A sadistic serial killer. A young girl. A quick read. The flash fiction story boundless is now free.


The horror novelette Repetition is now available.

Introducing Derrick and Max

This is from the first illustration I did for the first Derrick and Max book. Derrick the Dog was released June, 2013.

My first ArtRage drawing

This was the first original drawing I completed with my Wacom Bamboo tablet and ArtRage, done almost entirely in pencil. Just a little practice drawing, not related to any of the stories I'm working on.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

On Outlining

I’d meant to get this out in October, but we got busy with Scouting and popcorn, and then we ping ponged illnesses around the house for a couple of weeks, so this is going to be my November post, instead.

I hated outlining.  I think I can blame school for that.  Most of my teachers who had assigned some sort of writing project (book report, essay, etc.) wanted you to turn in an outline before you ever started writing your paper.  I’ve always been an organic, or discovery, writer.  The outlines pissed me off for 2 main reasons:

  1. I had to figure out, in advance, the entirety of what I was going to write and the order I was going to write it in.
  2. I was then compelled to follow that outline when I got ready to write.

Since the outline was usually due far before the writing assignment, often without a lot of advance notice, that didn’t give much time to plan out what you were going to write.  It was even worse if it was something that required research.  Then, you were stuck with an outline for a topic that wasn’t fully researched that you were stuck following when you actually got ready to write the damn thing.  I hated those pre-outlined writing assignments.

Fast forward to the present.  I wrote my first novel Three (working title) without the

English: Book and apparatus for writing. Engra...

English: Book and apparatus for writing. Engraving (prints). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

use of an outline.  Well, I sort of had an outline, but it was in my head.  I knew pretty well what was going to happen, although some things changed along the way.  After all, if it’s good enough for Stephen King not to outline, it’s good enough for me. 

Or so I thought.  That novel is a disaster and is going to require extensive rewriting.  I started my second novel the same way.  I quickly started getting off track.  So, I sat back and rethought the outlining angle.  Around the same time, I read an excellent article on  You can read it here.  There were a couple of points that jumped out at me.

Under Step 10. Write the First Draft:

“If you choose to skip all the planning material above and jump straight into the writing, that is okay. Chances are, though, the first draft will end up being a structural disaster zone - and you will then have to apply all my planning techniques to it during the twelfth step: revision.”


Under Step 11. Revise WHAT You Have Said

“The good news? If you did plenty of planning before you wrote the novel's first draft (like I advised) there will actually be very little to do here.

“(What if you pretty much skipped all the planning and wrote the novel by the seat of your pants (i.e. you made it up as you went)? Then you will have a LOT of work to do here. Unless you are a genius, the first draft will be a complete mess, and your job is now to go through all the planning steps above in order to make sense of everything.)”

So, you can plan out your work ahead of time -- outlining, note taking, character development, and all that jazz -- or you can just start to write.  With the first option, you’ll already have worked out major plot points, seen problems ahead of time, and can make adjustments rather easily.  Both options are going to require rewrites, but the latter much more so, and more time spent overall.

So, I stopped my work on Parts (that 2nd novel), and outlined the thing.  It took me a day or two.  I worked out the order of how things were going to happen.  Got in some of the dialog I wanted to see in there.  Worked through a couple of sticky plot points (and had to make some changes).  So, I decided I’d try and write to my outline, but I with the following caveats.  I would:

  1. Give myself permission to veer off from the outline.  If the writing started going someplace else, I would go with it, and then see which was better:  the outlined version or the inspired version.
  2. Give myself permission to change the outline as needed.  If the inspired version worked better than the outlined version and didn’t set up any problems that I couldn’t work through, then I would adjust the outline to take into account the new material.
  3. If stuff popped into my brain, I’d see if I could work them into my outline.  If not, I’d just write the notes or scene and throw it into an orphaned scenes folder in Scrivener and see if something came of it later.

