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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Come See Me at DragonCon on Labor Day weekend!

This upcoming Labor Day weekend, come to the biggest sci-fi/fantasy convention on the East Coast: DragonCon!

Aside from being a huge pop-culture event in Atlanta, you can come visit me at the YA Literature panel: "Kissing Optional: Does YA Need Romance?" to be held on Saturday, August 30 at 4:00 p.m. in the Marriott Hotel. I will be joined by fellow YA authors Delilah S. Dawson (Wicked As They Come), Lil Watson, and Alexa Donne.

Bring a copy of my book with you and I'll happily sign it (and give you a hug...but only if you want it. It's free.)

See what else is brewing in the YA Lit panels at DragonCon here: http://yalit.dragoncon.org/2014/08/12/2014-programming-schedule/


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Passion vs. Livelihood: Can the Two Survive in Tandem?

I suppose it is commonplace for many artists, no matter what your medium: when you start creating with the sole purpose to sell your creation, the artistic passion leaves you.

You know that old saying: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” So when you discover your talent, the thing that gives you the greatest sense of “living,” the thing that others even tell you “hey, you’re really good at that!” you start to think that this should be the vehicle by which you make your living.

You start looking for opportunities to sell your work. You see some advertisements or postings online looking for what you have to offer. You say, “Finally, a paying opportunity!” So you do what you do, and 99% of the time your work does not get picked up, but hey, you’re still doing what you love, right?

Well, sort of.

Why, when suddenly there is the urgency of getting something back for the work you do, does the passion wither?

I have met others who went about writing, drawing, painting, what have you, with the primary purpose of earning money from it (whether or not they considered the product very marketable), and once upon a time silly, naive me would ask, “But, what about doing this for the sake of art?”

To which I received rounds of laughter in response.

Yes, we all must pay the bills. Yes, we’d all like to quit our 9 to 5’s and do what we love to do all day long. And when you go on social media sites and see other people doing just that (or giving the illusion of doing just that), you say to yourself, “Why not me?”

But why was it so much more fun when you were creating for, well, fun? Is it the pressure of feeling like you must sell something in order to have a livelihood that ruins it?

I ask because there was a time where if I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t happy. It was an addiction, my personal “high.” And that’s how I still am—writing is my escape, my chance to get away for a couple of hours into the jungle of my brain. But now, as deadlines loom on me, as the need to try to make a career out of this or else I’ll be nothing for the rest of my life, I am almost daunted by the keyboard and screen. Oftentimes I don’t even want to touch the laptop.  I am only writing this because this rant isn’t for the sake of anything other than getting it out there, getting it out of me.

So you say, “Then just write for fun. Don’t worry about the rest. It’ll come in time.”

Lack of time, money, self-preservation. The first two, we starve for and attempt to gather to the point of futility. The third, it becomes a sort of joke, and illusion, because in one’s attempt to gather the first two, it slowly eats away and decays the third thing, at least mentally and spiritually. You waste away while trying to keep the people you love and care for aloft above the rising tide.

So you say, “There will always be a way to find time and money when you need it. Your art is your self-preservation.”

 Is art the ultimate selfishness? Because it’s solely for you, after all is said and done—maybe even a cry for attention, hoping someone out there notices you? Or is it the ultimate altruism, because it’s giving yourself to the world, putting your truth on display in the hopes it teaches someone else, knowing that most of the time, nothing is to be personally gained?

Is that why passion and monetary gain cannot coexist? They stem from opposite needs? Does one have to be sacrificed in order to maintain the other?


Okay, I’m finished now. You may resume enjoying your lives.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another nice little review...

It was made aware to me that a kind reader posted a review of "Scholar and Sphinx Book 1" on Barnes and Noble's website, which is the first for that particular site. It was very sweet, so please take a look (and maybe treat yourself to a copy of the book while you're there):

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-scholar-the-sphinx-and-the-shades-of-nyx-alison-reeger-cook/1113629697?ean=9781908483874


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts about the Demise of Originality in Entertainment--Thank Marvel Comics for Sparking This

Okay, apparently I am finding things to rant about lately more so than usual. I'm typically a very laid back, I-don't-get-my-knickers-in-a-twist kind of person, but occasionally I need to point out a few things.

