art

Colored Pencils Plus Photoshop Smudging Equals a Beautiful Image

I am not kidding or exaggerating one bit. I tried this technique and discovered how it would’ve resulted. And guess what? It succeeded.

I didn’t even realize that mixing different colors of the colored pencils would add more dimension and tones to my image below. The most amateurish part is the marks.

This is the photo I took with my phone. Now see the Photo-shopped image below.

Look at the difference. It’s as if a professional illustrated this.

You can see the different colors of the hair, skin, and shirt. Why did I choose blue for the background, you may ask? I felt it would contrast more and would represent positivity and happiness.

Smudging in Photoshop does wonders. I probably will keep up with coloring in colored pencils and smudging the hues in Photoshop.

It’s not that I will give up coloring digitally or painting traditionally. This will just be an additional technique.

You color with different colors in the same hue. You remain mindful of tints and tones based on where the area of light and shadows are. Then you take a picture and upload it digitally. Or you can scan it. Whatever works for you. Then you open it in Photoshop, click the smudge tool, and smudge away. That’s how you get dimension and not just flat colors.

You can make any subject you’d like. You could even do abstract drawings. Anything will work as long as you have fun.

fiction

The Deal: A Flash Fiction Piece

I had received a D on my science test. My teacher, Mrs. Wellington, had given me extra help prior. But for some reason, biology ended up a weakness of mine.

            I considered it strange since I had enjoyed studying animals growing up. I would read about them, talk about them, and beg my parents to take me to zoos and aquariums.

            I entered my house. My mom got off the phone.

            “Jade, we need to have a talk.”

            I sat with my mom.

            “You promised me straight A’s for all of ninth grade.”

            “I’m sorry,” I said.

            “I think I’m going to have to make you miss your class trip to Ocean Life Park.”

            “No!”

            “You want to have fun, you need to maintain good grades.”

            I covered my head.

            “All right, if you really want to go, here’s the deal. You get A’s in all your classes for a week. Plus, you do every chore exactly as I ask. No mistakes. If you do everything right, I will let you go on that trip. If not, you are going to miss the trip.”

            I gazed at my mom. “Deal.”

            “Good. Now can you wash the dishes, please?”

            “Yes.” I stood up and rinsed each one. My shirt got soaked along with my hair. Nevertheless, I continued.

            After drying the dishes, I went to my room and did my homework. My mom knocked on the door.

            “Yes?”

            She opened it. “Jade, you forgot a knife in the sink.”

            I gasped. “No, I… I couldn’t have.”

            “Come see for yourself.”

            Gulping, I followed my mom downstairs. We entered the kitchen and approached the sink. Yup—one butter knife remained.

            “I guess you’re going to kiss that trip goodbye.”

            “Mom, I’m sorry. I-I didn’t see it.”

            “We made a deal. We’re not going to break it.”

            The phone rang. My mom answered it. I stared and breathed. It couldn’t be my dad on the other line.

            “The trip is cancelled?” my mother asked.

            “No,” I said.

            My mother remained on the line.

            “Oh, okay.” She hung up. “Jade, your school trip to that ocean place has been canceled.”

“I knew it.”

“The deal is broken.”

“I sighed.”

“But we can consider going there as a family… for dad’s birthday.”

I grinned.

fiction

Friends for a Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I looked forward to my eighteenth birthday party. It would happen in two weeks. We would host a movie night at my house.

            I’d sent out the invitations yesterday via snail mail. Why? Because I didn’t want anyone to see who else had been invited.

            Now that might sound harsh. However, my best friends, Sophie and Danielle, had fought last week. Danielle had done something to Sophie that had led to Sophie blocking Danielle in every form of communication. Sophie had messaged me on Facebook saying that she never wanted to talk to Danielle again.

            I had said nothing. I mean—I was about to come of age. Why should an adult have to put up with that drama?

            I received a phone call from Sophie. Sighing, I answered.

            “Hey, Candace, I got your invitation to your party.”

            “Okay.”

            “You didn’t invite Danielle Josephson, did you?”

            I said nothing. I could not think of any answer that would keep Sophie from getting upset.

            “Candace, are you there?”

            “Yeah, I’m still here.”

