My once in a blue moon post

Yeah, it seems that my posts on this blog have become less and less frequent. Sorry about that. Between being a new dad, the day job, side work at night, and catching up on things to do around the house because I’ve been so busy with other tasks I just haven’t had much time for the writing/blogging thing.

Fortunately the side work is going to be slowing down before too long, and once I get caught up on some backlog of other things I need to do, I hope to get back to writing some more. Part of the problem I’ve had lately with writing and my ideas is that I am struggling to find a balance of some things I want to write. In my industry, the line that separates the good guys from the bad guys gets blurrier every day. And in some cases, the games will play up the fact that you can play as good or evil. The choice is yours. I started to see that seeping into my writing. Not so much that the protagonist was evil, but rather it was always an ends justify the means in decision making, and there seemed to be little hesitation in those decisions. So I need to find that right balance with my stories, which hasn’t been easy to do even at a high level, let alone when I am actually writing in depth about these characters.

The good news is a story I had started some time ago and already have a lot of words written, might be a perfect candidate to go down this new road with minimal story adjustment. It’s one I’ve been wanting to finish for a while, but just been caught up in the whirlwind that is my life. But once I get moving on it again, you all will be the first know.

I look forward to getting back into writing. It’s just taking a while to get used to how to balance being a husband, a father, a good employee, AND writing. 🙂 – Fortunately (yet unfortunately) I have come to learn how to operate on very little sleep. So once my nights free up a bit I should be able to find more time at night to do my writing. Woohoo!

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Writing Music

So I want to be a bit more active in keeping my blog somewhat regularly updated.  While I still plan to do posts that are just my general thoughts and ramblings, I also wanted to start doing some posts that urge a bit more socializing amongst my followers.  Things that are going to be not only fun to chime in on, but things that the readers can benefit from.  So I thought the first one I would kick off is about your writing music.

What kind of music do you listen to when you write? Do you like Classical? Rock? Ambient? Motion Picture Scores?  Or do you work to an orchestra of silence when hammering away on your masterpiece?  Seems like everyone has their own flavor, so I was curious to hear what you all do.  I would love to hear what type of music, and some of your favorite artists you enjoy when you reach for the “pen”.

I’ll kick things off.  I’m an ambient guy.  Ambient music (and for some reason, dark ambient in particular) seems to be what kicks my mind into overdrive for writing, even if the subject matter isn’t dark. There are a number of great artists out there I tend to listen to for my dark ambient fix: Lustmord, Robert Rich, Sephiroth, to name a few.  However I also create my own ambient music.  I use this really cool application called “Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch” that allows you to slow down audio files significantly without altering the music’s integrity.  Meaning it’s not like when you hit record on a cassette tape (lol that’s a blast from the past) and then hold down the “Pause” button halfway and all the sudden your voice sounds super deep.  This actually takes the musical notes and extends them however long you see fit.  Depending on the song’s original sound will depend on what kind of ambient result you’ll get in the end.  It’s actually really fun to play with, because sometimes you get results you weren’t expecting at all.  But usually songs that are softer in sound will end up being more like regular ambient songs, while songs with distorted instruments, such as the electric guitar, often sound darker and more menacing in nature.  And like I said, this kind of music is usually what gets the fingers tapping away at a story.  Also not so bad to listen to while I am doing cover art work 🙂
Here’s a song by Sephiroth: Sephiroth: The Call of the Serpent 

So please share some of the types of music (and artists) you enjoy listening to.  Even if you aren’t a writer, what do you like hearing when you are being creative?  I look forward to your comments.

— AJ —

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Why is it so difficult?

I keep asking myself this question.  Why is it so difficult to decide between art and writing?  I’m strictly speaking about this from a side effort.  Most of you know that I create art for a living on video games.  So why is it that when I work all day on art, I can’t decide between writing or doing more art at home.  So you know what I end up doing?  Nothing.  Completely frustrating, and there’s been seemingly little I could do to combat it.  I love writing so much, and I can’t think of having more fun on a hobby as I did when writing Loose Ends.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the first half of a novel I started a while back, but I completely stalled out on that project and it became dormant (I do still hope to finish it someday, though).

