Friday, August 21, 2015

The Pacific North West

In my mind, Arizona can be gorgeously photogenic on a grand scale, but deeply disappointing up close.  Everything bites, stings, or hurts you and ultimately just resolves into dust there--it's so hot!  Maryland, and all of the original 13 colonies, are impossibly beautiful and inviting on an intimate and personal level.  Whether wandering in the woods or looking for hermit crabs on the shore, every sense happily breathes in and wants to illustrate that part of the world.   
Three years ago I discovered the Pacific Northwest, my son married a beautiful girl who lived near Seattle for most of her life, and so we keep going back...
It has everything!  Sublime mountain heights,  waves that wash right up to the trees, 
more shades of green than I thought grew naturally anywhere 
and all the sweet sensory appeal of florals, vegetation and every kind of tree.  Karen, a dear friend and neighbor when our children were small, along with her husband John McMillan, were my generous tour guides and hosts for the first day.  We traversed the Washington and Oregon shores where they've made their home.  I was on sensory overload the whole time, asking them to pull over repeatedly by sights that took my breath away.  They happily obliged every time!
The air begs to be inhaled.  With the close proximity of the ocean and every nook and cranny filled with plants and flowers, an exhilarating aroma of fresh life is everywhere.  
This isn't going to be a travelogue.  
It'd take too long--there's just too much...but I'm in love with this area!  
The architecture satisfies in both a familiar and unexpected way. 
Many homes and buildings reflect traditional early American and European influence.
But others are as unique and diverse as the individuals who call Washington and Oregon home. Living near the shore, it's clear what this resident cares about and he proudly displays it all!
And this place is a gem, complete with a dog on the porch and bluegrass music.  I took a half dozen photos and wished we had time for a pony ride! 
Hanging plants and flowers line the streets of Snohomish, WA.  This photo, compliments of Taunna Farnsworth Ormond, a talented photographer (check out her Facebook posts!), friend and tour guide for a day, reveals the areas obsession with plants and flowers.  
Nearly everyone adds to the beauty that surrounds them by planting more to embellish their homes and places of commerce. 
No city is without its faults, 
but Seattle has so much to offer it's easy to overlook 'em, when so many of its residents are as nice as the family my son married into, the Halls.  Michelle and Rich rise every morning before most people realize another day's begun and would gladly share anything and everything they have to make life better.  They love life, and have the talent to know how to make this world 
new again for anyone they spend time with.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Self-Publishing Woes VS WOWS! = Go with Local Business Owners!

Writing children's books is a life-long dream for me, so
 I've been SO FRUSTRATED with Lulu Publishing and Createspace, where plenty of people are employed to pleasantly B.S. all sorts of promises, but in the end, you to do the majority of the work.  Createspace doesn't charge you, but Lulu cost me over $1300 to make an unusably poor-quality paperback.  Luckily, the eBook is OK, but that's a hefty chunk of change to produce it.
The paperback will probably never be circulated, because Lulu charges too much 
for each book they print (ON TOP of the $1300+) and I don't know if I can find anyone to help me fix what they should've gotten right the first time around.  

The problem is, both these companies farm out the actual printing work, 
so those you work with never see the final product.  No one's accountable--if there's 
a problem it's up to you, the customer, to figure out how to reformat and resubmit 
what you thought was a print-ready file the first time around, because they told you it was. 

For someone like me, reformatting and resubmitting presents an impossible barrier.   
I love to draw, paint, write, sing and create, 
but haven't a clue when it comes to all things technical.  
When a sales rep. tells me the file is ready, I expect a quality product to result.  
When that doesn't happen, the next person I talk to has no idea who I talked to before 
or what was said, yet somehow, the poor quality issue is always my fault.
This blog entry is being created to warn other would-be self-publishers 
away from companies like Lulu Publishing, and lend cautionary advice about
Amazon's Createspace.  The latter DOES offer a great deal, and as long as the interior of your 
book is black and white, it should turn out OK---it should--I'm not saying it will, but at least, if it doesn't, what you've lost is time, not large amounts of cash.  You can lose BOTH with Lulu.

On the other hand, there are unsung heroes out there, working their hearts out, just like you are.  
Here are some I've most recently discovered.

Located in Logan, Utah at 110 West 1200 South, is a gem of a business that I discovered from a flyer in my mailbox.  They do just about everything I need to have done, and because it's a local business, I speak face-to-face with the person responsible for my end product.  What a pleasure it is to communicate, and I don't pay out until I've approved a physical proof of what I'll be having printed.  Missy Tiatia, at Watkins, not only listened, she offered real solutions at very reasonable rates to help me produce the books, cards, etc. which I've been creating at home for years.  

