Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Complete

There was a time there when I didn't think I was going to make it. Something about my novel just didn't mesh and i thought I would have to start again just to fix the problem. Thank goodness for the madness that is a looming deadline. Instead of going crazy about stuff already written, I kept forging ahead and I am now the proud writer of a complete romance novel and a bearer of the NaNoWriMo winning banner.

And the final word count, one might ask:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

50,000 Words and...

Another year of writing and my story isn't finished even though I've reached 50,000 words. I should be used to it by now. But I guess I still have a way to go.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Call it Heart-Speak

My NaNoWriMo novel is about a couple separated by so many things it seems like they might never come together. Yet they are blessed with one wonderful and frightening gift. I call it Heart-Speak. They can communicate with their minds over time and space in order to find each other, love each other and change the world they live in forever.

I love the idea of it. It's special. It is something I have always hoped for because relationships can be crazy and there are times when it is useful to have someone who can just read your mind. But I've found something else in the midst of this search. Not someone who can read my mind but rather something that speaks to my heart.

I just finished watching Julie & Julia [2009] and while I love both Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, the story they told as these two women was far greater than I expected. It is a call to all women – perhaps even all people – to connect, to love freely, to laugh, to cry, to cook…and yes, to eat. To take up insane challenges and meet them even when we want to throw in the towel…and the kitchen sink. Blogs, books, poetry, notes and memos are useful to communicate but I don't think I have ever felt that it was magical too…until now. I write stories because I love to. Who knows what else they can do?

I have a NaNoWriMo motto that reads, "I write because I love it, the insanity is extra free." Perhaps I should change that to, "…the magic is extra free." Because there can be no writing that isn't an investment of ourselves into something…more! We are putting a little mark on the world even when the world doesn't know it. There are people out there who have something to say…something to share. Perhaps there are too many voices and it becomes hard to hear a single song amongst them but I hope I do. I hope I can find that voice that speaks to me across time and space just because it was written down.

I hope I can open my heart to every song that resonates with something inside me. Julia Powell found it in a cookbook by Julie Child, a one year challenge and a friendship separated by an ocean and more than 50 years. I hope I can find it a little closer to home with hands across the ocean and words on this screen. I want to open my heart to this practice of singing my song clear and listening to what others have to say. It is a gift as wonderful and frightening as reading people's minds yet I cannot back down from the challenge. So I guess that leaves taking it on.

Monday, November 2, 2009

First Day First

In my five-year history of doing NaNoWriMo this is the first time I have failed to post a fantastic first-day word count. In fact, other than opening a document with the title of my novel The Darlings, and getting the basics of who wrote it and for what reason (NaNoWriMo 2009 Novel), I haven' don't much of anything. The two blog posts are already far ahead of whatever I have on my novel and posting a pathetic count of only 68 words (mainly because I threw in my address) didn't seem worth it.

I have every hope that I will do a better job with day two. Even though I am only just getting down to writing, I have the advantage of a real outline; something I didn't have yesterday. I had tried to procrastinate it away but it wasn't happening. A nation wide power black-out yesterday night might have contributed to my miniscule word count but it also had the amazing advantage of getting me to consider what I wanted to do and how it was going to look in glorious chapter form. For that, I am eternally grateful to the unreliability of our current power supply. I just hope this is a one time thing and I don't have to deal with it later in the month.

I think with what I've managed to do so far, I'll be able to design a cover that really speaks to the rest of the story while getting my synopsis done. The wonderful people at are also having a challenge that involves creating covers for 30 NaNoWriMo books during the 30-day challenge period. With a clear synopsis I would qualify for the competition but I also like the idea that they will give someone like me – a cover layout novice – a very good idea of what goes into making a winning cover especially when the information available is as little as a blurb.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo is Here Again

I find it interesting that my year is no longer determined by the New Year. Instead I am very aware that another year has gone by when NaNoWriMo comes along. This is the fifth year I am participating in this High Octane Novel Writing Extravaganza and I love it. But this year is already proving to have some unusual problems. For starters, my idea is not very clear and while I usually hit the ground running, I'm not even done clarifying what my novel is going to be about exactly.

