Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pubslush Campaign: How to Donate

On Wednesday, October 1st, I begin my Pubslush campaign to raise money (I hope) to self-publish my first novel, THE CHANGELINGS. This is a first for me in every sense of the word, but I hope to do my best and learn from the experience.

What is Pubslush?

Pubslush is an online website that helps writers raise money for their projects. It works by crowdfunding: many friends and strangers pledge small donations that add up. In exchange, I offer prizes as small tokens of my appreciation.

When you pledge, you don't actually pay until my campaign has reached its minimum goal of $500. If I don't reach $500, you don't pay at all--because I don't get any money. :( Nor do you get prizes. Instead, we just shrug our shoulders, sigh, and go on with our lives.
Coming January 2, 2015

Why do you need to fundraise?

I'm excited to be self-publishing my first novel, THE CHANGELINGS, which means I have more control over my work and get a higher percentage of royalties. Although technology has brought down the cost, it's still expensive. For example, did you know ISBNs (that little number/ barcode that identifies the book), cost either $125 for one or $300 for ten. It also cost money to register as your own press, pay for your own cover art and editing, and advertise the book. As a substitute teacher, money is tight, so I'm hoping fundraising will help offset some of the start-up costs to publishing.

What are the prizes and when do I get them?

For prizes I have signed bookmarks of THE CHANGELINGS ($5), a homemade hand-stamped card ($10), a Kindle version of my book ($25), set of 4 cards plus the Kindle version of the book ($50), and your name in the Acknowledgement Page of my book ($100). There may also be a bonus prize in the middle of the campaign--I'm still working it out.

If the campaign is successful, you should get the cards, bookmarks, and bonus prizes sometime in November. Anything related to THE CHANGELINGS will arrive early in January.

Can I still help if I'm broke?

Yes. You can get the word out to anyone interested or become a fan of the project simply by clicking the orange flag. I'll be grateful for any and all support!

How to Contribute

Step 1: Create An Account

Go to pubslush.com and either sign in through Facebook or use your email and create a password. It should only take a minute. (Sidenote: Some browsers work better than others. Mozilla Firefox works well for me.)

Step 2: Find My Campaign

You can click on this link: https://pubslush.com/project/3347and it should pop up.

If that fails, hit the "Discover" button at the top of the page. You will see a magnifying glass icon and a search button. You can type in either my name: "Rebecca Lang" or my title: "THE CHANGELINGS" and it should pop up at the bottom of the screen. Press on it and you can go on your merry way.

Step 3: Pledge Your Support

You have two options here.

Option #1: You can hit the "Support this Project" button. Another screen will pop up. You can then hit the reward you want, pledging the amount listed, or type in a different amount you would like to donate. Please note, if you do not click on the reward button, you will not get the reward!

Option #2: You can scroll down and click on the reward you want. You will automatically pledge that amount and be registered for that reward.

Step 4: Send Me a Note

This is optional, but I'd love to hear from you. 

Also, if there's a particular card you want (shown here), please let me know. Supplies are limited, but if you give me your top 3, I will do my best to accommodate you.

Step 5: Put in Credit Card Information

They'll ask you for name, card number, expiration, CVC, and billing zip code. Transactions are handled through a 3rd party and should be safe. You do have the option of canceling any time before the

Step 6: Tell Your Friends

Hopefully, together we can raise at least $500, so that I can keep the money and you can reap the rewards! :)

If you have any questions or run into any trouble, please email me at Reddragonfly1285@yahoo.com and let me know. I will do my best to answer them/ fix it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Card Types

Having gone through how I make cards, I wanted to show you the kinds of cards I have available. Often as I create them, my writing instincts kick in and I think of little stories to go with them. I hope you don't mind if I share the stories with you.

You can take home a one-of-a-kind card with a $10 donation on Pubslush, starting October 1st. You will also get a bookmark and a signed thank you. All proceeds will go toward the publication of my first novel, THE CHANGELINGS. For more information about my campaign, go here.

