#Writing: Ten Vendors I Used in 2014

It’s tax season again – and that means time spent gathering up old receipts and reviewing them. In years past I’ve done detailed posts about various things writers might want to talk to their accountants about so this year I thought I’d just do a quick post with the links to various vendors I used in 2014.

1. Etsy: I am a sucker for fun blog tour prizes and there were so many beautiful, unique items to choose from on Etsy.

2. iStock: there are other stock photo websites, but iStock’s my current favorite.

3. Campaign Cartographer: bought this to try to make maps for the Noon Onyx series, but haven’t been disciplined enough to spend the time it takes to master it. Also figure Noon fans would prefer I spend my time writing rather than making maps. 🙂

4. Zazzle: business cards

5. Uprinting: bookmarks

6. Bitten by Books: release day party

7. Bewitching Book Tours: blog tour

8. Night Owl Reviews: multi-title box ad

9. Goodreads Ads: writers can determine how much and how long + you can link to an excerpt or giveaway

10. Publishers Marketplace: good resource for anyone who’s looking for an agent or editor. Obviously, it shouldn’t be your sole source of info.

Bonus: Not a vendor, but one of my favorite 2014 Indiegogo/Kickstarter campaigns was the Museum of Science Fiction in DC.

How about you? Have you filed your tax returns yet? Do you have a vendor recommendation for writers? What was your favorite crowdfunding campaign from 2014?

Hope everyone’s week is going well! (We are looking at another potential snow day tomorrow. Sound ridiculous? I’m not joking. In other news: I finally saw INTERSTELLAR. Christopher Nolan loves worlds that fold up on themselves, huh? In any case, it was terrific.)

Advertisements

Writers Who Create Other Things – Thank you!

I wrapped up this season’s guest blog series, which featured writers who create things other than worlds and characters, yesterday. For anyone who missed any of the posts, there are links below. Many of the writers sell their jewelry and crafts. It may be too late to order custom-made holiday gifts this year but there’s always birthdays, anniversaries, and next year! Thank you to everyone who followed along and to all of the participating authors. Your creativity is inspiring!

Delilah Devlin – The Emerald Casket (Jewelry)

Terry Spear – Award-winning Teddy Bears

Danielle Ackley-McPhail – Costume Horns

Sabina Bundgaard – Baubles and Beads (Jewelry)

Beth Caudill – Chainmail Jewelry

Leela Lou Dahlin – Ink Pen Bouquets

Suzanne Johnson – Drawing, Painting, and Mixed Media Artwork

Lizzie Newell – Book Lanyards and Costumes

As my kids say, it’s Christmas Eve Eve tonight. To those of you that celebrate the holiday, good luck with any last-minute shopping or wrapping!

Suzanne Johnson: The Secret to Staying Young and Sane

My next guest is UF, PNR, and romantic thriller author, Suzanne Johnson. She’s here as part of a guest blog series I’m doing featuring Writers Who Create Other Things. Many of the authors I’ve hosted recently have been jewelry designers, which is really neat. But Suzanne’s other creative talents are in drawing, painting, and mixed-media artwork. Below, she tells us her secret to staying young and sane. She also shares a bit about a new workshop she’s going to be giving next year, “Art Therapy for Writers and Readers,” and she’s giving away a signed original 9×12 mixed-media piece. Leave a comment below to enter to win. (U.S. only due to mailing costs unless Suzanne tells us otherwise in the comments). Welcome, Suzanne!

Be Creative and Play!

“I believe this is a fundamental truth: in order to stay young, in order to stay sane, humans need what I call creative play—call it a hobby or a craft or whatever, but we all need something creative to do that isn’t involved in our livelihoods.”

I’ve worked in journalism since I got out of college, and as I look back over the years, I realize my need for creative play has taken different forms at different times in my life. For a while, I scoured flea markets and resale shops and garage sales for pattern glass. I dabbled in macramé. I quilted. I made jewelry. I tried knitting scarves (accent on “try”).

Five or six years ago, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, just for fun, and then the world tilted on its axis. Life changed pretty quickly as I fell in love with fiction writing, got published, and wrote more novels. Now, even though I maintain a day job, I consider “novelist” my primary occupation, and the past five years have been an absolute whirlwind of change.

So I found it a little strange that last winter, I found myself becoming obsessed with art. I’d done a lot of graphite drawings in high school and my mom painted a bit, but my school was too small to have offered art classes and I didn’t have enough talent or patience to pursue it as an occupation. But last winter, there I was, drawing. I had five novels due within the next thirteen months, the deadlines were mounting, and the day job was in turmoil.  I sure didn’t have time to be drawing pictures.

But I did it anyway, and it helped me write those books (well, the fifth one is almost finished) and survive the day-job chaos and remain relatively sane.

A year and a bulging box of artwork later, I’ve gotten a little perspective on the role art can play in the writing process. It’s tactile, and uses a different part of the brain than the one that’s tied up in knots trying to unravel plot points and figure out why the hero and heroine don’t have any spark.

This has nothing to do with artistic talent. Believe me, I’m no artist, not on any kind of commercial scale (and sometimes, not even on an aesthetic scale—LOL). What’s important is not what kind of art you produce, but about the process of producing it. The creative play. While my art brain is awash in ink and paper and paint, my writing brain can relax and noodle around those plot points without my interference.

