Monday, January 9, 2017

Discovering Her Creative Zen

This is one of my absolutely favorite pieces of art:

I love Asian inspired pieces, and this hangs in my downstairs library. Besides being painted, the geisha's dress and sash are applied silk fabric. I love the way the artist incorporated both visual and textural elements. You can't touch the silk because of the glass, but you can see it. (I wouldn't want anyone putting their greasy fingers on the silk anyway. This isn't a 'touch me' museum.)

The artist started painting, drawing, sculpting, and creating in other mediums later in life- in her 50s or 60s. Some of her pieces I don't care for, but just like with my books, there are people who don't like them all, and that shouldn't take away from enjoying the work that they do, or stop them from checking out newer ones.

What impressed me most about the artist is that she never thought she had creative talent. Artistic ability always belonged to someone else. I don't know what spurred her to say, 'Screw it, I want to paint.' But she did, and I'm glad. Maybe New York art galleries would laugh at her work if she tried to get a showing, but hey, I've seen some 'art' that leaves me cold (religious depictions in feces??), and I'm very choosy about modern art (I don't do 'Campbell's soup labels' kind of thing). Art is in the eye of the beholder even if beholders are few and far between. Art should be for one's self, itis personal expression and doesn't need to fit anyone's expectations. If others like or appreciate it, bonus. No one should be afraid to try, to experiment, to throw reservations to the wind.

So don't worry that your creative work isn't 'good enough.' If you don't like it, you can rework it. Artists are never happy with their creations, always wanting to tweak it just a bit more, but don't let it discourage you. I've perused my previous books and without fail, can find sentences that I'd like to rework, but it's done and I have to move on. I have to take the plunge on the next project.

Get working, express yourself, please yourself. And if you become afraid of what others will think, just remember my mom and her painting in my library.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Leaving It All Behind...

No, I'm not running away to a cult or hiding in a cave. I'm just leaving all those things and people behind that need to remain in 2016.

I like to start the New Year fresh and new, no recycling here! Here's a partial list:

Manuscripts that don't work. Much as I love the story, some just won't work because of timing, plot flaws, or other reasons. They'll go in a drawer (like a few others) and will collect the dust of time until maybe one day they are resurrected. Sleep well, my children.

Negative Nancys. There are a few people I need to dig a moat against. There is enough sorrow, heartbreak, pain and suffering. Some people seem to thrive on negativity and maybe I'm too sensitive, but I can't deal with the constancy. I wish them luck and happiness.

Stupid tasks. What is the point of pulling out the refrigerator every year? No one sees under there, except a stray ant. When the refrigerator is pulled out for repairs or replacement, then I'll vacuum and wash the floor. Who'll know the difference, and I won't waste time doing it. Shhh, don't tell anyone. I'm sure there are many, many more time-wasting activities that I can cut.

Unnecessary stuff. I'm donating clothes that don't fit or I don't wear, cleaning out books, housewares, vases, furniture, etc. I don't use anymore. I'm beginning to understand the value- the serenity and peace- of empty space.

Stress. With my digestive issues now under control, I need to address how I handle stress. Nasty comment on social media? I can scroll on, hide or unfriend, no reply is necessary. Difficult person? Walk away. Bad situation? Spend time with people and activities that make me happy and give me time to work through the problems. I have to take better control of how everything affects me, even if it only works for my benefit and to someone else's detriment. 

Don't deny myself experiences (rather than things) that make life sweet. We have limited time on this orb so not taking advantage of all the wonders available to us is foolish. Life shouldn't be about acquiring things, but memories.

If it's broken, or doesn't work anymore, throw it out. That's mechanical things, relationships, or arrangements. Like some old time traditions, New Year's means sweeping out the dust and detritus. 

Wishing you all simple, priceless treasures of love, happiness, and contentment in 2017.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

That's a wrap!

THANK YOU! to everyone who came out yesterday to the Bridgewater Barnes and Noble to see Cathy Daniels and me for Jack's release into the wild! You make these events fun! And Jack says:

He wishes all of you good things for next year...and he has a surprise.... a new adventure! He'll let you know when you can catch up with him, but here's a peek at Cathy's beautiful cover art!

So until 2017, Jack and his friends, my family and I, wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Healthy New Year, and happy Holidays!


Monday, December 19, 2016

Jack's Out in the Wild!

In case you forgot....

Illustrator Cathy Thole-Daniels and I would love to see you there! Stop by! Say hello! Sign up for a chance to win Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans! And help out a good cause when you buy any books!


And Jack was named a Best of 2016 Last Minute Gift recommendation! Check it out! here

In a quiet wood, a gray squirrel declares war on the machines that invade his wood, threatening his nest and tree. Taught words and how to use simple machines like the wheel by a young boy who names him Jack, the squirrel shares what he’s learned with the other animals. And so we enter the world of Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, $5.99.)
This is a smart and charming book for younger readers that will have them wondering just what the animals in the yard are up to! Watch for the next book in this series coming soon. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tell Santa What You Want For Christmas...

No, I'm not asking for anything (world peace and compassion seem to be out of reach for humanity), although I would like a new agent, a new book contract, and if I promise to be very good, a spot on the NYT bestseller list. But if I could play Santa, this is what I would give the characters in my books...

