boundless

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

Repetition

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.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway Results: Derrick the Dog

Wow!  The giveaway is over, and the response was way more than I ever expected.  Thanks to everybody who entered.  The winner is Sharlene M. of AB, Canada.  Congratulations, Sharlene!

 

For the numbers fiends/curious authors, here are the stats for my first ever Goodreads giveaway.  These are all for Derrick the Dog, the subject of this giveaway.  I didn’t pay for any supplemental advertising, just posted about it on social media and my site.

Before:  on 6 shelves, 1 rating, 2 reviews

After:  on 419 shelves, 2 ratings, 2 reviews

I also made a couple of new Goodreads friends along the way.  And I get to learn about shipping to other countries.  All told, I think this was a win, and I’d do it again.

 

dtd-giveaway

In Remembrance: Brooke Overstreet Hack

The nice thing about being independently published and my own boss is that I can write about damn near anything I want.  Today, I want to write about my friend Brooke.

I met Brooke in Junior High, in Band if I recall correctly, and we were close friends throughout most of Junior High and High School.  She was one of my all-time best friends, in fact.  She bought me Def Leppard's Pyromania for my birthday one year, knowing how much I liked their Hysteria album.  We exchanged homemade Christmas cards most every year.  We spent many hours talking on the phone* and hanging out.  I could almost always make her laugh.  Her smile could light up the room.  Our trip with the band to state wouldn't have been the same without her.

There was a time there near the end of High School when we didn't see eye-to-eye and drifted apart (I think it was a disparity in maturity), but we managed to reconcile before parting ways (I moved out of state after graduation).  And through the years since High School we've kept in touch, mostly through email with a couple of calls along the way (she called me when she lost her first child, and I called her when I found out about her diagnosis).  I had just been thinking about her this week, that I needed to call or email her to let her know I'd reconnected with our JH/HS friend Mike Skinner (the engineer, not the race car driver).  Then, this morning, my wife told me that one of Brooke's sisters posted to Facebook yesterday that Brooke had passed away.

All morning, I've felt like I've been kicked in the gut.  My wife told me Brooke had dropped off Facebook about a year ago; I spend so little time on Facebook that I hadn't noticed.  Although it had been awhile since we'd spoken, I like to think that if we had things left unsaid, that they were few.  We were forthcoming about how much we respected and admired each other.  I loved Brooke, not in a romantic sense, but as I love family and my dearest friends.  I think she knew that.  She was always compassionate, encouraging, and generally sunny and upbeat, even when her worsening condition confined her to a wheelchair.  She made you feel better about yourself and about life.

Brooke was a fine artist in her own right.  She played guitar and flute.  She was a good writer and had a fine, informative website, which sadly appears to no longer be accessible, although her blog is still up.  I think she would have made a grand author.  She was certainly smart enough to have.  I don't know if she drew or painted, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did and was skilled at that, also.  She seemed to excel at everything she tried her hand at.

I'm not sure how she died, and I'm not sure that I want to know.  I like to think that she died peacefully, with few regrets and nothing left unsaid, surrounded by her loved ones, that she got to hold their hands and say goodbye.  I also like to think that she's in Heaven now being reunited with loved ones who went on before, some missed and some she'd never met but who had gotten to watch her grow up from afar and are finally getting to embrace her in their arms.  I hope that she's holding the child she lost and that she says hello to my grandparents and my and Miranda's unborn daughter, who I never got to meet or hold (but I hope to some day).

At only 39, she was taken much too early, leaving behind her parents, her 2 sisters, her brother, her husband, and her 2 boys.  Yet, she accomplished a lot in her life.  She was a daughter, a sister, a friend, an artist, a wife, a mother, and a home-schooler.  I hope the warm memories her family has of her will help to ease some of their grief.  I also hope they might enjoy these old pictures that I dug out of a photo album.  They were taken of Brooke in 1988 from our time in the Video Club.  She made the friendship bracelet for me (they were big in the late 80's) around 1989 or 1990, as best as I can remember.

I shall miss my friend.





*One funny memory there:  the phone would routinely disconnect us, usually within a minute or so of the connection being made.  It only happened to us when we were talking to each other, all other calls to and from our respective households would not have that problem.  One time her dad got on the phone after I called back, irate and wanting to know why I'd hung up or why I kept hanging up, something like that, and I had to explain what frequently happened.  I'm not sure if he believed me.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway: Derrick the Dog

Just in time for Christmas, I’m giving away an autographed copy of Derrick the Dog over on Goodreads.  Click the link below to enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Derrick the Dog by B.D. Crowell

Derrick the Dog

by B.D. Crowell

Giveaway ends December 12, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, September 6, 2013

Derrick and Max News

Hey folks,

I thought I’d share some news about Derrick and Max, in no particular order.

dtd-free

  • Derrick the Dog is free today on the Amazon Kindle store.  It’s coming off KDP Select toward the end of the month.  There’s one more chance after this one to pick it up for free on the 13th, so if you miss today’s freebie, mark your calendar.  It’s already been downloaded well over 100 times and has gotten some good reviews.  If you read it and enjoy it, I’d love for you to leave a review, too.
  • I’ve added Derrick the Dog to Kindle MatchBook.  So if you’ve purchased the paper copy, you’ll be able to download the digital copy for free once Amazon rolls out the program. 
  • I finally got around to completing the first coloring page for Derrick and Max.  It’s been posted to the kids site.  I’m working on another which I plan to release later this month, also on the kids site.
  • I’ve been hard at work when I can snatch the time on the 2nd Derrick and Max book, Derrick and Max go to the Beach.  The story’s written and edited, and I’ve more or less completed the first 2 drawings.  I’ll get them posted up on the kids site when I’m a little farther along.
  • I’m planning a couple of giveaways for Derrick the Dog on goodreads when we get closer to the holidays (assuming I survive another Fall as the Popcorn Kernel for our Cub Scout Pack).  I’ll make an announcement when I get everything arranged.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Repetition

Repetition is available now in ebook.  Launch price is 99 cents.  As with Derrick the Dog, this will be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days.  Unlike Derrick the Dog, this will be ebook only.  Paper lovers can expect it to show up in a collection in paper later on (sorry, at roughly 46 pages, it’s just too short to justify a stand-alone paper copy).

