May 31, 2011

Don't Be Scared - It's Only Art

I want to try something different on the blog today.

My cousin is a very talented woman. I’ve been meaning to blog about her work for a while, not only because it gives me a chance to blog about something that's not book related, but because it gives me the opportunity to talk about someone with a unique gift. I’m constantly impressed by the works she creates. When she threw a Samhain party last year, she went full-out creative, transforming her bathroom into a scene right from of a horror movie. Not an actual horror movie. Tiffany decorated from that creative place within where the muse often dwells. I remember talking to her on the telephone after the party. Clean-up was a process that involved a lot of bleach and several days. After all, the blood had stained the tub, the walls, and the tile. Did I mention she’d created a corpse to prop in the bath with a few well-placed (dismembered) body parts? If I ever want anyone to give me a realistic visual of a crime scene or to decorate my place for Samhain – I’ll call Tiff.

So, what exactly am I doing differently? I’m playing on the other side of the pen. By that, I mean...

I’m the one asking the questions. *Grin.*

Hope you enjoy!

Winter: So, how "real," do you think we should keep this?

Tiffany: Play it by ear. If I'm not comfy with something, (which I don't think will be an issue), I'll let you know

Winter: Well, I'm not going to ask your favorite position or anything. You're my cousin. I love you, but there are some things I just don't need to know. So, worry not! I'll tread wisely.

Tiffany: No worries.

Winter: I'm pretty sure that's staying in this. *Laughs.*

Tiffany: *Laughs.* Sure.

Winter: All right, let's begin with an introduction. I'm afraid if I introduce you, I'm going to make you sound far creepier than you really are (because I like highlighting the fact that you hide in your garage making scary monsters). Alas, I know your creative fingers stretch into areas that aren't creepy. So...

Tiffany: I think the funny thing is, if you met me on the street you'd never guess me to be the creepy art gal.

Winter: Oh, definitely not! (See: Picture of Tiffany below). Very Samantha Stevens, I think.

Tiffany: I don't have a very intimidating personality. I'm very...fluffy? I'm sweet and compassionate, quite the cry-baby.

Winter: I wouldn't say fluffy or cry-baby, as those two words are more often used negatively than positively. But, I would definitely agree that your personality is a lot different than what people might think if they only saw your work. It's a refreshing contrast. Makes me wonder how deep you have to dig to find that darkness.

Tiffany: I'm not so sure it's darkness. I don't have to dig at all.

Winter: What do you consider it to be?

Tiffany: It's almost like I'm the mad scientist. I will be working on one of my monsters in the garage, talking to it the whole time, just like it's a living entity. I grew up on horror movies and I love the visuals. That's part of it.

Winter: Do you make up stories to go along with your creations? Say, does Mister Sticky have a story? He was your first corpse, was he not?

Tiffany: Yes. Mr. Sticky was an accident. I didn't know at the time that I had that talent. I am really into Halloween and I wanted to go all out for a Halloween party I was having. I looked at all of the decorations in the store and couldn't afford any of it. So, I collected what I had laying around the house and decided to make my own. Mr. Sticky is rolled up news paper, cheese cloth, and carpet glue underneath his paint job. I was pleasantly surprised with how well he turned out. Later, I planned on making him a bride, but I haven't gotten to it just yet. Every time I have to move him around in the garage I talk to him...

Winter: I actually didn't know that (about Mister Sticky's birth). You were pleasantly surprised after creating him -- were you hooked? Did you know after making him that you would make more Corpse Creations?

Tiffany: Oh yeah! I've always loved art of any kind. Combine that with my love of Halloween and you could say that I'm hooked.

Winter: What about Samhain (Halloween) calls to you? Is it just the fun and spooky aspect or do you find another meaning in it?

Tiffany: During Samhain we are called upon to remember those who have gone before and I try to do so. I have lit candles for those loved ones that I honor. I haven't done this every year, as some years are busier than others. It certainly reminds you how small your life really is in terms of how large the universe is and how we see time. I've always been fascinated with how close we really are to those who have passed, especially on that day.

Winter: I know you've been doing art for many years. I remember your artwork hanging in our grandmother's home. When did you start drawing and realize that you had a knack for it?

