Goodreads Book Giveaway

Radiant by Christina Daley

Radiant

by Christina Daley

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cover makeovers!


So, Seranfyll will be three years old in a few weeks (yay!). And to celebrate, I'm giving both Book 1 and Book 2 (Eligere) cover makeovers.

That, of course, will help pave the way for the release of Book 3 in the series, which I sorta mentioned here under #4. Still not ETA on that one yet, but it shouldn't be long before I can start making some announcements about it.

Until then, back to writing for me :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fixing Seranfyll

It's March! Save for a recent cold snap, the weather seems to be getting pleasant in North Texas again.

Texas is known for its mercilessly hot summers, which make the drought even more apparent. But in the spring, we have some of the prettiest wildflowers around. You have to get out of the cities to see them (unless you go to the arboretum), and that requires a little driving. But it's worth it.

A hill covered in bluebonnets. Can you smell them?
Image (c) Christina Daley
The job search drudges on, and naturally it can get a little depressing. Things are just not good for a lot of people right now, and there's little anyone can do except keep trying. And it takes time. I suspect I spend almost as much time looking for a job as I did working at my old job.

I am, however, still making time for my creative projects. I'm currently applying the fixes to Seranfyll that I marked up a couple months ago.

Among the "look and feel" changes is the title font.
Image (c) Christina Daley
The edits are mostly grammatical in nature, as well as the look and feel of the book. However, I did make some small changes, such as combining a couple chapters and adding in the drinking song that Lord Domrey sang in Chapter 2:

Oh my dear, now did you hear
of Clumsy Captain Cotton?
He sailed a knot in Haley's Loch
before he hit the bottom!

The plot and sequence of events are still the same, so no worries if you've already read it. If you want the rest of the drinking song or the new cover, however, then I'll post updates along the way until the new version is released :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SCBWI in NY 2014 Impressions: Surprised by Joy

My art card that accompanied my portfolio
in the portfolio showcase.
I flew back to Dallas from NYC late last night. You might say I'm still a little bit overwhelmed and trying to process everything. Overall, I had a really good time.

I talked to several art directors and a couple of editors while I was there, but I don't think I necessarily made any impressions on them. I also talked with a lot of illustrators who were all extremely talented and just lovely people. I exchanged a lot of business and art cards, so I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with them. And I did take away some things that I think will help me as I continue to figure out how to improve my storytelling:

1. Draw/Write what brings me joy.

At first I got mixed messages on this. I suppose as writers and illustrators looking for gigs, we try to figure out what it is the publishers want because, well, we need and want the work so we want to make as good an impression on the editors and art directors. During the illustrator intensive, the art director at our table who reviewed our homework assignments (we had to draw a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in our own way) didn't say much about my piece. In fact, her words were something along the lines of, "I don't know enough about this art style to make a comment on it." I don't know if it was because mine was the last piece she looked at and we were all tired by that time. But I found it a little discouraging because without feedback (i.e., my colors are too this, or my alignment is too that, or something useful), I can't improve.

However...

The illustrator coordinator for SCBWI, Priscilla Burris (www.priscillaburris.com), said something that makes more sense to me: "Draw what brings you joy." I realize that my style is not quite picture book but not quite comic. But it's what I like to do. When I lost my job, I was devastated, and one of the few things that I did to keep myself from going mad was to sharpen a pencil and pull it across a blank piece of paper. A lot of lines didn't make sense, but some of them formed the beginnings of the pieces that ended up in my portfolio. Which leads me to my next takeaway...

2. Never apologize for my work.

I got this a few times. First, Ellen Hopkins (www.ellenhopkins.com) of Crank fame had a great keynote about her books coming against opposition from people who wished to censor her work. She basically said to write/draw what is important to us and not worry about what others will think. I think few people are more qualified than her to say that.

The second time, I was talking with a lovely illustrator named Linda Neptune (www.lindaneptune.com). I didn't realize it until she told me, but I had a bad habit of saying stuff like, "I'm still learning, so sorry if my work seems a little off." Linda said right away, "Never apologize for your work. It's you. It's yours. So don't apologize."

And lastly, I had a blubbering fangirl moment when I got to shake the hand of Arthur Levine, publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books at Scholastic and North American editor of some obscure book series about a boy wizard who goes to some school called Hogwarts. He asked me, "Are you a writer or illustrator?" to which I answered, "I'm trying to be both." He quickly corrected me and said, "No, you ARE both."