I launched Loose Ends in April of 2011.  Around that time I was finishing up the Halo Anniversary project at work.  Timing wise it worked out great because I was going into “crunch” a bit on that project but I had already released Loose Ends.  I figured I’d finish up Halo Anniversary and move on to my first novel.  It would give me plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do.  Well, I came up with about a hundred ideas I wanted to use, so I ended up choosing one from the list and moved forward with it.  I got about 40k words in and I got busy doing this or that and before I knew it, I hadn’t written in weeks, and the momentum I had gained was gone.  “Well, I’ll come back to that some day, there’s a nice foundation now and I can pick it up again at a later date.  Time to pick the next idea and run with it.”  Except, that isn’t how it played out at all.

Work started to get a bit hectic again with our efforts on Halo 4 and I was feeling drained after work each day; creativity wasn’t exactly flowing in my veins.  This lead to a couple months of doing nothing at home.  I wasn’t inspired to do much writing (inspired is the wrong word, because I wanted to, and I desired to, but I just never did it), but when LoraJo told me that in 9 months we would be parents, that inspiration came running back!  I was determined to get my first novel out before the little one arrived.  Now to pick the new idea.  Well I had the literally dozens of ideas I had scribbled down over several months of brainstorming, as well as probably a half dozen or more ideas I had come up with just in the time I started to get motivated to write again.  So which one did I pick?  None of them.  I guess the truth is I picked several and started fleshing ideas out, but I never got far into any of them because my attention was split among all of them.  But I had decided to write, I knew that…or so I thought.

Layoffs and studio closures in my industry are not unheard of, but it was also not something you heard every month.  But in the last couple years it seems like studios are closing up shop or laying off by the masses each week.  A few of those layoffs hit close to home and that sends just about every developer into red alert mode.  The company I work for is quite stable (as stable as you can be in this industry, anyway) and while I have no reason to believe we will be laying off anyone anytime soon, it’s a game developer’s reflex to get some recent personal work up on the website so in case a layoff ever does occur, so you don’t have to scramble to make new work to apply for other jobs.  It’s just something most of us do.  Especially with a little one on the way.  So I decided writing had to wait, I was going to do some art.  Then, I was contacted by some different folks to do some freelance work for them.  How could I turn down extra paying work?  So I did that, which took an insane amount of time and effort; I totally exhausted myself.  After that long stretch I was back to not wanting to do anything at home. Period.

Well, here we are, July 19th, my daughter is sitting in her swing 3 feet from me, I have no new personal art to show, and haven’t written much of anything.  My indecisiveness on whether I should focus on art (my trade, my career), or writing (my hobby/passion, potential future career?) would ultimately cause a traffic jam in both lanes.  It did me no good.  While I will not at all say the last year was a waste (it was far from it), I feel I could have accomplished a lot more had I made a decision and just focused all my efforts towards it.

It’s hard.  I love art, and I still am passionate about it, but I don’t see myself staying in the game industry my whole life.  Writing seems like a good path for me to take, but it’s certainly a long shot for me in terms of it being a viable income.  After talking to LJ about it, I think we are both decided that writing is something I should focus on, and if I am going to do that I need to make it my primary focus in terms of extra curricular activity.  I still have plenty of things to keep me busy outside of work and writing.  And with a newborn here it’s likely I won’t be able to do nearly as much writing as I would like to, but some is better than none.  So my efforts will go into writing almost exclusively.  I say almost exclusively because I still love art, and I do have cover art work I’ll be doing from time to time (for clients as well as my own covers).  But I just can’t shake the author bug — nor do I want to — so I need to let it hit me full force.

Anyway, for those who made it through my long drawn out rant, thanks for reading.  I know some of you probably remember me posting about this debate a while ago, and might be saying “AJ, I thought you had made up your mind about this months ago.”   You’re right, I did.  But when you are split between two passions, you may never be done choosing which one you want to go with.  The best you can do is pick one and put as much energy behind it as you can to get momentum, and pray you don’t lose focus of your goals.  🙂 Like I said, I’ll still be doing both (obviously art will be a huge part of my life, I don’t see leaving the game industry any time soon).  I know it’s slim odds that I will ever become a successful enough author that I could live off of my sales, but I will never know if I don’t try, right?  I mean, after all, most of my friends/family said that going into the game industry was not really going to be a good career path (and there are times I might agree 😉 lol ) but their reasoning was a mixture of “if you could even manage to find a way to make it into that industry, how will you ever make money in it?” and both of those concern have already been put to rest as I go into my 8th year.  So I gotta go for writing, and see what pans out.  If nothing happens, I still got a job.

