Monday, February 29, 2016

The Southern California Writers' Conference and My Novel's Progress

It has been a crazy last few months, full of prepping for the Southern California Writers' Conference through to hard decisions on how I should proceed with my novels, but like so many journeys: this one was more than worth it. :)

The Southern California Writers' Conference

I love having upcoming events and milestones to look forward to, and one of the ones for this year was the knowledge I would be attending the Southern California Writers' Conference this February 12th to 15th. This was my second year attending, and this year I had a much better idea of what I wanted to get out of it. Last year was a bit of a whirlwind, but a creative-infused one at that!

Going into the conference this year, I'd spent a few months trying to self-evaluate how I was doing on my stories. I was making progress, certainly, but as you might have seen on my current story status page, I had a number of active writing projects I was working on that were all vying for my attention, including three novels and two short stories in addition to other work I'd put on the back-burner. So it was with a bit of soul-searching that I realized that, like art, trying to juggle so many projects at once wasn't doing me a lot of good, and that it would be better to try to focus on taking one to the finish line before I worked on finishing off the rest of them.

I hemmed and hawed a bit about which one I should pick, but in the end, I found myself really drawn to finishing off Secrets of an Accord, which is a sort of origin story for how two main characters in the series got to know each other, and it's a story I feel is a really good introduction to the world of my books as well.

So, armed with this knowledge, I prepared for the Southern California Writers' Conference, which included preparing manuscripts of the first few chapters  of "Secrets of an Accord" for two advance readers as well as rogue readings, where groups gather to receive feedback on their work. I've also shared these early glimpses into the story over on my Patreon. One of my advance readers (who is himself a published author) was especially fond of my work and also offered to be my editor! Talk about humbling!

That said, I felt like I had a pretty good feel for the story (I had it fully outlined, and well over half of it in a first or second draft state), and attending the conference only heightened my interest in making it even better, infused with more charm and personality, and more impactful overall.

Writing in a box can sometimes be quite difficult, and it was really valuable for me to be able to come together with other writers and discuss some of the trials and tribulations of the process. In particular, this year I spent a lot of time learning about some of the various publishing options that are open to me. It's important to note: I'm not trying to put the cart before the horse here. I am very well aware that I want a complete, edited, proofed novel in my hands before I start worrying too much about publishing, and if I'm going to go the traditional route, indy, Kickstarter, or something else entirely, but it was important for me to start to be able to understand the time and costs associated with various routes, even if I'm not even close to the point where I need to make a decision just yet as to what path (or paths) I'd like to travel. The thing that's most important to me is being free to tell the story I want to tell, but to also do it as best I can. At minimum, that will mean a lot more writing and self-editing, as well as hiring a professional editor and proofer to make sure that when all is said and done, I put my best foot forward. :)

How to Noodle a Novel

I've written thousands of pages about my world and its characters already, but by-and-large, I've kept most of it closely guarded and out of the public eye. I've also had some highs and lows along the way, including a literal computer fire that destroyed years worth of work, which led to me exploring My Stages of Story Grief.

Like my art, sometimes I also get so caught up in the details of a story that it keeps me from moving forward with any resemblance of a healthy, regular clip, but I'm certainly trying to get better on that front. That is part of why I try to use Productivity Trackers to hold myself accountable for how I spend my time, and it's also part of why I realized that working on multiple stories at once (five of them...) simply was doing me no good. I only have so much free time, and it's hard to keep things fresh in my mind if I'm regularly juggling projects.

But I digress: now that I've chosen one to push forward, it's actually been incredibly helpful in clearing my mind and helping me focus. It's also meant that I've felt more willing to try to expand and add additional layers of depth to the story, and so far, it's going quite well! It's meant that I've had to break out the carefully-laid outlines again and try to spend time adjusting them, however, which is unfortunately taking longer than I would have liked, but that's how it goes sometimes. :) I wish I were able to give you or even myself a firm date as to when the first draft of the third version will be done, but We're just going to have to hang in there while I push forward just as quickly as I can. I'm definitely hoping to get it done before crunch sets in at my full-time job!

