10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Haven’t

One of my favorite bloggers, John Scalzi, posted a list of his 10 this morning and invited readers to follow suit. I enjoy cards, so here ya go:

  1. Moved to Germany twice and to Oklahoma twice.
  2. Crossed the Atlantic in an airplane 58 times.
  3. Sang a capella on the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, and on the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic..
  4. Petted a tarantula in spite of severe arachnophobia.
  5. Fractured my tailbone twice.
  6. Completed more than 80 oil paintings.
  7. Learned English and German fluently and achieved proficiency in French and Koine Greek.
  8. Stood atop a scaffolding to paint a church building.
  9. Viewed Dead Sea Scrolls: Psalms 31 and 33 from Cave 4, A.D. 50.
  10. Accidentally went mountain-climbing in the Alps without any gear.

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How ’bout y’all? What snippets of your life make your unique top ten list?

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

Witch Doctors, Jesus Christ, and the Harlem Globetrotters

Hile, you lovely people! With no more preamble than what you’re reading RIGHT THIS INSTANT, here’s a quick run-down of Courtney’s Recent Life:

  • Writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com published my recent article on how to choose a target audience for your novel. Click that link to read and go ooh-ahh.
  • Speaking of ooh-aahs, I’ve been singing a lot of “Witch Doctor” to the baby. She finds it entertaining.
  • I’VE BEEN PAINTING. I know. I KNOW. That’s a pretty big one. I hope none of you fainted. If you did, and if you’ve since revived to read the rest of this bullet point, I’ll tell you that I’ve actually got TWO paintings in the works:
    1. an illustration of Revelation: a post-Second-Coming Christ, the church in the form of a house, and a New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens — you know, iconic epic-type stuff
    2. an image that’s been knocking around in my head for almost two years: landscape with crimson sky and purple hills in the background, and a mysterious dark Something in the foreground. The Something might be a structure. Or it might be a person (possibly a female version of this). I’m not sure yet. But it will be black.
  • I’ve been editing Josh‘s latest: Hell-Bent for Leather, a Weird Western in which supernaturally gifted Chet Leather must rescue the soul of his friend, Dan, from the clutches of a Duke of Hell. It’s an incredibly entertaining romp with plenty of action, deviltry, tongue-in-cheekiness, and heart. Though I’m slow due to time constraints, I’m enjoying it immensely. In other news, Josh has been very patient with me.
  • In further news, Elevator People progresses apace. Our Hero is about five paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue away from his final encounter with The Villain, Carrigan Bell. I’m glad of it, because I’m ready for this story to be in editing and pre-publishing stage, and I also want Carrigan Bell over and done with. He’s a particularly nasty sort, and I always feel like I need a shower after I’ve been in his head for a while.
  • This isn’t part of Recent Life, but it’s a Recent Development pertaining to Life, so I’ll share it: I get to see the Harlem Globetrotters in April, and my brother-in-law will be on the opposing team. BAM.

For now, that is all. I’m going to bed. See ya later, dahlings! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

But if you do, take pictures.* ; )

*I picked that one up from my Grandpa. WHAT.

Freddy Mercury, Painting, and Ennui

Because I’ve had an icky evening (READ: pregnancy is not for sissies), and I haven’t the fortitude for delving deeply into anything, here are a few thoughts on current events both local and not:

Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremonies

º I know I picked up on the meaning of many of the elements because I’ve spent most of my life in Europe.

º I had no clue of the meaning behind many of the other elements.

º This go-round wasn’t as moving as the Opening Ceremonies, but I still enjoyed watching.

º George Michael could tone down his vibrato a bit, but I was still disappointed that he didn’t sing more than one song.

º The members of the apparently newish boy band whose name I’d never heard of and now can’t recall all look like Justin Bieber.

º Whoever that girl was, she’s no Freddy Mercury.

º The giant puzzle-piece John Lennon face was pretty cramazing.

º Also, regarding the last Olympic event I watched this morning: Basketball players are quite tall.

Writing

º I didn’t work on the Rethana’s Surrender sequel this weekend.

