Sunday, 31 March 2013

Writer with an Artist's Brush - Marion Sipe

I'm proud and honoured to present Author and Artist

Marion Sipe
to my little place in cyberspace.  What a wonderful talent! 
 Hey Wendy!  It’s so nice of you to have me here today!  I guess it’s Easter today—which I totally forgot—so Happy Easter to those who celebrate and happy Sunday to everyone else!  I hope you’re having a wonderful day, Wendy!


How does your art rub off on your writing?  Having an eye for detail must help in describing scenes, features, gestures and other details a regular writer might not even consider.


I think writing and art both inspire one another.  I love to draw and create creatures, and I also love to create them as people, their cultures and biology and worlds. 

Dragons - Mother and child by Marion Sipe

I think my drawing them has made me a lot more aware of their physiologies, because you can’t draw something unless you understand how it’s made and how it works. 

Even when you’re putting something together in Photoshop, you have to know how the shoulder meets the arm, how the legs work, how they move.  That really helps when it comes to describing something in words as well.  Especially if you can see in your head how actions happen, the details of body language. 

I think that’s probably one of the reasons that I love writing action scenes.  Of course, these are also details that you can totally over do.  If you describe too much, you get lost in the minutiae and lose the interest of the reader.  It’s a bit of a double edged sword.  I’m never sure whether or not I’m including enough description, because I can go on for pages and bore the reader, but then I sometimes cut it too short, forgetting that the reader isn’t seeing it the way I am. 

It Feels by Marion Sipe

In the book I’m working on--Born of this Soil--I have sketches of the architecture, of statues in the squares, of the entire palace garden, of all the characters, of most of their homes, of ships in the harbor and just… yeah.  Most of that never makes it into the story in and of itself, but I think it does bring a richness to the story, the details I do include show that there is more and makes it feel more like a fully realized place.  At least, that’s the hope!

Do you write your scenes with paintings on a canvas in your head (like with a paint brush) rather than a scene playing out on the big screen, as other writers might do (with a camera)?

Actually, I don’t see it as either.  I see it as if it’s real life.  I really envy writers who can do the camera work in their writing, you know, showing you the sweeping panorama and then focusing in on one detail, or who can make you feel like you’re getting one of those openings where the camera sweeps over books and things to eventually land at the guy sitting at his desk.  I have to work at that. 

My focus is often very tightly on a character, on what they’re seeing and feeling.  It can actually make it difficult to describe things because the character just would not notice or care.  Although, I do have a lot of fun playing with different character’s perspectives on the same visual landscape. 
Cover Designer: Marion Sipe

One of my favorite scenes in A Sign in Blood is when two of the main characters get a chance to both describe a ruined temple and the two of them come away with completely different impressions of the place.


I can understand why you’d be drawn to writing fantasy. I think a mystery would be enriched by your eye too. All the clues other writers would never think to add would be quite appealingly original coming from your brush.

I love mystery!  I haven’t tried writing in the genre per se, though.  And mostly that’s because I… lose interest in writing contemporary settings.  *hangs head*  I love reading them, or watching them, but I most enjoy my writing when I’m exploring something different.  When things are taken out of the real world setting, I feel there’s a greater freedom to really dig into the concepts.  Even with urban fantasy, the fantasy elements give you a way to explore the real world in new ways. 

However, I think I do include mystery type elements in my speculative fiction.  For instance, in A Sign in Blood, the main character is trying to solve the murder of her father. 

Cover Designer: Lex Valentine

Getting Ahead is about two detectives trying to deal with everything on top of trying to find a serial killer (who kills trolls). 

And it’s a murder mystery that kicks off the plot of Born of this Soil.  Hmmm.  Actually, I write a lot of murder mysteries rolled up in speculative fiction concepts, now that I think about it.  *G*

What came first the art or the author?

Oh, dear, that’s really hard to say.  As a kid I kept a journal and a lot of it was poetry and fiction snippets, but there were tons of sketches and doodles, too.  In fact, I’m dyslexic and when I was young if I couldn’t spell a word I’d draw a representation of it.  In kindergarten I was once writing a ghost story and just could not remember how to spell ‘graveyard’ so I drew a little gravestone and then wrote ‘yard’ after it.  That happened a lot in my writing then.  So drawing and writing kind of grew up together.  I suppose I’m lucky my teacher and my mom both thought that was really awesome, rather than just being annoyed I couldn’t spell.

Does one take precedence over the other?

