Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HALLOWEEN & ZOMBIES

Halloween is my favorite of all the holidays! Seriously, I wish we would dress up all year. I love it. Right now I am sporting hot pink hair "for Halloween" but will ultimately not wash out for 3 months. Ha! I am my inner child in October.


Zombies also have a special place in my heart. I love them too! I love them so much, that me and my 9-year-old son have been working on a Zombie picture book. It bites! --- literally.





Fun facts about Zombies:


  1. Zombies never tire
  2. They are attracted to movement
  3. They cannot talk
  4. Zombies can't see 3 feet in front of them, so they trip on everything
  5. They only die by head wound
  6. You can dodge a Zombie 
  7. Zombies can break through glass, but not climb up or over a windowsill
  8. They have excellent hearing, so be quiet
  9. Zombies came from Haiti
  10. Once you are bitten, you will become a Zombie
  11. There have been over 200 Zombie movies made since 1961




Fun facts about Halloween:



  1. One serving of candy corn = 140 calories
  2. 35 million pounds of candy corn will be eaten this year
  3. Halloween is old! Over 2000 years old
  4. Over 41 million kids will trick-or-treat this year
  5. In the middle ages people believed witches turned themselves into black cats to avoid being caught
  6. 44% of Americans will dress up on Halloween
  7. The October celebration in Rome started the apple bobbing tradition of today
  8. The first Jack O' Lanterns were made from turnips
  9. Halloween costumes are associated with early Europeans and Celtics. They wore disguises to fool ghosts.
  10. If you want to see a witch on Halloween = wear your clothes inside out
  11. There have been 10 Halloween Movies: 
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Halloween II (1981)
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
  • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
  • Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
  • Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002) 
  • Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of the original Halloween.
  • Rob Zombie's 2009 remake of Halloween 2.



Now that you have the facts - go write your own Zombie or Halloween movie! 


Good Luck!
Happy Halloween
Trick-or-Treat
Boo!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Interview with Gary Val Tenuta: Author of Ash: Return of the Beast


I met Gary on Facebook. I posted that I was looking for interviews, and he answered my call. Thank you Gary! And, thanks for being interested in UFO's!!! They are one of my favorite subjects. I could stare at the night sky for hours searching. But, now I might be hooked on some websites he's offered on them. Thanks again, Gary!

Below are the questions I asked him:



1.    How and why did you get interested in UFO's?

That interest probably began when I was about 11 years old. My folks bought me a YA sci-fi novel, Son of the Stars. When I was 12 I wrote my first sci-fi story. It was called The Beam From Saucer X. It was really good. I know that because my Mom said so. 


Then Life magazine came out with an issue about the subject. That was maybe around 1962. I've followed the phenomenon closely ever since. In the 90s I published an online newsletter called UFO News-1. Best-selling author, Whitley Strieber ("Communion", "Wolfen", "Unholy Fire", etc.) endorsed it as the best, most comprehensive newsletter of its kind.

In 1993 I had the good fortune to witness an extraordinary UFO at close range. My affidavit attesting to the details of the event was one of several others (including that of famed veteran late-night radio host, Art Bell) that were entered into a federal court case against the U.S. Department of Defense by attorney Peter A. Gersten in an effort to obtain government files pertaining to this specific type of UFO. The whole story can be read here:http://www.examiner.com/article/close-encounter-with-black-triangle-ufo

2. Why did you write Ash: Return of the Beast?

Because I was afraid if I didn't, someone else might. Here's what happened. I was 
browsing the shelves at a second-hand bookstore when I spied a biography of the infamous early 20th century occultist, Aleister Crowley. 


Having had a life long interest in the paranormal and esoteric lore, I was somewhat familiar with Crowley. I knew he proclaimed himself as "The Beast" (a reference to 666) and that the British Press had branded him as "The wickedest man in the world" but I didn't really know much more than that. 

So I picked up the book and began thumbing through it. Near the end of the book, the author mentioned that Crowley was cremated in England in 1947 and the urn containing his ashes was sent to a man named Germer in New Jersey. Germer put the urn into a box and buried it under a large oak tree in his yard. 

Sometime later, he decided to move to California and he wanted to take the urn with him. But when he went to dig it up, he found it was no longer there. Whatever became of it has remained a mystery to this day. Well, when I read that, I did a double take. I thought, "Man, if that's not a perfect set-up for a supernatural mystery-crime-thriller, I don't know what is."

