Book Review #4 – The Megarothke

I was six years old when I was inexplicably allowed to watch Alien. I say inexplicably because I grew up in a strict house, where science fiction and fantasy weren’t always allowed. When I ask my mom how I was able to watch this film, and so young, she usually scoffs and says, a bit disdainfully, “Don’t look at me, your father liked that crap.”

Whatever the reason for me getting to watch Alien at such a young age, it sparked a love of science fiction horror in me. While I still watch many movies and short films in this genre, I’ve strayed from reading it. I have to admit, I haven’t picked up a book that wasn’t high/urban fantasy in years and it wasn’t until fellow writer and friend, Robert Ashcroft contacted me asking if I’d like a copy of his first book did I get back into reading sci fi horror.

And damn, after such a long drought from this genre, “The Megarothke” welcomed me home with open, bloody, mechanical arms.

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The Megarothke is set in 2048, seven years after “The Hollow Wars”, and follows Theodore “Theo” Adams as he and the last 50k people claw their way through a war with machines just to stay alive. There’s a beast lurking just below the city of Los Angeles, and the small team set out to search and destroy the Megarothke will do what it takes to save the last of humanity.

Through a series of time jumps and unsettling quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the story of how The Hollow Wars” came to be, how the world has changed and just who or what the Megarothke is, unfolds with every spine tingling chapter.

What did I love about this book?

Ashcroft’s ability to build a solid, believable world, interwoven with a complex timeline is well above par. He doesn’t waste time going into too much depth, or leaving things out, and avoids flowery language to try and get some of his more complex ideas across. Not only does this make the reader fall into the world of The Megarothke, but it makes it easy to relate to Theo. While Theo is intelligent, he’s an average guy and he explains things as such. This trait also creates a great conflict later, when you’re introduced to his wife, and you get an amazing clash between characters.

I also enjoy how believable everything is. It’s not too much of a stretch to see certain aspects of Ashcroft’s world coming to pass, and since I’m a firm believer in “science fiction could one day become science fact”, it’s an unsettling black mirror held up to today’s society. There’s a fine line between too much technology and just the right amount, and Ashcroft makes the reader ask “How far is too far?” And let me be clear to note here, I don’t mean when it comes to a more accepting transworld, as there are several trans characters in this novel, but the use of technology until it swallows everything that makes us human.

Ashcroft’s military and philosophy knowledge also extremely evident. There isn’t one scene that makes me go “Wait a second, how real is that?”. It’s evident he’s a man with a military background, as well as being someone who knows what their talking about when it comes to philosophy.

Lastly, I loved the dark humor salt and peppered in throughout the novel. I even laughed outright at a few parts and scared my dog as I read this into the long hours of the night. And yes. I did in fact stay up past midnight just to read this.

What might not work for other readers?

While I don’t mind a story that starts at one point and then jumps back a few years, I know a few readers who have a problem with this form of storytelling. I think Ashcroft handled his timeline beautifully, and if people who don’t like “7 years earlier” trope can get over this, they’ll have a great time.

Overall Rating?

I would most definitely buy this book in hard back, and go out of my way to get it signed.

 

You’ll like The Megarothke if…

you’re fans Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson, Westworld, Blade Runner/it’s source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Black Mirror, or if you enjoy the of the work that comes out of Oats Studios (in fact, I’d be the biggest supporter if they made a film adaptation of this with Ashcroft).

Keep your eye out for this fantastic novel, coming out in February 2018. You’ll be up all night just to try and finish this refreshing addition to the Science Fiction genre.

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Lessons Learned From Van Living

The long awaited “Vanlife” post is here! This Personal Post weekend highlights what I learned from living in a van for three weeks, and what my plans are for future travels.

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My husband first introduced me to van life through youtube videos. We watched a few but both settled on really enjoying Kombi Life. Episode after episode, blog post after blog post, and when we filled up on all we could there, we spent hours looking through the van life subreddit.

