Monday, December 31, 2012

JukePop December Rankings

Thanks to all of my wonderful readers, The Sixth Seal is currently ranked at #18 at JukePop Serials. I want to say how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I will do my best to keep delivering an entertaining reading experience for you each week. I have roughly thirty chapters planned and we are only at eleven currently, so there's much more adventure to come.



Remember, you can vote for each chapter, and you can also leave comments on the site as well as on Twitter using the button at the bottom of each chapter. I welcome any and all comments, and even though the story is mostly plotted, you can leave me suggestions for the kinds of things you'd like to see in future chapters. I'm also working on a second book tentatively titled, Alpha and Omega, and I will probably be posting samples of that work here when book one is nearly complete.

For all of you who have been reading along week to week and helping to lift The Sixth Seal in the rankings, I plan on offering you a free copy of the final book once it's gone through another revision and polishing phase. Again, I can't say enough how much I appreciate all of you.

Thanks again,
Josh

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Trust your reader

Don't overwrite, instead, build a framework for your reader's imagination.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chapter ten excerpt

The Sixth Seal, Chapter Ten...

“Where are we going, Lee?”
Lee didn’t answer. Instead he pushed her to the ground and dove to his right. Ana looked up just in time to see Lee unload the last four rounds from his gun into a man stepping out from behind the SUV.
“Stay down.” Lee rose slowly, then approached the fallen man.
Ana could see deep red splotches appearing on the man’s back, absorbing into his shirt and fanning out like ripples in a pond.


Stay tuned for this exciting chapter coming this Saturday. In the meantime, you can get caught up with chapters one through nine. Don't forget to give it a +vote if you like it.

http://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/241

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chapter 9, Sanctuary, is live


Chapter 9 of The Sixth Seal is live on JukePop Serials. Hannah seeks her contact in the French Resistance, but will she find him before her secret is discovered? Read and find out, and remember to give it a +vote if you like it.

Thanks to your generous support, The Sixth Seal is in the top thirty at JukePop :) I'm currently hanging in at 29th place, but I'd love to climb a few more positions so I can keep my JP 30 ribbon :)



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chapter eight is live


Chapter eight of The Sixth Seal is live on JukePop. This one is definitely a nail biter. There's a car chase, some gunfire and even a little blood. So fasten your seat-belts and get ready for a ride. :)

Remember to give it a +vote if you like it. I really appreciate everyone's support.


The Sixth Seal




















Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's official

I just crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line (barely) with 50,168 words. It was a tough one again this year. Life always has a way of throwing you a curve ball, but I guess it makes the victory that much sweeter.



Most of what I wrote is pretty rough, but it did leave me with a lot of material for The Sixth Seal. I also managed to make a tentative plot outline for the second book, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself. There are still twenty to thirty more chapters of the first book to publish on JukePop. Speaking of which, they released a nifty iPhone/iPad app that allows you to read your favorite serials on the go. If you don't have an iOS device, don't fret, they're working on an Android version.

Well, I'd better get back to work. No rest for the wicked :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The next installment

The next chapter of the Sixth Seal is available at JukePop Serials. Things get pretty crazy and Ana wreaks quite a bit of havoc.

You can find it here.

With your help, The Sixth Seal has risen in the ranks to number 32. I just need about twenty more votes to crack the top thirty. If you like what you read, don't forget you can vote for each chapter. There are six chapters up now, so it would only take a few readers to get the numbers up. Of course, I don't want anyone to vote for it if they don't like it, I just want to remind people that it's a nice way to support the stories that they enjoy.

Thanks again for your support.

By the way, I wanted to mention that we had a winner for the Sixth Seal Promotion contest, but don't fret, I'll probably come up with another one pretty soon.

I also wanted to mention that my plan is to eventually publish the finalized serial, so I may do some sort of contest where readers can promote the serial in order to win a free copy of the final book. Of course, you'll already know the story if you've been reading along, but I will be going back and making some substantial edits and polishing so it might be worth a reread. Also, I'm actively working on the plot for the second book, Alpha and Omega (tentative title).

Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sixth Seal Promotion Contest

Hello, fellow writing enthusiasts! In an effort to get more exposure for my serialized novel, The Sixth Seal, I'm kicking off a little contest. It's super easy to enter and I have some great prizes for the winner, or winners, to choose from.

To enter the contest just share the link to my serial, The Sixth Seal, on your Facebook page. You can even tweet it if you'd like. You can share the excerpt below, or just write a few lines yourself. It doesn't have to be fancy, just something letting people know what it is and where to find it.

Here's the excerpt if you want to use it:


Anastasie Eloise Bertrand has spent the better part of fifteen years in a state mental hospital convinced that she is the reincarnated protector of an ancient and powerful book. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, she befriends her new psychologist who begins to believe Ana is not as crazy as everyone thinks. Ana is soon torn between the good doctor, and escaping the hospital to seek out the book and discover the truth about her destiny. 

Time is quickly running out for Ana as a dark secret society known as the Horsemen assembles to take control of the ancient book. She must find her fellow protectors and prevent the terrible power of the book from being unleashed upon mankind. Ana, as the strongest of the seven seals, must not allow herself to be broken.


Go check it out at:

http://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/241

Don't forget to add it to your bookshelf, and please don't forget to vote.

That's all there is to it :) Once you've done that, send me an email or leave a comment on this post, and I'll enter you in the drawing. I'll announce the winner or winners on Thanksgiving.

