Author Corner: When to “Get Professional” With Marketing

The hottest of guys are the ones who wear ties. That’s my motto. Okay, no it isn’t. But shouldn’t it be?

I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of paying to have your book/eBook promoted and featured on various advertising websites. I myself haven’t tried it yet. I’ve also been spending these past few weeks researching and looking into the best types of marketing by following a couple of blogs with some helpful advice.

While researching, I haven’t done much writing, or working on my book cover. I still have the copy of a finished novel ready to launch that I haven’t launched because my cover is still only half-finished. The reason why it’s still waiting in the locked-down pens of self-publishing is because I feel like I need to boost my following and promote the work somehow before releasing it. I need people that are “into my stuff” (namely gay romance) before releasing new stuff.

I’m already beginning to notice how this will only damage me, rather than help me.

How soon should I be worrying about marketing?
What I’ve neglected to say so far here, is that the book I’m waiting to release is my second novel ever. Yes, I have only published one book so far. Some have said that getting into marketing early is advantageous, but I’m starting to see how it’s holding me back. With all of this research and paperwork I’m diving into, how the hell am I supposed to write my books?

Since I haven’t published more than one yet, I can’t state from my own experience what works for me. What I can say is that while I’ve been losing myself in knowledge on how to get my work out there, I’m not getting my work out there. I personally believe there is a good time… and bad time to put all of your focus on marketing.

How many books should be released before marketing becomes your primary concern?
Well, if “more than one” isn’t a good enough answer, I’d be willing to bet that marketing won’t do you much good if you don’t have more than a couple of them out. There’s something that publishers refer to as “phoenix sales,” which means that if people buy your newer book, and enjoy it, they tend to buy your older material, thus boosting the sales of older books at the same time. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After reading one book by an author and liking it, chances are you might enjoy their other stuff.

What about social media?
As of right now, social media is not helping me at all. Granted, I spend very little time on it, but that’s because when I do spend time on it, it doesn’t seem to benefit me. All it seems to do is give me spam that I don’t look at.

I write almost entirely gay romance, and maybe some other genres with gay romance sub-genres in them. When I discovered that this was my label, this was my brand, this was who I was… I sort of got lost in wondering how I’d snag people who were into it. I’ve heard it can be very popular, especially in eBook form, but I have yet to find out how to take advantage of that. I’ve accepted that it’s what I enjoy writing, but I’m not sure how to go about picking an audience for it. All I know is that you can’t wait for them to come to you. I don’t know how to get them to come to me.

Obviously, publishing more books and establishing a brand should be the first step. People should recognize your name when seeing all of the books you wrote. “Hey, they wrote such-and-such, and as I recall I think I kinda liked it.” Well, that’s one thing you’ve got.

My advice, to myself and to others, is to give yourself a bit more breathing room before focusing all of your attention on hooking an audience. The right time will come to show yourself off. Your first book is an introduction to (hopefully) how awesome you are, and to show that this is your brand. I don’t really count my earlier eBooks in this because they were short and pointless and I was still testing the waters. I’m totally serious about publishing now, and it’s all about my best effort.

Remember: establishing yourself as an author will take a while.
Don’t be in too much of a rush. You might get ahead of yourself… and stumble on the way. Like me. And I fall pretty hard.

Tale of an Amateur Guitarist: Unraveling the Mystery of the Corrupt Rocksmith Profiles

Yes, it’s the next installment of my amateur ability at playing electric guitar with Rocksmith and clumsy fingers.

Are you a rockstar YET?
When I play metal songs, I feel like one… and isn’t that what matters?
No?
Oh. Well, no, then. I’m not. But I’m getting closer!
As I said, I’ve fallen deeply in love with playing metal! Metal has always been a favorite genre of mine (not including death metal. I have a scream limit), but I’ve found that playing it is even more desirable. I’ve come to find out that my playing style is… rather aggressive. My low E string took a bite out of me this past week.


This is a sign that you’re an abusive guitar owner

Yeah, that’s blood. I literally played it till my fingers bled. Well, it’s my own fault. I didn’t strum my strings, I slammed them. And that was a mistake. Lesson learned the hard way. That’s what I get for playing when in a very sour mood. And playing metal. While in a sour mood.