We decided this was the life for us. It screamed ADVENTURE and, damn, did we get one. Here’s what we learned about life by traveling from Tacoma, Washington, to Austin, Texas.

Sometimes, the GPS isn’t the best to follow.

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On the last leg of our trip, we accidentally took a wrong turn and wound up in New Mexico. We had a great time, and found beautiful campsites, all because we forgot to follow the GPS. It actually saved us time, and we had a blast.

Everyone was given a roadmap to adulthood when they were kids, either by parents or society. Mine read “Graduate high school, go to college, get married, have kids, work until you can’t anymore”. Most adults in my life followed that formula, or tried to, and they taught me that was the way to grow up. But sometimes that map doesn’t work out, and you wind up in a better place, one that you wouldn’t have found if you didn’t go off the path the GPS laid out for you.

Your belongings aren’t everything.

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With my husband being military, we don’t have a lot of stuff to begin with. Moving every one to four years makes it hard to want to pack everything up over and over again, so we’re not a very materialistic couple. Even with as little as we take with us each move, we still learned objects are just that, objects. While sentimental value is nice, it’s empty if that’s the only thing in your life. All we needed were each other, our dogs, a camper stove and a mini fridge and we got by just fine.

When you get a feeling you shouldn’t be somewhere, trust your gut.

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In a cavern in the middle of Colorado my husband got a bad feeling. When he said, hey, I think we should go, I agreed. We already decided it was important to always trust each others’ gut, so we packed up the van and got out a dodge (ha, the make of our van).  Shortly after we got out of the cavern, the sky opened up and parts of the campground flooded. I’m not sure if where we were at was safe or not, but I’m glad we got out of there.

It should go without saying, but this is how life should be in general. If you have a gut feeling, trust yourself. Chances are there’s a reason you feel that way.

Decide what’s more important the journey or the destination.

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Being in a small, enclosed box with someone, there’s sure to be some tiffs. The only one we got in was that we both didn’t know what we wanted out of the trip. Did we want to stop and sight see? Did we want to rush and spend more time with friends and family? Neither of us asked these questions and we wound up spending one night having to discuss this at length.

It’s important to know where you’re at in your life, and you have to ask yourself, what’s more important? Is it spending time in the now, or should you hurry to reach the goals in your life. You can always take your time when trying to reach those goals, but figuring out which one is more important before you jump into a big life changing event is always good.

If things get really hard, have someone with you who can make you laugh.

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Just like life, road trips get hard. Problems always are going to come up, and when things get extremely rough, it’s important to have someone you can laugh with. Even if you do butt heads from time to time, because arguing will always come up no matter how close you are with someone, the good times should outweigh the bad. Every time something went wrong on our trip, my husband and I were there to make the other one laugh. We listened to comedy tapes, my husband did funny voices, and I’d read him stuff online that cracked me up (which isn’t hard to do). It taught us that laughing’s important, and every trip needed to have some humor to get us by.

So what’s next?

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We sold our big van to someone else who wanted to give the van life a try, and they’re traveling around Washington state now. Next for us, though, is going to be a bus. We want to go on longer trips, which requires a little bit more room, so a small tour bus is right up our alley. Here’s hoping we find one soon!

Inspired by the Strange

After taking a walk around some museums this week, I realized something. I’m am entirely too inspired by dead birds.

Flightless, for those of you new to my blog, is my work in progress that revolves around people with wings. It’s no secret that I love birds, and I’ve taken a much deeper interest in ornithology since I started my novel in order to build a believable world and a realistic species.

As much as live birds inspired me and my writing, walking around a museum and seeing still life paintings of hanging pheasants, ducks with broken necks, and small song birds laid out on tables, I realized that was more the mood of my novel than the live birds I’d been studying. Heck I was more inspired by those paintings than I was holding an a hawk a couple weeks ago.

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You can always tell when I’m way too happy. I smile so much, I wind up squinting so bad.

