Colorized Cover

Since Ana Eloise is not actually a redhead, and my PhotoShop skills have improved a fair bit since I made the original cover, I decided to color her hair black. I also decided to add some reflected light into her jacket and pants to better blend her into the scene.

The original cover is on the left and the new one on the right. Much of the coloring is subtle, but I think it works well.

I’m not actually going to upload the new cover until the second book comes out (hopefully before the end of the year), but I thought it would be good to revise it a bit to make it match the look and feel of the Eyes of Arcadia cover. Here’s a sneak peak at the current cover for the second book…

Eyes_of_Arcadia_Black_Hair

Covers Reimagined

As usual I’ve been procrastinating when it comes to writing, but at least this time my procrastination resulted in some nicely reimagined covers for a great series written by a fellow Indie author, John Hook.

I highly recommend the Quentin Case series. There are a total of four books, and they’re each a quick and fun read. They’ve got a great hard-boiled pulp vibe, and the main character reminds me of some of my favorites from Roger Zelazny.

You can find them all here on John’s Amazon Author Page:

Books by John Hook

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read them for free, but even at $2.99 a piece they’re a real bargain.

A NaNoWriMo Win

Another NaNoWriMo is coming to an end. This one has been a really productive one for me, and has helped me to come within spitting distance of the end of The Eyes of Arcadia, the sequel to The Sixth Seal. I officially validated my novel on the NaNoWriMo site today to claim my winner certificate. I don’t really care about the winner goodies this year, it was more about the sense of accomplishment and getting back into a daily writing habit.

As it stands, The Eyes of Arcadia clocks in at thirty-nine chapters and a little over 82,000 words. That’s roughly the equivalent of 328 pages give or take, but when it’s all said and done I expect the rough draft will come in somewhere around 100,000 words and forty-eight chapters. That’ll make it quite a bit longer than the first book. There was definitely more stuff to pack in this book since it explores the origin of Ana’s connection to the Eye of Jupiter and has her traveling back to her home world of Glaxenes and to the eternal city, Arcadia.

The nice thing is that I have a detailed outline all the way to the end, so I know exactly where the story is going and how to get to the finish line. I’m expecting to be completely done with the rough draft sometime next week. Of course there will still be extensive editing and rewriting to do before it’s ready for anyone else’s eyes, but that’s part of the fun. The rough draft is frantic and exhilarating and brings so many emotions to the surface. That stage of the writing really gets the blood pumping, whereas the editing is all about finesse and making the prose either lyrical or pace setting depending on what the scene calls for. That’s the part where I balance the action, reaction and rest cycle so that it’s hopefully an enjoyable experience for the reader.

This book has had a lot of starts and stops, so I’m glad to finally see it to its end. Quite often it was difficult and trying, but more often it was a rewarding experience that further ignited my desire to write. I’m anxious to finish this one so I can switch gears and work on my first Ash Banyan novel, but I’ll also be looking forward to returning to Ana Eloise for the third, and likely final book in the series. I think my idea for the last book will bring the whole thing to a nice conclusion and leave that world in a good place. Tentatively I’m thinking the last book may flash back to Ana’s life as Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, and possibly a brief time when she was Anna Vasa, a Swedish Princess in the late 1500’s.

Well, that’s about it for the time being. I should probably get back to writing now, the voices in my head are calling.

NaNoWriMo

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I know what you’re going to say…but, Josh, you just showed us the nifty little Bluetooth keyboard you paired with your existing iPad Mini so that you wouldn’t be tempted to buy yet another writing device. Obviously I have a problem, so sue me. Some people smoke, some people drink,  some people eat too much, and some people have a tech addiction. What can I say? I don’t smoke.

Anyway, I actually have a couple of really good excuses…er uh, reasons to buy this particular piece of obsolete technology. Obsolete you say? Why would I buy a piece of obsolete machinery, especially the kind I had previously owned and then sold? Well, I’ll tell you why, and quit looking at me like that. Don’t play coy with me, you know you were secretly judging me.

Any-who, like I was saying, I once again bought a wonderfully obsolete AlphaSmart 3000 because it’s the kind of singular purpose device that the world used to make before we became so obsessed with making every device we use into some kind of unnecessary Swiss Army Knife-esque (shut up, I know it’s a made up word) abhorrent thingy-ma-bob. The kind of abhorrent machines that do a million things at once, but none of them particularly well. The AlphaSmart, originally designed for use by children in classrooms, does one thing exceptionally well. It allows a person so inclined to bash out words free from distraction and untethered from the seductive wiles of the interwebs.