            “So aren’t you going to answer my question?”

            “I… I…”

            “You invited her?”

            “Well, I’m friends with her too.”

            “Are you kidding me? She was driving me crazy.”

            “I’m sorry. But that’s not my problem.”

 “Candace, how could you?”

            “Well, I can’t un-invite her.”

            “Whatever. I’m busy that day, anyway.” Sophie hung up.

            I looked down. I should never have to choose between friends. I shared an equal level of friendships with both Sophie and Danielle.

            I received more messages. My other guests responded. Most said that they could come. A few said they were unsure.

            At least I had friends who cared about me as well as each other. Because this was the last time I could celebrate my birthday with them. Then we’d all go off to college.

            I focused on the others and suppressed Sophie and Danielle’s situation in my mind. If neither could come, that didn’t matter. Those who were willing to celebrate with me mattered more.

Writing

How I Wish I Could Write Several Novels at Once

Image from Pixabay

I’m an author and authors constantly write. However, I am weak at multi-tasking, even with writing. For years, I could only work on one novel at a time. But that meant only one publication every few years. And that is not very fair to fans or readers.

I’ve been doing research on writing more than one story at a time. Many writers can do it. Some do it because they have too many ideas floating in their heads. Others do it because they want to meet deadlines sooner, especially if they have agents.

I’ve tried many times but have failed… until now. I am working on two works at this time. Well, technically three as I am having one project edited. But this is a huge milestone for me. It’s not easy. I am glad that I started with a small step of only adding one extra project. There is a technique I read about somewhere called drafting. That is when you work on one story draft at a time with different projects. For example, you write a draft of story a. After you finish that draft, you do a draft for story b. Basically, you work on one story at a time, but go to another one after finishing a certain draft rather than spending a long time on just one story.

I am not really doing that, though. I have been working on my third novel for over three years, although the first two years were spent trying to figure out the story. I am now working on the third book and the first draft of my fourth book at the same time. Sometimes I am designating certain days for one story. Other times I am working on whichever I feel like.

If you want to work on more than one story at a time, I would definitely recommend you go for it. In fact, many big authors work on more than one book at a time. If you’re serious about publishing, then I would emphasize on this even more. If it’s traditional publishing, depending on the contract you have with an agent or publisher, it may work. However, traditional publishing takes longer, and you have no control over the process or time. If you’re self-publishing, you have total control over your projects, when you publish them, and the time it takes to publish. If you do Amazon KDP, you can choose a release date up to three months (I think) ahead if you choose the pre-order option.

The reason I want to work on more than one novel at a time and write faster is because I don’t want to keep people waiting. Plus, I don’t want my final installment to be ready when I’m, like, 40. Not that I have anything against publishing at that age (many authors are, at least, that age). Plus, my writing will likely be more mature by then. I just don’t know where I will be in life then. I’m only 25 after all.

My goal is to have my entire series published by my 30th birthday. No, I am not looking to become the youngest author with a full series. I just want to keep readers up to date more often. Plus, I have a better idea of where I’ll be in five years versus fifteen. I know I can make this work.

fiction

Fiona: A Flash Fiction Piece

I didn’t mean to hurt her. I should have known that this other girl had a disability. I realized that some people with disabilities did not respond well to yelling.

            The girl’s name was Fiona. Fiona had interrupted me with some thought going on inside her head while I’d talked to my friend, Juliette. She’d spoken about something that happened at a game she’d seen. She’d done it over and over again until I snapped at her, saying, “Fiona, stop it! You’re being so freaking annoying! Go away!”

            And right that second, Fiona had burst into tears. Another kid had said that Fiona had some disability. I had flushed after.

            I now sat at my desk and did my homework. For health class, we had to research a disability. I was assigned Asperger’s Syndrome.

            As I pulled up the Internet on my computer, I received a text message. It came from Juliette.

            Hey Mandy

            Fiona just told me she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome over the weekend. She was too afraid to tell you.

            I opened my mouth. I had not yet researched the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. But maybe that explained why she had had trouble with understanding my feelings. Why she had been desperate to get her thoughts out. Why she had cried when I’d yelled at her.