After I made this discovery about my sudden love of dead bird imagery, I whipped up a quick banner with a picture of some of these classic oil paintings and decked out my Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and even my Deviantart page.

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Yes. I have a Deviantart page. I know.

It got me wondering though. . . .

What’s something strange that you find yourself inspired by? Comment below and let me know! I love hearing what inspires others.

Finding Time to Write

As I hammer through some suggested edits, I’ve been talking more with others about writing and the most common thing I hear is “I could write a book, if only I had the time!”

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Truth be told, I didn’t and still don’t have enough time. When I finished my manuscript for Flightless, I was in the middle of a military move, driving an hour and a half every for work every day, and trying to cram in as much family time before I left Texas. It’s a year later, and I’m trying to get through ANOTHER military move (this time mostly by myself because of my husband’s work schedule), finish my last month at my job, and still sight see around the Pacific Northwest. I was supposed to be here for another two years, and instead, I have a month left.

All that being said, I still believe in making time to write. So where do I make time, and how can you?

Lunch breaks –
I get a thirty minute lunch break, and 20 of those minutes are spent working on my book. It might not be my longest writing time, but it’s 20 minutes I can spend getting work done.

Wake up early –
I don’t do this one often, just because I’m a night owl, but sometimes if I’m feeling up to it, working on editing is the first thing I do.

While cooking dinner –
Most of my dinners are made one of two ways. Out of a box or time consuming with lots of prep. Either way I have to wait while it’s in the oven, so instead of doing chores, I write. Sure my house doesn’t stay ridiculously clean, but it gets the job done.

When someone else is driving – 
My husband usually is the one who drives when we’re traveling around together, so I take that time it takes to get from point A to point B to hammer out a few hundred words. Even if it’s just a trip to the store, and I’m jotting down ideas and changes on my phone, it still helps.

At night –
This is my favorite time to write. Everyone’s asleep, no one’s asking anything from me, and I can get a lot hammered out.

How do you make time?

Start to notice when you’re wasting it. Did you binge watch an entire season of whatever newest thing came out recently? Do you really think some of those episodes couldn’t have waited while you worked on one chapter?

If you’re really not sure how to make time, start writing an hour by hour list of things you did in a day and find out where there’s some wiggle room. This is what helps me every once in a while when I start to fall off the tracks. Not only does it show where your writing time is, but it also shows how much you spend on things that might not be as important as that book you want to write.

One last thing. Don’t write in a room with a TV, and shut off the internet.

For those of you who know how to work a tv/internet connection without getting distracted, bravo! For the rest of us? TURN IT OFF. Find ten minutes at a minimum and try to write as much as you can with everything shut down. Music is fine, but try to play it without needing the internet.

 

Favorite Spooky Buys on Etsy

It’s time for Personal Post Weekend! This is where I write non author related things and share what I’m looking at online, or what I’m going through in my everyday life.

I’m particularly excited about this one, as it falls on October first, the start of my favorite month!

I’m the type of person who prefers going to curio shops to get my Halloween decorations, and I can admit, some of them stay up in my art room year round. While my husband doesn’t mind it, for the most part, I keep the creepier items of my wishlists on just that, instead of having my house turn into a natural science museum.

That being said, I’ll be sharing them with you today just to spread some love to Etsy artists and sellers.

As a quick disclaimer, some of the images below can be a little unsettling for the squeamish. Viewer discretion is advised.  Post contains taxidermy art, big leather books, and somewhat occultish curios.

Continue reading Favorite Spooky Buys on Etsy

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I try to keep my private life just that. Private.

I’m pretty introverted and generally don’t like sharing about myself, but as I get more involved in social media, other authors, and a small yet fun fan base, I decided it’s time to open up. Here are ten things many people don’t know about me in hopes to get to know everyone better.

10. Most of my writing ideas are inspired from sadder parts of my life.

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Dramatic. I know. 

Whether it be the death of a family member, in the case of Flightless, or my rocky relationship with certain family members, most of my writing comes from experiences I don’t talk about very often. I like to work through these events through my writing, and hope that it’ll help people through their problems as well.

