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Injured! [Again]

So, uh, I tore my left rotator cuff a few days ago, and now my arm is in a sling.

Pro: It was my left, so I can still draw. Con: Can’t type. [Doing this single-handed right now, so it’s short.]

So if you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, don’t be horribly surprised. [I’m still going to put short things up on my Facebook and Instagram because I can copy/paste.]

For now, enjoy this video of me sketching some Atlantis characters!

https://www.facebook.com/authormelissawong/videos/745902278873010/

Ups and Downs

It’s been a month of ups and downs. While I was finishing up the colored insert pics for volume #2 of Atlantis: TVC, the side of my laptop cover cracked! I was just sitting there, coloring, when without warning I hear this snapping crunch sound, and my screen falls to the side! When I looked at it I realized that the screen had been attached to the cover only by a tiny plastic peg, and the stress of bearing the weight of the open screen over six years of frequent use had finally snapped it. Terrible design flaw. There was even a spot for it to have a screw, and it did not!

Fortunately, I am a big nerd and I have all kinds of spare computer bits lying around. [I used to have more, but culled my “collection” when we packed up and put everything we owned into storage this past summer.] So I found appropriate-sized screws, and managed to kludge it back together long enough to finish the book.

Sorry for ninja edit, but this was WAY more fitting than the Twilight Sparkle pic…

The laptop still works, but I don’t want to break it completely. Repairing it would be costly and not worth it for the model it is. It would be more prudent to get a new laptop, but that isn’t an expense we can swing right now, it being the holidays and all. So knowing it has a number of uses left before the stress kills it entirely, I moved all my files off of it and onto my backup drive. I figured I would just not use it during my hiatus, but that’s not something that can be my reality–I wanted to draw, to write, to read articles–and doing that on my phone for the foreseeable future just wouldn’t cut it.

After we returned from dinner at the in-laws on Thanksgiving, I made a decision to pull my desktop computer out of the closet. It was all nicely packed away, but it hadn’t been on since March or April of this past year. Since we are in a small apartment, there really isn’t anywhere for a second desk to go, so I hadn’t even remotely thought about setting it up. But now, I was going to try to set a monitor and keyboard on my laptop table. Couldn’t be too difficult, right? Right…?

Well, turns out my monitor is buried in the far recesses of the closet and inaccessible without pulling everything out, which would take several hours. However, the giant second monitor my husband used when he had a dual monitor set up was sitting right there, within easy reach…

So I unpack my computer tower, and my husband goes, “Hey, I think there is something loose in there.” Turns out there was something loose in there–my heatsink had fallen completely off! After the storage unit was hit by the tornado, the climate control was out for two weeks. I’m guessing that this happened around that time, because otherwise everything was stored in temperature controlled environments. Of course, this is close to midnight on Thanksgiving, we have zero thermal paste in the house, and tomorrow is Black Friday!

I fortunately remembered that Amazon does same day home delivery in our area via their Prime Now service, so I scheduled a delivery of thermal paste. Hooray for not having to go out into the melee that is Black Friday! Long story short, I reinstalled the heatsink and everything is running smoothly now. I still can’t get over this giant monitor though. My very first TV was smaller than this! I’ve always wanted to draw on a giant monitor, but I’ve never had a chance to do so until yesterday. Best. Experience. Ever. Look at this screenshot of the space I have. It’s a thing of beauty! [When I was working on my laptop, I couldn’t get either Achine or Gia’s face to fit fully on the screen at actual pixels–it would have made my life way easier if I had been able to! But look; I can get both in the same frame now!]

monitorscreenshot
Click for larger version!

Now that everything is up and running again, it’s time to clean out my programs, delete the junk, defragment, and reacquaint myself with some old games. [Not that I haven’t been playing Sim City 4 or anything…]

Atlantis: TVC Volume #2 is Now Available!

It’s here, it’s here! It’s release day!

I am absolutely floored that I got it done on time. I didn’t hit my original end of summer deadline, but I did make my fall one, and it feels good. I hope you all enjoy volume #2!

As for me, I’m taking the rest of the holiday season off to rest and spend extra time with my family, then start on volume #3 in the new year. I’ll still post here, so don’t worry about that!