Have you found out why Rocksmith profiles get corrupted?
As a matter of fact, I have. It has something, if not everything, to do with playing custom songs. After backing up and restoring my profile several times, I did a trial and error test to determine what was specifically causing it after it happened to me a second time.

After finding out about custom songs, I had downloaded a lot of them. Honestly, more than I’m capable of playing well. I sort of picked them out as “Oo, I might want to learn this one someday, oh, and this one, and this one.” The drawback to custom songs vary, but there are two so far that I have learned about in my testing:

1. You can’t use Riff Repeater in CDLC. Not any of them. This isn’t a massive setback, but for a new player, can cause some frustration. If there’s only one part in the song you want to tackle and get better at, you can’t do it unless you play the whole thing start to finish a hundred times– or, a solution I plan to take up soon, reading the tab sheets for it and learning it slowly first before playing it in Rocksmith. This gives me an excuse to find alternate resources other than Rocksmith to train myself to play.

2. You can’t complete missions with them. This, I believe, is what might be causing the corruption in the profile. When my profile would get “corrupted” it was after playing Rammstein songs– ones in Drop D. Until now, this really mystified me. My other CDLCs weren’t causing the problem– only Rammstein. It wasn’t until yesterday morning that I realized: “hey, don’t I have a mission to play a song in Drop D? Almost all Rammstein songs are in Drop D. I bet that’s what’s causing it.”

I played a Drop D song that came with the game. Cleared that, then backed up my profile after completing the mission. I reopened Rocksmith and prepared to test my theory that the mission itself was causing the CDLCs to corrupt the game. I open a Rammstein song and get ready to rock. Rocksmith asks me to tune my guitar for the song.

Twang! My high E string snaps.

“Wow,” I thought, with a slow, sarcastic blink. “The timing couldn’t be more perfect.”

Although this really bummed me out, not only because I had to quit before my goal of one hour for the day, but it meant that I wouldn’t be playing for probably a week while I wait for new strings. The positive thing is that it gave me the opportunity to order new, better strings suited for metal playing, and will teach me how to restring my guitar. Plus I get to mess around with different gauges and see what works best for my style.

So, we won’t find out the truth of profile corruption until next time?
I’m afraid so. But you could test this theory yourself! Maybe you’ll find out before me.

Lastly, I’ve become so fond of my guitar (even though it bit me) that I’ve given it a name. I’ve decided to call it “Garrote.” I thought it fitting for one that might be playing metal most of the time.

Keep on rocking until next time!
Stay in tune!

Tale of an Amateur Guitarist: More Rocksmith… and the Issues With it

 

My journey with Rocksmith continues!
Rocksmith remains to be a great teaching tool, and an encouraging one. I’m still having a lot of fun learning, and I must say that I’ve learned a lot. In the lessons so far, I’ve gotten half of them done, and I’ve gotten high scores on some of the games. The more I play my guitar, the easier it becomes.

Ehh.. with some exceptions…
I’ve found where Rocksmith can fall flat (and of course, cannot compare to the tutoring of an actual teacher). While I have learned ten times more about guitars in the past week than I have my whole life, I’m starting to wonder if I’m learning all I can be. I like to broaden my horizons, so in the time to come, I might try various other tools to aid me along. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the flaws Rocksmith can fall victim to.

Your save file can become corrupted.
Ohhh yes.
One fateful morning a few days ago, I opened my Rocksmith profile only to find the chilling message that the save file was “damaged” and thus could not be opened. As my heart steadily plummeted into my stomach, I realized that I had lost all of my progress. I would have to do all of the lessons over again. I would have to level up in the Guitarcade again. I would have to play those damn starter songs again (that I never heard prior to playing this game).
Thankfully, I didn’t have months worth of progress lost, as some others have! Since I had already known how to do everything from my first time around, I plowed through the lessons quicker a second time, and thankfully my high scores were saved on my Uplay profile, rather than my Rocksmith one, so my name is still on the leaderboards.
My message to ALL Rocksmith players: back up your profile for the love of all that is loud and rocking.