Tiffany: I was always really good at coloring but I knew I had something special in the fourth grade. I remember sitting in my room drawing, I drew a Pegasus unicorn from my imagination and it looked spectacular. I immediately took it to my dad and showed him. I didn't know Mema had any of my work...

Winter: She did. It was hanging on the wall in the room closest to her bathroom. If recollection serves me well, it was a colored pencil drawing of a cross and roses. I really liked your roses. You showed me how to draw roses once, do you remember?

Tiffany: That was my trademark for the longest time! Of course I remember. I've gotten better since.

Winter: You really have. What was the title of the painting you recently finished with the skull and the rose? You blew me away with that one!

Tiffany: Eye of the Beholder. I have it hanging in my wet-bar in my living room. My husband thinks I'm going to scare people away.

Winter: *Laughs.* That's a bit of a Pennington trait, so it seems.

Tiffany: *Grins mischievously.*

Winter: You went to school for cosmetology, correct? Do you feel what you learned there has influenced your art in any way?

Tiffany: Well, I went to cosmetology school so I could do makeup. Since my sophomore year in high school I have wanted to be a makeup artist for cinema. So, that school got me closer to my goal. As far as my art goes, I do look at faces a little more technically. It's important to get the balance right and it's easier to draw or paint the human face when you understand the structure.

Winter: And you've also done make-up for a few photo shoots. In fact, I remember the first time I modeled for Anna Miller (a really awesome photographer), you were not only in charge of doing make-up (which turned out to be an all day adventure), but you also made a pair of beautiful fey/angel wings and really pitched in creatively with the costume design for the shoot.

Now be honest with me, do you really enjoy being on your feet and in someone's face for that long? Is it worth it to see the vision come alive? What do you feel when you see your ideas brought to fruition? Are you ever disappointed?

Tiffany: I don't like being in people's faces at all. You will find me with gum in my mouth when I do have to be. But I do love seeing my ideas play out. Some of my ideas have turned out better than others. I try not to waste time being disappointed because as long as I took the time to be creative, then I've learned something.

Those wings took me HOURS to make and I still have them.

Winter: Those wings were FABULOUS! Again, I was very impressed. And I have to say, you get some major brownie points for being courteous in that regard (chewing gum when you're so up-close doing make-up). Both positions can be a bit uncomfortable if you're not careful. *Laughs.*

Tiffany: Very true.

Winter: Back to your corpses, though. How many corpses total have you made and what inspired you to start your business, Corpse Creations?

Tiffany: So far, I have four in my collection and I have donated one to a friend. After Mister Sticky, I attempted Mrs. Sticky. I got the dimensions of the torso - oh, so wrong. So, it became the dismembered burned man that I used in my bathtub last Halloween. Then I worked on a clown named Bones MacPhearsome. He's awesome. I then worked on an idea I had in my head for over a year. It's a troubled being coming out of a framed piece of wall art. The last was the most difficult to make. I made a demon. He stands over six feet tall and has these expansive wings. As far as Corpse Creations being a business, it's more like a hobby. I have dreams of it becoming a full-fledged business someday.

Winter: And what about your paintings? Many of them are viewable on Corpse Creations' Facebook page, right? Will you continue on in both areas? Do you find it difficult to balance the painting VS corpse creating, or just go where the muse beckons?

Wait, are you even five feet? *Ducks.* (For those that don't know, my cousin is quite short).

Tiffany: I've had to do what the muse tells me. Some of my painting is a little darker so it works well posting it with Corpse Creations. The other more spiritual work is on another page of mine called Artistic Visions by Tiffany. I've been on a painting kick for a very long time now. I haven't worked on a corpse since last October. The muse is just wanting me to develop in as many ways as possible.

*Sticks tongue out.* I'm 4'11"!

Winter: I know, I know. Considering I'm only a few inches taller (another Pennington gift) -- I've no right to cast stones here. *Laughs.* However, I wanted to point out the fact that I was pretty sure, if you were making a 6ft tall demon, you were up on a ladder. *Grins.* I've got to highlight your dedication to your craft, you know.

Tiffany: I did spend some time on a ladder after the wings were put in place. I actually applied the carpet glue to the wings while they were attached to the frame of the body. You should have heard all the cursing coming from my garage during the making of the demon. Only fitting, I guess.