            When I did the research, I saw that people with Asperger’s can be eager to let their thoughts out as well as emotionally sensitive.

            After finishing my homework, I texted Juliette back.

            Tell Fiona I am sorry for yelling at her. Thanks.

            I sent the message. Hopefully, Fiona would forgive me.

art

Why I Draw with Pencils First, and Then Trace in Pen if Desired

Image from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, I was taught to draw in pencil first. Then trace it in pen if desired. And you know what? I think it was great advice. In fact, I still do that now these days… sometimes. To be honest, I haven’t been drawing that much recently.

Anyway, you know that pencils come with erasers. If you make a mistake, you erase that. There are also erasable pens. But I haven’t used those since, like, fifth grade.

Yes, if you make an error with a permanent pen, you can’t remove it. But you can put white-out over it. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

What I like to do is draw the basic shapes with light pencil marks. Next, I draw the main images with normal pencil marks. Then trace over them with pens. I finish by erasing the pencil marks. After all, no one is perfect. So pencil marks will still show unless you erase them.

I have drawn purely without pencils before as a child. That was fine. But those were drawings for personal pleasure. Not for school. Plus, I hadn’t received the full formal training for art, then. I took art classes at school. But they were required for everyone, including those with little to no artistic talent.

Once I got the formal training in high school and college, I don’t think I ever started drawing with pens voluntarily again. Sadly, these days, my hands sometimes shake too much. And because I don’t have an authority forcing me to start with a pen, I probably won’t return to drawing with pens only for a long, long time. I will still trace pencil lines with pens, though.

Writing

How I Develop My Characters

Characters come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and much more. So do the ways they are developed.

Many writers base their characters of real people they know. They also develop them like the folks they know.

Want to know how I develop my characters? Yes? All right. Here I go. I often develop them as I develop my storylines. I get to know them as I draft. I unconsciously develop them through other story elements too, like dialogue and actions.

Now these are not the only ways I develop my characters. Sometimes I plan their personalities, even if the characters don’t make it to the final drafts. I also might base them off other fictional characters from other franchises, sometimes myths and legends. For example, in one of my works, there’s a character inspired by the Grim Reaper.  

Unlike many authors, I never really base characters off people I know. However, I do often develop them like those in my lives. This was especially common in my earlier works, when I was still learning how to develop my characters. I developed a couple like my cousins at that time and one like my brother back then.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all way to developing characters. It is, however, important to make your characters believable, round rather than flat, crucial to your story, imperfect (they should have at least some flaws), and change at the end of your tale. This is especially essential for you main or major characters.

This technique also takes a while to learn. It took me, like, seven years to discover my writing voice. A similar amount of time might happen for you if you’re new to creative writing.

If you search for me on Amazon, you’ll see that I have published five books, but only one is for sale. That is because the others weren’t exactly the strongest. Except for one, I did pretest the others to make sure they were good enough to please strangers. They were. But I felt the novels could’ve been better.

So hang tight as you learn to develop your characters. If you need assistance, there are character development worksheets you can find online and use to answer questions about your characters. Sometimes I’ve interviewed my characters, answered questionaires about them, or even wrote short stories from their points-of-view. This might help you. Something will.

cooking

Cooking for Those with Dietary Restrictions

Image from pixabay

Do you enjoy cooking? I most definitely do. However, I know a few people with dietary restrictions. One has a peanut allergy. The other has a dairy allergy.

Although I’ve never had to cook for the person with the dairy allergy, the person with the peanut allergy has come to my parties in recent years. So I had to be very, very careful with what food I served and their ingredients. I ended up doing a lot of cooking from scratch as many commercial-made products are not safe for those with peanut allergies.

Sometimes, I’ve contacted companies for a definitive answer on, whether or not, the products were safe for those with peanut allergies. The one with dairy allergies ended up not being able to come to any of my parties. But I did go to one of his. His mom had baked him a special, dairy-free cake from scratch. I ended up not having it since I wasn’t feeling well. I left early.

Although it may seem like a bummer that you can’t serve something you enjoy because a guest has a certain food allergy, you can still figure out other ways and be creative. It worked out very well that I learned to cook from scratch when I was twelve. Otherwise, I would’ve had to travel far for a peanut-free cake (the bakeries near me are not safe for those with peanut allergies) or would’ve had to have my mom bake the cake. That would’ve meant giving up control.