Here is the list of great prizes (all awesome writing books of course):

1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
2. Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
3. Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight
4. How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat
5. The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel by James Thayer
6. The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
7. Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

The winner will get to choose which book they want and I'll ship it to them just in time for Christmas :)

Thanks for your support!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sammy Boy

Here's a picture of my mom's dog, Sammy. She hasn't been feeling well, so I thought I'd post his picture here to brighten her day :)

Love you, mom.

Regal Samson

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chapter three is live

Chapter three of The Sixth Seal is live! We get a glimpse of one of Ana's past lives. All I'm going to say is, she kicks butt and takes names :)

Xi Shi in the Garden of the Temple


Go check it out at:

http://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/241

Don't forget to add it to your bookshelf, and please don't forget to vote. Votes help my serial's rankings rise which could help push it into the top thirty. The top serials are eligible for modest cash awards, but more importantly it raises their visibility among potential readers.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chapter three is coming soon

Chapter three of my serialized novel, The Sixth Seal, will be available soon. Things are going to get very interesting. We'll be getting the first look at one of Ana's past lives, all I'm going to say is she kicks butt and takes names :)

If you haven't already registered at JukePop, I would encourage you to do so. There are a ton of great stories to read there across a wide range of genres. Of course, I highly recommend mine, but you can read as many as you'd like and all for the low price of free. If you like my story, or any other for that matter, you can add it to your bookshelf. This will allow you to receive email alerts when new chapters of your favorite serial are posted.

Don't forget to vote and comment on the stories you read and like. I would greatly appreciate your comments as well as your vote. If a serial gets enough votes to get in the top thirty, they are eligible for a modest cash prize. I think this is great incentive for writers to offer their readers what they want, and most importantly, to release new chapters on a regular basis. My plan is to release a new chapter every week.

I have had this story roughly outlined with quite a few scenes drafted, but for the most part I'm reworking and writing new chapters each week. What this means for the reader is that the story is flexible. While I still have some major plot points and a general ending I'm working toward, I'm open to adding some elements or avenues based on reader feedback. So don't be shy, let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.

Working on the next chapter


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chapter two is live

Chapter two of my serialized novel, The Sixth Seal, is live on JukePop Serials. Come check it out, and don't forget to vote :)

The Sixth Seal, Chapter 2 - Gabriel

In this chapter we meet Doctor Gabriel, and get some more insight into Ana's past. This chapter isn't as fast paced as the first, but that's just to give you a breather before the third chapter.

I hope you all enjoy it. Please sign up at Jukepop, so you can leave me comments and suggestions.

Thanks,
Josh


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Sixth Seal

If I could do a backflip, I would. My serialized novel, The Sixth Seal, has gone live over at JukePop Serials, and I am absolutely ecstatic. In case you didn't read my previous post on this wonderful new serial fiction site (shame on you), it's a great place that hosts serialized works by new and established authors alike. The thing that sets it apart from similar sites is that they encourage interaction between the writer and reader. You can vote for your favorites, and even make suggestions to the authors.



The Sixth Seal is a novel that I wrote during last year's NaNoWriMo. However, anyone that has ever participated in this delightful event knows that despite how creatively liberating it is, one is often left with a very dismal and often incomplete first draft. Unfortunately that was the case with the Sixth Seal, so I was more than a little interested when I first heard about JukePop. What better way to allow some of this work to see the light of day. Of course I had to do some polishing to get the first chapter ready for submission, but I've become newly invigorated by the story line.

Yes, I do have quite a few rough scenes written and a fairly good idea of where the story is going, but I am also looking forward to going where the moment takes me and incorporating feedback from readers. That's not to say that I'll incorporate every suggestion into the story, but I'll certainly consider any feedback given.

My plan is to release one new 2,000 to 2,500 word chapter every Saturday. The editors of the site suggest adhering to a regular schedule as much as possible in order to build and keep a loyal following. I think this is going to work out pretty well for me because I do my best work under deadlines.

This is definitely going to be a great adventure and learning experience for me, and I'm excited to be sharing it with all of you. So stop by JukePop, and while you're there check out some of the other great works. There are quite a few wonderful stories encompassing an array of genres. By the way, if you write romances, JukePop is looking for you. I've seen a few posts saying they are actively seeking submissions in romance.

Monday, October 1, 2012

An old familiar friend


I was browsing on Amazon, as I often do these days, when I came across an old favorite, Ross Macdonald. I remember reading his Lew Archer novels when I was in high school. I was completely wrapped up in them for a time. They're quintessential hardboiled detective novels steeped in gritty realism.

I think the thing about Macdonald's detective stories that makes them really stand out from the crowd, and in fact stand the test of time, is Macdonald's adept handling of character. All of the characters in a Lew Archer novel are rich tapestries of motive and emotion. Macdonald had a knack for getting into the mind of the character, and entwining their hidden desires and neurosis into the plot.

I tend to take my time reading a book, but I remember how fast I sped through the Lew Archer novels. They were just so good that I couldn't put them down. Since I discovered them after the author's death, I was able to read them all back to back. At least I thought I had, but somehow I missed one called The Doomsters. I just bought in on Amazon. They have all of the Lew Archer novels available for the Kindle, along with some of his early short stories. I can hardly wait to dive back into that world.

The last of the Archer novels, The Blue Hammer, was written in 1976, so they're a little dated, but Macdonald's tight storytelling and rich characterization make them relevant today, especially for the aspiring novelist. I would encourage anyone to pick them up. As I remember, you don't necessarily have to read them in order, but Macdonald does elude to events in past novels from time to time.

If you start with one of his short stories, available for $0.99 on Amazon, keep in mind that they are some of his earliest works. They're still very good, but they lack the depth of the novels. I'd recommend starting with The Moving Target, which was adapted to the big screen as Harper in 1966 starring Paul Newman.

Go ahead, give Macdonald a try, and tell Lew I said hello.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Flash fiction

I just entered a flash fiction contest over at Mysti Parker's blog, Unwritten. She challenged writers of all levels to write a horror story for her October Flash Fiction contest. It had to be under 1,000 words, and it's supposed to give her the chills. All I can say is, mine's 1,000 words. It's more of a sci-fi piece than horror, but I had fun writing it, and it's always good practice.

Mysti added some great images to the story, as well as a fancy futuristic title. Do yourself a favor and go check out her blog. There are some great interviews and resources there, as well as information about Mysti's great books.

Thanks again, Mysti :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

JukePop Serials is Live!

You heard right, JukePop Serials is live. You can tell I'm excited because that's the first time I've used an exclamation mark in a blog title. In fact, I think it might be the first time I used any punctuation at all in a blog title.

Seriously though, do yourself a huge favor and go setup a free account at JukePop so you can start reading the awesome stories. I have put quite a few in my bookshelf, but one of the first that I read, and highly recommend, is Larry the Horrible Time Traveler by Andrew Coltrin. It's amazingly brilliant and hilarious. It reminds me of the sort of thing that Douglas Adams would write if he were still alive, and if he had the itch to write a time travelling story of epic proportions.

Anyway, there are currently 112 serials available across a wide range of genres, so there should be something for everyone. I've got to go now...so many stories to add to my shelf :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A little tact goes a long way


I thought it might be nice to post a little information on critiquing since I'm serving as an intern for this session of F2K, the free writing course offered by Writer's Village University.


Writers are sometimes a solitary lot, and often don't like to hear criticism. Who does really? After all, you pour your heart and soul into something you think is great, and then some uncaring sot tears it to shreds. The nerve. How dare they? Well it need not be like that at all. As writers, we should embrace criticism, and use it as a tool for growth. In the end, our readers will be our critics, and if you don't learn your craft, and put out the best work you're capable of, they will ultimately be the ones to tear your work to shreds. Or worse yet, they won't read it at all because of some bad review they read online. Criticisms offered in a writing group should almost always be seen as a positive thing. First, you are probably all there for similar reasons, and secondly, you're probably critiquing their work as well. So here are some tips to help you offer meaningful, tactful critiques.

When critiquing online, remember that you don't have the luxury of delivering cues through body language or tone of voice. So something you say may quite easily be misconstrued as mean-spirited or downright nasty. That's why you should set the tone early. Start by highlighting something positive. For instance, I love how the opening line draws the reader right in. Then comment on something you believe needs correction, but never say 'change this' or 'this is wrong.' Simply suggest that the writer consider revising this or that. Then follow up with another positive. At F2K they refer to this as the sandwich method, a criticism sandwiched between two positive statements.

The more we as writers offer critiques, the easier it will be for us to accept them. Just remember that there is always a tactful way to deliver criticism, and if you receive a critique that isn't tactful, don't let it get to you. Chances are that person didn't intend it the way it sounded, and if they did, just let it roll off your back. Ultimately you make the final decision about your work, and they probably aren't worth your time.

Here's a more in-depth article on the subject. Take care, and stay positive :)


Monday, September 17, 2012

Inspiration

Why does inspiration always come at the most inconvenient times? I've been kind of stuck on my novel for a while now, even though I have an outline. I know what needs to happen to get to the next plot point, but I was hung up on a scene that would get me from point A to point B. Wouldn't you know it; it finally hit me at work this morning. I had all weekend to work something out, but just couldn't manage it. Oh well, I guess that's the way of things :) Fortunately I took a short break to jot down some notes and email them to myself. For the first time in a while, I'm excited to get home and write. I might even be able to sneak in some writing at lunch :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Gallery of covers

I thought it would be nice to showcase some of the covers I've made all in one place. Plus, it's another excuse to plug the books of some great authors.

Dangerous Presence








My own work in progress.


A serial fiction project I hope will be accepted by JukePop.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

A smashing good read

The publisher of Smashing Magazine, an online magazine for professional web designers and developers, has compiled an ebook of some of the best articles. The beauty of it is, that it's absolutely free. It's called the Best of Smashing Magazine, naturally.

The magazine has always been a little too in-depth for my needs, but it has a lot of really interesting articles and examples of good web design. They put it together as a thank you to all of those that have supported them for the last five years. I highly recommend checking it out, even if you're not a web designer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remember the good

I know most people are probably marking this day in solemn remembrance, but as for me, I choose to reflect on something else. My grandmother, Virginia Anderson, or Ginny Lee as my grandpa called her, would have been 92 years old today. I miss her and my grandfather terribly, but I also have many happy memories.

I lived with my grandparents for quite a few years, so I was very close to them. I'll share a little fond memory of my grandmother with you. Grandma's house was just a few blocks from my elementary school, so naturally I would walk every morning. There was even a crosswalk that ran between the houses in the middle of the block, so my walk wasn't very long. Every year on the first day of school, before I ventured out, my grandmother made sure I had my lunch, and then she made me stand on the porch so she could take a picture with her little Brownie camera. I'm extremely light sensitive, so I would always squint, but I stood still all the same. Then she would announce that she had it, and I could go onto school. At the time, I probably didn't want to have my picture taken, but looking back on it now, it's one of those fond memories that brings a smile to my face. Mainly because I remember looking at all of those pictures of me over the years. I looked like I'd just swallowed a lemon in every one of them. I was squinting and my eyes were watering, but grandma didn't care. She just wanted a picture of her boy.

Happy birthday, grandma, and thanks for everything.

Love,
Joshua

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The return of the serial

Serial fiction is nothing new. After all, Charles Dickens did it with the Pickwick Papers way back in 1836, and you can be sure he wasn't the first. But just as in most things, everything old is new again in regard to fiction. That's right, serial fiction is back in a big way. You might have heard, in Amazon's recent press event, about their new kindle line, Kindle Serials. It looks pretty promising, but another company actually beat them to the punch, and in my opinion, they've got a better game plan. At least it's a better game plan for the indie author. It's a new site called Juke Pop Serials.

Where Juke Pop differs from Amazon, is that they are accepting submissions for story starters, and allowing readers to rate and give immediate feedback to authors. Essentially, accepted authors will post their work in single chapters at least once a month. Then the readers can find stories they like, read them, and rate them. They can also tell the author what they liked or didn't like. This gives the author a chance to use reader suggestions to appeal to their audience. Of course, the author isn't required to alter the story based on reader input, but I think it might make for an interesting and dynamic story partnership.

As you may know, from reading my blog, I've been working on a novel for some time. I am still working on it, but I've had several other story lines knocking around in my head that are just dying to get out. This might be a nice chance for them to run free, while also forcing me to stick to a writing schedule. Of course, they aren't just allowing writers to post anything they want. You have to submit the first installment, up to 5,000 words, for review by their editorial team. I submitted my first story last week, and I actually got a response from a real person today. She just emailed to confirm that they received my story, and that they will get back with me regarding their decision once they've reviewed my work. They also informed me that, because the program has been so popular, they are quite backlogged. So I may not get an answer, not even a no, until the end of the year, but at least they let me know. That's more than can be said for a lot of places where an author might submit his work.

The site isn't open to readers yet. They are still narrowing down all of the stories that will be published to the site for the beta release. I imagine they will have it open to everyone near the end of the year. In the meantime, they are still taking submissions, and you can submit up to three story starters. Here's a sample cover for the story I submitted...




Monday, September 3, 2012

Royalty free clipart

As you know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, I enjoy creating cover art. I generally use royalty free stock photos from Big Stock Photos, but recently I found another great source of royalty free images, Dover Pictura. I've bought their clipart books with cd's before, but now they have an online store where you can purchase an image sheet or an entire collection. They're very reasonable, and you can use them royalty free in all of your graphic creations. Of course, their vector images are the best, and as a result more expensive, but I've managed to do quite a bit with their bitmapped offerings as well. Here's an image that I modified to use as an illustration for my work in progress.

The original is a 600 dpi jpeg.






Then I masked out some areas using Pixelmator, and applied some patches of color.




The result is this colorized version which was created by using a color dodge effect. Basically the original image was blended with my color mask to create what you see below.



From the image above, I created this one with a gloom effect.



This X-Ray version was created with an effect in Pixelmator on the original image. This one might be good for a mystery or a thriller.



There are thousands of wonderful images available at Dover, and with a little imagination the possibilities are endless :)

My most productive writing sessions

I seem to have my most productive writing sessions late in the evening while listening to music. I think the music helps me to write the scenes with a cinematic quality. It's as though the energy of the music forces me to push the story forward, never allowing me to tarry too long in one place. I imagine once I get past the first draft and start revisions, I'll probably need to concentrate on the words more and the music less. For now at least, it's working for me.

I managed to get down another 1,500 words while listening to my new favorite musical muse, Two Door Cinema Club. I found them on Spotify, which is becoming my new favorite way to discover music. I like it so much, that I signed up for the premium service. The higher quality streaming alone is worth the price of admission. I'm probably not telling you anything new though. It seems like all of my friends are already using Spotify, and I was a little late to the party. Oh well, better late than never. Right? :)


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pixelmator 2.1

I just upgraded from Pixelmator 1.6 to version 2.1 Cherry. I can't believe how far this software has come since I first started using it a few years ago. In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, Pixelmator is like a scaled down version of PhotoShop for the Mac. Only with this new update, it's just about as versatile as Photoshop for a fraction of the cost. I bought version 2.1 for just $14.99 on the Mac App store, and that wasn't even an upgrade price. Compare that with PS CS6 which runs around $600.00. Even Adobe's light version of PhotoShop, Elements, is $99.00.

I know that Photoshop does quite a bit more, but what it does that Pixelmator doesn't do, I don't need. Take a look at another sample cover that I created in the new version in a matter of minutes.



I think I'm really going to have fun with this new release :)

Finally starting to come together

My floors are completely done, and now all I have left is the trim. I've completed all of the entry, office, living room, and hallway. Just have the bedrooms to finish.

Here are some photos of the results. The quality isn't that good since I took them with my phone. I'll try to snap some shots with the good camera later.

My writing desk & Gabby's dog bed.

Detail of trim in living room

Entry Hall


Hopefully I'll have more time for writing soon :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another writing friend is published

Another one of my good writing friends has published her novel,  Journey To Rome: Hadrian and Reisha-Book One. It's a beautiful and engaging read, and once again, I had the privilege of designing the cover. Go pick up a copy at Smashwords. You won't be disappointed.


Something for my writing friends

Some snarky and humorous words of "wisdom" that my writing friends will get a kick out of. Of course, even if you don't write, now you're just dying to click the link. Go ahead. Click it. I won't tell.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A friend is published

A good friend from my writing group has recently published her novel, Dangerous Presence. I had the privilege of getting to read many of the chapters before it was finished, and I also got to design the cover. It's a fantastic book, and I must admit it has been pretty neat seeing the cover I designed in the Amazon Kindle store. Do yourself a favor, and go buy a copy. If you like mysteries and thrillers, you won't be disappointed.


I'm a Kindle owner, so I bought my copy from Amazon, but it's also available from Smashwords and Apple I believe.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Princess Anna of Övrigmark

Princess Anna
Duchess of Pärlastad
Siren of the Safir Sea


All these names
One and three
The very same you see


Keeper of the light
Mistress of the sea
Return to the land and to me

Out of chaos, comes order...I hope

In case you're wondering why I haven't been posting much lately, this is the reason. I'm having all of the floors in my house replaced. The pictures below are of the kitchen and dining room after the contractor pulled up the old linoleum squares and the horrid carpeting.

Dining Room
Dining Room Looking into Kitchen

Both of these rooms should be completely tiled and grouted by next Tuesday if all goes according to schedule. My contractor, Tim, seems to be making quick work of it, so I think we're going to stay right on track.

By the time he's finished, the kitchen, dining room and both bathrooms will have new ceramic tile, and the rest of the house will have oak laminate flooring. It's going to look like a new house. In the meantime, it's going to look like a war zone. Hence the blog post title :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

A song for mom

I was just thinking of my mother this morning and how much I love her, when an old song popped into my head. I have fond memories of listening to this tune with my mom. Sun roof open on the midnight blue, Honda prelude, a little Paulie on the tape deck, and miles of open road. I think we wore that tape out mom :)

Teddy Boy - Paul McCartney

This Is A Story of A Boy Named Ted 
If His Mother Said Ted Be Good, He Would 
She Told Him Ted About His Soldier Dad 
Then It Made Her Cry, Oh My 
Ted Used To Tell Her 
He Could Be Twice As Good 
And He New He Could 
Cause In His Head He Said 

Mommy Don't Worry Now Teddy Boy's Here 
Taking Good Care of You 
Mommy Don't Worry Teddy Boy's Here 
Teddy's Gonna See You Through 

Then Came The Day She Found Herself A Man 
Teddy Turned and Ran 
Far Away 
OK 

He Couldn't Stand To See His Mother In Love 
With Another Man 
He Didn't Know 
Oh No 

He Found A Place Where He Could Settle Down 
And From Time to Time 
In His Head, He Said 

Mommy Don't Worry Now Teddy Boy's Here 
Taking Good Care of You 
Mommy Don't Worry Now Teddy Boy's Here 
Teddy's Gonna See You Through 

She Said Teddy Don't Worry Now Mommy Is Here 
Taking Good Care of You 
Teddy Don't Worry Your Mummy Is Here 
Mummy's Gonna See You Through 

This Is A Story of A Boy Named Ted 
If His Mother Said Ted Be Good, He Would



Hope you're having a great day, mom. Talk to you soon. Don't you worry, your Joshie Boy's here :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The more things change...

Wow! Looks like my grandparents' generation was a bit friskier than I ever gave them credit for. Check out this nifty vintage label art that I got from Dover. They make all kinds of royalty free clip art books that come with compact discs. It's my new addiction. I've bought nine of these things. Lucky for me they're relatively cheap :)

Makes me want to eat my vegetables.

Yep, they said it.

Just so you don't think I'm some sort of ne'er-do-well or depraved individual, here are some less spicy varieties for your viewing pleasure.




Didn't want you to think I was just looking at pin-up girls all day. Heaven forbid :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An interesting commute


My wife and I commute to work every morning. We have about a forty-five minute drive, so she often reads little news snippets to me from her iPhone to keep me awake. This morning she informed me that it is International Sauntering Day. So here's how that conversation went:

Dorothy - Hey did you know it's International Sauntering Day?

Me - No. I didn't even know there was such a thing.

Dorothy - I'm going to saunter through the office today (mimes the act of sauntering through the office) and see if anyone notices.

Me - Why don't you sashay while you're at it?

Dorothy - Absolutely not. Sauntering only. (mock serious face)

Me - So I guess lollygagging is completely out of the question? (smiles playfully)

Dorothy - Indeed.

Sometimes a morning commute is a good thing :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

1920-2012. He made science fiction a respectable genre.

"I don't believe in being serious about anything. Life is too serious to be taken seriously." - Ray Bradbury.

We'll miss you, Mr. Bradbury.

Opportunity for nonfiction authors

I rarely post anything interesting on Twitter, so it always comes as a surprise when someone follows me. Of course, I think they are following me due to the types of people and sites that I follow, rather than my less than staggering amount of twitter posts. But that's beside the point. What I wanted to post was this interesting opportunity that I found when this nonfiction ebook publisher began following me. Here's a brief snippet from their site:

Collca is an electronic publisher specialising in bite-size ebooks and apps for the Apple iOS devices - iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

It looks like they are trying to branch out into more subject areas and onto more devices. So this may be a great opportunity for nonfiction writers to get their work out there. Collca's bite-size books range from 12,500 to 17,500 words and are aimed at the general public rather than experts. I've never heard of them before, but their terms look interesting, so it might be worthwhile to check them out. I'd be interested to know if anyone else has had any experience with them. Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to get back to that fiction writing that I've been ignoring lately.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Good novel writing advice

Here's some really sound novel writing advice from a veteran author, Crawford Kilian. I think most of this document comes from his book, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. The content probably isn't anything earth shattering that you haven't heard before, but Kilian delivers it succinctly and covers a wide array of topics. You'll get everything from plotting, to manuscript formatting, and even some general guidelines on writing a synopsis. And as I always say, you can't beat free :)

A bit of fortune cookie wisdom

Character is much easier kept than recovered.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A great offer

As you can probably surmise from some of my posts, I'm a bit of a geek. No really, it's true. And as any geek worth their salt, I love a great deal on software, especially good software. That's why I thought I'd pass this info on to you, in case you're interested.