By doing that, I discovered three things:

  1. I had an easier time actually writing the novel, because I’d already worked out what was supposed to happen and when.
  2. I was able to slow down and enjoy the writing more.  Before, I was rushing through the writing, afraid I’d forget what I’d set out to write and what I had rattling around in my noggin.  Afterwards, I didn’t have to worry about it, because I had it all outlined out and kept open in the top pane of Scrivener while I wrote in the bottom pane.  By slowing down, I’m able to get more of the details down on the first round.
  3. I was basically outlining all along but doing so poorly.  I was trying to carry the outline around in my head.  That rush through the writing was sort of like a super outline, but more problematic because the writing of it was way more spread out, and I forgot things (details, for example).   And without a proper, not-in-my-head outline, I didn’t have a good reference that I could look at quickly and easily.

So, I got Parts all outlined out, and it was coming along fairly well.  It’ll still need revising, but less so than it would have without the outline.  Yes, I did say, “…was coming along…” as in past tense.  I’ve set it aside for the time being as I work to finish illustrating for the 1st Derrick and Max book.  Then, I’m planning to illustrate the already-written 2nd Derrick and Max, and then I have a few shorts rattling around that I’m thinking of making into a collection.  After that, I’ll probably get back to Parts.  Oh, and those other works – I outlined them ahead of time.  And the writing has gone really smoothly. 

I hope this helps some of you out there.  What about you?  Are you a planner or someone who just jumps into the writing?  What were your experiences when it came time to edit?

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

When do you find the time to write?

English: Chris Derrick at the 2009 United Stat...

Writing’s a marathon, not a sprint.

English: Chris Derrick at the 2009 United States Cross Country Championships (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Work, commutes, after-school activities, family time, TV, meals, exercise, shopping… what am I forgetting?  Oh, yeah, sleep and writing.  Doesn’t it seem like there’s never enough time for everything, especially that last?  In fact, to get the writing time in, it seems like sleep is often the only place to carve away a little time.

Finding the time for the writing job has been tough lately.  I’d hoped that one day a week, I’d get to telecommute, and I could apply some of that commuting time to writing, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I’m currently illustrating my first children’s book, Derrick the Dog, the first in my Derrick and Max series.  I’m making progress but much more slowly than I’d thought.  I’m happy with how it’s going, however.  It took a while to come up with figures that I liked, but I’m pretty pleased with them and so are the other family members (or so they say).  I’m still penciling the first drawing.  For some reason, I decided to start with the most complex drawing in the book.  It’s not even the first one.  I don’t remember what I was thinking.  Oh, well, it’s coming along nicely, so that’s all that matters.

So, here’s what I’ve been doing to try to carve a little more time out of each day. 

  • I’m trying to exercise and get to bed a little earlier, on nights when we’re not tied up with the Scouts
  • My insomnia, once so reliably granting me extra hours each day, has kind of trailed off.  I’m still trying to make it a point to get up about 5, though, giving me about an hour before I need to start getting ready for work.
  • Try to already have a plan for what I’m going to do when I start to work, so I’m not wasting time figuring out what I'm going to do that day.
  • Try to remember that my job is to write, and sometimes illustrate, books.  Which means I need to write shorter blog posts.  Like this one.  So I can get back to writing and illustrating books.

And that’s about all I’ve come up with.  It’s slow but steady progress.  Except for software crashes (which recently happened and I lost an hour’s worth of *#*$& work), once it’s down, I’m that much farther along on the path.  So, fellow writers and illustrators, how do you find (or make) the time to write?

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wacom & ArtRage, Part 2

In part 1, I talked about my Wacom tablet and ArtRage and the first drawing I created from that.  It was like an overview.  In this part, I’ll break down how I created the drawing.  Consider this the tutorial, for those people interested in that sort of thing.  It’s not an exhaustive tutorial, though, because I’m doing this from memory several weeks after completing the drawing, so I can’t say that I used this and that exact setting. 

Disclaimer:  I used this as a learning exercise.  There are some issues with the drawing, I know, particularly in the shadows.  I worked on this over a period of weeks, a little here and there, and somewhere along the line, my idea as to where the sun was must have shifted.  Actually, I think as I progressed in the drawing, it got later in the day for each element.  :)  This is more, then, a tutorial on the tool and technique, not producing a flawless illustration.  Also, I used reference images that I found online.  Not thinking that I’d turn this into a post later on, I made no notes on where I got the images from.  Oops.  Finally, I didn’t take screenshots along the way, so to simulate the progress, I’ll be hiding layers.  End of disclaimer.