(It’s the same process, I think, as why writers often get their best ideas while they’re driving or shopping or in the shower. Our subconscious is able to work interrupted, without us.)

When I began writing for publication, novel-writing was (and is) still fun, but it also became a business. It’s the most enjoyable, creative business in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it’s no longer play.

What I was doing in going back to art, I realized, was seeking a new form of creative play. I can’t claim to have come to this conclusion on my own. I took an online workshop from artist Jane Davenport, who said that when she was a commercial fashion illustrator, art journaling was her play, her hobby. Now that she makes much of her income from art journaling, she’s turned to canvas painting as her hobby because she still needs that creative outlet that isn’t tied to her livelihood. That really zonked me over the head.

Thus, my love of mixed-media art, which after some experimentation, has become my artistic mode of choice. I started 2014 with the intention of spending at least one hour a day making art this year, an hour playing. I knew it was taking time from an already insane schedule, but hoped it would pay off in productivity.

I think it has. And it’s FUN to play!

What do I do with the pieces I create? Right now, I don’t think they’re good enough to sell, but I give them away as gifts. The rest, I bind into journals to remind myself of my own creative journey. I write notes on the back—not just when they were completed or what techniques I used, but also what was fueling my life the days I worked on the piece: a run-in with the boss, the loss of my 16-year-old, beloved dog, worry about a family issue. It’s therapy with a brush and a tube of paint.

Suzanne Johnson Mixed Media Artwork

New Workshop for Writers and Readers

The act of getting messy and stretching new creative muscles has allowed my writing brain to get reinvigorated, stay fresh, and avoid burnout. I’m planning a workshop for authors and readers alike in March, doing mixed-media pieces tied to our works-in-progress or our favorite books. If you’re interested in being on a waiting list for “Art Therapy for Writers and Readers” send me an email at: suzannej3523 at gmail dot com or keep an eye on the Workshops tab of my website.

Till then, keep on playing! Do you have a creative hobby of your own? Leave a comment for one of my signed original 9×12 mixed-media pieces.

The Giveaway

U.S. only due to mailing costs unless Suzanne says otherwise below. To enter to win, leave a comment. Giveaway will be open until midnight EST Monday December 15, 2014. For my complete official giveaway rules, click here.

More About Suzanne

Susannah Sandlin, who also writes as Suzanne Johnson, writes paranormal romance and romantic thrillers from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick. She’s the author of the award-winning Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, a spinoff novel, Storm Force, a standalone novelette, Chenoire, and a new romantic thriller series, The Collectors, beginning with Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she also is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series.

Suzanne can be found online here:

More About Suzanne’s latest release: DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD

Deadly Calm and Cold, romantic thriller, crown jewelsFrom award-winning author Susannah Sandlin comes the second book in The Collectors series (each book reads as a standalone).

How far will ordinary people go to protect their secrets? The Collectors’ games are as much about manipulating lives as finding lost treasure. Everyone is expendable as the ruthless C7 pushes people into gambling with their lives in order to find priceless objects lost to history.

Samantha Crowe’s secrets could ruin her career, while Brody Parker’s could get him killed. They become pawns for two Collectors seeking Bad King John’s crown jewels, which disappeared in rural England back when Robin Hood roamed Nottingham.

This time, however, the Collectors–a ruthless dotcom billionaire and a desperate London detective–might not be playing for the same team, leaving Sam and Brody trapped in the middle.

One thing’s for sure: If either hope to survive, Sam and Brody will have to find a way to overcome their distrust–and their growing attraction–in order to succeed on this winner-take-all treasure hunt.

So how about you all? Any creative hobbies?

Me? Not really, unless you count painting rooms in my house every now and then (which I don’t, although it can be a fun project). I’ll admit though, I’m intrigued by the idea of mixed media artwork. I’ve mentioned previously (not sure if it was here or on Twitter) that I’d love to design/draw maps to go with my stories. And it would be really fun to do dioramas or models for certain settings (buildings, boats, bars…) but for now I’m going to stick with creating worlds out of written words. 🙂

Thank you, Suzanne, for guest blogging today and for sharing your artwork with us!

Leela Lou Dahlin: Rosy Writer Ink Pen Bouquets (and Mockingjay!)

Today’s guest blogger is Leela Lou Dahlin, who makes pen bouquets. This post is part of a guest blog series I’m hosting featuring writers who create other things besides worlds and characters. Welcome, Leela Lou!

Rosy Writer Ink Pen Bouquets

Rosy Writer 3

 

A marriage of beauty and function. Does it seem odd that I would have this as a hobby when my first love is writing? Not to me. It’s very relaxing. Molding the clay, plotting my story line and creating something beautiful—the flower and the plot.

I love thick smooth paper and a pen that writes well. I’d rather send a hand-made card with a note of thanks than a text. There are so many ways to go digital today but sometimes it’s nice to feel a pen between your fingers as it glides along the page expressing your gratitude or your rage…depending on the mood.

Even though I love pens and I have way more than my fair share I don’t like the way they look sitting in a cup or holder. This is now how Rosy Writers got started though. My children and I moved to a wonderful school district when Christmas came my 5 children wanted a gift to take to their teachers. That was going to prove costly. Since I knew that teachers were another group of people who love pens so I took my love of making roses and found a way to make the pen look like a rose on a stem that would be a bouquet of flowers they could have throughout the year. The idea was a hit and soon I started getting orders for hostess gifts, thank you gifts, mother’s day, wedding and baby showers…practically any other time someone wanted a flower bouquet. Added bonus – no one can walk away with your pen and not realize it.