9. When I can’t come up with ideas, I draw
For a while, I tried my hand at being an artist. I considered doing a graphic novel for Flightless, and even had some of my work put up at a galleries in Detroit, Michigan, and small towns throughout Texas. When I started writing more often, I didn’t stop making art, and it’s still one of the main ways I get inspiration today.

8. I’ve never been to a concert
Even after living only thirty minutes away from Austin, and forty minutes away from Seattle and Washington D.C., I never made my way to a concert. I went to see authors speak, traveled miles to go to book signings, but when it came to seeing live music, I never had the time or money. Or interest, for that matter. As much as I love music, I never really wanted to go see my favorite bands live.

7. I originally went to school for acting

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When I was a kid, I used to watch my sister rehearse for plays and since I wanted to be just like her, I adopted her goals as my own. I liked telling a story, even if it wasn’t my own, and for a little while, it made me happy. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college did I realize I wasn’t as passionate as other actors out there. I hung up my costumes and switched my major to art. I never was able to finish college. Money got tight, and I’m only a few credits short of graduating.

6. I collect tarot cards
This isn’t something I advertise. When people think of tarot cards, they usually get negative connotations, especially if you grew up in a traditional Southern Christian family like me. I was given my first deck as a gift back in 2008, when someone found out I liked a particular artist, and my collection has grown to about 21 decks by today. Most of them were purchased as a way to support indie artists, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing how much work get put into them.

5. I prefer to write male protagonists
I have no idea why I prefer to write male characters over female. I just do. My husband says I do a decent job, so I figure there’s no harm in it.

4. The only genre I haven’t tried to write is horror
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It’s not that I don’t like horror. It’s just never been a genre I’ve gotten attached to. While I like psychological thrillers such as the works of Tom Harris, or suspenseful sci fi horror, such as Alien or the short film Zygote, I’m not one for writing it. My love of horror has taught me the importance of narrowing your focus to build tension, however.

3. My husband contributes more than people might realize
Whenever I’m looking for inspiration, I just ask my husband what he would do. Most of the time, he provides insight on my plots that I would never have thought of. He’s a more grounded person when it comes to looking at problems, while I can get a little lost in the crowd. He helps remind me that sometimes less is more.

2. I learned how to create characters through role playing forums.
I don’t bring up my role playing past very often, but during my senior year of high school I was introduced to role playing and it improved my writing like crazy. While I admit it gave me a few bad habits I had to break, it also taught me the importance of well rounded characters, avoiding cliches, and how to create backstories to play into the main plot. It also taught me what not to do, which I think is all the more important when it comes to the learning process.

1. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the encouraging of one special person.

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Oh Alaska, you’re not crazy, but our love of Stranger Things makes me happy. 

While there’ve been many people in my life who’ve encouraged me, if it weren’t for my friend, “Alaska” as I’ve been calling her on my blog, I probably would’ve given up writing. After 2012/2013 knocked me down, I was half tempted to throw in the towel and not do anything creative again. She picked me up and dusted me off and reminded me that no matter what happens in my life, I can overcome anything. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, and I hope to one day be able to repay her for being there for me when I needed her.

Book Lovers’ Monday – What I’m Reading

Welcome to my first “Book Lovers Monday”, where you can expect to find calls for favorite novels, book reviews, and author interviews.

Today’s Book Lover’s chat is about the books I’m reading and what I currently think of them.

I’m not the type of person who can read one book at a time. I like starting between two to five and then work my way through them like a kid with too many choices of cake, eating a bite of each one before I decide which one to devour completely.

Right now, I’m on a serious high fantasy kick. I’ve been toying with a story that’s like the Dragon Age franchise meets The Last Unicorn, with a sprinkle of Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Rampant series. So, to give me some inspiration, I took the advice of my best friend and one very helpful Barnes and Noble employee and found the following.