To sample, buy, or borrow (for Prime members) click the cover below.

Repetition

Thanks to Victoria for helping me get the words right, Karri for designing an awesome cover, and Miranda, my #1 beta reader.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why do I write what I write?

This is a follow-up post to What made me decide to write a book?

I think I did a fairly good job of explaining why I started writing children's fiction in the other post.  But I didn't go too much into why I write in the other genres or the themes I explore.  So, let's get into that.

"The Journey": Illustration depicts ...
"The Journey": Illustration depicts a young boy absorbed in watching the scenery from his seat in a railway car for a series of poems by Josephine Preston Peabody entitled "The Little Past." The poems relate experiences of childhood from a child's perspective. Published in: "The Little Past : the Journey" by Josephine Preston Peabody, Harper's magazine, 108:95 (Dec. 1903). 1 painting : oil. Digital file from original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I write genre fiction under the pen name D Lee Warren.  I write stores that include supernatural and horror elements.  So, why do I write about that and not, say, science fiction or romance?  I might write in some other genre(s) later on.  But my project lineup is currently composed of horror and supernatural, so for the foreseeable future, that's what's I'll be producing.  The reason I write those kinds of stories are because those are the kind of stories I like to read.  Those are the stories I know.  Those are the stories I've thought up.  Pretty simple, yeah?  However, some of the themes I like to explore perhaps deserve more explanation.

I like stories with a theme or a lesson so long as they're done well.  I don't want to be hit over the head with it or preached at.  I like the ones that sneak up on me and challenge the way I look at the world.  Sometimes it's good to just read a story that's pure entertainment, but I think the more valuable stories entertain and enlighten or prompt introspection.  So, that's what I try to do.

For my children's stories, I like to occasionally slip in a life lesson.  I try to be subtle about it and not preachy, and I won't do it in every story.  These are the kind of lessons and moral standpoints we try to teach in our household.  They may not be good choices for yours.  That's okay.  There are plenty of options out there in children's literature that may be a better fit for your children and your family.

I have a number of themes running through my adult stories:  right and wrong, life and death, evil and good (and all those shades of grey in between), theology and the afterlife.  These are the things I think about.  These are the themes I like to explore.  Some may not enjoy my treatment of the concepts they hold as holy or profane.  Some may not enjoy the questions I raise or the points of view I explore.  I'm sure I will offend some people.  I think that's okay.  If it was so tame as to not offend anybody, it probably wouldn't be very entertaining.  And, as with the children's literature, there are plenty of other choices out there that might be a better fit for you.  I'm not trying to be controversial.  I just want to write good stories and share the sorts of things I think about with my readers.  Maybe even connect with like-minded people who are contemplating the same ideas.

So, that's why I write what I write.  Someday, I may write about other things.  Things usually change.  Readers, why do you read what you read (of if that's too broad, why did you decide to read that last book you picked up)?  Writers, why do you write what you write?

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Free!

Who doesn’t like free stuff?  I know I do.  I also like to catch things on sale.  For most people, money’s tight.  So, I try to keep my prices reasonable, have sales, and give stuff away.  If you want to find out where and how to get my stuff for free or cheap, then read on.

KDP Select

Kindle 2.0

Kindle 2.0 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I typically enroll a book in KDP Select for 90 days after release.*  While my books are enrolled in KDP Select, I can give them away in two ways:

  1. Prime members can borrow a book for free each month through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  When in KDP Select, my books are included in the KOLL.
  2. I can give them away for five days out of every 90.

I don’t blog about when I’m running the KDP Select giveaways because I think it would just clutter up the blog.  I announce them on Facebook, Twitter, and the newsletter(s).  So, if you want to know about these, follow me or signup.

Intro Pricing

Since non-Kindle users have to wait to get my books on their platform due to the KDP exclusivity, I plan to offer low intro pricing when they make it to the other ebook stores.  Unless its normal price is $0.99.  I don’t think anybody lets you price lower than that.

Giveaways

Besides KDP Select, I can also give away books for free in a couple of other places.

Goodreads

Goodreads allows authors to give away physical copies of books, autographed even, for up to 6 months after release.  I haven’t kicked this off yet, but probably will give away one or three when it gets closer to the holidays.  I’ll plan to announce that here on the blog in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and the newsletter(s).

Smashwords

Smashwords allows authors to mark their books as free as well as give out coupons.  I may offer some perma-free ones and/or offer them for free as part of a sale.  Newsletter subscribers will probably find some coupons showing up in their inboxes here and there.

My blogs

Besides excerpts, you may find the occasional short story or flash fiction show up on one of my blogs. 

Sales

I plan to run sales when the mood strikes me.  These could include freebies and/or price-reduced books.  If it’s big enough, I’ll announce it on the blog.  Otherwise look for it on Facebook, Twitter, and the newsletter(s).

Beta Readers/Reviewers

Yep, beta readers and reviewers can get free copies.  All the details are on the Misc page.

Google+

Sorry Google+ peeps, but until Google opens up the api so I can schedule posts through RSS, Buffer, or HootSuite, you’re probably not going to get much love.  You should sign up for the newsletter(s) or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Why?

Why am I giving away so much stuff?  There are a few reasons.