Conceptually, I don’t recall exactly  how I came up with this.  I remember that when we used to go for walks in our old neighborhood, there was a pair of sneakers hanging over a power line we’d pass each time.  I suspect that was the catalyst, and I came up with the idea of using skulls.  I’m also a big fan of The Crow, especially the graphic comic, so it made sense for me to add a crow to the picture.  Somewhere along the line, I decided it might be more interesting looking if I substituted a Crow-like comedy mask for one of the skulls.

I’m using Artrage 3.5.5 Studio (3.5.4 at the time).  So, I started off in Artrage with a basic canvas, sized to fit the dimensions to the picture rotator at the top of my site.  Except for the background (more on that later), I did the entire drawing in pencil.  I primarily used the Soft Tip preset, adjusting settings as I went to get the effect/size I was after (sorry, I didn’t record which settings I used for which).  I also used the Hard Shader preset for most of the shading, again adjusting the settings as I needed.  For both of those, I went with a straight-up black color.  I also used the Thin Precise Liner preset for some of the work around the glass.

OK, so to start with, I began working on the pole.  Below is a screenshot of that, minus some of the parts that I erased for higher-level layers.  This was free-handed using the Soft Tip for the linings and shadow and the Hard Shader for the overall shading.  Notice I made a newbie mistake, combining my drawing and shading on one layer.  Much better to keep them separate until you’re sure you’re ready to combine them.  Also shown are my reference images for this layer.  You can see where I went back to erase for some of the later parts so that this wouldn’t be showing through.


After that, I made the bolts.  I used square and circle stencils that came with ArtRage and set them to Guide Mode, then drew them with the Soft Tip pencil.  To keep things looking natural, I rotated the square stencils to a random angle.  Then, I hand drew the shadows and finished up the shading with, I believe, the Hard Shader.


I next did the right and left wires and attaching hardware, each on their own layers.  Again, I didn’t make a separate layer for shading.  Oops.  I used rulers to make the wires.  I cranked up the thickness of the pencil, but it still wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I dropped the ruler slightly, and drew a second line.  I liked the look with nothing between the lines and the way the pencil played against the canvas, so I left it as it was rather than filling it in.  I stopped both of them before they reached the edge of the page for effect (I did the same for the bottom of the pole, if to a lesser extent).

In addition to free handing, I used some french curve stencils to help me keep the distances between my lines consistent on the curved bit of wire that connects the two sides. 

The pieces jutting out from the pole took quite awhile to get them the way I wanted them.  I lightened my pencil and used circular stencils to get the glass bells looking right.  I used a gradient stencil for the shading and then hit parts of it with the eraser to brighten up where the light was striking it.  The delicate line around the lip was, if I recall correctly, the only part where I used the Thin Precise Liner.  The metal structures were drawn with the benefits of those french curve stencils and a fair amount of free handing.  I’ve zoomed this in to 150% to show more detail.  I found I was usually working around 200% zoomed in.  At that zoom, it’s really grainy with the pencil and the canvas texture, so it helped to zoom out occasionally to see what it was looking like.


Next up, I tackled the crow.  I did this one layer right, at least, starting with a pencil outline.  I dropped down onto the right wire layer to erase the wire so it wouldn’t show through the foot. 


But then on the next layer, I did my crow’s shading along with my comedy mask.  Oy.  The rest of the crow was mostly shading with the Soft Tip pencil on its own layer, darker on the shadow side to lighter on the sun side.  Then, I hit the edge of it with the eraser where the light would have been striking it.  With the outline on a separate layer, it made it easy.

I did the outline and shading of the mask on the same layer.  Nothing terribly exciting there (except that my light source has moved again).  It was all Soft Tip with varying color, thickness, and pressure.


Next, I drew the skull.  I drew the outline and the shadows, but not the shading, on one layer.  At least, I think I kept my lighting the same between the mask and skull.  I added another layer for my shading, which I think helped quite a bit with its appearance and added some needed depth (see below for the skull without shading on the left and with shading on the right).

image23       image22

I added the rope on its own layer.  I used the same technique I did for the power lines for the straight pieces and then hand drew in the loop and knot.  Originally, I just had it looping over.  Then, I thought to myself that there was probably quite a weight difference between a mask and a human skull, so I changed it up so that it looped over a few times, thinking the friction and tightness might hold it in place.