I’m wondering if there is enough time left this month for me to kind of half-assedly participate in NaNoWriMo. [I keep swearing I’ll do it, but I never have time.] Maybe I can do it for real next year…

*coughs* Anyway, I wanted to say thank you all again for your support and patience. An author is nothing without readers, and I truly appreciate all of you. heart

atlantis_volume_2

[Volume two can be found here!]

Second Chances

One of the awesome parts of self-publishing is the ability to manage everything yourself. One of the horrible parts of it is the ability to manage everything yourself. So, you have to own any awful decisions you make.

The original cover of Atlantis: TVC volume #1 was a debacle. I originally made my artwork too small, and since it wasn’t vector it didn’t scale up well. I was in love with the concept of past and future Achine standing back to back and I didn’t want to let it go–nor did I want to start over from scratch. I compromised by scaling up the colors, and re-traced the lineart to be larger in Illustrator. The end result was what I launched the book with. It looked okay from far away, but close up… it was a mess.

When it came time to make the cover for the second volume, I tried to use the same template and the graphic designer part of me revolted. She threw up, then proceeded to mentally beat me until I learned what I had done wrong. I did learn, and I set out to redesign the cover template from the ground up. Once I finished my shiny new template I was forced to admit that the old concept for the first volume not only looked awful, but it was probably hurting sales, and needed to be changed.

Yesterday I rolled out the new cover in anticipation of the release of Atlantis: TVC volume #2 later this month. I have to say, I am really liking both the new template and the new image for the cover. It is leaps and bounds better than the old cover, and will hopefully give a boost to sales since volume two is coming out in a few weeks.

Speaking of which, here is the new volume #1 cover side-by-side with the cover for volume #2. Sneak peek!

If you missed it the first time around, volume #1 is available to read for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime account. If you don’t have either of those, it will be free for everyone for a limited time this weekend! [November 7th – 8th, 2015] You can find it here.

Anyone Have a Cursed Spinning Wheel I Could Borrow?

I am so insanely tired.

We finished moving in a few days ago, and there is a mountain of things sitting in my living room, waiting to go into storage or the trash. We accidentally left behind not just one, but both of our dining room tables. [But brought the chairs, somehow.] We have people coming for dinner next week, and no table to eat at.

Excellent start to this whole thing. Then the serpentine belt goes out on the car. Goodbye savings! We once had you!

But at least everything is unpacked now… right? Right?!

The kid isn’t handling this move as well as the last two. Fortunately this will be her last for a while, so I’m hoping the nightmares she’s having now will stop when she settles in. [This is a major part of the reason I am so tired.]

Most of my time not spent easing my kid into apartment life [She’s loud. Thankfully this place seems to be soundproofed well.] has been spent putting things away or cleaning. Now that that’s done I’m eager to get back to editing Atlantis: TVC volume #2! [The story hasn’t been far from my mind these past few weeks. I wonder if that is good or bad…?]

In the rare bit of downtime I had yesterday, I did some sketching of scenes I wanted to illustrate. [This might not be a final scene…]
I’m hoping to get back to it starting today. It may be a little ambitious, but I feel guilty that I’ve spent as long as I have away from it. I need to get back to work!

But right now… I’d kill for a nap. Like, twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep. It sounds simply divine!

Character Boards

When I write, sometimes my mind wanders around. I don’t know if other authors have this problem, but I’ll be in the middle of a scene when suddenly I’ll wonder if the character who is speaking would prefer Coke or Pepsi; whether or not they would read a certain book, or if they would like cilantro. [Trust me–cilantro is a very polarizing topic.]

While doing preliminary edits on Atlantis: TVC volume #1, I started wondering if the Atlantians that Achine spends her time with were to visit her hometown–or even just the mainland in general–what would they enjoy of ours? What would they hate?

Then later I watched an episode of Backstrom [Brilliant show–shame it was canceled. Hulu or Netflix needs to pick that up and continue it, STAT!] that revolved around something called a dream board. [Also called a vision board] In high school I saw classmates use something similar to pick out clothes for important events, or to envision a dream home; cutting things they liked out of magazines and gluing them to cardboard, or a sheet of paper. Often they would end up inside of those binders with the clear sleeve on the front and back–you remember the kind, right? [I filled mine up with a mixture of self-drawn things and anime/manga images, ha ha.]

