Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest-blogging On Fiction Writing, RPGs and LARPs

I apologise for not posting last week. I was unusually busy with other things. But this week author Christine Rains has been very kind to allow me to guest-blog at her site. Because my post is already live there, I’m going to keep the one here short and take a break on this Carnival/Mardi Gras of madness Saturday night by finishing up a card game of Arkham Horror and then watching some horror(ible) flicks!

Five board game player pieces wearing Carnival masks.

Speaking of games, for the past month or so Miss Rains has been featuring articles about the similarities between role playing games, also known as RPGs, and fiction writing and how the two influence each other. So my article there discusses the topic, particularly in light of live action RPGs (also known as LARPs). So please head on over to Christine’s blog and take a look at the article. Any comments you might have you may post in her box there. I’ll check for them periodically.

Until next time . . .  

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 . . .