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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Keeping Your Story Ideas In a Journal

The question many authors, myself included, get tired of hearing from people is “Where do you get your ideas?” Neil Gaiman said in a talk that Harlan Ellison used to answer the question by saying he “gets them from a little idea shop . . . .” In this same interview Neil said that he knew a writer who said he gets his ideas “from the idea of the month club.” 

My answer to that question: Life. That’s what all art is based on in one sense or another, life as the artist sees it. The ideas come from the artist’s own experiences, including the books that have influenced him or her. Each of us, writers and non-writers, has a story behind us. Our entire lives are stories. But not everyone is inclined to write their life stories down whether for their own personal records or for an audience. But even us writers are prone to forgetting when great ideas and impressions come to us, and so we carry a journal with us everywhere we go.

Some of the most popular and creative story tellers such as director/screen writer Guillermo del Toro carry journals with them. There’s a good article up at Comic Book Resources ( about his Pan’s Labyrinth in commemoration of its 10 year anniversary. But there are a couple points where the article discusses how del Toro kept a journal of drawn sketches as well as written notes of ideas he would develop for his film.

I keep two journal booklets. I keep a larger one at home that’s about six-by-four inches and a smaller one in my backpack for when I’m away from the house. Most of the contents in these are handwritten notes though I’ll do a quick sketch of an image if an idea is easier to draw out and I’m in the middle of writing an entry and don’t want to run to get my sketch book or if I’m not home. The sketch book is for drawing concepts, many of which I use for my book cover illustrations as you’ve seen in past posts. I always title my entries, especially if they contain story ideas, so it’s easier to find them when I’m ready to start writing a new story. But even if the entry isn’t one that’s intended for a story but is maybe of an experience I went through during the day, I will give it a descriptive title any way so when I am looking for a story idea I can find it more easily.

A pencil sketch of a giant goddess statue with a corpse's face.
A concept sketch for the "Circa Sixty Years Dead" book cover from my sketch book.

Some authors will start writing their stories in their journals a chapter or section at a time. That works for when ideas for a single story come as time goes by. For myself, however, ideas for a single story don’t come that quickly. However, if I leave off working on a story for the day and then later an idea for it comes to me, then I’ll write it down in my journal to refer to it next time.

Do you keep a journal for your story ideas? What manner do you utilize that journal? How do you organize your entries?

Do you find your favourite authors’ journals as interesting as their published stories?

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Book Cover Illustration Status: The “Sketch” and Placement Stage

Victor Frankenstein in many film versions of Frankenstein had to steal body parts from graveyards for his creation. Like him, there are creeps out there who feel they have to do the same with images when it comes to creating their art, only they don’t go to graveyards but more so go to websites. But there’s a legal and ethical way to grab the parts you need in order to make your graphic creation and that’s by going to public domain sources. That’s what I’ve been doing for the photo-real book cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. To gather the images I need, I’ve been turning to If you ever look at the images that I display in my weekly posts here, that name probably sounds familiar to you.

Pixabay is a really great source for graphic projects, including book covers. All their images are in the public domain and so you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement. Their contributors have been so generous with allowing free usage of their works that I tried contributing one of my own colored-pencil drawings at Christmas but it didn’t meet the website’s qualifications. I’ll have to find another way to donate to them.

 Well, as you can see in the picture below, I’ve made a rough sketch, if you will, of the book cover illustration. Therefore I’ve put together the basic images I’m using to see how they look in composition. In this case, those images are the temple ruin and the desert background. I still have to add the goddess statue which I’ll put in front of the temple like it is in the story. After I work with the placement of the objects in the picture, I’ll add (and in some cases subtract) the details such as darker tones for a night-time scene as opposed to the afternoon one seen here.

A photographic composition of a temple ruin superimposed onto a desert scene.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr./

So it won’t look like a collage, I’m going to have to cut the edges of the superimposed objects, such as the temple, and overlap the lighter ground from the temple’s original picture with the darker desert sands. Am I doing this because I hate collages? Far from it. I love collages; they are so surreal and I love surrealism. But because this is for marketing purposes and photo-realistic covers are in, I need to make the scene look as real as possible. And I hate photo-real book covers, at least when it comes to fiction. If you’re like me and prefer touchy-feely art in your reading then head on over to Amazon to purchase my hand-produced book cover illustration edition of “Circa”

I’ll go over more about the book cover illustration and the photo-editing software I use for it, Paint.Net, next time.