Anyway, that tangent aside, the idea popped into my head to make a board for each of my main cast members, showing things from our world that they would like or wear. I figured it could be a character defining exercise. Here are the results:

It was so much fun to go ‘visual shopping’ as each character! I was surprised at how easy it was to make the character board for some, and I was surprised by what others liked, such as Gialasa. Her bohemian/Etsy look is not what I would have expected at all, but it fits very well. In fact, the whole project inspired me to do a drawing of everyone in modern clothing! I haven’t finished it yet, and it’s been languishing a bit on my hard drive in the wake of trying to get volume #2 done, [since February?!] but it will be completed eventually.

This definitely helped me to get into my characters’ heads [in unexpected ways], and I would highly recommend it to other writers trying to define a character!

Where the [Not So] Wild Things Are…

Because the continent of Atlantis is technically in our timeline–and has magic–deciding on what the flora and fauna balance should be has been a struggle. On one hand, I want it to fit in with the rest of the world and have some of the normal things found natively in other biomes, such as squirrels, bears, turtles, etc. On the other hand, I want it to have its own indigenous species, because, well… in a land that still has magic–and races evolved from being near that magic–it only makes sense that it would be home to things you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

…you certainly don’t see this every day.

But since I want to keep things from becoming too ridiculous, there is a fine line I need to tread between fantastic and… absurd. That means I am overthinking things again. [Which is probably a good thing.] I had a small bestiary in my notes, but I discovered that I wanted to sketch out some of these creatures, to get a better feel for them. This led to the creation of the Bestiarum Vocabulum. I’m doing this mostly for me, but I thought I’d share the first entry with you guys as well, since it came out decently.

Click to enlarge

Two characters end up facing down a berserk one of these in volume #2. They look kind of cute, right? They’re supposed to be based off of a bear, with a bit of fox added in. [and yes, I realize that with the grey and black coloring it looks like a weird raccoon.] But being able to see other animals in it is what I wanted. I thought it would be jarring to see something completely alien when it’s supposed to be in our own current world.

It’s interesting too that there are no dogs or cats as pets on Atlantis, so I’m probably going to have to make up creatures that would be considered as domesticated in their place. I imagine birds are a popular pet, [in fact the new character has an avian companion] and some other kind of small mammal would probably fill in for the feline… maybe something similar to a ferret? And what kind of animal would be a shepherd’s companion if not a dog? It’s something for me to think about.

World building is a lot of work–but it’s satisfying work.

Rambling, Sinus Pressure, & Other Annoyances

Happy Friday!

Well, it’s not so much a “happy” Friday for me–the whole family is sick with a head cold, so we’re all cranky and stuffed up and generally miserable. Boo. I am dead tired but can’t sleep due to congestion. This means I finished a picture I’ve been working on for the past week or so.

[Seriously though, WHY can’t I post these side by side? I don’t get it.] I totally had to do it in the text editor. Arg!

[Characters from Atlantis: TVC–from bottom to top: Achine, Eruni, Idane, Gia]

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You guys are special; I posted the finished version on DeviantArt, but I only posted the sketch here.

I feel like I don’t draw like myself with the tablet, and it’s just weird. I enjoy my sketches–sketching with the tablet is amazing now that I am used to it. Very smooth and flowy. [Oh yeah; not-real-except-colloquially word. Bam. Shut up spellcheck. You know nothing.] Line art has been a bit of an uphill battle, but I’m tweaking some settings and improving it. Coloring is nice except for long stretches of things where you need a long runway to make a long line. Like hair. Like all the hair in that picture up there.

I still miss the mouse to a point, but the tablet has programmable buttons and I programmed them to undo/redo and zoom in/out. Oh. My. Gods. Suddenly I don’t miss my mouse as much. [Sorry mouse. I still think you’re tops for graphic design though!]

I’ve also been working on volume # 2 as well, so don’t think that I set it aside or anything! I ended up writing an unexpectedly good [well, I think so anyway!] scene, despite the fact that it may be a bit information heavy. [I like that kind of stuff, so it pops up occasionally. 99% of it was important information, so it’s not like it was rambling, right?]