Aside from cake, I’ve also learned to make ice cream from scratch as well as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and much more. I, myself, have a mild tomato allergy. So my mom has come up with alternatives for certain recipes traditionally made with tomatoes. For example, she replaced tomato sauce with canned pumpkin. It still came out delicious.

Whether you have to accommodate for those with dietary restrictions or not, there is always room for creativity, like for health reasons. It can work.

Writing

When You Unconsciously Use the Plot Structure in Any Story You Write

I’ve been studying the writing craft for years. It was seven and a half years ago when I learned the right rules of creative writing. It took about that long to hone my skills and mature my creative writing abilities to what they are now.

However, before I studied the craft, I wrote a bad novel that I was dying to publish and convinced my parents to let me do so. When it was published, there was no positive feedback. However, I do realize now that I still included the classic plot structure, which I wasn’t aware at during that time. I continued to use that structure in later novels where I studied the craft.

What is the structure, you may ask? It starts of with the inciting incident, where something greatly changes your main character’s situation and sets him or her up on a rough road to achieve his or her goal. Then there is a call to action, and the main character often refuses it at first. Then he or she will accept it.

Next comes the first plot pinch, which sets your main character up for failure. Then there is the midpoint, which can be a major defeat or loss. That will push the protagonist’s struggle to achieve his or her goal even further. There will be complications and higher stakes, which will lead to an all-is-lost moment, where the antagonist wins at that time.

Then comes the climax, where something prepares the protagonist for the final battle (not always literally, though). There may be a ticking clock too, where the protagonist’s time starts running out. Finally, there is the resolution of denouement, where the main character has come somewhere satisfying. He or she may achieve his or her goal. If not, he or she may realize that the goal was not something he or she had wanted all along or something not right for him or her.

And no matter what story I write, usually novels, this plot structures comes out into my writing unintentionally. I don’t know why, though. It’s like my brain has somehow inserted the plot structure into its subconscious or something. But that’s probably a good thing.

No matter where you are in the writing process, whether you are new or experienced, it’s important to know the plot structure. Any successful work, written or visual, needs to follow this structure.

Writing

Plot Hole Problems: Why They Bother Me (and Others)

Plot holes happen everywhere: movies, TV shows, books, and so forth. Even the top writers end up making plot holes, either as inconsistencies or unanswered questions.

Of course, no one ever means it—at least not usually. Even when they are being reviewed by agents or anyone before the works get released to the general public, plot holes are missed. It often isn’t until after the works are available to the public that the plot holes are pointed out. Sometimes, shortly after, and other times, not till several years later.

Obviously, no work is perfect nor do any please everybody. But some plot holes bother certain people a lot. There are examples in some of my movie critique posts, like “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”. The ones where I spend a lot of time expressing my thoughts are the ones that bother me the most.

A plot hole I have not addressed here before is from the book, “Being Julia”. It’s not a super-big bestseller. But it was good and engaging up to a certain point. Julia gets grounded and has her computer confiscated. She tries to convince her dad to give it back to her shortly after, even though he won’t. When she is no longer grounded, the reader doesn’t get to see her getting her computer back. Another situation is happening. Then the next chapter takes place months later, when Julia is getting ready for college. Um… hello? When did she get her laptop back? This unanswered question plagued me so much that I wrote to the author and asked when Julia got her laptop back. Sadly, the author didn’t answer. So I moved on.

Some people will address plot holes later or separately. A good example is J.K. Rowling. These days she has been answering so many questions about plot holes in “Harry Potter”. Some folks, like me, enjoy that. Others, however, find it amateurish and lazy. I could see why.

While there are some plot holes in works that don’t bother me or I don’t care about, there are still some that will plague me for a while. A YouTube channel, called Cinemasins, is known for pointing out flaws in movies, such as plot holes. Because I watch movies with a critical eye, I enjoy this channel. I discover issues that I didn’t realize before.

Remember that nobody is perfect. Pretty much all works will have plot holes. Some may be addressed in sequels or on separate sources. Others will remain unanswered forever.