  1. Poor people and those down on their luck deserve some entertainment, too.  I’ve been there.  I know your pain.  Take it and don’t feel bad about it.
  2. It helps get my name out there (see below).  In theory, this should translate into more sales.  More sales means I can do more good (see the next point).  So, I can entertain and help people.
  3. As a general rule of thumb, I give away 10% of what I make on sales to charitable causes.  If something really tugs at my heartstrings, I may run a special sale where I give half or more to a cause.
  4. Patient people can wait for sales and giveaways.  For everybody else, I try to keep my prices reasonable at all times, so they don’t feel like they have to wait.

Just because I’m giving it away, doesn’t mean I don’t want something in return.  I would just ask that people:

  1. Read it.  It’s not doing anybody any good if it just hangs out on your device.
  2. Spread the word.  Write a review, retweet or share my postings, comment on the blog, forward a newsletter, whatever sounds good to you. 
  3. Share the love.  Lend the book, give it away when you’re done with it.  Better still, take the money that you saved by getting it for free or cheap and do some good with it. 
  4. Help me improve.  Drop me a comment, tweet, email, etc. to let me know how I could do a better job or to point out mistakes I’ve made so I can correct them.

Thank you for reading and for caring.

 

 

*Yeah, I know it’s kind of a bummer if you don’t have a Kindle because KDP Select demands exclusivity.  I have to balance the inconvenience for the non-Kindle owners against the benefit to the Kindle owners, which is why I only do the first 90 days.  If Amazon ever gives up on the exclusivity, I will leave it in KDP Select all the time AND release it everywhere up front.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

My First Review(s)

I saw today on Amazon that Derrick the Dog had gotten its first review.  It's my first ever review by someone I don't know (my awesome wife gave me my actual first review).  I was very excited.

Much like those dollar bills you see hanging on the walls of business across this country, I wanted to hang that review here so I'd always remember it.  I know it's bad form for authors to contact reviewers directly, so I'll refrain.  But N. Burchett, wherever you are, if you see this, I want you to know that you brightened what had otherwise been a stressful, busy day at work.  Thank you, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!



And so she doesn't feel unappreciated, I'm hanging my wife's review right up here with N.'s.  Thank you, Miranda, for more than I could ever enumerate!  You're my lobster.



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What made me decide to write a book?

I recently informed my parents that my first book had been published and that the second one was being wrapped up.  That prompted two questions:

  • why am I using a pen name?
  • what made me decide to write a book?
books

books (Photo credit: brody4)

I've covered that first topic fairly well on the parents page.  The second's a lengthier topic and lead to this post.

My first published book was not my first book written.  But it's the first one out, so let's discuss why I wrote that book:  Derrick the Dog, a children's book.  Afterwards, we can discuss why I decided to write a book in the first place.  I noticed a disturbing trend in the books my children were asking me to read to them.  I'll not name names, so don't ask.  The books varied rather significantly from the books of my own childhood, which is to be expected.  Time marches ever forward, after all.  However, some of the changes I didn't care for.

  1. I noticed the usage of poor grammar in some of them for no apparent reason other than to use grammar incorrectly.  Or perhaps they were just poorly edited.  I frequently see and hear examples of deliberate or ignorant misuse of the English language (e.g. "what up with that?" and "They is...").  We owe it to our children to not teach them poor language habits if we're able to avoid it.  Those children who we are still able to draw their attention away from other sources of entertainment deserve literature that's not going to teach them bad habits that they carry forth into the classroom and later into the business world.
  2. Some of the stories were just insane or asinine.  They were painful for me to read.  If you can actually get a parent and child together to take the time to read, it shouldn't be a horrible experience for either party, as their lack of enjoyment is sure to show through and could be construed as displeasure with something other than the story, such as the company or the time spent together.
  3. Some of the stories, in addition to combining the first two elements, would also throw in words and phrases in a foreign language.  I'm not sure what the expected outcome is.  Perhaps it's an attempt to broaden the primary language reader's horizons.  Maybe it's an attempt to draw in readers who are fluent in the secondary language.  The actual effect is that it causes confusion for the child and muddies the plot when they don't know what's being expressed.  That's not a good thing.  That's more likely to send a reader away unhappy.  Enough experiences like that and the young reader may begin to shy away from books.
  4. I'm hesitant to bring this up.  Illustrators come in at all levels of skill.  Some books are going to be better illustrated than others.  I don't have a problem with that.  What I have a problem with are those with what appear to be hastily constructed cgi that's been slapped together without apparent care.  A book is forever.  It deserves illustrations that have been made with care and love.  They're not all going to look great, but we should at least try our best.

So, I saw these shortcomings and wanted to create a book of a higher quality, one that I would enjoy reading with my children and sharing that precious time with them.  I don't think I hit the bulls-eye, but I think I at least hit the target, and I think I avoided those trends mentioned above.  I think the next one is even better, and the one after that will be better still.  I sincerely hope that others who read my children’s books with their own kids enjoy the experience and time spent together.

Now, why did I decide to write a book in the first place?  I started writing my first book before there was the Kindle and the current self-publishing movement.  I wrote it because I had a story that I loved and that I wanted to see on paper.  I didn't know if it would ever be published, but I'd seen some books that had been that I thought were rather poor.  I felt confident that I could write something at least that bad.  So I started writing it.  However, life happened, and it got shelved.  Then, the Kindle and independent publishing took off, and I thought I should really finish that story.  Now, I didn't have all those potential roadblocks in my way.  I could write my story and let people read it and decide for themselves if it was worthy of their time.  Knowing that you can do your best and there's nothing standing between you and potential readers is a powerful motivator to get off your duff and finish.  And having somebody dig your art is pretty dang cool.

