Search This Blog

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas

This week I will make this short. Merry Christmas.

Oh...and books make great gifts. (Did you know that you can purchase an ebook and send it to someone as a gift. If you have someone who loves books but lives far away, don't just send them a basic little ecard, send them an ebook and give them a real gift they can open and enjoy again and again.)

And, of course, you can give a great gift to that YA fantasy fan in your life. Legacy of the Dragonwand.

Now for some Christmas pics by yours truly...enjoy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I hate this book!!

Happy week before the week of Christmas. As you should have already heard, Legacy of the Dragonwand part 1 is out, came out last Tuesday and has enjoyed decent sales and two very good reviews already. But, that aside, I hate it.

"But you wrote it?" You might ask, you could also say, "you want us to buy something you hate?" or "why do you hate it?" or....okay, enough with the questions..sheesh is this some kind of interrogation?

Anyway, I don't hate it now. But I wanted to tell you a little about what it feels like to be an artist. Some artists, not all but some, have mixed feelings when they create. As I was writing Legacy of the Dragonwand I had ups and downs in my feelings toward the story. I worried that it absolutely stunk, had no chance, no one would read it...and so on. The truth is I was worried that it would not live up to the expectations I had already placed on it before I wrote it.

I have heard from non-authors that they think that authors are arrogant about their work. It is a logical deduction considering how hard an author is forced to promote themselves and their work. It could easily appear as ego when it's just trying to sell books. Now I have known some authors with giant ego's about themselves and their work, but they are actually in the minority. Truthfully an author worries that every last word is wrong, that something in the text wasn't written right, or that there is a small but problematic plot hole that they missed.

Honestly I do the same thing with my artwork, my embroidery, my stage work, anything that is artistic of mine I have moments of dislike over it during creation.  I almost gave up on the book cover for Legacy of the Dragonwand and just went with something generic from Amazon. Ask the people who have commissioned work for their covers, like the Kai's journey series. They will all tell you that on more than one occasion I told them that it wasn't going to be good and they wouldn't like it.

In the end, though, things change. Once the completed work is sitting before me I love it. Yes I can still fix it, work on it, even fuss over the tiny details that may or may not be a problem. But, as a whole I am satisfied.

I am not alone: Here is a story I read that confirmed that even some of histories greats have gone through this.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who wrote the famous ballet The Nutcracker, in his own words
said that it was "far weaker than 'The Sleeping Beauty'- no doubt about it" and when he finished the score, he even called it "all ugliness". But the composer eventually grew to like his creation and wrote "Strange that when I was composing the ballet I kept thinking that it wasn't very good, but that I would show them what I can do when I began the opera. And now it seems that the ballet is good and the opera not so good"
(note: he was promised the freedom to write and produce an opera if he finished the Nutcracker, which was a commissioned work.)

If a giant of artistry can go through such ups and downs emotionally over his own creation, especially something as fantastic as The Nutcracker, then I am not alone.
(I am in no way comparing my meager work to the work of someone like Tchaikovsky, just using this as an example.) 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Before and After

I am so happy that tomorrow Legacy of the Dragonwand finally gets to see the light of day, and the hands of readers everywhere. I have worked especially hard to make this release work out better than any other I have done before.

Back when I released The Crystal Needle I had never heard of self publishing like this and it was a stumbling mess. The first cover was junk, the formatting wasn't done correct in any sense of the word, and the publicity was nil. I struggled through 5 different covers over time before settling on the one I have now. I learned a lot of formatting tips and had a friend help out so that it looked better. I condensed and refocused the back cover text from a long mess to something much more simple. And I learned how to tell people about it. By the time I was finally satisfied with it, it had already been out for 2 years.

Taking all that knowledge and lumping it together I was able to look at this book with a much more experienced eye. I knew how to format, I hate doing it but it actually looks good. I worked for over a year on making the cover so that it was something that I hope catches eyes. And, most importantly, I have talked it up and really tried my best to get the word out there. Without money to make this happen, getting the word out is almost impossible. But, "almost" just means a lot more work and reliance on friends to help out. And boy did you guys help. I have a lot of people sharing for me on different sites. I have bloggers doing interviews and posting about the book. A Thunderclap campaign that worked out pretty well and succeeded in getting done with extra help to spare. I even have a friend who is helping me set up and run the online release party tomorrow night. I feel so blessed right now I want to burst. I truly thank you all.

Now for some fun stuff. My cover for Legacy of the Dragonwand has gone through some changes. My biggest critic, mom, told me that my cover was lacking. That it needed to be cleaned up and made to look a little better. She really didn't know how, but that it just felt wrong. Mostly it looked like I attacked it with Crayons, which is what I think of my coloring by hand. So I went to work....okay first I moped about being criticized THEN I went to work. I discovered a computer program that let me work on the color one tiny click at a time to make it smooth out and appear like a painting. I won't go into the details, but I will show you the before and after.

