It’s Here! A Collection of Collage: A new art form for me

one more once upon a time print final8-16_Page_01Remember all those odd collages I’ve been posting? They’re now part of an eye-candy book, One More Once Upon a Time, published on Amazon.

People wonder what happens to artists when they stop doing their art. The truth is that they don’t really. Sometimes your life is your art. Sometimes your art is the whole of your life. Except that that becomes exhausting. There’s a day when you’ve said what you needed to say and you’re done. You sweep up the mess if you have any strength left, and you recline in a chair until moving is possible.

one more once upon a time print final8-16_Page_05I’ve walked away from doing fiber art for a while. But I got involved with these odd and wonderful collage images, sort of as a do it myself coloring book gone mad. It started as coloring in images from the 1800-1900 children’s book illustrations. But since I was working with Photoshop, it became a descent into layers of background and brush strokes. It was Pat Baxter who suggested that each one needed a caption to connect them to a whole different story than they originally were meant

to illustrate.

 

Here’s my explanation from the book:

one more once upon a time print final8-16_Page_03

So I invite you into exploring this new media for me, a form of collage and coloration. One More Once Upon a Time is available now on Amazon.

book marks for webIf you would like a signed copy, it’s also available at my Etsy store. It will take a couple of days to get my order in from the printer, but I can send you your book signed with a bookmark. Follow the link.

Finally, if you like this book, please let people know. There’s nothing nicer you can do for an author than to write a review. Amazon has an easy place you can do that.

This is not a book about breathless deathless art. But it is a book where I had an immense amount of fun making eye candy. Come join me in a One More Once Upon A Time!

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Character Building: Answering the What Ifs…

lost and foundThe fun thing about building characters is that you get to put them through all kinds of hell. Oh no, not another learning experience! We do learn and grow through the things life throws at us. So why shouldn’t our characters?

It’s one of the delights of writing. Your characters demand to grow into themselves. They begin to have voices of their own, and desires, designs, plans, needs and wishes that don’t make sense necessarily to you as the writer. But for that character, they do.

Madam Marie is one of my favorite characters in Sight Unseen, because she’s so very richly complex. She’s a voodoo practitioner, but that neither means that she is evil, capricious or wrong. She’s a strong woman in a place of power in her community, who has that place because she has served her community. She’s a hoot to write about because she takes charge of what she does in my head as I’m writing.

So, what if the mostly-in-charge Madam Marie finds herself in a position where she’s in danger, at risk and out of control? What if’s are wonderful questions because they are learning experiences in your face. They make us who we are.

Lost and Found started as the What-if the very capable Madam Marie was in danger and at risk. The most fun about this story was Maggie’s response. ” I won’t look, but I can clean.,,,” Maggie also is a strong character in power in her community. Her community and Madam Marie’s don’t really intersect. But they know how to back each other, in spite of their metaphysical differences.

Read Lost and Found up on the Story Page, and see what happens. Not familiar with Maggie or Madam Marie? Start with Voodoo You, also up on the site.

Evil Choices: Allowing Characters to be Bad.

What happens when your character wades in the weeds? Chooses something stupid. Wrong! The urge to keep your beloved character safe is as strong as a mother’s in rush hour traffic.

I belong to a wonderful writing group called W.H.I.R.L.E.Y., bravely led by Chuck Ott and Kathie Huddleston who have given me fabulous help, support, and direction. We had a discussion over allowing bad things to happen.

I forget who said that if bad things don’t happen, you have a sketch, not a story. A story needs conflict. If nothing bad happens, you don’t have a story at all.

The other discussion was about villains. A villain is not simply a person who does evil. All of us do. Nor is it a person who sees themselves as evil. Almost no one does that. It’s a person who can’t learn from the consequences. of what they see and do or just do it anyway for their own reasons. If you make a villain who doesn’t have the dimension to be good, then it’s likely you’ve disrespected him. And there’s no sense having a hero with no one to fight.

The Sparrow, is a story about trying to help someone. In one way, I so believe in helping people. I also know how very easy it is for that to go to a place that is not only unfortunate, but evil. What we wish, what we mean, what we hope for so often fall flat in our efforts to reach someone. And more often than not, in our execution. Help can be more than ineffective or offensive. It can be a push the wrong direction, that heads someone over the cliff.