Splashing Dolphin

A lighthouse stands on a rock in the middle of the ocean, while dolphins splash joyfully around it. This card reminds me of summer.
Splashing Dolphin
I used spiraled paper to represent the waves, a dotted block of gray to represent the rock, and embossed "Life is Beautiful" on a sunshine yellow square.

Cards Remaining: 7


A sinuous dragon with the Chinese characters for "Love," "Thanks," and "Happiness" embossed underneath it.
I chose a very fragile Japanese paper to go underneath, but I realized it needed something else, and the only thing that seemed to work with it was a Medieval pattern. So my dragon has a bit of Western influence. The card is actually lime green and not the yellow my camera picked up.

Cards Remaining: 5

Hummingbird: Gold Crown

A brilliant green-jeweled hummingbird in a sunny circle embellished with gold crown decal and spots of glitter.
Hummingbird: Gold Crown
Originally, I was trying to use up these bright sparkly pink cards without making it nauseatingly girly. So I added the blue paper and gold decals. For some reason, I think the card had a bit of an Indian feel to it.

Cards Remaining: 3

Hummingbird: Green Vine

The blue-green humming bird hovers in a palace vine trellis, sipping the nectar of a single violet Morning Glory.
Hummingbird: Green Vine
This is my personal favorite of the hummingbird, as I like the different plays of greens and pinks. I used green decal, peach flower cutouts, and pops of glitter to suggest that the garden is just outside a jeweled palace.

Cards Remaining: 2

Other Hummingbirds Remaining: 3

Japanese Girl: Harvest Festival

A Japanese girl in a lavender kimono stands in the rice fields as the last dragonflies of autumn flit around her.
Japanese Girl: Harvest Festival
My friend gave me this beautiful crimson Japanese paper, and I just couldn't find a good opportunity to use it until now. I think of the girl as living in a tiny village, all dressed up to celebrate the annual rice harvest.

Cards Remaining: 3

Japanese Girl: Culture Day

A happy girl in a turquoise kimono stands in front of a wall of painted blocks while an embossed "Life is Beautiful" floats in the sky.
Japanese Girl: Culture Day
Originally, I wanted this to be my "spring" girl to contrast with my "fall" girl, but as I chose the patterns it began to seem more like she was the "city" girl to contrast with the "country" girl. Her school is decorated with her class paintings and she's all dressed up to show her parents.

Cards Remaining: 2

Japanese Woman: Night

A beauty paler than the jealous moon runs across the night with a glowing lantern in her hand. What ghostly apparition will she encounter?
Japanese Woman: Night
All my choices here were meant to give the impression of a Japanese scroll painting depicting some fantastic fairy tale or ghost story. The brown textured card reminded me of the scroll, the dark Japanese paper reminded me of night, the pop of glitter reminded me of stars. I intentionally kept it simple to go with the Japanese aesthetic.

Cards Remaining: 5

Japanese Woman: Day

A beautiful woman crosses into a cool bamboo forest in the heat of the day when something catches her eye. It's the flower of happiness.
Japanese Woman: Day
This was also meant to depict a fairy tale, this one taking place in the daytime, which is why her lantern isn't lit. I wanted it to have an abstract feel, so I used a plain gold circle to represent the sun, orange Japanese paper for sunlight, and strips of printed paper for the forest.

Cards Remaining: 4

Mountain Wolf

A lone red wolf stands outside its mountain home.
Mountain Wolf
This was my first time working with the wolf stamp. I hate coloring with just grays, so I decided to make it a red wolf. Then I googled a red wolf, so I'd know how to color it. I used crack peach paper and soft blue swirls to extend the ground and sky and braided some ribbon into a decal for texture. I thought it came out pretty good.

Cards Remaining: 3

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Card-Making Process

Many of you know I've wanted to be a writer for years and years (since 6th grade!), but what you may not know is that I've spent just as many years on my hobby of card-making. For over 17 years, I've been honing these two crafts, and I think I've gotten pretty good at both.