Softpress, the makers of Freeway Express and Pro, are offering a 60% discount on their award winning web design software. That means you can pick up the very useful and versatile Freeway Express 5.5 for the low price of $27.60. That is a truly amazing deal on such a robust piece of software.

I won't go into the technical details of the software now, other than to say it is a page layout style web site designer as opposed to template based programs such as, Rapidweaver or Sandvox. That means you have complete control over the design, but it also means a bit steeper learning curve. In my opinion it's a worthwhile trade off.

I might do a more in-depth review later, but for now, I would strongly urge you to take advantage of this offer if you're in the market for such a thing. Just use the coupon code JUBILEE at checkout to receive your savings.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The hidden gems of Googling


It's funny how a quick internet search can lead you to something you probably would have never come across if it hadn't been for the perfect set of circumstances. For instance, I belong to a writing group over at Writer's Village University, where fellow members critique each other's work. Having other writers read, evaluate, and critique your work is invaluable, and in my opinion, a necessity. However, often when I'm critiquing another author's work, I come across something that I think might be wrong, or at least used in the wrong context, but that I can't quite put my finger on. So, naturally, I pop over to Google to do a bit of Googling. I usually just type in the phrase in question and choose from a myriad of results. That's exactly how I found the nifty little site that I wanted to tell you about today.

The only problem is, I forgot the exact phrase that I typed to find it. I was searching for the difference between aisle and isle at the time, because the work I was critiquing referred to an aisle as an Isle. I knew the difference, but since I'm a little obsessive-compulsive (okay, maybe more than a little), I had to look it up anyway. And I'm glad I did, because it led me to this little gem, Common Errors in English Usage.

The site is basically just what the title suggests, an alphabetical list of common errors in English usage. When you click on an entry, you are presented with the correct expression, as well as the one that it is commonly confused with. The descriptions are clear and brief, which makes them perfect for quick research. Sure there are hundreds of sites that offer complete grammar guides, but that's not the point of this site. This is the perfect place to drop in if you just need a quick answer that's easy to find.

You can even purchase this guide in paperback or kindle format on Amazon if you want to have it with you everywhere. According to the site, the book offers expanded descriptions and some bonus material. I may check it out myself, but in the meantime, this site is the perfect critiquing companion. I'll also be keeping it open when I'm doing some of my own writing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Writer

I just found out that my favorite magazine, the Writer, has opened up free access to all of the subscriber content on their website from May 7th to May 14th. Normally to access the premium content (denoted by a gold letter "S") you would need to be a paid member, but this week you can browse it all. They have fantastic articles for writers of every genre and skill level. They also have a great market section where you can research agents, publishers, magazines, etc. It's an invaluable resource and I highly recommend that you check it out.

By the way, I'm not affiliated with the magazine I just really enjoy the content :) Now quit reading this and go check out the Writer. Seriously, why are you still here?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ahoy, matey!

That's pirate for hello. It's also my pathetic attempt at a segue into this week's post. I know this is going to come as a big surprise, but I designed a book cover for another of my very talented writing friends over in Hemingway Hall.

The book is a swashbucklingly (Is that even a word? It is today!) good pirate story with a not so typical main character, Captain Kate. She's an adventurous lass that sets sail on the high seas, guiding her rag-tag band of pirates on many an adventure. Dennis...er...I mean Cap'n Duffy is a masterful writer who really knows how to lay down a good tale. I'm sure we'll be seeing this one on bookstore shelves in the near future. (Probably quicker than you can shake your cutlass at a hornswagglin' landlubber.)


Ahoy, mateys!
Here's to you, Captain Kate! Yo Ho Ho! (and a bottle of root beer...it is a children's story after all.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Joy

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." 
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cover alterations

It always amazes me how much font choice can affect a book cover. The font you use can communicate much more than just the title. It can imply tone and help to reinforce the theme. Of course, if people have difficulty reading your title, then no matter how lovely the font is, you must choose a different one. After looking back at my own font choice for my cover, I realized it was a touch on the difficult to read side. I could certainly read it, but I'm the one who created the title so that's not a very accurate gage.



So I picked a cleaner font, Harrington if you're interested, and made subtle changes to the background behind the text. The new font and the spacing also allowed me to bump the size up a few points. I think it's a marked improvement, but then again, I'm a little biased, so let me know what you think. Feedback on these kinds of things is very useful.

By the way, you may also have noticed that I changed my pen name again. I did this for a couple of reasons. Foremost was that I wanted to be able to create an author website using my pen name, and wouldn't you know it, Joshua Brann was already taken. So I went back to the drawing board, so to speak, and thought about how best to keep my identity and come up with something distinctive. I decided to drop one of the n's from my middle name and replace it with a t to stand in for my last name. Thus, Joshua Brant was born, and as luck would have it, the domain name was available. Yes, I bought it and am currently working on a branded author site. I don't plan on releasing it into the wild until I've finished the first book though. I might, however, give a few sneak peeks of the layout and graphics here...maybe.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A thrilling book cover


As you can probably surmise from previous posts, I've been having quite a bit of fun creating book covers. The nice thing is, I've also been learning quite a bit in the process, such as, how to better use the tools available in my graphics program, what works best as far as layout is concerned, and where to find really great images.