Besides the art, there's also the financial aspect.  I don't expect to get rich, move into a mansion, and quit my day job to spend all day making art.  It's sort of like when I play the lottery.  I don't expect to win, but it's fun to dream, and it's cheap entertainment.  Writing entertains me, and I enjoy it.  If it didn't, I wouldn't do it.  And it's fairly cheap entertainment, too.  About the only expenses I have are editing and cover design and a little for my website.  What's interesting to me, from a financial aspect though, is the possibility of passive income.  In my day job, I work for an hour, and I get paid for that hour.  I'll never get paid again for that hour's worth of work, and if I want to keep getting paid, I have to work more hours.  This is how most jobs work:  we trade hours for dollars.  But this is an entirely different kind of business.  I can write a book once and be paid for it forever.  Every time somebody decides to purchase that book, I get paid for that time I spent writing it again.  That seems very cool to me that you can put in that hour's worth of work and be paid on it over and over again.  Of course, it's possible that I won't find readers and I'll wind up not making any income.  But that's ok to me.  As long as I'm only putting out my best work and I'm happy with it, then that's enough for me.  My day job treats me well, and it pays all my needs and some of my wants.  Anything I make off my art is just icing on the cake.

So in a nutshell, that's why I decided to write a book: to make art, to share it with others, and maybe to make some extra income.  What do think of my motivation?  If you're a fellow writer, why did you decide to write a book?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My First Collaboration

My youngest son asked me to draw a haunted mansion for him the other night.  So, while the would-be chefs on TV tried to live up to Chef Ramsay’s expectations, I made him a quick sketch (in pen, no less).  Then, he took it and ran with it, adding his own details.  I think there’s some potential there.  I may have to hire him to start doing the illustration work for my children’s books.  What do you think?  Can you pick out his additions?

 

Haunted Mansion

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Derrick the Dog is Available

The first Derrick and Max Story, Derrick the Dog, has been released.  It’s currently only available on Amazon through the KDP Select program.  This means that Amazon Prime members with Kindles can borrow it for free.  The plan is to leave it on KDP Select for 90 days and then bring it off the program to make it generally available.  For those looking for a paper version, one will be available in the next couple of weeks.

If you’d like to check it out, click the cover below to take you to the Amazon page where you can sample, borrow, and buy to your heart’s content.

BD Crowell

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Links for Writers

I've been meaning to do this for awhile, but kept putting it off.  Today, though, I decided to get off my duff and get to it.

I was talking to a coworker recently.  We started off on other subjects but eventually we worked around to writing.  He revealed, without knowing that I too write on the side, that he'd written most of an epic novel.  He didn't know about Scrivener or NaNoWriMo, which I told him about, but I thought how great it would be if I could send him to a page that would give him a good starting point for where to go to learn more.  I've been studying on the subject of writing, publishing, self-publishing, and the whole indie movement for awhile, and over the years I've found some really good sites, articles, and posts.  What kind of value would such a curated list have for the new writer, to be able to cut through the cruft of search results and endless links.  Invaluable.  But I've settled on the price of free (although, you're always welcome to buy/rate/review any of my titles, if you're feeling generous).  As they would say on TV, but wait, that's not all!  Since my pages don't allow comments, I'm making it a post so that other people can add their own favorite links to the discussion.  So, now you can get all their free links, too.  Besides links, I'll throw in some tips, too.  Is that a deal or what?  Cheap at twice the price.

This list is kind of slanted toward self-publishing, although there should be some value here, too, for those seeking to be traditionally published.  One of the downsides of self-publishing is that it's much more entrepreneurial, which means you'll have to do more work and spend more money up front.  Being traditionally published is more like going to work for someone.  You have to manage to get hired first, but then they tend to take care of more of the details and costs and supporting roles.  Of course, the tradeoff is that your royalties and control will be less.  In either case, you can be a star, a flop, or somewhere in between.  Choose carefully, and realize that you're not necessarily locked into one or the other.  You can always choose the hybrid model (assuming of course you can get picked up traditionally).

So, here's my opening list, in no real order.  As time goes by, I may come back and add more, but this should get the newbie writer or newbie self-publisher off to a good start.  Before you get started, though, you should probably take a gander at my disclaimer on the Misc page to make sure you’re cool with that.  I’d hate for you to rush headlong into this and ruin your life.

Research/Organization

Writing

Editing/Formatting

Art/Illustration

Publishing/Self-Publishing

  • Articles on the topic I've liked
  • Don't use DRM.  I wrote an article on it here.  The short of it is that you'll annoy and possible alienate your readers while providing the merest of roadblocks for piracy that will be quickly and easily bypassed.  Regarding piracy, which do you think is worse:  piracy or obscurity?  Think about it.

Web/blogging

  • Articles on the topic I've liked
  • I'm not a big blogger, but some authors are.  It can certainly get you some exposure.  If not for their blogs and/or online/social-media presence, I probably would have never heard of JA Konrath, Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander, or Ben Wallace.  If you're going to blog, you'll need content.  I have a number of items that feed into my feedly news reader.  If you're not sure where to start off getting content from, Alltop and Google News are good sources that you can customize to show your interests.  If you're into the same sorts of topics I am, you can subscribe to my Instapaper Liked feed, although that's going to be more curated, less cutting edge.
  • Looking for a blogging platform that can possibly do double-duty as your website?  The biggies are Blogger, SquareSpace, Tumblr, Typepad, and WordPress, although there are plenty more.  WordPress is the most popular.  Blogger is the only one I've used to date.  It's a strong, cheap ($10/year for a custom domain) blogging platform that's okay as a web site.  If you want to get really fancy, though, be prepared to invest some serious time getting down and dirty in html and javascript, and even then you may run into limitations.

Marketing/Social Media

  • Articles on the topic I've liked
  • Automating your social media updates is very cool and helps spread them out so you're not bombarding your followers all at once (and can catch ones that are online when you're otherwise occupied).  I use a combination of IFTTT, Buffer, Tweriod, Instapaper, Zapier, and HootSuite.  At some point, I'll write up a tutorial on how I use them and link to it from here.
  • Pick the social media sites you like and will use.  Don't spread yourself too thin.  Form relationships; don't constantly blast out advertising/self-promotion.  'Tis better to give than receive.
    • Go follow me and check out who I follow, like, retweet, circle, etc.

