Thursday, February 26, 2009


I have to admit, I enjoy innovation. Particularly when it comes to activity. I'm not an exercise fan and days like today (grey, drippy rain and overcast skies) make me want to scurry for the couch with a book and a blanket rather than be sure I get through my workout.

You have to admit, though, that being a writer can be a pretty sedentary job and the wise writer will find a way to offset that trend. I tend to move around a bit and stretch to keep my neck from stiffening up over the drawing board, or use a balance ball when checking email just to try to offset the hours spent at a sit-still. Sometimes, I'll dance my way through cleaning my studio just to get the blood stirring again. It all adds up, right?

So I was intrigued with I saw author Arthur Slade's solution. Of course, having had the fun of meeting Arthur a few years ago at the Silver Birch Award events in Saskatoon, I can't say I'm surprised, but was still very intrigued. Check it out:

You can see the whole story on Arthur's blog.

(Note: any claims about income will vary and outcomes cannot be predicted. Treadmill desks should be used for fun and not investment purposes... )

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Computer woes

I have admitted frankly and frequently that I am techno-challenged. So when I scheduled my first webinar a couple weeks ago, I was a little apprehensive about what might happen. I tested the phone number, double-checked the sign in procedure and did everything I could to be sure I was ready. (I'm also the one that takes the tour of the maternity ward, and double checks parking situations before concerts. It's a personal foible.)

I got signed in without any difficulty and there was the expected set of background noises as people waited patiently for the webinar to begin. Then there was a bit of a delay while the facilitator tried to walk someone on dial-up through the options they had to participate. And then we waited while the person on dial up had to hang up to receive a fax. And then the facilitator finally announced we were ready to begin and it started something like this...

"In a moment I will take over your screen..."

Slight personal panic as things started flashing but I quickly realized it wasn't my computer convulsing, it was the facilitator's. Then the calm voice came again:

"Something very weird is happening and it is opening endlessly."

More flashing and hyper-scrolling. Still a little reassured by the thought that at least it wasn't my computer.

Then the voice of utmost calm (and not a hint of humor) announced:

"Obviously my computer is somewhat possessed. So I will turn off my computer and maybe the beast has gone away..."

I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the webinar.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Color perception

Color Perception

Color perception is fascinating.

In my current residency, I have a student that is color blind. It made my hopes of a clean watercolor palette pretty hopeless for that particular paint set but did result in some interesting color mixes. It also means that he is much more likely to produce mud on his page. The good news is that he is still happy with what he's painting.

I have a friend that is color blind in one eye. Her sense of values is impeccable but she admitted that it was only about five years ago that she understood what certain colors - like lavender - were. But once she realized which eye had which color perception, she learned to use it to her advantage. Her artwork is breath-taking.

Artistically, I need to understand how colors work together. Professionally, my color-sight (the way my eye and brain process color) will affect any art I produce. And don't get me started on the "individual monitors will vary" thing. I usually work on dual flat screens and even though they are identical monitors, I have a photo-favorite for color editing.

Personally, I know what colors I like to wear. I know which colors are my favorites to look at (orange and deep blues). I know which colors can lift my mood (love the amber-tinted sunglasses) or make me feel slightly nauseous (did you know there are several distinct ways that people pronounce "mauve"?)

Here's a color IQ quiz that tests your hue perception abilities. It's fun and you can compare your score to your age/gender demographic if you are a competitive sort of person:

I got an 11. How did you do? (Not that I'm competitive or anything...)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Author visit with Bryan Davis

Pour yourself a coffee and pull up a chair - today we visit with Bryan Davis, another YA fantasy writer that was part of the Motiv8 tour. I first met Bryan when he was promoting his first fantasy series - the Dragons In Our Midst series. He has fascinating stories to share, including those from his own experience. So here we go...

Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you plan first or let the story develop as you write?