Winter: Well, you were working with a demon. Apparently, you start channeling bits and pieces of your art?

Tiffany: Ha! It felt like I was channeling more than one demon!

Winter: I can send a vampire and a lycanthrope over. I'm fresh out of exorcists, though.

Tiffany: I kept asking myself what I was thinking making those wings...I would like to create a vampire. Not sure about a lycanthrope. I like to be as realistic as possible.

Winter: Yeah, and that would be very difficult, methinks. Well, I know it's getting late for you (not everyone's keen on the vampire schedule). So, we'll start wrapping this up. Do you have any plans for future projects?

Tiffany: I've been asked to be one of three featured artists in a Halloween show this coming year. I had an idea of showing how disconnected we have become by using a corpse family and setting them up around a dining room table. That's all the information I can give out on that event. I am working on a zombie child, however. I also have some paintings in the making. Time will tell.

Winter: And I'm going to get my Sheela-Na-Gig and Zombie Breasts, right? *Smiles sweetly.*

Tiffany: Heehee, that's the plan!

Winter: Marvelous! I truly look forward to seeing what you create next, Tiffany. Thanks so much for letting me play on this side of the pen. I appreciate it!

Tiffany: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I always enjoy chatting with you.

Winter: That's a good thing, considering!

Note: The picture of Tiffany, Sticky, and Bones are courtesy of Anna Miller.

May 30, 2011

Bloody Claws

Yule is a time to celebrate the rebirth of the light, but for Preternatural Private Investigator and Paranormal Huntress Kassandra Lyall, it’s about solving yet another series of crimes.

When a couple disappears from their quiet neighborhood home, Detective Arthur Kingfisher brings Kassandra in on the case. Faced with a bloody symbol painted on the couple’s bedroom wall, the cops are stumped. That is, until they find a body and their missing person’s report becomes a full-blown murder investigation. Kassandra realizes that someone is targeting the pagan community. The investigation brings up some heavy emotions, making it harder for her to play human in front of the law enforcement officers she works with.

In the midst of aiding the police, Kassandra finally finds herself at serious odds with Sheila Morris, the local werewolf pack’s Alpha female, when Sheila decides to abuse someone very dear to Kassandra.

A certain Alpha has a bone to pick. The question is: Who’s going to pick it first?

The Third Book in the Kassandra Lyall Preternatural Investigator Series.

May 17, 2011

Seducing the Muse

Firstly, before I jump off on the topic (that I hopefully have the attention span to stick with) -- I wanted to write a brief note letting everyone know that I am still running the second giveaway for a signed copy of Darkness Embraced: A Rosso Lussuria Vampire Novel. I didn't do the drawing this weekend as I got some shoddy sleep. So for those of you that haven't yet entered, there's still time to get your entry in (See here: Darkness Embraced - Giveaway). I'll perform the drawing either mid-week or this weekend.

I wrote a few blogs ago that the muse isn't always there, revving to go. Pretty to think so, but in my experience, I've learned it's completely unrealistic to think that way. When you sit down to work on a novel every day, trust me, there will be a time where all you end up doing is having a staring contest with a blinking cursor. It happens. In fact, it's happening to me right now, but you know what? Up yours, cursor! Ahem, anyhow. I don't believe in writer's block. I've mentioned that before in previous posts. I firmly believe that any blocks a writer or artist comes across are generally a result of something self-created. We wall ourselves in, we box ourselves in, and it's ultimately up to us to get ourselves out and over the wall we've built around ourselves. Walls arise for a lot of reasons, and yes, I've hit 'em. Most definitely. My walls generally erect during moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, when I'm questioning the writing too much, or when I'm trying to get a character to do something they don't want to do. The best cure for writer's block or any artistic blockage is to steadily work through it. If you don't like it the first time, you can do it again, and again, and again -- until you're satisfied. Eventually, you'll find your flow, your muse, your mojo...whatever you want to call it.

