Cover Reveal: The Odyssey of the Monk

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dean K. Miller, a very talented writer, for his forthcoming book, The Odyssey of the Monk. Below is the cover I illustrated. The story is about a young orphaned monk who leaves the Buddhist temple he was raised in, to venture out on his own. It’s a beautiful story and will available as an e-book around October 1. You can read more about Dean and his other works at his blog and check out the other illustrations I did for the inside. I’m also in the midst of working on drawings for his poetry book, due out in November, so you’ll be seeing those shortly.

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Odyssey of the Monk Cover

I’ll update this post once the e-book is available, so stay tuned. In the meantime, visit Dean’s blog and be sure to check out his other wonderful book, And Then I Smiled: Reflections on a Life Not Yet Complete.


Mom Jeans or Butt Bling . . . How Do I Choose?

It’s been over a year since I bought new jeans and it was time for a new pair. I rank this type of endeavor with bathing suit shopping, and well, getting a pap smear. It doesn’t help that even in a city of 155,000, our shopping options are limited, especially since our mall is in the midst of renovations. It is what it is. But surely, there’s enough decent denim to cover this 37-year-old derriere. After a four-store excursion, this is what I’ve learned about my current options in my city:

MOM JEANS
Mom jeansFeaturing the high waist, roomy thighs and tapered leg. Fantastic. These would be perfect with my Rudolph Christmas sweater.

THE FADE OUT
Fade OutNot only does it look like you sat on a light table for days, you also get to have these fabulous faux creases, showcasing that you sat on a light table for days. I don’t about you, but I just love having these particular areas showcased.

BLINGY BOTTOMS
Blingy Bottom

As you can see, these are the most readily available option. Some even sport both fading and bling! I jokingly asked the sales guy if a pair of marshaling wands come with a purchase of these. Blank look. “You know, those handheld illuminated beacons airport signalers use to guide planes? These are like airport landing strips.” Ah, I then got the courtesy laugh and he politely pointed me to where I’d find the mom jeans. Poor guy, he’s just trying to pay for school.

Seriously, these are my options? I may be a 37-year-old wife and mother, but do I really have to be relegated to Lee comfort fit?! I don’t understand these trends in women’s jeans. Perhaps if I had two Boca chick’n nuggets for an ass (I’m a vegan after all), I might be able to get away with this, but even then, should I? Maybe for some women, their butt is so small, they need to bring attention to it; I’ve never had that problem. I fall in the range of size 6-10 (depending on the brand—and that’s a whole other blog post), so I most certainly don’t need jeans designed by a Las Vegas showgirl. Frankly, I think any woman, no matter what size she is, should never wear butt bling over the age of 18. (And I’m not even old fashioned; I have an arm full of tattoos.) But hell, if you can pull it off, more power to ya. For me, it’s a trend I’m all for boycotting. Sure, I could pay $80-$150 for less flashy designer duds, but I find that utterly ridiculous.

So I left these stores empty-handed and almost without my phone. Did you know you’re not allowed to take pictures inside Macy’s? Well, you’re not. My jeans are out there; I’ve found them before and I’ll find them again—with or without marshaling wands.

Butt BlingUgh.


2015 Top of the Mountain Book Award

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about when I blog again. Yes, it’s been almost a year. (I will be posting regularly from here on out.) I’m talkin’ about the Northern Colorado Writers’ Top of the Mountain Book Award that is open to published and unpublished authors, and for fiction and nonfiction. Deadline is February 1, 2015 but I advise you to get your entries in before the time-sucking phenomenon called “HalloThanksMas” takes over your life. Before you know it, you’ll be tossing your shriveled jack-o-lanterns in the trash and waking from your post Thanksgiving meal nap to the jolly jingles of “Deck the Halls.” And don’t make this a New Years’ resolution because who sticks to those anyway? (If you do, call me; there’s an article in that.) Did I mention, the top prize is $1000? I’m pretty sure last year’s winner put his winnings in a low-risk, high return investment and now writes bestsellers from his Swiss chalet. What I’m saying is, that could be you. Check out the rules. Enter. Good luck.


The Effect of Andrew McCarthy on the Female Brain, by Guest Author Katherine Valdez

Oh, Andrew . . .
My guest author, the talented Katherine Valdez, had an opportunity to chat with actor/director/author Andrew McCarthy earlier this year. I had also met him at the same event, and I think Katherine perfectly captured the essence of what it means to have “brain melt.”