º Friday night, I woke up at 4:30am and didn’t go back to sleep until 7:30am. (Yes, I still count that as Friday night. Hush.) At 5:30am, my brain delivered the first line of a new sci-fi short story: “The joke was sleek, fast, and deadly.” And in the next sentence, a woman dies a particularly bloody death.

Accordingly, with the little time I had Saturday morning, I started writing the story. I wrote more than a page. I’m still not sure just what The Story of the story is, but the title shall be “The Joke’s on Us.”

If I can’t figure out where it’s going, the joke will definitely be on me.

º I’m also feeling an urge toward poetry. It’s been a long time since I’ve written any, and I suspect I’m overdue. Once upon a time, I wrote 15-20 poems per year. Now, I might do two. That’s what happens when you turn yourself into a fulltime novelist, I guess. But I shouldn’t neglect the poetic aspect of writing. It affects the noveling in good ways. I shouldn’t forget that.

Politics

 

Media

º Multiple times per day, I check Twitter and Facebook.

º I don’t know if I’m just desensitized or dejected or what, but recently, my internal reaction to both media has been, “I’m bored.”

º Recently, my internal reaction to the intarwebz has been, “I’m bored.”

º Lest you think this were a reaction to my commitment to blogging every day — as in, I’m blogging every day and so am simply dazed with the amount of time I’m spending online — I’ve had ennui regarding the internet for quite awhile now. There just doesn’t seem to be much to do online.

º Maybe this is a feeling I need to follow. I would certainly get more writing done if I did.

Art

º I miss painting. I’ve had a concept in mind for a painting for over a year, and what with cover art and other projects, I haven’t had time to put that idea to canvas.

º Now, considering the 8-months-pregnant tummy, I can’t sit down to paint anymore. And I’m too tired to stand up to paint.

º So will I ever get to paint this picture I have in mind?

º Since I haven’t been able to paint, I’ve been playing with my phone camera and self-portraits. I leave you with one of my current favorites. Please do click to embiggen for the details!

Against the Grain

Paaaaperbaaaack Wriiiiiterrrrr (sing it!)

Greetings, hardy readers!

This message is brought to you by the letter “P”! As in, PAPERBACK! As in, I wanted to let you know that we’re close to having the paperback of Stains of Grace ready. : )

“But, Courtney,” you ask, “why is the paperback coming out so much later than the e-book?”

Well, my loves, I’m so glad you asked. You see, the file we upload to Amazon for the e-book is not the same file we upload to Amazon for the paperback. The formats are different. And when we change the e-book format over to the paperbook format, all sorts of fun little errors crop up.

Such as font changes where there shouldn’t be font changes. Plain text where there should be italics. Oh, and random bullet points, as though the document suddenly thinks I’m writing a PowerPoint presentation instead of a novel.

Yay!

So, my job over the past few weeks has been to scour the paperback file of Stains and find all those pesky little weirdnesses that weren’t there before. Lemme tell ya, ’tis great fun. I’ve been trying to get it done while getting hired as Acquisitions Editor for Consortium Books; finishing acquisition edits and painting cover art for Aaron Pogue’s latest fantasy novel, The Dragonprince’s Heir; and finalizing edits for my own soon-to-be-released epic fantasy novel, Schism Rethana’s Surender (retitled since this post originally went live).

I love my job(s), but it’s been a rather tiring few weeks. (If you recall, I’m also putting together a baby inside my body. So there’s that.)

BUT. I’ve finally finished reviewing the paperback file for Stains of Grace (Demons of Saltmarch #3), and it is now in the hands of the publisher. As soon as I find out that the Amazon sales page has gone live, you lovely people will be the next to know!

In the meantime, happy reading to all (here’s the Stains e-book if you wantiz it, and please watch out for unexpected and unusual salt formations. ; )

P.S. Did I mention I got hired as Acquisitions Editor for Consortium Books? I got hired as Acquisitions Editor for Consortium Books.
😀

Decoding Pregnancy: 5 Secrets Revealed

Hidey-ho, O Faithful Readerly Ones!