Until then . . . 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Authors At Pop Culture Expo

Last Saturday’s Toy Game and Pop Culture Expo held at Sacramento’s Great Escape Games wasn’t quite all fun and games. It was fun, games, books and their authors. Local authors Nicholas Grabowsky (who wrote the novel adaptation of Halloween IV) and Angelique Anderson (writer of YA sci fi and fantasy) were displaying their books for sale. I had a great time talking with both of them.

Nick talked about his plans to present at more cons after having taken a hiatus. I talked to him about my current projects: my most recently published ebook, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”, and the print and photo-real cover editions in progress. The great thing about talking with authors such as he and Angelique is that when you’re sliding down the hill, like I’ve been ever since I started my day job as library technician back in September, you get motivated and more focused on your own writing. That’s among other great things like the generous offers Nick gave me such as a free copy, signed by himself, of the comic book adaptation of his short story, “It Looks Like a Rat to Me,” adapted from his collection Red Wet Dirt. It’s a neat story of psychological and surreal terror, though the art work gets really graphic. It was a delight that Nick gave me that comic just for talking with him! Thanks again, Nick!

Speaking about “Circa” and hiatuses, I’m taking a small break from working on the print edition of my single short story book. Lately, I’ve come to believe that there is more of a demand for the photo-real cover illustration and so I decided to work with that first (as much as I hate photo realism on book covers).

Check back here for more on my and other authors’ work.

Until next time . . .  

A woman sitting at a pop culture convention table.
Friend Stephanie Rector, "Queen of Geeks", at her booth at the Toy, Game and Pop Culture Expo
Photo Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Charles Stross’s Article On Near-Future Science Fiction

Charles Stross just came out with a new novel titled Empire Games. Although I haven’t read it myself yet, (I’m just barely getting through his Atrocity Archives of his Laundry Files series) the way he explains it in his article at io9 makes the novel seem to do for global politics what many of Kim Stanley Robinson’s later novels have been doing for environmental issues: taking the realist approach. Because of this, it sounds like it’s a little more down to earth than his Laundry Files novels.

Stross explains in the article the difference between far-future science fiction and near-future science fiction using his novel as an example of the latter. He refers to far-future sci fi as mostly escapist fiction and near-future as more realistic. That may be so on a social level, but I’ve read a lot of far-future hard science fiction that gives the best of both worlds. If there’s ever a time we need the serious sci fi Stross talks about, it’s now in this dawn of an elitist presidency. Do you think such science fiction can help us through a difficult presidential administration?

Until next time . . .

Two cartoon robots.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics” Applied in European Parliament Report

If you saw my latest posts on my Facebook page earlier this evening you may be a little surprised why I’m writing here. Well, I just wanted to share with you an article from the online magazine, Futurism-- which covers the outlook of future science, technology and the two’s impact on society. The article, entitled “Europe Looking to Make AIKill Switch Mandatory”, by June Javelosa is the next step in today’s rapid process of science fiction becoming science fact, in this case robots. European Parliament just drafted a plan for regulations on artificial intelligence and so Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics is seems to be getting applied more than ever. Check out the article and then check out the European Parliament’s official report that it links to. Then come back here and tell me if you can find the Three Laws of Robotics applied anywhere in the report.

Until next time . . .  

A robot's head.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 Writing Accomplishments and 2017 Goals

Glowing 2017 logo on a digital grid that stretches into the horizon line.

Somewhere between Christmas Day and the New Year’s Day, I get that dark feeling as if nothing will be on the other side of the threshold between the old year and the new. It’s almost as if all hell will break loose once we step through that threshold. In fact, this concern caused me to write a short story the day after Christmas for my writers’ critique group’s holiday party, a kind of time travel story you can say. I’ve only written the rough draft though, and because it’s holiday themed, particularly New Year’s, you probably won’t see it until the end of the year. But even though for some of us the other side of the portal to 2017 maybe seemed like a black nothingness, here we are; we are alive and that’s all that counts.

I thought I would look at my writing accomplishments from last year and my goals (or resolutions) for this new year of 2017. But first let me talk about how Christmas went. It went by great. Nothing that spectacularly different from other years, just spent it with the family. However, one of my gifts was my first card game since the last 5-plus years. It’s called Arkham Horror (not to be mistaken with the board game of the same name), a game that lives up to its name: it’s a damn horror trying to figure out how to play it. But it’s still fun and because it’s so complicated it’s intellectually challenging, and, perhaps best of all, it’s based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Mythos. So during the first week of the new year I had the card game laid out on my kitchen table trying to learn the game as I went but it takes me longer since I work a day job and, of course, I work my freelance writing.