I let the idea rattle around in my head for a few months as I sketched out story ideas. I finally hit on something that would work and spent the next 3 years writing it.


3.    How did you become an Amazon best selling author? Do you have any suggestions for newly published authors on promoting?

That question requires quite a detailed answer. My 57-week run as an amazon.com best-selling author was my reward for having had the foresight, back in the early 90s, to start writing a novel about something I knew was going to become a huge social and cultural phenomenon. I'm talking about the December-2012-end-of-the-Mayan-calendar phenomenon.

The book was my debut novel, The Ezekiel Code. It took me nearly 9 years to write it and I self-published the 700-page paperback in 2007. I promoted the heck out of it across the Internet but sales were very slow for the first year. They began to pick up the following year and eventually I decided to put out a Kindle edition. That was a really good decision because the paperback was quite expensive but the Kindle edition was only $4.99.

TV specials about 2012 started popping up all over the airwaves and even Montel Williams devoted a show to the subject. I was running a banner ad on a website that was all about 2012 and it just so happened that Montel Williams contacted the owner of that site to be a guest on the show. That sparked a huge spike in visits to that website where thousands of people saw my ad. Kindle sales began to soar and I started getting requests to do interviews on radio programs and on BlogTalk programs.

Then came the 2009 blockbuster movie, "2012". If anyone hadn't heard about the whole Mayan calendar 2012 thing by then, they knew about it when that movie came out. Suddenly people were going to amazon.com looking for anything and everything about 2012. My amazon page had over 200 tag hits for the subject "2012" which put it at the top of the list when people looked for books related to that subject by using tag words. In other words, if they simply typed "2012" into the search, The Ezekiel Code came up at the top of the list. By the end of that 57-week stretch, I'd sold several thousand Kindle editions and several hundred paperbacks.

To be quite honest, from a technical and structural point of view, the writing in The Ezekiel Code was good but it wasn't great. It had it's share of "newbie" flaws. I was under the mistaken impression that I knew how to write a novel because I had experience as a paid contributing writer for Fate Magazine in the U.S. and Beyond Magazine in the U.K. and a few other periodicals dealing with the paranormal and other esoteric subjects. 


The book was gathering a lot of excellent reviews but it was also getting some negative reviews. I soon realized the good reviews were coming from people who were very much into the myriad esoteric subjects that I'd woven into the storyline. For those readers, any flaws in the writing were of little or no concern. The negative reviews were coming from readers who were expecting a book that was more polished in terms of editing and story structure.

At first, having spent 9 years writing the darned thing, I was bothered by the negative reviews. But eventually I began to see what they were getting at and I used them as a learning tool. I started getting serious about the art of novel writing, the "what to do" and the "what not to do". My current novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast, shines as a reflection of what I've learned since writing that first novel. Some reviewers have compared it favorably to the works of such writers as Dan Brown, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King. I must have done something right but I know there's always room for improvement.

4.    What online source for promotion has been the best for your books?

That's hard to say because when someone buys one of my books, there's no way to know for sure how they heard about it. If I had to make a guess I'd say probably Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads.com and The Independent Author Network (www.independentauthornetwork.com). 

 
5.    What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

Ha! I'm a night owl. I'm usually up until around 5 a.m. and sleep until about noon. Breakfast? What's that?


6.    Who are you reading right now?

I just finished reading Space Orville, a debut YA sci-fi novel, heavy on the humor in a bizzaro universe, by indie author Jeff Whelan. The book was getting rave reviews on Facebook and I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Turned out the fuss was well deserved. It got a glowing 5 stars from me.

7.    Did you use an editor before you published? If yes, what was that experience like?

I couldn't afford to hire an editor but, after my experience with my first novel, I understood the importance of the editing process. So I handcuffed myself to an invaluable little book called Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne & King and spent countless hours, days, nights and weeks editing the manuscript.


8. Do you ever want to give up as a writer? Why do you keep going?

Giving up never crosses my mind. I keep going because once I get a story idea in my head I can't rest until I see it finished in book form. Writing has become an addiction.

9. Who helped you on your path to becoming a writer?

I was encouraged by several teachers throughout my school years and by a few professors during my college years. I should, however, single out one person in particular. It's another indie writer, John C. Stipa, who authored No Greater Sacrifice, one of my all-time favorite novels. I was so impressed with his writing expertise that I asked him if he would read and give me some honest feedback on the early parts of the manuscript for Ash: Return Of The Beast. He graciously agreed and he gave me a few valuable tips and suggestions that stuck with me throughout the rest of the writing process. Thanks John!