In the land of Court Can Write, we have now reached Week 22 of this thing they call Preg Nancy. I don’t know why or how Nancy gained such predominance in the naming of this condition, but there she is and there’s naught I can do about it. We carry on*.

Things have been quiet around the blog lately because what little spare energy I’ve got, I’ve been pouring into painting the cover art for Aaron Pogue’s The Dragonprince’s Heir, as well as finalizing my Monster Epic Fantasy Novel, aka Legend’s Artisans: Schism (working title). I remind me that the so-called MEFaN needs its own full, explanatory post not long hence, since it’s coming out in just a month. BANGERANG for sure — but also, OY VEY.

For now, though, I’ll share with you some recent revelations I’ve had concerning this Preg Nancy thing. I’ve concluded that humanity speaks in code about this, and one doesn’t get to decipher said code until one enters the state of being with child.

Some of these decipherings have come as a great surprise to me, and I wish someone had let me in on the secrets long ago. As I enjoy doing nice, informative things for you, my sweet inklings, I’ve decided to reveal five of the secrets to you, that you might be better prepared for your own future or at least come to a deeper understanding of certain apparently crazy women of your acquaintance (i.e. the pregnant ones). So…

Decoding Pregnancy: 5 Secrets Revealed

1. Glowing Skin
Oh, how the second trimester hormones are supposed to make a woman’s skin extra soft with that dewy glow of fertile, robust youth! A few people — a few, mind you — have said something to me in passing about how I’m “glowing.” But when I look in the mirror, I see a different picture. “Glowing skin,” my dear readers, is code for “acne.” It’s not terrible at this point, but it’s definitely more than the occasional pre-pregnancy zit. Ah, joy.

2. Ultrasound
My first ultrasound took place during Week 5 — quite early, because I was having complications and my doc just wanted to see what was going on. She showed me the screen and pointed to an amorphous blob and said, “Here’s the amniotic sac.” Then, she pointed at a teensy dot. “And that’s your baby.”

At Week 8, the ultrasound showed us a lighter amorphous blob within a darker amorphous blob. Light blob was baby, dark blob was amniotic fluid. This time, my doctor pointed out the “head” and the “rump” and two little protrusions she called “feet.” We nodded wisely. Other than that, the cool part was seeing and hearing the heart beat, which stunned the husband and made me burst into tears.

At Week 19, because I am 35 and therefore of “Advanced Maternal Age” (sheesh), we got to see the high-risk doctor for a 3-D ultrasound. By this time, Amorphous Blob had grown into Indentifiable Tiny Baby, and the 3-D ultrasound showed us an itty-bitty face with actual eyes, nose, lips, and chin.

In the non-3-D part of the ultrasound, the tech got a fabulous shot of my daughter facing the “camera.” Pardon my irreverence, but that shot just looks freaky — because most of what you see is the skull showing through. My child looked like a demonic Halloween mask**.

“Ultrasound” is code for: trust the doctor that what is growing inside you is actually human.

3. Kicking
I first felt movement on the first day of Week 16. At first, it felt like gas bubbles in places where I knew there couldn’t be gas bubbles. Within days, this progressed to little flutters like muscle spasms. On the morning of Week 19, Day 4, I looked down and saw my stomach twitch.

Feeling my baby move inside of me is the most cramazing experience in the entire universe.

It is also what I imagine it would feel like to have a baby alien of Ellen Ripley fame preparing to burst out of one’s abdomen.

4. Tiredness
“You’ll be tired during pregnancy.” = “You will feel like you’re climbing a mountain every day.”

“You’ll get your energy back during the second trimester.” = “We are pathological liars.”

5. Placenta
So, when we went in for the 3-D ultrasound, I asked the tech where inside my uterus the placenta is attached. She told me it’s right under my bellybutton.

And then she said, “It’s about the size and shape of a pancake.”

REVELATION.

In German, most commonly-used medical terms aren’t Latin-based the way they are in English. You don’t have tonsillitis, you have a “Mandelentzündung” — which, directly translated, means “almond inflammation. If you have sinusitis, you’ve got a “Nasennebenhöhlenlentzündung” — an “inflammation of the caves next to the nose.”