Put simply, you turn it on and type. When you are finished typing, you connect a simple usb cable to it and your computer and open a text file and click the send button on the Alphie (Writer slang for an AlphaSmart). Then you sit back and watch as this simple, sturdy and fun little device spits out your text character by character into the file on your computer. It’s brilliant and I love it. It has a low power screen that lets you see just enough to correct mistakes without overthinking and letting self editing get in the way of that vital first draft. It also runs for about seven hundred hours (yes, you read that right, 700 hours) on three double A batteries, and has roughly a one hundred page capacity.

The Alphie is also unbelievably rugged, and since I only paid twenty dollars on eBay for it (that includes shipping), I won’t be out a bunch of money if something happens to it, unlike a laptop…or even my wonderful iPad Mini with the BlueTooth keyboard. The only sad thing about AlphaSmarts is that the company no longer makes them. Luckily you can still find tons of them on eBay and since they’re so rugged most of them look relatively new despite their age. Seriously though, if I ever win the lottery, I think I might just call up the company and see if I can buy their intellectual property and start making them again myself. There are a ton of writers who swear by them to this day and would probably kill to be able to buy a new one. Even the wildly successful James Scott Bell uses one. There’s even a lovely group on Flickr of all places devoted to the wonders of the AlphaSmart.

But I digress, as usual. The main reason I bought another Alphie is that I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. That’s short for National Novel Writing Month for all of you not in the know. Which brings me to another contradiction. Instead of using NaNoWriMo to work on my new mystery series, I decided to use the time to finish the first draft of the sequel to The Sixth Seal. I know, I already said I was going to let that sit for a time while I took a different path, but then I changed my mind. Again, so sue me.

I’m still very much into writing mysteries, but that’s not the kind of thing I want to rush through in the mad dash that is NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in one month). Mysteries are complex creatures with twists and turns and red herrings…and maybe blue ones too if you’re really talented. In other words, I want to take my time with the mysteries and get all of the details right. The sequel on the other hand has already been playing out in my mind for the last few years. I just needed the right kick in the pants to get through the first draft and NaNoWriMo is the perfect kick in the pants. Plus, I had a reader email me and tell me how much they enjoyed the first book and how they were eagerly awaiting the second. So essentially I was guilted into it. In truth the characters had been guilting me for quite some time, so I decided I’d better get it done. What better way to do that than with a new, used, wonderfully obsolete AlphaSmart 3000 I ask you?

A new use for some aging tech

I tend to be kind of a device hoarder, especially when it comes to writing. I have an array of computer keyboards in my possession at all times, and I’m obsessed with mobile writing platforms despite the fact that I rarely do any writing away from my home office. So when I got the bug to go online and find another used Alphasmart on eBay, I paused for a moment and thought about whether I needed one or not, and if I might already have something that would serve the purpose if I did decide to pop over to a coffee shop to write next to a gaggle of hipsters… or should that be a horde of hipsters? Anyway…

Then I remembered my old first generation iPad mini that I’d used nearly every day for years until it became a little long in the tooth for some of the applications I wanted to run. It’s certainly not up to streaming high quality video, and I’ve recently switched back to a Kindle for reading, so it was just sitting idly by collecting dust on my desk and biding its time.

Well today its time has come. I’ve paired it with this very inexpensive yet amazingly well made little Bluetooth keyboard from Nulaxy. Supposedly it can last up to 60 days between charges and the case also acts as a nifty little stand to hold a tablet, such as my unflappable iPad mini.

iPad_with_Nulaxy

I’ve paired it with the iOS version of Scrivener, so now I can write on the go in my favorite writing program and then sync the changes to my Mac through Dropbox.

Admittedly I probably won’t use it that often, but it will be convenient when I do, and it also saved me from buying a larger more expensive device that ultimately would have been another dust collector.

Come to think of it, I do need to take one of our cars in for an oil change in the morning. Maybe I’ll take the iPad and my new keyboard with me and get some writing done. I actually finished a complete detailed outline of book one of the Ash Banyan mystery series, so I can finally get to work on chapter one. See, I told you this new device would come in handy…never doubted myself for a minute.