It’s probably an info dump

Ok! I’m going to leave the kid with the husband and see if I can’t regain feeling in my face with a nice hot bath. [With a few drops of rosemary oil in it! So awesome for stuffy noses!] When I get out I may go to sleep, but if I can’t, then back to writing I’ll go!

Spring Sale

Sorry if you saw the front page of the site doing weird things last night… I was updating and a table broke. It’s all fixed now!

This image is irrelevant. I just like it.

Anyway, I fully intended to do this over Easter weekend, but it didn’t update until today, so… uh…

Easter Weekend Spring Special!

The first volume of Atlantis: The Visionary Continent is only $0.99 cents right now! This deal is available at Amazon until 11:59 CST on 4/12/2015.

Happy Spring, everyone!

E-books, Images, and You

Very self-help-y, right?

If you are planning on adding images to your e-book, then this is the place to be. All of my books are illustrated, and it was a pain trying to figure out how to format images. I did all my images one way, because one site said so, but it turned out to be outdated. Now images should be TWICE the size that I created them at. Arg!

While the images inside your book can be whatever size you would like, the cover has very strict regulations–especially if you are going to distribute through Amazon or Apple.

Cover Images

According to the Smashwords Style Guide, cover images should be 1600 pixels wide by 2500 pixels tall to adjust for future size minimums. The current minimum is 1400 pixels wide. All distributors require your cover be rectangular, and not tilted in any way. [Like making them look 3D or something] Some retailers are very picky, and will reject a book if its cover is subpar. Things like plain old bad design and pixelation will get your book rejected. It’s best to start extra large and shrink it to the 1600 x 2500 size, which will result in a very nice cover with no pixelation.

A Note on Covers

Your cover is the face of your book. If you’re not really artistic it’s probably best to find someone to create a cover for you. There are no shortage of artists and graphic designers looking for work–check your local CraigsList or commission tons of talented artists in all price ranges at DeviantArt! If an author you like has an amazing cover, do some research on who does their covers, or send a polite email asking for that information. Most authors are happy to give contact info! Remember, your cover is the first impression people have of your book, so you want it to look brilliant!

Interior Images

Interior images are different. They can really be whatever size you want, but for your images to look nice on most devices, you’ll want them to be at least 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall.

Formats

If you have a vector image [meaning it was created in Flash, Illustrator, etc.] that is scalable without losing quality, you can insert it into your manuscript as a .svg file.

If you have an image in any other format, it’s recommended to save it as a .jpg or .png before inserting it.

File Size

.jpg is the gold standard when it comes to compression and small file sizes, but it sometimes compromises quality to use it. On the other hand, .png is a lossless format, but can result in some hefty files. If you don’t lose anything for doing it, make your images greyscale. It cuts down on file size immensely!

Inserting Images

If you are inserting an image into your manuscript, you’ll want to do it one of two ways:

Full Page Images

These are images [such as your cover] that you want to be on their own page. You insert them as a picture from the Insert then Picture, then From File option in your menu bar. Once you select your image, right click it and select Anchor, then As Character. You must do this, otherwise your images will all be displayed at the front of your book, and not where you placed them originally. Insert a page break after this type of image, and you are done.

Inline Images

Inline images are done similarly, but you’ll need to place it between paragraphs. So it will look like this:

This is the stuff you type before your image. It might be relevant to your image, or the image may be non-sequitur. It doesn’t matter. This is just an example.

This is a cat

This is your next paragraph. It’s, uh, relevant to this cat picture. Yeah, that’s it. But it shows how you have to slip images in.

You see, e-books are innately reflowable. That means people are able to change the text size–and sometimes style–which shifts everything around to accommodate that.  If you try to put a picture truly inline, you will break your formatting, and muck up everything else. It’s just bad. Don’t do it. [But don’t forget to Anchor As Character, otherwise it will jump out off of its page in your book and move to the front, because images are divas like that.]

 

It you are careful and follow the guidelines, you can add images to dress up a technical manual, or even create a short comic–it’s entirely up to you!