Before I tell you about the cover I've posted here, I just wanted to say a word about the images I used. I purchased them from Bigstockphoto.com. I do this for several reasons. First, I like having a large database of high-quality, searchable images to choose from (their search features are excellent by the way). Second, the price is right. For book covers, you don't really need anything better than their smallest images sizes, which as luck would have it, are also the cheapest. Third, their standard usage agreement specifically mentions that you are free to use images from their site on book covers. That's a pretty big deal because it covers you legally and keeps you from doing the leg work. If you download an image of someone and use it, you're really supposed to get a model release. It's basically just written permission from the subject of the photo. Bigstockphoto takes care of the licensing issues themselves. Now if you're going to use images from their site for things like T-Shirts, mugs, or the like, you'll need to purchase an extended usage agreement. Lucky for us, book covers fall in the standard usage agreement category.

Okay, enough of the technical drivel. The star of this post is a new cover that I made for a very talented author in my writing group over at Writer's Village University. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of the group that gets to beta read and critique her chapters. It's a truly fantastic read, and I think you're going to see it available for purchase in the near future. She's written a very taught thriller, that in my humble opinion, can stand toe to toe with the big names in the genre. So here it is...



I had a great time making this one. It uses three images and is made up of about five effects and thirteen layers. I created it in Pixelmator, which is kind of similar to Photoshop Elements.

Once you learn your tool of choice, it's pretty amazing what you can create with stock photography and a few nice fonts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writing goals


If I'm ever going to get my novel finished, I'm going to have to set some goals. And the only way I'm likely to stick to a goal, is if I tell someone else about it. Since I know at least a couple of people read this blog from time to time, this is as good a place as any to state that goal. So here it is, I'm going to finish the first draft of my novel by the middle of June.



That means that I'll need to write approximately 1,000 words per day. Theoretically, that shouldn't be a problem, since I managed to write 1,700 words per day when I participated in NaNoWriMo. However, NaNoWriMo is an entirely different animal. For one, there are lots of other writers that are posting their progress, so it gives you some competitive incentive. Secondly, when you're writing for NaNoWriMo, you're really focusing on quantity over quality, because the whole idea is to get your creative juices flowing while ignoring that inner editor. For my novel, I want quality and quantity so that editing and revising isn't such a daunting task.

So far I've written around 24,000 words and I'm up to chapter ten, which is the end of part one. My estimation for the total length, based on a very rough outline, is 80,000 words. I'm shooting for around thirty or so chapters coming in at around 250 pages. Of course, pages is kind of a moot point when we're talking about an eBook, which this will most likely be. However, in my opinion and from what I've read, 80,000 words is appropriate for the genre and for a debut author.

The next thing I plan to do is put up some kind of word count tracker here to log my daily progress. Or am I just finding new ways to procrastinate? :) I guess I'd better get back to writing.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A new cover

A new sample cover that I made for my work in progress, Beyond the Gates of Övrigmark. I made it in about an hour using three stock photos that I purchased from Bigstockphoto. The smallest, and cheapest as luck would have it, file sizes work best for book covers. The photos I used were $2.99 each, so my cover cost me just under $9.00. I used Pixelmator to put it all together, but you could just as easily do it in a free program like Paint.net or Gimp.




Beyond the Gates of Övrigmark - A thirteen-year-old boy steps through a mysterious arch and into a magical world to find his sister.


By the way, Brann is my middle name. It just fits on the cover better than my last name :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All the Beauty


Since this is supposed to be a blog about writing, I thought I'd post some actual writing for a change. Actually, I've been wanting to post this story for quite a while, but it was entered in the lesson six contest at F2K so I didn't want to 'publish' it anywhere else. It didn't win the final competition, but I'm happy with it nonetheless.

For lesson six of F2K we had to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end incorporating everything we'd learned over the session. We also had to keep it under 1,500 words. That's always a challenge for me, but I find the limit actually forces me to choose my words carefully. Ultimately I think it results in a tighter story.

My story is actually a fictionalized account of a very real person, Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum. If you can get your hands on this great documentary about him, and many other brave individuals from WWII, Unlikely Heroes, I would highly recommend it. I hope I did him justice in this very short story.

Here it is...


All the Beauty

“Josanna, you know we aren’t allowed to go outside when papa isn’t home,” Aaron said as he gently guided his little sister away from the door. She protested briefly then dropped her arms to her sides.

“I know. I just want to go outside and play with my friends.” She looked up at him. “We haven’t been able to go out since—“

“Since momma died. I know, now go set the table so we can get dinner ready for papa.” She nodded then ambled to the kitchen. Before Aaron could join her, a familiar knock came to the door.

“Aaron it’s me,” came papa’s voice from outside the door. Aaron glanced at the clock on the mantle. It was only half past four. Papa was home early.

“Coming papa!” Aaron dashed to the door and unlocked it. Papa opened it quickly and pushed it closed behind him, resting his body against the frame.

“Where’s your sister?”

“She’s in the kitchen getting—“

“Has anyone come to the door today?” Papa asked as he walked to the window and peeked through the curtains to the street below.

“No papa. What’s wrong?”

“They came right into his home and took his family.” His father seemed to be watching something.

“Whose family papa?”

“The Meyers.” Aaron noticed papa gripping the curtain tightly. “They just kicked in their door, and…”

“And what papa?”

“Nevermind son. Go help your sister with dinner. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Aaron left papa and went into the kitchen to find his sister. She was busy setting plates and utensils on the dining table. He was about to check the goulash on the stove when a tremendous racket erupted from the front room. Josanna dropped one of the plates on the floor. Aaron couldn’t even hear it hit.

“Josanna!” he shouted as his sister ran to papa. 

The door was hanging askew in its frame; papa was standing between Josanna and an angry man in uniform. Aaron recognized the outfit as those worn by the dreaded SS. A bright red armband stood out against a sea of black, and Aaron could see the silver SS emblem on the man’s lapel. The man was yelling violent words and pushing papa. Aaron placed his hands on Josanna’s ears.