Pricing

Income/Taxes/Legal

Software I recommend

  • Microsoft Word.  Really, you're going to be hard-pressed to get around it.  Most self-pub places will take it; Smashwords practically requires it.  Your editor will probably want a doc file.  Directions for using it to self-publish abound.  You can probably get by without it, possibly using alternatives, but depending on what your time is worth to you, it might be less costly to just cough up for the cost of Word.  If you're a student, you should be able to get a reduced-cost or even free version through your school's bookstore or DreamSpark.
    • I've used every Office for Windows iteration since 4.3.  2010's my version of choice at the time of this writing.  The ribbon is much improved over 2007 and is pretty usable now.  I don't care much for some of the changes that came with 2013. 
  • Scrivener.  Although you'll likely use Word at some point in the process, it's not necessarily the best for actually doing your writing in.  Scrivener is the best writing software I've used.  It's powerful yet simple to use.  I can't imagine going back to writing in Word.  They have a fully functional trial, so you should really try it out.  And if you're a NaNoWriMo winner, you can generally get it at a discount.
  • Adobe InDesign.  I have a love-hate relationship with most Adobe products, and InDesign is no exception.  It's extremely powerful at the expense of intuitiveness.  It's expensive, too.  However, if you really care about professional-level print layout, you're going to get much more precise results from this than you would from Word, especially if your layout is complex.  I wouldn't buy it, though, until you run up against unacceptable limitations in your other software and have the time to invest in learning to use it.
    • Want to try out some cheaper alternatives to the Adobe products?  Lifehacker's got a great roundup.  Now that Adobe has forced their CS users onto a subscription model, I can think of no better time to start learning the alternatives.
  • Paint.NET.  It's pretty powerful, and it's free.  When I run up against something I can't do in it, I turn to Photoshop.
    • GIMP's probably the most popular Photoshop alternative.  I didn't care for it the last time I tried it, but that's been years, so it likely has improved greatly since then. 
    • I hear that Photoshop Elements gets you 80% of the Photoshop functionality at 20% of the cost.
  • Artrage.  I like Artrage, if that wasn't obvious.  It's cheap, and it's almost instantly familiar to those of us who grew up using analog materials to draw with.  You know, things like paper, pens, pencils, crayons, etc.  Aside from the night effects (I applied those with Photoshop), I drew the entirety of Derrick the Dog in Artrage using a cheapie Wacom Bamboo tablet.  No more trips to the craft store.  While I wish it shipped with a proper set of graded drawing pencils (you know, H, B, and the others), it's still pretty darn impressive.  And they have a friendly forum, too, with some helpful and talented artists.

Blogs/Sites I recommend

Podcasts I recommend

  • Stuff You Should Know & Stuff You Missed in History Class.  Fun and educational, I've picked up facts and ideas that have inspired stuff I've written.
  • Dan Carlin's Hardcore History & Common Sense.  Thought-provoking and in-depth.  Dan should hold a high government office or be an advisor to those who do.
  • Grammar Girl.  Self-explanatory.  She wrote a book, too, which I intend to pick up one of these days.
  • Money Girl.  If you make enough money to quit your day job, you're going to have to worry about taxes, insurance, and retirement accounts.  Money Girl covers all these things.
  • Writing Excuses.  Quick and useful.
  • Odyssey SF/F Writing Workshop.  Sound quality is usually bad, but they have useful lectures.
  • The Creative Penn.  Yes, she podcasts, too.
  • The Self-Publishing Podcast.  Funny, useful, not quick, NSFW.

Books I recommend

  • My howto shelf on Goodreads is probably a good place to check.

Editors

  • My editor is Victoria Shockley.  I like her enthusiasm.  Her prices are flexible and reasonable and she turns stuff around quickly. My wife and I agree that Derrick the Dog is stronger as a result of her edits.
  • Joanna Penn has compiled a list of recommended editors.
    • Deborah Bancroft was on Joanna's list and came highly recommended to me, and we exchanged several emails.  Although we didn't work together (scheduling), I would still feel comfortable suggesting you check her out.
  • Find an author with a well-edited book and see who he or she used.
  • How to approach and vet an editor?  I had trouble finding good advice on that, until I stumbled on this post by India Drummond.  I took it and ran with it, modifying it as I needed.  Deborah said it was the perfect way to approach an editor.
  • No budget?  Editing is really something you should try to fit into your budget.  But if it's not possible (and it can get expensive), here are some alternatives:
    • Get a critique from your carefully vetted beta readers, writing group, other authors, readers who read in your genre, literate friends, and/or family.  I list those in roughly descending order of desirability.  You're more likely to get honest feedback from acquaintances than you are from friends and family.  The more eyes you can get on your work, the more likely you are to get valuable feedback.
      • Interested in beta reading for me?  Check out my Misc page for details about becoming one of my beta readers.
    • You could try a software approach, something like AutoCrit or Pro Writing Aid.  I've not taken these for a spin, but I may at some point (I'm curious).  Software, of course, has its limitations (Word's grammar checker, anyone?), but can still be helpful.
    • Try it yourself.  Just don't be surprised if you miss stuff.  I was an English tutor in college.  I got A's on nearly every writing assignment.  I was shocked by the amount of problems and errors that Victoria found in my first book, even after I'd edited the hell out of it.  You just don't see your own mistakes and shortcomings as clearly as someone else, especially someone with the proper training and experience.  If you still decide to go the self-editing route, I recommend you check out this post by Jody Hedlund and this one by Joanna Penn.
      • Actually, if I have time, I do those before I send projects over to Victoria, so she has the best that I can produce (and she still finds stuff wrong).  It should make her job quicker and easier and require fewer rounds of editing.  Since most editors have a price range per word or charge by the hour, this should also make it cheaper for you than if you give them a first-draft mess should you later decide to hire a pro.
  • For heaven's sake, don't send out an unedited manuscript into the world for readers as though it was a final product and ready for public consumption.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Cover Designers

