1 AM is Always the Best Time to Learn How to Draw

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Hello everyone! I hope you all had wonderful and filling Thanksgiving. I didn’t end up posting last week because of the holiday, but I had a great vacation in Long Island filled with down time, food, good books, and walks to the beach. I also have a few book reviews lined up for the future and a much longer to read list than I did before, so there’s that to look forward to.

Last night I had trouble falling asleep. This isn’t that rare – I’m naturally a night person. I go to bed on the later side, and I have often found that it is easier for me to do work, especially writing, late at night. Also, yesterday I was thinking about finding a good avatar for my tumblr site and for Steam (which I also got back into over the holiday thanks to a friend of mine.) I wanted one that was special for me rather than something I randomly found off the internet, and I kind of wanted it to be a drawing, but I didn’t have any drawings of me that my friends made or anything. So I decided to make one myself.

This also happens somewhat regularly, although not as regularly as my random insomnia. I have dabbled with drawing for a long time. I had a serious anime phase in ninth grade which included a drawing interest as well, but I found that I got caught up on the eyes or the symmetry of a face. I would draw one eye and then try and recreate it and all hell would break loose. I also think I started with the eyes, which made the proportions a little weird from the start. Eventually I got frustrated and decided that I couldn’t draw and moved on with my life.

Then a few years ago, in another bout of insomnia I randomly copied a sketch I found off the internet. I’m not sure whose picture it was, and I don’t have the copy or the photo I took of it anymore, but I was surprised at how well the picture turned out. It was just of a girl with long hair resting her head on her hand, but I was very proud of myself. Maybe I could draw after all.

I feel like a lot of authors can also draw, and its always been something I’ve wanted to do. It would be so handy to be able to sketch characters and have them come out (at least somewhat) the way you pictured in your head. I feel like that would make the whole character/world creation process much more complete for me. So after my success with the internet sketch, I decided to draw a character of mine. And it didn’t work. I drew a girl with wavy hair but that was it and I didn’t really connect her with the character she was supposed to be. So I wrote off drawing again.

But then last night I decided to give it another go. I’ve also been casually talking with a friend of mine about what if we took drawing classes (again these conversations are late at night and nothing really comes from them other than hype), but I tried the copying method of drawing again. Because I wanted that avatar.

So I went through my facebook profile pictures and found one that I thought was pretty simple. It was from when I went to visit my godmother down in Florida the year before last, and I am sitting by the pool with shades and an iced tea. I chose it because my hair was in a ponytail, which isn’t too hard to recreate on paper, and the fact that I am wearing large sunglasses solves the eye problem I had back in my anime days. And I was pretty pleased with the results, as far as avatars go.

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So in my sleepless excitement I decided that I would have to go out and get a sketchbook, because I always like keeping things like drawing in one place if I do decide to continue down this path. So I went to Sam Flax this afternoon as a break and got a pretty nice sketchbook on sale – the Sam Flax near me is going out of sale and while I don’t go there too often I’m pretty sad about it.

The sketchbook is pretty nice I think. I’m not a sketchbook expert or anything, but I always enjoy a new notebook. It has very smooth pages – I really don’t like the rough page sketchbooks for drawing, and it’s not too thick, which is good in case this drawing thing is short lived, which it very well might be. I liked the cover of a different one more but it was thicker and a little more expensive. What can you do. They were both black, but the other one was smoother. Oh well.

I traced the drawing into the book, which also didn’t take too long because the pages are pretty thin, but I did notice that when I went over it in ink, it bled through to the back of the page. Not on to the next page though, so I just won’t use both sides of the page if I trace things over with pen. That still means I have 79 unused pages to go though, so I should be good.

I also have a “Drawing” folder on my computer with some of my friends’ profile pictures I can use to practice – I’m not a creeper I swear. I found a few that were just one person and looked like they could potentially be simple. I could also move on to actors or something like that if I’m feeling really ambitious. Or maybe animals? Still life? Just as long as I stay on the “copying” side of thing for now. Who knows?

Also not only are film scores good to write to, they are also good to draw to as well.