Making them helps me relax and gets my creative thoughts going, and thank goodness because sometimes they are quite in demand. I’m not sure what I like most…making them or hearing how happy the recipients are with the product.

More about Leela

Leela Lou Dahlin works undercover as an outgoing RN Case Manager by day, but at night her time is filled with kids, clay and computers…and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She can be found online here:

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was fun. We have a new kitten. 99.9% sure her name is going to be Nutmeg. (My kids have named both of my cats. We adopted a stray last springGinger). So a big part of the weekend was spent hanging w the new kitty and trying to gracefully intro her to Ginger. Unsurprisingly, he isn’t exactly thrilled about her arrival, but I’m still hopeful they will become friends eventually.

Took my older daughter and a group of her friends to see Mockingjay Part 1 on Friday. It was opening night and I expected the theater to be PACKED, and it was, but it wasn’t nearly the mad house that opening night for Hunger Games was. [this next bit is slightly SPOILERY] Put me firmly in the camp of those who do not think the third book needed two movies to tell its story. I’m not saying the movie wasn’t good (it was and is well worth seeing in the theater) but the pacing/tension was definitely slower/reduced for this one. There was action and emotion but not as much as I would have liked. I also missed the juxtaposition of Effie’s wildly colorful dresses and all the gag-inducing excess of the capital against the bleakness of life in the districts. This movie takes place mostly in District 13, which is all gray, all the time. Don’t get me wrong though — I’m a huge fan of this series. The characters, world, and writing are so well done and the filmmaker’s version of the story has captured my interest while remaining true to its source. Only one of the girls I took had read the book. Which made Part 1’s ending more dramatic and surprising for them than it was for series readers. (If you’ve read it, you can guess exactly where Part 1 ends). Overall, despite Mockingjay Part 1 being the deepest, darkest movie yet, it felt less immediate to me. But it’s a solid film that ably sets up next year’s final installment. 

Saturday night my husband and I went to a hippie-themed birthday party for a friend of ours. Initially, I had misread the invite and thought the theme was 70s. Got this vintage disco dress and some boots to wear and then, last minute, saw that entertainment would include clips from Woodstock and songs by Janis Joplin, The Who, CSN, the Dead, Jimi Hendrix…. So I ditched the dress.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE... and a beard. Craig's growing a beard for the first time ever for No Shave November: http://www.no-shave.org/
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE…
and a beard. Craig’s growing a beard for the first time ever for No Shave November: http://www.no-shave.org/

Finally, if you missed Friday’s post… I’m giving away one print copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. International. Three ways to enter: comment here, contact me here, or tweet.

So… how about you? What did you do this weekend? Have you seen Mockingjay? What did you think? Which Rosy Writer Ink Pen Bouquet do you like best? I’ve given stationery as a thank you gift lots of times but haven’t yet given a bouquet of pens. It’s a neat idea, right?

Thank you to Leela Lou for guest blogging today! Happy Monday, all!

Beth Caudill: Chainmail Jewelry

My next guest blogger is Beth Caudill, who makes chainmail jewelry. Pretty cool, huh? (After hosting this season’s “Writers Who Create Other Things” guest blog series, I’m thinking that jewelry is the most popular “other” thing that writers create — or at least the most popular other thing that writers who contacted me create. I can understand the appeal and have to admit, I’ve thought about it. But, for now, I’m happy just listening to other writers’ stories of how they started making jewelry.) Welcome, Beth!

chainmail jewelry, Beth Caudill, fantasy, author, books

 “The businesses of writing and selling jewelry are very similar. You need a unique, easy to identify brand and a distinctive product.”

Thank you Jill for having me here today.

Growing up, jewelry wasn’t something I had an interest in. My father would give my mother necklaces or earrings for Christmas but I didn’t really want any of my own.  I bought a class ring when I graduated high school and I had a few special necklaces from vacations but nothing spectacular.

Fast forward several years and I’m a stay-at-home-mom with two small kids. I began writing as a way to stay sane.  I’m extremely introverted and being at home with two small people all the time can be very trying. You can’t even escape to the bathroom—any mother knows little hands and cries of “Mooommmm” follow you everywhere.

My escape was into the fantastical worlds I created with my romantic fantasy and paranormal romance stories. But I needed to do research, particularly for my magical stories. Usually magicians cast or draw power through items such as stones, wands, amulets or crystals. Suddenly I had a bunch of resources on making jewelry and the history of gems and crystals.

In my Paranormals of Arilase series, there are two elements which will be present in each story. Each heroine will have a jasper pendant to channel their power and a wedding. In Healer’s Fate, Corliss, a werewolf healer, used a red jasper pendant.  In Enchantress’ Destiny, my current work-in-progress, Clairessa, an elf, uses green jasper to channel energy for her spellcasting.

At one of my local romance writers workshops, another author’s husband was selling chainmaille jewelry. The silver rings were so pretty connected together in different weaves or patterns. I did some research and ordered a beginner set to try for myself.  The design I wear the most is this flower chain bracelet.

chainmail jewelry, Beth Caudill, fantasy, author, books

After making a few pieces, I gave my mother and mother-in-law gifts of silver chainmaille. They loved it and talked me into trying to sell my items.  I’ve had an Etsy account for two years but it hasn’t been very productive.  This year, I’m focused on attending craft fairs to showcase my work.

