Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Importance of The Pixie Chronicles

I wanted to take the time today to talk a little bit more personally about my current novel projects, The Pixie Chronicles. I've mentioned them briefly a few times before, and I go a little more deeply into their synopsis' under the Novels Tab where they are listed. But I've yet to really delve into their importance, or really, why they even matter so much to me.

The truth of the matter is, these novels have become more important to me than I'd ever anticipated.


At the moment, there are six novels in the line-up, with many, many more waiting in the wings. For my debut novel, I am focusing on Fairytale, while slowly working on the others in the meantime.

I admit, it's difficult for me to remain rooted to one project at a time. Each novel contains elements that all impact me in different ways, and as I continue to develop them, I'm beginning to realize just how important those elements are to me.

Sure, I'm hoping to weave in certain themes and ideas that many books deal with-guilt, forgiveness, family, self-acceptance, love. Those are all important, and I'm excited for them as well. But more than that, these novels have give me the opportunity to showcase characters that mean something to me on another level. They represent aspects of myself that are not always easy to show, or simply found in widespread media or literature.

There is a recent trend in literature I've been noticing, a push for more diversity in characters and the roles they are allowed to play. It's exciting, refreshing and outright inspiring. And it's also made me more determined than ever to work on my own novels, and share in my own voice these issues and characteristics that are important to me.

Here's a quick glimpse of some aspects I'm tying in that are particularly significant:

Fairytale 
  • Multiple homosexual characters
  • Overweight main character
Gingerbread
  • POC main character
Ocean's Daughter
  • Multiple homosexual characters
  • POC main character
  • Mute main character
Tin Heart
  • All POC cast
  • Bisexual main character
  • Asexual main character
  • Demisexual major supporting character
  • Multiple amputee main characters
  • Overweight main character
Duchess
  • Terminally ill main character
  • POC main character
Snow
  • Non-binary main character
  • POC main character
I'm not claiming it's the most diverse list in the world, and in no way am I an expert in, or claim to have personally experienced every single one of these. But...they matter to me. There's no other way to put it. Parts of myself, pieces of my life and the people I know and love, make up these characters and their stories that need to be told.

It's perhaps the most unoriginal thing I have ever written, and I know just about every writer knows how it feels to have those burning characters and ideas and plots that just need to be shared. I know I'm not alone in that. But maybe that's what makes it so fantastic.

Because we read to learn about other people, read about their lives and what they go through, and maybe to not feel so alone. So by writing and creating and giving more, putting ourselves out there, we're adding to that experience. It gives us the chance to say, 'Hey! I'm out here! And I'm just like YOU', and the reader, they get to remember that there are people out there that are like them. The more experiences we share, the smaller the world becomes, and the more we connect.

That's what I want to do. There are very few stories out there with characters that feel the way I do, and those I've found, are never quite right. Maybe there are other people who feel the same way as me, and maybe it will be my story that they need. I'll never know unless I keep trying and eventually get my work out there.

That's why I'll never stop writing, no matter how long it takes. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Revisiting Doll Leaves Pepper

It's been almost a year since I received one of my largest BJD orders to date from Doll Leaves- two  Connies, 1 Hedy head, 1 Pepper head, 1 boy body, and two Winter Event deer. Wow!

My precious Connies and deer are still living happily on their own special little shelf in my bedroom, and the body was quickly snatched up by my floating Doll in Mind Larina head. Unfortunately, the Hedy and Pepper head did not receive such a happy fate. In person they were not quite what I was expecting, and both put up for sale within a week of their arrival. The Hedy head sold quickly, but Pepper's never garnered any interest. Since then it's been stored away, it's price lower and lower until I nearly forgot about it.

But last weekend I decided to pull it out again and give it another look:

Remember this guy?
Ah yes, still so very cute! The default eyes have since been removed, and of course it's no longer on that body, but I will say I was disappointed the sculpt didn't work out for its intended character because I do still think it's very pretty. Still, I'm very strict on my rules: no character = no doll. So what to do?

Well, I could do a raffle. I've always thought it'd be fun to host one, and certainly many people would join for such a pretty little head. Or maybe I could donate it to Resin Hearts Convention once I work my way up to having my own booth there. Or I could keep trying to sell it since it is a pretty head with a nice default face-up at a good price, surely it'll sell eventually, right?