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1. The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

Recommended to me by my best friend, and then a coworker when she found out I was looking for high fantasy novels.

Where am I at? – Page 14
Thoughts so far – As enjoyable as the first 14 pages can be. I like the author’s writing style and his religion and world layout is well built.

 

2. Dreamer’s Pool – Juliet Marillier619nuraf2bll-_sx308_bo1204203200_

Recommended to me by a Barnes and Noble employee I talk with from time to time. While she’s not a writer, she’s a huge fan of the processes, and helping up and coming writers. She suggested I try Dreamer’s Pool after I said I enjoyed Tamora Pierce as a kid.

Where am I at? – Page 6
Thoughts so far – Starts with Blackthorn at the lowest of low, a great place to hook your reader and I’m definitely curious where she plans on taking it.

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3. The Stolen Throne – David Gaider

Recommended to me by no one, just my weird love with the Dragon Age universe. I’ve been hooked on the video games since I first played Dragon Age: Origins, and after playing through Inquisition I needed more of Thedas.

Where am I am? – Page 144

Thoughts so far – It’s a little rough, if I’m being completely honest. It reads like a book by someone who writes video game scripts, not book manuscripts, but I have to admit, I still really love it. It’s probably because I’ve got a soft spot for the games, so if you haven’t played them I’d say you probably could skip putting this one on your reading list.

 

 

What books are you reading right now? Are you a one at a time person or a multiple reader? Have a high fantasy book you can recommend? Comment below and let me know!

Why I Loved Fantastic Beasts

I put off watching the latest instalment to the Harry Potter world up till a few days ago for a number of reasons.

Bad reviews, lack of interest, and no time to go to the movies all contributed to the time gap between release and my viewing. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m kicking myself for not jumping on board sooner.

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I mean, Eddie Redmayne was just so perfect, how did I doubt that I’d like this movie?

Now, I’m going to praise this movie and the actors quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws (No Mag…I mean…). That being said, you can find plenty of negative reviews on this movie. This one is why I enjoyed it.

First off, Newt. Most reviewers complained about this character. He wasn’t outgoing enough, he didn’t look like a “strong male protagonist” and he lacked the extroversion from previous Harry Potter characters.

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He even admits that most people don’t like him, and are even annoyed by him. 

Now, to interrupt my own blog post, as I so often do, I’m not someone who has a problem with overly masculine protagonists. In fact I like a great deal of “traditional strong men” characters.

That being said, it was refreshing to see the portrayal of an introverted male protagonist, and so well done! Newt is shy, doesn’t like looking people in the eye, and closes up when pressed for personal information. He doesn’t give long winded exposition about his past, or try to be some sort of hero. If anything, he’s just trying to get back to writing a book and when the female lead falls for him, she doesn’t do so because he’s physically strong, instead it’s because of how gentle he is.

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Plus, I feel like there’s a lot to be said when it comes to that romantic sublot. They don’t fall into each other’s arms after only knowing each other for three days, which is definitely refreshing. 

Next off, the creatures. I’m a bit of an American Folklore fan. I’m not nearly as well read as I’d like to be, but I’m working on learning more the older I get. When I first read Rowling’s take on American creatures, I was disappointed. For as much research as she put into European folklore, there seemed to be a disconnect when it came to her American studies. One of my main reasons for being so hesitant to watch the movie was because I wasn’t sure if the creatures would turn out, well under written and cheesy. I’m sure someone might say they weren’t up to par with the creatures in the original Harry Potter books, however, I found them extremely enjoyable.

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In fact, the subplot of chasing down these creatures was one of the more enjoyable ones in the films. 

Lastly, the secondary characters. Newt’s best friend, Jacob, wants to be a baker. Gnarlack stole the show with the fantastic raspy voice of Ron Perlman. Porpentina makes bad decisions, ones she has to atone for, and eventually sees the error of, and her sister Goldie gets to be a hero in her own way, even though she’s a fairly typical feminine side character. They all had a chance to be in the spotlight and with such a big cast it was great to see everyone behave so much differently from one another.