Something I've learned after writing four books is how to seduce my muse. Moments of inspiration are wonderful and exhilarating but they don't keep a book going. Diligence, patience, dedication, and passion keep a book going. Every writer and artist is different when it comes to the creative process, their likes and dislikes, and that's something we learn along the way. One of the things that working on two series of books has taught me is to pay attention to what inspires me, to learn to strike the match of my own creative spark without the rush of inspiration first-hand. Sometimes, all it takes is just getting away from the hustle and bustle (and all of the cats) and hiding in a room alone. Other days, I have to create a sort of sacred space; candlelight, incense, perfume, silk, whatever works to help create the right atmosphere in which to get my head in a scene. There's something very transcendental about writing for me. I'd go so far as to call it a spiritual experience, like slipping into a deep meditation for hours and when I finally come up for air, the mundane world is still a bit foggy. Once I find my flow, I lose myself in the writing. I transcend reality. I can't write clinging to it. I have to surrender to the sweet lure of my muse, to the process, to my characters and their worlds. Sometimes, it really does feel as though there's an in-between world that us artists step into in order to work, to create. There's a rush to it, yes, and a comfort, a home. It may sound strange, but think of it this way: I cannot think of a single person I have known or met that does not crave such a thing. Look at the world around you, look at history -- there's always been a need within humanity to transcend (not necessarily escape). We do so through movies, television, magazines, books, music, poetry, games, and so many other various ways. If you've ever watched a really good movie and left the theater still feeling slightly unreal, that's similar to what I feel when I step away from a book. When my wife and I got together, she kept reminding me of the importance of finding a balance, of keeping one foot in the world of the imagination and one foot in this. You can't lose yourself entirely to one or the other, and truth be told, without reality imagination would not exist.

When working on Darkness Embraced, I realized that I could use music to create atmosphere. When I wrote my first book, I was against listening to music when writing. I was cautious and I didn't want to take the risk of distracting myself from writing Kassandra's story. Yet, even though I wasn't listening to music -- there were times when working on a scene that a song would get stuck in my head. I've mentioned musicians and songs in the books and have received e-mails from readers that checked the bands out and really enjoyed their music. But it wasn't until Darkness Embraced that I started listening to music when writing and actually using it as a way to seduce my muse. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that, really. Why didn't I realize sooner that I could use music to enhance the feel of a scene? Well, mainly because I've always been a very lyrical person. I focus on lyrics and when I listen to a song, that's what I'm doing: listening to a song. I adamantly believed it would only distract me. When writing Darkness Embraced, I found myself craving music. I flitted through songs and realized that if the music was in some aspect reflective of what I was working on, if I could relate it to the story or a character, then it clicked into place like a soundtrack and actually enhanced the atmosphere in the room where I was writing.

I thought for this blog that I'd go ahead and reveal some of my process a bit more intimately by sharing some of the music I listened to when working on Darkness Embraced and Bloody Claws.

Inkubus Sukkubus

Vampyre Erotica; Viva La Muerte; The Dark Goddess

I'm pretty much an all-around happy author if Inkubus Sukkubus is on my playlist. If I could only have one artist to listen to when writing, I'd go with IS. There's a lot of versatility with their music, many of the songs I can draw a connection to or simply enjoy. "Woman to Hare" (Vampyre Erotica) is a great song, especially since it covers the topic of shape-shifting and is pretty much a, "Hell yeah," to female power. "Vampyre Erotica" was on my playlist when writing Bloody Claws and is a song that strongly puts me in mind of Eris (a bit of a teaser for those of you that have asked if Eris will feature more in future books). "Vampyre Kiss" (Beltaine) is another wonderful song that I listened to when working on BC, though, quite frankly, I have a hard time deciding if it reminds me of Lenorre or Eris. I'm leaning toward Lenorre on that one. The character that I've had the most difficult time trying to find a song to listen to when writing has been Rosalin. There was a scene in Bloody Claws that I wrote while nearly in tears listening to "Emergence" (Viva La Muerte). Another song that worked for a scene involving Ros was "Lunancy" (The Dark Goddess). The song focuses heavily on the moon and her many faces. I think it's fairly fitting for a preternatural being governed by the moon. "I Am The One" (Belladonna & Aconite) and "Danse Vampyre" (Vampyre Erotica) are songs that I listened to when working on Darkness Embraced. I hit a bit of a block writing one of the sex scenes in DE (stuck in a sex scene -- oh no!) and found myself listening to "Danse Vampyre" to get my head into a more darkly sensual frame of mind.

