Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Introducing Vintage Illustrations and Fine Art Royalty Free Images

As someone who occasionally buys royalty free stock images I know how difficult it can be to find that perfect picture. I've mentioned here before that I'm a bit of an estate sale and auction addict, and I've been collecting some vintage art prints and illustrations from old books. I sell some of them on Etsy, and I've been working hard the last few months to scan my collection and develop high resolution digital stock images for the market.

Today I announce a new addition to my publishing business:

Royalty Free Vintage and Fine Art Stock Images

It is a small collection right now but I have hundreds more images and collections in development and I will be adding to it regularly in the weeks and months to come.

I realize this collection won't have everything for everyone, but an additional unique collection of stock art is always welcome when you're searching for that perfect image for your project. If you've spent much time browsing the big stock art directories, you'll notice that there are many repeated images. I'm hoping my collection will offer some unique and interesting images not widely available, especially in high 300 dpi resolution.


All images will be priced at either $0.99 or $1.95 U.S. dollars. There is no minimum purchase. If you only need one image, then just buy one image. Most other stock art sources are either 1) expensive or 2) based on a credit system that requires you to make minimum credit purchases of $10 or $20. Although this is not huge money, it can be irritating if you only have small needs. The ability to only spend a couple dollars and get what you need should be nice.

Who can use the images?

I imagine my stock images will be useful to a wide range of people from hobbyist crafters to graphic designers to ebook and book cover artists.

Anyone who purchases images will have a non-exclusive right to use them in projects personal and/or commercial.

Free fine art stock images

Like other aspects of my publishing business, I offer some free samples.

At the Free Images page you can download:

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

Fall of Icarus by Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image sizes are specified in each listing in pixels and inches. The size of the actual files are larger than presented on screen. All downloads (paid or free) provide high resolution 300 dpi jpegs. This file size should meet the needs of a diversity of projects, including printed media. Or you can resize the images for web display.

If you sometimes need stock art, please bookmark, pin, or follow my new royalty free stock art collection.

I have many more fine art images and vintage fairy tales illustrations to add.

Also refer other artists and designers to my new collection if you know any.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fiction is good for you and a defining characteristic of humanity

I ran across an interesting book at the library last week called The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall.

His research delves into our inherent love of stories. Our ability to express ourselves with narratives has allowed us to share ideas, relate events, illustrate philosophies, and teach lessons. I think most people agree that things are easier for us to remember when we hear it through a story. We naturally pay greater attention to stories because they engage us both intellectually and emotionally.

In The Storytelling Animal Gottschall presents findings from neuroscience studies. Brain scans are proving to be very illuminating in a number of fields, and Gottschall reported that when our minds experience fiction they light up like the individual is actually experiencing the action and feelings directly instead of indirectly. We empathize with the characters instead of sympathize because we feel what they are going through. This is why when I am immersed in a narrative (either fiction or nonfiction) the world around me drops away and I am transported into the details and feelings of the story. Gottschall described our capacity for experiencing fiction as a computer flight simulator in our brains. We can imagine a situation in great detail, feel what it will be like, and think about what the outcomes may be without actually risking ourselves through direct action. Hearing or reading the stories of other people also lets us experience events and feelings beyond our personal experiences. This expands our knowledge and our ability to cope with new things.

Gottschall wrote "Fiction is a powerful and ancient virtual reality technology that simulates the big dilemmas of human life."

As a fantasy author, I know that my fiction genre is typically described as escapist. This is true, but Gottschall makes the point that escapist fiction does not appear to be whisking us away to happy worlds of foot massages and rainbows. Fiction focuses on problems, sometimes huge horrific dangerous problems like zombies have taken over and want to eat your brains. The author proposes that we seek fiction as a way of exploring big scary problems and thinking and feeling about how we might deal with them.

Gottschall wrote "...if fiction offers escape, it is a bizarre sort of escape. Our various fictional worlds are -- on the whole -- horrorscapes. Fiction may temporarily free us from our troubles, but it does so by ensnaring us in new sets of troubles -- in imaginary worlds of struggle and stress and mortal woe."