Lucky for me, NaNoWriMo highly encourages this 'off the sit of your pants' kind of writing and thinking and acting so I'm not too afraid. I would like to have a complete panic fit and run screaming from my computer but I know the pounding in my chest, the constriction in my airways, the blurry vision and loss of consciousness is part of the wonderful madness that goes with writing a 50,000 word novella in a month.

So here we go again! Deep breath. Full body sigh. And…ACTION!

Friday, September 25, 2009

IF: Infinite

Nothing is worse than giving up because that is what failure truly is. I nearly stopped illustrating because of so many reasons but I refuse to fail and it is with pride and joy that I return at last.

"Finite is to fail, but infinite to venture." Emily Dickinson

Friday, September 4, 2009

Stepping Out

It's so easy to get lost in my head - mainly because it's so intereting there. But while escapism has its benefits it is usually a lot wiser to face whatever I am trying to escape from. That is why I am doing my best to step out of my head and into the world. It would be nice if it was easy. It would be great to feel like I was doing the right thing. Sadly, it just fills me with cold sweats and makes me want to slam the door shut.

The only trouble is I am tired of being lonely. I am tired of feeling so alone. If there was another way to do this, I would gladly sign up for it but I may have to go through some discomfort before I finally step into a great new world of wonder. It's a lot like teething. It hurts for a while but its a welcome new world of chewable food on the other side.

Now if I could just make it through without feeling like my heart was being reaped out of my chest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Attack of the Body Snatcher

If I took a break from my life would it still be my life?

I just wanted to take some time away and figure out if this was something I really wanted to do. The only trouble with that is, it came at a time when I found the process of creating anything at all very difficult. So Illustration Friday is on a break - but then again - so is everything else I've been trying to do. The effects are making me wonder about a lot more than my artistic talents.

The weekly writing challenge has remained unchallenged for nearly two months. The usually weekly newsletter is a month behind schedule and there is evidence enough here of just how well IF has been going. Somewhere along the way I lost the plot and I'm not sure if I can recapture it.

So with such a bad showing, I have to this really me or am I living proof that there really is something like a body snatcher? Because it walks like me and talks like me but I don't think it's me any more. I think maybe I just took a break and forgot to take my body with me. I wonder how I would sort that out. I wonder how I can feel so broken - it is , after all, just a little undone art. Right?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Illustration Friday: Shaky

On shaky ground... more ways than one.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Illustration Friday: Worn

I've been away a while but I knew I couldn't let another Illustration Friday go by without an attempt. I'm trying something different and hoping it will work but so far... I figure it's still better to do bad art than to do no art so this is me getting my head back in gear.

I like to call this image 'the bag lady and the mannequin'. Make it a metaphor if you please or take it as it is. I just hope the idea of worn gets across.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Illustration Friday: Adapt

Technology might mean we have to adapt ourselves to new ways of doing things but there are so many other ways we have to make necessary changes to deal with technology. Just the plugs to my power supply need an adapter to work properly and these are just the ones from my computer to the main socket. Is this really progress?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Illustration Friday: Cracked

This is more about a crack than cracked but I figured it would crack someone up and went with it anyway. It was actually my boyfriend's idea so I can't take all the credit but he disowned it the minute I told him I was going to post fun. :-D

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Illustration Friday: Contagious III

"Smile, and the world smiles with you; cry and you cry alone."

People don't really smile as much as they used to. We can blame it on any number of things: the failing economy, the lack of anything to smile about, the fear that someone you smile at might just be an axe murderer... But in an attempt to do something different, I've been smiling at anyone who crosses my path. It not only feels great for me (a cross between silly and utterly light-hearted) but I've had a few favourable responses.

So maybe spreading the flu is 'natural' and yawning is contagious in its own strange way. But if there is anything I wish to pass around like wild fire, it's a smile. Go with me.