The businesses of writing and selling jewelry are very similar. You need a unique, easy to identify brand and a distinctive product. While I love creating both my stories and jewelry, the hardest part for both businesses is connecting with the ideal customer.   I’ve found it’s easier to concentrate on creating stories and not worry about sales with the writing business.  But with the jewelry, I have a bunch of inventory and no one is buying. It’s disheartening.

I’ve had a lot of people say they like my designs but no one buys. One great thing has been the other sellers I’ve met. Like with the writing community, there have been wonderful people who’ve given me suggestions on things I can do to improve the chances someone will buy my jewelry – such as shortening the length of my earrings.  It’s wonderful that I’ve found two communities where people are willing to share their experiences and help each other.

Right now my biggest hurdle is time. I’m homeschooling my two sons and that has to be my number 1 priority. Both writing and jewelry making occur during my free time and some days I’m too exhausted to attempt either. Generally I try to do my writing in the morning or early afternoon and my jewelry making at night. But sometimes I have to devote all my time to one business or the other for a week.

I have lists of goals for both businesses and ideas to try in the New Year. It’s a bit like a juggling act and I don’t always succeed. But I enjoy both writing stories and making jewelry so I’m still trucking along.

chainmail jewelry, Beth Caudill, fantasy, author, books

More About Beth

Beth loves everything fantasy and grew up a lover of fairy tales. Her favorite TV shows are Once Upon a Time and Leverage because both combine a bit of good with a hint of wickedness. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and homeschools her two sons and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. In her free time, Beth creates fantastical distant worlds for her romantic fantasy and paranormal romance stories. And for a bit of bling, she weaves metals rings and crystals into beautiful chainmaille jewelry.

Did everyone have a good weekend? I took my younger daughter and a friend to see Big Hero 6 Saturday night. It was great! Baymax was adorably huggable. 🙂 Also loved the animated short, Feast, that played before it began.

Have you seen Big Hero 6? Do you want to? What did you do this weekend? Do you think Beth’s chainmail jewelry is as cool as I do?

Thank you, Beth, for guest blogging today. Best wishes for lots of holiday sales!

Sabina Bundgaard: Denmark Postwoman Who Loves Baubles, Beads, and Books

My next guest in my “Writers Who Create Other Things” guest blog series is Sabina Bundgaard. She’s a book blogger/reviewer, writer, and jewelry maker. I first connected with Sabina around the time of Dark Light of Day‘s release. At the time, she was reviewing books for a romance website but soon after she started her own blog. We’ve stayed in touch through Facebook. When I saw that (in addition to her bookish adventures) she also makes jewelry, I asked if she wanted to come blog about it. Happily, she agreed. Welcome, Sabina!

jewelry making, bracelets, writers, creativity

“It all started with me looking for something ‘blingy’ to pep up my daughter’s Fastelavn costume.”

Hi! *waves*

My name is Sabina Bundgaard, I live in Denmark, and I’m an author, postwoman, wife, mother to two wonderful kids, I’m a blogger and I make jewelry. My day is full. *grins*

I don’t make book related jewelry though. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they certainly can be used for giveaways. In fact they frequently are, but I make it to be used for everyday use.

So how did I get started? Well…. as an outlet to tell you the truth. See, I used to be a vet student, and as much as I loved it, it really didn’t give me the time to do what I loved to. Books have always been a huge part of my life, so not being able to sit down anymore to read for fun was actually killing me. Trouble is… I can’t stop with just one chapter. It’s the same when I start writing. Once I get into a funk, I just keep going. Let me tell you it’s a baaaad combination when you have finals coming up – which we had every second month. Making my jewelry fit better into my schedule and it was something I could easy finish up before getting back to my studying.

jewelry making, earrings, writers, creativity

For fun, I started kumihimo braiding – making key chains. It was fun, relaxing and took virtually no time at all to make a few. I started donating them for giveaways, release parties, and such, especially for my fellow authors in Crushing Heart and Black Butterfly Publishing. People seemed to like them and it gave me the boost to try something else – bracelets.

It all started with me looking for something “blingy” to pep up my daughter’s Fastelavn costume. I found a bracelet, shambala style, but was a bit floored about the price. When we got home, I started to investigate and finally found out how to make them. My first true victim was my very good friend (and pub sis from CHBB) Sarah J Carr. I made some neon colored shambala inspired bracelet, braided bookmarks and key chains for her release – Starring Evans. It all went downhill (or uphill, depending on your view) from there.

Sabina Multi-Color Bracelets

Today I have my own page on Facebook. It’s called Sabina’s Baubles and Beads and I am making everything from a variety of bracelets, necklaces and earrings. My inspiration? Everywhere. Sometimes it’s seeing a bracelet made in a specific way. I think, “If I change that, or use this… Hmmm”. Sometimes I see something online, but don’t have the same materials on hand. Instead, I try using what I have and wing it from there. More often than not, I browse different websites (because heavens know we could use more physical stores that sell bulk in Denmark), and see something that I like and try to cooperate it into something that will work. Do I fail? Hell yes. I’ve made stuff that just isn’t working. AT ALL. I’ve made stuff that literally falls apart shortly after because I didn’t tie the knot properly, or used a wrong thread. *shrugs* It happens to us all. I learn from it and do it better next time.