In closing, I’ll say this.  To reiterate above, if you don’t chase after it, you won’t ever catch it.  If you have ideas of something you want to do.  Don’t let people telling you it won’t work or it won’t be achievable stop you.  Just gotta lower your shoulders and plow through.

– AJ

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Cover Art Section Added

Hello folks,

I went ahead and added a cover art page to the blog. While I am getting back into writing, I decided that I want to make more of an effort to amp up my cover art works again. So if you have any cover art needs for your upcoming release, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Until next time,


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Okay, so clearly I dropped the ball.

Two new releases in 2011, eh?  That’s what I said I was going to do.  It’s what I wanted to do.  It’s not what happened.

This past summer I got caught up in a whirlwind of work, book covers, and ultimately found myself not doing anything on the side.  The day job is draining enough, and to come home and write only for a few minutes at a time before I was distracted with other things was frustrating to say the least.  During the summer I had started a sci-fi novel (Largely inspired by Steve Umstead’s awesome Gabriel series).  I had everything in my head, I had the high points of the story, the overall plot, and just dug right in.  Before I knew it, I had over 40k words.  Then two things hit me.  I really do suck at writing sci-fi (and I’m talking about massive future sci-fi on another planet, not a few decades into the future on earth sci-fi), and also realized that I was telling the reader what was happening, rather than showing them.  In essence, I was kind of writing a screenplay rather than a novel.  Even though I felt like the story wasn’t bad, and there were some scenes that I was particularly pleased with, I became discouraged and shoved it aside for a while. 

Late Summer/early Fall I started getting the bug again, I needed to get back into writing.  I thought I would start back up on the sci-fi project and work through it.  That’s when Lora Jo Bennett said a few words to me that I wasn’t really expecting. 

“We’re having a baby”

So there you have it.  LJ and I are expecting our first baby (a little girl) in late June.  We are very excited and blessed to be having a little one, and are looking forward to it.  So obviously I realized a lot of ducks had to get in a row.  Mainly, I started doing what I could to get some side work to help prepare for our new bundle of joy.  I’ve been working a lot of hours at home on some freelance work to help the savings account get a little bigger each month. 

So what does the future have in store for me?  More writing, I’m almost certain of it.  I love playing and making video games, but I can honestly say that in my nearly a decade of making games, I’ve seldom felt the level of satisfaction and excitement that I experienced daily while writing Loose Ends and the unfinished story.  Whether I am doing personal art, or art for a video game, it just doesn’t have the same impact on me.  I really enjoy doing art, but as a game artist I am constantly tangled up in restrictions (whether technical, styles, or peer opinions).  When I write, I write for me, and hope that the story I’ve told is enjoyable for everyone else.  There’s nothing holding me back on it.  And when I finish, I get to do the cover art, so I get a little bit of that world, too 🙂

So what stories can you expect from me in the future?  Honestly, I have no clue.  I have several ideas I am toying with, one is a post apocalyptic/techno thriller, one is a near future murder mystery, and the other would be re-purposing my sci-fi story I had started into a post apocalyptic setting.  It could be anything. 

So wish me luck!  I’ll do my best to be on Twitter a bit more.  I will likely be staying away from my Facebook page for a while still (LoraJo and I both canceled our personal facebook accounts a while ago, and I just don’t have any desire to get back to it).  But I do hope to get another release out soon, maybe with a few late nights, before our little girl arrives.

One last thing, I know I’ll get a few grumbles about this, but I have decided not to further the story to Loose Ends.  It’s not the type of story I want to move forward with, and will focus my efforts on new adventures.  So as for the ending of Loose Ends, it looks like you’ll have to draw your own conclusion. I couldn’t be happier with that. 🙂

Until next time.



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Interview with Steve Umstead – Author of the Evan Gabriel series!

It is with great pleasure and honor to interview a good friend and respected author, Steve Umstead.  Steve has recently wrapped up Book # 2 of the Evan Gabriel series, entitled “Gabriel’s Return.”  The following is a short interview I had with Steve in addition to some of my own comments I through in.  I hope you enjoy it.

AJ: Obligatory question #1 – What inspired you to write Gabriel’s Redemption?  Was it other books? Films? A mixture of it all?

Steve: I’ve been a scifi fan for many years, all the way back to Star Wars, but as for this particular story, it was a scene I had in my head for quite some time. That scene turned into Chapter One of Gabriel’s Redemption for NaNoWriMo last year, and the characters, settings, and plot all grew from that one scene. Readers can sample the ebook through Amazon/Barnes & Noble to see what scene I’m talking about (shameless plug!).

 AJ: It’s truly incredible how a scene in your head, as vague or general it might be, can be the starting point of something so much bigger.  Clearly the case with the Evan Gabriel series.

One of the first things I noticed with your story is the plethora of gadgets, gizmos, and weapons you developed for the story.  Not only did you develop them, but you created brand names, for example the Heckart firearms company.  You certainly never appear to be running short of invention ideas (or names).  Do you just have an Umstead Invention Dictionary lying around?  Or do you get to every one of those situations and just think on it a while?

Steve: Every one of those was an individual decision when I hit that part of the story. In most cases, since my focus is to write now/edit later, I will leave a placeholder (like Brevik withdrew the XXX pulse cannon from its case). Then when editing, I will go back and create names/brand names/tags/descriptions, even a history in some cases, for that particular item (or in some cases, location). That way I keep my writing flow (the story is far more important than an item name) and give me time later to create something that makes sense. I use historical or famous names for people and items (the character of Tevez in the first book, the name was taken from a famous Argentinean soccer player; the Dobranoc sniper rifle in the second book was used by a Polish soldier, so I looked up the Polish word for “goodnight”; the city of Bradbury on Mars is…well, obvious.) Other names I might use a random name generator, looking for an appropriate sounding name with the right origin (Heckart was a random German name generated, and I wanted the gun to be of German origin). I also tried to stay within the universe I created – the North American Federation is composed of the US, Mexico, and Canada primarily, so I tried to insert Spanish phrases and companies (Escobio Oso-11 – Escobio being a somewhat-obscure Mexican surname, and Oso is Spanish for bear) and some French-Canadian names. Also the Eritrean character uses two swords, but instead of typical katanas or broadswords, I wanted something from Africa, so I did some research and found the takoba, a traditional weapon used by the Tuareg people of northern Africa and gave it a backstory of them being given to her grandfather by a Tuareg chieftain. This type of research is actually one of the most fun parts of writing science fiction!

 AJ: Funny how you write a sci-fi story that takes place on other planets besides earth, yet some of your research can you lead you back to not only modern day earth, but past times that would be considered “early days” even by today’s standards.

While we’re on the topic of inventions, let’s talk about neuretics.  I absolutely love the idea, and while I know some sci-fi stories have used that concept before, you not only integrated it smoothly into your stories, but you took it to new levels.  Where did you come up with the ideas for this?

Steve: Secret confession time – I actually made up that word after remembering it from a dream I had. I thought it fit very well as a combination of neural implants and cybernetics. And hey, change one letter and you get neurotic, right? You hit the nail on the head – many science fiction stories use neural implants. I’m nearly welded to my iPhone, so I wanted to imagine the functions of that device (real time net access, heads-up layer displays, secure communications, remote controls, etc.) as being part of the combat soldier. Again, fun stuff to write.

AJ: Here’s a curveball for you.  Totally hypothetical scenario – if Gabriel were to be killed in combat in one of your scenes, which character would be most likely to step into his shoes and take over the series?

Steve: By function of the chain of command, his second is Lieutenant Harris Brevik, a rather large man of very few words. He was the commander of this team prior to Gabriel arriving for the special mission in book one, so he’d be the natural. Sowers would be too much of a jokester, and Takahashi, while very intelligent, would be on the young side. Have to go Brevik.

