What do I want?

Today I join countless others who have come before me when I ask, “How the #$*& did I get to be this old?” I know this is not a novel question and because I try to live in the present I don’t ask it too often, but there’s no way to dispute the fact that I’m middle-aged. I think it’s about time I figure out what I’m doing.
What do I want? 
I want to age gracefully. I want to grab life by the dangly bits. I want my life to count for something. I want to be happy. I want to be challenged. I want to read thousands and thousands of books. I want to create art and inspire others to do the same. I want to learn to tango. I want to watch sunsets and moonshines. I want to write a memoir that makes people feel good and strong and powerful while tears run down their cheeks. I want to swim in creeks and hike on the tippy tops of mountains. I want waves to take my breath away for just a moment. I want to squint in the sun. I want to feel calm and fulfilled. I want to feel enraged and passionate. I want to sit for hours with a notebook and a pen. I want to breath fresh air as deeply as I can. I want to be healthy. I want to meet new people and do interesting things. I want to live this life to the mother-fucking hilt.
But mostly, I’m just winging it over here. I’m going about my business, head down, ducks in a row while the clock ticks off the seconds. That annoying alarm continues to ring in the morning. I drink too much coffee every. single. day. of. my. life. There are emails to which I must tend. For some reason, the cats want to eat TWICE a day. Cats are needy like that.
But sometimes things happen to shake me up a little. Recently I found out that someone I love is very sick. It goes without saying that his illness will affect him far more than it will affect me. But still.
I went to see him. I hugged him and talked with him and then way too soon it was time to go home. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. About him.
Crying in the car with the radio up really, really loud doesn’t help. I know – I’ve tried.
I can’t help but marvel at how I continue to get caught up in the everyday hum drum details of life and fail to live that third paragraph up there. Why? Why is it so hard to live our dreams? Why do we fail to see the precious nature of every moment until after its over?
I’ll be pondering this question in the coming weeks because time is short and I’m getting older by the day. But while I’m pondering, I’m going to do my best to live in a way that fills my journals with poetry and art. I will dance. I will be reckless just often enough to feel alive. I will strive to understand that every day is a gift and treat it as such.
I hope you take some time this week to remember what it is that you want and then start making those things happen.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit over the past couple of weeks, but today I ran my first 5K complete with obstacles and mud and I’ve gotten around to a small bit of studio work.  I’ve sprinkled images from those things throughout this post.
I’m wishing you a week filled with love & sunshine! 

Heyyyyyy – why wasn’t my art featured? And get a website, will ya?

In recent weeks, I have had two queries asking me how I decide which art to feature at Ink & Alchemy.

Mostly, I wing it.

I try to be fair. I have a method of keeping track of all the creative people I feature (including writers) and I do pay attention in a handwaving, don’t-really-care-all-that-much way. I started doing this several years ago because I was seeking inspiration for myself and even though it has morphed into something bigger, that is still one of the underlying goals. I don’t want to take the fun out of it by imposing strict guidelines upon myself because I’m just compulsive enough to feel pressured by it.

I feature what I like. I post things that catch my eye on a given day. It’s not a whole lot more complicated than that.

I like color. I try to stretch my boundaries because I don’t like to get stuck in small places. I like shiny, glittery bits and I live almost wholly in the moment. This means that sometimes I start out with a certain artist or medium in mind, but when I sit down at the computer, something fabulous pops up in my feed or email that I just can’t ignore. I’m kind of fickle like that when it comes to art. There are many places in my life in which I must, by necessity, operate according to rules and regulations but I stubbornly refuse to operate from a place of  rigidity with regard to creative things. They are my refuge and I refuse to codify them too much.

And if I’m being completely honest, those who interact on the page regularly probably end up featured more often. It’s not a conscious decision, but I’m a busy person and when I see your name pop up, it may prompt me to click over to your page or website and see what wonderful thing you have created lately.