A Cast of Characters

A lot of authors use character sheets to detail important things about their characters in a table or an organized list, but that just seems too clinical for me, and on top of that, I don’t like to over-describe characters, at least not their physical appearance. I prefer to leave much of the characters looks up to the reader’s imagination. So I usually write character descriptions up in dialogue and prose as though they are first being introduced in the story. Oftentimes, however, I do this as I’m writing. In other words, I don’t necessarily write anything down about a character until the first time I introduce them in a story.

That’s typically worked pretty well for me so far, but with mysteries I think you really need to have a solid working knowledge of your characters before you start writing the story. That way you can know what their motives are, what their backstory is.

I’ve already written backstories for all of the characters in my new mystery series, but I also went ahead and wrote their introductions as though I was writing them into the story for the first time. So I thought it would be fun to share those introductions here. They may change a bit once the story is completed, but these will serve as my basis for each member of the cast. Keep in mind that most of these descriptions are seen through the eyes of our main character, Ash Banyan.

So without further ado…

Ash Banyan…

Ash Banyan hunched over the steering wheel much the same way he’d hunched over the desk in the cramped cubicle he’d worked in for the better part of the last twenty years. He pushed his dark, thick-framed glasses up the bridge of his long nose, catching the brief reflection of his muddy brown eyes in the instrument cluster of the old Ford truck. His palms were slick with sweat, partially from the poor state of the air conditioner, but if he had to be honest with himself, mainly because of his fear of heights. On top of all that, he was pulling a twenty-six foot trailer over steep passes through the Santiam forest on less than stellar tires with a temperature gauge that had just moved one tick passed the midway point. In all the years he’d owned the truck, the needle had always stayed comfortably in the middle, much like Ash himself.

Lizzie Banyan…

Lizzie Banyan leaned into her lithe frame, holding her left arm tightly to her side with her right. She bit at her bottom lip and stared furtively at the ground, her eyes seemingly aware of everything around her while doing their best to avoid contact with anyone. An errant strand of dark hair fell across her face causing her to flick her head ever so quickly before resuming her previous stance.

Ash knew his daughter could be very outspoken, and oftentimes he’d find himself wishing she would stop talking long enough to take a really deep breath, but now was not one of those times and it troubled him to see her so troubled.

Julia Banyan…

Julia was the antithesis of Ash. She was comfortable in her skin, adventurous, and wore a perpetual smile, a smile that was made all the more beautiful by those impossibly big green eyes, eyes that saw right into the heart of whoever she was looking at. She pulled her strawberry blonde hair into a quick ponytail as she breezed past him into the tiny trailer. She studied the place for a moment and he was actually surprised to see that she seemed to approve.

Her smile widened for the briefest of moments. “It’s about time Ash,” she said.

He detected the sadness in her statement, just a hint that anyone who didn’t know her would have missed. Ash, however, knew all too well the reason for her sadness. After all the years of her prodding him into getting out and living life, he was finally doing it, the only problem was that it was too late for her.

Despite that, he knew she was too good of a person to be truly resentful of him. She had obviously found happiness without him, and she seemed to be happy that he’d found a measure of it himself.

Eva Rogers…

Eva Rogers was the kind of woman Georgia’s father would’ve said was from good stock. In fact, it only took one look at her to see she’d grown up on a farm. She was a handsome woman, but Georgia thought most of that handsomeness came from her strength and determination. She was the kind of woman who’d look right at home on a tall horse with her wild red hair sticking out from underneath a cowboy’s hat.

In the relatively short time Georgia had known Eva, she’d never known her to wear a stitch of makeup, and her hands were always rough from hard work, but there was a natural beauty to her… and a fire in her eyes. The kind of fire that couldn’t be put out, at least not easily. Although Eva had never confided in Georgia what she was up to, Georgia had been around long enough to know she was a woman on a mission. That’s why Georgia knew something bad had happened to her, something very bad.

Kip Rogers…

Ash didn’t like the look of Kip, but then he didn’t really like the look of any of the boys Lizzie had brought home. They all seemed to be like shelter dogs, or causes as he thought of them. Ash was all for causes, but he’d always hoped his daughter would find a boy who didn’t need so much work, a boy who came from a good home, a boy who knew where he was going. The more Ash thought about it though, the less he was sure he was the best judge. After all, he’d thought he’d known where he was going.

