Friday, September 28, 2012

2 more possible new e-book covers I've painted

I took a chance last week and uploaded a new cover for my fantasy novel City of Rogues, a cover I had painted then fixed up a little in Photoshop. I freely admit I am not a good artist, though I do think I have pretty strong design skills. That being said, I've been quite astonished. Since uploading that new cover, my sales and freebie giveaways have jumped quite a bit, noticeably so.

What this means is, I've been painting more covers, giving it a try. I'll try to upload some more. Time will tell if this helps even further with sales. I hope it does. A couple of my practice covers are at right.

In other painting news, I've been contacted by a beginning children's writer who is considering commissioning me to do a cover for her first e-book. This was quite a shock to me. To repeat, I'm not a good artist, and I make no claims to being one. Painting is more of a hobby to me, something fun to do while listening to music. Becoming a cover artist is not in the works for me, not something I'm interested in pursuing for other writers; even if my skills improved a whole bunch (which is not impossible with more practice), I don't think I'd want to become a regular cover artist, not unless maybe the pay was really, really good. Maybe. Still, I put something together and e-mailed a copy to the writer. I'm waiting to hear back from her, and if she approves my painting, then we'll move ahead. I'm not charging her much, only $25, but as I've pointed out, I'm not a professional artist and have no real desire to become one. If she uses my painting for her cover, I'll make sure to include that cover here with a link.

On another related painting matter, brushes can grow old, they can become worn out. While I logically knew this was possible, it has not been something that has been a problem for me until recently. My favorite two brushes are worn to the point that I almost can't use them any more. What makes it worse is these two brushes are nearly 20 years old and the company that makes them is no longer in existence. You might think brushes are not that big of a deal, that I could pop off to an art store somewhere and buy replacements. It's not that easy. I have another dozen or so brushes of varying sizes and qualities, for different uses, and I do make use of those some, but the two brushes I need to replace are my main painting brushes, what I use for about 90 percent of my painting. Finding the same sizes, types of bristles, lengths, etc., I'm finding is not an easy task. There are thousands upon thousands of different kinds of brushes out there, but finding exactly what I want is turning into a chore. Meanwhile, I'm making due with my two brushes, though I don't know for how much longer, and I'm getting by utilizing some of the other brushes for purposes they are not necessarily meant for. I'm getting by. But I need some replacement brushes.

Also, I'm having to buy new paints for the first time in more than a decade. What I have found is that paints have become much more complex, with a lot more companies n the mix, and a lot more different styles of paint from the older companies. Used to be there were only a few companies that put out acrylic paints, and maybe a couple of dozen different colors with a handful of other, oddball colors one would rarely, if ever need. Now there are hundreds upon hundreds of different colors, and even then there are different quality levels of the paint. As with many things, I'm finding you get what you pay for. The cheaper acrylic paints tend to be quite watery, almost like water colors, and don't cover the canvas well, at least not without multiple coatings (which goes against saving money by buying cheaper paints). The top of the line paints I'm finding a little too heavy, too thick for my preference. So, for the most part I'm sticking with middle-of-the-road paints, ones not for beginners but not necessarily for professional artists. It's working, so far.

I've also been thinking about painting on other backdrops than stretched canvas or canvas board. One problem I run into is that I don't have a good enough camera for shooting pics of my art, so I have to paint small and scan in directly on my flatbed scanner. This is not optimal. The light from the scanner can affect the painting. The texture of the canvas shows through. So, since I can't currently spend big time money on a big time camera, what I need, I'm going to try painting on smoother surfaces, ones that won't show a texture when I scan. I've considered wood, but it's a bit pricey for what I'll be doing. There are hard flat, art boards specifically made for acrylic painting, and I'm considering giving them a try once I run out of canvasses; still, I can see some drawbacks to using these boards, in large part because they are smooth and painted white, which will be difficult to cover with the few cheap paints I still have. I really need to get a good camera, though, because often I think one of my paintings looks better on canvas than it does after I've scanned it in, a lot of the detail work being lost, especially with lighter colors.

So, that's life in my world of acrylic painting of late.

We are experiencing technical difficulties

Just wanted to post this here in case anyone came searching. For those who have noticed, Part V of my Mage Hunter series has yet to appear on Amazon, though it was supposed to have been published Monday. My apologies. The series is completed, the file uploaded, but either I or Amazon are having technical problems through KDP and even Amazon Central. I'm not alone in this, as a number of other writers have mentioned similar recent experiences.

Figures. I do a series, the first four parts come out fine, then the conclusion gets held up.

Sincerely, my apologies. I hope this last part of the series will be available sometime this weekend.

At least I've learned not to publicly give out dates for an ongoing series. From now on I'll just say "coming soon" or "look for it next week" or something similar.

Again, my apologies. I hope no one has been too put out by this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 79 -- Memoirs of a Geisha

by Arthur Golden

Started: Sept. 26
Finished: Oct. 3

Amazon link: Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel

Notes: Unfortunately, I am woefully ignorant of Asian cultures. I consider this unfortunate because I believe fantasy writers such as myself should be more aware of many different cultures. Such awareness can help to improve one's writing, especially in fantasy, allowing the author to come up with ideas fresh to his or her readers. To help with this, I decided to pick up this novel. I have seen the movie based upon this book, but to be honest I remember hardly anything about it other than it took place around the period of World War II. I have heard many good things about this novel, so hopefully it will be more memorable to me than was the movie.

Mini review: Quite the charming novel, though not in any kind of trite way. Told from the viewpoint of an older woman looking back on her childhood and younger days up to her early 30s, mainly from about 1930 to the mdi-1950s, this tale looks at the life of a peasant girl who becomes a geisha, and all the trials she faced during the time period, including how she managed to survive the horrors of World War II as they hit upon Japan. At its heart, this is ultimately a romance tale, but to say that belittles the overall story of survival, though I can't quite say it's a story of triumph. The ending is not necessarily tragic, but it has plenty of sad elements, what I think of as melancholy. This geisha gives up much and loses much in her quest for a certain someone, and honestly, I'm left wondering if it was really worth it. I also have to wonder if she doesn't feel the same, at least a little. For speculative writers who want ideas on different cultures, I have to say this is a pretty good book for studying such things. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the historic details here, but this book still gives a notion of different elements that make up some small parts of a culture and heritage far removed from that of the traditional Western tropes.

Books read in 2012: No. 78 -- Sword Bearer (Book One: Return of the Dragons)

by Teddy Jacobs

Started: Sept. 24
Finished: Sept. 26

Amazon link: Sword Bearer (Return of the Dragons)

Notes: After my recent readings, I'm still in the mood for some action fantasy. So, I open ye olde Kindle and what do I find but this little gem. It'll be my first time reading this author, so let's see what he can do. The story is about a young man who is the son of a diplomat, and discovers he has a secret past and great powers.

Mini review: I found this novel less of an adult fantasy tale and more like a young adult story, but I don't conclude that that was a bad thing, just unexpected on my part. I do not know if the author intended for this to be a young adult novel, but it reads that way with the 16-year-old protagonist telling the tale in first person, and the lack of overly violent or sexual scenes. Again, there's nothing wrong with any of that, just not quite what I was expecting. The writing here is quite clear and simple, though not simplistic, and I noted very few mistakes, no more than I'd find in most traditionally published novels. The only problem I had with this story is I felt there were too many questions left unanswered. Much of the background, the history and characters and other elements, are not really explained at all, and I found this frustrating. Would I suggest this novel for reading? Yes, especially if one is in the mood for some heroic fantasy that isn't so dark and not so consistently action-oriented. I gave this one a solid four out of fives stars. I look forward to reading its sequel at some point.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 77 -- Annals of the Black Company

by Glen Cook

Amazon link

Started: Sept. 12
Finished: Sept. 23

Notes: This book is actually a collection of three novels, The Black Company; Shadows Linger; and The White Rose. I read the first novel years ago and ever since have been meaning to read more of this fantasy author. Spotting this Book Club Edition for a buck in a used book store, I knew I couldn't turn it down.

Mini review: One of the best endings I've seen in a long while that actually makes you feel sorry for a villain. This was a nice romp through the past, for me meaning the fantasy writing styles of the early-to-mid 1980s. Lots of action, quick dialogue, just enough description to let the reader knows what is going on, a minimal of philosophizing (though there is some, mostly in the background). These three rather short novels were a nice change from the oft bloated epic fantasy tales more common today. This is actually the type of fantasy writing I try to do, lots of characters, intrigue and action, and not a thousand pages needed to tell it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm not much of a vodka drinker, but ...

This is something I threw together in Photoshop just for fun. Enjoy. For those who don't know, Darkbow is the name of my main fantasy character.

My latest art projects

I've not posted much lately about my art projects, but that does not mean I have not been busy painting and working in Photoshop. Actually, I've been quite busy.

For the most part I've been working on mock-ups of potential book and e-book covers. I'm not sure yet if I like any of these enough to actually make use of them, but I've been practicing with new covers for e-books and books of mine that already exist, so the images with this post might have some familiar titles on them.

For some time I've been contemplating new covers for nearly all my books. Some of them were designed several years ago for the then budding e-book market, and I feel a number of them need a fresh approach, hopefully one that is somewhat more professional looking or at least fun, potentially drawing in readers.

I admit, I'm not a good enough artist for this project, but I'm enjoying it, and I like the idea of doing my own covers.

I've found I have the best luck painting the central image in acrylics, then scanning that in and doing the foregrounds and backgrounds in Photoshop. Or at least that's how it seems to me. Others might think I would do better taking a different approach, but again, I'm interested in what I'm doing and entertaining myself. Time will tell if that transfers to the readers.

Will any of these ever see the light of day beyond this blog? I don't know. They're not great artwork, but at the same time they're as good if not better than a lot of indie e-books I've seen. Does that make them good enough? I don't know. I'm still trying to work that one out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 76 -- Reminiscences of Tolstoy

by Count Ilya Tolstoy
translated by George Calderon

Amazon link

Started: Sept. 10
Finished: Sept. 11

Notes: For some few years now I've been interested in Leo Tolstoy's journey not only as a writer, but his spiritual journey as a Christian, which I've found fascinating. Late author John Gardner's writings first introduced me to Tolstoy's notions about art and writing and life, though I have read some of Tolstoy's fiction and noticed the strong spiritual elements. This little collection of apparently true tales about Tolstoy was written by his son, Count Ilya Tolstoy.

Mini review: An interesting look into Tolstoy's domestic life, some of his relationships with friends, and his final days. Not overly deep here, but there are some nice, cute little scenes of the great author interacting with his children and other relatives. It was also nice to get a family perspective about Tolstoy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 75 -- The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

Amazon link

Started: Sept. 2
Finished: Sept. 10

Notes: This novel first drew my attention when I realized it was a bit of a mystery tale spanning centuries about a historian's daughter who discovers a secret that might prove Vlad Tepes, the historical figure known to the literary world as Dracula, might actually have been a vampire. That's enough to get me to read.

Mini review: This novel kind of baffles me. It does so many things I enjoyed, but it also does so many things I found quite annoying. At it's heart it is a mystery tale, but more than that, several mysteries entwined. I'm trying not to give too much away, but for those who love scholarly works, travel pieces, history and historical fiction, there is much here to love. Fans of Dracula will definitely find much here to love, but also perhaps a few things that might make you scratch your head. My biggest problem with this novel was the never-ending clues, one after another after another, which never seemed to end. Of course it eventually does have to conclude, and the ending I felt did not quit live up to all the drama before it. A good book, but not quite a great one.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Mage Hunter, Part III now available for Kindle

For those interested in my Mage Hunter serial fiction, the third episode is now available for the Kindle.

And if you are wondering why this series is not available elsewhere as of yet, which had been my original plan, it is because certain online publishing sites, mainly Smashwords, do not allow for serialized fiction. So, I'll have to wait until the series is complete before uploading an omnibus edition for my non-Kindle readers.

Only two more episodes to go!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Part II of Mage Hunter released

Mage Hunter: Part II of V: Sundered Shields is now available for the Kindle at Amazon for only 99 cents.

Here's the basic book description:

Sergeant Guthrie Hackett finally manages to find himself within the relative safety of his own Ursian countrymen, but an assault by the barbaric Dartague leaves more dead and wounded.

Setting off alone once more, this time in hopes of saving the captured captain of the northern Ursian militia, Guthrie learns there are more players behind the scenes. Eventually discovering a hidden Dartague encampment, the sergeant slinks around in hope of finding the captain. Before his search can come to a culmination, however, Guthrie discovers a truth about himself that might be more disturbing than anything he learns of the enemy.

Books read in 2012: No. 74 -- ROAR: A Wardstone Short

by M.R. Mathias

Started: Sept. 2
Finished: Sept. 2

Notes: I thought I'd slip into something short between longer works and this fantasy piece was next up on my Kindle. While I've tended to enjoy this writer's horror more than his fantasy, he writes mostly fantasy, it seems, so I enjoy his works when I can.

Mini review: This actually turned out to contain two short stories, both nice little introductions into the world and some of the characters of the author's other fantasy writings. This would be a good read for those wanting to decide whether or not they want to try the author's longer works.

Books read in 2012: No. 73 -- The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

Started: August 28
Finished: Sept. 2

Notes: It dawned on me some while back that I rarely read female authors, which is a disservice to myself as a reader and a writer as well as being a disservice to others. So that is one of the things which initially drew me to investigating this book. Then the more I heard about it, the more I was intrigued, the tale being about a man who travels through time yet seemingly has no way of controlling such. The story is apparently told from this man's wife's point of view, which I find even more intriguing. I'm looking forward to it.

Mini review: Hardcore science fiction fans might find plenty to grouse about in this novel, but they're missing the whole point. This is not a tragedy nor a comedy nor a serious science fiction tale. This is a romance, a romance about true love, a love of the ages, like Romeo and Juliet, or for a more modern audience, Wesley and Buttercup. Read in that light, this is a most enjoyable story, somewhat sad toward the end. My main quibble with this tale was that about two-thirds into the story I could tell where it was going, and from that point on I became frustrated, wanting the tale to get to its ending; this was a frustration upon my part, not because the book is overly wordy. Would I suggest reading this? Yes. But be prepared for heartbreak.