Ultimately, I love wearing all my creativity hats, and making jewelry is just one of them, but an important one for me. It is a part of me, just like being an author, blogger, and mother is.

Before leaving, I would like to give Jill an enormous hug for inviting me as a guest blogger. Thank you!!

Sabina Bundgaard
Sabina Bundgaard

More about Sabina

Sabina Bundgaard lives in Denmark with her husband and their two children. By day she races around the countryside, delivering mail and packages to people. By night…. Well, that’s a different story.

While drinking one of her many flavors of tea, she delves into the mysterious realms of her imagination. Writing about everything from Elves and Dragons to Romance and Erotica, she tries her wings to see where they will take her.

Her favorite past time when not writing is reading, making jewelry and speaking to her friends all over the world, celebrating their victories and happy times.

You can find Sabina online here:

Hugs to you too, Sabina! Thank you for guest blogging today. I enjoyed hearing more about how you started making jewelry. Good luck and best wishes with all of your creative endeavors!

Hope everyone had a great weekend and a fun Halloween. Ours was terrific! Loved that it was on a Friday this year. Spent Sunday at a field hockey tournament. Winds were so gusty we were nearly swept off the field and into the sky (if only I’d had an umbrella I could have blown home a la Mary Poppins).

Then I had a couple of monstrous tech glitches. Dropped my cell phone in my garage. Done for. But the iCloud and the fact that I was overdue for an upgrade saved me. Now have a new phone and a pink Lifeproof case (my kids love it). 48 hours later my laptop was under attack. Thankfully, one of the guys from Norton helped me purge my system of ickiness. Fingers crossed that Tech Glitches do not occur in threes!

Kids are back in school after an almost five-day weekend (a weird effect of Halloween, Election Day, and end of quarter occurring at the same time) so (now that my laptop has been given clean bill of health) it’s back to full productivity.

Anyone doing NaNo? I’m not, but good luck to those of you who are. I love all the NaNo news/posts/tips in November bc it reminds all writers how much we can accomplish when we hunker down and WRITE!

Did you have a nice Halloween? What did YOU do this weekend? Anyone else dealing with dropped phones, computer viruses, or other tech glitches?

What’s your favorite type of jewelry? Earrings? Bracelets? Necklaces?

Wishing all of you high word counts and/or lots of time to read today!

Writers Who Create Other Things: Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Horns (a must for October… and year-round!)

My next guest is Danielle Ackley-McPhail, who writes fantasy and also creates custom-made costume horns. How cool is that? We met last month at the Baltimore Book Fest (we were on the Dark Fantasy panel together). I mentioned that I was hosting a guest blog series featuring writers who also make crafts, jewelry, and other art in order to show how creative authors can be in other ways and she told me she makes one-of-a-kind horns. When I heard that, I told her I really wanted her to come blog and tell us about them and share some pictures. Her wonderful post is below. Welcome, Danielle!

Danielle Ackley-McPhail Custom-Made Horns 2

How I Became The Hornie Lady

Hi, my name is Danielle Ackley-McPhail and most times I’m an author….but occasionally I’m also the Hornie Lady!

Why am I called the Hornie Lady? Funny you should ask. Several years ago a friend and fellow author came up to me and said… “I have to tell you something….when my son was younger and we would come into the dealers room, the moment he saw your display of horns he would say ‘Mom! It’s the hornie lady!’ Embarrassed, I told him, ‘No! Don’t call her that!’ but now that he’s grown I had to share that with you.”

Well, soon after she told me this story I had a chance to meet one of my literary heroes, Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of the Dark Hunter series. In that series she has a baby-goth demon named Simi who calls horns ‘hornies’. Because of that event I ended up making horns for Ms. Kenyon wholesale. Naturally, when I went pro, I had to be The Hornie Lady.

Why did I start making horns to begin with, you ask? Well…as a small-press author I learned early on the importance of diversifying. When I first started out it was very hard going only having one book, so I branched out into anthologies and grew my list. After that I made sure I had several books coming out every year just to keep new things on the table. That is important when you do the same shows over and over. If you don’t have new material the fans you’ve already made won’t have anything to buy next time. And as for what you hope will be new fans…you want to give them as many options to choose from to increase your chances that you’ll have something they will like.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, custom-made costume horns, fantasy, cosplay, stage, Halloween

That still doesn’t explain the horns, though, does it?

When I started doing conventions I wanted to have fun as well and I always loved costuming so my first efforts with clay were masks and they were strictly for myself and whatever costume I wanted to make. One of the first costumes I made was a One-Eyed, One Horned Flying Purple People Eater. Soon after that I went to a renaissance festival and saw the costume horns they sold….I was not impressed, but I was intrigued. The first thought to go through my head was “I can do better than that!”

Danielle Ackley-McPhail Custom-Made Horns 3

The Too Cute puppies called. They want some horns!
The Too Cute puppies called. They want some horns!

So I tried. My first foray as a seller of horns was the very first East Coast Faeriecon. In that weekend I sold 53 set of horns and I was hooked. People loved them. My prices were reasonable, the designs were unique and original, and my method of attachment was simple. From that point on horns became a staple of my vending efforts. I had fun making them and trying new things, and from a production standpoint costs were quite reasonable.

