Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cook Read Digest book review and giveaway!

This post is my FIVE HUNDREDTH here on Allison Writes, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by promoting William Box's first short story collection! It will be available on Amazon on Saturday, but in celebration, I'm giving a gift of a FREE copy of his ebook! Read on for details.

First, a review:
Cook Read Digest is a short ebook of three flash fiction stories. They're so unique, I don't know what genre to group them in... They're fiction. And silly. Maybe even off-the-wall. Like Roald Dahl for grown-ups - though two stories could be enjoyed by kids (one is a bit racy). His writing is descriptive and concise, so even though his stories are farcical, you can picture it all clearly. I can't really explain the subject matter without giving away a lot, since they're just flash pieces, so all I'll say is - READ IT.

Regular readers might know him better as my boy/my fiancé, but William Box is also a writer. And an artist. And a great cook. And an even better griller. And my baby daddy. And I edited his collection, but I swear I'm not biased. You'll like him too, once you get to know him. In fact, let's make that happen with a short interview.

When did you start writing, and what did you write?
I started writing in early high school, and I mainly wrote poetry, usually with either a humorous or dark theme. I think it started off as an assignment for English class; the teacher liked it a lot and I realized I was a decent writer, so it graduated from poetry into stories - mostly flash and short stories. I've been writing ever since.
Your stories are very... unique. How do you come up with the ideas?
Sometimes it just starts as a "what if?" sort of thing. I'll mention it during a conversation to see where it goes. Other times ideas come from something I'm reading - a thought will stick in my mind and then I'll start expanding on it, and it keeps getting bigger until it becomes a story.
Why did you decide to self-publish rather than try the traditional route?
I have more creative freedom: I'm able to make and use my own book covers; I can do my own layout however I see fit; I can promote my own stuff to the audience I want it promoted to. I can offer myself more than any traditional publisher could offer me.
Does that mean you'll never work with a traditional publisher?
Not necessarily. It's possible, but my ultimate goal is to become a traditional publisher.
What do you plan to publish next?
As a publisher, I'm compiling an anthology of stories that aren't mine. As a writer, there's a novella that I've been working on. I'm also in the beginning stages of illustrating a children's picture book.
I have a lot of trouble juggling more than one creative hobby at a time. How do you balance writing and art?
A lot of times, I don't. I'll start on a story and get writer's block and move along to something artistic, whether it be drawing or painting or graphic art. Sometimes getting those creative juices flowing gives me ideas to go back to writing. Or vice versa.
When did you discover you were artistic?
When I was about five, I drew a picture of my mom with a heart-shaped head, heart-shaped body, heart-shaped hands - everything was heart-shaped. She even had a heart-shaped pocket on her shirt. My mom and her friends were playing rummy when I went to show it to her, and someone at the table looked at it and said "Why does she only have one boob?!" That was also my first criticism as an artist...
What made you decide to study graphic design?
I've always wanted to do something artistic, so when I graduated high school, I went to college for an associate's degree in art. I set out to get a job in the art field, but in small town Mississippi, that was pretty much impossible. I even called the art museum in Jackson, MS, but without experience nothing was available. I started working random jobs and joined the Air Force, but none of that was for me. After a few years, I moved to be closer to my family and met my fiancé. She was a graphic designer, and I saw what she did and realized that could be my artistic career.
So you have a background in traditional art. Do you favor one medium over another?
I prefer painting. It's just as much of an expression as it is a work of visual art. If you're drawing a picture, it's got to be a picture of something. If you're painting, it's just as much about your method of painting, your movements, the way you produce the art, as it is about the art itself.
Do you prefer graphic design over traditional art?
It's a hard question to answer. Traditional art is more expressive, but I feel like I can be more creative with digital art.
I know it's a tough question, but which do you like more: writing books or designing their covers?
It depends on the cover, for starters, because I have more creative influence over my own covers than those I make for others. But if I'm doing my own covers or writing my own books, I would have to say with writing, I feel like I'm getting more off my chest. It's like, 'this thing happened, and I don't want to be the only one who knows about it.' With my book covers, I'm trying to convey to the intended audience not only what the story is about, but also the emotion evoked.
Keep up with William Box on Facebook, and like his art page, LightBox Art. If you're in the market for a great looking book cover (or anything else under the artistic sun), let him know!

The ebook is now for sale on Amazon, but you can still comment here for a review copy if you have a book blog, Goodreads account, or Amazon account and are interesting in writing an honest review.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January Project: Dyeing

My January project was to finally dye the fabric I bought in... October? November? Too long ago.

I had already dyed my gray Ergo to a vivid purple, but the dyeing process for that was a bit different than for regular fabrics. Thankfully, it was more difficult to dye a carrier, so when I decided to dye some stuff this past weekend, it was a breeze!