I absolutely agree with him. These imaginary worlds of struggle and woe are so engaging for me as a writer and a reader. I want to think about what it would be like if I had to fight for my life. Or what it would feel like to be sold into slavery. Or what dealing with magical creatures might be like, and so on.

I found The Storytelling Animal to be both informative and validating. In chapter after chapter he shows how our entire species is hardwired for telling and enjoying stories. Experiencing things through our imaginations instead of only direct contact is a great human strength. Even when we sleep our dreams continue to generate experiences, and some of them are very intense.

Gottschall made the point that people really can't stand to be without stories. We like to hear them and we like to tell them. Throughout humanity's existence there have been people who were storytellers. They were a little better or at least more inclined to develop narratives for the enjoyment of others. Storytelling is natural to our species. We do it much more elaborately than a honeybee dancing out directions to some good flowers. Reading The Storytelling Animal let me know that I am not weird. Our species needs storytellers to feed the constant craving within all of us to experience feelings and challenges beyond our personal lives. Everyone wants to hear a story so some people have to step up and deliver.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

So I finally watched the 1927 silent classic Metropolis and it was astounding

Fritz Lang's Metropolis is the first feature length silent film I've ever sat down and watched. I was a little leery of the experience and did not expect to finish. I was not sure if I could sit through two hours of silent cinema, but Metropolis was an absolutely riveting experience. Truly it deserves the title masterpiece.

The actors were amazing. This silent acting really is a lost art. I watched talented actors display full emotions with their faces and bodies. I also noticed that the silent medium made all the extra actors really put their backs into it too. The movie had many scenes with masses of workers, and the expressive throngs exhibited intense human energy.

This whole movie is on a grand scale, and I was struck by how timely the story remains. It coupled perfectly with current rhetoric about the 99 percent and the 1 percent as the wealthy all powerful ruler reigned from the towers of his shining city and workers plodded between shifts at their machines and were forced to live in an underground city. I appreciated how the clock for the ruler had 12 hours on its face and the clock for the workers only had 10 hours on its face. They work 10 hours shifts by the way. I thought this was a nice way of illustrating the drastic differences between the classes.

Metropolis is also a ground breaking science fiction film with great special effects for its time. The scene when Rotwang the Inventor (He's complete with a mechanical hand.) unveils his Machine Man robot is pretty cool. The robot is obviously female so I'm not sure why it's called the Machine Man, especially after it is given the appearance of Maria who is a prophet of sorts among the workers and teaches compassion.

The restored version of the movie is a bit fragmented, but text strings together the surviving pieces of film so I was able to follow this very engaging story. As you might expect, there is a terrible worker uprising. It's hardly communist propaganda though because the uprising is not pretty and the workers go destructively berserk.

Metropolis is a feverish movie full of compassion, love, sexiness, exploitation, religious commentary, economic commentary, and great storytelling. I wish I had time to watch it again.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Forbidden Planet so classic it's the headwaters of cliche

I'm not sure how I lived this long as a fantasy and sci fi lover without knowing about the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet. It has a good story and is well paced, but mostly it is fascinating because it breaks ground for so many sci fi movies and television shows that come after it. The style of Forbidden Planet serves obviously as a template for Star Trek in the 1960s. The starship of disciplined explorers led by Commander Adams easily reminded me of the Star Trek crew led by Captain Kirk. As I watched the movie it was as if the producers of Star Trek were checking off boxes with lists of items from this movie.

The story in Forbidden Planet has mystery, a reclusive scientist, his hot young daughter, Robby the Robot, and the leftover technology from the exceedingly ancient lost civilization of the Krell. If you've watched any Star Trek, you'll certainly recognize these motifs.

The movie opens with Commander Adams and his crew reaching the paradise planet Altair-IV. His mission is to determine the status of any earlier expedition of settlers. Adams is able to make contact with Doctor Morbius on the planet and learns that all the other settlers were killed by an invisible force years ago. Only Morbius' daughter Alta, who was born on the planet, survived with him. Both claim to be immune to whatever force wiped out the other people.