Well, sometimes one has to.  I mean, I make a lot more money making book covers than I do selling books.  *G*  But still… I have phases.  I do with everything, really.  Sometimes you cannot pull me away from the writing, but other days you’d have to drug me to get my sketch book out of my hands, and still other times I forget to eat or sleep because I’m working in Photoshop.  I’ve found myself saying, “Wait… why is the sun coming up?  Oh, damn,” more times than I can tell.  And some things make me want to write, while others make me want to draw.  And some do both.  Usually, worldbuilding makes me want to do both.

I guess you’d never suffer from writer’s block. All you’d need to do is pick up a pencil and draw your way out of it.

Oh, I wish that were true!!  But a blank page can be just as threatening to an artist as a writer.  Sometimes I can be blocked on one and not the other, but often it’s both. 

Whether it’s words or lines, both take energy.  I don’t think we realize how much energy it takes to be creative, but the brain uses energy up, too.  It’s not a free process.  It doesn’t burn the kind of calories that exercise will, but it uses up its stores of glucose and other chemicals needed for thought.  While that’s not a big deal for a lot of people, activities that require sustained use of the brain (hours spent writing, drawing, studying, etc.) can leave people feeling completely and utterly exhausted. 

As writers well know!  I think we just don’t feel that we’re “legitimately” tired, or that it’s justified.  We’ve been told for a long, long time that creative pursuits like writing or art don’t count because they’re not physical.  But they can be just as exhausting as physical work, just not in the same way.  So, when your brain’s worn out, it’s worn out.  And that’s when I have trouble doing anything.

 Time must be a problem. You belong to the MuseItUp Art Dept and make book covers for the authors as well as your freelance work. Deadlines – do they stress you or spur you on?

 Oh, time is my biggest enemy, but I’m kicking its ass.  *nods*  I’m also a business student, so spare time is not a concept I really understand. 

Between school and art as work (I differentiate between for work and for fun) I actually don’t get nearly as much time to write as I would like.  But what really gets cut out is time with my fiancĂ© and my mom, and I hate that.  So, when my brain decides to take a vacation (it happens, occasionally I’ll spend two weeks barely able to make a 'to do' list, let alone complete one) I do enjoy the fact that I get to spend more time with actual, non-fictional people.  Of course, I also feel slightly… wrong when I’m not doing something. 

Unless I’m really, really tired, I can’t even watch TV without working a puzzle or writing or drawing or something.  That’s a really, really bad habit (so my loved ones tell me) and I’m working on being able to relax when that’s what it’s time to do. 

Deadlines are stressful, because I usually have half a dozen things to finish at any one time, but I’m really not sure how much I’d get done without them, so… I have to go with both!  I take some pride in the fact that I never miss a deadline, but I do occasionally have to reschedule them, so maybe that’s not the complete truth.  *G*

 Do you ever resent stealing time from your writing to work on your other love, art or vice versa?

Oh, yes.  Both.  Constantly.  My moods change, and I’ll want to be working on something in Photoshop, or I’ll want to be drawing, or I’ll want to be writing, but I have deadlines for other things, and so that has to take precedence. 

The good thing is that, usually, once I start whatever it is I’m supposed to be working on, I’ll find myself enjoying it.  I love both writing and art for themselves, so putting words together for school (which is the thing I usually least want to do) has its own joys.  Right now I’m doing a video for class and every time I think about it, I’m thinking, “Ugh, and I have to do that,” but then I get started and I get sucked in. 

So, yeah, I do resent not always being able to do the things I’m really passionate about (at the moment, because it changes all the time!), but I think everyone gets that.  I mean how many people have been sitting at work or school and been daydreaming about doing something totally different.  I think that’s just a human experience.

 Being given so little information to go on for the covers, you have an amazing knack to symbolize the story, that’s something that must come naturally, you couldn’t learn that, could you? I mean, I had no idea what my cover for A Summer Squall would look like. But you created the only cover it could possibly have. Thank you for that.

Thank you!  It makes me happy to know you’re really happy with your cover! 

Actually, I don’t think writers realize how much they tell me about the story in just the blurb. 

Cover Designer: Marion Sipe

You, for instance, were the one who talked about the splash of red in the rough waters.  As I was reading the excerpt and blurb, that image just struck me.  It was symbolism that you incorporated, the stormy sea (and everything it stands for!) with the vivid red of a life jacket amongst the waves.  The moment I read that, I knew there couldn’t be any other image to represent the story. 