10. What's the one aspect of writing that you struggle with and how do you learn to better your craft?

I think maybe story structure and sentence structure are the most challenging for me. Much of what I've learned about the craft has come from really paying attention to how seasoned writers construct their stories. I also subscribe to Writer's Digest which often has tremendously helpful articles and information by best-selling authors. 


11. Where does your cat hang out while you write?

Ah, yes. My big black long-haired cat, Bear. He wants to hang out on my lap when I'm writing. But that doesn't work so well because I'm usually trying to use my laptop. I give him about 5 minutes of that awkward lap time before shooing him away. But that doesn't work so well, either, because then he just sits on the edge of the couch and stares at me until I feel guilty and then I let him back on my lap. Of course then he pretends he's starving to death and must have something to eat... again. It's a wonder I get any writing done at all.

12. Are you a coffee, tea, or water guy?

Constant Comment tea.


13.  Do you have an agent? If so, why? If no, why?

I don't need an agent because I'm not interested in having my work published by a traditional publisher.

14. What do you think about authors publishing their own work? And what do you think about publishing in general?

I'm all for the indie revolution. I don't like the idea of getting locked into a contract and losing control of my work. I also don't like the idea of the publisher taking the lion's share of the royalties while handing me mere pennies on the dollar. 


With amazon.com's CreateSpace, for example, I get 60% for my paperback sales and from Kindle sales I get 70%. That sure beats the standard publishing rates that can range from about 5% to around 15% or maybe 20% if you're really lucky. 

And what about marketing and promotion? That's what the big publishers are supposed to do for their share of the royalites, right? Not necessarily. 

Read this article: "If This Is What Big Publishers Call Promotion, No Wonder They're In Trouble" (http://www.techdirt.com/blog/casestudies/articles/20120717/22485119738/if-this-is-what-big-publishers-call-promotion-no-wonder-theyre-trouble.shtml)
15. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

A few things, actually.

(1) They can go to my amazon page and click the "Like" button and, even better, they can scroll down nearly to the bottom of the page until they come to the bold orange text that says "Tags Customers Associate With This Product". Click once on each of the tags. The higher the tag count, the higher up on the list the book will appear when customers are searching for books by using those specific tags. But just click each tag one time. A second click will cancel out the first click.

(2) If they buy the book, they can return to the amazon page and post a review. 


You can purchase it here:
http://www.ashreturnofthebeast.webs.com


(3) If they enjoy the book, please give it a mention on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads.com, blogs or anywhere on the web where it's appropriate.

Any of the above will be GREATLY appreciated.


16. Where do you research for your books? Any online sights that are great for paranormal/UFO interests?

For good, solid, credible UFO information and research I'd suggest UFO Casebook (http://www.ufocasebook.com) and The Black Vault (http://www.ufocasebook.com).

For information and research regarding paranormal phenomena, ritual magic, and related topics I'd suggest going to the Internet Sacred Text Archive (http://www.sacred-texts.com).

If anyone's interested in my work with English gematria, they can visit The Secret Of Nine (http://www.secretofnine.com).

17.  What one word best describes you?

That's easy: Curious.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

SCBWI SF North & East Bay Region Fall Conference 2012




  It's Sunday, the day after the big conference and I am rubbing my feet, and thinking about the things I want to remember to do next year. I will pass that information along to you. But, if you have questions, please feel free to add them at the comments section and I will get back to you.


4 things to remember for your next writer's conference

1. Wear comfortable shoes

2. Find a Starbucks before heading to conference

3.Print out the Schedule

4.Talk to the Speakers



 This conference had some firsts for me. I taught my first Vision Board class. It rocked! And, I helped writers sign up for CritConnect - the SCBWI writer's bulletin board online. 



This is Robinson A where the vision board class too place. The class made their own petite  vision boards to take home. The creativity in the room set the whole day for me.









CritConnect ~ Sign up today!

Here I am hoping writers will come over to sign up for CritConnect. As I sat with my computer, and, finally some coffee, I watched the attendees go by. Some bought books. Others talked with each other. Few approached the speakers. 


I also had quite a few writers ask me about the schedule. What's next? Where should I be? Who is speaking in that room? 

But the best question of the day came from a newbie. She's not new to writing. She writes for her day job, but she was new to children's books, and writer's conferences. She came up to my desk and asked, 



"What's the one thing you would recommend a new person to do at a conference?"