Recently, Marvel announced that someone new was going to be wielding Thor’s hammer in the comics. In a nutshell, the new “Thor” is going to be a woman. Here's an article about it: https://www.yahoo.com/movies/the-new-thor-isnt-the-first-woman-to-wield-the-hammer-91872704082.html

As much as I always want to see new superheroines in the comic book market, this touched a nerve for me. First, if Marvel wanted to have a new female superhero that is like Thor, why not use one of the Norse goddesses to create a new, interesting focal character for the Marvel Universe rather than just lazily taking an already established franchise and slapping a different gender onto it? Heck, the Thor comics and movies established that the goddess Sif is as strong, stubborn, and skillful in combat as Thor, and she has personality to boot. And Thor himself would still tie in to the story; so why not just make Sif her own superheroine? Or they could create a completely new superheroine from any of the dozens of other Norse goddesses: Freyja (goddess of battle, also a character in the Marvel universe), Hlin (goddess of protection), Vor (goddess of wisdom)…there’s plenty to choose from if you want a “Thor-like” superheroine who isn’t actually assuming the role of Thor.

But I’m getting off track. What got me irked isn’t some feminist agenda—this isn’t the first time Marvel or DC have taken established male superheroes and passed along the role to a new female counterpart—it’s that rather than taking the effort to create an original superheroine, they instead ripped the packaging off another character and slapped it on a woman in order to appeal to the cosplay audience (apparently, it’s popular for women at sci-fi conventions to cosplay as their own version of Thor). Hey, Thor’s popular, so that instantly guarantees the female Thor will be too, right?

Which segues into my broader question: why has the entertainment industry become so cowardly?

I apply this to almost every facet of the entertainment industry. Every movie nowadays is based on either a pre-existing franchise—whether it’s a book series, television show, a movie reboot, or it plagiarizes a previous movie so grossly you can barely call it its own idea—I can’t think of the last time a (GOOD) original screenplay came to theaters. Looking at what is currently in movie theaters, the few movies that look like original screenplays have gotten such atrocious ratings and poor audience turnout that it shows that Hollywood isn’t even trying with originality anymore.

There are still hundreds of great stories out there to be turned into excellent, one-of-a-kind films. Why is the entertainment industry picking the absolute worst ones to put on screen? It’s almost like they want audience to think that originality is dead, and good material can only be harvested from what came decades before.

Television shows sometimes produce some good original programming, but it’s few and far between as well. And sadly, the book publishing industry suffers from this cowardice too. How many “Hunger Games,” “Twlight,” “Harry Potter” and “Divergent” rip-offs have there been since the boom of these books’ popularity? Why aren’t bigger strides being made to find the next great never-before-seen storyline?

So Entertainment Industry: Stop. Being. Lazy.

Take risks. I know it’s just business—you want to make money and you know what audiences respond to. But you’re also not giving them much to choose from. You’re giving us rehashes of the same thing so of course we’re going to go see them because everything else you’re throwing at us is half-baked.

None of those pre-existing franchises would even be here if their creators hadn’t pursued their own visions—not what numbers and ratings dictated—and brought them into existence. If you put as much time and dedication into originality as you do into some of these “based-on” franchises, you could produce some truly era-defining work.

How will people fifty years from now remember our time? What memorable movie, book, or media will be what symbolizes our social, emotional, and personal outlook on life? (Dear God, do not have Twilight or Shades of Gray be the only phenomenons that “represent” the early 2000s)

Create. Discover. Defy the odds. And give original characters a chance rather than making them doppelgangers of already well known characters. Who knows, you might just create a brand new icon for a generation who can be truly super.


Thank you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Impromptu Interview Time!