Some things that cause certain names to be passed over time and time again:

  • no new art
  • poor photography
  • lack of color 

And a huge pet peeve of mine: if you are using a personal FB profile instead of a page, I am unlikely to post your work. Why? Because unless they are friends with you on FB, my followers cannot see most of your content and it’s not the most effective way to do it. One of my goals at Ink & Alchemy is to help others learn how to connect online and I often lead by (good) example.

There are two under-utilized ways to get featured.

1.) Drop me a line with a good image attached and ask. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s worth a shot.

2.) Post your own work at More InkThis page is intended for just that purpose. While I typically curate Ink & Alchemy (with the exception of link sharing days like today), More Ink is always available for you to showcase your work and practice your networking skills. I’d love to see what you’ve been up to!

I try to notice when someone needs a helping hand and put new artists out there. I appreciate reciprocity and repay favors when I can. I encourage you to do that same.

I’ve got some new ideas stewing over here. In addition to daily features, I’ve been running month-long promotions for artists and writers on my website. If you’re on either of my featured lists (here & here), it’s just a matter of time until the spotlight is on you. 🙂

I’m in the beginning phase of a new effort to assist those without a website to get up and running. Why?

Because it’s important.

If you’re trying to manage a platform and create an online presence, you need to have a website. It’s your home base. I hear from many people in all types of creative disciplines that they either don’t want to spend the time creating a website or they don’t have the skills to do so.

I also hear that they don’t have the funds to pay for a designer. Understandable, but that doesn’t negate the need to have one.

I’m trying an experiment and will take a few initial clients at a ridiculously low price. I’m doing this because I need to work out the kinks in the process and see how it goes. If you’re thinking guinea pig, you’re on the right track. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands. You can find the details on my website, but here’s what I’ll do in a nutshell: I’ll create a free website for you and give you a tutorial so that you can manage it yourself going forward. I’ll also provide some recommendations about how to get connected online and build a platform.

These sites won’t have all the latest bells and whistles, but they will have functionality and provide a static place for you to send your customers. My website is an example of what might result from an effort like this. Do me a favor and take a look and then drop me a line if you’d be willing to partner with me in this new endeavor. Of course, you will need to provide certain pieces of information (your bio, images with titles, etc.).

Personally, I think the service I’m offering is much more valuable than paying someone to design and manage your site for you. If you learn how to do it yourself, you’ll have much more flexibility and retain the ability to make changes without paying exorbitant fees to do it. Take my word for it – it’s easier than you think!

All of the art in this post was created by the super fabulous Treasure Frey. Visit her website to see more of her creations.
I’m wishing you a wonderful week filled with many opportunities to create something beautiful!

 

Spring Forward

I hate feeling like I’ve lost an hour during the spring time adjustment, but I love the energy and growth that spring brings with it. I wish I could say I look forward to spring because I want to go outside and pursue things like hiking or rock climbing but alas, it is not to be.

I like the idea of being an outdoorsy kind of person.

I can envision myself standing victorious at the top of a mountain, my toned muscles slightly golden (but nowhere near that orange pre-melanoma tan) from my time outdoors.

I’m breathing deeply and I feel at one with all the creatures of the universe.

It sounds terrific but the evidence continues to stack up; I hate exercising, as was made clear this morning during a healthy one hour jaunt which was my idea. I have no idea what I was thinking.

This is pathetic but true – the only thing that kept me going was the fact that a cup of coffee and and a bagel awaited me at the bottom of the hill.

The cold and the wind whipping down the arroyo didn’t make the walk more pleasant. End of whine.

As usual, the studio of Ink & Alchemy is a hub of activity. As you can see from the first 5 photos in this post, I’ve recently become smitten with visual journals.  The countertops in my studio are littered with scraps of paper, glue, old books, etc. Sometimes I think making art is really just an excuse to fill one room of the house with as much junk as possible. Old yogurt containers, magazines, a collection of hotel swipe cards, broken computer parts. All very important parts of my creative space.

