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Monday, April 21, 2014

Vita Brevis Ars Longa

What the heck does that title mean? If you don't already know than you aren't part of Sigma Alpha Iota. For those who aren't members, it means (roughly) "Life is Short, but Art is forever". It is a call sign for the sisters of Sigma Alpha Iota.

What is Sigma Alpha Iota?...which will be referred to as SAI.

From their home page: Sigma Alpha Iota is an organization which promotes interaction among those who share a commitment to music. Members of SAI are active in all areas of campus music and campus life, working closely with faculty, administration, campus and community groups, music professionals and patrons. In addition to personal encouragement and support, members may receive scholarships, loans and awards in many areas and at all levels of music-related study. Sigma Alpha Iota has long been recognized as a leader in the field of music and provides a lifetime of fraternity contact.

Notably, SAI is a woman's music fraternity. Why, then, am I discussing this? I am a member. 

No, I am not a woman, but I am very musically inclined. My mother joined SAI back in the early nineties when she went back to college. I started helping out with their stuff early on. Back a few years ago I was honored with the title Friend of the Arts, which can be given to men or women who have had an impact on SAI and music. It also grants the recipient the privilege of being considered an honorary member who can participate, almost, fully with the fraternity.

Since then I have worked hard to assist and be a part of my local alumnae chapter in Knoxville. It has been a fun time getting to work with the ladies of SAI and I am proud to be a member. I even got to help when we gave Dolly Parton an honorary membership a few years back. (Dolly was a charming person, a pleasure to meet and speak with.)

This year we get to do something unique again. Each year the separate provinces each hold a mini-convention called province day. Most fraternities do this. Each one of these are put on by one of the  college chapters. This year, unfortunately, the college chapter that was supposed to be hosting it cancelled at the last moment. Not sure all the details of why, just that it was not happening. Well, it CAN'T just not happen. So, we, the alum chapter, decided it would happen and that we would be the hosts of it. We weren't even sure we were allowed to do such a thing. So, we called our province officer and begged her permission....well we just asked and she was very excited that we offered. With her go-ahead and our gumption we charged full on into this.

It is no small undertaking to put on such an event, but it can be a lot of fun. One saturday morning, the very day that the original province day was supposed to happen, we gathered at a Panera Bread in Knoxville and started talking. Originally the meeting was just another monthly meeting. Someone brought up the fact that we should be having a province day and I suggested that we host it. I wasn't the first to have this idea, several had been talking about it before we arrived. Once mentioned it started the ball rolling. Around and around the table we went talking about who, what, when, where, why, and how we might go about putting one on. It would be short notice as most of these events take a year to plan and prepare for, we had a few best. What we did have were several people who had planned and run successful province days before and that vital experience was invaluable in getting this put together.

After 2 short months and a lot of planning and work, the province day is about to happen. A few prayers will be said and hopes will be high, but we all anticipate a fun and exciting province day for Psi A province of SAI. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Drawing Bark

Happy Monday all...yes I know that is an oxymoron for most but I'm gonna say it anyways. This week I wanted to show you the progression of a picture I drew. I like to demonstrate how a picture takes form and to show that most of what I do is merely shadowing inside the lines.

About the picture: This drawing features Bark and Frost for the fourth Bark book. I picked this one with a little more care than usual, so to follow the story better. First, it is a romantic scene as the love between these two is a paramount issue for book four. Second, you will notice that Bark is a bit more muscular than usual. That fits the story since he is working on his physique and the mutation process has reactivated and is causing him to grow a bit bigger.

About the book: Yes, Bark 4 is coming soon to an ereader near you. I will have more of an announcement at a later time.

 Okay, how did I get from the real models to the drawing? Check out the slide show movie below.

Please note: I took the progression pictures with my phone so they aren't as good as the scanned images.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Even more art

Hey everyone. I know it has been a few weeks since I last posted, though no one really missed me. But, here I am again. This week I am going to just post more of my art.

I love to create through drawing. I do not do this as a potential profession, though I have done some paid work before. What I do this for is my own love of creation. I hope you enjoy the work and if you like it please let me know. If you want to use any of this, let me know and I'll see what I can do. Now, enjoy.

Freehand Dragon: I was bored....which seems to be a major contributing factor in a lot of my random I started drawing on a dragon. I think it came out pretty cool.

