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Are you ready to write your first draft?

Posted by on June 7, 2020 in Classes


Are you ready to start writing your book? My new class is live on Skillshare. Get 2 months free with this link:

The act of sitting down in front of a blank page takes a certain amount of courage.

It’s a long road with plenty of uncertainty ahead. But you can make a plan to get it done.

This class is for anyone beginning a new book project, whether it’s your first book or your fourteenth, and whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.

I’m going to show you what I do to write a well-structured, well-thought out, and well-written first draft—and all of these techniques work just as well for rewrites. So even if you already have a first draft, or even just a half-start at a new book, and you’re realizing that what you need to do is to start over and approach it from a new direction, using everything you learned in those early attempts—this class is for you.

How do you mix colors?

Posted by on May 30, 2020 in Classes, Creativity, Paintings


HERE IT IS! I’ve been promising to do this class on color mixing and the color wheel for a while now, and now it’s done.

Here’s what it’s about: As an artist, you’re probably familiar with the color wheel, with the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue, and the secondary colors of orange, purple, and green.

But—have you ever looked at a color printer cartridge and noticed that printers don’t use ink in red, yellow, and blue?

Most printed material, including books, newspapers, and magazines, are printed with a different color scheme. This class looks at how the visible light spectrum really works, and explores a new version of the color wheel that was invented over a hundred years ago, but is still mostly ignored by artists.

We’ll look at new ways to mix colors, and explore fresh ideas for building your own palette. I’m going to do my demonstrations in watercolor, but this works in any medium, including gouache, acrylic, or oil paints.

This class is available on Skillshare, and you can get 2 months free to take as many classes as you like with this link:

At Last–My Research Class is Here

Posted by on May 22, 2020 in Classes, Writing


The question I get asked most often is how I do my research. It’s a tricky question to answer–every book is different, every research question is different, every source is different.

But I did my best to boil it down into one half-hour class. Watch this class on Skillshare, and get 2 months free with this link:

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, reported journalism, essays, or memoir, you’re probably going to have to do some amount of research.

We’ll look at how to use scientific and academic sources, and how to track down experts in any field. We’ll look at historical sources, like old newspapers and archives. We’ll talk about genealogical resources, like Census records and other public documents. I’ll show you how I conduct interviews, and when I hire expert help. I’ll tell you how to spot faulty information and keep it out of your work.

Finally, I’ll teach you to be a skeptic! How do you know what you know? How do you verify your facts?

Whatever kind of writing project you’re embarking on, this class will help you up your research game.

Learn All My Evernote Tricks!

Posted by on May 14, 2020 in Classes, Writing


I just posted a class on Skillshare about how I use Evernote to keep track of my research and to brainstorm ideas. Check the class out here, and use this link to get 2 months free on Evernote.

I get asked a lot about how I do my research. This is the first of a two-part answer. The first step is to come up with a tracking system, because without it, all that research gets lost. (I learned this the hard way!) I am devoted to Evernote and in this class, I walk you through exactly how I use it.

Evernote is also useful for anyone who teaches, or anyone who needs to organize projects that involve lots of bits and pieces. I talk about that, too, in this class.

Next week, I’ll post the next class, on how I actually DO research. Stay tuned for that!

Kopp Sisters Collages

Posted by on April 25, 2020 in Creativity, Kopp Sisters, Paintings


For a long time, I wasn’t at all interested in making any kind of art that had anything to do with the books I write. I just didn’t have any ideas along those lines. Sometimes my publicist would want me to make some art that could be used in some way for marketing purposes, and I absolutely hated that idea. The last thing I want is for art to become a thing that has deadlines and emails attached to it.I have always wanted art to be the one thing that I do purely for myself.

So that is still very much the case-I did make this because I wanted to-but I still have this weird trepidation about mixing work with pleasure, so to speak.

Anyway, what happened is that I took a collage class that involved painting a little portrait on top of a book page. It occurred to me that most artists who do this are using other peoples’ books, but I can actually use my own book, and bits and pieces from my own research, which I have always found so visually compelling. That makes it really personal. It’s truly a piece of art that no one else could make.

And it was interesting to paint Constance for the first time, especially since I don’t really do a lot of portraits. I have written seven books about her, but it was still a totally different experience to bring her to life in paint.