Morbius is content to live so reclusively because he dislikes humanity and Earth and is also obsessed with the magnificent leftover technology of the Krell. Alta meanwhile is thrilled by the arrival of the all male crew and happily obliges their frequent advances for female company. After going through "everyone" as she says, Alta discovers that only Commander Adams is able to stimulate her. I adored the sexiness in this movie. It's G rated, but Alta is amazingly comfortable with her sexual discoveries considering it is 1956. She very much reminded me of Zev from Lexx.

Leslie Nielsen plays Commander Adams. I had only seen him in his later comedies, particularly Airplane and the Naked Gun, so it was a little odd at first to see him playing his trademark serious straight guy without being funny.

I recommend Forbidden Planet to anyone who likes sci fi. I watched a bluray version that had some of the special effects jazzed up, but it's still charmingly classic.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Free fantasy ebook in UK Kindle store

Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I free for UK Kindle
At long last the UK Kindle store is finally price matching my free promotional novel Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I. In the Kindle publishing system at Amazon I don't have the ability to make an ebook free, so I was forced to price it at 99 cents in U.S. dollars even though I give it away for free as an ebook everywhere else.

Thankfully enough UK Kindle readers have alerted Amazon to this price discrepancy, and they can now access Union of Renegades for free and find out if The Rys Chronicles is the kind of epic fantasy series they like.

About the novel:

Dreibrand Veta has killed for his country. At the frontlines of imperial expansion, he seeks to rebuild the fortune of his noble family. In his daring travels he encounters the rys, a race far more powerful than the human empire that bred him. Dreibrand cannot defy the rys Queen Onja nor defend his companion, Miranda, and her children from the wicked tyrant Queen.

Desperate for help, Dreibrand and Miranda join Shan, a rys with emerging powers who plans to challenge Onja. In Shan’s pursuit of the rys throne, he exerts his magical powers, gathers his allies, and incites rebellion among Onja’s human subjects.

Great wealth and power will reward the kings, warriors, and spies that align themselves with the rys pretender, but defeat could mean worse than death. Onja can imprison souls and her genocidal rage is legendary. Everything is at risk for Shan’s union of renegades.

Get it for your Kindle in the UK.

Or download the ebook right here and save it to your computer to place on your preferred device.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Great advice from author D.W. Hawkins on writing action scenes

While perusing blogs I follow this afternoon, I came across some advice from author D.W. Hawkins about writing action scenes, specifically fight scenes. I read through his points and agree with them all. I was actually hoping to get a new bit of insight because I'm in the midst of writing a very important fight scene right now. It's the final duel between Amar and Cruce in my newest fantasy series Rys Rising. Still, it was good to get good reminders from a fellow author who has military combat experience. It was validating to know that I have some correct things going through my head.

In his article D.W. Hawkins: Writing Action Scenes he made an excellent point:

"Plucky heroes who always win the day are all grand and wonderful, but there’s nothing truthful about a fight scene where The White Knight cleaves rank upon rank of the evil Horde of Baddies with the greatest of ease, laughing in the face of his enemies. If that’s what you’re into, then fine. I challenge you to split about fifty logs with an axe, and laugh at them the entire time. At some point, you’ll get quiet and think this is pretty tough, after all."

Although I've never hit anyone with an axe, I do know what it's like to chop wood. This is a good point about making sure a fictional fighter is experiencing the proper physical demands.

Hawkins also made the important point that it's silly for fighters to shake off really bad wounds and keep fighting. This is something I see in movies all the time. When someone gets shot and keeps on trucking, I am always annoyed. My characters battle through some light wounds, but when they take a bad hit, I better make arrangements for someone to save them. I also plan time for recovery and recuperation too. Since I write fantasy, I sometimes speed things along with magic, but I always try to be realistic about the damage done and the impact it has on the character.

Just last night I was studying my Illustrated Atlas of the Human Body because I need to plan some horrible wounds that let my victims linger. I need some dramatic death scenes and last words, so I can't be having any quick clean deaths.

Anyway, thank you for the important points about writing fight scenes and action. Read the complete article at D.W. Hawkins' blog.