Another Contest Update

So I know I posted last week after ages, so posting again one week later is a little odd… but I found out Finding Frances got another award, an Independent Publisher Book Award (an “IPPY”). This is another one with tons of categories, but it’s still nice to get some more recognition. Last year they had close to 5000 entries (I couldn’t find this year’s number). This time the book placed third (in another tie—what the heck is up with that?) in the Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction E-book category, which can be seen on this page. 

On the heels of these wins, I felt emboldened enough to apply for another BookBub Featured Deal. And got a big fat rejection a couple days later. So I’ve signed up for another Bargain Booksy deal for June 26 (the ebook version will be on sale for 99 cents from June 25 through July 1, in case that is of interest to anyone... anyone?). Because I found out—and it’s a little embarrassing to write this, but whatever—I have not sold a single book in 2021. A couple books (maybe 3?) sold on Amazon, but apparently they had a few in stock, so not a single one has been purchased from the publisher (I did confirm this with them). No Kindle or other ebook, either. I knew this was going to be hard, but not this hard. Ugh.

Maybe if I can make some progress with the Sarah stories, starting with “Now Would Be Good,” on Kindle Vella, I’ll get some new readers for Finding Frances. I mean, it can’t make things any worse, as it’s not possible to have a negative number of readers. Also from the department of maybe-not-bad news: I heard from my developmental editor on this book that she started reading this past week, so I’m hoping she’s as fast as she’s been in the past, and I get it back in a week or two. I can get “Now Would Be Good” ready to post pretty quickly, as I’m not going to worry about sending it to a copy editor first since it’s been gone over so many times as part of my thesis and more. I am still going to send the whole book to a copy editor, so if they do find anything wrong with that story, I can always update the text later. The only thing that will slow me down is if my developmental editor suggests any major structural changes that impact that story (or anything that comes later but I need to set up there). 

Random image: here’s a self-portrait I had to do for a class. My mom says it’s “frownier” than the photo I drew it from. Maybe I was subconsciously depicting how I feel about my less-than-stellar writing career? 

May 2021 Update

So it’s been a couple months since my last post. Although my break has actually been kind of nice, I’m in a weird place. I haven’t been able to read YA lately (or anything other than picture books, really). Still, things have changed a little since then. I decided to send Ugly to a developmental editor my book coach recommended, as she thinks this editor could make the difference for me. So I’m going to give it one more shot. I should get it back from her soon, and then I’ll have to dive in. 

Additionally, I’ve decided to clean up the Sarah stories and publish them through Kindle Vella, which is a new serial platform that hasn’t been released yet, but is coming soon. This book is odd and was always going to be hard to sell. But it’s perfect for serialization, because it’s always been a novel in parts, where each part is a self-contained story, with all of them adding up to a larger story. So each novel part can be one “story” in Kindle Vella, with each chapter (or maybe a few chapters) making up an “episode”. Here’s an article if you’re interested in learning more about Kindle Vella. I’m in the process of finishing up the full draft (meeting with my critique partner today to go over the revised last story), and I’ll make any needed changes and send it to a developmental editor this week. Then, once I make any of her recommended changes, I’ve still got to send it to a copy editor (I could skip this step, but I probably shouldn’t—though I might be able to get away with it for the first one, since it’s been edited so heavily in preparation for going into my thesis). I’m still hoping to get the first story (I’m starting with “Now Would Be Good,” which is technically the second story chronologically, but I’m planning to do the actual first one at the end, as a prequel) published on Vella before it releases, but that probably won’t happen. But I can hope. 

I also found out that Finding Frances has won an indie award called the Next Generation Indie Book Award. There hasn’t been a press release yet, but I was notified earlier and you can see the list here. Once they’ve officially announced it, it will show up on this page. The book tied for first place in the First Novel (70k-90k) category. Now, this award isn’t exactly prestigious and there are a million categories, and I really would have rather placed in the YA category, but it’s still really nice to get some recognition. Somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good book, even if nobody is buying it. Also, the prize is $100, which I assume they’ll split in half since it was a tie. Which increases my income from this book by more than 50%. This book hasn’t exactly been a rousing success. 

Other than that, I haven’t been working on any other YA stories, instead focusing on my picture book venture. I’ve got two different drafts that are coming along nicely, and another new one I wrote a first draft of on Friday. I’m going to be starting drawing up thumbnails for the first one, even though it’s going to be a while before I can actually do the artwork. I’m taking Life Drawing this term, and let’s just say my ability to draw people… needs to develop a little. 

Here is a sketch I did in my Life Drawing class that doesn't suck.

 

End-of-Feb Update

Well, I didn’t manage to post last week and I don’t have a lot to say this week. I should get a review up next week, however. 