Let's start with Jack, the common gray squirrel in the Evolution Revolution series. Without spoiling anything in the next 3 books of the series, I would love to give him a woodland where he never has to worry that humans will come cut it down. Don't know if even a national forest is safe these days from greedy corporations and the Environmental Protection Agency (ha!) being so buddy-buddy. I would give Jack the biggest tree of his choice and hope it was safe for any future Jacks...

For Alice in my short story, Through the Worm Hole (Beware the Little White Rabbit anthology), I would give her all the rare, exotic tea she could drink. I would hope that she could keep it safe from thieving giant rabbits...

Bec in Blonde OPS- I could say a new super-duper laptop, but hackers are particular. You can't buy just any laptop. (My sons taught me this. The hard way. They choose, I pay part because what they want is always so ridiculous.) So for Bec, I would gift her with an all expense paid trip to H.O.P.E. (Hackers on Planet Earth), so she could learn even more hacking skills to catch the bad guys. I would hope that she wouldn't get dragged into the darker side of hacking; once was enough...

Sharisse in Sirenz and Sirenz Back In Fashion you might think is easy to buy for; she loves fashion, bling, the nicer things in life. But when you have Hades, Lord of the Underworld, throwing 5 carat diamonds rings at you and lavishing you with whole new wardrobes, well, it's a little harder. But I think what Sharisse would want more than anything material is a soul mate. Someone with the romance of Hades, the sweetness of Caz, and the urban appeal of Jeremy. That's a tall order, but I'd wish that for her.

To Meg, I would give her a vintage clothing store. She'd never wear outrageously priced, brand new clothing. She would be happiest discovering, buying, and reselling quality vintage. (I can feel Sharisse shuddering at the thought of wearing someone else's used clothes...) To Meg, this would be good karma because it's reusing something rather than creating more, reducing waste as clothes are recycled, and recycling materials instead of dumping them. A win for Meg and the earth.

Ah, Hades... the ultimate bad boy you love to lust after. He's married to Persephone (or, was tricked into it), so Sharisse under his Christmas tree is not going to happen. The ancient Greek gods don't seem to have divorce as an option, so for both Hades and Persephone, I gift them marriage counseling. If they spent more time trying to please their partner rather than themselves, I think they could make a go of it, and stop troubling the poor, hapless humans.

I have a host of other characters from unpublished works. Maybe next year they'll make the list (if they're very good and get published).

And what holiday gift would you give your characters?


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Magic in Ordinary Things

I've been quiet on social media and missed my Monday blog post because this is where I've been:

St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands. Ahhh. I haven't had a vacation in several years (I don't count days doing roller coasters or Saturday/Sunday trips as real vacations.)  Got off the plane (eventually, but that's a story/rant for another day...) and it was 85 degrees. Sunny. Left the kids home. Cleared my desk so everything else could wait until I returned. Even book stuff. Total relaxation.

Funny thing, though... are writers really ever away from work? I think not. While here:

on this lovely beach (and several others), I heard a rooster crowing. Yep. There are wild chickens on the island. One of many friendly tour guides/cab drivers theorized that they originated from when cock fighting was popular. When it fell out of favor (or legality), the chickens were set free to fend for themselves. (Hey, if someone wants to abandon me to the paradise of the Virgin Islands, I'm game.) With the perfect weather, little or no predators, and bugs enough, they've flourished. Mama hens and chicks cross roads, are fed by tourists, and cruise the beaches. What a life!

What a story... No matter where a writer goes, story ideas pop up. You don't have to go to an exotic locale. Stories are the magic in ordinary things. The idea for Jack's story in Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (and the entire series) came from a backyard squirrel and my son's third grade science homework. It was pushed along by a TV documentary. Every story has a basis in day to day life. Even in Sirenz and Sirenz Back in Fashion, the 'ordinary' is the tense relationship of two girls, very different from each other, trying to find common ground and work together. You may think there's nothing ordinary about Greek gods, especially Hades, but look past the immortality and you see a flawed being; Selfish? Yes. Arrogant? Totally. But there are qualities hidden beneath the hard polished exterior that speaks of struggles we are part of or witness to. Nothing ordinary in Beware the Little White Rabbit because it's a sci fi story? Who hasn't fought to get back something that someone has taken from them? And Blonde OPS? A story of teenage rebellion, finding oneself, and using one's talents in a positive way. Even my horror story, Faces in the Wood in the Scare Me to Sleep anthology isn't just about unnatural things; it highlights following our instincts- and protecting those we love, especially annoying little brothers.

So take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, make it magical. Now my island chicken story needs to hatch,

Keep your eyes open, magic is everywhere...


Monday, November 28, 2016

You Can't Plan This Stuff

So I get this email from my publicist, Rebecca Grose... Apparently a Chicago politician has it out for squirrels... And they heard about it and decided to get even... (Warning: it doesn't have a happy ending for the squirrel...)

Read it  HERE

And with a great review in Critical Blast which references both Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines and the attack on the politician, like the reviewer says:

"It's a charming little fiction / science fiction piece until you learn about things like squirrels attacking politicians for saying mean things about them, at which point there's maybe a little more to ponder on the subject. For now, enjoy Bennardo's fiction -- before it becomes a little too real."

To whet your appetite, here's a little deja vu from the book:

Illustration by Cathleen Thole-Daniels
 You may notice the animals are destroying the machines... And who do you think is leading them?

Be nice to squirrels. They're smarter than you think...

And wait till you see what they do in book 2, Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans...