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.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Quotes I Like

English: Oscar Wilde, photographic print on ca...
English: Oscar Wilde, photographic print on card mount: albumen.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fall is here!  Fall is here!  I thought it might be fun to kick off my favorite season by gathering some of my favorite quotes together.  Some of these I find funny, others are inspirational, and some give pause.  They’re in no particular order.  Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and most tend toward art.  I've given credit where I've known the source.  Anyway, hope you enjoy.  And happy Friday!  Let’s party like we’re Lacey!
  1. It's later than you think.
  2. Perfection is the enemy of done.
  3. Let's eat Grandpa!  Let's eat, Grandpa!  Commas save lives!
  4. Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us. ~ Calvin and Hobbes
  5. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. ~Oscar Wilde
  6. You know you're a writer when you have more half-finished novels and ideas for stories than friends.
  7. If you hear a voice within you say that you cannot write, then write.  Silence that voice.
  8. What you are now is not all you have the potential to be. ~ Brian Rathbone (Twitter)
  9. It's Friday, and I like to party!  And by party, I mean read books until I fall asleep... ~Lacey London (Twitter)
  10. Writing is good for the soul; editing is good for the audience. ~ Brian Rathbone (Twitter)
  11. Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ~E.L. Doctorow
  12. Never argue with fools, as this makes it impossible for others to tell you apart. ~ Brian Rathbone (Twitter)
  13. Be generous when you can, and when you can't, be kind. ~ Brian Rathbone (Twitter)
You may notice Brian Rathbone earned several spots on this list.  I don’t know him personally, but I’ve been following him for awhile online.  Besides having a pretty awesome first name, he’s quite an entertaining fellow.  If you’re not following him on Twitter, let me encourage you to do so.  You should also pick up one of his books and give him a try.  After you’ve finished reading all of mine, of course.  Winking smile

Monday, July 24, 2017

ArtRage 5 Review

As any reader of the blog knows, I’ve been an ArtRage user for years.  I started off with 3.x and moved onto 4.x when it came out.  It’s not the only tool in my tool belt (I also have Manga Studio, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Paint.NET), but it’s the one that I use almost exclusively for illustration work.  I noticed a few weeks ago that it had been awhile since I’d gotten an update to my 4.5 install, and I thought that perhaps the next version was out or would be soon.  So, I went over to the ArtRage site and found my suspicions confirmed.  Version 5 was newly available.  I was all ready to plop down my money for an upgrade (once you’re a user, you get new versions for 50% off, or so it has been since I’ve been using it) when I noticed that they were offering review copies.  Oh, ho ho.  I could get something I was prepared to pay for – not that they needed to know that – for the cost of a review?  Something I would have chatted about anyway?  Yes, please.  So, I threw my hat in the ring, and a few days later, the lovely Hannah from Ambient Design got back to me with a code for a free review copy.  Yes, score!  I’ve been putting it through its paces for the past few weeks, looking for new features, bugs, whatever little tidbits I could find that struck a chord with me.  Here’s what I’ve found.

The first thing I noticed was how incredibly quickly version 5 opened.  4.5 was no slouch, but it would usually take 10-15 seconds to open on my desktop computer.  5 took 2 or 3 seconds.  I was seriously impressed.  The next thing I noticed was the toolbar at the top.  Here’s a screenshot of my latest WIP in 4.5, which is the look I’ve always known.

image

Now, here’s a pic of 5.

image

So, a couple of things right off.  Notice how the top toolbar stretches across the entire top of the screen.  It’s also a little narrower as far as height goes.  For me, the toolbar is a big improvement.  The old always felt like it was floating over the top of whatever I was working on.  The new feels like a proper toolbar that’s out of the way*.  I think this also opens up the top toolbar for future expansion, which is already what I’m seeing (a new tool was added to the lower left panel, and the tool it replaced was moved to the top).  The only downside I’ve found is due to muscle memory:  I’m used to the zoom controls being on the left, and I’ve several times clicked Undo when I meant to click zoom out.  At least there’s a redo button, so it’s easily fixed.  Still, I sort of wish you could customize what’s on that toolbar and its placement like you can with Scrivener.

As you can see from the second picture, things are a little darker.  The new version comes with a Lights Out mode, which cuts down a bit on the amount of white.  I love a good, dark theme, and this is especially appreciated for those early morning drawing sessions when the last thing you want to look at is a bunch of white light.  Not much you can do about the canvas, but at least the rest isn’t so white.