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An Interview with D.C. Akers, Author of Haven: Revenge of the Viper

I am very excited to post my first official author interview on goodbookscents! A few months ago I got to sit down with Akers over the internet and ask him a few questions about his writing habits, the inspiration for Haven, and his favorite characters both in and out of the Haven world. The first Haven book, Haven: A Stranger Magic, came out last May (see the press release here) and it has been a great success on Amazon, reaching the #1 spot on multiple Amazon Bestseller lists (see here and here).

The second book in the series, Haven: Revenge of the Viper, officially comes out this Saturday, March 1st on Amazon, and I liked this book even more than the first one. It picks up right where A Stranger Magic ends, and the action builds throughout the book as we find out more about Sam, the mysterious people in his life, and his family’s past. I am so happy that I got the chance to help edit this novel, and I am excited to see where the story takes us next.

So, without further ado, here is the interview:

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What is your writing routine? Do you have a favorite place or time of day to write?

Well, after I have written the outline and have some general direction I stick to a very strict writing schedule. I write six days a week for about four to five hours straight until the novel is finished. I never set a word count for myself; I write until I think I’m done for the day. Most of my writing is done at night, in the dark. Just the light from the monitor is all I need. I love to write when it’s raining, too. I can get really creative then!

How did you come up with the idea for Haven

Haven was written five years ago, and began with one simple sentence: “My life has been a lie.” When I was growing up, my family was always very guarded about the past. I always felt things were shared on a need-to-know basis. Family photos were rare, and most of what I knew about my extended family was hearsay more than fact. So I drew on my past to create Sam, and then I added things like the love for his mother, his relationship with her, and the longing for a father figure. Then I took it a step further by asking questions such as what if all the secrets and lies where there to protect him? What if the truth was so unimaginable and daunting that it was best to keep it hidden from him? I think parents face decisions like that all the time. We choose the time and place to tell our children the things they need to know. Sometimes we have to wait until we think they are old enough to handle the truth. But sometimes, as parents, we make the mistake of holding on to the truth too long, and when it finally surfaces it can be more damaging than we originally thought.

As for the world of Haven, I wanted it to be something different. There are loads of books about supernatural creatures, and how they interact or try to assimilate into the human world. So with Haven, I wanted to turn the tables — make it about the world they had created for themselves where the humans were not the ruling class.

How does Haven differ from your previous book, Terra Vonnel and the Skulls of Aries? How is it similar? 

Well, the biggest difference is Magic. In Terra’s world Magic is not unheard of; it exists, but Terra does not possess the ability to perform magic. Whereas in Haven, Sam lives on Earth in the beginning of the book and there is no such thing as Magic. But that all changes when Sam reaches Haven — Magic is prevalent there and Sam discovers he has an affinity for it.

What was the process of becoming an author and getting self-published like?

At first it was a lot of research—learning what I would need to do, and who I should choose as my main distributor. Then it was about building my team, which included my editors (I have a team of four), graphic artist, and someone to format my manuscript. Then I began to build my author platform. I knew taking the self-published route with Haven was going to be a challenge, but I love the control it offers. I think of it as a business, and in reality that is exactly what it is. I know that as the CEO of my company, I cannot and should not try to do everything myself. I believe if you want to be great, you surround yourself with great people. I understood early on that I’m a storyteller and nothing more. I’m not an editor or graphic artist. It’s important to understand what your strengths are and to get help with your weaknesses.

If you could have a meal with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

That’s easy—J. R. R. Tolkien. That man was brilliant! I love the world he created with all its intricate details and rich history.

What about fictional characters? Who would you want to meet?

I think meeting Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Obi-Wan-Kenobi all at the same time would prove to be quite interesting.

Do you have a favorite character in the Haven series, and if so why is he or she your favorite? Which character is the most fun to write?

Right now it would have to be Travis, just because he is so quick-witted, but more importantly because he just gets it. He understands the true importance of friendship and how important it really is in our lives. Friendship is a choice, not like family into which you are born and feel obligated to. I think the quote by William Shakespeare that I placed in the beginning of Haven: A Stranger Magic sums it up best:  “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

These precious bonds are timeless and seem to blossom without our ever realizing how intrinsic they have become in our lives. It’s one of life’s true gifts.

You read and write a lot of Young Adult fiction/fantasy books. What is it about the genre that makes you keep coming back to it as an adult? 

