Category Archives: Writing

art by Lawrence Grodecki

In-Title Mints

Storytelling. I miss that, sometimes. I do a lot of thinking, and often I’ll catch myself in the middle of a story I’m telling, in my mind. Ever since writing a novel,  there has been this urge to make my next writing project a series of short stories.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the novel came at the end. That’s when I actually named the chapters. It came as a total surprise how much fun that can be, adding a little dimension of mystery, with clues hidden in the titles. However, the title of the book was a different matter. I actually published it under two different titles and anguished over dozens of others . . . I’m still not totally happy with the current one.

I mention all this because it is very much like the process of titles with my artwork. It occurred to me just this morning that when a title feels really good, it’s often because there is an element of storytelling to it.

If you take one of my current projects as an example – the feature image on this post –  you can see that it is pretty abstract, yet there are also some pretty dominant figurative elements in it. If so inclined, it’s the kind of painting that can lead you down the path of a daydream, in search of stories about the characters in the picture.

And that brings me to the matter of the title; this picture is tentatively called, “Studying the Voyeur”.

In a way, perhaps that set of three words is really a story in itself? It does tie in nicely with the several ghosted images throughout the painting. Some seem intrigued. I hope so, even though they were not invited!

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In the Right Place - art

WTF – Happy Thanksgiving!

There’s so much going on around the world that is so damn troubling. Like countless others, it seems that no matter what one does individually or collectively, these troubles persist. Yet we try.

I’m one of those who in the past few years has tried to avoid “the news”, as in “mostly the relentless accounts of the worse current events”. In fact for me almost everything about what we call “the news” is among the most troubling of our current events.

As hard as I try, one simply cannot avoid some stories, such as the ongoing Ferguson debacle. I usually don’t blog or comment about these terrible tragedies, but for some reason this one has gotten me down more than most . . . I’m reminded of an incident that happened about 12 years ago, in Birmingham, Alabama.

I was there for a few days on business, along with a few others. One evening a co-worker and I decided to go for a walk, check out the city a bit. We were close to downtown, walking distance from the convention center, and there was plenty enough to see and do. In other words, we came across a pool hall.

It seemed like a nice, safe area. It was clean, lots of lights, a beautiful evening, friendly people around, and so on. We felt extra safe when we noticed a few police officers. They stood out partly because they were on bikes, just strolling around. One especially stood out because he looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. They also had on these skin-tight uniforms – a tight shirt and shorts – at least on of the Village People would be so envious.

A few minutes after seeing these police we were safely inside this nice, clean pool hall. We got ourselves some whiskey & coke and soon the game became so relaxing. In other words I began to kick his ass . . . oh, how I missed my snooker! To make matters sweeter, the music came on. Nice tunes on the jukebox, courtesy of two very attractive young ladies in the corner, the only two others in the place, aside from the bartender. I glanced over. They really were stunning to be honest, especially with their smiles and giggles.

My friend and I continued with our game. Then Arnold entered the hall. I had my back to the ladies in the corner, which is where the policeman was headed. All of a sudden those giggles turned to loud screams. In a horrible flash I turned to see what was going on. The ladies had their arms up and backs arched away from Arnold – a defensive posture. It was necessary because the policeman had a long nightstick raised and extended in his right hand.

In this flash I saw this nightstick begin its downward assault. Almost miraculously, it stopped. No one was hurt. The young ladies left their drinks behind and made a quick exit, visibly shaken but at least not beaten. The officer had his back to us the whole time. I can’t remember if he glanced over in our direction behind he quickly left the place as well.

We asked the bartender what had just happened. She told us that apparently these young ladies did not have any I.D. on them, so it was unclear whether they could legally be in this licensed hall.

My reaction now remains as it was then, and it’s the same for Ferguson, “WTF!!!”

I forgot to mention that these were ladies of color and the officer was white . . . they also appeared to be close to the same age.

Anyway, I can’t stop any of this madness. About the only thing I can do is offer my little sign of peace. It’s not much. It’s just a savings of five bucks, and by that I mean I’m giving away my novel – today and tomorrow – November 26th and 27th.

While the book is about love, it does have its unsettling parts and aspects . . . did I mention fear? Still, overall it’s about the best of humanity . . . at times like these it seems we all need reminders of that means . . . a temporary escape from some of these troubles.