There are a bunch of new features that come along with 5, just as was the case with 4.  For me, the killer feature with 4 was paint symmetry.  Derrick has that classic soda bottle shape, the 2-liter variety.  Paint symmetry means I don’t have to redraw the one side multiple times to get it to match up with the other.  5’s killer feature is even better, which brings me to a confession:  coloring is probably my least favorite part of an illustration.  I use the fill tool whenever I can to speed through it.  But if there were gaps in the line work, and there frequently are with my illustrations, the paint would bleed out.  I’d have to undo and paint with the paintbrush tool.  It was very time consuming, and I’d frequently wind up getting a bit of paint mix along the edges, throwing off the color.  But now, 5 has a gap tolerance setting on the fill tool.  I can turn that up a bit and fill away without it escaping the intended area.  Brilliant!  That alone was worth the cost of the upgrade to me.  Or would have been.  If I hadn’t gotten it for free.  Squee!  There’s also a slow motion option for paint fills, so you can watch as it fills.  Useful if it’s going to bleed out, you can stop the process so that there’s less to undo.

I could go on and on about how great ArtRage is, but you should check it out for yourself.  Go grab a demo copy and get creative.



* I realize it’s still taking up space at the top of the screen, but it feels different.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Two Writing Contests

Two emails recently came through my inbox about writing contests that are under way and that carry monetary prizes.  I don’t know if these are legitimate, and I’m not endorsing them, but I wanted to share with my readers so that you had the opportunity to check them out.  If you have any feedback about them, please post in the comments below.  Without further ado, here are the details.

Shame Kills


Shame Kills and Swift River are sponsoring a spring essay contest titled, “My Mother, My Hero.”

Shame Kills is dedicated to eradicating the stigma associated with substance abuse disorder.

This contest is free and the winning essay receives a $200 cash prize. http://www.swiftriver.com/my-mother-my-hero/

The Lascaux Review


The Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction is open for two more weeks. Stories may be previously published or unpublished, and simultaneous submissions are accepted. Winner receives $1,000, a bronze medallion, and publication in The Lascaux Review. The winner and all finalists will be published in The 2018 Lascaux Prize Anthology.
mimi covers
Two copies of the anthology will be supplied to every writer appearing in it. Entry fee is $10. Writers may enter more than once, and as many as three stories may be submitted per entry. Maximum story length is 1,000 words. All genres and styles are welcome.
medallions combined 300
All contest participants receive free downloads of the prize anthologies published to date. Submissions close 31 Marchhttp://lascauxreview.com/contests/

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions 2017

Well, another year is drawing to a close.  So, it's time to look back at the year nearly passed, as well as my resolutions from last year
English: New Year's Resolutions postcard
English: New Year's Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2016, I was still dealing with turnover at work, which robbed me of a lot of illustration and writing time, but I managed to improve my habits this year.  I more consistently got up early to invest the time in the craft.  And it paid off.  As of the start of this blog post (which I began on 12/16/2016), I had logged 74.98 hours, wrote 21,144 words, completed 4 full-color illustrations (one of them just this morning), and have 2 more in progress.  I managed 669 words per hour, on average.  I published two blog articles with a third nearly complete.  I participated in NaNoWriMo this year, something I hadn't done in years, and managed 11,887 words on that new novel alone.  I stopped writing Bound to work on it, but I'm now back to Bound, and the first draft is done save for the epilogue.  I hope to have that finished by year's end [edit:  yep, I finished it].  Oh, and we've not had Internet at our house since late August because AT&T are incompetent, or at least uncooperative.  I hope to have that resolved soon, as it's greatly hampered my research abilities (thanks to the public library for having Wi-Fi).  All in all, 2016 was more productive than 2015.  I'm pleased at the increase, but hope to do even better in 2017.

Now, for last year's resolutions.

Read a bunch of books


Well, I didn't read as many as the previous year, and it looks like I won't meet my Goodreads goal of 24, but I still managed a respectable number.  A few of the books I read were quite large.  I read the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series and am working on the third.  You know how long those are.  I plan to set the same goal for myself for next year.