Rocksmith tracks “correct notes” better than it tracks “correct technique.”
Rocksmith does track your technique, but it is most useful in the songs and practice rounds of lessons, where it tells you your technique accuracy percentage. Where it isn’t useful is the lessons themselves. I’m pretty sure if you hit all of the right notes, even accidentally as I have on a couple of occasions, Mr. Proud Guy will gush “EXCELLENT” anyway. As I said, it’s not that big of an issue, since the lessons are more of forerunners to the bigger projects, but sometimes when passing a lesson, it actually shocked me that I got it right, because I knew I didn’t.

Chords.
I “get” chords… but the game seems to think I don’t. It will tell me to press my fingers on the frets… I do so. It will tell me to only strum those strings and no others. I do that. I strum it, it sounds fine. The game tells me I might be holding my fingers in the wrong place, or that I’m missing a string. I check my hand. Yeah, my fingers are on the right frets. I’m moving them around to make sure I’m not touching other strings. I strum each string individually to make sure they sound right. They do. Strum the chord. In so many words, the game keeps telling me “you’re doing it wrong.” This is extremely frustrating, as you can imagine, because without an actual player or teacher telling me EXACTLY what I’m doing wrong, I have no idea what it is. I’m doing my best to do whatever the computer asks me, and it doesn’t like the way I’m doing it, for whatever reason.
The ironic thing is that when I play those same chords during songs, they’re apparently perfect. I hit every one. Maybe the detection of the chords is more lenient in the tracks and riffs, but when trying to play them during particularly the second chord lesson, it doesn’t work. The problem is that I can’t tell if this is human error or just a bug– another problem with using a game to learn.

Bends.
I might need to toughen my fingers for this… but holy HELL does it ever hurt. I mean, it kills. Mostly because whenever I do bends, the game tells me I’m wrong, then I have to bend again… and again, and again, again, again until my fingers are nearly bleeding. I’ll push that damn string up to where it wants and it says “miss” a lot of the time. So I keep trying and miss even more because my fingers are falling off. Again, this is where a teacher would come in handy, to tell you if you’re too low or too high on your bend. Oh, and the bends are always on those thinner strings, which you have to push against the thicker ones. I wonder if working my arms this hard counts as exercise (probably not).

Tremolo.
Eh, this one just sort of requires practice right now, but I find it challenging to angle my pick just right to do it correctly. It’s all a matter of doing it repeatedly, of course, but I can’t help but tense my arm when trying to do it. They tell you not to,  but it’s sort of something that can’t be helped. My picks are medium thickness, and I heard lighter picks are ideal for tremolo, but mine aren’t that heavy. I managed to do it properly for the lesson… and then, I could never get it right again. It was like a miracle that occurred out of nowhere to help me pass it so I could move on.

So… do I feel like a rockstar yet?
Not quite… but I can tell you honestly that when holding my guitar, I feel great. It’s satisfying to learn new things, to challenge yourself, to rise above something that before has been holding you back from achieving certain goals. Onward, to conquering rock!

Stay in tune!

Author Corner: The Book Marketing Sandtrap

Since publishing my first novel in February, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching how to market. There’s a plethora of information out there on how to do so, and all of the typical do’s and don’t’s. In doing so, I’ve learned a lot… and I’ve also found that some of the things I’ve learned, if not most, don’t help me in the least.

During my many months of research, I’ve come to understand something. One marketer tells you it’s best to do one thing, and another opposes this idea. It’s no wonder I’m getting so confused about what to do. Who is right and who is wrong in these cases when they so often contradict each other?

For example:

Marketer One: Spread yourself to as many forms of social media as you can! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, all of it. You need to be able to reach everyone because not everyone uses just plain Twitter, Facebook, or Google.
Marketer Two: Spend most of your time on your own website, and only use one form of social media at a time.