AJ: The opening of Gabriel’s Return is vividly painted through the eyes of another character on Eden.  Reading it put me right in the boots of the poor soul.  My skin was itching from MoorAnts, I felt pins and needles, and almost cottonmouthed (okay maybe a bit exaggerated, but still a really clear depiction of the scene).  How did you go about writing that one?  Did you often place yourself in his shoes like I did as the reader?

Steve: Yes, most definitely had to put myself into the scene. A lot of the more intense, descriptive scenes I would really try to put myself there, act out the motions, picture the setting, and so on. Without the ability to do that, I think a writer is in for some serious challenges. If the writer can’t feel the scene, the reader won’t. As a side note, I tried to make a conscious effort in Gabriel’s Return to add images in characters’ minds, and smells. Two different things that I think bring the reader into the story even more.

 AJ:  Totally agreed.  If you can’t see yourself in the shoes of a character going through an extreme emotion (pain, sorrow, joy, etc) then it’s definitely likely they won’t be able to capture that feeling and put it into words.  I think both books demonstrate quite well that you often do place yourself in the roles of your characters, and try to experience what they experience.

Of either books, what as been your favorite scene or chapter to write, and why?

Steve: Hard to say – at this point, I’ve written over 80 chapters between the two books! Several of them I was not happy with, and several were very fun, and several gave me (the writer!) goosebumps. The final scene (epilogue) in Gabriel’s Redemption was so exciting to write because it wrapped everything up, and was the first time I completed a story start to finish. Another scene in that same book has an epic hand-to-hand battle between Brevik and a very large mercenary, that was a lot of fun to write. But oddly enough, the one scene that sticks in my head is from Gabriel’s Return, and it’s probably the shortest scene in either story. It’s under 1000 words describing a bomb as it processes from arming to detonation. I did a lot of research on chemical compositions and terms, sizes, electronics, speed of electric signals, and a bunch more. Writing it made me feel like I was reading an old Tom Clancy novel, and it felt…good to bring an inanimate piece of hardware to life, in anticipation of the destruction it was about to unleash.

AJ:  I remember reading that scene, and continually asked myself as I read each word “What’s going to happen?” – it certainly elevated the heart rate some.

What was the most frustrating to work out?

Steve: Writing Gabriel’s Return, I did a lot of scenes based around locations on Mars as well as three skyhooks (space elevators). I found myself struggling to keep them all straight! I was constantly referring back to the first book, as well as going over detailed maps of Mars’s surface with distance markings and elevations (to make sure train tubes could be run, time of travel, etc.). It was a little nerve-wracking – one of those things I saved until last!

AJ: You’ve received three phone calls today.  One from Ridley Scott, one from James Cameron, and one from Neill Blomkamp, they ALL want to create the Commander Gabriel universe in a film.  Who do you choose?

Steve: Wow, tough question…let’s see, go for the big bucks blockbuster (Cameron), the gritty realism (Scott), or the character driven (Blomkamp)? Cameron’s out – while I’m quite entertained by his work, they’re not exactly…deep (pardon the Titanic pun). Scott obviously has some clout with Alien and Blade Runner, two of the finest scifi movies ever made (and didn’t he do the 1984 Mac commercial? Classic…). But after seeing District 9, I’ll throw Gabriel’s lot in with Blomkamp. Tremendous movie, great bending of the tech, settings, and real characters, and political and current intrigue – right up the Gabriel alley.

AJ: You, sir, just got a lot of brownie points in my book!  I believe Blomkamp would be who I would choose as well.  In District 9 I found great character development, amazing pacing, and the perfect touch for an ending, in my opinion one of the finest movies ever made.  I whole-heartedly agree, Gabriel is perfect to have him as a director!

On to a few writing tactics:



AJ: Favorite place to write?

Steve: On the balcony, overlooking the Caribbean, sipping on a cold Negra Modelo.

 AJ: Favorite music to listen to while writing (if anything)?

Steve: Instrumental or soundtrack only; anything with lyrics throws me off. I find the Fifth Element soundtrack a fun one to write to.

 AJ: Agreed.  I have a hard time writing anything with lyrics.  Just throws your thinking off.

Favorite Drink?