This wasn’t just good business, but an excellent complement to my marketing as I am a fantasy author. The horns are a point of interest that often causes people to stop at the table. Once I get them to stop and start to chat with them I can then direct their attention to the books. Also they are a good conversation piece and a hawker’s hook….imagine, is there any better way to draw someone’s attention than to ask “Can I make you hornie?” If nothing else, it makes people laugh and if you can do that then you make a connection, an impression, and even if they don’t stop that time, they will remember you and eventually their curiosity will get the better of them.

At worse I sell a set of horns and nothing else, at best I can get them to buy a book as well, and I might just have made a fan, literary or otherwise! Even today I can recognize people wearing horns I sold them years ago, and repeat customers are a common occurrence. In fact, some people make a point of coming to buy a set each time they see me at a show, and not because anything happened to the ones they bought before.

One of my greatest (and most guilty) triumphs is when I discover someone trying to copy one of my designs…and not being able to pull it off 😉

In the end it comes down to one thing for me: I love to create, no matter what the medium. Words…clay…cooking…It’s all good!

Hornie Lady Contact Info

Danielle Ackley-McPhail Custom-Made Horns

More About Danielle

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

In addition to her literary acclaim, Danielle crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady, at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail or badassfaeries), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit http://www.sidhenadaire.com, or http://www.badassfaeries.com.  

"Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined..."
“Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet.
I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined…”
My older daughter bought Danielle's steampunk faerie tale at the Baltimore Book Fest
My older daughter bought Danielle’s steampunk faerie tale at the Baltimore Book Fest

To find Danielle’s horns online, click here

To find Danielle’s books online, click here

If you are a writer who makes and sells art, jewelry, or some other type of craft, and you are interested in guest blogging, please contact me for more details. I have a few guest spots left.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Ours can be summed up in three words: planes, trains, and automobiles. Or movies, music, and books. We flew down to Cape May for the New Jersey State Film Fest on Saturday then took the train up to NYC for Gary Wright’s concert/book signing event Sunday night at the City Winery. (Gary is my husband’s cousin. He is a musician, memoirist, and all around great guy. The concert was fun. Hadn’t heard him sing Dream Weaver live since his impromptu performance at our wedding. I have a great picture, which I might post if I can find it…)

How about you? Did you do anything fun last weekend? Do you think Danielle’s horns are as neat as I do?

Thank you, Danielle, for guest blogging today!

Writers Who Create Other Things: Delilah Devlin’s The Emerald Casket

Last month a jewelry designer/artist contacted me about possibly doing a guest blog here. It gave me the idea to do a whole guest blog series featuring writers who create other things besides characters and the worlds they live in. So, over the next few months, I’m going to be posting a handful of guest blogs from writers who make jewelry, art, and crafts. I think it’s neat to see the different ways that writers use their creativity. My first guest is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Delilah Devlin who creates “erotically-charged paranormal worlds” and “richly descriptive westerns that ring with authenticity.” She also makes and sells jewelry with her daughter from their Etsy page, The Emerald Casket. She’s here today to talk about that and her other creative endeavors. Welcome, Delilah!

The Emerald Casket 2

“When I’m stuck in a story and need to move away from my desk to think,

it’s the perfect time to pull out beads or paint.”

Hi there! First, I’d like to thank Jill for inviting me to be here to talk about something other than books! How fun!

If you don’t follow me on Facebook or read my blog, you probably don’t know that I try my hand at other artful pursuits.

I dabble in watercolor, Zentangle, fused glass, but the thing I enjoy doing most, other than writing books, is making jewelry. In fact, I have a little online business I began with my daughter, Kelly a couple of years ago. We don’t make a ton of items to sell there, therefore, we haven’t made a lot money selling our jewelry, but it gives us this little hobby we share.

Kelly and I both have busy lives. We’d thought about making jewelry, for fun and for profit, for a long time before we started. We kept waiting for the right time… When things slowed down… When the kids were a little older… Finally, we realized there would never be a perfect time to open the store. We just had to do it and see what happened.

The Emerald Casket 1

I’m a full-time writer, and like most folks who are passionate about their work, it’s much more than a full-time job. My daughter owns a frame shop and is a full-time mother of three, so her hands are full, too.

Where do we find the time to create? It’s not easy. We both have to use little windows of downtime. When I’m stuck in a story and need to move away from my desk to think, it’s the perfect time to pull out beads or paint. I can let my mind wander to whatever problem I’m having with the current story, while I let the other part of my mind enjoy something really relaxing—almost like meditation, but so much more productive.  Kelly has the added obstacle of trying to escape her house and family to come here to work, since everything is set up in our little crowded workroom.

 

We make time, because we love doing this. And if we manage to sell enough to pay for the supplies, we’ll be able to keep our doors open. Bead-therapy is expensive!

This past weekend we did something fun. A rural church held a “Pumpkin Days” event—think hay rides, pony rides, bouncy house, barbecued meat and hot dogs… They also had a little space for vendors. We took bracelets and dominoes and thought it would be a nice way to meet people in our area and maybe make a little money. We were very successful! Surprisingly so. We even got an invitation to participate in an A.M.E. church bazaar. Whew. If ever either of the event organizer knew what I did for a living… 🙂

Anyway, if you’d like to see what I do besides write, you can check out these sites:

The Emerald Casket: Etsy Store | Facebook Page | Website | Pinterest Page

If you are a writer who makes and sells art, jewelry, or some other type of craft, and you are interested in guest blogging, please contact me for more details. I have a few guest spots left. Hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was SUPER BUSY! (I haven’t forgotten about doing a post on the Baltimore Book Fest. Will do later this week!) Thank you, Delilah, for guest blogging today!