Well, this genre offers me a means of escape. It gives me a chance as an adult to live in a fantasy world through the eyes of someone who has had fewer life experiences to draw from. It places you in a time where things are still intriguing as a young adult. Where feelings are being felt for the first time, and so much of the world and everything around you is still new and unknown. I think that is an exciting time.

Haven: Revenge of the Viper officially comes out on Saturday, March 1, but the ebook and paperback versions are currently available on Amazon along with Haven: A Stranger Magic, and the Haven series collection. Get them before the launch here! 

Haven series – Amazon #1 Bestseller!

Kindle:

Haven: A Stranger Magic – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CR4IR7A

Haven: Revenge of the Viper – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IKJ3EBK

Haven: Series Collection – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IJC9SN6

Paperback:

Haven: A Stranger Magic – https://www.createspace.com/4281387

Haven: Revenge of the Viper – https://www.createspace.com/4679353

Haven: Series Collection – https://www.createspace.com/4679432

Akers is also the author of Terra Vonnel and the Skull of Aries available here- http://www.amazon.com/Terra-Vonnel-The-Skulls-Aries/dp/0984587101 

To find out more about D.C. Akers,

Website –  www.dc-akers.com

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDCAkers

Twitter-  @DC_Akers

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Writing, Reading, and Research

ImageDoes anyone have any good ideas about how to survive this snowpocolypse? It actually looks like it has turned into a rainpocolypse by now, but that’s besides the point. Lately I have been looking for some new projects, but I’ve also been making a point to spend at least some of the day working on my story idea. Yes, it’s back. Some of the character’s names have changed but I’m feeling good about it.

The time that I spend working on it isn’t always used for writing. I have been stuck in a somewhat mundane scene that is important for setting things up later but it itself isn’t all too exciting. But in the past few days I have figured a few things out and have planned out a few other scenes for the future. It’s more of a I-don’t-know-what-to-do-here-but-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-such-and-such-happened-later? I don’t know when later but just later.

Sometimes I plan out things in my pretty moleskine notebook that I got a few months ago when I realized the smaller notebook I was using just wasn’t going to cut it. Sometimes I do background research. And sometimes I actually write. But doing research and actually writing are two very different mind sets, and it is a little strange switching between the two. I’ve been reading The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman to get some background on World War I, since part of my story takes place during that time. Lately I’ve been reading about the different countries’ military plans, and how the whole thing was just one big mess waiting to happen.

But I’m enjoying the research. I probably won’t be reviewing The Guns of August on here since I’m reading it as more of a textbook (underlining, notes, etc.) but it has been pretty interesting. And I figure I need to do more research than I actually will use in the story just so I have an overall view of the era. Then I can pick and chose what I need for my story and work from there.

And even if I’m not physically writing something everyday the characters and plot are still on my mind. I’ve also been debating drawing my characters so I know what they look like but I’ve never been that great a drawer, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m still not giving myself any deadlines or anything like that when it comes to my story. It is still a fun side project for me, which is why I don’t always talk about it on here – sometimes I am working on it and sometimes I’m not, and deadlines or specific goals would most likely add stress to a project that is really not stressful. I am still looking for jobs and freelance editing projects as well but all I’ve been really enjoying this process. I’ve just been putting on some background music (either film scores or Let It Go from Frozen) and seeing what happens. And I also know a lot more about World War I now as well. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert yet but it’s getting there 😛

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Writers on Writing

One of the fun things about being a writerly-type person, besides the actual writing and reading that you do, is that your friends often know you are a writerly person. Maybe its because you are constantly writing down tid bits of life in your journal to use later on in your own work, or maybe its because you never buy a bag unless its big enough to carry a book. Either way, they know. But then sometimes they send you fun literary things. Last week, a friend of mine sent me an article from the guardian – Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, where various authors share their tips and suggestions on being a writer.

I always enjoy reading this kind of thing and seeing what works, or what doesn’t work for different people. Whether they are famous writers or just like to put down a few words in their free time, I’m always interested. Some of these tips I had heard before from fiction writing classes in college and some of them are new. Some of them I do already, like keep a journal, and some of them I struggle with.