These two, these two lost souls with so many adventures ahead of them:

Art by Emma Lazauski

Art by Cynthia Reep

They started like this:

And they started out without any knowledge of the steadfast companions they would become, and how they would each grow from the years they spend at each other's side.

That said, here are some fun facts about my novel, Secrets of an Accord:
  • It is now in its third version of the story.
  • It is the formal introduction between two characters of my overarching set of stories: Oberon (the man who was cursed and turned into a horse) and Sashah (the werewolf enchantress).
  • It shares at least four different types of unique magic that exist within the world.
  • It showcases a gorgeous city that specializes in bright dyes and dark secrets.
  • Werewolves? We got werewolves.
  • Curses and transformation? We got that too.
  • While the location isn't a center for magical creatures, a number of them make appearances in the book, including gryphowls, and various creatures that have been bred by mages.
  • Sentient animals.
  • Cats with very unique and special abilities.
  • Dark humor, mystery, and adventure.

In any case, thank you ever-so-much for your support, and hopefully in the coming months I'll have even more to share as the third version of the story progresses. :) Onward!

I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into the Southern California Writers' Conference and My Novel's Progress!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

#WIPWednesday Sculpture: "Sashah's Song"

A little over a year ago I started this sculpture of Sashah, the werewolf enchantress, who is one of the main characters of my stories.

A Glimpse at the Stages of the Sculpture: "Sashah's Song"



In time I hope to better document all the crazy steps of this project, but in the meantime, here's a glimpse of how she's progressed from her original sketch onwards through some of the many stages of sculpting. For more WIP photos of this and other projects, please keep an eye on my Twitter!

Size: 7 x 7 x 13 inches
Current Time Taken: 170+ hours to date

Latest Updates:


At the present time, I've finished sculpting, baking, sanding, filing, patching, and primering the sculpture, and am currently working on painting on the base colors of her! I decided to challenge myself and tackle one of the most difficult areas first: her leather pants, complete with rivets, lacing, and lots and lots of patience! Those overlapping areas are SO tiny!

The Pre-Painting Photo Shoot for "Sashah's Song"

Before I got to work sanding, filing, patching, primering, and painting this sculpture, my dear friend Dana Bishop was find enough to photograph her so I had a better record of how the sculpture looked at this stage because, well, iPhone photos only do so much. ;)



So Much Patching!

While baking went fine, the sculpture suffered some hairline cracks during transport to and from the photoshoot, so unfortunately it took me a lot of time afterwards to sand, file, patch, and then resand her. All the white areas you see in the many photos below are patched.






Primer Time!

I painted the primer by hand as well as with an airbrush because I had certain areas like the translucent nails where I wanted them to remain their original color, and other areas like the jewelry where I wanted to use a black primer instead to help make the future metallic paint "pop." It took about three coats for complete coverage.






Working on the Test Base

I have some pretty ambitious plans for the final stages of this sculpture, and one of them includes making the base look to be a creek-crossing, complete with a dragon koi in the "water." In order to create this illusion, I decided to try using a clear casting resin. My thought was that I could line the outside in Monster Clay and coat it with a release agent and it should act as a sort of sculptable mold. That's the theory at least!

Before even considering doing this to my actual sculpture, I created a small and very basic test base in order to test this technique as well as how I might sculpt the outer edge and add additional levels of detail, like ripples to the water's surface. It's turned out good so far, but I would like to try some new methods and give it another go before applying these techniques to the actual werewolf sculpture.

I think my little test koi is adorable. ;)








The Start of Color

After a lot of deliberation, I figured out the color scheme I'll be using on this sculpture, and have been busying purchasing paints and mixing them as well. I'm still not entirely committed to the colors of the enchantress's dress, but once I am totally committed, I'll be posting the mock-up for it as well. :)





I look forward to sharing more updates with you about this personal project that is so very dear to my heart. I hope that some day you might enjoy learning more about her and her story too!

Thanks for reading, and joining me on the journey!