Steve: As sad as this may sound, Crystal Light iced tea. Probably drink close to a gallon of it a day. Gotta keep the Doritos off the waistline. Wow, that is sad now that I type it. OK, strike that – let’s go with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or a nice California cabernet.

AJ:  Hey, I’m not here to judge. 🙂

Any advice for aspiring writers who have the ideas, but not yet put them down on paper?

Steve: Write. Just write. Flesh out an outline, even a general ‘he did this one day, she did this the next’ outline. Then block out two hours per day and write. Don’t stop until the story is finished. Don’t edit in the middle, or you’ll end up with a handful of awesome chapters, and no ending. Just write. Everything else will fall into line. And if you don’t think you have enough time to write, you don’t really want to be a writer… Sorry, cold hard facts. Everyone has a day job. Work around it. Get up two hours early, stay up two hours late, write a scene at lunch break. If you want be a writer, you’ll find that time. Otherwise, you’ll run out of time…

Steve, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.  I can tell you folks, that if you are looking for a fun, exciting, and technology packed read, then the Evan Gabriel series is the one for you!  Steve just released book # 2 – Gabriel’s Return, and as I understand it, Book # 3 is in the works to complete the trilogy!  If you haven’t read Book # 1 – Gabriel’s Redemption, I suggest picking that up (and right now it’s only 99 cents!), then snag yourself Gabriel’s Return.  You can find both book’s links below, as well Steve’s website.

Gabriel’s Redemption – on Amazon

Gabriel’s Return – on Amazon

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Two new stories coming 2011

Okay so it’s been a while since Loose Ends released, as I mentioned in my previous post.  So I bet maybe two or three of you might be wondering what I am working now.  Though I do have a lot of non-writing projects keeping me plenty busy in my free time, I have continued writing.  So I thought it would be time to announce a couple things.

Firstly, I want to announce my first full novel.  This novel is currently untitled but I will tell you a bit of what it’s all about.

Below is a short description of the story, hopefully enough to get you intrigued, but not so much that it unveils too much.

Isaac Webber, a materials cargo hauler, is headed home to the planet Kortalluh from a long day of work.  Isaac is by no means rich, but with a loving wife and two incredible children, he feels his life is pretty much perfect.  When Laryn, his wife, tells Isaac that the kids are both going to be away from the house that night, the two look forward to a long overdue romantic evening together.  These plans, however, are interrupted when an invading group of Raiders storm the small mining planet and ends up abducting Laren and Sierra (Isaac’s daughter) along with thousands of others on the planet.  Isaac, along with his son Caedon, and a good friend, Colonel Ruiz, will track down the group and attempt to make a daring rescue effort, or die trying.

Much to my surprise, the story’s theme revolves around love, and the lengths a man will go for it; good or evil.  Right now I am classifying it as a “Dark Sci-Fi Thriller” – There are moments of intense action, but I feel that it’s more of a thriller than an action.  I’m approaching the halfway mark on the first draft, and hope to have it wrapped up by early September, with a release by Thanksgiving.

The next announcement is one that some were probably expecting, but I figure I’ll make it official.  “Nothing Personal” (Working Title), the sequel to “Loose Ends”, will be released later this year as well.  Nothing Personal will pick up approximately one month after the final chapter of Loose Ends, and will be written from the perspective of Rebekah Dickson.

When I first wrote Loose Ends I was undecided whether I would write a followup story or keep it as a one off.  I was going to let the folks who read the book decide that for me.  I have had an overwhelming positive response to the book, and many of those that read it have asked me for more.  So I am officially letting you all know, this is in the works.  At this time I am not unveiling any of the story for Nothing Personal, but plan on it being longer, and answering any questions you had at the end of Loose Ends.

Some big stuff coming up for me soon.  Enough to keep me busy for quite some time.  I really am looking forward to getting my novel released to the world.  I’ve never taken on something as massive as a novel, so I’m a bit nervous.  It’s also my first dabble into sci-fi writing.  Though I’ve been a big sci-fi fan for most of my life, I’ve never tried to write it, so this will be interesting.
Hopefully sometime in September or October I’ll be seeking out Beta Readers for the untitled novel.  Hope to find a good 6-10 folks for that.  I’m sure I’ll have no problem finding some quality people at the ol #pubwrite to sign up for that one.  🙂


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Forgive me, I have but two faces.