I have to admit that showing up with my portfolio was really difficult at first. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I had to move from my apartment back to my parents' house and deal with several health issues, in addition to other things, that took up drawing time. So, I didn't get to finish some of the pieces that I had wanted to bring. The result was my portfolio severely lacked in pieces (I only had seven out of the recommended 12 to 15), and some of the last ones were rushed and I couldn't fix them because my printer ran out of ink three hours before I was to be at the airport at 5AM for my flight to the conference. I also counted my art cards and saw that very few were taken during the showcase.

But it doesn't matter.

As I had mentioned, almost all the pieces in my portfolio and on my art card are the products of many doodles and sketches that I made during some very dark and difficult weeks of my life. Also, before preparing for this conference, I had never painted in Photoshop, and I had to learn a lot in a short amount of time. I did what I could with the time and the tools I had, and Ms. Hopkins, Ms. Neptune, and Mr. Levine helped remind me of that. So, I'm damn proud of my work, and I will never apologize for it again.

3. It's okay not to have a style.

One of the breakout sessions I attended was with Holly Mcghee of Pippin Properties. Her talk was on finding our style and branding, and she had asked several of her clients what they would say to us. The only thing I really remember from her talk was that one of her clients (and naturally I forgot to write down his name) said that he didn't have a "style." Instead, he tailored his drawings to each book project so that no two books looked the same, despite him illustrating both. In short, he did what he felt was right for each book, and that was it.

I think that is how I am. I was feeling a little stressed when I heard about illustrators working for years to develop their "style." And then during the picture book panel on the last day, Raul Colon had even mentioned he'd been pigeon-holed into doing certain types of books because of his style.

That, I think, would be awful. As both a writer and an illustrator, I think I would suffocate if I could only write fantasies or romances or only draw anime/manga or cartoons. Don't get me wrong, I like what I have done and I plan to do more along those veins, but I want to also have the freedom to experiment and do other things that bring me joy. And that leads me to thinking...

4. Maybe I should stay independent.

The expert panel on Saturday was extremely surprising. I was at the SCBWI conference in LA in 2010, and I remember the expert panel being populated with only agents and editors. This year in NY, however, the expert panel featured Paul Aiken of The Author's Guild, Jean Feiwel of Macmillan, publishing expert Jane Friedman, hybrid author Abbi Glines, and Timothy Travaglini of Open Road Media. They had a lot of interesting things to say, but the gist I got was that in choosing this diverse panel of experts, SCBWI was actually supporting the author (no matter how we decide to present our work to the world) again. Aiken said that AG does accept self-published authors now (who meet certain income thresholds), and Feiwel's launch of Swoon Reads at Macmillan showed that a publisher was making actual effort to see what the readers really want. She had said, in fact, that "maybe publishers don't always know what readers want," and that Swoon was an experiment to find that out.

And I like experiments. When I released Seranfyll in 2011, it was an experiment. I had sent the queries and gotten the expected rejections in the years before, but Seranfyll had also been requested for reads by several agents and editors. In the end, the agents turned me down for one reason or another, and the editors either forgot about it or got out of publishing or moved to other imprints that didn't publish my type of book. I figured I had a good story, but no one was willing to fight for it except me. When I published it on my own, I did it with the mindset that I was the girl on the street corner with the violin playing for tips thrown into her case. Sure, some people were going to think that I was a a cop out or whatever. But no one could argue that I didn't have the guts to get out there and try.

So, it seems that especially with SCBWI starting to slowly support the independent author and the spirit of experimentation and pushing of boundaries that come with the territory, I'll keep moving forward as an independent. I don't know where anything will lead, but I'm pretty proud of the work I've done so far. And I want to keep improving, which I think only comes if I keep writing and drawing.

And that is what brings me joy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Learning Photoshop

To prepare for the conference next month, I got a Creative Cloud subscription from Adobe and have watched a bunch of videos online on how to use Illustrator and Photoshop. Here's a character sheet I made with Photoshop that I posted on deviantArt.



I really like these programs. I wish I could afford to have them all the time, but for now, I'm doing whatever I can a month at a time and having a lot of fun :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

FORWARD

2014 is about eight days old, so it seems appropriate to update ye olde blog with a new post. It appears that the theme for this year for me is FORWARD, and that touches on many different levels.

First of all, 20 days before Christmas, I lost my job. It was shocking and a little heartbreaking. The company I worked for didn't really treat people well, but I believed in what we did and I stuck with it and put up with a lot of nonsense and pride and egos for a long time. In the end, I'm glad to be free of that place, and I'm glad I was let go because I probably wouldn't have had the courage to leave on my own. I'll miss seeing my friends who still have to work there. I'll also miss my apartment and my studio, since I can't afford to stay there anymore. But it's time for me to move on, and I'm looking forward.