My cards
Normally these cards take so much time and effort, I only give them out to friends and family for special occasions. But for a limited time, in order to raise funds for the publication of my novel THE CHANGELINGS, I'll be giving them away with a $10 pledge on Pubslush, starting this Wednesday, October 1st. This also includes a bookmark and signed thank you. For more information on my campaign, please go here.

So how do I make cards? Well, let me tell you a little bit about my process.

Step 1: Choose a Stamp

I use wooden stamps, a dry black ink, and white card paper for my stamps. These supplies can be bought at any craft store or online.
This hummingbird stamp is one of my favorites
When choosing a stamp, I consider the amount of white space in the stamp, because I like to color and you can't do it if the whole thing turns out black. I despise having to solely color with black, browns, and grays, so I look for designs that allow me to play with color, like this hummingbird.

Step 2: Color and Cut

Now comes the most time consuming part of the process: coloring and cutting the designs, which can take upwards of an hour, depending on how big and involving the stamp is.

For the most part, I use plain old Crayola colored pencils, the kind that come in a box of 50, supplemented with some metallic pencils (also Crayola, but harder to find) and a couple really expensive dollar-per-pencil colored pencils I got for Christmas one year.
Tools of the trade
The secret to vibrant colors? First, I trace over every major line with a darker, complimentary color. (For skin, I usually use mahogany and peach.) You might not notice it at a glance, but trust me, it makes all the difference. The second trick is simple: color really hard! 

My goal is to annihilate any white space (unless the white is intentional, like with snow) I see. After coloring inside the lines, I might even color around the outside of the stamp (typically with yellow), so that when I cut it out, you can't see the white paper I used. It also makes the stamp stand glow.

Step 3: Choose Paper and Accompaniments

If you get the nice stuff, this can get expensive fast, so I usually shop during sales and keep every scrap of paper. I was lucky that my aunt has a craft room stuffed with pretty papers, stickers, ribbons, cutters, and embossers, which she lets me use for free.
Pretty paper and glitter
 I buy cards in big stacks of 80 for $20, or about a quarter a pop. The problem is you may end up with colors you don't want (pinks and yellows, in my case), so you have to play around with other scraps of papers and hope you come across a combination that strikes you. This part is full of improv and discovery.

Aside from the paper, I also break out other accessories, such a ribbons, cutouts, and glitter. I look for things that give texture and a pop of sparkle. I also typically stamp and emboss words, "Life is Beautiful" being my favorite.

In general, my supplies run out quick, which is part of the reason my cards never quite look the same. Whether I want to or not, I have to start all over again with the next set of cards I make.

Step 4: Arrange and Glue

Typically, I just use glue sticks for the paper, although I do have stronger stuff for pieces of fabric, ribbons, and delicate pieces of paper. Most of my stamped stuff gets foam mounting dots to raise it slightly and give it that extra pop. Then I apply glitter and wait for it to dry.
Final Product
 And there you have it: a beautiful card. On average, it takes me two hours of concentrated effort to complete the card, which doesn't include shopping for the supplies or cleaning up the incredible mess. 

Word of warning: Do not go into the craft room! It's a war zone!

Is Card Making Right for You?

The good news is that card-making can be fairly cheap to start. All you need is one or two really special wooden stamps, a black stamp pad, some white card stock, blank cards, a couple of choice papers, and leftover school supplies. A canny shopper could probably scrounge up these supplies for $20 or less.

For me card-making is a good way to relax. I usually pop in an old movie and listen to it as I color. Card-making favors hoarders with a creative streak, who may spend years coming up with a nice collection of stamps, scraps, and decorative items. Sure, you can buy pre-made sets, but that adds up and (in my opinion) it's not nearly as fun.

