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? :)