Hmmm...or maybe I could keep it?

I'm not very good at face-ups and I don't particularly enjoy them either, so it seems sort of silly to keep it as a practice head. But then what? Turn it into a character? Who?

Well, I've been pondering this, and I have 2 options.

1. I can turn it into my girl, Trinity. She already has a 1/3 version, but she's the only one without a 1/4 version. I quite like her, and the new Doll Leaves girl body would be the perfect option for her. But is Pepper pretty enough for Trinity? It's hard to say, the default face-up doesn't work for her at all, but is it worth it to put money into it just to find out?

2. I can turn it into my boy, Prince. Technically, Prince is already home in the form of Duchess, my DiM Laia. However, Prince originally started off life as a boy, and sadly I only have his girl versions! Sometimes I feel a little bad about not shelling his original form, and this would be a good opportunity. Still, Pepper really doesn't look much like him, and it feels a bit strange to have two dolls of the same character with wildly different face sculpts.

Hmmmm, what to do, what to do?

At the moment, Pepper is NO longer for sale. Admittedly, I'm leaning toward option 1, but I'm not making any decisions just yet. After all, I don't know if I really need another doll as it is!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Working with a Structural Editor


I've just reached what is, hopefully, the halfway mark of the first draft of my manuscript, Fairytale. But as I continue to plod along, ever closer to that Happily Ever After, I'm finding myself starting to stumble in ways I hadn't quite anticipated.

After all, I've been writing for years. I've outlined hundreds of stories. I've poured over my favorite novels. Sure, I'm no pro, and when the time came I had every intention of hiring an editor or two to go over my later drafts with a fine-tooth comb to help ensure it was the very best it could be.

But the editors came later, right?

Maybe not.

For despite all my experience, outlining and discipline, I've found myself running into problems I don't know how to fully fix on my own. Scenes and chapters somehow feel off. There are gaps I don't know how to fill. Themes and symbols are becoming messy. So what could I do to solve these problems?

That's where a structural editor comes in. What is a structural editor? Let's see what our friend, Wikipedia, has to say about that.

Structural Editor: 
any document editor that is cognizant of the documents underlying structyre

What does that mean?

Basically, a structural editor looks at the big picture. They aren't concerned with typos and grammatical errors. Instead, the structural editor focuses on the overall plot, themes, characterization, pace and general flow of the story. So if something doesn't "feel" right, this is the editor that's going to be able to tell you why.

So rather than continue to force my way through the middle, potentially mucking it up even more than it already is, I'm going to take a breather and look at my options. Maybe I need to work on a section of the book I'm more sure of, such as the ending. Maybe I need to take a break and work on another manuscript for a little while. Or maybe I need to search for a structural editor to give me a bit of guidance.

Admittedly, it's a little bit of a blow to my ego. I LOVE writing stories! I've been telling them for as long as I can remember! I can picture them beautifully in my head-beginning, middle, end! So why is this such a struggle?

Honestly, I'm not really sure. I've completed stories before without this sort of trouble, yet I have to remember, I have twenty times more I've never finished. It's easy to start a novel. It's not easy to complete it.

To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure what I'll choose. But I do know I'm not going to let this little roadblock stop me in my tracks. Whatever I choose, I will always keep writing!

Friday, March 3, 2017

On Word Count


Today I'm going to talk about something that, as a writer, is always buzzing in the back of my mind: Word Count.

In my experience, most writers tend to fall on one of two sides around this subject. They're either super-hyper-omg obsessed with it, or they couldn't give two flying figs about it. Unfortunately, I fall in the former group.

I admit, my participation in NaNoWriMo and the goal of reaching 50,000 words in 30 days probably has a lot to do with this. During the month of November (and April, and July...) it's so easy to become attached at the hip to your word count. I know I'm not the only one guilty of checking my numbers every 10 minutes or so, and there are dozens of tools and challenges out there to boost your output. 

As I neared the 30k word marker on the first draft of my current WIP, Fairytale, I felt a momentary sense of relief. Alright! Halfway there! But of course, that didn't really last long.