If you’re female, you don’t have a uterus. You have a “Gebärmutter,” which means “birthing mother” whether that organ ever births anything or not.

When you’re pregnant, what nourishes your baby is not a placenta.
What nourishes your baby is the “Mutterkuchen.”

That’s “mothercake” to you.

Yum.

* Pun intended? You bet your sweet patootie.

** Don’t be fooled by my cheeky demeanor. If I could, I would totally go in for an ultrasound every single day. Seeing my baby — her face, her arms, her legs, and her incredible little heart — is a joy that beggars description.

The One Where I Paint Dragons

This is not a dragon. This is a smoked turkey. If you can roll it, you can smoke it.

Hiya inklings! I’d intended to post this before I left town for Thanksgiving, but what with last-minute arrangements for household felines as well as the babying of a raw turkey, said intended blogpost did not happen.

(By the way, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration took place at a KOA Campground in Lubbock, Texas. Ed smoked the turkey, and the rest of the meal prep happened on the stove and 1ft² countertop in an RV. We washed the dishes in two pans of hot water on a picnic table. My Thanksgiving in an Army mess hall has now been bumped from 1st place to 2nd in the Most Unique Thanksgiving Memory category.)

It’s worth noting that I had three posts in mind to write before I left. As you might have noticed, none of them happened. So you’ll be hearing from me several times this week. This might or might not flip your bangerang switch. If it does, please do let me know. I get excited about people getting excited about my blog.

If it doesn’t, just don’t bogart my bangerang. We’ll all be happier.

So. The one post I wanted to write concerns this:

The Dragonswarm by Courtney Cantrell, design by Aaron Pogue.

This, my lovelies, is the cover art I painted for Aaron Pogue‘s upcoming fantasy novel The Dragonswarm (December 2011!). If you wanna know what the title refers to, all you gotta do is click the image to embiggen.

To date, this is the best dragon painting I’ve ever done. It’s water-miscible* oils on canvas, 30in. x 40in. I should’ve counted my hours; I forgot to. But I worked on this for the better part of 6 weeks.

If you were guessing, you might guess that the crimson dragon was my greatest challenge. Indeed, that dude was not easy. He started life as the outline of a dragon flying in at a completely different angle…and, because I didn’t have time to paint for a week or so, he dried that way. When I came back to him and decided I’d done him all wrong**, I had to paint over the part I’d messed up. Which meant mixing paint to match the background. Which wasn’t easy. And blerg.

But.

If you were guessing, you’d be wrong. Because the teensy dragons were actually the greater challenge. Do you have any idea how hard it is to render dozens of tiny little dragons in variegated flying formations with oil paint? I’m willing to bet you don’t. Because I didn’t. Strangling Aaron ; ) wasn’t an option, so I girded up my loins (ooh la la) and got ‘er done.

When done, I sat back and heaved many sighs of relief and hmmm’d much satisfaction to myself. Accepting the challenge had me fluttery with nerves. Meeting the challenge had me from warm-fuzzy to hot-glowy. This painting was FUN. And the best part is that once I was finished, I didn’t want to strangle Aaron anymore.*** Yay, everybody wins!

Amy of Amy Nickerson Design is working on the trade dress. She did the trade dress for my novels, too. She pretty much rocks.

Another of my dragon paintings adorns Aaron’s first fantasy novel, Taming Fire. Taming Fire is a bestseller at Amazon, having sold 30,000 copies since its June 2011 release. It’s spent over 100 days on the Top 100 Best Sellers in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I like to think my art had even just a little something to do with that. ; )

________________
*Water-miscible oils are oil paints (and linseed oil) that have been chemically altered to bond with water. Regular oils require me to use more toxic stuff like turpentine or turpenoid. I *like* not breathing toxins. Oxygen is kinda my friend.

**TWSS. *gigglesnort*

***Concerning the strangling-of-Aaron desire, I might be exaggerating for dramatic blogging purposes.