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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's official


It's official, I'm a big geek. Actually, my geek status has probably been official for quite some time, but I just made it even more official. I bought a bluetooth keyboard that I paired with my iPod touch for writing on the go. I'm even writing this post with my new iPod/keyboard combination.

I've been wanting to try this setup for awhile, but I was reluctant to spend $50 to $100 on a quality compact bluetooth keyboard. So I decided a trial run with a cheapo keyboard was the answer, and I have to say that I'm actually pretty impressed with the cheapo. Sure, it's no Apple wireless keyboard, but it looks kind of like one, and it only cost $17. I was a little leery of this particular brand when I read some of the reviews on Amazon, but now that I have it in my hands I think it's going to be perfect for stowing in my backpack. It's compact and weighs less than a pound and it syncs up nicely with the iPod.

My iPod Touch with Cheapo Keyboard




Now that I have this keyboard and my recently acquired iPod stand, I think I have the perfect mobile setup. I can check and reply to emails, surf the internet, and even write and sync to dropbox. The beauty is, I like using it even more than my netbook.

If you're looking for a good mobile writing setup and you already have an iPod, I don't think you can go wrong with this keyboard.

Well, that's all for now. This geek has to get back to work to support his tech habit :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Writing on the go


Story ideas and inspiration never wait for you to be conveniently poised in front of your computer ( or typewriter if you're real old school ). That's why I love nifty little utilities that allow me to jot down all of those golden nuggets no matter where I am. More specifically, that's why I love Write 2.

In case you haven't been reading my blog ( shame on you ), I'll let you know that I just bought a new iPod touch. I bought it mainly for listening to music while at work, but another use occurred to me, mobile note-taker. Of course I still like to write in my Moleskine, but in all honesty, my notes are more likely to make it into my main word processor if they are already in digital format. That's where Write 2 comes in.

Write 2 allows me to take notes in a user-friendly, and attractive I might add, environment. Then I can synch to my Dropbox account and upload my file. I can even pull down and edit files from Dropbox. If you're not a Dropbox fan, you can also export and email the files in a variety of formats, including PDF.

Write 2 has some other nice features as well. It allows you to create folders and sub folders, and to search within files. You can even change the look of the interface and 'paper' using some very picturesque themes. Write 2 also has some useful auto text and security features that I may review after I've had a little more time with the app.

So far, I'm thoroughly impressed with this little gem, especially for an app with a price tag of less than three dollars. I even typed the bulk of this post using it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Posting from my iPod Touch

This is a test post from my new iPod Touch using the Blogger app. I'm not sure that posting from an IPod is really going to be useful, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

I'll go ahead and snap a photo to post as well, just so I can test out that functionality too.

And here it is...