Andrew McCarthy 719

As teenaged girls, we swooned over him and Rob Lowe getting into trouble in “Class,” romancing Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink,” and falling in love with Kim Cattrall in “Mannequin.”

We feel like we know him. We refer to him by his first name. And when we see him in real life, part of our brain melts.

This is the effect of Andrew McCarthy on the female brain, a.k.a Brain Melt. I know it’s real, because it happened to me.

Earlier this year, I attended the Northern Colorado Writers conference, featuring actor/director-turned-bestselling-author Andrew McCarthy as the keynote speaker.

I joked a couple of times with NCW Director Kerrie Flanagan about picking him up at the airport, a challenging task she had selflessly decided to take on despite her hectic schedule. I volunteered to put my heart on the line, too. “If you need help, I’m available,” I emailed, punctuating my offer with a smiley face.

Still, when I attended the volunteer training – a dozen of us answered Kerrie’s request for help as “ambassadors” – I was surprised to see my name printed on the assignment sheet next to the task “Book Signing.”

Kerrie requested one more volunteer for that task, and my friend Dori added her name. We chatted calmly about Meeting a Famous Actor, and pretended the teenybopper part of our brains wasn’t screaming and jumping up and down.

The big day arrived. I spotted him walking through the hotel lobby. In a burst of confidence, I called out his name.

“Andrew!”

He stopped and smiled.

“Hi, I’m Katherine. I’m going to assist you with your book signing tonight.”

“Hi.”

“Your essay ‘Going Back In’ really spoke to me,” I said, referring to his first-person account of a young woman’s death years ago in Wyoming during an outdoors leadership backpacking trip. “I backpacked the Wind River Range once with my husband. I mean, my ex-husband. I’m divorced.” I realized I was babbling. “We saw a lot more people than we wanted to.”

“The Wind sees a lot of people. I’ve spent a lot of time in Lander going on trips,” he said, mentioning the town where backpackers launch their expeditions.

“We hiked in about 12 miles and there were crowds,” I said. “We even saw a Paris Hilton-type girl carrying her little dog.”

He smiled, as though he sympathized with our quest for solitude.

“We went up Fremont Peak and there was only one other person, so it was nice to get away for a while.”

He said something about the mountain, but I can’t remember, because I was too busy thinking I’M TALKING WITH ANDREW MCCARTHY!

“You know Fremont?” I asked him. “You’ve been up it?”

“Yeah.”

“The summit is so exposed, like ‘I don’t want to look down,’ ” I said with an embarrassed laugh.

Aware that I was starting to make a fool of myself, I said in closing, “I hope you have a chance to explore a bit before you leave town.”

He perked up. “What do you recommend?

“A good hike with a view of the whole city is hiking up to the “A” above the football stadium. You go all the way west on Prospect…” I pointed in the wrong direction.

“This way is west?” He pointed in the opposite direction.

“Yes, all the way west on Prospect and there’s a gate and you walk up a hill that leads to the trailhead, and you hike up the ridge to the white “A” painted on the hill above the stadium, and you get a view of the entire city.”

“How long does it take?”

“If you hike at a brisk pace, about a half-hour one way. So, go all the way east on Prospect…”

“East or West?” He smiled.

The painful realization struck me: I was suffering from Brain Melt.

“I’m sorry, West,” I said. I need to stop talking, NOW.

Andrew wore a slight smile on this face during our entire conversation, as though he knows the effect he has on women. No doubt he’s witnessed Brain Melt many times.

The irony is I hate the idea of being star-struck. When I see ordinary people screaming and falling all over themselves in the presence of a celebrity, I think, “C’mon, he’s Just a Normal Person.”

What the heck was I thinking? Of course he’s not Just a Normal Person. He’s a Movie Star. He traveled to India in search of the perfect cup of tea, went diving for black pearls in French Polynesia, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and published articles about these adventures and more. And, of course, he’s the author of a best-selling memoir, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down.

The best possible thing happened next. He turned away from my Advanced Brain Melt deteriorated state to talk with two female writers who waited patiently at his side.