Freehand Dragon in color: After I finished drawing it I loaded into my photo editing program. Looks like a T-Shirt logo to me.


Now this is a take on an old pic. I wanted to add color to this drawing and see if I could bring some more life into it. I spent a lot of time working on the colorization of the character and I think it paid off.

However, the background colorization of this pic looked extremely amateurish. I have said before that my coloring of pictures often comes across looking like a kindergartner playing with crayons. This couldn't be more true when you look at the background of that first pic. So, I threw this into my photo editor and superimposed him onto a couple backgrounds I spliced together.

A quickly drawn Frost: One style of art that seems to elude me is comic book styles. I think my handicap in this artistic endeavor is partly due to the fact that I use pencils mostly, not markers which seems to be the tool of choice for comic artists. But, that hasn't stopped me from trying. I used a very good book called Incredible Comics with Tom Nguyen It is the first resource of comic style art guide that has really helped me get a little better. However, by looking at this drawing, you can see that I have a long way to go. 

No, this isn't might mouse. This superhero is named Shirtless Mouse....powers still unknown. About a month ago a friend posted a facebook meme that asked for the color of your shirt and the object to your right, that would be your superhero name. I had just stepped out of the bath and thus was sans a shirt. When I answered that question it came back as Shirtless Mouse. As a joke I did a quick drawing of this new character and posted him as my comment.

I doubt you'll be reading the adventures of Shirtless Mouse any time soon.

Lastly, another Ashinaga pic: Mostly just had time on my hands and my drawing supplies with me when I did this one. I am highly considering working on the final book of this characters story. This image would be during the time he is searching for the enemy that stole his bride on their wedding day. Unfortunately, the community the story was written for hasn't shown much interest so I am not sure if it will ever be finished.

About the drawing itself: I wanted to do some more perspective styles, walking is least for me. Two issues for this one: One: The model was  carrying a  guitar, not a walking stick. That wasn't much to change. Two: he was wearing large sunglasses that covered half his face. That did give me some problems but I think I worked through them.

I hope you enjoyed my work. As I requested before, if you enjoy what you see let me know in the comments and share this to your friends however you share things. I'll keep writing and drawing, you keep on doing what you love to do.

Monday, March 17, 2014


ERIN GO BRAGH! Yes, this post is on St. Patricks day. I am of Irish/Scot descent and do enjoy reading about the history and fantasy of the Emerald Isles. 

I don't drink, so the common way of celebrating this day by most Americans is sort of lost on me. But, I believe that most Americans are unaware of the real history behind this day of celebration. Therefore, I am going to give you a history lesson today.

What is St. Patricks Day really? Who was St. Patrick? (Yes, I am borrowing this from Wikipedia)

Who is this Patrick?
Much of what is known about St Patrick comes from the Declaration, which was allegedly written by Patrick himself. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. According to the Declaration, at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. It says that he spent six years there working as a shepherd and that during this time he "found God". The Declaration says that God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. After making his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.
According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelizing in the northern half of Ireland and converted "thousands". Tradition holds that he died on 17 March and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland's foremost saint.

Whats with all the green?
On St Patrick's Day it is customary to wear shamrocks and/or green clothing or accessories (the "wearing of the green").
St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities. The triple spiral symbol appears at many ancient megalithic sites in Ireland.
The color green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick's Day since at least the 1680s. Green was adopted as the colour of the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, an Irish fraternity founded in about 1750. However, when the Order of St. Patrick—an Anglo-Irish chivalric order—was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its color. This led to blue being associated with St Patrick. In the 1790s, green became associated with Irish nationalism when it was used by the United Irishmen. This was a republican organization—led mostly by Protestants but with many Catholic members—who launched a rebellion in 1798 against British rule. The phrase "wearing of the green" comes from a song of the same name, which laments United Irishmen supporters being persecuted for wearing green. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the color green and its association with Saint Patrick's Day grew.

Green Beer? (or, why all the drinking?)

The Feast of St. Patrick happens to fall on lent for those who recognize that tradition. Back during the early days of this feast consuming alcohol was off limits. Those limitations were lifted on the Feast of St. Patrick and so those people who were missing their booze would hit the drink hard, all day. This created an unintentional tradition of connecting Irish booze to St. Patricks day. The connection is actually quite a bit stronger in the US than it is around the rest of the world, though drinking is still a popular tradition in Ireland any time. 