Tarja Turunen

My Winter Storm

Several songs from this album made it to my playlist when working on Darkness Embraced. "I Walk Alone" reminded me of Epiphany, as well as, "My Little Phoenix." Tarja's cover of Alice Cooper's, "Poison" is bloody effin' sexy and "Damned and Divine" is beautiful and haunting. "Die Alive" and "Minor Heaven" also worked for some great background music. (Note: As you can tell, I don't listen to entire albums, only the songs that I can twist in my head to fit what I'm working on).

Lacuna Coil

Shallow Life

I started out listening to a lot of the songs on this album while working on Darkness Embraced. "Not Enough" and "Spellbound" worked for the feel of character relationships. "Wide-Awake" was another good song that I listened to. Really, the only aggressive song on this album that I found myself listening to when writing Epiphany's story was "Underdog."

When I finished DE and started working on Bloody Claws, many of the more aggressive songs on this album went on my playlist. "Survive" and "I'm Not Afraid" and "Unchained" really helped me to get in touch with Kassandra's anger and resilience.

Florence + the Machine


I only listened to one song off of this album and that was when writing Bloody Claws. "Howl" is freaking epic. I heard it and instantly caught the inner beast/werewolf reference. There was a night when I couldn't sleep that I got up to work on a scene between Lenorre and Kass. I put the song on repeat. I must have listened to it twenty times. The song doesn't necessarily reflect any story-line, but it captured a certain depth of emotion and passion that I found fitting and very Kass.

So, there you have it. One of the tricks I've learned to help get the creative juices going -- finding music that reminds me of my characters and using it to help fuel the creative spark.

For those of you interested in checking the above music out, I apologize for being too lazy to link directly to the official sites in this post (and I'm seriously not computer savvy). However, as Inkubus Sukkubus is one of my favorite bands, there's a link to their official website under the links section of my blog.

Brightest Blessings,

May 4, 2011


I told myself I'd write a blog entry today. So, that's what I'm going to do. I sat down to write one last night, but found myself too distracted.

I am happy to say that my partner and I were handfasted on Beltaine. Weeks before the wedding got me thinking, thinking a lot about what marriage and what the ceremony itself meant to me. We did not do a traditional wedding. I didn't wear a white dress. There was no aisle to walk down. It was a small and intimate handfasting, with my folks in attendance. We performed the ceremony at midnight on the first of May, under the blanket of a starry night. There was a chill in the air as a cold front moved in, but even so, it was lovely. Bec and I wrote the ceremony out earlier during the day. We had already exchanged our rings, but we did perform the tying of the hands to symbolize our union. I wore a crown of ivy, a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and matrimony.

Before the wedding, I had considered incorporating things more conventional, more traditional. Alas, I realized -- I'm merrily unconventional. I looked at dresses. I spent several hours one morning looking through online catalogs. I found nothing, absolutely nothing that I felt suited me. Bec and I were folding blankets from the dryer when I realized a "dresser" cloth I had, (material that was used to cover a dresser that needed to be painted) -- I could wear. I went to the bathroom, stripped, and donned the material. Who knew my sarong wrapping skills would come in handy? I found a broom skirt to pair it with, stepped out, and asked Bec, "What do you think?"

And so, I wore what she jokingly deemed the, "equivalent of a tablecloth." Which is definitely more my style than a traditional white dress. ;)

One of the reasons I pulled myself away from the path of the white dress and wedding hoopla, was because to me, it detracted from the true meaning. I didn't want to get caught up in materialism (not for our wedding). I wanted to keep my focus on what was of most importance: Our union, our love -- not who could make it or who couldn't, not what we were going to wear, or eat, or drink, or where the ceremony was to be held. I didn't want to get so caught up in the details that I overlooked our intent. I wouldn't allow myself. A close friend actually told me, "Stop being so non-materialistic. You at least have to have a reception so you can get gifts."

I felt a bit like a cheese-ball trying to explain that I already had my gift: Love. And when it came to the wedding, it was all about that one word, more-so than I had even imagined. I'd been focusing on Bec and I's love for each other, but there was more than that, so much more. There too was the love of family and friends, showering us with their blessings, congratulations, and support. Bec and I found ourselves deeply touched and thankful.