I had an impromptu interview about "The Scholar and the Sphinx" last Friday with Tony Birch, who read my book thanks (big, big thanks) to Dr. Andrea Birch who is the Dean of Fine Arts & Humanities at Brenau University. It was unrehearsed so again I look like a dork, but what else is new . It's the last video at this page, so enjoy and check out the other videos related to education. Thank you to Tony for the interview, such a nice guy.

http://educationforumonline.com/index.php/videos

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thoughts about the Price of Art

I feel a need to talk (o.k., rant) about something that has been a issue for both myself and my husband, as is an issue with anyone who pursues an artistic/creative endeavor.

Getting a foot into one's chosen field is hard enough. Art is subjective, so artists--whether it be writing, painting, filming, video editing, music composing, dancing, etc.--are always at the whims and choices of others in order for us to get our work/skill noticed and exposed to the public.

Self-publishing has grown in popularity due to this fact, and some have found success with it because they know how to market themselves and they have the expendable income to produce their own work. I congratulate you who have found this route profitable and satisfying.

But then there are those still living paycheck to paycheck, who have no expendable income to spend on massive marketing campaigns or even if we did get our foot in the door and are being noticed by the community, we get little to no assistance in getting our work promoted so we are easily ignored or not taken seriously.

Now before you believe that this is a "whine and cheese" fest, it is not. I am happy with the publisher I have, and understanding that it is small and independent I don't expect it to have the resources to market its books like Random House or Tor Books can. And honestly there is something very nice about having say and some control over how my book is marketed and presented. I thank my publisher for that. I have no complaints in that department, nor do my fellow authors who publish with them.

What this is about, is the general public belief that artists ask for way too much for their work, and therefore should be happy with receiving the bare minimum--and some people consider the bare minimum pricier than what they want to spend.

It's even worse when an artist and their client agree on a set amount at the start, and then gradually the client--whether because they discovered they couldn't get the funds that they hoped to gather, or figured they could use their budget more "wisely"--comes back and tries to argue down the price the artist agreed upon. Sometimes to less than half of the original quote. If the artist doesn't budge, the client might turn to a college student or a budding freelancer who doesn't know the value of their own work, and therefore will do the work super-cheap (and super-amateur. But hey, even amateur work gets the job done, right?).

I get that people are trying to save a buck where they can. I understand that people often view what artists do as "fun," a "hobby," or "self-gratifying." And I don't disparage college students or freelancers who need opportunities like the rest of us. I was once one, too.

But I can't count the number of times I have been to an art fair, an independent movie screening, or some other public fine arts events where I heard someone look at a piece of art and mutter, "Pfft, I could do that."

That. Is. Bull. If you could do that, I would slap a canvas and set of paints and brushes in front of you right there and then, and demand you pump out an exact replica of what you're looking at. And, if you can, tell me afterwards that what the artist is asking for that piece of art isn't completely justified by the time, effort, and dedication they put into it.

Just like any other job, art takes time, skill, hard work, passion, and perseverance. Art is also deceptive; artists can make something that looks easy and pretty but it cost blood, sweat, tears, and hours upon hours that could have been used for sleep or relaxing. Art makes the world a more beautiful, colorful place; it has the power to unite and create, to dispel sadness and loneliness, to educate as well as entertain. It is what makes humankind more than just animal; it is the means by which we express our hearts and souls.

So, all I ask is you understand the value of art, in all its forms. The next time you scoff at the price of a book, a painting, or a sculpture, really think about what work went into it--how artists spends months to years of their lives creating something for your enjoyment, or improving upon something that perhaps you do for a living. Support your artists, your writers, your world-beautifiers. If you're willing to pay $10 for a movie ticket, you can pay the little extra so that artists can keep doing the work that they do.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Update about the Release of "The Scholar and the Sphinx" Book Two

I'm a little bummed...I just found out that due to unforeseen circumstances, the release of my second book has been pushed back a few months, but it should still be out in time for the holidays. When it becomes available for preorder, you should still be able to receive it to give as a Christmas gift...So for anyone who still hasn't read The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Shades of Nyx, now's the time to get your copy so you're all up to speed when Book Two comes out!