Then, I did the background on its own layer.  This is the only place I strayed from the pencil.  I didn’t think it looked too bad as it was (see the completed drawing below minus the background layer), but I thought I could give it a little bit of a darker tone by adding in some background noise.  At first, I thought I’d draw in a background by hand but quickly decided that was too much pain and time for what was only a learning exercise.  So, I used a stencil called Turbulent.  I don’t remember if it came with ArtRage or I found it online.  I expanded it until it filled the entire canvas.  Then, I made three passes with the airbrush set to black.  That was way too dark, so I dropped the opacity of the layer down to 40% and pushed it to the bottom.  Working on that layer, I then set to erasing that layer where it was showing through on the others.  I left it so it would show through the eyes and mouth of the mask.  And originally, I removed it where the pole was, but I decided it did a nice job of bringing down the brightness on that pole, so I undid the erasing.  The picture on the right is the background layer after the erasing with all other layers hidden.

image[11]       image[10]

And that’s how I came up with this drawing, shown completed below and, at the time of this writing, in the picture rotator on the home page.  I hope it was educational or entertaining or useful in some way.  If you have any questions or feedback for me, please leave them in the comments or use the contact form, and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

What’s this site about?

Hello, Brian here.  That struck me as a good question to answer (in fact, I probably should have answered it earlier).  So, I thought I’d lay it out here, so you can decide if it is worth your time to stick around… or come back.


First off, let me tell you a little about myself.  Poke around the site or one of my social media locales, and you’ll see that I’m an aspiring author and artist.  I say aspiring as I am not yet published, because I don’t yet have anything ready to be published.  But I’m working on it, and hope to have something out by the end of the year.  I plan to go the self-published route unless and until I get a favorable contract from a publisher. 

I’m also a DIY’er.  I generally make my own home improvements, do my own auto maintenance, and build my own computers.  I try to know well enough when I’m in over my head and need to bring in help, but I like to do as much as I reasonably can myself and learn to do that which I currently cannot.  That figures in to this site and my work a lot.

I’ve worked full-time in IT since 1999.  So, I bring quite a bit of technical knowledge and knowhow to the table.  I’m learning to apply that skill set and my DIY attitude to the requirements of producing blogs, eBooks, print books, etc.

I’m a former college adjunct instructor, tutor, and Scout leader.  I believe I have the heart of a teacher.

I like to watch and learn about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing works of art, whether that’s film, literature, or illustration.

What I’m not is a classically-trained artist.  I also don’t have a degree in literature, English, or a related field.  So, I am not an authority on art or writing.  However, I have a passion for art and drawing, literature and writing.  I’m working to improve my craft. 

This site

I want to invite you to come along with me on my journey as I learn the in’s and out’s of self-publishing and digital art.  I want to give back to the community which has helped me.  I want to teach and help those who follow behind me.  For those interested in the creative process, I want to lay bare what I’ve done to accomplish what I have accomplished and will accomplish.  For future fans, I want to be accessible.  So, I’ll try to address all those with this site.

I’m going to blog about the creative process.  I’ll show you how I produce my artwork.  I’ll talk about how I write, edit, and produce books.  I’ll stumble and make mistakes, but I’ll learn from them and share them with you to save you from making those same mistakes.  I will welcome your comments on my posts and will do my best to respond to email, tweets, posts.  I even put a forum on the site so that I’m not always the one to direct the conversation.  I want to hear your questions, thoughts, and feedback.  I want this site to be useful to you, informative and entertaining.  I hope to learn from you, too.

I’m not going to bombard you with advertising.  Sure, when I have something for sale, I’ll mention it and provide you with a link to purchase it.  But I also plan to give stuff away, and I’ll mention when that’s the case, too.  I won’t harp on either.  Beyond that, you should not see any ads on here.  I’ll let you know about products I use and like, but the only monetization I have going on this site is affiliate links to Amazon.  If you follow those and make a purchase, your cost will be the same but I’ll get a small referral fee.  If you want to support me, buy something or follow the Amazon links.  Or don’t.  You’re welcome here either way.

