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.

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!