WIP Wednesday: Row80: The Leap Year Edition

I’m still going full steam ahead on plotting Stars. If all goes “according to plan”, the series will be quite lengthy, even if the actual books aren’t (I haven’t made any hard or fast decisions on length as of yet). It revolves around a group of girls and their adventures over the space of a year. I apologize for my extremely vague descriptions, as I’m sort of superstitious about this project. Once I start writing the first book, I will feel much better about sharing. Anyway,  each girl is going to get her own book. And while there is an overarching theme for the series, there is also a different theme for each book, and each girl’s journey.

Right now, I’m trying not to get too caught up in details. I’m just trying to pair down the essence of who the girls are at a glance, (and my series at a glance) giving myself a target to aim for so to speak. I was doing really well with this for the first few tries, in that I got several really cool ideas that I never considered before and felt like I was really beginning to understand my characters….

And then….

(You knew there would be an “and then” didn’t you?)

And then I got to a character who had always been very sketchy. With the first few girls, even the ones I didn’t know very well, had very strong and clearly defined motivations. I just to do a bit of expanding and explaining. But the current character…she didn’t. So I took a step back and wrote down what her initial motivation was, as I understood it to be.

I got: “Saran needs to be needed.”

Not bad, just really, really vague. But it got me asking questions, and any writer worth their salt will tell you that questions are one of the most vital tools an author can have at their disposal. So I wrote them all down. Mostly it was “Why does she need this? In what capacity does she need it? Does this relate at all to her culture?” Because culture plays a very significant role in this series and while I intuitively thought the answer would be that “yes, it does relate to her culture”, I wanted to know for sure.

So I raided the Stock Photo websites and found two potential models of Inuk descent to act as inspiration. Then I let my muse mull it over for a week, doing light research on Aboriginal Alaskans, Eskimos, and the Siberian Yup’ik here and there to aid in the process.

And the pieces began to fall into place…slowly, but surely. I now have a full page for her. It doesn’t have quite the same spark as the previous ones, but I feel confident enough to move on. I don’t need to know her inside and out (yet), I just need to “get” her.

What sort of things do you do when you need to know your character better? If you’d be so kind, please share in the comments!


Found/Black Out Poetry: Slow Moving

Found Poetry is the art of re-framing phrases and words from books, horoscopes, or anything with text, and shaping it into poetic form. You can find more information on Found Poetry here. For other examples to enjoy, you can go here.

I’m rising from terror

But go no where fast.

I like them best when they are short (not-so-sweet) and to the point. But I do have some longer ones to share later down the line.

Illustration Monday: Dirge Concepts

This is my first Illustration Monday.

I’m a little nervous.

I’ve been drawing, and sharing these drawings online through various art sites, (you can currently find me on Deviantart and Tumblr) since I was about 13. So I’m not new to the process. This isn’t virgin ground. Yet, somehow it does feel that way.

I think, perhaps, it’s because I’ve always kept my art and writing separate.

It feels wrong to even type that. “Art” and “Writing”, as though writing does not count as an art form. It clearly does. Yet I have separated the two in my mind for some odd reason. I always viewed ar-drawing-as a hobby. Meanwhile, writing has always been my intended career. All this in spite of the well-meaning intentions and expectations by those who know and love me best (read: family). It’s not really that I never thought of combining the two. (Once upon a time, I even applied to an art college. Long story short? College didn’t happen.) It’s more that I never thought to combine them in this particular way and certainly not publicly.

You see, I’ve always drawn my characters. It’s part of my process. I need to know how they look on paper before they can be fully solidified in my mind, and feel comfortable enough to describe them. I’m just visually-inclined that way. But these concept drawing have always been private things. Even on my art galleries, I shied away from sharing Concept art that relates to my stories. I think partially I did so out of fear. Because I knew I didn’t have anything tangible, but if I started promoting the stories through drawings and sketches and things and people liked them, I would actually-you know-have to have something to show for them. I would have to put up or shut up. I would have to hold myself accountable and write the damn stories.


Of course, I know there’s also another fear at play here. I’m afraid that I’m not nearly a good enough artist to be showing my work off in the first place. Julia Cameron said that, often it is ego, not skill that makes us proclaim ourselves to be Artists. This is not to say that I am egotistical about my drawing ability, far from it! It’s more to the point that I am fully aware that I am still learning, and I do see flaws in my work. But this is what I do, and what I enjoy doing, and therefore, I claim it as part of myself that should be recognized.