Weather and Writing: Part II (How Building a Backyard Ice Rink is Like Writing a Novel)

It snowed today… AGAIN!!! And temps are low… AGAIN!!! Thursday, it’s supposed to get into the single digits… AGAIN!!! So I’ve decided, no matter what, this will be my last winter post. (I’m going to will spring into being!)

This is year 2 for our backyard ice rink. Last year, when my husband came up with the only slightly insane idea to build an ice rink in our backyard, I reminded him that we live SOUTH of the Mason-Dixon Line. And, truth be told, last year’s rink was short-lived, but not this year!

HOW BUILDING

A BACKYARD ICE RINK

IS LIKE WRITING A NOVEL

1. You have to lay a foundation, but it can be a flexible one.

We built our back yard ice rink from a kit. The company sent us the frame, liner, and building instructions and we supplied our own wood for the sides. Laying the foundation required some measuring and planning – not unlike the researching and outlining I do for my novels. But, like an author experimenting with technique from novel to novel, we’re able to tinker with our little rink’s building specs. Last year, its life was cut short by a huge wind storm. So this year we asked Boreas to spare it… and we reinforced the frame with rebar! 😀

2. It takes time to set up properly, which makes it a labor of love.

My husband starting building the rink just after the holidays. Since we have to rely on the weather to keep it frozen, our skating season is short – six weeks if we’re lucky. It usually takes him two weeks of working nights and weekends to make it operational. But all the work is worth it because it’s something he enjoys doing. Writers spend far longer than two weeks on a novel, but I think all of us would agree that spending four, six, or twelve months on a novel that we enjoy writing – which is then enjoyed by everyone else for another twelve, eighteen, or thirty-six months – is a pretty good deal.

3. It’s social and fun.

Once the rink is ready, we invite our friends and family to come skate. Like publishing a completed novel, this is the best part! Sharing the products of your work with others is its own reward. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that ice skating, drinking hot chocolate, and reading novels are three of winter’s greatest pastimes.

So how about you? Did you go skating this year? Snow tubing? How about sledding or skiing? Are you a fan of hot chocolate? How about spiked cider or Irish coffee? Are you sick of winter yet? Or are you one of the lucky ones posting about seeing signs of spring? Regardless of where you live or what the weather’s like, hope you’re all having a great week!

Are you a #writing instructor?

I volunteered to be the new Workshop Scheduler for RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter — FF&P. This means that I’m the person who will be scouting out neat, new workshops for FF&P to offer to members and non-members alike.

What is FF&P looking for?

We are looking for workshops that will appeal to fiction writers in general, not just writers who write in speculative or romance genres (e.g. craft, business, inspiration, writing life, research… character development, worldbuilding, three act structure, GMC… online marketing, social media, self-publishing, traditional publishing, hybrid options… designing your own covers, hiring your own editors… querying, submitting, conferences… fan conventions… book signings, personal events… etc.!) but, of course, we also love workshops that are geared toward our favorite subgenres: fantasy, futuristic, SFR, PNR, UF, steampunk, time travel, and young adult fiction with speculative elements.

If you are an instructor who is currently offering workshops, please consider submitting a workshop proposal to me (use my “Contact” page or email me: archer at jillarcher dot com) and include the following:

  • Your name and online contact information
  • The title and duration of the workshop
  • A brief description of the proposed workshop
  • Whether you’ve taught the workshop before and, if so, where
  • Your bio

If you’re interested in seeing what type of workshops FF&P currently has scheduled, check out the line up here. (I’m also going to do a second post today listing a couple of March workshops that are being offered).

Finally, even if you aren’t an instructor, please let me know in the comments or send an email if you have any fantastic workshops to recommend.

Please forward this post to anyone who might be interested.

Thanks, everyone!

Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West (a.k.a. the convergence of #cats and #books… pure bliss!)

Hemingway House

Last week, my husband and I went to Key West. I’d never been and it was terrific! Sort of “Hawaii meets New Orleans.” Duvall Street was as fun, crowded, colorful, and commercial as the French Quarter and the rest of the island was as beautiful, balmy, and restful as off-season Oahu.

My five favorite things: 1. Dinner at Louie’s Backyard (the back deck sits oceanfront, gorgeously lit with low lights at night; the menu and staff are equally impressive); 2. Breakfast at the Hot Tin Roof (the perfect spot for mimosas); 3. Ernest Hemingway’s house (pics below); 4. Biking/shopping on Duvall Street (mostly enjoyed the biking, but also loved peeking in the boutiques… the t-shirt shops I get enough of on the Jersey Shore); and 5. Watching the famous sunsets.

Flying into Key West... This wing's a bit bigger than the one I'm used to seeing out my window ;-)
Flying into Key West…
This wing’s a bit bigger than the one
I’m used to seeing out my window 😉
Hemingway Home and Museum
Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway, who wrote The Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Old Man and the Sea, among many other novels, short stories, and poems, lived in the house from 1931 to 1940. The man (prolific writer, WWI ambulance driver, adventurer, ladies man, fisherman…), the house (built in 1851 on the second highest point in Key West by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker), and the cats (at least 45 of them were roaming around the grounds, all carrying the polydactyl gene) make this museum tour A MUST if you go to Key West.