Thanks for taking the moment to learn and now for some of my favorite Irish musicians, The Celtic Women

Note: I am actually a Baptist and do not recognize Catholic saints in worship or prayer. Though, I do admire Patricks work in evangelism and I am also fond of my Irish heritage.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Character Development in Living color.

Welcome to Monday, it's time for another blog post by yours truly. This week I am being totally lazy and decided to just post some of my more recent art. Most of the works I am going to be posting today have been done in preparation of creating a book cover for my upcoming novel Legacy of the Dragonwand. Please comment and let me know what you think and share this with your friends.

 This was supposed to be the main character of Markus from the story. After working and working on it I realized that I had accidentally drawn another version of Kai. Having realized this I started from scratch with a new model and drawing.
Note: There is a bit of a story behind this drawing. I was out shopping one day and happened into a store where I saw this guy that was perfect for a character. I stopped him and asked if he wouldn't mind if I get a picture of him. I am sure he was weirded out by the request, but he agreed and I snapped a shot of him. The character I was thinking of never came to be so I just held onto the picture and ultimately used it here.

This is the second attempt at Markus. When I decided to re-do the drawing I also noted that my first Markus looked too old. The Markus in my story is only 16. So, I searched for a model that would look the part. I didn't quite find him, but with a little work on my part I turned the drawing into the character I wanted.

You might note that in the colored version the book he is holding isn't colored. When I do the actual splicing of the pictures together to make the cover, I am going to edit in a much nicer book. One that looks like the story. I couldn't give it the right detail in the size I was working with.

To the Left: This is Crystal, the romantic interest of Markus and the second main character of Dragonwand. She will be colored soon enough.

To the Right: You will remember this picture from some time back. It was the first drawing I did for Dragonwand. He is Treb, the adopted father of Crystal and one of the party that helps the main characters succeed. He is also extremely overprotective of Crystal, which creates some good comedy between him and Markus.

Lastly, just for fun. This is Bark. In an alternate universe the ULH has been disbanded and all heroes are put out of work. Frost, Barks wife, goes back to the life of celebrity and co-hosts a national talk show. Bark, unable to find work as a half human dog man, spends his time body building. Frost has no complaints.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Dan.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Covers

The first cover for TCN
Hey everyone. I wanted to talk a little about book covers.

If you have been watching my facebook page, blog, or even just the book itself, you'll have noticed that I have gone through several covers. I have finally settled upon the one I like the best and believe I'll stick to it for a long time. (That is assuming a big time publisher doesn't snatch up the book and put an awesome new cover on it at their own expense.)

Cover #2 for TCN
Why have I fiddled around with book covers for so long? Well the truth is that all authors worry about the cover. I know that we are all told that we should not judge a book by its cover. That is a good metaphor, but it really doesn't work when you scrutinize its root meanings. We all judge books by their cover. The  cover can excite us to pick up the book and turn it over to see what all that cool stuff is about. It can intrigue the imagination, it can inspire an emotional response that draws you to immediately sympathize with a character. It might even show you a world you had never imagined and want to step into just by the art alone. The cover is an amazing tool.

Cover #3 for TCN
Now, having said all of that you might understand better why we authors are so finicky about the covers we use. Knowing how important they are, getting it right is not easy. What do I want the cover to say? Who do I want it to say it to the loudest? Does it look good? Does it match the story? Is it perfect?

Of course it will never be perfect, at least in the opinion of the author, but it can be as darned close as possible.

What is hard is that covers are expensive. Well.... ones done by pros can be expensive. Often indies have been made fun of for their covers. Ridicule seems to be the way of life for an indie author. And the  cover is a clear target. Yes, I have seen some really really terrible indie bookcovers, but as an indie myself I understand their plight. They simply don't have the hundreds of dollars to shell out for a cover. This is why I started using some public domain images, my photographs, and an editing program to create covers. I give them away for free. They are far from a real pro, but they aren't bad to look at either.

If you are an author, or know one, who needs a cover: Feel free to check these out HERE

For myself. I have created a cover for my newest book which is still in editing. Unlike my free covers, this one contains only artwork of yours truly. Please let me know what you think of it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chained Up

This week I have decided to take part in a blog chain among authors started by the great Brenda Perlin. Next week will be Wendy Siefken. I am going to answer 4 questions and hope that you learn something about me and my work. Here I go.