Laid-Back Lettering

Posted by on April 20, 2020 in Classes, Paintings

If you want to add more artistic, colorful, dramatic lettering to your sketchbooks, journals, and artwork, but you don’t want to put in the hours it takes to really perfect a hand-lettering style, I made this class just for you!

I love all the beautiful brush pen and modern calligraphy styles I see all over Instagram, but filling out practice sheets and trying to learn upstrokes and downstrokes felt too much like work for me.

So I developed an approach to lettering that I could do without a ton of practice, using more or less my own handwriting and the art supplies I already carry with me.

In this class, I’ll show you how to work with pencil, pen, marker, and watercolor to create visually interesting letters using the same approach to drawing and painting you already use in your art.

I’ll work from examples of the styles I like to use, that fit my personality and my artwork, but I’ll also show you how to find the styles that work for your tastes and interests.

Use this link to watch the class, and to get 2 months free to enjoy everything Skillshare has to offer.

Painting Doors and Windows with Ink and Watercolor

Posted by on April 12, 2020 in Classes, Paintings

My new class is live on Skillshare! Go here to preview the class, and this link also gives you 2 months free on Skillshare, which is plenty of time to check out everything they have to offer.

One of my favorite subjects to paint is old painted doors. They have so much character and they really tell the story of the place.

There are a few challenges that are particular to drawing and painting doors, including:

  • Getting the proportions right
  • Conveying a sense of depth
  • Figuring out a way to depict faded paint and crumbling stone without overworking everything
  • Including just enough of the elements that surround the door without taking away from your main focus

In this class I’ll show you how I approach my paintings of doors.

We’ll go step by step, starting in pencil, then moving on to ink and finally watercolor. I also add a few highlights with white acrylic paint pens.

I’ll give you a few of my own photographs of doors for you to work from, but I hope you’ll go through your photographs from your own travels and paint a door that you fell in love with during your own travels.

Create Your Own Book Video

Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Classes, Writing

It’s here! I’ve created a step-by-step guide for authors who want to make high-quality videos about their books. The class is live on Skillshare now, and this link will give you two months’ free access to all the classes Skillshare has to offer.  

As the author of over a dozen books, both fiction and nonfiction, I’ve found that book videos can be useful at every stage of the publishing process, including:

Pre-publication marketing meetings with the publisher
Press kits and media pitches
Marketing to bookstores and libraries
Lining up speaking engagements
Reaching readers and book clubs
Promoting backlist titles years after publication
Fortunately, the technology is so easy that anyone with an iPad or other tablet or smartphone can shoot a high-quality video, add photos or video footage, make simple edits, and publish to online platforms.

This class walks through every step of the process that I use to make videos to promote my books. I’ll show you all the equipment and free software I use, and walk you through every step of the process I use.

For those of you who have different equipment and software, I’ll suggest alternatives. The basic concepts are the same no matter what you use to make your video.

This class will also work for anyone who wants to make a talking head-style video interspersed with photos and video clips on any subject at all, but my examples are all going to be specific to book videos.

Ink Your Drink! A new class on painting cocktails

Posted by on March 26, 2020 in Classes, Cocktails, Paintings

NEW on Skillshare! I’m teaching the ink transfer technique I’ve been posting about lately on Instagram. To find out more about the class, and to get 2 months free on Skillshare, use this link. (And there are tons of great classes on Skillshare! I’m particularly fond of Jim Richard’s urban sketching class.)

To see all the classes I’m teaching on Skillshare, here’s a link that shows you all the classes and also gives you 2 free months.

I Went on a Sketching Trip to Mexico and I Took You With Me

Posted by on March 6, 2020 in Classes, Paintings


We just went to Mexico together! Well, almost. I took my iPad to Guanajuato, Mexico last week and filmed an online class on travel sketching–so you can watch it and it’s almost like being there!

I decided to focus on the two subjects that are easiest for beginners–building facades (meaning, looking straight on, no perspective skills required) and landscapes.

This class walks you through the process I use when I’m out and about sketching, and even shows you how I handle my materials when I’m out on the streets and want to make sure I don’t lose anything!

I’m teaching it on Skillshare, where I also teach writing courses. I love the format and ease of use of Skillshare, and I’ve learned a lot from taking art and tech classes there.

Here’s a link to see the class on Skillshare. If you’re not already a member, this link gives you 2 months free to check out everything they have to offer. I have a lot of art and writing classes available, so check those out!