As you get better, you may want to invest in some nice stamping equipment. The number one special effect I use is my embosser, which means a special embossing ink pad, embossing powder (gold and silver are the best), and a heat gun. People who can't stand crooked edges may also want to invest in a good paper cutter. There are all sorts of cool card-making accessories available, but it adds up, so buy wisely.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Case You Missed It: Margaret Coel at Brea Library

Who: Margaret Coel
Where: Brea Library
When: Saturday, September 6th

Margaret Coel
Margaret Coel is the New York Times bestselling author of the Wind River Reservation mysteries, which currently numbers about 18. When I walk into the library, the owner of Mystery Ink bookstore has set up a table with 17 out of 18 of those books--everything except the first novel, The Eagle Catcher.

I settle into my seat, and she begins to speak. Margaret Coel is an older lady with short brown hair, wearing a black shirt, a black and white skirt, and a big bright turquoise necklace. She seems to know exactly what she wants to say, for she speaks without hesitation and goes right into her talk.

(Please note: my quotes aren't perfect. I was using pen and paper and scribbling as fast as I could.)

* * *

"People always ask me, 'Is Wind River a real place?' " Margaret says. "Yeah, it absolutely is."

Though the reservation is a speck in the middle of Central Wyoming, but it's still bigger than all of Delaware and Connecticut. It houses both the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes. Now, the Arapaho were originally from the plains of Colorado and the Shoshone were their traditional enemies.

"The government, in its infinite wisdom, put them together," she says drily.

Wind River Reservation
When the government took the Arapaho's land, they were supposed to reserve a portion for them to live on. But by 1878, it still hadn't happened. Finally, their chief had to plead with their enemy, the Shoshone, to "come and live under their blanket." According to Margaret's friend on the reservation, "When we finally trickled in, we were about 800--and we were a pitiful lot."

They thought the arrangement would be temporary. One hundred and fifty years later, they're still there. But the landscape of Wyoming turned out to be much like the plains of Colorado, and this is partially what drew Margaret in.

"I grew up in Colorado and I love it."

To others, however, the landscape may be an acquired taste. Father John, one of her amateur detective, comes to the reservation from Boston, going from a lush forest scape to what he sees as empty land. He describes it as, "the landscape of the moon."

"Now I always give my manuscript to my Arapaho friends to look over and make sure there's nothing offensive," Margaret says. "When my friend came to that line, she was horrified. 'You can't say that. It's insulting.' "

Her friend explained that the land was given to them by the creator and is considered sacred and beautiful. Margaret agrees. "But I didn't say it 'the landscape of the moon.' Father John said it."

Her friend re-considered. " 'Okay, you can use it. As long as we know he's wrong.' "

* * *

But how did Margaret decide to write mysteries centered on the Wind River Reservation? It began when she decided to write the history of Chief Left Hand, a Arapaho leader who lived in the mid-1800s, when everything changed. Gold was discovered in Colorado, and 100,000 people flooded the state. "To the Arapaho, it seemed as if all the white men in the world had come to their land."

Chief Left Hand
Writing about Chief Left Hand took Margaret into the Arapaho world. She visited the reservation for background information. A little later she went to a conference with Tony Hillerman, who writes Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels. Up until then, Margaret wrote non-fiction, but listening to Tony, she thought, "I can do that."

Later, when she became friends with Tony, she told him the story of seeing him there. He laughed. "I had no idea I was the responsible for Father John and Vicky," he said.

Father John and Vicky are the main characters of her series. When Margaret started thinking about who she wanted her detectives to be, she decided she wanted outsiders, "because that's what I am." She learned there was a Jesuit mission on the reservation. Recognizing the need for education, the Arapaho invited the Jesuits in, gave them the land, and "tolerated them through the years." Father John arrives as an outsider to both their culture and to the west.

Vicky, an Arapaho lawyer and advocate, came about because Margaret wanted strong female lead and an Arapaho voice. Though she is very much a part of her people, Vicky had to venture into the outside world in order to get her law degree. Like Father John, she is one of what the Arapaho call the "Edge people"--people on the border of two different cultures.

* * *

When people ask Margaret where she gets her ideas, she says they come in pairs. For example, her latest book, Night of the White Buffalo.

