“You should be a writer or something…”

writing spirals and character sketches

I write epic emails and I used to do it a lot more than I used to. I recently sent my best friend an email describing my recent adventures and discoveries and she commented that “You should be a writer or something.” She was teasing of course because she knows I’m a writer and is one of the few people who has read a majority of my fantasy book manuscripts. Those manuscripts may never be published, but I already have my number one fan in her, so I’m okay with that.

Even so, what she said struck a chord that had started to twang a bit yesterday. I’d finished up all my writing work and was feeling very proud of myself and happy. I thought to myself that I’d finally found my stride with writing work, college work and everything else I have to balance and that maybe, just maybe I could start writing in a fantasy book again. For the past several months, I’ve been so fried at the end of the day from work and college writing that I can barely string two words together in a sentence and even when I do that, it’s full of typos. A bit frustrating for a once-avid writer of fantasy novels…

I’ve never been a quitter though so I’m at least going to get back to writing in this blog more regularly. I do have a quite a few followers and I feel like I’m letting them down when I don’t post something. Plus, I do like writing in my own voice about whatever I want, even if it’s all rambling nonsense. 😉

On this day before my 38th birthday, I shall now embark on a month-long daily blog post adventure and catch up on the days I’ve missed by re-blogging some older posts that have come to mind over the past couple days. After all, there are newer readers of my blog that don’t know about my resident hummingbirds and my affinity for saving small orange salamanders from the road…

Featured image is of my hand written books from middle and high school and my character sketches.

The Voice in My Head

There are many expressions about writers and the voices in their heads. Voices from characters they’ve created, voices from their muses and their ever-present self-narration as they go through life. I know all this because I am a writer myself. My post tonight is about a couple of voices in my head but they are the voices of people very dear to me whose wisdom has stuck with me.

The first voice is that of my father. His knowledge and advice while he was alive got me through many challenges in my life. Everything he taught me is still within me and his spirit guides me. Quite often I hear his voice in my head as I recall a favorite memory. I remember bowling with him when I was in my 20s I believe. He told me how to position my wrist for a better throw and every time I bowled after that, I heard his voice in my head telling me the correct way to hold the ball. I haven’t bowled in years but I know if I ever did again, he’d be there.

What my father’s spirit repeats to me most often these days are the words “Be patient.” I don’t know how often he said them to me while he lived but they are a constant presence now. When I am worried and anxious about something, his voice cuts in through my chaotic thoughts and reminds me to be patient. I never quite know what I’m being patient for but I do know that when I haven’t listened to his calm, knowing voice in my head, things have gone terribly awry. So I listen, even when I don’t want to, and I heed his advice.

My father died four years ago this October and with his passing, I was unable to receive any new advice from him. His voice only existed in my head and in my heart as memories. I missed those doses of fresh advice, I felt utterly lost without them. Thankfully, the powers that be have blessed me with amazing friends to help guide me when I am lost. And yet, something was still missing. Eventually the powers that be saw fit to bring a fresh, strong presence into my life who possessed a patience and a depth of wisdom very similar to my father. That person has become that missing voice in my head and a source of illumination in my life when I need it most.

That voice in my head came to my rescue this afternoon on the six-mile walk with Jazzmin. Alas, that story must wait for another day because the voice of my tired mind couldn’t do it justice tonight…

A Creative Spirit

Jordan unwrapping her birthday cupcake

Jordan unwrapping her birthday cupcake

Today is my oldest daughter’s eleventh birthday. As difficult as it was to comprehend my youngest turning seven, it’s even harder to accept that Jordan is now eleven! She’s starting sixth grade in September which really doesn’t seem possible.

I remember the day Jordan was born. We hadn’t wanted to find out the gender but I really wanted a girl so when the doctor said I had a girl, I was ecstatic! She had a full head of soft, dark hair and looked like a little me. As she’s grown up, she resembles me both in appearance and personality. She and I are very similar and can butt heads now and then. I have the final say as the mother though. I want her to also see me as a friend but being her mother always comes first.

Jordan has more artistic talent than I did at her age, than I do now in fact. She’s able to draw people far better than I can. She’s a writer too and she’s really good at putting humor into some of her stories. I read her stuff and it makes me laugh and as that was her intention, she smiles. She is an amazing older sister to Jaycie and the two play wonderfully together!

Jordan reading her new pony book and Jaycie listening intently

Jordan reading her new pony book and Jaycie listening intently

Jordan can be rather shy just like I was and still am at times. It takes her a while to come out of her shell but once she does, she shines brighter than morning sunlight. She’s doing exceptionally well in school and her teachers love her, she’s even tutored other students on occasion. I know she will achieve whatever she puts her mind to!