You’ll notice that the villains in The Sparrow are both Christian and Pagan. Marlene doesn’t do so well herself at this either. It’s not about labels. It’s about results. And in the end, someone else’s legitimate choice.

The Sparrow explores the effort and need to help, and the harm it can do. You’ll find it on the story page of this site or in Book Two Sight Unseen, The Inverted Cup, coming soon.

Mind Mapping: What Does Go on in that Place in the Dark?

birdbrain 1Why is it so much more fun to play with computer toys than real objects? I haven’t played an actual game of solitaire since I was a child. I probably log on around 15 hours of computer solitaire per week, at least 5-7 kinds of games. For some reason, it’s just more fun on a screen.

The same is true of collage. I’m not the girl you let run with scissors, and I have been known to run with scissors and an open rubber cement jar, and that was after I graduated from college. Yet here I am playing endless games with photoshop collage. All you need is a pile of images and Photoshop. I can’t help myself.

So it really shouldn’t surprise me that rather than take a piece of paper (an object bound to be crumpled up under my chair only to be peed upon by one cat or another) I found myself playing with a mind mapping program the last time I got a story idea.  I went online, looked at several online mind mappers and found Mind Map Maker which offered me several ways to map, and a way to save it as a regular png. Twenty minutes later I had a worldview, several characters, a crisis, a beginning of a plot. Wowser! I’m not that good. But this thing was. You could just let it grow wild like weeds.

Is it any good? Damned if I know! But it let me try it out in my head over a period of twenty minutes without any cleanup. In a week or two, I may see if it noodles into something.

That may be the whole of the attraction, There may be a time when you need to clean up the pile of files on your laptop, but there’s no real clean up on aisle 15. Just ideas gone amuck in a place you can find them later. My head is mostly a place in the dark, but at least this closet had a pull light and a virtual shelf.

For all the writing I did as a quilter, there is no plot to a how-to, other than finish the job with the needle not in your finger. This makes it much easier. It could be addictive. I might even get some writing done.

Stories Told by Spaces

There are places that demand you tell stories about them. Who can resist a story about the Kremlin? Or a haunted church? Or a fairy mound?

The Irish fairy mound stories usually talk about a hill where people are met and entertained by fairies ( no, not the nice ones. The ones that really mess you up.) You may eat their food, listen to their music, and their stories. But when you leave, time has rushed by, everyone you know is dead, and you are in a wholly different world than the one you left.

Dogtown really exists. It’s now a city park. When I was there it was a ruined village site, mostly holes in the ground with strange carved stones littered along the path that read like a garden of protestant virtues: “Be on time”, “Help your Mother.” I got massively lost and the clocks didn’t make sense when we found our way back to the car. Of course, it makes a story essential.

About Time is about being trapped in one time or another. And the sacrifices that force from people.

I enjoy Eric as a character, because he’s Marlene’s opposite. He’s a hard-boiled FBI man, who doesn’t believe in the psychic world, but he’s not so stupid as to ignore what he sees. He often feels Marlene is lying to him, when she’s just telling him what she sees. He can’t understand that the limits of her sight are real. If he can believe she sees things, he can’t believe she doesn’t see everything.

All or nothing thinking is a childish thought form. But this is Eric’s passage from childhood. He has to figure this out to grow out of the space in time he is trapped in.

Read About Time, up now on the site. Soon to appear in Book Two of Sight Unseen, The Inverted Cup.

 

 

The Silly Hat Parade: Wearing the Many Hats of a Writer/Publisher

hatsSomeone on facebook was posting a comment about writers to the effect that if you couldn’t spell or punctuate, how could you possibly write.

Now I’m a big time dyslexic. I grew up in a time and space where people just said your writing and spelling skills were lazy. No one wanted to fight my school teacher mother over it, so we all ignored the fact that I couldn’t spell or write. I was in grad school learning about dyslexia when I realized I had it too.

Not that it’s stopped me. I’ve come to see dyslexia as a fine and lovely gift. Mostly it’s the ability to see the world differently. What often causes dyslexia is a difference in which hand, eye and foot you lead with. Most people either lead left or right. If you lead with mixed sides, it changes your perception massively.  It does wreak havoc on spelling, and math skills. I can’t read a map to save myself. And I need help putting things in order.

But it does give me a different perception of the world I chemyrish. I still believe I can tell a fine story. I’m just really grateful the lady who believes in spelling and punctuation wasn’t there to stop me with what I can only describe as the limits of her imagination.