Illustration Friday: Contagious II

It's been said that the easiest way to know if a person in a crowd is looking at you is to yawn. It is so contagious that they won't be able to help doing it too. I am a believer in that idea now especially since the search for the perfect yawning picture resulted in several of my own.

This is the second picture in this series and it came to me shortly after the first. There is a third in what is now an interesting triptych.

Illustration Friday: Contagious I

It's flu season and with the recent H1N1 scare it's not easy to think that I might get sick. Sadly with its severe contagiousness, it might be hard to keep something like that in check. So when you have the flu - please cover your mouth.

This is a public health warning from your friendly local artist. LOL!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Illustration Friday: Parade (Coloured)

A little colour makes for an interesting change to an otherwise drab picture. And the ducks still look like their having fun...

Illustration Friday: Parade (Pencil)

Ducks on display is the way I would like to think of this. The best part is they all look like their having fun.

Watching The Audience

Desperation is great for inspiration. Everything I have come up with for this weeks Illustration Friday spark word: PARADE has been a little off. My artistic vocabulary has never been so severly taxed and I wondered if I really had the skill to pull of some of the ideas I had in my head. In a bid not to give up, I did this picture...

It's a lot like the other pictures I have done but for some reason it didn't feel like enough. I just didn't feel it, what with the plainness of it and the fact that it still didn't fit the idea of PARADING (although the first version was meant to be a nude).

So I decided to add a little colour using paint - nothing complicated there except I learnt that just because its drawn a certain way doesn't mean its ready for digitization. But I was a little better pleased with the final effect. It was a little strange but still intersting enough to give me some ideas for the future.

Sadly, it still didn't fit what I wanted for Illustration Friday. (Or maybe I just wanted to experiment some more) so I'm trying the same technique on something else...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Illustration Friday: Hierarchy

Hierarchy (c) 2009 Nahellenia

In the midst of the worst
in the midst of the best
sometimes leading the pack
most times stuck with the rest

At the top of the hill
with the world at my feet
or with knees on the ground
by a better on beat

In the midst of the good
in the midst of the bad
sometimes doing my best
most times acting so mad

This is life every day
is the way it should be
all are king for a time
yet slaves eternally

I grew up in a large mixed family and there was always someone who had done something before me and someone who would do it after me. It made me a lot more conscious of the idea of being average - knowing that there was always something or someone better or worse. Hierarchies are a part of life but for the most part they serve a clear purpose.

I just wish it was easy to know that even the king is slave to his people (or his tyranny) and the slave is mastered only by him who he gives his soul; not him who owns his body. So here's to my family hierarchy and the knowledge that being the third last in line is no different from being first or last.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weekly Writing Wreck

It has all begun to blur together.

One story, two stories, five stories, oh my! But I never thought that was the problem I was going to have. Writing 2,000 words of fiction a week is easier than I thought (especially in comparison to the 8 - 15,000 words of non-fiction I write) and there are many weeks when I exceeded that and then some. So what is making it feel like the same boring old stuff again?

I haven't stopped writing but for the past couple of weeks its been a challenge to come up with anything to write about. Even editing old stuff doesn't seem to work. It could be a phase I will get over (hopefully soon :-( ) so I can go back to being 'normal'.

I'll just be a writing wreck until that happens...ouch!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Illustration Friday: Impossibility?

I have a memory of loving purple skies. I don't know why (among all the colours available to me) I liked purple most of all. It might have been an act of self-expression or perhaps something else - like maybe I'd lost all the other colours and the only thing I had left was brown, orange and purple. And if I was going to have a brown tree with orange flowers it didn't really leave me a choice.

But the thing I liked most about it is that nothing was ever impossible. So in a bid to recaptrue that memory I did a picture I used to like when I was a child. It was oddly more difficult to remember it and do it 'right' but I loved the idea of a purple sky which automatically came with a green sun, a polka dotted cat and a zebra striped house.

It maybe a natural impossibility but I guess it goes to show there are no limits to the creative mind. Whatever I can envision, I can create. It makes life seem so much richer. Not only can we pull from the great storehouse of what is already there and already beautiful to behold but we can take it a little further and make it our own.