Jordan working on one of her stories

Jordan working on one of her stories

Being the mother of such an intelligent and beautiful girl is an amazing gift. It also brings with it a lot of motherly worries. I know how mean boys and other girls can be when they reach a certain age and I hate the idea of her being picked on like I was. I feel I am better equipped to deal with any problems that arise now that I’m working from home. The school is less than five minutes from my house so if something is amiss, I’ll be down there so fast heads will spin!

Jordan with some of her artwork on display at school

Jordan with some of her artwork on display at school

I have faith that Jordan will choose a new and amazing path for herself and explore her full potential. I try very hard to be a good role model. I hope that seeing me own and maintain my own home and solve my problems on my own shows her that women are capable of anything! My baby Jordan is meant to stand confidently on her own two feet and make her own way in this world. Her loving mama will always have her back though.

Below is a gallery of drawings Jordan created using my pen and tablet in Paint. They’re her “anime” interpretations of the three of us.

Creative Explorations

I’ve dabbled in many things trying to figure out what I want to be “when I grow up.” My father crafted amazing projects out of wood such as rocking animals (lions, giraffes and horses) and puzzles but my attempts to craft from wood in middle school shop class failed miserably. Not to mention that it’s not exactly safe for me to be around sharp, spinning things like saws.

I always loved art class in school but my work was overshadowed by artists far better than myself. Other students could draw realistic people and scenes while I did better with abstract and impressionistic pieces. My teachers seemed to have a higher appreciation for recognizable things than what I’d come up with so my work rarely made it into school art shows and displays.

In high school I took a computer programming class and discovered to my surprise that I was actually quite good at it! While my friends and fellow students kept getting stuck, I’d plow right through the steps and my program would run perfectly after I cleaned out a few bugs. I’d then help my friends with their code and I was impressed that my mind could work like that. I probably should have explored that area more because it had the potential to lead to a productive career but I didn’t.

I took a couple of computer art classes in school too. They didn’t call it graphic design but that’s what it was. Graphics on computers were pretty rudimentary back then but I was able to create things that impressed my teacher so much she wanted to use them on the school website. That never actually happened because I got sidetracked by trying to pass the classes I wasn’t very good at so I could graduate.

My father had a talent with a camera. Just about every photograph he took turned out perfect. People hired him to photograph work and social club events. He used his old Olympus SLR camera to take all the pictures and every shot was interesting. While I love taking photos and often snap several in a day, I don’t consider myself a photographer. I’m just someone who likes to take pictures. Being a photographer takes an eye and a skill I just don’t naturally possess.

When I was a stay-at-home mother I decided to expand my knowledge of graphic design, photography and photo editing by taking some online classes. It was fascinating learning about proper photo composition and where the eye is naturally drawn to. I went out and took several rolls of pictures with my father’s old Olympus camera but very few of them turned out well. I really enjoyed learning how to edit photos with Photoshop and bringing out details that were there in the scene but hadn’t been captured on film. Exploring graphic design with Illustrator was fun for me and while I created projects I liked, they just weren’t up to professional graphic design standards.

Graphic I made in the online Illustrator class

Graphic I made in the online Illustrator class

I’ve had to brush up on those Photoshop and graphic design skills recently as I work on the cover for my Boston story e-book. I dug out those three-ring binders and reread the lessons until it dusted off the correct memory files in my brain. Once I remember what I was doing, I had a lot of fun working on my cover…at first. The longer I work on it though, the less I like it. I imagine that happens to everyone after a while. I don’t know that I’ll ever be satisfied with the cover but I will eventually have to stop reworking it so I can publish my story. I’ll do my best and hope that people don’t glance at it, cringe and then keep browsing titles.

Potential cover in progress

Potential cover in progress

All of my creative explorations have taught me one thing: I am a writer. I can dabble in whatever I want to and I continue to paint, take photos and play with graphic design but my strongest ability is writing. I don’t profess to be a perfect writer and I never took any college courses in it so my grammar isn’t up to snuff but as every writer knows, writers write! I will always write, even if it’s about the most mundane-seeming things in the world. I am a storyteller and if I don’t get the words out of me, my entire creative essence suffers.

Writing Every Word

JulieAnn on Twitter

My friend showed me this and it made my day!

