That Thing Where I Draw: Sunflowers

Well, the votes are in and you are looking at the new Author's Echo (unless you're in Reader, Facebook, etc., in which case everything looks exactly the same). I like this layout better (less clutter). Though I wish Blogger had more font choices for the blog title. Oh well, it's not perfect, but it's free. So who's complaining?

Not me.

Anyway, today's picture was commissioned by my wife, Cindy. It's the second largest picture I've ever drawn (about 10"x15"), which may explain the sometimes-poor attention to detail (I have a short attention span, sorry). But my wife likes it, and it's good practice for me in oil pastels.

Your Call: New Look

After God knows how many years of the same thirty-eight templates, Blogger has finally joined the 21st century with, not just new templates, but customizability (thanks to fairyhedgehog for the heads up). That means (1) I wasted my entire Saturday morning playing with it and (2) Author's Echo is about to get a new look.

But I can't decide on a background (I'll tweak fonts and colors later). I figured, since you guys will probably be looking at my blog more than I do,* you should be the ones to decide. I've narrowed it down to the four choices below; click the images for a larger version. The poll is at the end (if you're reading this in your e-mail, RSS reader, on Facebook, etc. you'll have to click through to vote).

* Most of my interaction with the blog is through the dashboard and e-mail, honestly.





(If you can't see the poll, click here).

Thanks for voting. Feel free to make further comments in the comments, as I reserve the right to ignore the results of the poll in favor of a really persuasive argument.

Why Bad Reviews Don't Matter

I figure I should post this before my writing gets out there. Before someone thinks this was triggered by a bad review of my own work. It's not.*

First, let's start with a given: There is not a single book, song, or piece of art that is universally loved (or hated). I think we can agree on that. The Bible? Simultaneously loved and hated. Manet? Unappreciated in his time. And believe it or not, some people hate U2 (I know!).

From this, we can assume one of two things:

  1. Some people just don't understand great art.
  2. Art is subjective.

If you've been around here for a while, you know where I'm going with this, but let's stick with logic. The first supposition can be true if and only if, for a given work of art, all those who love it are by some measure "educated" in what is good art, and all those who hate it are not. I don't think that's true. Unfortunately, I can't really prove it in a single blog post, so if you want to argue with me you're just going to have to provide a counter-example.**

Art is subjective. That means all reviews, good or bad, are a matter of opinion. Saying that the characters in Ghost Force were flat, dull, and indistinguishable only means that the characters didn't speak to YOU (or, in this case, me... I didn't like that book). Saying the writing in The Shack was awkward and annoying only means the writing bothered YOU (or me again, although I did like the ideas).

Now I don't think a blog post in my obscure corner of the verse will help reviewers express things as their opinion (though they should), but I say this for you writers out there, and everyone else involved in art of any kind. Bad reviews can't hurt you. At best, a bad review is something you can learn from. At worst, it just means someone didn't get what you created.

And that's okay.

Art moves people, but everybody is moved by different things. A friend of mine hates (HATES!) Finding Nemo, while I consider it a powerful movie. Is my friend wrong? Uneducated? Totally blind to the genius that is Pixar? (Yes.) No! My friend just isn't moved by themes of fatherhood like I am. And why should he be? It's not his heart. There's nothing wrong with my friend, with me, or with the movie. It is what it is. It moves whomever it moves.

You hear this all the time: you can't please everybody. We use it to dismiss a critique that makes us upset, but think about it. If you can't please everybody, it means you don't have to. This is freedom, folks. It's the freedom to write what you love. The difficulty lies, not in making people understand, but in finding those people who already do.

Of course you will continue to work on your craft. Of course you will strive to write something that many, many people can identify with and enjoy. To me, that's the fun of growing in this art. But in the end, you'll write what you write. You'll move whomever you'll move.

And if that jerk on Amazon doesn't get it, that's okay.

* It's actually a preemptive attack on FUTURE bad reviews. How's that for passive-aggression?

** HA! Passive-aggression again!***

*** You know, these footnotes are getting kind of passive-aggressive.

Show vs. Tell, in Which My Son Teaches Me About Writing

Writers are always told, "Show, don't tell." The other day, one of my 3-year-old boys gave me an object lesson on why that is:
DADDY: Nathan, that was naughty. You're on a timeout.

NATHAN sits on the step and cries for like an hour.*

N: Timeout over?

D: Your timeout will be over when you're quiet.

Nathan stops screaming for an entire breath.

N: Nathan's quiet already!