Cover Designer Marion Sipe

Another of my clients—Becca Mills—on her book Nolander describes her secondary world with the phrase “A world like an autumn forest, its realities as multiple and layered as fallen leaves.”  So, how could I not incorporate that as a visual element? 

Writers are creatures of words, they reveal their visions (even when they don’t mean to!) in the words they choose, in the phrases they make central to their paragraphs, in the frequency with which they return to related symbolism and metaphor.  I find it hardest when a writer doesn’t seem to have a clear vision of their own story, of what the central themes and elements are, which happens more than you’d think.  You guys describe a story to me, I just turn it into a visual.

 Marion, thank you for letting us into your wonderfully creative world. I've picked up plenty of writing tips from your artist's eye, today. No wonder I thought you'd be good at writing mysteries as well as your beloved fantasies. You already are! :)

Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter Greetings

Happy Easter.
Enjoy your leisure time if just relaxing or with family and friends and if you are travelling, stay safe on the roads.

The young mother-to-be loved the little rabbit in its basket of tiny Easter eggs. I forgot to get a clear photo of it.

Here is one of Spitzli a couple of years ago in keeping with the Easter Theme sending puppy love your way.

Friday, 15 March 2013

New Forum for Readers, Writers, and Travellers.

Need a Forum to Spotlight your book? There's one at Forums.
Readers and writers are invited to share their interest in books and travel.
Authors are encouraged to Shout Out about their books as long as they remember this is an open site, rated for general exhibition.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Is there more to life than writing?

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I peeled off my writing layer  the way I did my nursing layer, my farmer layer and my clerk layer. Would I reach the core and find only lead there? Or would I find a perfectly formed gold nugget?

I don't want to know. It's too soon.

So, with my husband, I'll travel ... searching for fascinating  settings and quirky characters. I'll eavesdrop on conversations to capture different voices, take note of impossible situations, and I'll write.

But first, I'll stop to smell the roses,

so sweet after rain. Their petals fall one by one. I'll save them as potpourri. 

and I'll pick up my knitting needles.  There's joy in physical  creativity, too.

Toy Rabbit              


I'll play with Spitzli on the beach

and take her to visit my Aunty.
With the onset of autumn, to be followed by winter,  the time has come to rewrap myself in writing. Time to think.
 Now is not the time to discover if there's more to life than writing, nor to discover my core.



Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Unhewn Stone is reduced for today

If you'd like to lose yourself inside a medieval legend for a few hours, The Unhewn Stone can take you there. This ebook is on a Super Duper Sale  today at MuseItUp publishing on Amazon Kindle and also at Smashwords   ONLY $1.99 - use coupon code KZ84U at Smashwords' checkout.

When Stefan Gessler goes back to 1307 AD to prevent the Wilhelm Tell legend from happening and restore honour to his family name, he expects to be awed as the hero from the 21st century. He's in for the shock of his life. Not only does Wilhelm Tell trap him in the 14th century but a shape shifting sibyl and an evil knight are determined to keep him there, dead or alive.

Stefan is accepted by most of his distant family, especially the young nobleman Rolf, his cousin, but he belongs to the wrong side of the feud against Tell. His ancestor is the the tyrant governor Gessler who won't listen to Stefan's wise advice, not even to save his own life. 

This is a hero's journey, a coming of age novel with a difference. Stefan hides behind masks while trying to find his true identity in the fascinating and often frightening world of the new Switzerland, in the Middle Ages.

Alchemist or modern man, hero or fool,  and does he really need to pursue the elusive Ursula even on the other side of time? That's for Stefan and the reader to decide.

Monday, 4 March 2013

New Release, short story, A Summer Squall.

 MuseItUp Publishing released another of my short stories, this week. The New Release Special on A Summer Squall is available for a few more days at MuseItUp Publishing  Although, there's no real need for the reduction. The full price is a spit in the sea. :)    
Now available from Amazon Kindle     
A Summer Squall.
This is metaphorical story about writing one's way out of writer's block; about a woman who gets in over her head and has to swim for her literary life.
Cover Designer: Marion Sipe
This is an example of Faction, ie fiction based on fact.
Thank you to Lea Schizas, publisher, to two talented editors, Anne Duguid and Nancy M. Bell, and the clever cover designer Marion Sipe for helping me polish this story and bring it to life.
Thank you to Rosalie Skinner and Steve Skinner for their valualbe assistance regarding the emergency flare scene.
I raise my glass of Red to you all in celebration and take a long drink for myself.