The latest Margaret Coel mystery
She'd always wanted to write about the birth of a white buffalo. In a Sioux myth that migrated through the tribes, a white buffalo woman came from the spirit world and gave the plains Indians their prayers and ceremonies and taught them how to live their lives. "I will return in times of need." When a white buffalo is born, it's a sign the creator is still with them and still cares for them.

Back when the plains were "an undulating brown ocean of buffalo," the birth of a white buffalo was probably a more common event. Now, with a few thousand left alive, decades can pass before a white one is born.  When it is, people come from everywhere to see the baby buffalo, trampling the pastures, overwhelming the few motels and unsuitable country roads. Though a nuisance, it can also be quite profitable for the rancher, as people do bring donations.

"I thought about what would happen if a white buffalo was born on the Wind River Reservation, what the consequences of that might be," Margaret says.

But that was only one idea, and she needed a second. It came to her in the form of cowboys. They're still around, a very nomadic people, and their lives are tough. Margaret read a case in newspaper where all the cowboys on the ranch disappeared. What happened was shocking.

"Since I write history, I like to bring history into all my books. In my first draft, I dump it in, but since few people want to read 15 pages of history, I go back and reel it in."

So Killing Custer centers on re-enactors of the Battle of Little Big Horn, Buffalo Bill's Dead Now has to do with Arapaho that went to Europe for the showman's Wild West Educational Exhibition, and Silent Spirit talks about Indians who went to Hollywood in the 1920s to play extras in Westerns. Although some chapters go back in time, the main story is grounded in the present.

"Usually, there's a crime in the past, a crime in the present, and they're related."

* * *

Now it's time for questions.

A member of the audience wants to know her research method. "Do you write the story first and research later, or visa versa?"

It's a combination of the two. She starts off doing general research, say, about buffalo and its birth, getting enough information to build a story. Then she start to write it. When she comes to a part she doesn't know, she makes a note to back and research more. Once she gets a draft down, she fills in the gaps.

One thing she doesn't do is write up a long, tedious 90-page outline. "If I did that, I wouldn't write the book." Instead it's like coming up with a road map for a long trip. She knows she needs to start here, go there, end up there. But she doesn't know what will happen on the way: the side trips, the people you meet, the surprises.

"The day my characters stop surprising me, will be the day the story ends."

* * *

Rita, a girl from my writer's group, raises her hand. "Do you have a specific system for getting yourself to write?"

"I have a deadline," Margaret says.

She sits down at her computer by 9:00 AM every morning except Sundays, whether she feels like it or not, whether if she thinks what she's writing is boring or not. "If you make yourself write, pretty soon you feel like it."

"But when you get stuck, do you have a method to overcome it?" Rita persists.

"I don't think writer's block exists," Margaret says.

She admits that a writer might come to a tough part in the book and not know how to continue. At that point, you need to trust in yourself and keep writing.

"You can call it Writer's Block, but I just call it avoidance." However, she does advise that you don't need to write things in chronological order. Just start with the most interesting thing and use that to get into the story.

* * *

"What drew you to the Arapaho?" asks another member of the audience.

As a 4th generation Coloradan, Margaret grew up on old stories her family would tell. Soon, she started getting interested in the people who had been there before. The Arapaho interested her because they were the "businessmen of the plains," always trading among the tribes. As such, they were peacekeepers, "because war is bad for business." At the same time they were a spiritual people and still are today.

While researching them, she discovered Chief Left Hand, who happened to be fluent in English. This was an amazing thing. Back then, the common language on the plains was sign language. But when the gold rush came, who was going to deal with the white man? Chief Left Hand's ability to negotiate led to his rise. He strove for peace and was a hero. But, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." He died in the San Creek Massacre, giving his life for his people.

Margaret was so fascinated by Chief Left Hand, she set off to write a magazine article. "5 years later, I had a book."

* * *

Kaleo, who leads the Brea Library Writer's Club, gets in the last question. "Any advice to writers who want to be published?"

Writers today have a lot of options. First thing you have to do is finish the book and make it the best you can. Then you put on your business cap and figure out how to sell. You have to be able to support the book and bring people to it.