Marketer One: Blog about helpful topics that give people advice. Give them hints on how to improve their technique. If your blog doesn’t have helpful advice posts, no one will give a crap about it.
Marketer Two: Write about you, about your life, and make yourself seem more human so that people are interested in the fact that you are a real person. Showing people that you have a real personal life will make them more invested in your work. Don’t write negative reviews, though. In fact, don’t be negative at all.

Marketer One: Have a budget in which to spend on buying marketing tools and things such as ad space.
Marketer Two: Are you insane? You’re in the business to make some money, not throw it away when you could do it yourself! You can do it yourself… can’t you?

Marketer One: Spam your book title!
Marketer Two: Don’t do that! It makes you look like a robot and people will unfollow you faster than they can say STFU!

What’s most interesting is that many marketers believe mailing lists provide the best form of marketing overall. The problem, however, is that when trying to get an answer from anyone regarding what exactly to put in a mailing list, they just give me a half-assed “well you just have to do it” answer. Yeah, but how do I do it? What do you give people in a newsletter when you’re not important enough to have news? It’s a bit of a catch, isn’t it? If no one cares about you and your website in the first place, what’s going to make them join your mailing list?

Some say “give them something for free in return.” Okay, like what? I don’t have advice, because none of the advice provided for me does me any good. How can I tell them “sign up for some tips” if I have no tips? I’ve heard it might work to give people free samples of stories. If people cared about my stories, they’d be coming here already, wouldn’t they? Again, it’s a catch. You need a mailing list to hook people, but you need to hook people before starting a mailing list. What is one supposed to do when they have no idea what to do. Unfortunately, people have tales of their own misfortune, but their advice is for people already exceeding my own fame and fortune. “Go on radio shows,” I’ve heard. Why would anyone take a no-name author on their radio show? I need to be important first, but I can’t become important unless I do the show.

For an author, this is what it’s like to try to understand marketing. Okay, for an author like me. Some have it easy. They find their golden egg and milk it for all its worth. Some of us don’t have that golden egg. Some of us are just really, really bad at marketing ourselves. I can tell you a novel-length story about certain characters and the life they inhabit, but I have no idea how to tell you that book is worth reading. In my view, if it’s not a famous enough work, I don’t believe it’s good enough. People want to read popular things.

And so, I sit in the sandtrap, waiting to find my own egg. One of these days, it’ll pop out from under me in the form of giant flashing banners and desperation.

Manga Studio Versus Photoshop

I’ve recently made a switch to Manga Studio for my comic-style artwork. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with it. I didn’t have much high hopes for it at the start, but when using the features for inking artwork, I fell in love right away.

Usually, I use Photoshop for my artwork. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Photoshop– in fact, it’s one of the greatest programs for an artist. My issue with it, however, is it’s lack of versatility when it comes to inking. The pen in Photoshop is not very user-friendly, in my opinion, and using a brush to ink… well, that’s just time-consuming and frankly, frustrating. Photoshop is by far better when it comes to it’s functionality with layers and abilities to blend colors, but it’s also more of a hassle to create comic book panels in Photoshop than it is in Manga Studio.

Manga Studio, much to my relief, had various options when it came to pens. I love my inking lines to have a “tapered edge” look to them. It looks cleaner, in my opinion. There is a pen you can choose to use called “For Effect” pen that offers this automatically without having to change a whole bunch of settings like you do in Photoshop. I eventually chose not to use them in Photoshop when trying to ink my pencil work since it was way more hassle than it was worth, and looked clunky. In Manga Studio, it looks fluid, crisp, and really makes the black lines pop out.

I still prefer coloring in Photoshop over coloring in Manga Studio, however. I did try out the coloring for my latest drawing, the one featured here, to give it a shot to see how well colors mixed and faded. While I was able to give my brush soft edges, there’s definitely an ease-of-use (at least, in my opinion) when coloring in Photoshop. First, using the Alt key to use the eyedropper. That saves me a multitude of headaches. I don’t know if you can map the eyedropper to a key in Manga Studio, but if I can, I’m definitely doing it. Second, I find brush sets easier to find for Photoshop than for Manga Studio. Everyone’s come up with a million different kinds of sketching brushes for PS that come in handy for me.