Lose some weight


Didn't happen.  Spent most of the year trying to get back on Paleo and not succeeding.  Just recently, we've had a pretty good go of it, about two weeks.  I feel much better.  And bad when I stray, so I know I'm getting back into the swing of it.  And like the last time, I'm seeing the weight start to creep down.

Master my email


Not much to report there.  I have a great handle on it at work, less so with Gmail, but it's still more efficient.  Google Tasks, GTasks, and Rainlendar Pro continue to be my go to solutions for tasks management, but I’m also incorporating Trello for larger projects.  I also use Thunderbird to get through large chunks of email at a time.

Write and draw more


As I discussed above, I've met both of those.

Finish what I start


Doing better.  I'm focusing more on one writing project at a time and not splitting my focus.  True, I broke off to participate in NaNoWriMo, but once it was done, I got back to work on Bound.  Which I then set aside to write this blog post, and I'm going to finish it before I get back to Bound.  And I continue to move forward with the illustrations for the next Derrick and Max book.  I'll finish those before I start on the next.


Alright, so now for 2017.  I'm going to go more specific for my goals this coming year since that's supposed to be more effective.  Here's what I have.

Read 24 books


True, I didn't meet that goal this year, but it seems like a good number and generally reachable.  However, I'm not going to fret if I don't reach it.

Write 25,000 words


My stretch goal is always 50,000, but I never hit that.  I think with the improved numbers I saw this year and by being a little more disciplined in the first half of the new year than I was this year, I can reach 25k.  Unless I spend a lot of time on editing and 2nd drafts, but I'm OK if that's what causes me to miss the mark.

Publish a book


I didn't publish anything in 2016, but I have a few things that are completed or nearly completed.  A bit of polish, and they'll be ready.  I want to get to where I've something new out every year.  Maybe even two somethings.

Spend more quality time with my family


Work has settled down.  I'm working on ways to make it more efficient so it doesn't take so much of my time in training when we must bring new people on.  I'm working on my sleep with the help of my Pebble Steel (*sniff* I'll miss you, Pebble) and Sleep as Android so that when I'm awake, I'm more alert, productive, efficient, and hopefully less irritable.  I'm keeping my writing and drawing hours to when the kids aren't around so that they're not competing for my attention.  And I'm trying to be more accessible and attentive.  I may not be able to increase the quantity of hours, but I can try to increase the quality.

Lose 20 pounds


I'm planning to stick with Paleo and will try to encourage my wife to stick with it, too.  We both lost weight when we were on it last time.  If we can stick with it, 20 pounds is well within reach.  Truthfully, I was losing 1-2 pounds per week before, so even 40 pounds wouldn't be unreasonable, but I'm shooting for 20.

So, those are mine.  Please let me know what you think in the comments, and share your resolutions, if you're of a mind to.  I hope you all have a safe, peaceful, and enjoyable holiday season!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Indispensable Writer's Tools

All you really need to be a writer is something to write about, on, and with.  That first one's pretty important, but the last two could be as trivial as some paper and a pencil.  In fact, there are writers who just use those.  Or even typewriters.  If that's you, and that works for you, then this post isn't for you.  But if you have gone, or are considering going, the digital route, then read on.
Windows Live Writer
Windows Live Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I've been writing for awhile now and have, what's for me, a pretty good work flow in place.  Along the way, I've tried a number of tools and thought I'd share my experiences.  Certainly there are others out there, but these are the ones that have worked for me, that I find indispensable.  Hopefully, some new writer, or maybe even a seasoned one, will find this post useful.  There may be some crossover between this post and my Links for Writers post, so apologies for repeating myself.  I'm focusing on software tools here, but let's not forget that there are plenty of non-software tools a writer should have in his or her arsenal, not the least of which are a dictionary, a thesaurus, and books on the craft, although I suppose these days, those are all available as "software," too.  Anyway, without further ado, here's my list of my indispensable writer's tools.


1.  An Operating System (OS). 


tl;dr:  Windows, Linux, Android.

Unless you're writing on paper via pen, pencil, or typewriter like I mentioned above, you're likely writing on an electronic device of some sort, and you need an OS to make that work.  There are plenty of choices out there including Android, iOS, Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.  I've used them all.  I currently do my writing on Windows, Android, and Linux, so my choices that follow will stem from those.  Apple and other users may need to find substitute choices.  For what it's worth, my Windows machines run 8.1 & 10, all with Classic Shell.  My Android devices are on versions 4 & 5, and my current Linux flavor of choice is Mint 17.2 Cinnamon.