So here’s my Amazon link to “Dawn at Last”. While I know it doesn’t mean much at all, at least it’s a little something . . . a little gift.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. Finally, to my friends around the world, even those whom I have yet to meet, I’d be honored to have you accept my gift.

New Book Cover for Dawn at Last

Is it art? Nah, just a fresh book cover, and it’s just a coincidence that it’s being published on Canada Day.

It wasn’t planned that way, but as it turned out, so much happened on a Canada Day long weekend, in Dawn at Last. So much, and yet so little . . . you be judge . . . on the book, not the cover!

Well, truthfully I don’t mind the judging of covers! I recently came across and excellent blog post that featured an amazing collection of cover art . . . over 20 different covers over the years for different Lord of the Rings print editions.

So with no further adieu, or in Donna’s case is it, “I do!” . . . and without a doubt, there was plenty that she did!

new book cover for Dawn at LAst

 

As of posting, the cover is not up on Amazon yet, but should be any time now!

The Hole Picture

Pigeonholing is essentially  term that describes an attempt to classify in a mutually exclusive way. Put another way, it is like trying to make something discreet as opposed to a continuum. In that way it becomes somewhat limiting.

This can be frustrating for creative types. For example, in the case of my writing, I never considered the relevance of genre while writing “Dawn at Last”. However, once the marketing of the book started, it seemed like something I needed to do – had to do for online purposes. When you think about it, every database is a process of pigeonholing. That’s true with every social media site as well as places like Amazon and Fine Art America.

It took a long to find the right hole for the book, and I’m actually very comfortable, or perhaps relieved, to be classified as an author who writes literary fiction. That’s because it not only fits my style, but it is also a style that is very broad in definition . . . after all, it’s all about the characters, unusual and somewhat unpredictable ones, and the plot is secondary, though still important.

Similarly, in art I put I put myself in the abstract hole right out of the gate. That seemed very straightforward at first, though lately I like to think of my style as “abstract-figurative”. That’s because most of my art includes the female form and some also includes other mysterious creatures such as birds.

The Invisible Nest

Whether in art or writing, there is something I try to convey about the selfless aspect of life. That seems to be such an amazing part of the natural way of things, yet for most it seems so hard to see or comprehend. I try to make it easier, but without preaching . . . more subtle. In the context the abstract term makes a lot of sense. After all, this selfless aspect of life is so full of mystery . . . invisible, non-physical, imaginary yet very real.

Perhaps that is the most frustrating dichotomy. Someone we have been taught that the term imaginary means “something not real”. One again there’s the discrete . . . zero/ one . . . yes/ no. Buddhism talks about a life force that moves through sentient beings. As such this force fits the description of imaginary or non-physical . . . but it is not separate from the physical, just selfless.

This is one reason why I seldom have faces in any of my art. It’s funny how in our culture this is offensive to some, kind of “dehumanizing”. I see it so differently though. For me it is an attempt to move beyond the individual and convey the importance of the selfless reality – something much bigger than ourselves.

That’s one reason. On a more pragmatic level I don’t like the fine detail that can go into the painting of faces. I’m actually in awe of that kind of art when I see it, and if I had a mind to I could easily go down that stream. I know because that’s what I did when learning to draw, and as wonderful as it is I found it too easy in a way . . . simply technique and detail.

That is by no means a knock on any of those skills or that style. In fact it is more of an admission that there are so many out there doing it that there is no real need for me to join that flock.

Accepting The Flaws

Again, being pragmatic, I have decided to try something with faces, yet still continue in my style. In doing so there has been this deeper understanding how even in a portrait, what makes it special is not the image but the underlying emotions. It’s there in every fine piece of art . . . the 4th dimension or is it the fifth?

So after all that, without further adieu, I’m putting my first face out for public display. This picture is called “Perfectly Flawed” and if you understand any of what I’ve written above, I think you will have a better appreciation of both the words above and the visual message as shown below:

Perfectly Flawed

 

Beyond Surviving

digital painting called The Hunted (Cropped)

The Hunted (Cropped) – another play in progress.