 To the left is the before, to the right is the after. You will note that I was able to give it a more painted finish. But, I didn't stop there, with the help of this program I was able to do a few repairs to parts of the image that I felt didn't turn out so well. (I really wasn't too fond of the way I drew the face of Markus, the boy in the middle. So I fixed that.)

I have had a few who liked the before better than the after. But, they are in the minority. I like the after and so does mom...along with a lot of other people. I hope you like it as well.

Now, I go to bed tonight and when I wake in the morning, Legacy of the Dragonwand will end its 2 year journey from inception to publication. Part 1 hits the shelves...well virtual shelves, and you can get yours to read. Tell you friends, tell your enemies, just tell everyone.

If you want to come to the release event, you are more than welcome. We are giving away a lot of fun prizes and having fun. Just follow this link: DRAGONWAND RELEASE EVENT

Monday, December 1, 2014

Let me tell you a story

As you should, hopefully, know by now, Legacy of the Dragonwand releases soon. Very soon, in fact next week is the big day. I have worked very hard to get the word out and you have been kind enough to help. Let me tell you a little more about the story.

Legacy of the Dragonwand is set in the mythical land of Gallenor. The land is gripped by a fear of dark magic. Almost all the wizards of the land have been put into a deep sleep inside a prison so that they do not become corrupt and turn against the kingdom. The only way to stop this darkness from spreading is by finding the last Dragonwand and using it to destroy the dragon statue that has stood outside the capital of Thendor since the end of the wizard war. At least this is what Hallond, the head wizard under the king, has told everyone.

Markus, a young man from the valley, does not know what has transpired in the kingdom and unwittingly heads off to find a full wizard to help him get into the wizardry college at Thendor. He encounters an old wizard named Tolen who gives him a wand and a mission. He wants Markus to find the Dragonwand before the king and his loyal captain of the guard get to it. Markus isn't given much information to go on, only not to trust Hallond, the king, or the kings captain. Markus is reluctant, but Tolen promises him one thing, the dark and terrifying dreams that have plagued Markus his whole life can be ended by completing the quest.

Armed with little knowledge and a new and powerful wand, Markus leaves his home and family behind in search of the elusive last Dragonwand.

Be sure to get your copy of Legacy of the Dragonwand part 1 on December 9th, and why don't you come on over to a nice little Facebook party event that my friend Katherine is running in honor of the book. There will be games and prizes all evening.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks

In honor of the week of Thanksgiving (here in America at least) I decided to ask my characters what they are thankful for. Here we go:  What are you thankful for.....

Joshua Henderson (aka Bark) from the Bark series

"I'm thankful for Frost. She believed in me when I had given up."

Be thankful for those people who show where your strength is hidden, especially when you have forgotten how to look for it.

Asahina Quryu (Ashinaga) From The Last Kitsu

"I'm thankful for all the teachers who have given me a glimpse of their wisdom and experience so that I might grow into a better person."

Be thankful for the educators in your life, they put your future ahead of theirs so that you can make the world a better place.

Allison Kitsune from The Crystal Needle series

"I'm thankful for the sacrifices my parents made for me. Without their love I wouldn't be here."

Don't forget to thank God for the family in your life that puts you ahead of them.

Oki and Yoshi Kitsune from The Crystal Needle

"Video games, television, junk food, and big soft beds."

When counting your blessings, remember that sometimes the little things are worth counting.

 Treb from Legacy of the Dragonwand

"I'm thankful for the time I spent learning to be the best Rakki warrior I can be. I proudly defend my people and especially my family from all the threats of this world."

Never forget to be thankful for the security you have, many live without it and would not take it for granted if they had it. Thank God for the fighting men and women, and thank those same fighting men and women personally when you get the opportunity.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

-Dan Peyton

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Legacy Begins: Bitter/Sweet

First the sweet: 
Have you heard the big news? Legacy of the Dragonwand part 1 is up for sale. You can pre-order it on Kindle right now. Follow this LINK to go to Amazon.

If you want to help, and you know you want to, share this picture and the link. Don't forget to attach the hashtag #LegacyBegins when you share.

Now the Bitter:

 When I began writing Legacy of the Dragonwand I had a reader that had become a good facebook friend. Her name was Donna Standish. She had some hard times with family issues and struggles and so we would sit and talk to get our minds off of anything stressful. She loved my characters and my work and so I decided to name a character after her, Master Apothecary Donna.