Overall, Manga Studio wins out for me in terms of comic book art. The options you have to create panels and lines are much broader than in Photoshop. I mean, it is called Manga Studio. It’s sole purpose is to make comic drawing easier. I haven’t tackled a whole comic page in the program yet, but I hope to do so soon. It should be a lot of fun now that I have a program that can make it a bit easier on me.

Seeing how clean my art came out of the program, I look forward to starting a web-comic, which I hope to eventually make when my time isn’t as restricted. It gives me all new reasons to draw again. I’ve been considering quite a bit making one featuring characters of mine that star in my next novel, or to plot out a future graphic novel. So many opportunities.

Tale of an Amateur Guitarist: First Days With Rocksmith

As I’m typing now, my left shoulder is killing me because I’ve been playing my guitar for hours while standing. Obviously, this isn’t a good thing, but I’ve come to love playing guitar so much that I just can’t stop.

Of course, when you start getting shoulder pain, that is a time to put it away. Also, when my fingers burn and ache like nothing I’ve ever felt. No, I haven’t quite gone all Bryan Adams and played it “till my fingers bled,” but I’ve come insanely close to achieving that. By now, I believe my fingertips have permanent indents in them.

So Rocksmith. It’s a great game, but an even better teaching tool. Not only do I feel like I’m learning something important by playing, I’m having fun while I do it. I’ve only been at it for I believe three days, and already I’ve learned several power chords, I’m getting quicker at fret-switching, and the muscle memory for where my strings are is improving. Of course, I go beyond their recommended “hour a day” goal (many hours beyond it), but the time just melts away with the instrument in my hands. It’s so satisfying and rewarding to see myself getting better in just a few days. In a couple of months, there’s no telling what I’ll be able to achieve.

However, I’m not planning to go my entire guitar-playing career using only Rocksmith. There are lots of amazing videos and tutorials and tabs online to help guide me when I start getting better, and I plan to utilize every last bit of information out there to succeed. I’m not quitting, or giving up until I sound like a pro.

With that said, I have some miniscule advice for anyone else who is new to Rocksmith.

1) Play the Guitarcade. Play, play, play the Guitarcade. I can’t stress this enough. After learning a few of the lessons provided in the game on how to play frets and use other techniques, I went straight to the games before trying any song. If it’s one thing I feel improves my technique, it’s the games. On top of that, they are so insanely fun. Learning songs is fun, too, but I’ve found that after spending a good amount of time playing the mini-games, I was better at playing the songs.

2) Don’t press your strings too hard. It may sound good coming off the guitar itself, but it registers as a sharp note in the game if you do it. It’s a good way to train you to ease up on that pressure and relax. And you need to in order to play a song.

3) Don’t play for hours on end like I do. Ow.

If you can, get the PC version. That’s the version I have, and for PC, you can install custom songs, which you can get from Customs Forge.
Learn how to install custom songs Here.
Search for songs to download Here

You can install customs on Xbox and PS3, but it’s a lot harder if you’re not accustomed to modding.

The more I play Rocksmith, the more I’ll have to say. Stay in tune!

Tale of an Amateur Guitarist: My First Electric (and How it Came Into My Possession)

Over many years, I’ve wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but my intrigue was heightened in recent months when my brother-in-law told me about this little thing called “Rocksmith.” The way he described it made it sound like it was Guitar Hero… that actually taught you how to play a real instrument, rather than a piece of plastic. Perfect, I thought. I love music. I love games. I want to learn how to play a new instrument. I want to learn how to play a new game. The protagonist in my current novel is a guitarist– his guitar is one of his few passions in life, other than the person he eventually falls in love with. Writing that character really made me want to give it a shot myself. What was holding me back was the fact that I didn’t own a guitar.

“So get one,” I told myself. “Uh, after you make more money first,” I replied. Yeah, believe it or not, a guitar costs money. Sometimes, a lot of it. I was set on getting an Ibanez for my first guitar, as I’ve heard many good things about that brand, and I’ve also heard that some models make great beginner guitars that will last you through intermediate playing over the years. So I went on Craigslist and looked for one in the area, one that I could pick up.