I watched a very articulate documentary tonight, Surviving Progress. It was largely cathartic as it touches on so many issues, thoughts and concerns that I’ve had for years now. It’s about the human condition and presented honestly in the context of nature. If you decide to watch it, be careful as it can be disturbing. It was a little that way for me, and I’ve been studying this subject matter for about nine years now. I don’t write much about it because it’s frankly too depressing in many ways.

However, this film doesn’t come across that way . . . sobering yes, disturbing yes, yet still with a calming eloquence about it . . . the humanity of the those involved somehow shines through much of the horror. Oddly enough, there is prominent mention of the question, “Why?” and I mean that in the broadest sense. For years now I’ve viewed that as an almost dangerous question – a very mysterious one – and perhaps ultimately part of our collective Achilles heel?

Much More Than A Clock

Coincidentally, today also marks a day of the release of new scientific findings and warnings concerning climate change. This too struck a nerve, one that runs deeply in all my creative endeavors. The strike came by a statement made by a scientist on the news, “We’re running out of time.”

Such a simple statement perhaps it summarizes our entire predicament . . . our distancing from Nature and the absence of balance within it. I’m still amazed by how few people make the connection between time and gravity – they are inseparable – if we are “out of time” yet gravity continues, what does that say about us? Again, I no longer want to ask “Why?”

I’m sorry this is maybe a sad post to read. Still, it’s what’s on my mind. As a person who loves art, especially the process, I can’t help but wonder if it still has meaning anymore . . . have we passed a turning point that way too? More and more it just feels that way, though I wish it didn’t.

Ending On Another Timeless Moment

Finally, in the spirit of time, I’m going to post a little bit of writing. It’s from my first novel, one that will never be published. After I writing it I knew that these 121,000 words were not the right ones to launch upon the world, or even a few hundred readers! Still, it was a wonderful confidence booster and there was a lot of joy in the process.

Like Dawn at Last it has its tender moments. Since completion I’ve always felt like the only thing that really mattered were the words in the last two paragraphs. Somehow even these few words made all the rest worth writing, unpublished and all. They make me smile and I find peace in them. Since the book will never exist, here is my precious ending . . . perhaps you can use your imagination and fill in the rest . . . the past of it or the future? Or both?

Here’s how it ends, and once again it has something to do with love. Without it why survive?

They remained in their upward gaze, into this and every night’s darkness, and though their eyes did not meet, a common smile spread from her cheeks through his cheeks. It began to rain softly, only a few drops here and there. Still no words were spoken, though Lance wanted to share his thoughts with her. He was thinking of all he had been through, the beauty he found in the mysteries of the universe, of love and peace. The joy of knowing mixed with the agony of explaining, like finding love in a drop of water and trying to pull it out, just to hold it and say, “See.”

At that moment Suzanne turned her gaze toward his face. She saw a raindrop on the side of his cheek and naturally she cupped his hand in hers, leaned forward and kissed his cheek on that very spot, saying simply and softly, “Voici.”

 

This Special Edition Has Some Special Additions!

Abstract Art by Lawrence Grodecki

My Sweet Dreams

The oddest thing has happened. It began happening nine years ago and last night it became official.

Back in 2005 is when I began exploring digital painting. Even then this new, personal style was emerging – a combination of abstract drawing, then scanning various things from nature, then more drawing on-screen, and then fusing it all with light as my palette instead of paint.

When your art is done on a screen instead of paper or canvas, essentially that’s what your doing – working with light instead of paint. There’s actual quite a difference and it has to do with light and our perception of it. Art done on a screen is viewed with emitted light. In other words the light comes from behind the picture and towards your eyes. That’s very different than a canvas painting, where the light is reflected back from the picture to your eyes.

When Daydreams Come To Light

When I first started I knew that some day I would need to sell some of my art in order to keep to doing more of it. I wanted to make it as affordable as possible, so naturally I thought about electronic formats. I used to daydream about large, flat screens hanging on walls, where fans of my art could look at a wide selection of it, have it hanging there on their wall, switch it, or turn it off and on at their will.

In that way there is no need to print the digital creations – the pieces would look fantastic in the medium – and it would be very affordable original art! This is really very similar to what is happening to book publishing in the age of electronic books, though the price difference with the art is even more pronounced.

Last night that dream came true when I published a special illustrated edition of my novel, Dawn at Last. Instead of wall-mounted screens you can see the art on hand-held ones, on laptops, tablets and so on.