Formatters

  • If you have money left over from editing and cover design, this is probably the next place you want to spend it.  There are a lot of subtle nuances in good book design that you likely don't notice until they're flubbed up.  Spacing, margins, gutters, bleed, kerning, leading, front matter, typography.  Do you really want to learn all that?
  • No budget for this?  You can probably make do on your own, although it may not be as pretty.  Check out The Book Designer for help.
  • Got a little money?  There are some good-looking templates at http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/.  Joel's stated that they're also working on some InDesign templates.  I'm waiting patiently.  Joel, I could use a better children's book template, full bleed, 8.5x8.5.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another Update

I've been a busy little beaver and haven't posted in a while.  Thought I'd best give a quick update so that my few blog subscribers know I'm still alive and kicking.  So, in writing news:
  • Derrick the Dog has been finished, edited, covered, and sent to CreateSpace.  I have the proof back, and it looks pretty good (I was a little worried; I'd read some horror stories about bizarre color shifts in photos/illustrations).  The margins need some adjusting, and I've spotted a missing word.  I'll have to go through it carefully.  Funny how things pop out at you on paper that you miss on screen.  It's currently on hold, though, because:
  • I've written a novellete entitled Repetition under the pen name D Lee Warren.  I'm currently going through the 2nd draft, using a technique I picked up from Joanna Penn.  It's really helping.  I've located awkward passages, repeated words, and sentences that just don't sound good aloud (I'll have to go back and do this with my other works).  I'm rushing through this as best as I can so I can get it to my editor by the middle of June.  I've contracted with Karri Klawiter for the cover and am on her calendar for July 1.  She does some beautiful work, so I'm excited to begin working with her.  As long as there are no major problems, I hope to have this out in eBook form by the end of the summer.
    • If you want to see what kind of awesomeness she's capable of, you should have a look here.  It blows me away with what she started with and what she was able to do with it.
  • The 2nd Derrick and Max book, Derrick and Max go to the Beach, (man, do I pick snazzy titles or what?) has been written, and the first illustration done (shown below).  The developmental edit is back in my hands, but it's also been on hold because of the cover deadline for Repetition (sorry, Victoria; I know you're waiting patiently).  I have a lot more illustrations planned for this one than I had in the first, so it'll be awhile before it actually comes out.
max car 2
  • I've got a bunch of other stuff started, but I'm going to try to actually wrap some things up before getting back into those.  With any luck, I'll have 2 releases finished and out by the end of summer and maybe another two by the end of the year.

That's it.  I'm still alive and doing fairly well.  If you're one of my subscribers or just stumbled here from a link, please say hello.  Also, I'd love to connect with you on social media.  You can find me on the links at the top of the page.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Getting the Words Down

I’ve been struggling this year getting the words down.  Part of it is that I’ve actually been sleeping better (thank you, exercise).  But part of it is that I’ve been finding excuses not to write.  I’ll be too tired or there’s something else I need to do (or just wind up doing instead). 

My own work. Created using "Inkscape"...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Up until this year, I’d tracked my activities in a spreadsheet as they related to my writing career.  I’d track words written, time spent illustrating, time spent working on the blog(s).  I wanted to see how this year was stacking up to last year.  According to my spreadsheet, I wrote just under 28,000 words last year.  I was a little surprised.  That’s pretty low, about half of what I did in November, 2011.  At that rate, I’d only be able to crank out a first draft of a novel every 2 years.   That just wasn’t going to cut it.  I needed to kick start my motivation and improve my word count quite a bit over my 2012 figures.

So, I decided to find something that would help me set and achieve a goal.  I thought an app might do the trick.  I’ve had pretty good success tracking my blood pressure and foods eaten since I found apps to do that (and my BP and weight have both come down, for which I give credit to those apps for helping me).  WriteChain looked promising, but there was no Android version, and the Android apps I found just weren’t quite what I was looking for.  So, I kept hunting.

I eventually found this word tracker.  Since I was on my computer to write and use my existing spreadsheet anyway, another spreadsheet was just as good in my eyes as an Android app.  I liked the pirate’s color scheme best, so I updated it for 2013 (the first date in the date column on each page must be updated; I’ll probably change that at some time to point to a single cell somewhere in the workbook).  Without a good idea as to the goal I should set, I stuck with the default of 200k words.  I’ve still been tracking in my original spreadsheet, since there I can input activities besides writing (like illustrating), but I’ve been using this, too.

What’s the result?  Well, I seriously doubt if I’ll hit 200,000 words this year, although I’ll almost certainly participate in nanowrimo this year to get a bump in my word count and try to get closer.  It hasn’t had the impact I thought it would, and I’m nowhere near where I should be for this time of year to reach that goal, but I did see a 41% uptick in my word count for February versus January after I started using this (March, however, was abysmal, since I spent nearly all my spare time trying to get Derrick the Dog finalized).  So, I consider that a small win.  I also think that once I get Derrick published, that I should see some further gains.

 

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Compromise of Art

I’ve been hard at work finishing up the illustration work for Derrick the Dog and so haven’t posted in a bit.  However, I read a forum topic yesterday about traditional versus digital art.  I guess it bothered me more than I thought, hence the reason I’m awake at 2:30 AM, writing a blog post instead of sawing logs.

Comparison of Leonardo's self portrait and the...