The outside of Hemingway's writer's loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn't it be grand to write somewhere like this everyday?
The outside of Hemingway’s writer’s loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn’t it be grand to write somewhere like this every day?
The inside of the loft. The old fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I'm lucky enough with my little writing nook. :-)
The inside of the loft. The old-fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I’m lucky enough with my little writing nook. 🙂

Even if you’re not a cat lover, it’s hard not to be charmed by the cats. The whole herd of them is given free reign over the house and grounds. They are everywhere! They are looked after by a full-time staff and a vet visits them once a week to keep them on their toes. 😉

looks like he's wearing mittensPolydactyl CatSix Toed Cat

The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway's bedroom
The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway’s bedroom
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.

What did I buy at the bookstore? Among other things, a book of cat poems.

In the beginning,
God created cats,
and then bugs.
Bugs grow up to be moths and butterflies,
which can be eaten.

From Kirby Congdon’s “The Cat’s Story”

The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).
The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).

Because my husband is an aviation enthusiast, we had to stop by Kelly’s — the bar located in the first Pan Am office building, which is named after former owner Kelly McGillis of TOP GUN fame — for a drink. Since it was happy hour, one drink turned into two… 😀

Sign outside of Kelly's Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Sign outside of Kelly’s Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Our bikes on Duvall Street I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Our bikes on Duvall Street
I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! :-D
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! 😀

So what about you? Have you taken any winter breaks lately? If so, where did you go? Writers, do you have a favorite place for writer’s retreats? Key West offers lots of inspiration! I hope everyone is having a great January!

#Writing: 3 Website Building Tips from Maya Rodale

I met Maya Rodale at the Create Something Magical Conference in New Jersey last month. She was teaching the workshop “How to Build a Fast, Cheap, and Fabulous Website” (by using WordPress). Even though I know a bit about building a website with WordPress, I went because I had a feeling she’d be a great resource for some of the questions I had. And she was. (You may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with picture borders recently 🙂 ). After the conference, I asked her if she’d be willing to guest blog and share some general tips. She happily agreed. If you are a writer just starting with WordPress and have questions, let us know in the comments! Welcome, Maya!

Website Building Tips for Authors

Having a website for authors is a must—but one that needn’t be an expensive or time-consuming endeavor. With a little learning, most of us can build a pretty nice and simple website. I myself am partial to WordPress—In fact, I built a website with tutorials on how to build your own WordPress website. Some other tips no matter what platform you use:

Make a plan!

Having a plan will make the whole process less overwhelming. First, check out websites of other authors and make a list of content and pages you want to include. Go ahead and write-up your about page and consolidate all the content you’ll need—like pictures or social media accounts. That way you won’t disrupt your flow when you’re putting it all together.

Don’t be afraid to click on things!

You will probably not break the whole internet. But you may figure out a whole bunch of stuff—how to download and activate a plugin, or how to get a list of recent posts in your sidebar. Just in case…backup your work (In WordPress: tools export all).

When in doubt, Google it!

Sorry, but you’re probably not the first person to have that problem! When in doubt, just Google it. Then take a moment to be thankful to all those people who made video tutorials.

Maya Rodale is the author of multiple smart & sassy romance novels. Visit her on the web at  http://www.mayarodale.com

Thank you, Maya, for guest blogging today! 😀

2013 SPRING INTO SUMMER ROMANCE: Terrific Guest Posts + Awesome Giveaways

Starting tomorrow, I’m hosting another group of authors who write romance. Last spring, I hosted a similar series and it was FUN! This year the group is just as diverse as last year. We’ll hear from authors who write paranormal romance, fantasy romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. Some of these women have published one book (like me!) and others have published many, including one author who is a NYT bestseller. And they’ve published their work in a variety of different ways: Big 6, small press, and self-pub. I’m really looking forward to seeing what new romances will be out this spring and early summer and I hope you are too! To make the new guest blog series EVEN MORE FUN, I’ll be adding my own giveaways =>

free books, book giveaway, novels, fiction

Print Book Giveaways!

For those of you that live in the U.S., I’m going to be offering a chance to win one new or gently used print book during each Spring Into Summer guest blog post. My bookshelves are bursting and I want to share the overflow with you. Most of these books I received at conferences and some are duplicates of ones I already own. I’m a bibliophile but not so much that I want to hoard two copies of the same book — because someone else could be reading it!

So I’m going to give away one book per post. You can enter to win by commenting on the post and including your e-mail address. Two additional entries for:

  1. Sharing the link on Twitter (please include my Twitter handle @archer_jill)
  2. Sharing the link or Facebook (please tag me in the FB post)

I’ll e-mail the winner the list of possible choices and then, once their choice is made, will mail the book off to its new, loving home.

There are 20 possible choices for the winners to choose from, including books by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, Steve Berry, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Julie Kagawa, Gena Showalter, Lili St. Crow, Jill Archer — 😀 – and many more!

In fact, I’m going to start the giveaway right now! (Why not, right?)

So if you’re excited about this new Spring Into Summer Romance guest blog series, want a chance to win a great book, or just want to help me spread the word about the upcoming series, then please comment below + SHARE THIS POST!

A brief note about any giveaways offered by the guest bloggers: Guest bloggers may offer their own giveaways. If they do, they select the winner and arrange for delivery of the giveaway.

The chance to win a book from this post ends at midnight EDT on April 11, 2013. Good luck and best wishes, everyone!