Let me digress and put on my IT hat for just a moment.  I'm not going to get into the debate between Windows & Macs; that's been done to death.  My preference between the two is Windows.  But let's rather talk about Linux, because there are a lot of flavors, and I've used a lot of them, so my choice of Mint may be surprising.  Yes, I know there are issues with Linux Mint, such as blacklisting upstream patches that cause problems with Cinnamon and renaming packages that then creates namespace collisions.  You know what, I don't care.  There's always a balancing act between security and usability.  Mint is simple, stable, and intuitive.  I would feel confident recommending it to your run-of-the-mill Windows or Mac user.  It's easy to install and use and feels familiar.  I've gone through my share of Red Hat, Debian, and other installs.  A Mint install is a breeze by comparison.  And yes, I've tried Cinnamon on Debian.  Not really the same.  Cinnamon on Mint is just more cohesive and polished.  I have to agree with their marketing: it's elegant, simple to use, and comfortable.  And despite some of their issues, which I hope they address, I'd say you still have fewer security concerns than with Windows or Mac.  OK, IT hat off.


2.  Writing software.  I've used a lot of those, too.  Let's break it down.


tl;dr:  Open Live Writer, Scrivener, Evernote (with Swype+Dragon)
 
a.  Blogging.  I'm currently composing this post on gedit.  Later on, I'll copy it into Open Live Writer on Windows to finalize before posting to the blog, and then I'll use Zemanta in Blogger to add in a photo and maybe some links.  I used to compose and publish through Live Writer almost exclusively with Zemanta built in, but Zemanta dropped support for Live Writer, Microsoft stopped developing Live Writer, and then I added Linux into the mix which doesn't support Live Writer, so now it's a bit more convoluted.  If you're blogging and on Windows, I'd say it's worth your time to check out Open Live Writer.  Unlike the older Live Writer (which was excellent), Open Live Writer is being actively developed, works with the new Blogger security features, and hopefully has a bright future.  I hope Zemanta comes back with a plugin for it.

b.  Writing.  I use Scrivener.  I bought the Windows version a few years ago, and I've been using the Linux version lately, also.  Sadly, the Linux version has been abandoned but only recently and they decided to put the final versions out for free (it had been an unpaid beta).  I hope they reconsider taking back up Linux in the future, as I would gladly pay for it.  There are plenty of other choices out there, but for my money, Scrivener is where it's at.

c.  Mobile.  I don't do a ton of writing on my mobile devices.  What I am likely to do is send myself a quick email.  However, I have dictated some blog posts, story ideas, and even parts of stories while driving.  I do that through Evernote, which is free, and Swype+Dragon, which is paid.  For me, though, the price of Swype+Dragon is worth it.  Unlike every other Android keyboard I've used that stops listening to you when you pause, you can tell Swype to not automatically detect the end of speech, which means it will keep listening to you until you tap to pause or it loses its data connection.  And because it's powered by Dragon, you can use the familiar Dragon verbal commands, like "new paragraph" or inserting punctuation marks.  This is indispensable for hands free dictation where there may be long pauses between speaking (for instance, only dictating when you're stopped; I don't think we need any more causes of distracted driving).


3. Miscellaneous.


tl;dr:  Dropbox, Rainlendar, Gmail, Blogger, MailChimp, Excel, Gtasks
 
a. Tracking: There are things you need to keep track of when you're a writer.  You have your todo list, dates you need to keep (deadlines, events, etc.), and you may even be keeping track of your writing progress.  Let's talk about those first two.  I use Gmail primarily, which includes a calendar and basic tasks list.  My tasks needs are fairly simple, so Google meets my needs.  Plus, I have a couple of great tools that work with it.  On my Android devices, I use an app called GTasks, which works nicely syncing with my Google tasks list and let's me view and update from my phone or tablet.  On the desktop, I use Rainlendar Pro.  I used the free one for years, but with me working from so many places, Pro lets me see and update my Google calendars and tasks across multiple desktops, Windows and Linux (it works with other calendar/todo list solutions, too, but I've not tried those).  And something I stumbled across by accident:  I waited until the end of the trial period to buy and wound up getting it for half price, which was a nice surprise (I totally would have paid full price).  I don't know if I just got lucky or that's a regular incentive, but it can't hurt to try to wait.