I try to blog at least once a month.  I may blog more frequently in the future, but right now I’m trying to focus on the books and illustration work I have in progress.  I also have some things planned for the future for the site, like a FAQ, an art gallery, library, and store.

Should you stay or should you go?

You should have a good idea of what I offer and plan to offer, now.  I hope you stick around or come back to see what’s changed, or at least sign up for one of the feeds so you know when I have new content up.  I think we’ll have fun.  I’ll bring you the best content that I can.  I can’t promise you that I’ll always be right or that I’ll always do things the right way.  You may even find information here that contradicts what you’ve read elsewhere.  That’s okay.  The proof is in the final product.  If the other guy’s (or gal’s) stuff is better than mine, probably best to follow their advice.  If you like mine better, maybe my way’s the way to go.

If this sounds good, please drop me a comment (or email or tweet or etc.).  I’d like to meet you and hear your thoughts.

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

My thoughts… On DRM

And why I don’t plan to use it.

DRM, for those who don’t know what it is, stands for Digital Rights Management.  In a nutshell, it’s a technology that can be attached to electronic intellectual property, such as software, ebooks, and movies.  It basically attempts to restrict what can be done with that intellectual property (ip).  Some would say it’s primarily aimed at reducing or eliminating digital piracy, but not everyone.  So, why wouldn’t I want to use a technology that’s going to help keep my ebooks from being stolen, robbing me of income?

To answer that, let me identify my target ebook audience.  I see them as divided into three camps:  those who are going to pay for the ebook, those who aren’t going to pay, and those who might pay.  Well, there’s a fourth:  those who aren’t going to buy, borrow, or steal my ebooks, but hopefully we can move some of them into that first camp over time.  So, let’s look at those readers and how DRM, or the lack thereof, will affect them.

French version of the original

French version of the original "Authors against DRM" by Nina Paley. Français : Version française de l'original "Authors against DRM" par Nina Paley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, we have those readers who are going to buy my ebook.  These are good folks who don’t steal ip.  They pay for their software, they don’t download music illegally, and they pay me for my words.  I love these guys and gals!  DRM isn’t going to affect their purchasing decision.  At least, not initially.  What if they get a different ereader that’s not compatible with the ebook format they previously paid for?  With no DRM, they could convert the file to a compatible format using something like calibre.  However, if I’ve attached DRM to that file, they would have to repurchase it.  That’s actually sounds pretty good, right?  I mean, I’ll get paid twice for the same ebook.  Well, here’s where we have to diverge into a talk about sales and customer relations.

I once had to make some trivial purchase, and I didn’t have cash with me.  While we located the item I needed, I’d been chatting up my salesman, who I believe was also the owner, about future purchases I was in the market for and the services he provided.  When it came time to ring up the sale, he looked at me with something like horror when I pulled out that card.  He told me he wouldn’t make any money off that sale.  I told him I was sorry but that I didn’t have any cash.  He ran the card, but his demeanor was nasty and he had no reply or eye contact when I thanked him after the purchase.  I suppose he could have refused the sale.  That would have been ok; I didn’t have to have it right then and I can respect him wanting to make a profit.  But given his behavior, can you guess if I ever set foot in that store again?  Do you think I referred other customers to him?  There are other stores selling the same items who are happy to take my plastic regardless of the size of my purchase because they understand the bigger picture.  He was so focused on that sale and his profits on that sale that he lost site of the big picture of gaining a new customer, who would generate repeat business and possibly direct other potential customers his way.

So, getting back to my paying customer…  Sure, I could maybe make a repeat sale by saddling my ebook with DRM, but that’s not going to make for a happy repeat customer.  I’d rather they spend their money on getting another book, maybe even one of mine.  Retailers, some of them anyway, have certainly figured out that consumers don’t like DRM.  That’s why you can get DRM-free tracks in iTunesAmazon offers you the option of using DRM; Smashwords won’t even allow it.  If you lay down your hard-earned cash, you should be able to read it wherever and whenever you want.  It’s called Fair Use.  If you buy an epub and decide you want to convert it to read on your Kindle, that should be your right.  You shouldn’t have to repurchase.