Steffen with the tattoo
1: What am I working on? Wow this is a big question right now in my writing life. Normally I am working on one project at a time, but right now I have three. First: I am currently still in the process of editing and working on The Legacy of the Dragonwand. I have already edited this one twice, sent it off to a handful of beta readers, and then put it in the hands of a professional editor who currently still has it. When she is done I will be getting into that one hot and heavy. Second: I am still working on the second edit of The Crystal Needle 2: The Map. I have worked on it this one since around September of last year. I put a lot of work into it during NaNoWriMo this past November. Now I have edited it through once and it is in my mothers hands for the second edit. (trust me she is a harsher critic than most when it comes to my work.) Third: My current actual writing is being put into a unique story called Legend of the Mystic Tattoo, a fantasy set in a mythical land about a man with, you guessed it, a mysterious tattoo. What makes this story unique is that I am not writing this alone, I am writing it in tandem with Wendy Siefken. Instead of just co-writing the story, we each write a section and then pass it to the other person to add their next section. We can throw each other through loops by changing the story in a unique direction. I can attest to the fact that Wendy has thrown me several loops that have been fun getting into or out of. We had been publishing this story weekly as we wrote it, but now that we are both working harder on it, we think that it would be best to be kept to us until we are ready to publish it.

2: How does my work differ from others of its genre? I try to keep it clean. Okay, I don't believe that all other authors in Fantasy and Sci-Fi are guilty of writing lurid stories. Though many I have met or read about don't have issues with getting a little dirty now and then. I focus hard on keeping my stories clean to the point that they would garner at most a PG rating if they were movies. Where I focus on this is in the romantic sides of the stories. I look at the minds and heart of the romance, not just the physical attraction. In fact, if you have read my Crystal Needle, you will see that I write characters that aren't physically attractive but still find love. I know that I am not the originator of this style, but I do find that I am in a minority.

3:Why do I write what I do? Because I'm crazy and the voices would kill me if I didn't let them out. Okay, no I am not THAT crazy. Truthfully, I just love fantasy. I have since I was young. When I was playing with the kids on the playground, I turned playtime into a story involving magic or space ships. This part of me has been there since I can remember. Writing it down into stories is just a side effect of my love of creating imaginary worlds and people. (No I don't play with imaginary friends. I just talk to them regularly about their stories.)

"You should be writing!"
4: How does my writing process work? I sit and write. I know that isn't really the kind of answer you want to hear but it is a giant part of my writing. I force myself to sit and write every day while I am in the midst of story creation. Even if I have nothing in mind for the story I still write. Frankly, I would rather erase a crappy writing session than simply not write at all. As for story creation, its all in my head. While in the throes of creating a story I think about it all the time. I sit and stare while considering a conversation by letting my characters ask and answer questions, understand how and why they would answer it in whatever way they do. If I am stuck for a big action sequence in a story I put it to music, I will listen to sound tracks of movies or classical music that fits the bill. Often the music tells a story in my head that works out much better than anything I had been thinking of. Or better yet, the music I am listening to suddenly invokes a scene that I had not even considered yet but fills out the story in such an awesome way. The last way I answer this question is in this: I write in a line. I may know the ending, I may know where I want the characters to be by the end of a scene or section, but in truth I don't know how they are going to get there until I write it on the page. I let the story tell itself. Sometimes it stumps me and I realize that it is not working and I have to get the train back on the rails, but more often than not the story drags me along for the ride. 

Thank you for reading, now about those before and after me:

I was asked to do this by author Douglas Davis. He is the author of River Dream

About River Dream: 
Rhiannon has a rule against dating her best friend, Michael. Is it a rule meant to be broken, or a rule that will break her heart? 

Rhiannon and sailing are Mike's two greatest loves. Sailing's the one thing he can always count on. Rhiannon's the one he can count on to keep him confused.

As high school begins, the new girl in town sets her sites on Mike. What will Rhiannon's rules cost her, and will she ever get to show Michael she really does love him, too?

I have asked Wendy Siefken to follow me. Check out her blog. She is the author and co-author of several books. First of which is Kai's Journey