I really didn’t intend for this post to be so long. So I’ll cut the insecure rambling short and just get on with it. Here are some concept sketches that I am working on to help me pair down the current shape of the beast that is Dirge. (I.e. The Project That Would Not Behave and/or Die)

Helena Concept: Sketch

Artwork and Helena (c) S.J. Collins

Helena (the MC) has gone through some refining since her conception. Her original clothing designs were more Anime-inspired. (And one day, if I’m feeling brave enough, I may post a side-by side comparison….maybe.) In truth, I’m not sure this will be her finalized look, but I do like it better than what I had before. So here’s a bit of insight: My Werewolves (called Volk) have black sclera , much like their four-legged ancestors. They are tribal, as evident by her garbs. I’m playing with things like Clan, Pack and Rank Markings.  I.e. The Autumn Leaf in her hair would represent that she is a apprentice in her chosen craft. A Feather will replace the Leaf once she has earned a Rank and been Bound to a Pack. Pack Bonds will be signified by Tattoos (and if you betray your Pack, or are cast out for whatever reason, the Tattoo is cut from the skin), although there will also be a magical bond at play (which will be far more painful to remove than the Tattoo…).

Looking at it now, I can already see all of the things I’m going to have to change in the finalized concept. Her back is a little too hunched. The positioning of her back foot isn’t quite right. But I am taking a deep breath and reminding myself that it is merely a sketch. And very much like a first draft. It lays the bones for what I intend to do with it, and that is all.

That being said, do not be afraid to tell me if you see any other flaws I may have missed. Constructive Criticism is always appreciated. 😀 One of the reasons I decided to go ahead and do this is because I’m very much in love with sketch work. There’s a beauty and liveliness to sketches that sometimes gets lost in the final piece. Also, because I’m hoping there are other Writers with drawing abilities who can be coaxed out of the wood work with a little encouragement.

Do you have any passions outside of Writing that you use as a step in your writing process? Do you draw your characters, or “shop” for them online? Make their clothes yourself? Quilt patterns out of colors that inspire or somehow remind you of your WIP? I’d love to hear from you, if you’re willing to share in the comments. 🙂

Fact Friday

Did You Know…..

Most people interpret you trying to understand others with an opposing viewpoint as being the same as agreeing with them? And this is one of the fundamental reasons we as human beings will probably never understand one another?

Scientists have discovered a new Super Earth (GJ1214b) unlike any they’ve ever seen before? Because it has at least twice as much water as Earth does, and supposedly has ‘hot ice’ and ‘superfluid water’?

The U.S.S. William D. Porter had several hilariously inept adventures in which they almost killed the president, like, twice? I’m almost convinced they were actually working undercover for the Nazis, but I think that would be giving the crew too much credit.

Spiders give massages?

That Amazon pulled 5,000 e-books off their website?

Have you learned anything note-worth this week? Share in comments!

What I’m Reading: 22/02/12

 The Complete Artist Way by Julia Cameron.

I bought this over two years ago, but every time I tried to read it, I would stall near the end of The Artist Way. Julia Cameron described it as making a Creative U-Turn, and likened it to a horse refusing the jump. I have made a lot of Creative U-Turns, so the visual stuck with me. And, after three U-Turns too many, I made the jump. I made a commitment to stick with it, and am now onto the next section Walking in this World. I’m enjoying the weekly walks. Sometimes, I still crave the endorphin-enduced high of a run. Perhaps I will get back into it, but for now I’m content to walk and enjoy the scenery and clarity that comes with it. This week’s chapter was all about doing things in small increments and learning to finish things. It couldn’t be more timely, what with my recent frustrations with Dirge. I think I will just have to hang my fears out to try and commit to a Fast (read: horribly imperfect) Draft if I am ever to finish it. Making it shine is Second Draft’s job….right?

Julia’s essays are always thoughtful and inspiring. While I resisted the technique of Morning Pages often and frequently when I first started this process, the method has become an invaluable tool. I can no longer stand to do anything until after my morning pages are written because they help to cluttered my brain. It sweeps away the cobwebs induced my early morning jitters and my usual bundled mess of anxiety. It is a great resource for budding artists of any kind. Though I admit, some of the exercises can feel tedious and “forced”, the rest are generally insightful.

Growing Up Native American Anthology

Mainly research for a character in Stars, and I haven’t gotten very far with. I’ve always been fascinated by cultural exchange and different perspectives, and this project has a strong multicultural influence. From the stories I’ve read so far in the anthology, I’ve found them to be poetically executed. In one particular story, Simon Ortiz talks about the power of language and how being forced to learn English (which he did rather quickly because of his natural inclination for words) only made him cling that much more tightly to his original language: Acoma. But by knowing both, he is empowered. He is in a unique position to see and understand and educate from both sides. I’ve always believed that learning languages is the key to understanding and appreciating different cultures and find it disappointing that we are not all privileged to do so, or that more emphasis is not placed on teaching languages (beyond Spanish, French, etc..) in the early stages of learning.


I’m certainly gaining a lot of insight and ideas for my character, that’s for sure!