Amazon took away one of the reviews of Finding Frances, so that’s extremely annoying. Those things are hard enough to come by. Other than that, there’s no news on the writing front. 

I finished my second term on the art degree and am starting three new classes this week. Due to some scheduling weirdness, I’m in two art history classes and one digital art class, so no physical art at all this term. I’ll have to figure out some stuff to make, anyway. I am still taking a weekly watercolor class, so I’ll continue that. Since I don’t have much to report in the writing world, I figured I’d share some of the art I made over the last few weeks. 

This is my first complete watercolor still life. 

Small pumpkin watercolor still life

We had to do a bird’s eye city scene with a character “falling.” That sort of creeped me out, so I gave the character an out. And made it a cat. Why not?

Winged cat over city

This one’s called “The Prize.” It was supposed to be three characters involved in a conspiracy of sorts. I figured a couple of boys arm-wrestling for a kitten would be close enough. Not that they particularly look like kids… I’ll get better—I take life drawing 1 next term. 

The Prize - two boys arm wrestling over a cat

Oh, and I figure I’d post a picture of my new cat, Xander, because why not? (Isn't he cute?) I’m working on a watercolor version of this picture because I love it, so if it turns out okay, I’ll post it here. 

Orange tabby cat on a chair

Pivoting and Staying Busy

If you know me at all, you’ll know I keep myself pretty busy. It keeps me from getting depressed. But I’ve taken on a crazy amount lately, so I didn’t finish reading a book this week and don’t have a review.

I’ve decided to branch out into picture books. I want to write and illustrate biographies of women in STEM fields, though I might do some fiction, too. But since I’m new to them, I have a long way to go. I’ve been reading lots but decided to join some online communities related to picture books to learn more rapidly. I did Storystorm, which is a month-long challenge to come up with an idea per day (technically just the first 30 days) in January. I also joined the 12x12 Challenge, where you try to write at least one picture book manuscript each month. This is focused on the writing part, not the illustrating.  But there’s another online school called Storyteller Academy that focuses on picture books, both writing and illustrating if you want. I signed up for that, too. For this there are actual courses and you take whichever ones you want. I signed up for several for this term: Drawing, Illustrating, Character Design, and Writing Picture Book Manuscripts. I also started taking a weekly class in watercolor painting (finally; I’ve been wanting to do this for a while). Add this to my BFA program, where I’m doing 18 credit hours this semester, the weekly data science class related to work that I’m taking, a really good playwriting class I’m taking, that I have to send ten pages of the in-progress Sadie Speaks rewrite to my book coach every week, that I’m also working on a romance and meeting my critique partner weekly, the two monthly critique group meetings, and the fact that I’ve got a full-time job, and it all adds up to me being crazy busy. But I love it. So.

Two of the classes I’m taking for the BFA are perspective and topics in color, and I’m loving both of them. The perspective class is great—I’ve always been decent at perspective, but I am learning more about measuring, which speaks to the math-minded person I am. And the topics in color class is also fascinating. We’re studying color mostly via acrylic painting, and there’s something very satisfying about mixing paint. I’m learning a lot, even though I still don’t think acrylics will be my medium of choice. As much fun as the process is, the end result doesn’t please me the way watercolor does (though I know you can water down acrylics and use them like watercolors, but I’m still thinking I’m leaning toward watercolor proper).

I’m going to share an abstract painting I did for my topics in color class. We had to take a photograph and make an abstract version of it. I used this photograph of a sunset in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Day 2020:

Oklahoma City sunset

And this is the painting, which I like even though it’s not exactly fine art:

Abstract OKC sunset

I’ll also share a drawing I did for my perspective class, which has lots of problems but is still kind of cool:

Perspective drawing of railroad station

No Real Update Update

So I am in a major reading slump. It’s taking me forever to read anything. Thus there was no review last week, and none this week. Instead there’s a boring post about nothing. Despite all that, I did go to picture book school—my friend lent me her entire picture book collection in an attempt to get me to love them as much as she does. I’ve read about 20 of them so far. I enjoyed some of them, but I’m not in love yet.

I did submit all my final work for my MFA last week, so I am completely done with that with the exception of my final residency and my graduation reading, which is January 10th.