Two of the first guitars I checked out happened to be sold already, and the seller left the ads up on the site. Already feeling a tad dismayed, I started looking for another. I found an Ibanez GIO GRX40 for seventy-five bucks (if you’re not familiar with guitar pricing, that is a steal). It’s in beautiful condition, looks almost brand new, and it’s fully functional. The guitar itself seems to have no problems (so far). Buying the guitar, however, is a story to remember.

First off, the seller was a pawn shop twenty minutes away from us. I don’t have anything against pawn shops per se, but the one I purchased my first guitar at happened to be one hell of an interesting place right from the get go, and not necessarily in a positive way. As soon as me and my husband arrived and pulled into the parking area behind the shop, we saw a young man standing outside talking on the phone, in an elevated voice. Not quite yet screaming, mind you, but whatever conversation he happened to be having was clearly a stressful one. Already a little wary, me and my husband stepped out of the car and headed for the entrance. The man speaking in a raised voice was now quite literally screaming at the top of his lungs. The subject matter was questionable, but it revolved around something to do with the person on the receiving end “knowing a bunch of lazy kids” and he wasn’t sure what to say or do about it (other than yell– really, really loud).

My husband and I passed each other disturbed glances, as even as we passed by the fellow, he continued to holler into his cell phone, even after meeting our gaze. Come to find out, I spoke to this gentleman on the phone no more than thirty minutes beforehand, the very one I asked if the guitar was still available in their shop. As I’ve said earlier, I was set on buying this guitar because it was exceptionally cheap for what it was. The guitar is damn fine, sounds great, and even getting it at a hundred would have been practically snatching it.

Gio GRX40 on Ultimate Guitar


What my new baby looks like

So, going into the pawn shop, I already knew I wanted to purchase the thing. I know how pawn shops work. You walk into one, and any broker within immediately lights up with joy and treats you like you’re their favorite customer, despite whether or not they know you. This shop was no different. However, at this particular store, the air was badly stirred because of Sir Screams-a-Lot, and when he reentered the store after his lengthy throat-busting contest, the other men dwelling inside had the sense to talk him down while in my presence and keep him from panting. “How can I help ya?” asked one of them, diverting my attention from the dramatic episode that had unfolded before me.

“I was interested in purchasing your GIO Ibanez that was up on Craigslist.”

He proceeded to ask me which one I was talking about, referring to the color schemes of the various guitars on the wall. I told him it was the one in red and white. The funny thing is, I had this exact same exchange with the young man that was yelling earlier. I had called the shop prior to visiting to ensure the thing was still available, and when I asked if it was, there was a long pause before he asked me: “What color is it?” I took this for what it was; that maybe they didn’t know a lot about guitars. They don’t need to, really. I’m the one buying, and I know I’m getting it for a very good price. In the shop, they also had a B.C. Rich Warlock, a Reynolds, and a couple other Ibanezs. They were cheap, but over my budget. The guitar I did end up with is perfect, anyhow, especially for the price. As for how I knew it was McScreamy I was speaking to on the phone beforehand, he confirmed it when I mentioned the GIO. “Oh, you called earlier!” His mood was lighter by this point, which I was really, really thankful for. Actually, he was quite nice to me. Very polite man. People are interesting.

When I told the man dealing with me the color of the specific guitar, he suddenly became an expert on it. “Ooooh! Special Edition.” Then he fans me a “are you impressed with me?” look. I made no remark, though I was amused. He takes it down for me to check out, which I do. I notice right away that all of the strings are loosened. He explains this to me before I can question it. “I loosened the strings because sometimes guys will come into the shop, ask to see a guitar, play on it for thirty minutes, then leave without buying anything.” I told him that they might have been trying to “relive the glory days” and play in front of a free audience. He laughed and said “maybe they should buy it and relive them at home.” I was inclined to agree.

The guitar didn’t come with a strap, but it did include a free case, which was a nice touch. I ask him if I can plug it into an amp to test the sound of the strings. He allows me to do so. After tightening them up, I give them a strum to see if they aren’t faulty. Hearing no problems, I told him everything sounds good and I’m ready to buy. He tries to sell me an amp, but I’m going to have Rocksmith soon, so I don’t need one.