Games with storylines such as Arkham Horror are a lot like writing as well as acting since they’re role playing games (RPGs). You make choices as one of the characters and that influences the game’s story. Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book which I can’t believe I used to read those thinking of myself as literarily sophisticated, but hey, it’s what started many of us on avid reading and even as writers of fiction and so reading them is still a great way to introduce young people to reading fiction and, better yet, writing it. I did a blog post with a link to an article about gaming and writing fiction. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you check it out; it’s really insightful. 

Well, here are . . .

2016’s Accomplishments:

  • Making an attempt to write a novel: So far it’s entitled Invasion of the Avatars, which I’m currently writing.

And . . .

Goals for 2017:

  • Submit short fiction to magazines and anthologies: I’m going to return to doing this and put self-publishing on a small hiatus.Set up a table for my books at a con or two.

  • Relaunch The Super Freek: I had put it on hiatus not long after launching it, but since my hours at my day job will be changing soon and I have a lot of blogging plans that won’t fit the agenda here at the Fantastic Site I’m going to start posting at The Super Freek again. I don’t know exactly when yet, but I’ll definitely let you know.

  • Give a new look to The Fantastic Site: It’s been at least two years since the last re-designing.

  • Start posting at The Fantastic Site by Saturday of each week again: I’ve been spilling into Mondays too much as you may have noticed, and that includes this evening. My apologies.

The following have already been in the plan and are more short term, so I really can’t call them resolutions like the above: I’m going to publish the print version of “Circa Sixty Years” and the photorealistic cover for both print version and e version.

So what are your accomplishments from last year and/or goals or resolutions for this new year? Did you get any interesting holiday gifts?

Happy New Year! And Until next time . . . 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Print Edition of ‘Circa Sixty Years’ Coming Sooner Than Anticipated

A Tyrannosaurus rex in a Santa Clause suit.

Well, the photographic cover for my single short story book, “Circa SixtyYears Dead” will not be here in time for the holidays. However, the print version will be here sooner than I had anticipated, thanks to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing’s new paperback print option.

“Circa Sixty Years Dead” Print Edition

Until recently, a print version of a self-published Kindle book had to be produced by separate means through Amazon’s Create Space. But now a print edition of an ebook can be produced a little bit more quickly through Kindle Direct’s new print option (currently at the beta level). So far, I’ve partly registered “Circa” for this option. I just have to upload the manuscript and cover to the program. The manuscript is what may take a while before I upload it because I need to make sure it’s formatted correctly and formatting isn’t the best of my self-publishing skills. Apparently, the manuscript and cover have to come from my own files rather than the ones Kindle Direct already has for the digital edition. Perhaps someday Amazon will take things a step or two further and enable the files for the ebook to convert more easily to print-ready format. So look out for the paperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years” coming between now and the first week of the new year!

Holiday Deal

And now for my Holiday Deal: from now until Christmas Eve, customers can receive a free ebook copy of The Fool’s Illusion if they purchase the print edition. This is a great deal to save on those last minute Holiday gifts you are looking for for that reader friend or relative.

One Last Holiday Donation for the Season

I donated a model Millenium Falcon to the California Highway Patrol’s toy drive, and a monetary donation to the local meal program for the elderly (Meals On Wheels of Yolo County). Now I have one last donation to make for the holiday season.

I’ve been working on some Christmas fantasy art which I am going to donate to the public domain. Once I donate to the public domain, I will donate it to where many of the beautiful illustrations you see here at the Fantastic Site come from and are done by some really great artists. These artists have been kind enough to donate their work for free use making it easier and more affordable for writers and bloggers like myself to post images on our websites. So I felt that it’s time to give back. Be on the look out for my Christmas coloured pencil drawing by visiting my Facebook page throughout the week. I hope to have it up by Wednesday but it will be up by Christmas Eve for sure. I will provide the link to it on my Facebook page where you can download a copy (for free, of course). That will be my holiday gift to you wonderful readers and fellow writers out there.

This weekend will be extraordinarily busy for me since it’s the Christmas weekend. So I’m taking a week off from posting here and will return at the beginning of the new year. I hope to have the paperback edition of “Circa Sixty Years” launched by then and to have made some progress on the photographic cover. I also said I would provide a review of the movie Arrival which I wasn’t able to do this time but will try to have it here next.

I wish everybody a Happy Hallow-Day Season and New Year and will see you next year!

Until then . . .