I started to wonder. Was 60k words really going to cut it for a fantasy novel aimed at a YA/NA audience? I decided to do a little research, and looked up the word count for a few popular novels in the fantasy/fairytale genre. Here what I found:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: 52,994

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: 87,661

Beauty by Robin McKinley : 68,706

Beastly by Alex Finn: 59,872

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell: 74,015

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce: 79,263

Stitching Snow by R.C Lewis: 84,213

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: 81,267

Towering by Alex Finn: 74,527

Average: 73,613

Oh boy. Suddenly my 60k goal seems a little lackluster.

To be honest, I had hoped for a nice 80k word count for this novel, but the deeper and deeper I get into it, the less realistic that seems. And I'm not gonna lie, it hurts.

I've seen shorter novels referred to as 'popcorn reads', that they are easier to write and don't deserve anything above a .99 price point. Shorter novels have been called "shallow" and have less complicated plots and characters with no depth compared to their longer counterparts.

Ouch.

I've given myself a year to publish this, with a goal of launching it January 2018. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but I knew I needed to give myself a proper amount of time to craft a novel that was the very best it could be. For some people that's just a few months. For me, at least a year. But because I may end up with a shorter word count, does that in some way invalidate the amount of effort I've poured into it?

There's no real answer to this, at least that's what I tell myself. And try as I might, I probably will never stop obsessing over my word count.

BUT, I'm not going to fluff up my manuscript with pointless descriptions and scenes that add nothing for the sake of extending its length. All I can really do is write the very best novel I can, short or long, and try not to get caught up in such arbitrary details. 

I wish I had a happier ending, but in the end, I'm still trying to figure this all out. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monthly Book Draft Challenge

It's the end of the month, and keeping up with the spirit of my 2017 goal, it's time to check in on my Monthly Book Draft Challenge!

I have both last month's word count as well as this month's word count. Let's see how they stack up!

January

February


So how was my improvement:

Fairytale: 15k
Gingerbread: 0
Ocean's Daughter: 1k

Total: 16k

Alright! Approximately 16,000 new words for the month of February! Obviously most of this word count went into Fairytale, as I've really refocused on completing that draft first. Gingerbread fell to the wayside a bit, and Ocean's Daughter only received 1k more words as I merely finished up the end quite quickly as more of an outline to go back to later. 

Admittedly, although the goal was simply to write every day, I was hoping for about double what I achieved, with roughly 1k written a day. Obviously, that didn't happen. I've learned that it is very difficult for me to write on the weekends, as I'm usually so busy running around doing errands I can't complete during the week, so that accounted for some of the word loss.

Also, we adopted a new puppy! And this of course, also put my writing on hold for a few days while she took the time to settle in and go potty every five minutes. Needless to say, puppies take a lot of time!

So even though I didn't achieve quite as much as I was hoping, I'm still proud that I kept my nose to the grind and kept on writing. Even if I took a day or two off, I always made sure I got back on the wagon and didn't stop.

I know 16k words might not seem like a lot, and some folks can write as much (or more!) in a week. But another part of this process is working on not comparing myself to others. Because in the end, I still achieved 16 NEW words toward my finished novel, and that's nothing to sneeze at! After all, I'd rather be working toward my goal, even if it's slowly, than not working toward it at all.

Onward to March!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Artwork: Isiah & Elijah (Part 6)

Artist: Raezyn101


At long last, I have come to final volume of artwork featuring the adorable and charming, Isiah and Elijah. Huzzah! Or should I say, farewell?

It's been fun revisiting all of the artwork I've collected with these boys. It's so inspiring to see how much they've changed throughout the years, and all the artistic interpretations they've been through. I really need to get back to drawing them myself!

Artist: ZeeKayArt
Artist: zombiesara

Artist: grimlywoven

Artist: Raezyn101

Artist: Raezyn101

Monday, February 6, 2017

Advice: 10 Tips for Choosing Your First Doll

Despite my 10 of years experience in the BJD hobby, I still find myself hesitant to really give these sort of tutorial-guide-help-thingy articles. Yet I find them quite enjoyable to write, and I'm always hopeful they will somehow becoming a useful tool to even one new collector just starting out. So I picked over my brain on a topic that has long since become my past and decided to write upon an issue pretty much every new BJD owner comes face to face with: how to decide on which doll shall be your first. 