Answer: Speak to the speakers. So many new writers hang back, and when they get home, they regret not asking questions, not pitching their ideas, not saying hello.

Way back in 2003 when I first went to my first conference with a picture book in my hands, that I was SURE would get snagged immediately by the first agent who read it. I made that same mistake. I became a wallflower. And, when I got home, with pencil marks all over my manuscript, I felt down. I should have asked questions. I should have introduced myself to the speakers. 

So, that's my answer. Say hello, I'm a writer. Or, hi, I'm an illustrator. Speak up. Ask questions. But, don't ramble. Listen to others ask their questions, and learn from them too. Take everything you heard, saw, and resonated with, and, apply it to your work.


The second best question of the day:


"Should I go home, rewrite, and immediately send out my manuscript?"


Answer: If it's ready. Tricia Lawrence, one of Erin Murphy's newest literary agents said it best. She said send your ms when it's your very best work. If you died, and you would be so upset that no one got to read it, send that one. 

So, don't rush home, make a few quick changes and think you're ready to go. I made that same mistake. Take a week to not look at it. Then take the next month to really work on it. Then set it aside. Look at it again, and if you believe that it is your very best work. Press the send button.


Good luck to all the amazing attendees! And, a special thanks to the speakers! You rocked it out! Also, thank you to all those volunteers. We couldn't do it without you. And, last, but not least (cliche...i know) a special hug to the conference board. You are a great group of writers and illustrators to work with.



As always, 
Write~On,
Angie








Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vision Boards


  • Dream Boards 
  • Vision Board 
  • Law of Attraction
  • Goals 
  • All the same thing





This weekend at the SCBWI SF North & East Bay Region Fall Conference I will be teaching my first ever Dream Board class. Why? Because I believe they work.

The vision board puts your ideas and goals into a space that you can see with your eyes. It's a place that allows you to concentrate on, and visualize your desires.


Some of you might say, I don't need one because I am so focused, and obtain my goals as is. That could be true for you. I have hit many goals in my life without a dream board. But, I am very driven, and tend to stay on task, especially before I had children. 

Now, like many of my peers, I feel scattered. I feel like I don't have time to focus on what I really want when I am focusing on my family, and what they want and what they need. So, the dream board helps me get focused now. 


The idea is that if you, once a day, take the time to acknowledge your desires, goals, and the direction you want to head, you can help them to come true. This does not mean that you simply have to look at the word WRITER or ILLUSTRATOR and you will become one. But, it is a first step in the right direction.








The vision board can list many ideas, and goals at once too. Or, it can be very narrow in scope. Mine mixes writing, with health, family and love. But, you can choose to do yours with words and pictures on one subject. It all depends on your ideas about where you want to be or where you see yourself in the future.





The reason I started vision boarding was this story:

A psychologist….and I am sorry I forgot his name (I'll keep trying to find it)…. was playing around with the idea of visualizing where he wanted to be. He wasn't married, and lived in a city that did not excite him. He started his vision board as a project for study, and for self-interest. He cut out virtues of a person he would like to find to date, he also cut out a house, a city, and a career he hoped and dreamed for.


After many months, his studies took him to other things. He put his dream boards away and concentrated on those. He had to move across the country for his job, started dating, and bought a house once he got engaged. Five years later, he was unpacking the last remaining boxes in his office and came across his dream boards. He was blown away by what he saw. The virtues of the woman he wanted to find fit his wife to a T. The house was almost an exact replica. And he was in a city that he loved in California. It had all come true.




Now, I look at my board and see many things that have come true for me. And, I believe it's because I set real goals, and thought about them everyday. Even through changing diapers, preschool, moving twice, and elementary school starts. Using a dream board, helped me stay focused. Then, I set out to find classes, workshops, and friends that would help me to reach my goals.


I haven't reached all of them, but I am on my way. And, you will be too. 





 
Good Luck and as always,
Write~on

Angie

Friday, October 12, 2012

Interview with Janet Jacobs: Teacher & Artist

I met Janet via email. I had been looking for an art class, something that would inspire me, and teach me something new. I found her website, and reached out for an interview. 

Janet teaches to all ages, and she uses many different mediums. If you are looking to get back to your creative talent, or you want to progress from where you are, she just might be the teacher for you.