While I'm searching for a new job, I'm taking some time to do a little soul-searching and figuring out what I'm going to do next. Last year, work had taken up so much time and energy that I wasn't really able to work on my books and artwork as much as I had hoped. So, right now is actually a good time for me to refocus on my first love of storytelling, and here is what I plan to do:

1. Prepare my portfolio for SCBWI NYC '14

Before I lost my job, I had already made arrangements to attend the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) national winter conference in NYC in February. I've never been to this conference before, and I'm not really sure what to expect. But I'm keeping my eyes open to any opportunities while I'm there. I'm going as a writer/illustrator, and I plan to bring a portfolio to be judged in the portfolio showcase. So, one of the things I'll focus on in the coming weeks is drawing and getting some portfolio worthy pieces to display.

Speaking of portfolio pieces, I do have one that I'm really honored to be able to include. The SCBWI North Texas chapter recently held a logo contest, and my design was picked by four fabulous judges, including awesome illustrators Dan Yaccarino, David Diaz, SCBWI (national) illustrator coordinator Priscilla Burris, and Simon & Schuster BFYR art director Laurent Linn.

2. Write new stuff pt. 1

Before I was swamped by work last year, I started writing a historical fiction novel about a girl who was sort of known as the Joan of Arc of Vietnam—except that she lived hundreds of years before Joan of Arc. There's not a lot of info about her out there, but what we do is that she was nuts. She fought to end slavery and led an army mostly made up of women to fight for freedom from the Chinese empire. She never married and apparently once said something along the lines of, "I'd like to ride storms, kill beasts in the sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the whore of any man."

In short, she was awesome. Plus, my family is from Vietnam, so I feel a pretty deep connection to her story. I hope the first draft will be complete in the coming months.

3. Write new stuff pt. 2

The untitled Seranfyll Book 3. I have not abandoned this series and do not intend to. Seranfyll (Book 1) had garnered some NY interest a while back, but since I haven't heard anything in a couple years, I'm moving forward on my own. No ETA on when it'll be complete, but I'm really looking forward to continuing this story.

4. Fix old stuff pt. 3

I'm in the process of going through Seranfyll (Book 1) and Eligere (Book 2) to fix typos and errors. I'm also going to redo the cover art so that they can be consistent with what I have in mind for the covers for the rest of the books. I may also switch distribution from CreateSpace to Lightning Source. And I may run a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to help cover some of the costs, including an Adobe cloud subscription and marketing and whatnot. We'll see.

And that's about as far as I've planned. There are other books and art and comic-related things that I'm into as well, but I can talk about those another time. It's only January 8, and there's a whole year of possibilities that can change things in the blink of an eye. I don't even know where I'll physically be located in a few months or next year. But I'm looking up and looking forward, and I love that I can take the time to work on these projects. And I can't wait to complete them and share them with the world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where has 2013 gone?

So, Thanksgiving holiday in the US is next week, Christmas is in a few more weeks, and then the beginning of the New Year on the coat tails of that. Wow, where has this year gone?

It seems like a lot has happened since my last post, which was at the end of the summer. I blame most of that on work :) Since my duties at the office changed earlier this year, things have been a little crazier and a little taxing energy-wise. I spend most of the day reading and writing about topics that I'm less than passionate about, which makes sitting at the computer or the drawing board at home feel a bit more like an extension of work--especially when deadlines demand that I take some of the office home with me. I suppose this is what being a grown-up entails, so balance is something that I'm still trying to figure out.

But things haven't been all work, thank goodness. I did get to go to France for a little while in October. I was to be in Paris and other places for about two weeks when halfway through my trip I received news that my grandmother passed. Naturally, I changed my plans and, after five hours on a train, 10 hours on a plane, and one hour on another plane, I made it back in time to attend the funeral the following morning. And then I was in a van for five hours to go home and back to work a couple days later.

It was an interesting time, being at that funeral. I'm not particularly close to any of my extended family, and my grandmother suffered from dementia for years and had forgotten who many of her grandkids were long ago. But her passing helped me to understand that I apparently don't handle grief well. I know now what C. S. Lewis meant when he wrote, "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." And even if someone told you, you still won't understand it--even while going through it. You simply react, just like you would react if something scared you. I supposed there is a way to try and tame it eventually, but I'm not entirely sure how yet.

For me, I usually try to make sense of something by writing--hand the situation (or a similar situation) over to some characters and let them hash it out for me. I will most likely do that again, even though my office work is quite stressful now. Or perhaps because my work is stressful. After all, a pen and some paper are far more economical than an shrink ;)