Landscape painting practice

Lately I’ve been trying to improve my neglected art skills. If I drew as much as I wrote, I’d be fantastic by now.

Anyway, the internet is awash in tutorials. People are so generous with their knowledge! So here’s three landscapes I’ve painted lately, with the tutorials I used. You know, in case you’d like to try them, too.

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Landscape with ruins, painted from this tutorial
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Draconic horizons, painted from this tutorial
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Misty forest, painted from this tutorial

I’m trying to do very different color palettes and styles, here. Keeps them different and interesting. Eventually I’ll work up to painting landscapes from real photos. 😀

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Five books I’m looking forward to in 2018

It’s Valentine’s Day and I love is in the air! But I’m kind of tired of romance. So let’s talk about books we love!

Specifically, what books are you looking forward to this year? In between following various authors and getting to beta read new books, this year is shaping up to be a great year for books. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this year:

1. Last Dragon Standing, by Rachel Aaron. Currently on preorder, this is the final book in the Heartstrikers series. The other books have names like Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another. They’re urban fantasy books in a world where magic suddenly appeared in our modern-day world. And dragons disguised as humans rose to become CEOs, world leaders, etc. Except for one, who doesn’t want to be a mean, nasty dragon. He wants to be nice. And his morals upset the entire dragon society. I’m totally looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

2. Peace Talks, by Jim Butcher. This will be the 16th book in the Dresden series, I think. And I know nothing about it, except for a teaser chapter that was released about two years ago. Thanks for being so slow, publishing!

3. Janeen Ippolito’s new book in her Ironfire Legacy series. It’s about dragon shifters in a steampunk world. With airships. And weird cities. And secret societies. Book 1 ended right as the story was getting good, so I’m eager for the next installment.

4. The Scarred King by Josh and Lelia Foreman. I read the first book of this trilogy, and I’m ravenous for more. It starts out as Pacific Islander fantasy, with a hero who is sort of Maori, gets exiled from his homeland, and goes on an epic quest through fantasy lands via outrigger canoe. He’s also been so well trained at home that going to all these more European places, he’s like John Carter of Mars–he’s super strong and agile and can take on anybody. Along the way, he starts picking up magic items and making a name for himself by accident. There’s plenty of strange fantasy creatures, and fascinating political machinations. When this book launches, don’t miss it, because it’s mind-blowing.

5. Spicebringer, by H.L. Burke. A story about a sick girl who is trying to save the last tree sapling that grows the kind of spice that makes the medicine she needs. And she has a tiny fire lizard. That’s all I know about this book, but it sounds fun and I’m looking forward to it.

I think I read a lot of books with dragons in them.

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Heart of the Forest by morteraphan

So, what books are you looking forward to reading this year? I’ll do another post on my sadly neglected To-read pile. 😀

The power of perseverance

I just finished writing a fanfic that was 71k words long. That’s about 300 pages. And my brain is totally fried.

Last year, I read the most amazing book. It’s called the Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. Basically, it details how little actions added up over time amount to a huge result. It doesn’t matter if you’re saving money, trying to build muscle, or writing a book. Doing a little bit each day toward that goal pays off.

When I sat down to write this fanfic, I was terrified. For one thing, it would be military science fiction, a genre I’ve read but never attempted to write. I would have to write battles and strategies and politics. For a writer who mostly messes about in the romance genres, this was incredibly daunting. But the game I was adapting had really hooked me with the things it left understated, and I wanted to explore them. I had readers who were hoping I’d take them on this crazy journey and improve on the game’s story. So I spent two weeks worldbuilding, and dove in.

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Yep, that’s a Sonic game.

Worldbuilding for a fanfic? Yep. When it comes to the Sonic the Hedgehog universe, the official worldbuilding is really squishy. There’s lots of hand-waving and stuff that is just outright never explained. So I had to figure out exactly how I wanted to explain EVERYTHING.

And who I wanted to kill off. Since this is a story about an apocalyptic war, basically.

Writing this story was terrifying and exhilarating. I’d read over the previous day’s work each day, and go, wow, this actually doesn’t suck.

Sometimes I’d bog down. But I don’t want to write another battle! my brain would whine. I would argue, But this time there’s AIRSHIPS. Don’t you want to write AIRSHIPS?

The compounding effect kicked in. Even on my worst days, when I was crawling through the story, bleeding emotion all over the page as another character died or was maimed, the words added up. It helped that my characters were keeping secrets all over the place. Anne R Allen wrote a blog post about how important it is for characters to have secrets. And boy, does it keep the story rolling and the readers reading. I’ve had almost 2k hits on this fanfic already, and I’ve only posted 8 chapters so far.

This week, I wrote The End. It was such a relief. Naturally, I’ve spent the last two days doubting that the story is actually any good. I think all writers go through this rebound period after finishing a massive project. 300 pages in two months. I think it’s a new personal record.

But dang it, I persevered. And the story is done, or at least the first draft is.

I’m on social media with a lot of other writers. One of my favorite writers mentioned having Imposter Syndrome very badly, wondering if she’s too old to write her books. It broke my heart. For one thing, she’s not much older than I am. I wanted to wave this 71k fanfic at her. “Look at this!” I would say. “You think you’re an imposter? I just wrote 300 pages about talking animals fighting a war against machines and magic where a sentient rock was the villain!”

Joking aside, just leverage the compound effect. It’s perseverance. A little bit every day adds up. Be like Nehemiah in the Bible, putting one more brick in that wall, even while your enemies laugh that if a fox jumped on your wall, it would fall down. Your enemies are in your head. Keep your sword nearby and keep putting bricks in that wall.