Memory of Fire by Holly Lisle

I’d heard great things about Holly’s World Gates series and now I have the whole set! I really enjoyed book 1 and how the magic system worked. Every action has a consequence. Everything comes with a price. Every single character was interesting and felt fully realized. I especially liked June Bug’s arc. I’m holding off on book 2 simply because I’m going through How To Think Sideways again and there’s a lesson that draws heavily on The Wreck of Heaven (Book 2 of The World Gates). Don’t know if I’ll be able to make it, but I’m trying to resist!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The last book in The Hunger Games Trilogy. I loved these books so much that I wish I had written them. So much author envy/admiration. Though, I did refrain from getting emotionally involved in the romance plot because I hate love triangles and I don’t think anyone’s going to write a polyandrous YA story. (Prove me wrong someone?!)

The premise was the real draw for me and I enjoyed seeing Katniss’ character (among others: Prim, Gale, Finnick, Haymitch, Cinna, etc) evolve over the space of the books (through lots and lots of gritty violence. No, I’m not even ashamed.) I thought Mockingjay was a great conclusion to an epic series of books and I hope beyond hope that it gets made into a movie because some of those militaristic scenes would be sweeeeeeet!! The visuals presented throughout each book just lend itself so well to the cinema, it would be a damn shame if The Hunger Games does not do well enough to warrant green lighting the sequels. I’ve already lent the books to two very critical friends they both enjoyed the series immensely. I kind of hope Suzanne will think of a way to write more books in this universe, but I can pretty much guarantee I’ll buy her next book no matter what it is.

What are you all reading? I love recommendations!

Found/Black Out Poetry: Compulsion

Found Poetry is the art of re-framing phrases and words from books, horoscopes, or anything with text, and shaping it into poetic form. You can find more information on Found Poetry here. For other examples to enjoy, you can go here.

Compulsion to the Tenth Power


Stay put and let me  just

Get so ridiculously

Compelled to catch you.


“Why should I read your blog?”

If someone had bothered to ask this question before, my response would likely have been something along the lines of: “um…well….fuck if I know?” Because I’m apparently very classy that way.

It doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about it. I’ve thought about it a LOT. I’ve thought about it so much, in fact, that I would periodically avoid blogging because I couldn’t answer that question to save my life. That can’t be very reassuring to any one who has spent time reading this blog. So how do I rectify that? Well, figuring out the direction of the blog would help. How do I figure that out?

Well, most of the blogs that keep me coming back time and time again usually have something to offer, even if it’s just a personal account of their life. But I’m an aspiring author, I’m still learning things, what could I possibly have to offer? But there are lots and lots of blogs by aspiring authors…! How then do I distinguish myself, and by extension this blog, from the horde of others?

It starts with asking myself who I am and what’s really important to me…so I asked.

Then I thought…

And I thought….

And I thought some more…

And then I smacked my head against the desk because, once I arrived at the answer, it seemed ridiculously obvious.

I’m a writer. I’m also an artist. Why haven’t I combined these two passions here? Especially since this is where I’ve been advertising that I’m open for commissions? This is something I can offer that’s legitimately personal to me but also something I can share that could be of interest to others. Something I wish other writers who are also artists would indulge in. Who knows? Maybe there are some who do and I just haven’t come across them yet. Either way, I’m going to give it a try.

What else do I have to offer? Well…

Raining Ink: A New Direction

From now on, I’m going to attempt to adhere to a blogging schedule. I’ve tried this before in a much more vague way that never worked for me…now that I have some structure though? I think it could be doable. I’m certainly open to suggestions though!

Illustration Mondays: Every Monday, I will upload concept sketches and illustrations related to my current WIPs. This will not only light a fire under my butt to go ahead and actually DO the work that is integral to my personal plotting process, but also give me a platform to share my original artwork with interested parties.

Found Poetry Tuesdays: Poetry has always been a secret passion of mine. Some of my work is far too personal for me to share. Over the last few months, I have come to appreciate Found Poetry. I’ve tried it out a few times myself, and because they are largely inspired pieces due to the nature of the source material, I’d be a little more comfortable sharing them. I will not, however, post the actual source material in the interest of protecting the innocent.

WIP Wednesday: Mostly me doing what I usually do. Rambling on about my latest WIP, any progress I’ve made, if I hit a wall and how I’m trying to get around it, etc.

Whatcha Readin’ Thursdays: Book discussion. It’ll be a little different from my reviews on Black Sun Reviews, I won’t be so much reviewing as…discussing. And you’re all welcome to join in!

Fact Fridays:Any interesting tidbits I learned through the week. Knowing me, it’ll be mainly things I came across whilst perusing Cracked, but you never know. I may just surprise you.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Fire away!