“Don’t lie to me Jew dog! Your neighbors have told us everything. Get your papers and come with me.” He spat out every word.

“They are in the bedroom—“

“Then go get them dog!” The man kicked over the little table next to the couch, sending a lamp crashing to the floor. Josanna cowered against Aaron.

“Please don’t hurt my children,” said Papa backing out of the room.

“Mach schnell!” The man balled up his fists. Beads of sweat broke out across his brow.

Papa ran to the bedroom. Aaron could hear him rifling through drawers. “I’ve found them!” He hurried back and pushed the papers into the man’s hands.

The man glanced at the papers, folded them, then put them in the inside pocket of his jacket. “You will come with me now!”

“Please, take me. Leave my children—“

“Now!” bellowed the man. He grabbed Josanna by the arm, yanking her from Aaron’s grasp. She screamed in terror as he drug her towards the door.

“We will come with you, just please don’t hurt the children.” Papa took Aaron by the shoulder and guided him out the door and into the hallway of the apartment building. Aaron noticed someone looking out the crack of an open door across the hall.

“Down the stairs,” ordered the man. Papa kept himself between the man and Aaron. Josanna reached for her father, but the man kept a firm grip.

When they were in the foyer, they ran into one of Josanna’s school mates, Mary. She was standing with her mother looking at them with wide eyes. Her mother grabbed her shoulder and held her tightly.

“Where are you taking Josanna?” she asked. Her mother tried to put a hand over the child’s mouth, but she squirmed away.

“That is none of your concern little vermin. Now go and tell all of the other vermin that we will find them and take them to the camps!” The man pushed Josanna forward and out the front door towards a big black sedan. He opened the door and shoved Josanna up front. He drew his pistol and motioned for papa and Aaron to get in the back.

“Please don’t hurt her. We’ll do as you ask.” Papa opened the back door, and Aaron slid across the seat and next to the window. Papa sat down next to him, and the officer closed the door. Aaron felt like all of the air had been sucked out of his lungs. He stared out the window. It was beginning to rain, and there was no one on the street.

The man started the car, its massive engine roaring to life. The car lurched onto the roadway and sped forward. Josanna peeked cautiously over the seat at Papa. Aaron could see him mouthing reassurances to her. He motioned for her to sit back down. She did so as the car slowed and took up a steady pace.

“I must apologize,” said the man. Silence. “It was necessary to keep up appearances.” More silence. The man guided the car around a corner and onto an avenue that paralleled the mighty Danube. “There are informants everywhere. They had to believe that you were really being taken to the camps.”

“I don’t…” Papa couldn’t seem to get out any more words.

“There isn’t much time I’m afraid. We must get to the glass house quickly. The Nazis are rounding up everyone.”

“The glass house?” asked papa feebly.

“Yes, it’s a safe house established by the underground. Ambassador Lutz is writing letters of protection for as many Jewish families as he can.”

“So you’re not a Nazi?” Papa stared at the man. Aaron looked from his papa back to the man.

“I am Pinchas Rosenbaum, member of the Jewish Youth.” He smiled and nodded. Josanna peeked over the seat again as if looking for answers in her father’s face.

“Rosenbaum…the Rabbi’s son?”

“Yes.”

“How is the Rabbi?” Papa leaned forward, placing a hand on the seat.

“Dead,” said Pinchas.

“And your mother—“

“Dead. All of them dead. Murdered by the Nazis.” Pinchas gripped the wheel tightly, and turned the car onto the next street.

“But what about—“

Pinchas slammed on the brakes and brought the big car skittering to a stop. He managed to put out his arm to keep Josanna from hitting the dash. There were people in the street, lying in the street. A soldier held up a hand and approached the car.

“You must all keep quiet. Don’t say a word unless spoken to.” Pinchas looked back at Aaron and then glanced at Josanna. He rolled down the window.

“What is the problem here soldier?” asked Pinchas.

“Damn filthy vermin trying to escape.” The soldier pointed to the man lying in the street. A woman was kneeling over him crying. Aaron saw a ring of red forming on the man’s shirt. “Where are you headed sir?”

“To the camps.”

The man looked at him oddly. “Aren’t the camps back that way?” Aaron could see Pinchas slowly moving his hand towards his holstered pistol.

“There is one other stop I must make first,” said Pinchas.

The man gave a curt nod. “Certainly sir. Do you have room for one more of the vermin in your car?” He gestured towards the woman in the street.

“Always.”

The soldier walked to the woman, and pulled her up hard by the arm. She wailed, and reached out for the man lying in the street.

“In the car vermin!” The soldier opened the back door, and shoved the woman in next to Aaron. “Thank you sir, that’s one less on the streets.” He tapped the roof of the car signaling that they were all set. Pinchas nodded and rolled the car forward.

Aaron strained to see over the woman as they steered past the man lying in the street. A barrage of gunfire rang out in the distance.

“What was that?” asked Aaron.

The woman spoke quietly. “The Nazis are lining up men, women and children along the banks of the Danube and executing them. The river runs red with their blood.” 

They sat in silence until Pinchas pulled the car into an alley behind a big brick building. Aaron watched as he got out and walked up to the back door. He knocked several times and waited. The door opened halfway, and Pinchas motioned for them to get out of the car.

He ushered them inside. Papa shook his hand, but couldn’t manage any words. The two men just nodded at each other. Pinchas turned towards Aaron and placed a hand on his shoulder, looking directly into his eyes.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

-Josh Thornbrugh