As for the complaints people had against the movie. Was the movie racially diverse? No.  Was the plot line completely cohesive? Not exactly, there were a few holes I noticed. And was Newt an “outgoing protagonist”? No, like I already said, he was pretty introverted. But I’m still a fan of this movie. It was well acted and well made, and I hope they continue to make more movies along this timeline, with Newt as lead.

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What did you think of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”? Were you a fan or were you disappointed? Let me know below!

Is your author platform shareable???

What a great informational post about engaging with your audience. I definitely could stand to do more when it comes to the interacting with other authors and bloggers. Thanks for such an amazing post Mercedes!

Mercedes Prunty Author

Are you not getting much action or shares, are people ignoring you and not engaging in your posts? Maybe its time for a social media clean up…

  • So it’s time to look through your social media platforms and see if there is anything we need to clean up. Do your pages hold anything that some of your readers might find offensive? E.G. Political views, Religious posts, and even some personal posts might be seen as offensive, even if you don’t mean them to come across that way. Yes ‘you’ like everyone else has their opinions and it can sometimes make for a good debate on certain topics but its normally best to leave them to you personal pages that your readership, fans and maybe potential publishers and editors can’t see. You don’t want to tarnish your author platform before you’ve even got started on becoming a brand name. (Unless it…

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How Artists Can Promote Your Book

Jessica Ingold recently put out a tweet asking for “new and different ways to promote her books”. It got me thinking about a way authors occasionally overlook that would help not only themselves but other artists as well.

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I don’t make it a secret that I love to draw. In fact, I have an Instagram and a Deviant Art dedicated to building my writer’s platform through art. One thing I’ve found, however, is that the best way to promote myself isn’t to plaster up ads on Facebook or spam my twitter followers with automatic messages. It’s to get other artists involved in my work.

Here are two ways to create healthy relationships with artists to help promote your work.

1. Have a contest.

One of the first ways I got my writing on the radar was to hold a contest. I put up 7 scenes, between 3 and 5 pages each, from different short stories, one offs, and the novel I was working on and asked artists to draw what they interpreted from the passages. What I wound up getting was not only people reading my work, but also artists posting up artwork of the pieces that linked back to my page.

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This was done by Kennie (bootyfeathers) who enjoyed the drawings I posted along with short stories so much, they started doing fan art. We’ve stayed in contact over the years, and they’re someone I hold near and dear to my heart as an artist.

2. Hire Artists

If you have the money, this is the fastest way to get artwork. Many artists will put up some information about what they’re drawing, or what the story’s about for their fans to get some extra information about what they’re looking at, so feel free to ask for them to link back to your website, amazon, or any social media.

You can also hire artists to design characters for you to use in stories or novels. When people see a character design, they usually begin to wonder “What’s the story with this person?” That being said, some don’t like their artwork being used for momentary gain, other’s don’t care, so be sure to ask your artist when hiring if you’re going to use the character in a book /short story you plan on submitting for money.

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I met Madisen (Inkyness) through art as well. She’s done some great work for me, both as gifts, but also as commissions.

 

Here’s a big “don’t list” when it comes to working with artists.

  • Don’t offer them publicity as payment. Publicity doesn’t pay bills or put food in your stomach.
  • Don’t ask for artwork for free. It’s insulting. You wouldn’t write a whole book for someone for free just cause they wanted it would you?
  • Don’t offer payment when you “hit it big”. That could take years, and artists don’t want to wait around for that to happen.
  • Don’t hire artists you know nothing about, check reviews for artist. I paid fifty bucks one time for a character design and the person vanished. I’m still a little stung over this.
  • Don’t use their artwork for unintended purposes. Many artists have copyrights, so be sure you’re following them if you post the artwork elsewhere, or want to use it in promotional items.

Hope that opens some doors for you as far as hiring artists and looking for promotion!

Author. Blogger. Traveler.