Comparison of Leonardo's self portrait and the Mona Lisa based on Schwartz's Mona Leo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve probably heard the argument:  digital art isn’t real art.  Those digital guys cheat, letting the software do the work for them.  They trace their work.  They just use the software to make a photo look like a painting/drawing/etc.  And etc.  Etc.  Etc.  So, I ask who are you to judge what is and isn’t art?   In fact, I have some questions for you, art snobs of the world.

Ever made a mistake in your artwork?  What did you do?  You maybe erased it, probably leaving behind remnants.  Or if it was in paint, that wasn’t really an option was it?  So, you either had to hide it, live with it, or start over again. 

Do you trace?  Ink over rough pencil work?  How about sketch before you paint?  Project a photo onto canvas and use that as a reference?  I know Norman Rockwell, a beloved American artist, did those last two.

Are you an impressionist or a realist?  You think the artists in the other camp produce real art?  What about children, working with crayons, producing a work that’s to the absolute best of the abilities, that they slaved over, but that looks like nothing in this world?  Would you tell them what they produced was not art?  Would it matter if they’d used MS Paint?  What about graffiti, can that really be considered art?  Is not art, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?  I don’t care for the Mona Lisa, but I would never say it’s not art.

Do you make your own paints?  I mean, do you mix pigments, binders, and all the other ingredients?  No?  Then, I say you’re cheating.  Come on, you say, nobody thinks that way anymore.  Maybe.  How about when commercially-available art paints first arrived on the scene?  Do you think those who used them at the time were considered “real” artists?  Maybe, I mean they were still painting, but that pre-mixed paint was totally a cheat.  Hmmm.

So-called “real” artists, I say if you’ve ever made a mistake in your medium, your art’s been compromised.  I can cleanly erase, make the errant stroke disappear as though it never existed.  I certainly couldn’t do that when it was a physical pencil (or worse, pen) on actual paper.  In fact, I can take more chances than you, because I don’t have to to worry about ruining what I’ve already done.  The software doesn’t do the drawing for me; I’m still making the strokes, but they’re on a slab of plastic instead of a sheet of paper.  Oh, sure, some people cheat, but it’s pretty easy to tell the hacks from the artists.  And yes, there are software tools that help speed the process, but that’s called efficiency.  Sort of like buying pre-mixed paints or pre-stretched canvases. 

I’m a child of the 20th century, only recently switched over to digital art in the last couple of years.*  Before that, I grew up with paper and crayons and pens and pencils, just like my peers.  I’ve painted in watercolor and oils.  And I can say that I absolutely prefer digital to analog the vast majority of the time.  And I don’t consider it cheating or that I’m no longer producing real art (it may not be real good, ha!).  Then again, I’m using ArtRage, which mimics real-world artists’ tools.  Now, those guys who use Photoshop… they’re total cheaters.  :)

Before you dismiss someone else’s art, or the medium they use to create it, perhaps you should actually investigate, try that medium for yourself.  You might even want to take a step back and look at your own art.  Or you could just stick to your narrow world view.  The rest of us will be creating art… and ignoring your archaic views on the new mediums and methods available in this millennium.

 

*I expect the children of today and tomorrow will grow up to view digital as just one more choice of medium for expressing their artistic urges.  I believe they’ll be more comfortable and adept with it than I’ll ever be.  And I expect that they’ll think it’s a cheat no more than those who buy tubes of oil paint do today.  And I suspect a lot of parents will be happy about the lack of real paint on their real floors.

 

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

One Year In: What I’ve Learned

On Illustrating

In my last post, I talked about what I’d learned in my first year of writing for publication.  I learned a lot in that first year.  I’ve also learned a few things along the way in regards to illustrating.  It’s been an exciting time, and I’d like to share my top 6 tips for aspiring artists.  I hope they help.

  1. Digital art is freaking awesome!  As long as you have the right tools, that is.  Have you ever tried to draw with a mouse?  That’s an exercise in frustration.  With a good drawing tablet, it’s sublime.  My fabulous wife bought a Wacom tablet for me last Christmas… er, the one before the one that just passed.  This thing is great.  It’s pressure sensitive and pretty accurate.  With digital art, you get easy layers, undo, perfectly clean erases, and you never run out of materials.  I’m just giddy.  It’s a little slower than traditional art because you have to reconcile where your physical pen is with the one on screen (unless you have some major bucks), but beyond that digital art is just sublime.  I wrote about my initial experience in more depth here.
  2. Painting of a Macaw using ArtRage

    Painting of a Macaw using ArtRage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  3. Photoshop is not the end all be all.  Photoshop is the 800 lb. gorilla.  There’s probably nothing more powerful out there.  I know that at some point, I’m going to want to use it, so during breaks from writing and illustrating the 2nd Derrick and Max book (yes, I finished illustrating the 1st one!), I’m gradually learning Photoshop.  Until then, ArtRage is pretty sweet.  If you’re just making the move from paper, it’s way more intuitive than Photoshop (and way cheaper, too).  You owe it to yourself to check it out.  Think it’s only for amateurs?  Think again.
  4. This is a great time to learn how to draw.  The Internet is a fantastic classroom and source of reference material.  YouTube is filled with videos of people drawing, teaching technique, showing examples, etc.  It’s inspiring.  And if you need reference material, there is no shortage of it out there.  If you can use Google, you should be able to find anything you need.
  5. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong or you’re not good enough.  There will always be critics.  If it makes you happy, then you’re doing it right.  If you like it, chances are there are like-minded individuals out there who will like it, too.  Love your art.  That’s the main thing.
  6. Trying something new can be fun.  Challenge yourself to try and learn.  Until I started illustrating Derrick the Dog, I’d never tried to make up cartoon characters.  I didn’t know how to draw something that would need to remain consistent over several images, things like head and body shapes, colors, backgrounds.  It was all a learning process.  And there are definitely some things in my Derrick the Dog drawings that I don’t love.  But overall, I’m pretty happy with them.  I learned a lot, and I know I’m just going to keep getting better.  Most importantly, I had fun along the way.
  7. Above all else, enjoy yourself.  Art is supposed to be fun.  Maybe if illustrating is your job and you work for someone else, you might have to do things that aren’t fun.  But for everybody else, it should be fun.  Remember the joy you had when you were a little kid with a piece of paper and a pencil or some crayons.  That’s the kind of fun you should have.  Don’t worry or beat yourself up because you don’t think it’s good enough.  Try again.  Practice your technique.  Study the technique of artists you admire.  If you keep it fun, you’ll keep at it, and before you know it, you’ll be better.  The more you draw, the better you’ll get.  And that’s a good feeling.