Other than that, I’ve been busy with NaNo and my art classes. I did finish NaNo—I got to over 50,000 words, although I’m still finishing up the draft. I finally figured out some of the things I was stuck on, so I need to go back and redraft, but I feel good about the story. For art school, I created the following drawing (it’s big—18” x 24”):

Drawing of my house

Also, for your amusement, I had an assignment where I was supposed to take some identical objects and modify each of them in three different ways. This was what I started with:

Bottles

I had trouble with the last one and eventually came up with this monstrosity:

Weird doll

(The bottle became a skirt, in case you were wondering.) Here they all are together:

Weird plastic bottle assignment

Style

Not a lot has changed in the past few weeks. I got my thesis back from the second reader, so now I’m ready to finalize it and send it in. I finished my class about narrative distance and got some feedback from the teacher, so now I feel ready to tackle fixing Ugly. I’m pretty sure I’m going to try to do NaNoWriMo this year, after waffling about it for a while. I may not succeed—may, in fact, give up part way—but I’m going to start it and see how it goes. I’m going to be busy because I’m also taking two art classes. Being me, I decided to go for it, and I enrolled in a BFA program in Illustration. Crazy, I know. But I'll learn stuff.

I’ve still been working through a pen and ink techniques book, copying from the artist’s drawings. I’m getting better and learning some techniques, and developing my own style (slowly). I’ve included a few pictures below.

Drawing of trees on a hill

Drawing of small sailboat

Drawing of castle stairs

August 2020 Update

I don’t have much to report about my writing. I did sell a couple copies of Finding Frances in June, and one in July. It’s pitiful that this is exciting, but there you go.

The final semester of my MFA has officially started. The main work is preparing my thesis, but I have that almost done. My mentor has the full creative thesis now and will be giving me feedback on it, and I have a few little tweaks to make to the critical part of it, and then I’ll submit that to her later this month. I’m also taking two classes in addition to the thesis. One is on suspense and thriller novels with Lou Berney (author of The Long and Faraway Gone, one of my favorite such novels). He’s got me reading a handful of novels for the first packet and then writing a short paper about what suspense is, and then for the second packet he’ll read a synopsis of my rewritten Sadie Speaks, and then pages from the novel for the two later packets. The other class I’m taking is on research for writing, with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, who’s Oklahoma’s Poet Laureate. I’m researching Irish history now, because I’m thinking of writing stories set in Ireland in various points in history, since I spent so much time and effort delving into it in college. I don’t know if I’ll ever really write it, but if I want to, I’ll have all my research ready.

Other than working on that, I’ve been drawing more. Here’s an oil lamp I did in stippling (which I will probably never do again—tedious) and a mannequin I did using hatching.

drawing of oil lamp

drawing of artists mannequin

I’ve also started studying math again, because I’m planning to start the stats degree back up next fall, because I need that much time to study. It’s amazing how much you can forget when you don’t use it… I'm using Khan Academy as a starting point, which is pretty amazing. I'm guessing it's getting a lot of usage during the pandemic.

The only other thing going on is that I’m getting some work done in my bonus room, the room over the garage. It has a slanted ceiling but is otherwise a decent-sized room, and I’m getting bookshelves installed on the long, tall wall, along with a closet built at the end of the wall. The idea is to make it count as a bedroom. I’m not sure it will work, but I am sure I will have a lot more bookshelf space to store my many boxes of books. They’re starting the work tomorrow, and I’ll post pictures once it’s done. For your amusement, I’ll post a terrible but related poem I had to write for my residency (the assignment was to write a ghazal, which is an old Arabic poetry form—I didn’t do it quite right, but I got most of the elements right (writing about a desire with lots of repeating words and naming yourself near the end)).

They overflow from shelves and boxes. Books for me.
On tables and cabinets. History, math, linguistics for me.

Fiction, lots of fiction, of all different types.
Boxes of books, as far as the eye can see, for me.

They’ve come shipped from all over the world.
From Glasgow, Edinburgh, Pilsen, Milton Keynes, for me.

Even some from the Isle of Skye, in Gaelic.
The cats nestle amongst them, I read for me.

But they’re everywhere, too everywhere.
A place for them is what I need, for me.

A call to my contractor
And he’ll do some measuring for me.

A little bit of work in SketchUp
And they’ll be a virtual drawing for me.

A couple of weeks of sawing and hammering
So they can fit on the shelves neatly, for me.

Then you can call me keeper of books.
Shelves of books, as far as the eye can see, for me.

First Royalties

Not a lot to report at the moment. My MFA residency started Friday, so I’m busy with that.

I did make a post to Facebook post (my first ever) about Finding Frances a couple weeks ago, and a couple people bought it. But still, getting it in front of people is nearly impossible.

I got my first royalties check, which came as a pitifully small direct deposit. But it did come, and I’ve now made actual money from Finding Frances.

royalties payment direct deposit

The only other thing going on is I’ve decided to start drawing again, which means I’m practicing with books and an art teacher. A couple of the books I’m using are about drawing cats, so here are a couple of the ones I’ve copied from one of the books:

Kittens