There are a couple of mentions of not working on a computer that is connected to the internet, or not having the internet in your work space, which is something I’ve struggled with ever since I realized its easier to write on a computer than it is to write on paper. Especially after college where we had assignments due, it was just easier to write it all out on the computer to begin with as opposed to writing longhand before transferring it to the computer. And I have found that the quality of my writing is better on the computer as well – easier to change things around – but there is always the internet…

Some of these pieces of advice contradict themselves in one way or another, but that is bound to happen when you get a long enough list. I think the point of that is to find what works for you. Some people write really well in the mornings and can’t seem to get anything done later in the day. Some people, like me when it comes to my own writing, are the opposite. And some of these pieces of advice are universal. Maybe take a few tips of the trade from other people, or from this list, but also find what works for you and go with that. And then maybe you could have your own list of tips of the trade.

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Why Neil Gaiman Says It’s Important to Read

To all readers and non-readers alike,

I know it is getting late but I just came across this article by Neil Gaiman (via Gaiman’s tumblr – which is an awesome site for anyone who likes to write, or anyone who likes Neil Gaiman) about why reading is still important in  a digital age.  I tend to roll my eyes at terms like “the digital age” (don’t get me started on millennials) but I do agree with what Gaiman says. And since it is Neil Gaiman, the article is really very well written.

Gaiman covers three points in his article – that reading is important, that libraries and access to a variety of literature is important, and that creativity, the ability to daydream, and the desire to come up with new ideas are all vitally important for our happiness and overall success – both for children and adults alike. Gaiman writes,

Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair.

Not that the ability to build a chair came directly from reading fiction, but reading, especially reading fiction, allows us to remove ourselves from our bodies in a way. It transports us to another place, another person, or another way of thinking. It broadens our minds and our imaginations. Another good quote:

When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes.

It is active. Even if you aren’t underlining or taking notes, which is what I think of as “active reading” (left over from my Middle School days), you are still building the world that you read about on the page. Two people could read the same book and have a completely different image of the world that they just read about, which, when I think about it, blows my mind a little.

And reading is good for you. I have read and written multiple papers in college about the positive effects reading to a child has on their social and mental development. It broadens minds and fosters relationships between the reader and the listener, and frequently helps with schoolwork. I could go on but I’m going to let Neil Gaiman take over.

Anyway, here is another link to the article. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Happy Friday

It’s Friday everyone! You have made it through the week. Congrats.

Here is a picture of the new plant that I got after my sunflowers died. I have had this plant for almost two weeks and it is still alive. I am probably more proud of that than I should be, but hey an accomplishment is an accomplishment.

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To celebrate the weekend here are some fun book quotes that I have been collecting on my computer over the past week or so. Most of them are from tumblr or bookmania, which always has a good supply of quotations or library pictures for anyone who is interested. Bookriot is also a good site for fun book related articles as well. I hope everyone has a chance to curl up with a good book this weekend. 🙂

Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together – just the two of you.

– E.B. White via bookmania

When you read a book, what you see are black squiggles on pulped wood or, increasingly, dark pixels on a pale screen. To transform these icons into characters and events, you must imagine. And when you imagine, you create, It’s in being read that a book becomes a book, and in each of a million different readings a book becomes one of a million different books.

– Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

To know a man’s library is, in some measure, to know a man’s mind.

Geraldine Brooks, March

And finally, a tumblr find that sums up my thoughts and obsessions with literary characters nicely.

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Step Into My Office II

I was hoping to do two blog posts this week again but sadly jury duty got in the way…

A few months ago now I talked about different places where I like to do work. Usually they consisted of coffee shops or Barnes and Nobles cafes around the city, but now I have somewhere to go when a cafe or bookstore is too loud and a couch or my bed is just too comfortable.

In my apartment there is an alcove off of my room that used to be a kitchen before it was gutted out once upon a time, but we have been using it as a storage area. There are no kitchen appliances there, but we did have a desk in there, so a few weeks ago I decided that it was time to clear it out and use it as my very own office. There cleaning out process wasn’t as painful as it originally looked to be and I was left with a nice little work alcove that I now love. It’s a change of scene from my room without having to travel too far and I have gotten a lot of work done there over the past few weeks.

There is still some cleaning up that needs to be done and I am debating putting up a few posters to liven up the area but so far it’s off to a great start. I put my lamp from my college room there to brighten up the space and I even bought some sun flowers to put in the window. They have since wilted but I always wanted sunflowers and never really had a reason to get them before. But this was a great excuse, I thought.

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