Kip mumbled a greeting and offered Ash a clammy hand. How in the world could a young man be so cold? Maybe it was the Oregon weather. Maybe the boy’s brain was diverting as much blood as it could to itself in the feeble hopes of making him capable of intelligent conversation. Ash kicked himself for being such a jerk. If his daughter had heard his thoughts, she would’ve given him the look and walked away in disgust.

The boy had the same orange hair as his mother, but it was cut short and looked as though it had never been combed. He had a smattering of freckles that drew a line between his eyes and his mouth. His hazel eyes flitted from here to there like an ever vigilant squirrel, always aware there was something out there bigger than he was. In truth, Ash actually felt a little sorry for the kid. He could see he was deeply worried about his mother.

Georgia May Evans…

Ash thought Georgia May had at one time been a much larger and more imposing woman. She was smaller in frame now, but he doubted she was any smaller in stature. Georgia May’s skin reminded Ash of the sepia photographs he’d stared at in wide-eyed wonder as a child in his grandmother’s den. It was rich and deep and hinted at her years without giving away the precise number. She was worn like one of those old photographs. Ash imagined her as one of the stones in the McKenzie, smoothed by countless years of swift moving currents, the years of teaching and fighting for her place had worn some of the edges away to reveal the beautiful polished stone beneath.

She was the kind of woman who commanded respect without asking for it, but made you feel welcome if you minded your p’s and q’s, but it was her eyes that he couldn’t look away from. They were dark and knowing and they held the expanse of her wisdom, and they could see right through Ash’s carefully constructed defenses.

Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Wembley…

Chuck Wembley didn’t look like a Chuck or a Charles to Ash. Ash imagined that the name Chuck was the kind of name one earned after a lifetime of comradery or back-breaking work, likewise, Charles didn’t really fit the man either. He seemed a bit small for a sheriff, sure he was fit and looked as though he could handle himself, but Ash had always thought Sheriffs wore wide hats and big belts with equally big belly’s, silly now that he thought about it, but still, nothing about Chuck seemed to say Sheriff. 

First of all, the man appeared entirely too clean to be a Sheriff patrolling the wilds of the Oregon back country. He was dark-haired, clean shaven, blue eyed, and wore the kind of clothes that would be more at home in an office. Even the man’s smile was something out of a magazine, but despite the seemingly perfect exterior Ash could sense an uneasiness just below the surface. It was like Chuck knew he didn’t belong where he was, and that he knew that any minute now everyone else would know it as well.

Gareth Steward…

Gareth pressed his warm hand into Ash’s and shook it heartily, not too firm and not too soft, a perfectly inviting hand shake. Ash was immediately drawn to the man. His brown eyes were warm and mirrored his own, and his smile and laugh were infectious. Ash estimated from what he already knew about his new co-worker that he must be in his early forties, but his lean, toned build and his thick, curly brown hair gave him a youthful appearance. He was the kind of guy who probably still got carded when he bought a six pack at the grocery store.

Ash liked the man at once and was relieved to know that at least this part of his new life was shaping up nicely. He’d been worried when he took the job about fitting in with his new co-workers, but Gareth made him feel completely welcome and wholly relaxed.

James Ritchie…

Ash instantly felt nervous upon meeting his new boss. He looked like a grown-up version of the kind of guys that made Ash’s high school years a living hell. James Ritchie towered over him, sizing him up with dark, beady eyes and smirking under a thick umber mustache. His smirk seemed to intensify as he squeezed Ash’s hand to the point of cracking.

Ash imagined the guy had previously been a high school football coach, or a drill sergeant. The guy even wore cammo from head to toe and black combat boots that were probably heavier than the police issue battering ram like flashlight that hung at his hip.

The man pulled him a little closer, his grip ratcheting up. “Hopefully there’s more to you than there appears to be.”

Ash smiled weakly and nodded. How on Earth does a person even respond to a statement like that? Not that it mattered since Ash had suddenly lost his ability to speak.

Bill Kennedy…

Bill Kennedy looked like the kind of man his mother would’ve like back in her hippy days, or so he imagined. He had the look of someone who either never ate quite enough, or had the metabolism of a squirrel. Ash thought it was most likely the former as the man had mannerisms more akin to a sloth than a squirrel.

Bill’s blue eyes floated around never quite focusing on anything, but seemingly looking for something all the same. It was a lighter apparently. He smiled and then chuckled to himself when he’d finally found it. He pushed his long sandy hair out of his face unsuccessfully as he fumbled with a cigarette.