Second, we have those readers who are not going to buy the ebook.  DRM is not going to stop them because someone is going to bypass it and post the now DRM-free ebook online.  If they can’t get mine for free, they’ll just read something else.  I’m not going to make sales off of these readers either with or without DRM.  Retail has a term for this:  shrinkage.  There’s going to be some theft of your products.  It’s a given in sales.  You can’t stop theft.  DRM is not going to stop theft.  Prosecution and legal threats are not going to stop it (or increase your fan base).  All you can hope for is that some of these folks eventually convert to paying customers.

Third, we have those readers who might buy my ebook.  Some of them may get it from a friend and not pay.  Since it’s not DRM-protected, it would be easy to share.  Some of them may do that with this ebook but decide to support me by then purchasing it or another.  Woo hoo, a paying customer!  Now, I could slap on some DRM.  They can’t get it from their friend.  They may or may not buy that ebook.  Maybe I’ve made a sale, maybe I haven’t.  If I haven’t, I likely haven’t made a customer, someone who might recommend me to his or her friends.  If I miss them on this ebook, I might miss them (and their friends) on future sales. 

Now, what if some of my potential customers are technically knowledgeable?  What if most of them are?  They know all about DRM and its implications.  They may refuse to purchase DRM-laden ebooks because they don’t want the hassle and the restrictions.  Or they may purchase them, even with the DRM, but they’re not happy about it.  Again, maybe I’ve made a sale, maybe I haven’t; I’m less likely to get repeat business from the DRM haters. And here’s a sobering thought.  What if the presence of the DRM ticks them off so much that they go out of their way to break the DRM and then post to every warez site they can think of?  Now, suddenly, there are pirated copies available everywhere and a lot more of those who might have been paying customers turn into non-paying readers.  Think that’s far fetched?  I’ve read comments and forum posts from people who make it their mission to punish those who use DRM.  I’ve also read ones from people who were on the fence but then decided to purchase to reward the content creator for not using DRM.

So, have I convinced you, or do you still think I’m crazy for passing on DRM?  If I’m crazy, I’m not alone.  Harry managed to do alright for himself without DRM when he made the jump to ebooks.  Book publisher Tor is dropping DRM from all of its ebooks.  What about piracy, you ask?  Brian, don’t you think leaving off the DRM will just make it that much easier and widespread?  Piracy is going to exist with or without DRM.  And pirates aren’t always in that second, non-paying camp. Sometimes they can be your best customers.  I think most people want to do the right thing.  If you provide a good product at a reasonable price without unreasonable restrictions, they’ll buy instead of steal it.  They’ll buy it to support the artist and to reduce their risk of picking up malware along with their warez copy.

So, no, I have no plans to use DRM.  DRM won’t stop my ebooks from being stolen.  Heck, I plan to give some away.  Can you really have your book and your name in front of too many eyes?  I don’t think so.  DRM could, however, drive away potential or previous customers.  At the very least, it could inconvenience them.  Not what I want to do.  I want to scoop up the customers who are turning away from the other ebooks that have been handicapped by DRM.

What do you think?  Am I wrong?  Am I right?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wacom & ArtRage

Hello Web Denizens,

If I seem a little punchy this morning, it’s because my insomnia returned with a vengeance.  I’ll try to remain coherent.

I only slept about an hour tonight, so I’m pretty tired.  Too tired to work on the novel I have in progress (I know because I tried; it wasn’t pretty), but I did manage to finish a drawing I’d been working on, off and on, overnight.  I’d been meaning to write a post about my Wacom tablet and ArtRage, so this seemed like a good time.  Here’s the finished drawing:


power pole


I think I’ll break this into 2 posts.  Let’s call this post #1.  Here, I’ll talk about the hardware and software I used to make this drawing.  In post #2, I’ll talk about how I created it, for those who are interested in that sort of thing.

Part 1

My awesome wife bought me a Wacom tablet for Christmas.  Shortly thereafter, I caught ArtRage on sale for half price and scooped it up.  So, I started off running through a couple of tutorials I found online to get the hang of it, but I wasn’t really happy with the results.  I was trying to learn how to use new software with a new physical interface (granted, they’re both pretty simple) and new mediums, like oil paints and felt pens.  I decided to return to what I know:  pencil.  Nearly all the artwork I’ve created in life has been in pencil, and I wanted to be able to do an apple-to-apple comparison to see how this combo compared with actual pencil and paper. 