I don't have a before picture of this jacket, but it was gray and white stripes with a pale, lime-ish green guitar and hood lining. We picked it up at a thrift store for 50 cents, so I didn't mind how it looked, but once I saw the true color of the Bahama Blue dye, I knew I wanted to dye over the jacket.

I bought a t-shirt that was cool on its own, but I saw something online that I really liked and wanted to try, so I flicked all the colors on the sides.

I had a length of white cotton to make my own wrap, but I couldn't decide how I wanted to dye it, so I cut it into two pieces so I could do both designs I had in mind. One of my ideas for a sling was inspired by daffodils, which used to grow in a thick line along my grandparents' back fence, and therefore are my and my mom's favorite flowers.

Soaking the cotton in dye for a rich yellow // Air-drying //
Dipping the ends in green after doing the orange center

Finished product, drying outside again!

The colors faded a lot after I rinsed the dye and washed it several times to make sure it wouldn't run, but I really love how it turned out. We took it on a test run!

Showing off the nice orange rings. I think it REALLY looks like a daffodil here.

I originally wanted to do the second ring sling in a peacock design with
greens, blues, and purple, but then I dyed this blanket...

And I knew I needed to replicate it on a larger scale.
Again, the colors faded when I rinsed and washed it, but I really like it this way. The green perfectly matches the rings - which you can't really see here, but believe me.

Everything was really simple, the colors are gorgeous, and I'm really pleased with how everything turned out! The best part is, I still have dye left from everything I ordered! Who knows what I'll dye next...

But I'll remember to wear gloves every step of the way.

NOTE: Regular dyes like Rit aren't safe for babies because it will get in the baby's mouth if when the baby chews on it. I ordered dye from Dharma Trading because they're brighter, won't fade, and won't run when baby drools or sucks on the fabric.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hobbies of Yore

Lately I've been struggling with an issue that I hope isn't unique to me. I have little to no interest in hobbies I used to be fanatical about. This goes beyond no longer buying every Hanson album, or obsessively staying up-to-date on what Aerosmith is up to. These are hobbies that I once wanted to make my living by doing: photography; design; even, I hate to say, writing.

I've had a camera as long as I can remember, but I really got into photography in 2002, buying my first digital camera, starting a website, then upgrading to digital SLRs and having "clients." I took portraits, engagement pictures, and wedding pictures. I photographed bands from Memphis, Nashville, and Little Rock, in their hometowns and on tours. I wanted to be a rock photographer for Rolling Stone, and took my bulky SLR with me everywhere I went. I took pictures of everything, but once I moved away for grad school, that passion died down for a few months. I got back into it, but not as enthusiastically as before. When I moved back to Memphis, I played around with film and Polaroids, but never fully got back into photography.
     Will took a photography course this past semester, and had visions of us going on photography adventures together. I went with him, but rarely took my own photos, or even brought my own camera. I'd use my Polaroid or my iPhone, but that was it. My SLR was dusty until he brushed it off to try when he turned in his school's camera. I can see the beauty in everything, and can frame photos and point them out to him, but have no desire to take them myself.

That's strange, right?

I'm also not interested in graphic design anymore. Again, Will is taking classes to get the same associate's degree I have, so he'll ask me questions and I don't remember the answer, or am just not interested. I had fun making a header for How I Feel About Books, but haven't made a new header for Allison Writes in ages. I'm just lacking ideas, I guess... I'd love to revamp and revitalize this blog, but I've got nothing!
     I feel like this hobby fading out isn't as big of a deal as my photography, because I was a graphic designer for 8 years or so, and studied it for the sole purpose of having a lucrative career. It was interesting to me, but never necessarily just a fun hobby. So the lack of desire to design things isn't that alarming, but I'm not thrilled that my creative ideas seem to be totally gone.

Writing is a bit like design for me right now. I'd still like to do it, I've always wanted to be a writer and publish a book, but I'm just tapped right now. I haven't written fiction, like completed a story, in years. I had a lot of freelance nonfiction work last year, so much that I'm pretty much burned out on article writing now.
     When I sit down to write fiction, however, I can't think of an idea. Or the idea loses steam a couple of paragraphs in. Hopefully revising an older novel will rejuvenate my love for fiction, because I really miss it! Some of my favorite memories (nerdily) involve me sitting home alone on weekend nights, staying up late because I have to finish a story.

Thankfully, my interests are always changing, so it's not like losing these hobbies has left gaping holes in my life. I love to bake and be crafty. I've started dyeing fabric, and I hope to learn to sew a straight stitch. I've always loved reading, and as lame as it sounds, cleaning and organizing sometimes floats my boat. Still, it seems weird to look back at certain hobbies and feel nothing for them.

Are there any hobbies you've kind of "grown out of"?
Are there any hobbies that you'd hate to lose interest in?