Well, those are my tips.  Make 2013 your year to try something new and take some chances.  Get inspired.  The Internet is the great teacher and equalizer for artists with something to say, whether your art is words, images, or something else.  I wish you all the best.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Year In: What I’ve Learned

On Writing

Well, a tad over.  I tackled NanoWriMo in November, 2011.  It was a great experience.  It provided the impetus to finally finish Three 15 years after I’d started it.  I’ve learned a lot since then.  I also have a lot left to learn, but perhaps by sharing what I learned over the past year, I can help someone coming up behind me.  So, here’s my top 6 tips I’ve learned about writing after my first year.

  1. Writing a novel takes a long time.  I can type fairly quickly, or at least I think I can (someone in the comments may prove me wrong).  My average cruising speed is around 1,100-1,200 words per hour.  Sometimes when things aren’t coming easily, it’s more like 600-800 words per hours.  On the other hand, I can get up to 1,600-2,000 words per hour when I’m really flying.  So, I could theoretically get out an average 70,000 word novel in as few as 35 days.  Not bad.  But writing the first draft is only part of the process.  The first draft is likely to be awful (more so if I didn’t outline first).  So, you have rewrites.  But in order to come at the work with fresh eyes, you need to let it sit and mellow while you tackle other projects.  Which isn’t bad.  It’s good to have a couple of projects going at a time, so you can bounce back and forth.  Then, after you’ve done your rewrites, it’s time to turn it over to a real editor, which is going to introduce new rewrites, and possibly work with formatters and cover designers.  So, if the idea is to jump in and start cranking out 3 or 4 novels in the first year, that’s not going to happen (unless you shortcut, which is going to mean turning out an inferior product, practically insuring you’ll never get many of those desired readers).

    St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

    St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli's St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  2. Find out what kind of writer you are.  It turns out that I’m an eternal editor.  And I tend to rush to get the story on the page.  So, I no longer give myself permission to edit (unless I see something glaring) as I’m writing the first draft.  I’ve also taken to writing outlines, something I’d previously avoided,  which has caused me to slow down and get more of the story out as I’m tackling that first draft.  It also acts as a roadmap, so I don’t wind up writing myself into a corner, or finding that things aren’t coming along as I wanted.

  3. Budget.  You can’t start a business without startup capital.  I thought that I could do this for next to nothing.  And I suppose I could, especially if this is just going to be a hobby that I was going to play at.  But I decided that this was going to be something I was really going to go for, so there have been some small investments along the way.  I’ve done a good job of keeping them under control by shopping around and doing a lot of the work myself.  But, knowing that you only get one chance to make a first impression, I have 2 much larger expenses on the horizon because I did the next step.

  4. Evaluate your skills.  I’ve done most things myself.  I’ve setup the sites, customized code, wrote, self-edited, and I’m going to try my hand at formatting.  But I tried to make a cover, and it looked amateurish.  It seems design and illustration skills don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.  The cover is a crucial part of the book.  There’s a reason you hear “don’t judge a book by its cover;” it’s because people do.  The cover’s important enough that you need a good one, so I’ll be paying for that.  I’ll also be paying for professional editing, because I want my work to shine, and I know that I can never be truly objective, or as good at spotting areas that could be improved as someone who’s been editing for years.  At some point, I may decide I want a better looking site, and hire someone to do that.  There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t do it all yourself, or as well as you could pay someone else to do it.  You’re a writer.  Writers write.  They don’t necessarily do all the other pieces that are required to produce a book.  Even if you can or could learn, it might not be worth your time.

  5. Writing is hard work.  It’s good work, though.  You’re not outside in the elements, no one is actively trying to maim or hurt you, and if you’re self-published, you don’t even have deadlines except for the self-imposed variety.  But it can still be mentally taxing, and it’s easy to get distracted by the other parts that go along with this sort of career, like social media, marketing, blogging, email, etc.  You also have to keep track of minute details, especially if you do your own taxes.  If you’re doing this for fun, then no big deal.  But if you intend to run your writing career as a business, then this is something you have to stay disciplined about, consistently pumping out words, maintaining high standards, doing the research, self-editing so you can turn in the best possible draft to your editor (so he or she can then take it that much farther), and then editing some more.  All for the possibility, but not guarantee, that people will buy it, like it, and bring in enough money to let you keep doing this.

  6. This is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, this isn’t the best choice.  But this is fun.  Since I still have my day job, I can do this when and at a pace that I enjoy.  I get to make up stories, detailing the lives of people who don’t exist.  I get to hear my kids talk excitedly about stories I’ve made up for them.  They want to know when the book is going to be done, when the illustration I’m working on is going to be done.  They tell their teachers about the book I’m writing.  That’s a mighty fine feeling, and a good motivator to keep going.  Plus, once you’ve written the book, it can keep making money forever.  I’ve never had a job like that.

    1. So, that’s what I’ve learned about writing after the first year.  I think I’ll take a whack at what I’ve learned in the past year about illustrating next.  If you have some other good tips for new writers, please share them in the comments below.  Oh, and Happy New Year!