic zombies. I’ve hidden the statues’ flaws (missing feet, missing eyes, missing ears—you get the picture) for years behind flowers. I recently bought a tub of air-dry clay for $6 and fixed all the statues’ flaws I also re-painted them. Now, I just need to spray them with an acrylic sealer. Time of day to spray – obviously daytime but not when it’s not 100 degrees. Time to complete the task – 3 minutes (2 minutes to shake the can, 1 to spray. Repeat.) It’s only taken 10 years to get to this project.

 

May blog picture

The critter apocalypse is almost over. Bunny #2 needs paint. They all need acrylic spray.

 

White jeans – I need to hem a new pair of jeans. I’m not the best at sewing, so I need a lot of time and patience. Time required – should be 15 minutes, but we shall see.

Video footage – I need some video footage of gross bugs to complete my book trailer for Kiss from Hell. Yes, you read that correctly. I even went to a pet store and asked the manager if they had any bugs in the back. You read that correctly, too. Who knew they used frozen stuff for the reptiles? Frozen bugs won’t work. I need squirmy, slimy critters scurrying around. I plan to call my brother in law and see if he’ll get some bug footage. He came through with the awesome cemetery footage for The Zombie Next Door trailer. Purchasing video footage online is expensive. Calling my bro-in-law is free. Time to complete the task – 15 minutes. With a three-hour time difference, I have to time the call correctly.

Fairy jar – Pinterest is evil. I have pinned so many fun projects to try. I actually made a fairy jar already, and it turned out pretty good. If you get the automatic turn on/off battery operated tealights, they make fun nightlights. I told my neighbor I’d make one for her two girls. I think they’d like it. Finding a good jar is the biggest issue with that one. I’d say it takes an hour to complete because of waiting for the glue/paint to dry.

Organized blog – Here it is–completed. It jumped to the top of the list when I knew what I was going to type. I can cross it off my list. If you’d like to join the Herding Cats & Burning Soup blog challenge, the rest of the monthly prompts are:

June– Growl

July– Spirit

August– Beginning

September– Escape

October– Trees

November– Truth

December– Shine/Sparkle

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April Blog Challenge “Art”

blog about it challengeThe 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.

Mayumi Art

Phyllis Mignard creates fun characters. For her book Draw Color Write (author Ann Pashak illustrator Phyllis Mignard), she created adorable Ro-Bits. Some are shown below.

 Phyllis art

 

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).   

 Sharon Art

Sharleen Collicott has written and illustrated several picture book series. Her illustrations are adorable, and she can even make bugs look cute.

Mildred and Sam series  

Toestomper and the Caterpillars   

Toestomper and the Bad Butterflies   

Seeing Stars   

 Sharleen Art

 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″

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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!     

Natasha Murray Art

 

Ashley’s Bookshelf – Reviews and Interviews

Dagger&Brimstone quotes6Author 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.

 

Just Books Character Interview of Racer Roane

Dagger&Brimstone quotes7The 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.

 

 

Fallen Over Book Reviews Author Interview

DAB Page 7Read 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?

In Time for Halloween

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Town from Hell is the first book in the Dagger & Brimstone series. It is young adult, paranormal/horror and recommended for readers 17+.

The Town from Hell

What would a town from hell be like? It wouldn’t be a good vacation spot for sure. In my YA supernatural/horror book, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, Winthrop is the town from hell. It’s a fictional town in the middle of the desert where the book’s protagonist couple go on vacation, and their experience is far from pleasant. For fun, I used a 6- by 6-inch watercolor pad and created a picture book of Winthrop. I’ll post the fake picture book in three consecutive blogs.

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What’s living in Winthrop? More than visitors realize…

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer Part 3: The Finishing Touches

This is the final part in my blog series How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer. With only one scene left to shoot, I put all the other scenes, music and sounds for my young adult, horror/supernatural book trailer Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell into Movie Maker. I manipulated several pictures in Photoshop to take the place of video I couldn’t shoot.

Special Effects with One Photo

By using photos, it was possible to create an illusion that I wanted but couldn’t acquire as video. The version of Photoshop I work with doesn’t have any video editing capabilities. I’m not an expert with the software, but I still am able to manipulate photographs after some trial and error.
The first picture is of the Nevada desert, which is exactly where my characters are traveling to. Anyone else looking at the video probably couldn’t tell where the location is, so I added a ‘Welcome to Nevada’ sign using Photoshop. It worked better for me to take the sign from a different picture and move it to the desert picture.

The second picture is also the Nevada desert. I wanted to let the viewer know that the characters had arrived at my fictional town, Winthrop, so I added the ‘Winthrop, NV’ sign. The sign is about as dilapidated as the rest of the town, and it should just say ‘Welcome to Hell’, but hopefully, the text I chose for the trailer will convey that.

Creating a Scene with Multiple Photos

I used the same technique that I used in my book trailer The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door and placed several photographs together in Movie Maker. Each picture varies slightly to create motion. In Zombie, an angel statue turns into a gargoyle. For this video, the tattoo on my main character’s bicep has a symbol animate inside of his tattoo. The tattoo remains the same, but the symbol turns red and has tiny flames dance around the lines.

I took a picture of a bicep and added the tattoo. I drew the tattoo freehand in black pen and colored it in Photoshop before I added it to the arm. Once the two pictures were merged, I created the symbol as the top layer and played with different aspects to get the ‘flaming’ effect. I strung 10 slightly changed pictures together, repeating three of the brightest patterns, so it appears as though the symbol flickers. Each picture is only set for a duration of .2 or .25. You have to play with the duration to see what works for your material.

Arm small

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arm n tattoo w flame small

Welcome to NV no sign small

Welcome to NV 5 small

I still have a little work to do before I post the trailer on YouTube, but I’m happy with the way it’s coming along. The budget for this video was very low. I only purchased two audio files from iStockphoto, which were one credit each. I’m not sure what a credit is worth now because they switched to a new credit system, but audio from many sites can usually be obtained for under $10. I’ll post the link to the trailer when it’s finally complete. Good luck with your trailer!