Eleven thousand words, all but one are titled!

There are eleven original pieces in this edition, each selected to go with various parts of the story. They are all set for full-page viewing and placed at the end of selected chapters. I didn’t just whip these up over the weekend. It’s been a nine-year work in progress. In fact there are a few pieces that have more hours behind them than the novel, and that was a four-month process for the first draft!

I’m not showing you any of the art here, but soon I’ll be announcing a surprise about these eleven pieces and other art that I’ve created. However, the picture at the top is somewhat representative of what’s in the special edition – it also links to the book on Amazon. The picture at the bottom links to the same book on Kobo.

So there you have it. Almost a decade ago, in one of those serious family discussions about politics and other world problems, I made a promise that someday I was going to quit my job and doing a little writing. I did quit, then did a lot of art, and then a little writing . . . I’m glad I did so.

Abstract Art by Lawrence Grodecki - Anyone for Chess

Anyone For Chess

Julie's Pets

The Precious Pet Projects of Julie Whiteley

One of the nicest surprises about self-publishing is getting to know book reviewers. They have quite the story to tell, and each one is different. One such person is Julie Whiteley, who coincidentally is the first reviewer that I ever approached about Dawn at Last. I was quite nervous back then, feeling that I must maintain a cool distance. I thought that was required of the author. I’m glad I was wrong.

After getting to know Julie better – and a few others – it just seemed right to do let my followers have the opportunity to hear what she has to say. So here’s my interview. Enjoy it and learn . . . I know I have.

Can you give me a little about your background? How long have you been writing reviews? What made you pursue this hobby?

I started writing reviews 3 years ago when I began to notice authors becoming more vocal about the need for reviews. My family said I should write reviews because I read so much and I should share my thoughts with others, plus help an author out in the process. So, I thought why not?  So, I wrote my first review for Amazon and a professional reviewer tore it apart. I didn’t know I was being graded! I took that as a personal challenge and started writing reviews all the time, for every book I read, but stayed over on Goodreads instead of Amazon.  One day I got an email from Goodreads letting me know I was in the top 1%  of reviewers on that site.  This was another indicator that authors needed reviews.  So,  that was when I started taking things more seriously and got very involved all over social media and with authors personally, also on Netgalley and Edelweiss, and I started a book review blog.

Can you describe a typical week in the world of reviewing?

Oh that’s a good question. Instead of a typical week, though, let’s break it down into a day.   I have a blog post every day. So, I schedule the post,  then I start putting it  out there on social media.  I then answer emails for review request and other emails concerning tours, blogs, reviews etc.

After that I read, read, and read, then I start writing reviews. I like to write the review as soon as possible after reading the book so it’s still  fresh in my mind.  It can take up to two hours – sometimes more – to write a review. At that point I will either need to contact the author to let them know I have their review ready, or I will need to post it to Edelweiss or Netgally or one of the other sites I review for, then on to  GR, Amazon, and LibraryThing for starters.

I start prep work on the next blog post, interview or spotlight, check on all social media to touch base with other reviewers and bloggers, authors etc.  I may chat with Lawrence. LOL

Then I read some more!  I do this seven days a week.  I work on books in one way or another for 5 to 6 hours a day.

Is there anything you would like authors to know? Is that different for indie authors than for traditionally published ones?

What should  an author’s know?  They need a thick skin,  a positive attitude, must always be professional, even if this isn’t your day job, and above all be patient. Read a lot, research self-publishing and get advice before you even start  trying to promote. Beware of scams and paying for reviews and do not under any circumstances swap reviews with other authors.  Going a little further, I really don’t recommend having friends and family post reviews for you either. Trust me, this will come back to haunt you.  So, try to prepare yourself and arm yourself with some good solid advice before publishing your book.  Knowing what to expect and having some idea what works and what doesn’t will go a long way.  Also, you might want to know that most likely you will have to spend a little money to get your book promoted. I don’t mean buying reviews, but you may consider doing some book tours and putting your book on an indie author site like StoryFinds that will get you get some reviews and a little recognition.  Costs for joining are very reasonable and will help get the ball rolling for you.