I am what some call a “discovery” writer, what I call a seat-of-the-pants writer. When I sit down at the computer, I truly don’t know what’s going to happen. I have a vague idea of the story line, but the characters come to life in my mind and take over the action and dialogue. They often surprise me. Sometimes new characters pop up that I never expected to see.

That makes writing an adventure. I can’t imagine writing an outline in advance. The thought of it makes me shudder. Give me adventure! I want to go for a ride.

Q: You have written both Christian YA fantasy and a number of non-fiction books. Did you find the "cross-over" difficult either personally or in terms of industry trends?

My only non-fiction books came early in my career, and I have written fiction ever since, so there have been few, if any, transition issues. I have found a bigger transition in writing fiction for two publishers. The methods, expectations, and author freedom are quite different. I really have to switch gears.

For one publisher I have a set word count. For another, I can write as much as I want. I have titling and cover design freedom for one, but I have very little input for the other. I do most of the editing myself for one and have much more editing help with the other.

It’s an interesting contrast.

Q: I know that your path to publication in fantasy was a rather extended one - could you sum it up for us?

I began writing a novel about 15 years ago as a way to teach and encourage my homeschooled children to write. That ignited a passion for writing in me. That novel was never published, but when I wrote a fantasy novel that was germinated from a dream, I believed in it and pursued publishing it for eight years. I received over 200 rejections, but I knew I had a good novel and that it would have a positive effect on readers, so I never gave up.

I went to writers’ conferences during that time and learned that my work needed more polish. I ended up rewriting the fantasy novel 24 times over that period, so I was never stagnant.

Q: What encouragement would you offer writers that are just beginning that journey?

Writers, if you truly believe in your work, never give up, but also never stop learning. Go to conferences. Meet other authors. Show them your work. Develop a thick skin and take criticisms seriously. Read books on writing.

I never gave up, and now when I go out to speak, I take along a file folder jammed with rejection letters. I hope I can inspire other writers to keep at it and never give up.

Q: You've gone on to publish several series since beginning with Dragons in our Midst? How do you "start fresh" when beginning a new series?

It’s interesting that you ask that, because I am now starting fresh for the first time in four years. My first two series, Dragons in our Midst and Oracles of Fire, were in the same story world, and I started Echoes from the Edge four years ago, so the new, as-yet-untitled, series I’m working on for Zondervan is a fresh start.

Two of my daughters gave me the story idea, so as I conjure up a whole new reality, I keep bouncing the development off them. They have taken some ownership of the concept, so it’s fun to see them criticize the plot and characters.

I am enjoying the fresh start very much. The imagination part of novel writing is the most fun. It is creation out of nothing. What was once not there is now visible in my mind’s eye, and characters are birthed. They breathe and speak, and I feel like a new father all over again.

It’s amazing and fun!

Q: What marketing techniques or events have you found to be most successful for you?

Going to schools and homeschool groups has been the most helpful. I have traveled all over the country and to Canada, speaking to students from kindergarten through college, and I believe that has jump-started my career.

I don’t charge a fee, which, I hear, is unusual for authors. I want to make friends with schools and libraries. I want a partnership, not an employer arrangement. We help each other. It’s about planting seeds and offering help to make literacy and love of reading and writing grow. And this cooperation has worked very well.

Q: How did the Motiv8 tour come about? Had you met any of the other authors before?

I met Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper at a booksellers convention in Denver in 2006. Afterwards, they called me and asked if I would be interested in some kind of fantasy tour. That conversation, and the addition of Sharon Hinck to our group, birthed the Fantasy Four Tour in the summer of 2007. We had so much fun and success, we added four authors for the 2008 tour.

I had met all the authors before, so it was easy for us to travel together. Every one of them had a unique and fun personality, so we got along very well.

Q: What were some of the benefits of working together with other Christian fantasy authors? Drawbacks?

I have found that our group worked together fabulously. We believe in each other, and we promote each other’s books. I saw no competitive spirit at all. Many times I saw Wayne or Christopher or one of the other authors point a reader to one of my books. “Oh, you like dragons? Then you should look at Mr. Davis’s books.” And I would return the favor, because I have seen the hearts of these other authors, and I believe in them.

Even after the tour, we still communicate and promote each other. It’s a fellowship that I hope will continue for a long time.

Q: How would you compare it to a "solo" event as an author?

A benefit of a solo tour is freedom and flexibility. I tend to fill my solo schedule to the point that some would not be crazy enough to keep up. I have done up to 12 talks in a day at four different schools. I would never ask a group to try to do that, but it works for me. As long as I have to travel, I push to get the maximum benefit.

Q: What's on the horizon for you and for your readers? When can we expect the next Bryan Davis story?

I’m working on a combined young adult/adult fantasy series for Zondervan that is currently untitled. This will be a new adventure for me, because it will be my first fantasy set in another world. All my other novels are more contemporary—real world, real time, etc.

There will be four YA books in the series and two adult books. My plan is to meld the stories, but a YA reader will get a complete story from the four books, and an adult reader will get a complete story from the two. At the same time, a reader of all six will get a fuller understanding of both. I think this will be fun and challenging. These books will begin coming out in 2010 and will finish in early 2012.

Thank you, Bryan!

To find out more about Bryan Davis and his books, visit or his Echoes From the Edge website, or visit his blog for the latest information.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"It's All About Love" fine art exhibit

You are invited...

"Prelude to a Kiss" (c) Charity Hubbard
Used by permisison

For more information about this exciting fine art and photography exhibit, visit

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Author visit with Eric Reinhold

As I've mentioned before, I had the opportunity to meet a group of Christian fantasy writers last fall when the Motiv8 tour visited my area. As always happens with authors, they have some fascinating stories about the process of writing and their own path to publishing.

Today, we talk with Eric Reinhold, author of the Ryan Watters (The Annals of Aeliana) series.

Q: Your background involves the U.S. Navy, football and financial & wealth management experience. When did you first consider writing fiction? And what drew you to teen fantasy as a genre?

A: Great question! Some people are very surprised that a naval officer, college football player and now financial advisor could write a youth fantasy novel. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am left-handed, which engages the left side of my brain versus the stereotypical right side associated with financial advisors and numbers. The initial impetus for writing came from my two daughters when they were 6 and 9 years old. Every night I would continue a made up fantasy story prior to putting them to bed. After six months, they said, “dad… you need to make this into a book so other kids can enjoy it.” That’s what got me thinking - maybe I could write a book.

Q: Christian fantasy has historically been considered a very tough market. How did you find your publisher?

A: My story is very different in how I came to be published. I outlined the twenty chapters of my book, back in 2000 and planned to have it completed in a few years. Unbeknownst to me, God had other plans. The week before 9-11, I came down with a fever that wouldn’t go away. After a week, I sought medical attention and my doctor sent me over to the hospital immediately. I was hooked up to IV’s and ended up staying in the hospital 10 days. I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in my heart, in which they had to insert a tube in my chest so that I could administer the IV’s 3 times a day at home for a month until the infection was healed. Then I would need to come back for open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve in my heart with a titanium valve. Needless to say, that was a shocker! Between the surgery, recovery time and then leaving the company I was with to start my own business, my book plans were put on hold. I had completed 10 of the 20 chapters, but would not return to finishing it until 2007.

My financial planning business is unique in that I work with professional athletes, business owners and some very senior executives at Disney and other Fortune 500 companies. I was at breakfast with Steve Strang, the President of the publishing company, Strang Communications, one morning to discuss his finances. At the end of breakfast I mentioned that I had written a youth fantasy novel and he asked me to send it over to them. They liked it and 4 months later, I had my first book in hand [Ryan Watters and the King's Sword, cover art and illustrations by Corey Wolfe]. I have author friends who have received over 200 rejection letters from publishers and I received none. The moral of the story is to persevere, but God has His timing and His ways.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

A: I’m definitely someone who plans first. Initially I layout all of my characters for the book, what biblical themes I’d like to incorporate and the major confrontations. Then, I go back through and come up with subplots within the story. Based upon this I’ll write one or two paragraphs on what is going to happen in each chapter of the book. Finally, I’ll sit down to write each chapter based upon these notes. Typically, one of three things happens - one chapter turns into two, I consolidate two chapters into one or a new idea pops into my mind and I figure out where to work it in. So in some ways, the story does develop as I write.

Q: How did the Motiv8 tour come about? Had you met any of the other authors before?

A: In the process of marketing my book, I decided to reach out to other Christian fantasy authors in hopes of linking web sites. My daughter was reading Bryan Davis’s books, so I decided to start with him. His bio said that he lived very close to me. I offered to take him to breakfast and he informed me that he had moved his family to Tennessee, but when he was back in the area we could get together. At that breakfast, about one month later, he asked me if I would be interested in going on the Motiv8 tour. I told him I would be honored and the rest is history. Despite being the junior author with only one book, I added my expertise in finance by starting the Fantasy Fiction Tour, LLC and managing the income and expenses for the tour. In addition, the Character-4-Kids foundation purchased $300 in books from each author for our visit to READ Fresno and the Central California Children’s Hospital.

I had never met 6 of the authors, but with our common interests we gelled immediately. Several authors were typing out stories while we traveled in the 15-passenger van and it was fun to have someone yell out, “can I get a synonym for ________?”

Q. How would you compare it to a "solo" event as an author?

A: It’s much easier going into a store, church or school dressed with a cloak and sword as a group versus on your own!

Q: Was there any sense of competition because you were all in the same market? I understand you each had a different publisher.

A: It is nice to know that every author on this trip was putting the Christian Fantasy genre first and themselves second. Marketing ideas were shared, story concepts, experiences on what has worked and what hasn’t in book promotion, discussions on publishers and so much more. I was very encourage over the future of our genre with no drawbacks… except lack of sleep!

All of us utilized different publishers, which was great. Every author was extremely transparent on the positives and negatives of the publisher they were working with. The bond is so close now that several authors are working on joint projects, we’ve done a post-tour blog to promote each other on all of our websites, and there is talk of putting together a compilation of short stories into one free pdf download or print-on-demand book.

Q: Tell us about the foundation How did that come about?

A: I have a close friend and prayer partner who runs an inner-city after school reading program and another who works at a Children’s Hospital, so it got me thinking about ways I could benefit kids in these areas. I formed the non-profit foundation, Character-4-Kids, so that through donations from corporations, individuals and grants the foundation could purchase books with high moral character for distribution to kids at a disadvantage physically and financially. When possible, the foundation attempts to have the author of the book show up at the place of distribution. It’s a lot of fun!

Q: Ryann Watters and the King's Sword was your first published fiction and I understand you've just finished the second. How soon can we expect to see it and what's planned next?

A: I am very excited to be finished with “Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith,” book 2 in the Annals of Aeliana series. It is almost twice as long as book 1 and is based upon the four gospels and life of Christ. Ryan Watters and the Shield of Faith will have awesome interior artwork, completed by an up and coming artist, Jared Sloger. (Val's note: Get a sneak peak of some of the upcoming illustrations at the end of the blog.) It will be available on my website in pre-release in April and in stores in May. Since it is based upon Ephesians 6 and the armor of God, I am planning on having book 3 be “Ryann Watters and the Belt of Truth,” which will be based on the book of Acts. Book 4 will be based on the book of Romans and I am planning on book 5 being based on Revelations.

Thank you, Eric!

To find out more about Eric's books or about the Motiv8 Tour visit his website at, his blog at or find him on Facebook for more tour photos and stories.