I was so relieved. And just a tiny bit disappointed. But mostly grateful this episode of epic humiliation had come to an end.* Note to Self: Don’t ever talk to a famous person again. Ever.**

Later, Dori and I showed up at the book signing table, only to find that a vivacious redhead had appointed herself Andrew’s assistant, single-handedly corralled everyone into a line, and asked them to open their copies of Andrew’s memoir to the title page, ready for him to sign.

Dori and I swallowed our disappointment, and exchanged amused smiles. Brain Melt had claimed another victim.

—-

Katherine Valdez is the author of “Close Encounters with David Sedaris” and “Little Red Riding Hood Seeks Vengeance.” If you subscribe to her blog and like her author Facebook page, she would be glad to entertain you with more embarrassing, true stories.
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 Footnotes:

 *With a fist bump to Aisha Tyler, comedian and author of Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation

 **With apologies to Taylor Swift, “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together.”

 


A Writer’s Retreat a.k.a. Naptime

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I just returned from the NCW annual writer’s retreat held at the Shambhala Mountain Center near Red Feather Lakes, CO. Maybe it was the soothing incense wafting about, the 8,000+ feet in altitude, or that the staff and other visitors seemed to peacefully float about with serene expressions on their faces, that I found myself to be rather sleepy on this particular retreat. Despite this, however, I only took one 90-minute snooze, which I chalk up to hours of vigorous writing, part of which, took place outside in the warm mountain air. Although my toasty room, equipped with a comfy bed, may have contributed.

Retreat1This was the first time the retreat had been held at the SMC, but I had visited the center once before. There were some rules to follow . . . one of which, was removing shoes when entering the housing facility. It took me two days, but I finally learned in the end, to strategically plan my outings to ensure the least amount of shoe removal. But up until then, I repeatedly forgot which entrance I left my shoes at. But I survived. The highlight of the center is of course, The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya that stands 108 feet tall and took 13 years to construct. It is considered one of the largest and most significant pieces of sacred Buddhist architecture and said to “promote harmony, prosperity, longevity, good health and peace.” Sounds good to me.

Retreat2All zenful shenanigans aside; I did get a good amount of writing done. Even though I came there with a 20, 653 word manuscript and left with a 20, 875 word manuscript,  I still accomplished quite a bit: an outline (that otherwise did not exist) and I rewrote the first 4 chapters because originally, they sucked. I came away with a much better WIP and I was able to work out some plot issues so that I could move forward with it. Had I not gone on the retreat, I imagine the only writing-related thing I would have accomplished would have been playing Words with Friends and maybe a kick-ass grocery list, complete with clipped coupons . . . while burning incense. I needed this time away to focus on writing and get re-energized with this book I’m working on. Plus, it never hurts to be around other writers, snacks, and wine…just don’t forget your slippers.

20131109_083348A selfie with the Stupa.


2014 Top of the Mountain Book Award

TOM logo

The Top of the Mountain Book Award Contest is officially underway! This book award, given out at the Northern Colorado Writer’s annual conference in the spring, is  open to unpublished and previously published authors. Plus, the award money has been upped to $1,000! You do not need to be a member of the NCW, nor do you have to attend the conference to win (although you should really consider attending this highly-rated writer’s conference). Check out all the rules HERE and good luck!


Inspiration Passing You By

20130813_144500

As writers, we often hear our fellow kind talk about finding material by eavesdropping on conversations in coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Maybe I’m too busy inhaling my latte while focusing all my attention on Pinterest actual writing. Sure, if I happen to overhear great little tidbits of potential story dialogue, great, but I don’t make it a point to listen. However, this weekend, I learned that I could inadvertently gather inspiration by just walking through a little touristy town, minding my own business. I didn’t have to feel bad about listening in on anyone; these are folks just passing by, or ones I walked past. They were worthy of jotting down in my little notebook.

“We’re tourists; tourists do stupid shit.”

*

“Remember that cotton candy phase you went through?”

*

Wife: “Honey, look . . . I found something I can buy.”

Husband: “Imagine that.”

Sometimes, some of the best stuff comes completely out of context from people passing you on the street. Use them as a writing prompt for a story, create a character based on one, or simply construct a conversation based on one and work it into your WIP. This made me think about if I’ve said something that caused a passerby to think, “Did I just hear that?”


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