Yes, it is different for independent authors. A lot different in fact.  Indies do not have a filter. The traditionally published author has a little help even if it’s a small publishing company.  There is  more money to spend on promoting your book, there are more contacts, more ways to reach people. The indie is out there all by themselves.  If their book gets promoted it’s because they used their own money and spent their own time building up a network of contacts and it’s a much slower process and  since you don’t have an advisor, you can make a lot of mistakes and get taken for ride if you aren’t careful.  On the plus side, you have complete creative control over your work. You are your own boss, so can write a romance then write a horror novel if you want. You don’t have to fit into any set mold and you aren’t under a contract or deadline. Writing can be something you do for pleasure away from your day job or you can turn it into a career option, it’s up to you.

You must have certain experiences that really stand out for you, both positive and not so positive – can you tell us a bit about them?

Positive far outweighs the negative.  I have built some wonderful relationships with publishers and authors since becoming a reviewer. I have had my reviews published in books, in publications, and I have had people send me personal notes, become friends with me through social media and we work together to help spread the word about great talent and good books.  I love this part of being a reviewer.  Most authors are very professional and nice.  In fact, just yesterday I got a card  in the mail from an author thanking me for the review and interview I did for him. I get personal notes, swag and some authors are kind enough to follow my blog and help me gain more followers.  Most authors are aware that reviewers are not being paid for their time and so they will do some little something to pay if forward. One of the best rewards though is seeing an author blossom and knowing that in some small way I helped them out.

Negatives: Spending hours on a book, the review, the blog post, and promoting on social media and never even getting a response from the author. No thank you, no kiss by *** or anything.

While many worship athletes, musicians, and actors, it was always authors that did it for me.  Becoming a reviewer has shown me another side of the author that I wish I didn’t have to know.  A little familiarity breeding contempt I think, which can lead to disillusionment and so it’s easy to get burned out.  Some authors have written one book and suddenly they think they are Ernest Hemingway.  They don’t ask if you will do something for them, they demand it and some can be really rude.  So, I’m going to lecture authors:

The statistics for reviews is dismal. People will rate a book but will not leave comments. I have to wonder why that is. Informal polls suggest reviewers don’t want to be hassled by authors to revise, edit or even take down the review. One reviewer expressed real concern when an author began stalking him online.  Seeing reviewers being trashed on social media sites is also a real turn off.  It’s no wonder authors have a hard time getting people to review books for them.  Again, be professional, even if this is just a hobby for you.  Always thank a reviewer for their time, even if the review was disappointing.

I’ve had my moments too, when  I wanted to know “What’s in it for me?”  LOL [Note – Julie sent me this clip from one of her favorite movies – Field of Dreams – and the author gets to walk I can so relate to this :-)]

Aside from reading, what are your other passions in life . . . chocolate goes without saying!

My pets are a HUGE part of my life.  I have two cocker spaniels and three cats.  They are all spoiled and so I have to spend a lot of time with them. Somebody has to do it  LOL  I also spend a lot of time spreading the word against animal cruelty and violence against women.

Where would you to go from here regarding your book reviews, personally and professionally?

First a personal comment. I hope to continue to increase my blog followers in order to reach more readers. I want to improve my writing skills and in the process write cleaner and more interesting reviews.  I am also working on calling attention to reviewers so that authors can appreciate the hard work that goes into writing a thoughtful review and to  work on a system that will compensate reviewers in some way and perhaps come up with a way for authors and reviewers to rate their experiences with  one another after a review has been completed.  Feedback from both parties could help us learn what we need to do to improve a system that is in terrible shape at the moment.  Do you think this is a good idea or do you think it will only increase the gap between author and reader? [I think these are fantastic ideas – it’s about time.]

Professionally, the future is wide open for some really great changes in the world of books and reading.  The short story will become a favorite of fans and e-series will grow in popularity.  I really do believe that books will become more interactive in the near future, giving the reader a say in what takes place within the story and the way the story ends. Alternative endings are already cropping up as well as books that offer the reader choices within the book on which path they would like the character to take.  It’s like reading a book three different ways.   I think video reviews will also crop up more often.  There are still a lot of changes to come and growing pains yet to work through, but overall it’s an exciting time for authors, books and readers.  I hope to be part of it in some way. 

 A huge thank Julie. If you would like to follow her, here are a few links, one to Facebook and one to her blog:

Julie Whiteley on Facebook          Julie’s Blog – Cluereview on Blogspot