That's why I will always love my art - even when it is a little strange to look at. So hurray for yellow trees and checked roofs and the chance to do some things a little differently.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Illustration Friday: Fleeting

Have you ever tried to hold water in your hands? For a while it looks like you can...and then the moment passes and it's easier to understand why someone somewhere thought of glasses.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Illustration Friday: Talisman

Love (c) 2009 Nahellenia

one little rose, three little words
a chance to show what we can
wide as the ocean: free as the birds
this is a lover's talisman

Symbols of love are never more important than when they are applied in a timely fashion. I have never found anything that speaks to the magic and miracle of falling and love (and staying that way) than the rose. It is talisman to those who use it - imbuing them with the power to say things they might otherwise not, do things they might otherwise falter at.

I think that is why we have roses, beautifully scented, wonderful to behold and yet with just the right number of thorns to remind you that love can also sting.

Drawing Hand

The means, the method and the magic.

I love the pencil. I think it is both a means and the magic behind a creative endeavour. I did this drawing several years ago while working with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Edwards, 1992). It's about as far as I got but I think this was a good effort.

I thought of posting the drawing for IF (and heralding the pencil as a talisman of great power) but I feel it isn't enough and because it isn't current it inspires a sense of laziness I do not want to encourage. So I'm still working on that post but figured I'd share this one anyway.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Illustration Friday: Poised

Poised to strike...and poised to sing.

It's a good thing not to judge a IllustrationFriday prompt before the week is over. When I first saw the word POISE, I thought, "These people are trying to kill me." But now that something has come to mind it isn't so bad. I only wish something keeps coming to mind and it is within my capacity to produce it. Because my first idea just wasn't.

To those professional illustrators and artist out there, "What do you do when something is clear in your head but isn't so clear in the outcome?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Illustration Friday: Subtract

Subtract (c) 2009 Nahellenia

daylight turns to dusk
dusk descends to darkness
sunshine subtracts slowly
left to linger in moonlight
a thousand stars beckon
a thousand crickets sing

dawn gives up the darkness
light comes back again
morning blooms and all is bright
and birds begin to sing
so the day is born again...
subtract it from your life

I did this in my (quickly becoming) favourite style. I did the dark ground in grafite dust then slowly added the definition by erasing it away the sun and the hightlights in the water and sky. The dark tones were added with a pencil then highlights subtracted with the same eraser technique.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Legendary Phoenix

I haven't had time to do my illustration for this weeks IF but that was because I was doing a different kind of art - this time I was the canvas instead of the artist and I now have a LEGENDARY Pheonix permanently etched into the skin of my wrist. It was done on Thursday and the picture was taken immediately after it was complete.

Meaningful and magical, the phoenix has featured in many myths about its origin and symbolism check out It also has significance in every major religion and ancient civilisation and was not only a sign of eternity and rebirth but also rising our of adversity.

The sight I love for tattoos is Tattoo Tribe and their explanation for each tattoo is very comprehensive. While I loved their ideas, they are a bit complicated and I wanted something small so I chose a rather simple line version. I think it came out really well.

It is inspiring and beautiful and since it is part of my spiritual development, I think I am on the right track. Here it is...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Illustration Friday: Intricate

I don't think I can say anything about this one other than check out the intricacy of the weave. It was not only intricate in its creation (READ: I couldn't find a shortcut to save my life) but in its crafting in real life.

Baskets like these are constructed from a reed that was initially considered an environmental hazard. Now they are part of a thriving craft industry.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Happy Birthday

It's my birthday and the joy of seeing another year go by is tempered by the reality of...another year going by. If I want to be something wonderful when I grow up, I think it might be time to start thinking of what that something is going to be. Writing and painting, drawing and research might fill my days right now but there is something missing and I don't really know what it is.

Perhaps this is the year I finally figure it out. It is after all the start of something new...and that is always a little wonderful no matter how you look at it.

Happy Birthday to me!