Here is the blog post that I wrote about her and being an inspiration: Click Here

I looked back at our correspondence on facebook to find the name of her daughter so I could send her a copy of the book. I had not looked at the private message page between Donna and myself in a year. The last time we spoke was in late October of 2013. I had contacted her and asked if she would like to read the book even though it was still a rough draft, she accepted. My last message to her was sending her the book. I do not know if she read any of it, but I hope she did. The character is minor, but probably will be one of the most popular for her quirkiness and compassion.

One more time, before the book goes into full publication, thank you Donna for being such a great inspiration. I miss you today and hope to sit and talk about books again one day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Legacy is about to begin

Good morning and happy Monday all. Just a couple things this post.

First: In honor of the coming Christmas season and the upcoming release of Legacy of the Dragonwand, The Crystal Needle is currently at half price on Kindle and Nook.

 Amazon Kindle

 Barnes & Noble Nook

Second: Big news, Legacy of the Dragonwand will be released soon. An exact date has not been set, there are still a lot of details to work out. But, right now I am working hard to spread the news and generate some early interest. I have split the book in two parts and will be releasing the first part as a single book through all the self publishing channels. I would ask that you help me out and spread the word as well. Thank you for helping.

Now for the cover and the ad video

Let me know what you think of the cover and/or the video. Feed back is always welcome as long as it's honest. Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Layering Angels

Happy November everyone. Getting cold yet? We just experienced our first snow of the season out here. I have been busy. Several book projects have been on the burners cooking away. Also, I have had one bookcover that I designed and drew for a friend of mine.

That is what I want to show you today. My friend Wendy Siefken and her son Charles contacted me about a book they are currently writing. I have already done a batch of character drawings for them for this particular book, but they had a cover in mind and wanted me to draw it. The request was for an angel, in chains.

The challenge was that this angel was holographic in nature and chained up inside a space ship. They sent me some images they found that illustrated what direction they were looking for.

First: I told them I would try drawing the angel, but made no promises. I'm not so great with the female form yet. I can pull off a decent male form, but my confidence with the female form isn't so great. But, I didn't give up. (Wendy is great at pushing me to try when I say I can't.)

I started with a few poses I found that matched the idea that she had. I wanted the woman to be sad, as it fit the character she had given me. But, not just sad, sorrowful. I wanted the pose to convey the feeling of hopelessness to the viewer. At least that was my intention. I did my best and was surprised that I actually came up with something that was passable and halfway decent.

Next came the angel part. I needed to turn this drawing into an angel. How do you do that? Add wings and hope.

I worked and reworked the wings for an evening until I felt they looked alright.

Okay, so I got the thumbs up on this part and it was time to go forward with the coloring. Keep in mind this is a sci-fi novel and so you can't expect it to look like a traditional angel.

I used a picture of a holographic blue woman that they wanted this person to be colored like. Then I used a tawny owl for the wings. I left the dress white to help symbolize the inherent purity that is associated with angels. I wanted there to be a contrast to what would be around her in the finished product.

Here is where I began to stretch a little further. They wanted this person to appear holographic, or ethereal was the word used often. How do I do that? I pondered that question and then came up with a possible solution. I would add a background and then make the angel partially transparent against it. So, I set out to figure out a background. At first I only considered some kind of industrial looking backdrop; machinery, rusty metal, something like the engine room of a dirty old starship. For some reason that simply didn't work, I couldn't find what I was looking for. Then I had an inspiration. Why not do a space like background with a little metal in it to show she is on a ship? So, I shifted gears and went that direction.

This was the original black and white pencil drawing. 

This was the same drawing in color. I didn't like the large planet, but the moon seemed to work, so I only colored it. I planned all along to cut in a basic space background. Doing stars in pencil doesn't really work all that well.

Here's the final background with the stars cut in. Thanks NASA for all your great free pics. 

 Okay, here comes the fun part. Layering all this together to make it  function like the cover Wendy has in mind. Drawing and coloring all of this is fun, editing it together is tedious.

But, not impossible. I edited her into the picture, then overlayed the exact same background on top of the whole image  so that I could have parts that were solid and parts that were partially invisible. I left her dress solid to help illustrate that she is a hologram. I was satisfied and so was Wendy, which was the important part. But, I forgot something, the chains. DOH!

Okay, so I had to add chains into an already drawn picture. First I printed off the section where the chains would be attached, and then used that as my guide. 

This was my original design and I had an idea about the chains on the left arm going around behind her, but would be partly visible through her so to help the whole hologram idea. That didn't work out so well, which required that I do even more manipulation on the picture to make them work.

I started with only one side of the chains. The editing took over 2 hours just to put it in right. I moved, manipulated, stretched, erased, and recolored those chains to set them on the picture. I was so tired of chains that I asked Wendy if she thought one half would work, she liked it but wanted to see what the other half looked like added in. 

