#SpeakOut Against Sexual Assault

This week’s blog post comes a couple days earlier than usual to help support the Book Sparks #SpeakOut campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault.

The campaign is raising money for the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC). Today, April 19th, 30% of all proceeds from the sale of It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany will be donated to KCSARC (be sure to email your receipt to alyssa@sparkpointstudio.com to verify the purchase!). It’s a great opportunity to grab a new book and do some good!

About the Book:

From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

About the Author:

Amy Hatvany graduated with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist. In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on her passion: writing books.

Her background in sociology inspires and informs much of her writing as she tackles timely and controversial issues in her novels including mental illness, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. She is the author of BEST KEPT SECRET, OUTSIDE THE LINES (a Target book club pick in 2012 and a Costco Pennie’s Pick in 2013), THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, HEART LIKE MINE, and SAFE WITH ME.

Amy spends most of her time today with her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done, kaput, no more husbands.) She stays busy with her two children, Scarlett and Miles, and her “bonus child,” Anna. Their blended family also includes two four-legged hairy children, commonly known as Black Lab mutts, Kenda and Dolcé.

When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking, or zoning out on certain reality television shows. Top Chef is a current favorite. She eagerly awaits auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!)

About KCSARC:

King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) provides sexual assault-related services for people of all ages in King County, WA, while working toward the ultimate goal of eliminating sexual violence and abuse from our communities. We’re on the frontline with victims and their families, ensuring that all people affected by sexual assault get the treatment they need and advocacy they deserve. We’re also at the forefront of change, guiding public policy development and delivering best practice education to create safer environments for everyone.

KCSARC’s overall purpose is to alleviate, as much as possible, the trauma of sexual assault for victims and their families. Our mission is to give voice to victims, their families, and the community; create change in beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors about violence; and instill courage for people to speak out about sexual assault.

#SteampunkHands Around the World: Making Life Better – Maker Culture

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

Today’s contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World focuses on the “maker culture” of steampunk. One of the primary draws of steampunk is the tangible nature of anachronistic technologies. You can see how the gears move, how pulling this lever activates motion here or there. It’s so entirely different from modern, “black box” technology.

“Maker culture” calls back to these tangible technologies. Makers create their inventions from scratch, with wood and brass and copper, or by re-purposing existing items. Makers work with their hands, get their hands dirty.

A lot of this is considered a “lost art” these days. Most people don’t build or fix things themselves anymore. You bring your car to the shop, you hire a plumber or an electrician. You bring your broken gizmo or gadget to a store where it’s simply replaced with a shiny new one. Maker culture is fighting this trend.

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Image from The Enchanted City

I attended a steampunk festival in Troy, New York this summer – The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World. This festival included events, such as the Inventor’s Challenge and the Mini Maker Fair, that encouraged participants to don their lab coats and goggles and get to work. The Mini Maker Fair, targeted toward kids, is especially important in my eyes. This is where steampunk goes beyond a whimsical genre of books or movies and becomes a force of real tangible good for young people. It encourages their creativity and challenges their problem solving skills. It builds a familiarity with mechanical and technical objects and ideas that will stay with them for years. Steampunk is helping to encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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Image from The Enchanted City

Morning Cuppa: Grigory’s Gadget

I’m so happy you enjoyed Grigory’s Gadget!

The Curious Adventures Of Messrs Smith And Skarry

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s delightfully diluvian parlour located within the splendidly slippery-when-wet city of Lancaster!

True some have called it a soggy slop house full of wet blankets but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find me this morning balancing precariously on lemonade crates and sheltering under parasols whilst Max attempts to plug the holes in the roof, walls, widows and doors with histrionic napkins. Yes that’s right, the frost is thawing all over the parlour, the biscuits are soggy and the tea set is afloat… on the plus side Montmorency is unable to get in and terrorise us into paying rent because scarecrows and water don’t get on apparently.

You may be wondering why an octopus like me is desperately trying to keep his tentacles dry during this deluge  but please take…

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The Benefits of Taking a Break From Your Project

We’ve all been there. You start a passion project – you’re so excited! – and you make progress and make progress and – hit a wall. Your passion disappears and your project becomes a chore. You lose your vision and your motivation.

I have to keep going, you tell yourself. If I stop working on this project, it will never get done!