April 12, 2011.  That was the date I released my Novella, Loose Ends.  Three months to the day coincidentally.  I wrote that novella in about a month or so, and edited/polished for a couple weeks after.  So where am I with my next book three months after releasing Loose Ends?  25,000 words.  This is a pretty frustrating thing for me to admit.  I took a week or two off from writing once I released Loose Ends.  In that time I did the cover for the upcoming Gabriel’s Return by Steve Umstead.  This was the perfect break for me; I love doing art and had missed it while I was writing.

So once I had finished that cover up I started my first full length novel; a sci fi story.  I wrote 6-8k on it, then I decided to stop and do a rough outline to which I could flesh out the overall story at a high level.  This worked out quite nicely and then I was ready to dig back in.  But oh no! I got busy with work and other “life” things that seem to chew into my writing time.  Before I knew it I was doing more covers, working a lot, and more or less just coming home at night too exhausted to do anything.  Even reading had become a chore.  Not so much that I didn’t want to read, but because when I was reading it was making me want to write, and I was either too busy or too mentally drained to do so.  So for months now I’ve only made a dent into my upcoming novel where as by now I should have probably had the first draft completed and having it sit quietly waiting to be read in a few weeks for my first edit pass.  So you can see why 25k is not something I am satisfied with.

My passion for writing grows by the day, but my free time to write is also split with art related project (games, covers, etc).  Something I didn’t realize was a problem until recently was that I have a mind set that I am full steam ahead, but only with one thing at a time.  I have a difficult time multitasking on creative projects.  If I am trying to take on an art project, I don’t write.  If I write, I don’t do any art.  I will end up writing for quite sometime until I get tied up with something else that distracts me, then I might switch gears into doing art.  Or I’ll do an art project (such as a cover) and work on that for a few weeks.  Then only once that is completed can I consider writing again.  This is my dilemma.

Well that will happen no more! Starting this weekend, I will no longer be making excuses.  No more “I’m too busy to write.” or “I’m too tired to read.”  My biggest excuse almost every time is “well I’ll only be able to write for 15 or 20 minutes tonight, so I might as well just watch TV.”  Such a horrible mind set to have, and I am going to do away with it.  Even if I only write 100 words, that’s 100 words more than no words.  Or I can read a chapter, which is a chapter more than not reading at all.  It’s all about chipping away towards the goal.  If I chip away and get a few thousand words down in a couple weeks, then have a great weekend and jot down 10k well then I’m in all the better shape.  And most importantly, the story will CONSTANTLY be fresh on my mind.  The last time I touched my current novel was June 18th.  ALMOST a month ago.  Though I remember where I am in the story, I certainly don’t have the flow and intensity that was burning in me back on June 18th.  So no more.  No more will I say “no time to write tonight” and I will promise to avoid playing ping-pong at least 2 or 3 days a week during lunch and opt to read or write instead.  It sounds like such an easy thing to do, but for me it’s an uphill battle I’ll have to fight with every day.

Wish me luck!


Posted in Rants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Good start to my weekend.

Well it’s been a good start to my weekend.  Despite having surgery yesterday to have my wisdom teeth extracted, it’s been a great start to a weekend.  First of all, for those who have never gone under (which I hadn’t until yesterday) it’s not like the TV shows where your eyes just slowly close and drift to sleep.  You will be in the middle of talking or thinking something and then in an instant your mouth is packed full of gauze, lol.  That was kind of fun, to be honest.

Anyway, though they gave their best efforts, my pain medications were unable to make me tired.  I ended up staying up at past 1 AM writing on my debut novel which I am hoping to have released later this year.  I am really enjoying writing it, and I’m finding that it’s just starting to write itself.  It’s amazing how you can structure something out with a loose outline (I keep it very high level so I don’t back myself into a creative corner) and then before I know it the characters are telling ME the story, I’m just writing it down for them to share with others.  I spent a good deal of time last night doing some character swaps, which was a bit tedious but I think will have a good impact on the over story and flow.  The swap wasn’t terribly difficult, though.  It was mostly giving one character a different name and history and having him come in at different times than he originally was introduced.