In the background as I’m doing all of this, the other men are still chatting with their buddy, telling him “they can see the vein in his forehead popping out,” and mentioning that his family always gives him problems. I have to admit, I was at the point where I also wanted to ask the young man if he was all right. While deciding ultimately on purchasing it, he told me that when I “make it big” to remember the little guys that sold me my first guitar. I assured him that I would never forget this encounter.

As my skill progresses, I’ll be keeping a journal here on my site on how I’m doing. I’ve already gotten past step one: buying the guitar. Now it’s time to order Rocksmith, a strap, and some new picks, and really learn what makes rock music so incredibly great.

The guitar in action (note: this is not me playing. Yet!)

When Art Isn’t Fun Anymore… and What to do to Fix It

For a long time, drawing hasn’t been fun for me. While I can draw, and if I work really hard at it, I can do it well, I’ve been lacking the motivation and desire to do it for some time now. For some reason, drawing and painting are the only areas where I feel this tremendous hopelessness. Challenges in writing don’t stop me from writing. Challenges in games don’t stop me from trying again and again until I get it right. Challenges in life are things I shake my fist at and try something new. I love to learn new skills and teach myself new things. Art in particular has been nothing more than a tedious affair for years, something I do only because I know I can, and thus, do it in cases when I have to, rather when I want to, such as for book covers. It isn’t laziness, nor is it because I don’t like challenges. It’s become work, and nothing more.

A lot of things can cause this to happen. I tend to start projects only with the intent to finish them by the end of the day. If I think an art project will take me several days, I’m fed up already, as I’ve already got five different types of things I’m juggling at all times. Writing is work, but it’s still fun for me to tell a story and do so with good grammar, and books can take up to a year and a half for me to complete. Editing is fun for me, too, always has been. With drawing and painting, it’s a gigantic chore, even when I’m drawing something I like, and I think this is because I strain myself way too hard when I’m not feeling in the mood because I need to get “work” done. Cover artwork is “work” that supports the novel beyond it. As you can imagine, getting bored with drawing my covers can cause problems as an author. If the cover looks terrible, a lot of people are going to judge it.

Obviously, this is something that bothers me, because as a child, I once adored drawing, and had fun, no matter what I drew. I would draw entire comics and color them, filling entire sketchbooks with panels and artwork. I also used to have a more fun “cartoony” style than I do now. More often than not I think to myself that I want to go back to a cartoony style, but then I think how much I prefer my art to look “realistic,” and thus, I never know how to draw my pictures, and they turn into some odd combination of both, and sloppy. I’ve stopped thinking about what’s fun in art and more about what I’ve convinced myself is “acceptable.” I’ve hit sort of a wall in terms of how art feels to me. I “like” to draw, but I don’t want to draw. It feels, shamefully, like a waste of time and energy now.

So, I’ve begun to feel like I should “start over,” re-inspire myself, maybe find a particular model I’d like to draw a portrait of, or start practicing my figure drawing. There are lots of great things out there I could draw, and the idea of doing it again is exciting, even though it bores me now. To get back in the habit of it would be difficult, though. Growing up, I drew every single day and got better over time. Now I draw maybe once every couple of months, or less. The mood doesn’t strike me as much as it once did. It helped when I was still in school, since I would draw in class and would get my necessary daily sketching done. I have to admit that I was a better artist back when I had a passion for it. Even when having a better idea of how to interpret anatomy and shading now, my art had life back when I was in high school. It had a soul. You could tell I cared about every little thing I drew. It saddens me to look at them now, remembering where I was and how much I enjoyed it when drawing it.

Now that I’ve addressed the issue, I’m leaving a bit of advice and vow to myself.

I think going back to the basics of art will make it fun again. As experienced as I am, I never stop learning, and learning should be fun. The problem now, though, is finding time to draw in between working on novels and chainmaille. I really should be making time for it, but my novels are my priority. If there is something to “work” on, it needs to be the current draft of one of my books. I care a lot about my stories and want to perfect them to the point of near-exhaustion. I want to feel that way about art again.