Below are the questions I asked her:



  1.     What medium do you feel the most connected to and why?
Its very hard to pick just one medium.  Drawing is fundamental.  I think its easiest to talk about what I'm seeing in pencil.  And I can add my thoughts and feelings about a thing or a place with pencil easily.  So in graphite I can draw what I see - what I'm actually looking at - I can also draw what I think or feel.  I can describe a lot with my 
marks. They come right out of me, of who I am, of my seeing and my feeling.  
But watercolor is very expressive, too.

Lately I've been painting in oil.  I get a strong response to colors.  Today, seeing a cadmium orange next to a light olive green that had white in it made me so excited.  And then placing different intensities of that light olive green in different places, next to different colors was so much fun!  Really, it was very exciting to work with this thick oily material that had such color to it!  

And then there is clay and wax for sculpting.  It just doesn't end...


2.     When helping a student, what do you think is the most important advice you give?
In my classes I  like to offer structure and safety for moving through a variety of art techniques and issues.  I always start with and return to this:  try to draw or paint from honesty, from truth, from your authentic vision rather than from some idea of what you think something looks like.  

Draw from your eyes, not your brain.

3.     Why create? Why art?

I make art because it lets me connect with myself and be focused on things that matter to me.

It also teaches me so much about life.  I have learned many, many life lessons through painting, drawing, and sculpting.

There were things that were hard growing up.  Looking at art and making art helped me feel better about my world.  It helped me to figure out how to maneuver through life so that I was more comfortable.  It helped me to see my world better, and more authentically.


4.     Who makes the best student?

Anyone who is curious about their own creativity, and wants to learn more about themselves and/or art.


5.     Where would a new art student best begin?

I love to start a new class with a few simple exercises that show people the difference between drawing what we think, and drawing what we see.  It's the starting place for drawing from observation.


6.     What do you do to keep your craft new and fresh?

I look at a lot of art.  I go to museums and galleries, and I scour the Internet and newspapers and magazines for images I like.  I also listen to my kids, to my husband and my friends and my students.  I try to share myself with others and to appreciate what I see and learn from others.  I try to be real, and honest, and to let myself touch the wonders of life.  


7. Have you ever thought about illustrating a book? Writing a book?

I have thought of illustrating a book but I think it would be confusing because it might be too abstract.  I'd like to write about teaching art.


  8. You believe drawing what we see is like a meditation. How so?

I think that meditation is about going away from the bustle and fuss of life and connecting with self, and maybe with universe, in a non focused way.  That is: connecting without forcing the connection.

When we draw, if we can truly connect with our objects in a way that is about our eyes rather then our brains, then it is like a meditation.  We go away from all of life's activity and settle down to look intensely at something and to record what we see.  

When the drawing is done its as though we "wake up" from our other world of drawing and come back to our regular life.  But we get to come back with a record of where we've been.

It's even better then mediation because we get something to look at from the time spent.  Connecting with an object by looking rather than listening to what our brain says about the form isn't so far from connection with self, or connection with universe.

After a new class has been going for some time I like to do an exercise where we all draw each other. It means that we have to look really closely at another person.  I like to draw with my students for this.  I always feel honored to be able to look so closely at someone and to record what I see and to enjoy that person's beauty.

Authentic looking - looking without judgement in order to merely record what one sees without our brain telling us what it should look like - makes me feel as though I've been in a trance of connection.  If I'm trying to figure out what the nature of the curve of an eyebrow is by looking intensely at it, there is no room for judgement.  
There is only amazement at what a person really looks like.  If I can connect with another's beauty then I connect with my own as well.  What an amazing thing!    


9. What is the realist tradition?

The realist tradition in drawing and painting is making things look real.  To do this one needs to pay close attention to shapes and spaces and edges of forms, as well as how light moves over the surface of forms.


10. What is it like for an artist who loves currents to live around so much water?

Oh, its the best!  I'm also a swimmer.  And I LOVE all the water around us.  And the wind and the sky - lots of currents up there, too.  I know I live in one of the most beautiful places there is!  I take much inspiration from nature. 



  11. What ages do you teach?
I teach all ages.  I've worked with children from age four up, and I work with many adults.  I've taught a lot of teenagers, and I have had a few quite elderly students as well.


12.  How did you start your business of teaching, and why?

I started teaching privately as I was gearing up to have a family.  It allows me to share my love of the process of learning and my life's focus in art with a variety of people at the same time that I'm living with my husband and raising my three boys. 


13.  How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Take a class!  Share your process - talk about what seems interesting about this to you.  Ask a question, send a picture, talk about it!