And might I say, my wife looked amazing. She wore a metallic grey blouse tucked into a pair of dark slacks. As soon as I saw the outfit, I told her she looked like a pirate. A sexy, swashbuckling pirate.

One of the other things that the marriage got me thinking about was the lack of equality in areas of our country, and of course, the unfairness of that lack. Years ago, in my teens, I came across a quote by Boethius that resonated very strongly for me: "Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law." I still believe that; it still resonates for me.

Equality would be a lovely thing, but when it comes down to it, a marriage is not a document, not from my perspective. Marriage is a verb. One of the things I addressed during the ceremony was that the ceremony itself is a symbol and a symbol has all the power and meaning that you give to it. Bec and I's marriage is not to be defined by a state or a religion, but by us, our own actions. It is OURS to define and OURS to uphold. The government in certain areas of this country may refuse to give us a piece of paper that declares our love and commitment, they may turn their cheeks and close their eyes to it, refusing to acknowledge it, but that doesn't make it go away, that doesn't make what we have anything less of a marriage.

This, dear readers, may be where I deviate from the norm. As a Pagan, I believe that we are all children of the universe, all daughters and sons of the Divine -- by whatever name you call HER/HIM. I believe that every human on this planet holds within themselves a thread of the Divine, whether they are good or bad people, and we have a right to make our own choices. The woman in me understands that I have a right to love as I will and to decide in what manner I will express that love. Though, I should note, I do not believe in actively seeking to harm another. There's a major difference of topics here. What you do with what you are given at birth is solely your responsibility, whether you acknowledge and embrace your inner God or Goddess is solely up to you. I believe that the capability to be beautiful or harrowing lies within us each.

There's an old Native American tale of a grandfather telling his grandson the story of two wolves: the dark and the light, the good and the bad, the selfless and the selfish, the compassionate and the cruel. The grandfather tells his grandson that these two wolves wage war within each of us. When the grandson asks, "Which wolf wins?" The grandfather tells the lad, "The one that you feed the most." How true is that? If you feed anger and resentment within yourself, is it no surprise you become an angry and resentful person? So, ever should we be careful of what we feed and nurture in ourselves, of which aspects of ourselves we choose to embrace and tend to, and which aspects we seek to transform and grow beyond.

I do not believe another human being has the right to say who (not a what, for those of you thinking about sheep, for Goddess' sake, please leave the poor sheep out of this) a person can or cannot love and marry. Love, real love, is a gift in all its forms. Is there a religion out there that doesn't highlight the importance of love? Isn't that one thread that nearly all religions carry in common? The love of family, friends, your neighbor, your's pretty all encompassing and everyone knows love isn't always sexual. Why religious fanatics try to attack the LGBT community with, "Well, if they get married what's next? Goats?" is, to me, a silly excuse.

For one, a goat can't say, "I do," and I think most people would agree with me that non-consensuality is a big-arsed no-no. Most importantly, we're talking about people here, consenting adults, flesh and blood individuals who have a soul, a mind, a body, a heart, thoughts, and feelings. Yes, feelings. An espousal of hatred and condemnation doesn't get anyone anywhere.

I remember the lessons I was taught in Sunday school as a child, and I do not, in any of them, recall hatred and condemnation being an attribute of those who are Christ-like. In fact, the last I checked, such things were the complete opposite. I'm tempted to call that kind of attitude as many things, but inconsiderate, uncompassionate, and selfish make it to the top of my list. I don't comprehend why it's so difficult for people to live and let live, to spread positivity instead negativity. Spiritual work and development are a personal journey, and sometimes, people don't always stop to do the work or to check themselves. Perhaps, many of them would realize the source of their negativity originates not from something outside of themselves, but from something within them. And that would be a daunting beast to tackle, wouldn't it?

Everyone has a right to their opinions. Diversity can be a strong suit. Just because someone's different than you doesn't mean you can't learn something from them. In fact, reflecting on the many different friends I have, from so many different walks of life, I feel confident in saying -- you can learn quite a bit from those that are different than you. Even if it's just a lesson in "tolerance." ;)

All in all, this whole thing has really shown Bec and I how many great and wonderful people we are friends with and how blessed we are. We have the pleasure of calling so many beautiful souls, our friends.

Thank you!