Aside:  I know there are a few issues with this drawing, but I was pretty happy with it overall.  And I want to start replacing the stock photos that came with this site’s template.  They’re gorgeous photos but not relevant to anything I’m working on.  I’m no great artist, so if we had to wait for something flawless, we’d never get anywhere.

Overall, this is absolutely head and shoulders above working on analog media.  I love my tablet.  I can’t wait until it wears out so I can get the next model up (it supports not only pressure, which mine does, but angle of the stylus, too).  :)  ArtRage is very simple to use.  I wish it came with more pencil presets, but given time, I can create my own. 

The parts that I loved versus doing this on paper were the layers, undo, the different erasers, and the huge variety of pencils I could emulate by changing up settings.  Like I said, I’m no great artist.  My strokes aren’t always correct the first time.  In the past, mistakes meant erasing.  Erasing frequently resulted in ghosting of the marks left behind, impact on the surrounding elements if I wasn’t careful, and eventually the paper would start to suffer (smears, discoloration, thinning, even tearing).  None of those problems with this.  If I made a mistake, I could completely and cleanly undo just those last few strokes with no traces left behind or impact on any of the earlier work.  By putting each element (and its shading) on separate layers, I could completely wipe out that layer if it wasn’t working for me, again with no impact on any of the other elements.  Then, when I did the background effect (which is the only thing I strayed away from the pencil for), I was able to run the eraser over that layer to remove it from the other elements without affecting those elements at all.  Totally cool!  Actually, if I knew what I was doing, I probably could have masked those areas out, but I’m not there yet.

Color me a happy, new, digital artist.  I have seen the light, and I don’t think I’d go back.  Instead, I’m going to press forward.  I have some new skills to pickup since I have a children’s book that’s ready to be illustrated in, gulp, color.  At least now, I have a comfort level and familiarity with the tools.  Now, I just have to expand my palette to include some new mediums.  I’m getting to be an old dog.  Hope I can still learn some new tricks. 

I’ll post a link to Part 2 here when it’s completed.  Please let me know what you think of this one in the comments.

Edit: Part 2 can be found here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tips for your Jail stay

I recently attended a training workshop entitled Polishing your Presentation Skills with Randall Whatley that I enjoyed.  Near the end of the workshop, each attendee had a few minutes to come up with a topic to present and with what we were going to say.  After racking my brain for a minute, I came up with tips to make your next stay in jail more pleasant. 

You see, I spent 6 years in jail.  Fortunately, I was able to go home each night (most nights, anyway) since I only worked there and was not a resident.  So, I had some good stories rattling around in my noggin and decided that could make for an entertaining presentation.  The class seemed to enjoy it, so I thought I’d write it up and add it here for your enjoyment.  Or maybe as useful information for your next jail stay.  Keep in mind that I only had a few minutes.

Disclaimer:  As I stated in the Q&A that followed, these tips are based on actual events that I either witnessed firsthand or was told about secondhand.  While this was very much tongue-in-cheek and meant to entertain, I don’t intend any disrespect to what happened to the victims of these morons, er, inmates… only to the morons themselves.


Tips to make your next stay in jail more pleasant.

Português: Uma cela moderna em Brecksville Pol...Good afternoon and thank you for coming.  My name is Brian Crowell.

Jail.  We’ve all been there.  Whether you did something fairly innocent like lose track of how much you drank and inadvertently caused a multi-car collision or maybe accidentally beat your girlfriend’s parents to death with a crowbar, if you haven’t been yet, it’s only a matter of time.

Let’s face it, jail is not Yale.  Still, it can be a nice break from the hectic day-to-day pace of your everyday life.  To make it even better, here are some tips to make your next, or first, stay in jail more pleasant.