To go the extra mile, she offered to trim off the superfluous 1/4" white border at the top of every page which Createspace keeps creating in my Twinkle and Luna books.  
For less than 10 cents a book to expertly trim that unsightly misplaced border, 
NOW I have a product I'm ready to market!  
She assures me they can keep doing that until if/when Createspace problems ever get resolved.  Within the next week I'll have my Etsy store ready to go and each book will be available with 
an ACC Audio & Lullaby CD included in the back.
I believe I've already raved about Full Fidelity's Steve Phillips, at 4914 State St. in SLC.  It's tucked behind another store, so you have to know who you're looking for.  But everyone who uses Full Fidelity knows what they're there for: exceptional recording quality at an unbelievably
reasonable rate.  No one trying to market their art and music has money to throw away; 
Steve knows that and accommodates us--dreamers like me.   I cannot say enough good about Steve's recording studio.  He's an artist and a pro.
Working with Raland at Rose Pedal Records was another unexpectedly satisfying foray into self-publishing, since he is also a perfectionist and artist.  It's another impossible to find place, so call ahead if you want to stop by, and believe me, it's worth the hunt because the shop's a real treasure.  It's located behind what looks like an abandoned building, 
but is actually a real Fire Station, at 6500 South 1300 East, SLC.  
Oh, and the main number is 801-274-9953, but I've always called 801-506-0060.  Raland picks up and happily (seriously, the guy's never ruffled) gives you directions on how to find them.  
He worked with the jpeg images I brought in to design a CD face that totally coordinates with the cover.  It was magical!  When he printed off the first one, I got teary...the CD looks PERFECT!  
Thanks to his buddy over at Full Fidelity, it also sounds pretty darn good too!  Hopefully, by next week, I'll be ready with my own Etsy store, so there's one place to go for 
everything, and I can guarantee the quality, having winnowed out what's not.

If you'd like to schedule an interactive musical presentation, 
any Friday or Saturday beginning in mid-September,
please email:

Friday, July 17, 2015


Just a few days after they got back from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico,
Jordan and Karli 
entertained me for the first week of July, in their new home near LA!  Visiting Los Angeles,  actually Toluca Lake, in particular, was lovely.
I haven’t been to LA in a very, VERY long time, and I’ve never really seen it.  So, here’s what I noticed, starting with this view from the airplane.
Looking out of the window,
a never ending sea of homes, apartments 
and commercial buildings,very close together,
covers the desert, with countless roads and 
highways weaving through them all.
From the airport, I gazed out at sights foreign to me, like a little kid, as we drove to the Los Angeles temple in rush hour traffic.
That temple is far, far more magnificent than I was able to capture in a photo, both inside and out.
Grocery shopping and errands followed, allowing me to 
glimpse into their every-day lives.  
If you're a mom, you get why this is cool!
Once at their place and settled a bit, I wandered around the block and fell head over heals in love with 
St. Charles Borromeo Church and school, directly behind
their apartment.  The bell ringing on Sundays is heavenly! I posted more about this place on Facebook.
Griffith Park with friends is where we spent the 4th. In that group, I was the age of everyone’s mother, and just watched them hit a volleyball around after the picnic lunch/dinner.  
Not that what they played was any kind of serious, 
but I’ve NEVER been even remotely good at sports, so working on a blog and taking photos suited me just fine! 
Then Sunday dawned, 
with Karli and Jordan playing personal chefs
for my birthday on Sunday, the 5th of July.  Karli's sumptuous bacon, pineapple and cheese covered hamburgers, bacon wrapped bundles of string beans with a sauce that made them the best I’ve EVER had, pretty much ruining 
other hamburger joints for me! 
Jordan made Belgian waffles...have you tried them?  
I’ve never eaten the like—YUM! Sorry the photo's blurry, but well, there was singing and this cool waffle all lit up with candles....
Leaving is always hard—I hate this long-distance thing.  But now we’re back to our lives, and
I’m still playing catch up, having worked 2-3 jobs at a time
ever since returning from Korea. And, of course, there was college before teaching in Korea and a move to Logan,
Doctor’s visits, never-ending piles of paperwork, etc. 
It can drain the fun out of life.  Sleepy most of the time…
Yesterday, tho, something noteworthy happened. 
I’ve mentioned that the story of
Twinkle and Luna is a lullaby, yes?  
Well, what I haven’t really talked about
is that these melodies coming into my head are quite new—or rather, they’ve been absent for nearly 50 years.