Blissfully I am blessed with kind and talented friends. Chuck Ott and Donna Hinman and other people from W.H.I.R.L.Y , a Chicago writing group who regularly go through and find my punctuation malfunctions and spelling disasters. I hope I give as much I get. They know I can’t. They believe in me anyway.

My point is, we’re only defined by what we can’t do to a certain point. If we can do part of the job well enough, then we can ask for help and offer others what we can do. There’s a lot of hats to be worn in the writing and publishing of books. No one has a head where all of them fit.

I’ve done two books through a publishing house. Thread Magic and Thread Magic Garden were all mine in terms of text and images. But the editing staff were like the fairies who clean the houses of the rich and famous. You didn’t see them. They cleaned up all the messes before you knew they were there. You also got on average a dollar per book. You also had to convince them to publish your book, and you had to write the book they wanted you to publish. Everything is a negotiation, after all.

My husband, Don Bowers, simply just lets me do his covers. He’s happier, I’m happier. Otherwise, he tends to put our pet’s on the cover of the books, whether it’s about them or not. He tells me when my stories aren’t in order (again, another needful thing).

This week I ended up helping someone with a book cover. He’s a great writer, and he’s prolific. He’s also color blind. He had a novel about Nazis with a cover that had a rose pink gradient. He now has a gradient on the front that’s a nicely Nazi red, no bones about it.

So I have several things to say about the many hats a publisher wears, and the ones that fit very badly.

  • Wear the ones that fit. Hire, beg or trade for help when you need it.
  • Don’t let the thing you can’t do stop you from the things you are great at.
  • Ask for help and offer help. Regularly.
  • Don’t worry about perfect. Do your best and learn to do better. Perfect happens somewhere else.
  • Breathe. You’re doing it.

Perhaps in the world of self publishing, we’re best to find a conglomerate of talent we share and utilize to maximize what we have, to handle the tasks we really don’t have the skills for. Will we see a day when everyone tells the stories they need to tell? I hope so.

You’ll find Chuck Ott’s latest work, Something Made of Vacuum on Amazon, in print and for Kindle.

You’ll find Don Bowers work, With Patience Wait, and Conformed to the Image, also on Amazon

 

 

The Other: Honoring Differences of Faith

voodoo youThe first time I saw them I simply thought them striking. They were statuesque black women, head and shoulders taller than myself, usually dressed in white with white headwraps. They kept to themselves, although they let me read for them. They were respectful, dignified women illuminated from the inside, not from externals. One of the readers stopped me after they left. “Aren’t you afraid?” she asked me.
“Afraid of what?” I asked.
“They’re Voodoo women!” she turned dramatically and laughed at me for not knowing.

Sometimes I think innocence and ignorance can be an improvement over half correct information. What she knew was not what I knew. I saw them in their dealings with others, She saw the myth.  I saw who they were around me. I found them honest, frank and kind. I never knew exactly what they believed or what they did. I knew how they responded to others and to myself. I came to respect them very much.

I don’t think we can know all that much about others’ faith. We can read the books, see their rituals if we are allowed, talk to them, gather information. But if our understanding of God and the universe is personal, then it is deeply personal. We can share it, talk about it, preach it, try to sell it. It still is only ours. What we do have to share is how it has us treat others. That becomes their experience of our God.

I’ve done enough religious investigation to know that most religions honor the same things. Love your neighbor. Understand your limits. I don’t believe they are the same. I’m Christian because I found Christianity personally true. The only way I know to share that is to share Christ in what I do to for and with people. That doesn’t mean that I am right and someone else is wrong. I have no real way to know. It’s personal, and like every relationship, unique.

We all know Christians that can’t stay in the room with other kinds of Christians. Judaism, Muslimism, and Christianity all have their faith based in what Christians call the Old Testament. For all the differences, we have the same roots. We can view them as the other. Or we can find similarities if we wish.

Voodoo You is a dramatized and exaggerated story. It asks the question, ” Can we support each other, even if we don’t agree on everything?”

I understand very little about Voodoo. I do understand that I want women to have their own choices, and I am willing to stand to see they have them. Whether they believe as I do or not.

Voodoo You, explores the choice. Read it on my story page, or in Tea Room Tales, available now on Amazon.com