D: If you have to tell me you're quiet, you're not quiet.

But you know, sometimes it's okay to tell too.

DADDY: What are you eating, Nathan?

Nathan opens his mouth as wide as he can.

D (holding stomach): Thanks.

* Not actually an hour.

Books I Read: Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: 2009
Content Rating: PG-13 for violence

After barely surviving the Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself in even worse trouble. The Capitol blames her for uprisings in the Districts, and they want her to fix things on her Victory Tour. She has no love for the Capitol, but the last thing she wants is for anyone to die because of her, least of all her friends and family back home. But when a simple show of respect for a Hunger Games' ally triggers a minor rebellion, she doesn't know what to do. Can she make things right? Could she run away with those she loves? Or could she become the leader the Districts are aching for?

I was worried about this book at first. I thought the Games themselves were what I loved about the first one, and I wondered if any political tension would be as compelling. About the end of chapter 3, though, I was just as hooked. Turns out it's also the Big Brother-esque Capitol that I like -- the realization that the only happy ending would be if the Capitol was overthrown, while chapter after chapter the Capitol proves that will never happen.

So I really liked it. Every time I thought the story was slow or predictable (which was rare, but it happened), something occurred to make me sit up and go, "No way!"

With one caveat: I felt like Katniss was kinda thick-headed towards the end. It's not that she should've seen the end coming (I didn't see most of it coming either), but once it came Katniss just didn't seem to get it, even after it was explained to her. I guess it's her character -- she never figured out about Peeta until the end of the first one either -- but it felt overdone to me in this one. It didn't ruin the book for me, but if she doesn't pick up on things quicker in the third one, I might be upset.

Azrael's Curse

Cindy and Anica are home now, which is totally awesome. It also means I'm alternately busier than ever and totally bored/napping (much more the former). And for whatever reason, I don't feel like blogging much about writing. Life just feels a lot bigger right now. Don't worry, I'll get over it.

So I'm cheating today and pasting my query for Air Pirates, also known as Azrael's Curse. Feel free to fill the comments with criticism or praise if you like. Just don't be a meanie head.

Dear Agent:

For Hagai’s twenty-first birthday, his mother sends him a stone that gives visions of the future. But why did she send it, and how, since she was killed eighteen years ago? Hagai’s not exactly a hero -- the bravest thing he’s ever done is put peppers in his stew -- yet when the stone shows his mother alive and in danger, he sets out to find her.

Air pirates and sky sailors are also after the stone, and Hagai soon loses it to a wanted sky’ler named Sam. Sam wants the stone to help him avenge his father, but it only shows him one thing: his own death. Hagai, he learns, receives many visions. So when Hagai tracks Sam down and demands he give the stone back -- politely, of course, because Sam has a knife -- Sam offers him a job instead.

Now Hagai, who grew up wanting nothing to do with sky’lers, is crew to one and fugitive from both pirates and police. He’s not sure he can trust Sam, and the stone haunts Hagai with visions of his own death. Nonetheless, he’s determined to change the future and find his mother, if it’s not already too late.

AZRAEL'S CURSE is a 90,000-word science fantasy novel, available on request. It's written to stand alone but has series potential. My short story, “Pawn's Gambit” -- set in the same world as AZRAEL'S CURSE -- is due to be published in BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Adam Heine

I noticed at least one agent wanted the story described in one single paragraph. So here's the super-condensed version. I think I might like it better, but I'm still too close to it to tell (what with having written this version like 20 minutes ago):

For Hagai’s twenty-first birthday, his mother sends him a stone that gives visions of the future. But why did she send it, and how, since she was killed eighteen years ago? Hagai’s not exactly a hero -- the bravest thing he’s ever done is put peppers in his stew -- yet when the stone shows his mother alive and in danger, he sets out to find her. Hagai joins a crew of wanted sky sailors, becoming fugitive from both pirates and police. He's not sure who he can trust, and the stone haunts him with visions of his own death. Nonetheless, he's determined to change the future and find his mother, if it's not already too late.

My New Distraction

You may notice I missed a post yesterday. That's the first post I've missed since I decided to have a schedule, but I have a really good reason:

Also without the crying:

Her name is Anica Joy Heine, and she's going to ensure I never get anything productive done again.

And actually, I'm okay with that.

Seriously though, this space will be quiet until Friday, when I will attempt to present the appearance of normality once more. I'll be online, I just won't be writing anything new or witty. Which I guess is the same as always, but...

You know what? Whatever. I have a baby girl!