As a child, I heard music and sang all the time.  It never occurred to me that it was any kind of gift. 
But sometime during the 1st grade a traumatizing series of events involving my parents, a nun who hated me and the principal nun--whom I worshiped—resulted in the music leaving.  For me, that day,
the music actually died inside.

So, the idea of taking this embryonic song to sing in acapella, and record it was terrifying.  It wasn’t until I remembered that terrifying experience as a child
that I began to understand
the level of fear that consumed me.

Enter Steve Phillips and his assistant, Curtis
of Full Fidelity Recording--the best recipe
for soothing nerves and tweaking imperfect
recording attempts into something worth keeping. 
They are so professional, talented, relaxed, and real!
I didn’t need or want anyone to hold my hand or utter platitudes of “you can do it” crap.  What they did, and always do, is far, far better.  They offer great equipment,
space to record, as many chances as you need/want
to get the song right and the ability to splice
together all the best portions of what you come up with.
Steve has a terrific ear for tone and quality, as does Curtis, 
and between the 3 of us, a decent version of the song surfaced.

Singing around children doesn’t make me nervous.  Singing for ME, in front of anyone I’m not really close to, hearing my voice in the headphones and noticing every vocal variance from perfection—can be overwhelming.  But they made it easy, and I can’t say enough good about them!  I can joke around and share stories with them, too, which helps take the edge off.  
Next time, I won’t be so nervous.

SO, now the 1st phase of the recording is done! 
The ACC vocal for Twinkle and Luna
is successfully recorded!  In a couple of weeks I’ll go back to add in a reading of the story and some humming, then burn copies to put into each book.  A downloadable audio file will follow at some point, too. I’ll be making larger character cutouts of Twinkle and her friends, as well as Luna and the Wind, bugging Jordan for a power-point, so the story can be ready to
market in schools, pre-schools, libraries and more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Paperback of Twinkle and Luna

They say a picture is worth a thousand words--man, I hope so!  
At any rate, this adorable photo of a little one looking at the paperback edition of 
Twinkle and Luna makes me so happy.  According
to her mum, it's a favorite and she pulls it out 
frequently to have it read to her.
So, it's official: Createspace has the best 8.5" X 11" paperback version 
of Twinkle and Luna. The link to it is as follows:

Lulu has the eBook, which comes in handy for sitting in church or long car trips.
I'm always amazed at how mesmerized little ones are by 
anything they can pull up on an iPhone or iPad.
The eBook also provides the most vivid colors, 
and can by found here:

 Before I can get to the recording studio to make the music CD that goes
with Twinkle and Luna, Girls' Camp awaits.
Next week we'll pack up and spend 4 days at
Cinnamon Creek, which looks quite lovely!
Hoping to find a way to sleep, however, in tents
surrounded by giggling teens.  Fun fun.
The first week of July will take me to Los Angeles to spend the 4th of July and my birthday
with my favorite couple, Jordan and Karli.  
They've just returned from a glorious week in Cabo with friends,
and are back in LA, carving out a new life together.
  And what's new with you?  How is the beginning of summer playing out?
So much to do in these warm, slightly less hectic months.
Was there really ever a time when the word "boredom" had meaning?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Twinkle and Luna are On Their Way to Print this Summer!

Under the pin name is J. E. Sakura, having lived in and loved both Japan and Korea, my dream has always been to publish and promote children's books in Asia as well as the USA.  
Twinkle and Luna will be the first in a series of children's books with DVDs 
(since the words are sung), 
coloring books, poetry, and much more.
These days, finding a publisher as a new author is nigh unto impossible.  
There ARE those who accomplish just that; 
but I have this idea: 
 having run my own company as Artwork by Joanna since 1976,
Why not continue that tradition and self-publish, 
retaining complete autonomy of content and ideals?  
Amazon's printing of my book was of unprofessionally poor quality,
which no amount of communication could resolve.
 So, I've stopped promoting it, and will pull it off of CreateSpace 
as soon as I have time to call them.

Instead, I'm giving Lulu Publishing a try.
 So far, they've been very professional 
but the bottom line will be what the final product looks like.  
I'm picky, so we'll see.  
There's no such thing as a half-rate Artwork by Joanna product,
so the books have to match a forty year standard.
As the past year and a half of working two jobs winds to a close, 
Twinkle, along with her friends, Sparkle, Shimmer, Glimmer, Glow
and most recently, Luna, look forward to 
adding you to their circle of friends!