So in no particular, here are my Top Ten Tips for the beginner BJD collector!


1. Why: Yes, the most obvious of the obvious. Yet, ironically, a question that can easily be overlooked. But I really feel it's one of the most important things of all to consider. After all, we don't all collect for the same reasons, and while there is no better or worse reason than another, it can certainly influence your final choice.  

So I challenge you to really think about exactly why you want a BJD. Make a list, and write it all out. Do you want one solely as an art pieces to display? Do you want a buddy to tote around with to the ends of the earth? Maybe you want a project to work on, to experiment with different tools and methods. Some people want a hoard of future dollies to fill every nook and cranny of their humble abode while some shudder at the thought of more than a couple. Some want their dolls as art or photography models while other dolls will spend most of their time tucked securely away in their box.

In my many years of experience, both in my own collections and from observing the collections of others, the answers to these types of questions are usually directly linked to the types of dolls someone is interested in. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but for someone newly getting into the hobby, where it's very easy to be overwhelmed by the vast multitude of choices, narrowing down your reasons can also in turn help you whittle down your choices as to which doll will best fill your need. 

So think about it, if your new resin buddy is going to be toted around for sunny beach photo shoots complete with sea-water dunk ins and seaweed playtime, is a beauty white Limited Edition 80 cm behemoth really the most practical of choices? Maybe. Maybe not. Reflect on it.

2. Open mind: I think it's important to realize that you don't have to keep your very first doll. 

I know, that's a little bit of a taboo thing to say, but take a breather, and step back. I know that purchasing a first doll can be scary, and that there's a lot of pressure to 'bond' with that first doll. But the truth is, it's just a doll. It doesn't have feelings, and if you find that it isn't what you hoped or it just working out, that's okay. There is no rule stating you must keep your first doll, or ANY doll for that matter. Don't feel trapped into a purchase.

Pictured below is a Dream of Doll Kirill, the very first doll I truly fell in love with and wanted more than anything. In 2007 he came home to me, and in 2015 he went onto a new home. I was sad to see him go, but in the end it was the best choice for me.


Dream of Doll Kirill-my very first doll
3. Price: Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t hoarding a golden egg laying goose in the furthest corner of our closets. As much as the mantra of ‘Save up and buy what you love’ is a nice little saying, somewhere in the backs of our minds money will inevitably factor into this purchase. So be realistic. If extra income doesn’t come easy for you, how much are you willing to sacrifice in order to save up? How long are you willing to wait?

There's no shame in a little bit of impatience. A lot of people don't want to wait up to a year or longer for their first $600+ doll. And that's okay, but again, it's about being realistic. There are plenty of beautiful, lower budget dolls ( I suggest checking out Doll Leaves, Doll Love and Mystic Kids for some gorgeous options), often available for 2-6 months of layway through dealers such as Alice's Collections or Mint on Card. Be flexible. Look into your options, and don't be put off by a lower price tag. There is no shame in a cheaper doll. 

4. Engineering: It seems we can’t go a day anymore without some new doll being released with yet some new-fangled type of engineering that allows her to bend backwards and touch her toes. For a simpleton such as myself that can seem extravagant when all I really need is for my dolls to look at me and be pretty (though it would be nice if my Glorydoll could at least sit up straight without aid).

Maybe you’re like me and couldn’t care less for double jointed knees or elbows, jointed fingers or even if your doll can properly look up or down. But maybe you want your doll to do yoga with you and dance the ballet. Not all dolls are capable of much more than being extravagant bookends while some have so many points of articulation it’s a feat in itself to get them to just stand up straight lest he crumple into a dolly pretzel. Decide where you want your doll to be on that spectrum. This in turn will help direct you where to look. 

5. Availability: This doesn’t just go for Standard versus a Limited Doll, although that is something to take into consideration.  But likewise, this is a question that really taps into your personal patience level as well. Once you’ve spent however long it takes to save up for your little resin sweetheart, are you prepared to wait the 2+ months usually required for the darn bugger to actually be cast and shipped off to you? 