Sometimes that’s true. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes taking a break is warranted, and beneficial.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in November, working on Serafima’s Stone. By the end of November, I was sick of my story. I didn’t like my characters, I didn’t know where my plot was going, I hated my writing style. I felt boxed-in: I wrote Grigory’s Gadget with the intention of having this sequel. I have to write this sequel! But I hate this sequel and have no idea what I’m doing!

So, during the entire month of December, I didn’t touch my story. I didn’t open Scrivener once for the entire month. I didn’t force myself to ponder the story, to try to figure it out. I just left it sitting patiently on my hard drive.

And do you know what happened?

During the month of December I was inundated with ideas and inspiration. I’d be listening to music (namely, the Westworld soundtrack) while working on a report in the office when – BOOM – I’d get an idea! Yes – that’s what motivates that character! Yes – that’s what will happen next! Yes – I need to work that detail in! I have a chain of emails I sent to myself in December, jotting down the ideas so I wouldn’t forget them.

When January 1st rolled around, I was itching to get back to writing my story. I like my characters again. My plot has a direction, and even a discernible  ending! I’m still critical of my writing style, but so is every author ever. At least now it’s not in a self-defeating way.

So if you’re working on a project – a story, artwork, etc. – and you’re getting stuck in a rut like I was, know that it is okay to take a break. Give yourself a time limit that works for you – take off a day, a week, a month, or even a year (sorry, a year is probably too long, I just got the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. theme song stuck in my head…) – and then jump back into your project.

And I’ll be there for yooouuu….

…sorry…

Year in Review: 2016

The year 2016 has been a roller-coaster-ride of a year. Between wars, crazy politics, and the huge number of celebrity deaths (on that note, I’m not a religious person, but isn’t there something in the bible about good people being sent to heaven right before the apocalypse, leaving only the sinners left on earth to suffer? Anyway…) a lot of us are ready to kiss 2016 goodbye.

But it wasn’t all bad! This year, I’m proud to say I became a published author, one of my life-long dreams. So below is my Year in Review for 2016, highlighting the milestones (some writing-related, some not) that have defined my personal journey this year.

I really encourage you all to sit down and make a similar list. What were the moments in 2016 you were proud of? No matter how big or small, try to remember every moment that made you happy. Did you reconnect with an old friend? Get acknowledged for your hard work? Meet a fitness goal? Find a new favorite movie?

Make the list, and if you still feel rotten about 2016, do what my friends and I are doing on New Year’s Eve: build a bonfire and burn 2016 calendars. I think it will be pretty cathartic.

The Collaborative Writing Challenge

I believe I’ve mentioned off-hand in previous blog posts that I’m participating in the Collaborative Writing Challenge Steampunk Challenge! I’m very excited about this project, which officially kicks off on December 30th.

The Collaborative Writing Challenge is a project where multiple authors (approximately 30!) work on a story together, chapter-by-chapter. All participants were able to submit their ideas for Chapter 1, which were due for this project on December 2nd. From there, the admins of the challenge selected their favorite three chapters. The participants are now voting on which of those chapters will become the official Chapter 1 of our story!

From there, 4-5 authors at a time will write submissions for subsequent chapters, which will then be voted on by all participants. Each chapter writer will receive the full Chapter 1, the full chapter prior to the one they will write, and a synopsis of every chapter in between. The writers will also receive thorough notes containing a list of characters, locations, and highlights. The result will be a 30-chapter novel written by up to 30 different authors!

There’s still time left to join the challenge if you want! Otherwise, stay tuned for news as the project moves forward. The final chapter submissions will be due in August 2017. From there, the novel will be edited and then published!

I also want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, Io Saturnalia, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Newtonmas, and Happy birthday to myself 😉

Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network Christmas Sale

This weekend, December 17th and 18th, the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network is hosting their annual Christmas Sale!

All weekend, authors of fantasy and science fiction novels, novellas, and short stories will be having awesome deals. Books will be either discounted or free, and there will also be giveaways and chances to talk with the authors! The sales will be posted in the Facebook event and on the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network website. Grigory’s Gadget is on sale for $0.99 until the end of the month on Amazon and Smashwords!

I’ll be hosting the event on Sunday December 18th from 12 to 1 pm EST. You’ll be able to find me on the Facebook event page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #FSFNet. Feel free to ask me any questions about Grigory’s Gadget, writing, reading, or anything else! I have some questions/prompts ready to go to get the conversation rolling, but feel free to chime in with whatever topic you want!