I put the second chain set on and found that it looked terrible trying to make it partly visible through her, it simply did not work. So, I cut and edited them until they came around front of her. 

So, there you have it. The cover for their book. We aren't entirely done yet...well that should be obvious there isn't even a title attached to it. What I mean is that we might add a little color here and there, some minor alterations to enhance it. But, as far as the base overall look is concerned, it is done. 

Moral of the story: When I said I couldn't, Wendy told me to just try. She had a heck of a lot more faith in my skill that I. But, it worked out. Don't forget to encourage each other. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

I'm stitching in the rain

Hello all and happy October. I know, it's been a while. I haven't been lazy, quite the opposite. For the past few months I have been working on a book that is turning into the longest book I've ever written. But, I will talk more about that in another blogpost.

Today I want to tell you about my little rainy adventure this weekend.

October heralds in many things around these mountains. Fall colors, cooler temps, pumpkins, the normal stuff. It also brings in the Harvest/Fall festivals. One of the best is held in historic Rogersville Tennessee. Rogersville happens to be one of the second oldest towns in Tennessee.....there are two, don't worry. Each year they hold an event called Heritage days. This event brings in vendors and music like many other fests this time of year. It also brings in demonstrators who showcase arts that are old but still practiced. Like fine soap making, iron working, toy making, and so on. Adding to that element of the event the Embroiderers Guild of America sets up a booth to demonstrate and teach embroidery to the passerby. And that is where I come in. Mom and I were the only two reps for the EGA available to sit and stitch this whole weekend.
Here's mom sitting at the booth we had just set up. If you look closely you can see three little pieces of embroidery near the front of the table, those were the items we were teaching.

The weekend was fun, but wet. Unfortunately this year the weather did not cooperate and decided to rain and rain a lot. But, it liked to tease as well. It would not rain, the sun would peak through a times, and it would pretend to be breaking up, then suddenly a dark cloud would come out of nowhere and pour all over everything. Since we had a lot of fiber-arts items we were rushing them to the middle of the table, covering them with towels, and waiting out the downpours.

Aside from the rain, the festival was a hit. People still came, the demonstrators still demonstrated, and the fun was still had.

We stitched all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday. Mom worked on several things, I focused on a single piece. I did a Chinese paper dragon.

I realized that two years ago at Heritage Days I sat and stitched a piece called Phoenix Dragon. Last year I stitched on my Blackwork Dragon. This year I worked on this Chinese Dragon...notice the trend. The people at Heritage Days are going to think that all I stitch are dragons.

Final assessment: We talked to a lot of people about embroidery and EGA. I taught one person to stitch. And I completed a piece start to finish over the weekend. I got to see some friendly faces that come to the fest each year. I got to meet some new friendly faces as well. I think it was a good event.

Now for some pictures... (well...more pictures.)

Above 4 pics: The festival has an art show that locals submit pieces to be included in. Three people put in embroidery, Mom, Elizabeth Smith, and me. All three of us are members of the EGA. First note the bottom right picture of the three pieces. Those are all the same pattern for a class project that all three of us participated in. Each person did theirs differently but completed the actual classwork. Second, note my nice dragon and the 2nd place ribbon next to him, yup, won again.

Above 2 pics: This is the main street of the festival. That is small, but historic, downtown Rogersville Tennessee. A quaint place to visit                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Above 4 pics: Ever wonder why they are called the Smokey Mountains? Here are some good examples. The rain caused the mountains to smoke. Between Rogersville and Morristown (where I live) there is this lovely, rustic little valley with a few farms, a few homes, some small local businesses, cows, and some short ridges of mountains/hills.  Though I was not too pleased with the rain during the event, I loved watching the effects on these old hills. This is why I tell people I live in the misty mountains.

Last is a picture I took that was both creepy and beautiful. It seemed to scream Halloween. So, I will finish with that.


Monday, September 15, 2014

And we have a winner

 Well, somebody actually guessed it. After a week of tries and a lot of clues, at the last hour, someone finally got the right answer. This honor goes to Tressa Cochran of Oklahoma who guessed Arkenstone. This piece was inspired by The Hobbit and so the center panel was stitched as the Arkenstone from the story.

This piece was stitched for a national class through the Embroiderers Guild of America. With it I sent a letter to explain the pattern.

Here's that letter. ....

Thanks for playing and I hope you had fun. Next time I do something like this I will try to not make it so hard.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bargello Challenge Day 5

Okay, this is it, the whole thing. This last panel should really help give you a big hint about the story. Remember the title is the center panel and it is a specific item.

BIG hints today

1: The bottom right panel is a river.
2: The top right are mountains.
3: The book is a prequel to an extremely famous series of books.

Now, let's see who get's it first.