For some folks, it’s no problem or the wait is worth it. But maybe you don’t feel comfortable spending so much money on a company whose office is halfway across the globe, and that's a perfectly valid concern. In that case, maybe an in-country dealer may be a better choice for you as they shall work as the middle man between yourself and the doll company. This may limit your choice of dolls available to you, but it’s a trade-off that may be worth it.

6. Size: Now more than ever these dolls come in a huge variety of sizes, from itty bitty 12 cm cuties to 80cm arm weights. And if you’ve never seen one before sometimes these various sizes can be a bit difficult to visualize- I encourage you to try it anyway. Are you ready for an army of hulking beefcakes taking up an entire wall of your teeny apartment? Or do you not know what size is best suited to fill up that gorgeous antique dollhouse that’s been in your family for fifty years? Do you want your entire future collection to all fit together proportionally? If so, think about proportion here-will it bother you sitting your mature Fairyland minifee next to your chubby, wide-eyed Volks SD?




7. New or Used: This can be a biggie, especially if you’re used to trawling the marketplace at DoA looking for some sweet deals. Buying a second hand doll, especially one from your own country, can sometimes really help to save a couple bucks, or may even come loaded with extras as a sort of ‘starter kit’. Always? Nah. But the right amount of patience and searching does sometimes produce a lot of gems. 

Does the treasure hunt sound like the route for you? Or since this is your first doll do you want that sucker to be brand spanking new, just for you? Remember the added cost and time that factors into that and decide what it is you really want.

8. Hybrids: An immediate concern if you’re intent on purchasing from a company that only produces heads. Unless your content with collecting a hoard of floating heads, a body will likely be in your future someday. This in itself requires a bit more legwork-finding bodies that look proportionate, a resin match, if the body fits your aesthetic tastes, if the body is easily available or will require extra searching, the extra shipping costs, all of these are aspects to consider. If this is your first doll is this an extra amount of research you are willing to put in?

9. Color: Back when I accumulated a majority of my collection, there wasn't nearly as much choice in terms of color as there is now. Most companies offered the basic pale, peachy sort of resin tone, and occasionally some companies would offer a stark, paper white option. Before I took my brief BJD hiatus, the option of both darker resin and fantasy colors (such as green or purple) were slowly on the uprise, though they were often still limited to only a handful of companies, and usually in limited amounts.

Now that I've returned to the hobby, even my mind is boggled at the wonderful variety there is now in resin tone! While not every company is capable of producing some of these amazing colors, there are certainly a lot more now than there were back in 2007. So take a second and think about what color you'd like your doll in. If you're pining for something a little different, realize this may limit your choices. A dye job is always an option of course, but modification brings a long its own host of questions to consider. 


Image from Iplehouse.com
10. Meet-Ups: I highly encourage just about everyone looking to purchase their first doll to take a moment, pause, and see if you can’t find a meet-up in your local area. Sure, sometimes this isn’t exactly feasible if you’re the only collector in your lone little forgotten town in the middle of nowhere (such as I am) or your schedule simply doesn’t allow any spare time to pencil a few hours in of playtime. But if the opportunity is there and you can manage to make it work for you, I absolutely urge you to go ahead and attend. This first hand experience could change or solidify everything you know or view about a certain doll, type or size and if someone should so happen to bring the exact sculpt you’re eyeing for your first it’s a fantastic chance to really examine it up close.

Bonus! Included Perks: Sometimes newbies can forget to read the fine print. Yes, it’s common, but not all dolls come with free eyes and a wig. Some companies toss in a simple, ‘starter’ outfit, some don’t. Some sand the seams, some don’t. 

For the most part the dolls will come already assembled but if you’re buying second hand sometimes it won’t. Some offer simple, basic face-ups, some don’t. Some companies offer all these perks but for an added fee. Even when buying a fullset, be sure to read every last tiny little italicized detail on that page before hitting that infamous Buy button. No one likes sad surprises when opening their first doll, and knowing exactly what it is you’re getting in the mail can absolutely help out in preparing for any added extras you may wish to purchase before your resin darling shows up at your door.


So there you have it!  Hopefully my post has helped at least one new collector on their path to their first doll. As always, if you have another point you think should be included, leave me a message! I love reading your input! 
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