I’ve mentioned to my husband that I wanted to draw portraits of people again. Here’s hoping my model jumps out at me soon and inspires me to get back to it! I want to draw because I want to again.

Edit: I’ve composed a second part to this blog post, complete with a link to some helpful videos and tips from myself.
Check it out here

The Perfect “Poor Man’s” Standing and Treadmill Desk

For those who don’t know, I do a lot of writing, and a lot of crafting. It’s my job, essentially. Up until now, I’ve been sitting while working. Unfortunately, I learned that the more I sit, the more years I’m shaving off of my lifespan, which, unlike this new desk, is the complete opposite of “cool.” Fretting, like the anxious person I am, I became determined to try one of these newfangled “standing desks” that have swept… well crept… onto the market. The first thing I noticed was that a few slabs of wood elevated off of the ground with no chair costs twice as much as a normal cheap flat desk does. Why? Beats me. Maybe because they only want rich people to exercise so we can differentiate between rich and poor at first glance (because we need more ways to do that, right?).

Not fitting into the “I’ve got tons of money to blow on wood and steel legs” category, and really adoring DIY projects, I looked into other options. As it turns out, there are much, much cheaper alternatives, and in my opinion, way cooler ones. So before you dump about three hundred bucks on a standing desk, check out what I did:

Hey, you can see my house from there!

Corny jokes aside, so far, this has been a bangin’ awesome setup, and it only cost me sixty bucks, as opposed to the usual hundreds that actual standing desks go for. Not only is this sucker incredibly sturdy (it can withstand about 1000 lb. load), I think it looks a lot cooler in silver wires than it does in traditional desk form. It’s twice the size of my old desk, and I have a lot more room to move about. The only drawback is that my feet are really tired. I did not get a comfort mat for this because I plan to get a treadmill for it! A treadmill that, at most, will cost me about two hundred dollars. A traditional treadmill desk that you can buy from the market ranges in the thousands. So, two hundred and sixty bucks for a treadmill desk is… pretty damn sweet for those of us who want to have the healthy option, and don’t have a Swiss bank account or rich mommies and daddies.

So, what is it exactly, and where can I get one to turn into my own standing desk?
Good question!
I bought this bad boy from Wal-Mart. It’s simply just a 5-tier wire storage shelf. The shelves are adjustable, so you can move them to the level of your eyes and hands, and once connected, they feel pretty damn firm. I found it in the home section, in the shelving isle. If your Wal-Mart store doesn’t carry them (or you have no idea WTF Wal-Mart is), there are other stores that do. I saw one at OfficeMax that looked identical to the one I’m using. Definitely look into getting one that’s especially sturdy, that can hold lots of weight, especially if you have more stuff. I don’t really have a lot.

As far as the treadmill goes, I’m going to post updates on that as it occurs. I am definitely planning to purchase one, since I heard that moving is better than just standing there. And I get to lose weight in the process!

So, if you’ve been wanting to check out a standing desk, and/or treadmill desk, this might be the option for you.

Just Married – Chainmaille Shop Re-opened!

I finally took the time necessary to get my business information sorted out. There are still more things that need to be done, more supplies to order, but in the meantime, my bracelets are back up for sale!

Check out my shop at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/thornmaille

As it says in the title, I just got married on the seventh. Naturally, I’ve been busy as hell with that, but now that things have settled down, I can get back to work. I’ve been actively writing, mostly working on the series I’d like to release, and plan to craft wedding rings for me and my mate 😀

Also in celebration of my marriage, I plan to soon do a promotion for my book. What kind of promotion? That depends on what I can afford at the time. It will likely be a promo for the Kindle edition, and I hope to do it within the next week. Stay tuned!

I’ve made another Captive Inverted Round Maille bracelet recently which I plan to post for sale. More news on that as it occurs.

I’ve had a growing interest in sculpting. I’d love to learn how to sculpt statues. Depending on my income, that will be the next thing I learn how to do.