This is the spinal tape that The Don gave to me as a surprise.

 Unfortunately, I’m just enough of a left-brainer to be driven batshit crazy by too much disorganization and mess so I’ve been tidying the studio.

As part of this annoying spring cleaning effort, I’ve decided to discount all items in my Etsy shop. Enter the code “SPRINGFORWARD” at checkout to receive a 30% discount on any item.

The Don has been hard at work making a few improvements to the studio. I have a new storage area for paper/wood/canvas near the ceiling and brand-new shelves which are already full of delicious art supplies. My artistic support team is pretty incredible. He even did the taxes for Ink & Alchemy today.

I’m still diligently working on my Lifebook 2014 project and enjoying every second of it. I showed a few of the finished projects here and here. You can see everything at a glance in my Flickr portfolio. Here’s what I’ve finished since we last got together:

Setting up a small recording studio has been on my to-do list for quite some time. I’ve been accumulating equipment and I think I’m almost ready to put it all together and move forward, but to do so required a studio rearrangement that has made an already chaotic space even crazier. I’m still working on this one and will be for some time, I suspect.

In between these various projects, I’ve always got an art piece or two simmering on the back burner. For me it’s nice to move from project to project instead of focusing wholly on one piece from start to finish. For one thing, this is exactly how my mind works – in tiny fragmented bits. Also, moving around give the pieces time to dry (although I’ve been so impatient lately that I now have a blow dryer permanently installed in the studio) and in many cases, I need some time away from a work to let it percolate before I know what the next step will be.

I’m still writing and I have several drafts that I’d like to bring to fruition in the coming months. I ‘m also in the process of hatching a brilliant idea to combine both writing and art. I’m excited!

Peace, paint, & publishing to you!

Disciple: A Guest Post by L. Blankenship

I’m excited to have a guest blogger today. L. Blankenship is the author of Disciple Half-Omnibus, which collects the first three parts of Disciple into one meaty book. If you haven’t read Part I yet, you can try it for free. 

 And don’t forget to scroll way down at the bottom of this post to enter for a chance to win a free copy of her forthcoming book! And now on to the guest blog…

5555555

DISCIPLE, PART IV arrives on March 1st!
 

I’ve been self-publishing for over a year now. A year and three months, to be more exact. I’m still waiting for the Fun Police to kick in my door and stop me.

Because while self-pubbing has been stressful and frightening and at times soul-crushing, it still feels like I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be able to. I’m part of a group of writers who say a manuscript should be submitted around “until hell won’t have it!” so at first I joked that by self-pubbing I was catapulting my story straight over hell’s walls and they had no option about having it… bypassing publishing’s infamous gatekeepers and all.

 The joke wore off as it became obvious that my manuscript was probably sitting on a sidewalk inside hell’s walls, being stepped over and ignored.

 Nobody came to stop me, though.

 So I loaded up my second manuscript and fired that over the walls too. Then the third one. Each time, I went through the same ritual of betas, revision, and hiring a freelance editor. I plotted long-range character arcs and pondered the changes in narrative voice. I hired cover artists and squeed over what they sent me.

I was sure that would alert the Fun Police, but they still didn’t serve me a cease and desist order.

 Self-publishing is not a bed of roses unless you mean a bed of rosebushes rather than one of flower petals. I came into this with 15 years’ experience as a graphic designer, prepress technician, proofreader, and a small-press publisher in the tabletop gaming industry — and I still have my share of thorn scratches.

 Each of those is from the silence that follows a promotional post. An offer of free review copies that went unanswered. A Sunday that I went around to my sales sites to collect the “weekly eggs” as I call those strings of zeros.

 This is why writers need thick skins. The bed of thorns.

 I do catch the scent of roses, though. I still squee when my artist sends me sketches for my next book cover. When someone posts that they liked my sample, it’s a welcome ray of sunshine. Every time I go looking for zeros and find numbers instead, it plasters a smile on my face.