Illustration Friday: Breezy

Getting an idea is only as good as how soon (and well) one can use it. It's taken me very long to put this one into effect. But I think it is a good effort. Trying to get the pencil as dark as possible was rather difficult but with a little more pressing I think I got it. I should probably try editing it once it is scanned but that has to be a job for another time.

It is interesting to note that I had done something else earlier - this rough sketch for a possible painting came really quickly - and I think it has suitable potential for something in colour down the line.
Thinking in pictures is getting thinks!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Illustration Friday: Instinct

What comes naturally? Nurture! The natural instinct to care and to love is in every person. I would only hope that it is not an insinct we have forgotten with evolution leaving us empty and alone.

I had two similar ideas for this weeks Illustration Friday idea but in my efforts to do something from memory, I realised I was running before I could walk. I'm trying to improve my drawing skills so I shall limit myself to life drawing for a while (using pictures when I'm in a tight spot - like this one from Getty Images) and see if that doesn't help me get better. Only then will I go back to drawing from imagination and memory. Hopefully the slower journey will have fewer mishaps.

In the meantime I get to enjoy doing one more thing right. In this case, a chance discovery of Picasa's compatibility with my scanner, has given me improved pictures. I'm not losing the mid-tones as I was before and it makes for a fuller illustration even in pencil. It, however, also picks up all the eraser marks as well. I can't have everything but I'd rather too much than too little.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When The Week Ends Too Fast

The week has flown by and it wasn't kind enough to give me a warning.

I usually have everything I need to do mentally organised by Monday and the week is spent doing it with plenty of time to spare. But this week has been a little different. I made the mistake of thinking the Illustration Friday challenge was 'easy enough' and didn't do anything about it - which unfortunately included not thinking of a suitable idea. I only just managed to post my, hastily done, Illustration Friday picture and I am waiting on some kind of inspiration to push me towards my story for this weeks Writing Challenge.

Ugh, to have some way of doing that automatically... :-(

It's the first time I'm coming to the end of the week feeling a little caught out but there's still time to make it...I think. I just have to work double time and hope the muses find my sudden rush as endearing as if I was working with them in carefully choreographed creation.

Illustration Friday: Celebrate

Celebrating victory.

In this case, the concept more than its expression is what I would like to celebrate. Sadly, my brain to pencil link is kinda fuzzy and it gives me a whole new appreciation of the idea of 'use it or lose it'. But I'm using it now and perhaps in time, I will find it as natural to draw as to breath.

I do have to admit a certain amount of personal growth. Never before would I have tried something so out of my league, never before would I have been unafraid to suck, never before would I have put it in a public forum and never before would I have believed I could do a drawing once a week.

It's getting easier every day. Easier to draw, easier to try new things, easier to suck - or even get better. So perhaps that is my victory and that is definitely something worth celebrating.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Illustration Friday: Time

Better late than never,but better never late. It's the motto I live by and although I spend a lot of my time waiting on others, I don't ever want to change.
Still going strong with pencil shading and I think I might be on to something...slow and easy never hurt anyone. Plus, it makes my pictures look that much better when I take my time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Illustration Friday: Flawed

I've decided to return to basic pencil work. It's a much easier medium for me and I am able to express myself without a problem. It doesn't mean I won't return to coloured media at some later date but I might want to wait until thinking in pictures comes more naturally. It is one of my flaws at this time.

The others is that I don't like the idea of using facial features as flaws (especially since they add character - and I love freckles best of all) but I figured any face marred by tears would automatically qualify. Sadly, the very light tears do not scan very well (HELP! :-( ) and they might get lost in the fields of grey.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Illustration Friday: Climbing

He was a secret agent working undercover in The Organisation - doing his best to rise to the top of the ladder and find out who was really in charge. They called him The Climbing Plant.
Not as marvelous as my first try but this is an original concept so perhaps that gives me a few points. I couldn't get the pots to look right and the background was done as an afterthought...I wonder if that really matters. I like the final product well enough regardless.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Weakly, Weekly Writing

I spend so much of my time writing that I rarely think about it any more. But it has come to my attention that the only time I ever write fiction is during NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy. There was a time when writing fiction was my mainstay and I enjoyed it considerably. I miss it.