Twitter is my favorite social media tool. For the first several months I was on Twitter I only had a handful of followers. Then I read some tips on how to get more followers and went to work. I started following accounts that felt like celebrities to me. As I am in love with Boston and Massachusetts, I looked up area businesses and residents. I would follow them, read their tweets, click on any links in the tweets and quote them with my own comment. I found this activity very enjoyable and educational. The reward was that some of them would actually follow me back! Within a week I’d gained almost 100 new followers.

There are tons of helpful sites that talk about gaining Twitter followers but I am not one of those sites. I only know what I did and why. Twitter is my way of connecting with the state I love and with fellow writers, artists, parents and animal lovers. I write every single word of my Tweets and I don’t use auto-follow back or auto-reply or whatever else there is. If I Tweet you, it’s because I physically typed out the words. Not all my Tweets are exciting but they’re all 100% written by me.

I’ve just recently discovered Hootsuite and every morning when I get up I schedule enough Tweets to get me through to lunch. At lunch I compose and schedule more and then sometimes I schedule them to post through the night. I write every single one of those posts and I try to make them sound unique and interesting. I’m still trying to get the hang of promoting myself without feeling conceited about it and I try not to repeat myself. I never know what Tweet will grab someone’s attention but I’m always glad when any of them do! Here’s the link to my profile on Twitter if you’re curious: JulieAnn on Twitter

If you’re wondering about the woman behind the written words, check out my video page because Jazzmin and I just made a little movie tonight!

What Makes a Writer

writing spirals and character sketches

What makes a writer? What makes me a writer? Good question. My answer? There are all these amazing ideas that pop into my head at all hours of the day and night that demand to be written. It’s been happening since I was 12 years old. I’d just finished reading A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony and I felt inspired to create my own fantasy world. So I did just that. I created a magical world called Zindar which I later renamed to Aindar and for the next 15 years I wrote books that took place in that world.

When I say wrote books, I literally mean I hand wrote books. I started out writing cursive pencil in five subject college-ruled spiral notebooks. Eventually I graduated to pen and printing. Then I took a keyboarding class in 9th grade and my parents bought me a Hewlett-Packard word processor and I began typing away at last! The first book I ever typed out was Spark of Beginnings which is now Dawn of Allies. I’ve rewritten that book at least three times since its creation and I’m still not satisfied with it. My first and still my biggest fan is my best friend Crystal and she will get a signed, gold-embossed, personally engraved first editions of every book I ever publish.

As I continued to write in my Aindar books, my Hands of Magic series, my characters aged and had children and I realized I had a lot to keep track of. I needed to remember what they looked like, the magic they possessed, what age they would be in each book, where they came from, who they married, etc. I knew there was no way I could track that all in my head so I started using Excel to create spreadsheets. I would also trace Marvel comic books and transform those heroes into the characters in my book. Those were my favorite visual references to work on. I’ve also traced models in fashion catalogues and from pictures printed off the internet. It’s not exactly fancy or high-tech but it works for me. I can’t freehand draw recognizable things like humans and animals no matter how vivid they are in my mind.

I used to sketch my castle and building layouts on paper but then I discovered a 3D home design program that allowed me to build my locations in a wonderfully interactive way. I built everything from small homes to a sprawling castle to an entire city. I could literally walk through the 3D renderings of my locations and get a feel for my surroundings. I spent countless hours creating visual representations of my world and loved every minute of it!

Layout of one of my buildings

Layout of one of my buildings

3D view inside that building

3D view inside that building

I’m not just writing, I’m creating whole worlds with the words I type out. I’m sure every writer knows what it feels like to breathe life and emotions into their characters. I remember being asked as a teenager what my chosen career was and when I’d say “I’m a writer” I’d usually receive a rather pitying look. What a silly notion to believe that I could make a worthwhile living as a writer. I imagine all artists experience this whether they’re writers, painters, dancers, actors or musicians. Non-creative people looking at us as though we’re insane while they hope that we have some sort of “backup plan” that will actually make us money. It’s understandable I suppose, but not entirely fair. We’re all entitled to our dreams and we all have the right to pursue our bliss.

My oldest daughter Jordan has inherited my talent for writing and she’s far better at it at 10 years old than I was at 12. She’s currently reading A Spell for Chameleon. She’s a very talented artist, flute-player and all around smart, clever little girl. I will never discourage her from writing, drawing, making music, painting and whatever else creative she wants to do. My goal is to show her that yes, it’s possible to make it as an artist. While it takes hard work, it’s the best kind of work because it brings fulfillment to your soul, spirit and heart. Never stop creating!

P.S. – I added more to the Unbroken Flames excerpt on Corbin Creations. The ideas never stop coming…