 I’m going to keep doing this until the Fun Police kick in my door and haul me away.

Picture1

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Shrimp kisses and other bits of delightfulness

I’d like to introduce you to Erika Skublickaite. She’s the creator of Scuba Drawings, which is now two years old. If you aren’t familiar with her work, take a moment to drop by and enjoy her unique and whimsical approach and tell her congrats while you’re at it. It has been an honor to have her as aFeatured Artist at Ink & Alchemy for quite some time now and I’ve enjoyed seeing her business grow.

484029_600951199953566_337386382_n

1004604_522067647841922_1409077138_n

1233339_544348482280505_5347723_n

269297_481493195232701_1560241484_n

581122_470908276291193_787693369_n

January is gone and I’ve managed to squelch my perfectionism and keep my creative momentum going into the new month. This in itself is a small victory. I’m still working my way through Lifebook 2014 and will be all year so you’ll be seeing bits and pieces from that course. Here are a few images from this past week’s assignment:

20140129_181932

sugar 72dpi.06

This month has been dubbed The Month of Amore in our house. February marks our wedding anniversary (the big three this year), our first date, and Valentine’s Day. The Don gets most of the credit; he came up with the idea and is an expert at coming up with small surprises and treats on a regular basis, but this year I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve as well. One of them is called The Boozy Brunch of Amore and will take place next Sunday morning. I got the idea from this book. I’m pretty excited!

Last night we dined on Shrimp Kisses with feta cheese, two different types of peppers stuffed with cheese, and baby pockets of brie with blueberries, which was adapted from the linked recipe. We used blueberries instead of cherries. The meal was topped off with Mary Pickford cocktails  made with fresh pineapple juice.
20140201_200853
20140201_200932
20140201_201026
20140201_201557
You can see that I have my work cut out for me this month to keep up with my husband. Luckily, I don’t think he actually expects me to keep up with him. He’s pretty terrific.
I got started by making this rustic pear tart for dessert this evening.
012
Have you noticed that we tend to express our affection through food?  I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. My life has been so much more delicious since I found The Don.
download (2)
In preparation to beginning a new project in the studio, I got out a nice, fresh sheet of paper. Guess what happened next?
011
Yep. Groucho decided to roll around on it. I’m wondering if I should start adding “cat hair” when I list the media used for my artwork.
liebster

And last, but not least, I was pleased to be nominated for the Leibster Award. Thank you, Ernesto San Giacomo! As part of the process, I’ll answer his 10 questions below, then nominate 10 other bloggers  and present them with 10 questions of my own.

1. If you could have dinner with any five people from history, who would they be? Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Leonardo de Vinci, William Shakespeare.
2. How many pets do you own and what are their names? 2 cats and one dog (plus one temporarily adopted grandcat). Their names are Emma, Groucho, Chopper and Socks.
3. Do you know how to cook? If so, what is your best dish? Yes, but my husband is much better at it than I, so I stick to baking most of the time. My best dish is homemade bread.
4. What hobbies do you have? Art, writing, social media promotion.
5. List your five favorite films. The Notebook (Stop groaning. I can hear you out there.),  K-Pax, Slingblade, Legends of the Fall, The Sweetest Thing.
6. List your five favorite books. To Kill a Mockingbird, Cloud Atlas, Let the Great World Spin, A Good Scent from A Strange Mountain, The Glass Castle.
7. Do you practice any religion? Nope.
8. What is your dream vacation? Tropical beach with drinks and book in hand.
9. Where do you get ideas for blog posts? Anywhere & everywhere.
10. What prompted you to start writing? I’ve been writing in one form or another for a very long time. It just seems natural.

————————————————————-

And I’ll take the lazy girl’s way and stick with the same 10 questions for my nominees, although I’d like to offer the award with no strings attached. If you don’t want to answer the questions, you don’t have to. The award is still yours because I think you’re terrific!

My nominees are:

I’m wishing you a wonderful and creative week!