b. Syncing:  I use Dropbox to sync most items between my computers.  It's great to be able to just pickup on whichever computer I happen to be working from.  I don't do anything special with Scrivener other than save my files to my local Dropbox folder, and it handles the rest.  Dropbox has saved me a couple of times, too.  I had an OS crash that corrupted my Scrivener file.  I was able to use Dropbox' previous versions to get back to a working state (there are a lot of moving parts in a Scrivener document, so it took some doing, but I eventually got it.  I wasn't using Scrivener's backup feature, which would have made that a lot easier).  There was another occasion, though, where I had a spreadsheet get corrupted, but Dropbox was convinced that I had no earlier revisions.  I would up restoring from backup, so you still have to keep those.  Speaking of backups, I backup my Windows computers using Windows Home Server 2011.  I don't backup my Linux setup, but it's pretty vanilla with very few installed programs and everything I care about in Dropbox, so I could be back up in half a day, if needed.

c. Research:  I mostly use Instapaper.  It is great, really easy to save a page for later perusal.  I've paid for it on iOS and Android, and I'm a subscriber to get search functionality.  Scrivener can also store research, which is great, but you have to have Scrivener on the device you're doing your research on or when you run across that thing that would be great to reference later, and that's often not the case with me.  With Instapaper, I can just clip it, store it in the right folder, and it's ready to go for later.

d. Communications:  My web presence and email run through Google.  I got in back in the day when you could get a custom domain for your Blogger blog for $10/year.  Unlimited bandwidth, traffic, Google apps, and a custom domain for $10/year?  That's a deal!  That's for bdcrowell.com and included @bdcrowell.com email addresses.  I wish I would have gotten in for dleewarren.com, but I waited too long and Google stopped offering that.  Now, I pay $15 a year just for a redirect over to Blogger.  My only concern is that Google sometimes decides to stop offering services, including ones that I used to use (like my beloved and dearly missed iGoogle and the Tea House Fox), but until they sunset Blogger, I'm happy with it.

For social media, I'm on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, but Twitter's really the only one I pay much attention to.  I primarily interact with those through HootSuite, and I have some automated stuff going through IFTTT and Zapier.  Oh, I'm also on Goodreads.  I love Goodreads.  I primarily use it for tracking my reading, but I sometimes use it for social interactions, discovery, etc. 
For the newsletter, I use MailChimp.  You can't beat totally free for the first 2,000 subscribers.  If I ever get past that point, I'll happily give them my money.


That's about it for my list.  I hope you found something useful here.  These should apply whether you're a hobbyist or a pro, indie published or traditionally. Next time I'll talk about some additional tools that I find indispensable for the tasks an indie needs to take on.  If you have a tool that you find to be indispensable, please share in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Subscribe to the Newsletter, get 2 Free Ebooks

Hello, Brian here.  I wanted to let my readers know about a new benefit for those who subscribe to the newsletter.  Starting this week, anyone who signs up for the newsletter will get two free ebooks.  It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile and finally got around to.  To start with, the free ebooks are Derrick the Dog and Repetition.  Over time, that selection may change as new books comes out, but I want to keep it at one kids' book and one adults' book to appeal to the most readers.

castle photo
If you're already a newsletter subscriber and are feeling bummed because you signed up before I got this rolled out, you needn't feel bad.  Just drop me a line on the contact page, and I'll get you hooked up.  Be sure to use the email address you subscribed to the newsletter with.  And please encourage your friends to subscribe if you think they'd enjoy my stories.

In other news, I continue my snail's pace working on the next Derrick & Max book.  I think I'm roughly halfway done, or perhaps a bit over, with the illustration work.  Once that's done, a final pass on the text and it should be ready for publication.  I'm also trudging my way through Bound, the sequel to Boundless, which leads up to the events in Parts.  I think Bound is shaping up nicely if slowly.  It's taken some massaging and more drafts than I typically employ in some sections to get the feel where I wanted, but I'm fairly happy with it.  Want to read it before anyone else?  Sign up to be a beta reader or book reviewer using the form on our Misc page.

That's all for now.  Hope you have a great summer!