The real exciting thing was when I went to close Word for the night I noticed I had passed the 25,000 word mark!  That’s a huge milestone for me!  I also was struggling with the chapter I was writing to hit my goal word count per chapter.  I had spent 3 or 4 different writing sessions on this one chapter (something I’ve never done before) and couldn’t quite get it there.  After I changed those characters around I ended up with about 300 words longer than my longest chapter so far.  I was really pleased with that.  Now I grant it I was still under some form of sedation so we’ll see how well it’s written, lol.  It may need stripped out, but it’s a good starting point.
The other big news is that Loose End reached it’s 100th sale today!  For a debut novella (17k words total) I am thrilled to have reached that number in just 3 months.  Doing little more than promoting it on Twitter and Facebook, along with the help of the most amazing friends on the social network, the word is getting around.  I look forward to see what more people think of the story, as it has been averaging close to 5 stars per review.  I am excited to get my current WIP wrapped up and released as well.  Though I do have a fair few of cover work I’ll need to do while writing, so my time will be split on occasion.  My goal though is to have the current novel’s rough draft finished by end of summer, then edited/released before Thanksgiving.  Crossing my fingers.

I’ll keep this post short, just excited about a few milestones that hit me this weekend.  Looking forward to the many more to come!

Posted in Writer's Corner | 2 Comments

Cover: Grave Undertakings

The latest cover I’ve made for R.A. Evan’s sequel to Asylum lake, Grave Undertakings, was just finished this week.  You can see the final result below.  For grins I also decided to attach a few early shots to see the progression of the art.  I work about 30-40% in 3D, the rest in 2D.  The reason I will work in 3D is that it allows me to rapidly prototype camera angles, lighting, mood/atmosphere, etc.  It’s a great way to previz (pre visualize) the final result without spending hours upon hours on it only to realize you don’t like that camera angle.  The caveat to this method is often you’ll end up with a slightly artistically stylized end result.  I don’t mind this personally because art is seldom intended to be photorealistic.  In movies and games that’s usually the goal, but I think illustrations should reflect some element of stylization.  So using 3D as part of my process is crucial.  It also allows me to have a faster turnaround time than if I were to draw everything by hand.

My goal is to be able to make a photorealistic cover exclusively with my art should I have the need, but I like my work to have some  sort of style to it.  You may also notice that I try my best to avoid cliche with my covers.  So often I see book covers that lack contrast, have no complimentary colors, no warms to offset the cools, poor composition, business, the list goes on.  These are all things I strive to leave out of my covers.  I’m not afraid of contrast, if my overall scene is lit with a warm color, I try to introduce a cool somewhere in there, and likewise the other way around.  It’s also important to me that, if I am creating a true illustration, that I have foreground, midground and background elements.  This is not always possible, for example while Gabriel’s Return had a fore/mid/back (Ship, Planet, Space/Stars) Flight, however, did not.  (Plane – Foreground, Clouds – Background).  But even then I make sure that the elements are clear which one is what, and never have any competing items that are fighting for a position.  So if you ever want a generic cover for your book that is just a bunch of photos bashed into a giant confusing collage, I’m probably not your man for the job.  🙂

Anyway, below are a few images.  I hope you like them and enjoy seeing a bit of the process.



Initial Camera Angle Shot

Initial Camera Angle Shot


annabelle's marker

Anabelle's Marker Finished


Final Camera Angle

Finally Settled on a Camera Angle


Established Color Palette

Established Color Palette, added midground elements



Almost there - Added Placeholder title, Raven, and Rain.


The Final Result!


Now that’s a lot of pictures, and it’s not even all of the ones I showed the author and a few other artist friends of mine to help me improve the image.  My process is to keep the author in the loop pretty often so that should they see something they don’t like I can change it before I invest too much time into it.  One of the outtakes I didn’t show had a person in the midground.  It could have worked in the long run, but Evans was more keen with having the Raven be the “character” in the scene than a person.  He saw this and made this request before I invested more than 5 minutes into the character which saved all of us a lot of time and headache.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of how I work.  And I hope you like the final result for the cover of Grave Undertakings: due out this summer from R.A. Evans!

Posted in Covers | 13 Comments