  1. Don’t swallow razor blades.  It’s unpleasant, but we know it’s an easy rule to forget.  So, what you really want to remember is that after they’ve cut you open and removed the razor blades, what you don’t want to do is pick at the stitches until you’ve opened up the wound.  Because then as you lay there whimpering, the CO’s (that’s Corrections Officers) are going to have to take pictures of it (for evidence).  Plus, they’ll stand around and talk about you and laugh at you.  Embarrassing, right?
  2. Don’t go to jail to get your teeth worked on.  Unless you’re looking for extraction, then by all means go.  They’re quick and cheap.  However, keep in mind that they’ll only generally take out one jaw’s worth of teeth at a time.  So, make sure you have enough time left on your sentence for their next visit.  Otherwise, you’ll just look awkward when you’re released with only half of your teeth removed.
  3. Don’t forget to tell them if you’re HIV positive.  Pat downs in jail aren’t like they are on TV.  They’re much more thorough and intimate [speaking of intimacy, see my note below].  If the CO forgets to put on his gloves first and you didn’t tell him, he’s likely to get upset.  It’s just the polite thing to do.
  4. Jail can sometimes get crowded and loud.  If you feel like you just need some alone time, the best way to get that is to become belligerent, start a fight, or threaten to kill someone.  At first, you’ll be extremely popular.  Several of your new best friends will crowd around you, but then they’ll whisk you off to your private accommodations, where you can enjoy some quiet “me” time.  Possibly while strapped into a hard, plastic restraint chair.
  5. Don’t smuggle in contraband.  That will earn you extra charges.  Now, it’s easy to forget that you’re packing iron, but try to remember to let your arresting officer know, especially if he forgets to pat you down properly.  You’ll enjoy fewer charges, and he’ll get to remain employed.  Besides, even if you stow the contraband in uncomfortable places, it’s probably going to be found during the booking process, where you’re thoroughly inspected.
  6. [I’m going to switch around these last two based on response during the presentation]  Don’t break into offices to use the computer.  Your email will be waiting for you when you get out.  There aren’t any tweets you’re missing important enough to rack up additional charges.  If you really need to know, you can give your password to your family during visitation, and they can check for you.
  7. Finally, don’t lie about your gender.  Especially if you happen to be both.  They’re going to find out after you strip down.  And that’s good.  You want the CO’s to find out before the other inmates.  Otherwise, you’re going to be very popular.  Unless you really like to party, this isn’t one you want to forget.

Then, I gave a brief closing that I don’t really remember.  This presentation got a lot of laughs and incredulous looks.  There was one extra bit from number 3 that I decided to pull at the last minute, but I thought I’d throw caution and good taste to the wind and include it here:

Plus, if one of the CO’s is kind enough to enter into an intimate situation with you and happens to forget to use protection, you should jog her memory.  It’s the least you can do, since she’s going to get fired after you two get caught.  At least now she’s only unemployed instead of unemployed and with STD.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed that.  I also hope you never have to use any of those tips.  Unless you belong in jail.  In that case, good luck.

Photo:  Português: Uma cela moderna em Brecksville Police Department, Brecksville, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Friday, March 23, 2012

A small update

It’s been awhile since I posted, so I thought I’d put out a brief update.
The site’s coming along well.  I think I have it just about where I want it to be (stylistically, that is; still need more content).  Now, I just need to find something to replace those stock photos on the home page.  Not that those are bad-looking stock photos; they're just, well, stock photos.
On the writing front, BD’s Derrick the Dog is out for beta reading.  Then, I’ll get started on the process of illustrating.  I’m on the first major rewrite of Spending the Night at Grandma’s
In D Lee’s world, I’ve started a new project with a working title of Parts.  Once I get that first draft done, I plan to get to work on the first major rewrite of Three.  I have some others in various stages of completion, but I’m trying to keep my immediate focus limited to these few.
Besides the writing and the main site, I’m slowly plugging away at the Facebook fan pages and my Goodreads page.  I have to give some attention and love to twitter one of these days. It’s hard to find the time sometimes to work on this, what with the full-time job and long daily commute.  Thankfully, my recurring insomnia gets me a few extra hours a week.    Even with that, though I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to get anything out to publication this year or not.  :)  Oh, well; at least I don’t have deadlines looming over my head.
I think that’s enough of an update for now.  Hope everyone has a good weekend.  Thanks for dropping by.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Welcome to BD Crowell's new home on the web.  Jimdo had some neat features, but ultimately, it didn't do what I needed it to.  I'll be moving over what little content I had there over the next weeks and hopefully adding some new.  So, have a look around (but mind it's under construction) and check back in as I get more content and features added.  Thanks for stopping by!