“So, you been living here long?” Ash asked.

Bill glanced around the trailer as though that was answer enough, and in truth, for Ash, it was. The place was the kind of disaster it took a person years to create, even the most slovenly sort, which Ash assured himself Bill most certainly was.

Mare O’Connor…

The evening light filtering through the mini-blinds gave Mare O’connor’s auburn hair the look of a slow smouldering fire, embers glowing in strategic places, brightening and fading in succession. Ash was immediately drawn to her, but he did his best to hide that fact from the lovely woman sitting across from him on a chair that looked a little too elegant for a cabin.

“So how are you settling in Mr. Banyan?” She crossed her long legs and sat back in the chair. Her voice dripped with southern charm, she was definitely not a native Oregonian he thought to himself.

He felt his face redden and hoped the slatted light would make it less obvious. He squirmed uncomfortably on the too soft cushions of her sofa like a fly in a web. “Ash, please call me Ash.”

She nodded daintily in acknowledgment, her delicate rose-colored lips forming an all too knowing smile.

Ash rubbed at the back of his neck. “It’s great.. er.. I mean.. I’m settling in just fine. You’re lovely… I mean your place here is lovely.” He could feel more blood rushing to his cheeks. “The RV Park, I mean. It’s so lovely here tucked in the forest.” Ash felt like kicking himself again. How many times could a man use the word lovely without looking like a bumbling idiot? One time, he suspected.

Gabby the Beagle…

Gabby rested her head on his knee, watching intently with those stereotypical puppy dog eyes, hoping against hope that Ash would save at least a tiny bit of his turkey sandwich for her. Against his better judgment he gave in and tore off a sizeable chunk of his lunch in the hopes it would keep her busy while he finished the remainder of the sandwich. It did not in fact keep her busy. She swallowed the whole thing in less than a second and then rested her head once again on his knee.  He knew it was the beginning of the end. Despite her horrendous table manners, he’d already fallen for her.

A New Direction

I’ve decided to take a break from science fiction and fantasy writing for a while to pursue a mystery series I’ve been mulling around for quite some time. More precisely, it will be a cozy mystery series set around the Santiam forest near Salem, Oregon featuring an amateur sleuth who works as a cartographer by day. I’ve always loved reading mysteries, especially cozies, and I’m a big fan of the television variety as well. I’m currently reading and watching Death in Paradise, a fun mystery series set on the fictional island of Saint Marie in the Caribbean starring a quintessentially English Detective Inspector thrust into the midst of a less than orthodox local police force.

The idea for my mystery series kept popping in my head after I completed a Twin Peaks like noir mystery called Trapper’s Glen that I released in serial form. I’d initially planned, and did for a time, to get to work on the sequel to my science fiction novel, The Sixth Seal. Despite loving those characters tremendously, outlining the second book completely, and writing nearly half of it, I kept hitting a brick wall. The mystery characters kept intruding on my thoughts, suggesting mysteries and motives, but I kept trying to silence them telling myself that I needed to finish my science fiction series first. Unfortunately, all that accomplished was to make me stop writing entirely. So I decided if I was deadlocked and wasn’t going to write anyway, I might as well give in and let the mysteries have free reign for a while. At least I’d be writing again.

So that’s where things stand today. I’ve created some interesting characters and outlined a delightful mystery, and while the overall tone will be ‘cozy’, it will delve into some personal territory and explore themes important to me at this point in my life. I even have a couple of ideas for sequels. So far the writing is flowing well, and I hope to keep that momentum to complete the first book by the end of the upcoming NanoWriMo. I’ll let you Google that yourself if you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what NanoWriMo is.

I plan on coming back to my science fiction series, but I don’t want to do it until my heart is in it. I’m afraid I won’t do the story justice if I write it now.

I’ll be using this site from now on to do all of my blogging and to announce my books. I’ve officially retired all of my other sites, including Intermittent Writing. It was a little sad, but honestly I hadn’t used them for quite some time, and I’m too distracted lately to keep up with more than one.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thanks for listening to me ramble on. I hope to be posting updates here about how the writing is going soon. I’ll also intersperse the content with some posts on how I write and the tools I use, much like I did on Intermittent Writing. This will also be where I post the cover reveal for the next book. If you know anything about me, you know I’ve actually already created it. I know, the cart before the horse and all, but I can’t help myself. Plus, it helps me visualize the end goal in my mind.

Wish me luck!