I miss writing silly titbits that have no redeeming quality then moving to something that is mentally and emotionally engaging. I like short stories but the best way to enjoy one is to write one and I haven't done that in a long time.

I guess real life has shown me.

But I am not willing to let go so easily. I have every intention of getting back my creative writing mojo and that's why I came up with a challenge for myself. I will write fiction amounting to 2,000 words or more every week. It simply means I will write several pieces that add up to the total word count or one long piece. I figured 2,000 words is a nice round figure. By the end of the year I will have over 100,000 words and if there are any themes I can compile a few sizeable anthologies.

I made this pact with myself before I decided I was going to do Illustration Friday but I guess it works out perfectly. My writing and drawing have always been in direct competition and my writing beats the crap out of my art every time. This will be a good time to get my art to develop some muscles while trying to harmonise the two processes. If I can write every week, then do a pic/illustration too, I will finally begin to live the creative life I really want. I am looking forward to that.

That I have successfully kept up with the last three weeks is extremely reassuring. At least if I write weakly it means I can get the whole job done without breaking anything.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

That Small Village...

Obama's inauguration speech sent shivers down my spine.

It was powerful, poised and perfectly executed. Yet it didn't contain much of the cushy sweetness I had expected; the grandeur that inaugural speeches have contained in the past. It was about what is real in the world today and more so in America. He inspired. He spoke with his heart and his mind...and maybe a touch of soul. He didn't seem to care that he what he was saying might not be popular or pleasant.

The most amazing thing is it seemed to be written, not only for the American people, but for the rest of the world.

As a Kenyan, I have seen and heard my country men talk of President Obama as though he was ours; as though Kenya was the 51st state of America. I have heard a few others measure their words with hope and understand that in the end he must serve the interests of his country before he serves ours. I have heard some dismiss him as 'Yet another American' distant and different.

But Kenya is a republic and we are in dire need of real leadership. With the failure of our president and his government; the people, desperate for someone to believe in, have picked the son of a Luo man and an American woman. The 'most powerful man in the world' is our role model, our hero, our leader; more because we cannot look at each other and find the same sense of pride. We have been betrayed by our leaders, our family and friends and ourselves. But the achievement of President Obama has given many hope.

It is not a false hope. To hear him say "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work..." Might be a call for his people, but it is a call to us all; perhaps Kenyans more than most.

To hear him declare, "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." Is probably a dig at a country mired in so much corruption we would not be able to raise our heads in public if we could master the shame.

We are a country with bad habits. Habits that need to be broken. There are those waiting on a hand out from America. They are waiting for this son of Kogelo to make a difference where they themselves are unable or unwilling to make a change. They are hoping for a miracle because it is the only way they see a future. They claim Obama, forgetting that their claim to fame is an absentee father. They claim him, forgetting that it is our willingness to bury our head in the sand and let the leaders we do have rob us blind.

President Obama called to his countrymen - to the world - to be the best they can be. I am going to do my best to be just that. We have been challenged and it is up to every person to take up that challenge. If we do, then perhaps the hope that President Obama can change the world will not be an empty one. But it will only be because we each did our part.

Is it strange that the inaugural speech felt like it was directed at me? I think not.

There goes that shiver again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Illustration Friday: Pale

I've always been a fan of Illustration Friday. I'd go over to the main page, look at what other people were doing then sigh and find something else to do. I don't know if it was this particular topic or if it was something inside me that just clicked (like finally starting my blog) but I drew this picture.

It's a reproduction from an art book Learn Pencil Shading: Landscapes and Objects 1. I've had it for years and always looked at the pictures, occasionally done one or two then put it safely back on my book shelf'; until Illustration Friday gave me the topic PALE and the chance to step out and go crazy.

So here it is.


There is no alternative to starting.

However, I've been planning to 'start' for years. Finally, the unexpected happened and I was forced to make a stand. This is it. I am starting my blog. I am probably going to suck at it. (I don't really care - but then again I do otherwise I wouldn't mention it.)

So it begins...