Book Covers Behind-the-Scenes: The Making of MIDWINTER MAGIC

Art

Hi so I spent over two hours today painting a decent-looking stylized reindeer for my latest eBook Midwinter Magic (and that was just on one file, and doesn’t count all my OTHER painting and sketching and thumbnailing time) (honestly, it felt like 5 hours on just that last file, though), but I can’t reveal the cover yet so you’re going to now suffer through my thumbnail sketches and WIPs.

sufferrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

j/k I hope you enjoy!

More cover design thumbnails for MIDWINTER MAGIC in Crayola Marker (Book Cover Behind the Scenes)The ones above were done after researching what other fairy tale collections were doing. Blue was a very popular color, as was sticking huge typography in the center of a rectangle. I first did these in pencil and came back after the next batch of thumbs and colored ’em.

I did not have a title at this time.

 

Cover design thumbnails for MIDWINTER MAGIC, done in Crayola Marker (Book Cover Behind the Scenes) Still no title I liked. Playing with the idea of folk art patterns and reindeer. Attempts at folk art style reindeer and flowers (Book Cover Behind the Scenes)Trying my hand at Scandinavian folk art patterns (there’s multiple schools of Scandinavian folk art with cool fancy names but I’ve forgotten them all). Of course this was after some research, but I don’t think any of these were direct copies, just me fooling around on watercolor paper with markers.

Cute li'l folk art flower (Book Cover Behind the Scenes)

Oh, right, it’s called “Rosemaling”! I remember because I invented my first Krita brush to try and emulate the single-stroke style color changes and stuff for this fnower. You can totally YouTube it! There’s guilds and everything!Tiling folk art flower, doodads, and pine tree (Book Cover Behind the Scenes)

Messing around with Krita’s tiling function got me this fun little tiling pattern.     Penciled thumbnail designs for MIDWINTER MAGIC's cover(Book Covers Behind the Scenes)

I fell ill in the middle of this project (both the writing and the drawing). By the time I got some energy back I felt like I was running late. I got my act together and came up with a title that didn’t embarrass my ancestors, then came back to thumbnailing. My default book cover solution is “slap an animal on it” but at least this time it wouldn’t be a cat.Reindeer sihouettes in blue marker (Book Cover Behind the Scenes)Marker attempts at reindeer/caribou, done with reference, but still trying to keep a stylized feel. The top left one was used in a few mockups I won’t show here.

Armed with a title, I went into Inkscape and chose fonts I thought would work. Then, for good measure, I grabbed some reindeer product silhouettes and slapped ’em on in some sort of artistic way (thanks, Trace Bitmap tool!!)

MIDWINTER MAGIC mockup - dark blue bg, reindeer sihouettes, and typography (Book Cover Behind the Scenes)

I liked these poses, but…other than that….this was bad. Really bad. I wound up going back to my thumbnails page, picking one I liked, and just elaborating on it in Krita.

I thought the final image would be, like, folk art flower patterns on a blue background, with a reindeer shape cut out in the middle, revealing some cool winter snowflakey pattern beneath (very hand-drawn-looking, in other words), but, uh, I traced a deer in one of the thumbnails, slapped a background from Unsplash.com behind it, went, OH! and went in a totally different direction.

How’d it turn out? Stay tuned for the cover reveal tomorrow morning!

Scribus Success Story: A Gingersnap Cat Christmas (paperback print novel)

Indie Publishing Friends, Writing

 

Scribus Success Story - book interior with epigraphs and illustrated title page

Epigraph and Title page for A GINGERSNAP CAT CHRISTMAS. Scribus actually had an option to cameo the image like that!

Indie authors, paperbacks can be done in Scribus, and they can be done beautifully!

A Gingersnap Cat Christmas is a holiday fantasy I wrote for middle-schoolers. The POD paperback (whose interior I formatted in Scribus) is available through Amazon.com.

About the project: Having just missed my Christmas 2017 publishing deadline for the Gingersnap Cat ebook, I vowed to use the extra time in 2018 to teach myself Scribus, with the goal of having Gingersnap ready for print before Christmas 2018.

 Before this project, the last time I’d touched the Big Name desktop publishing program was back in college for a single assignment in a single class…so I really felt like I was starting from scratch! I learned the basics using the Getting Started with Scribus tutorial, and also by working on a single-page newsletter for my church.

I used Scribus 1.5.3 on Windows 7, and chose 5.5.x8.5” for the trim(overall book) size.

  • Completed Size: 199 pages
  • Initial Margins: Inside = 0.875in, Outside=0.625in, Top =.625in, Bottom =.75in. (Note! While these are the settings I used at the beginning of the project, they had to be readjusted after the author proof showed the body text getting sucked into the gutter, see “Challenges” below).
  • Typefaces (fonts): the interior body text was done in Fanwood Text Regular 13 with a fixed 19.5pt line spacing. The interior heading typefaces are Firefly 11 (title), and the Classiq Regular Italic Choix 11 (author).
  • Cover: Designed in the open source vector program Inkscape, but Scribus took care of converting the exported PNG to print-ready PDF. (The kitties were painted in the open source raster art program Krita)

This project was completed just before Amazon migrated all Createspace projects over to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and was so created according to Createspace specifications.

Scribus Success Story - book interior with a running header and a chapter heading

A sample of the novel’s interior.

Challenges: Though I thought I had automatic hyphenation turned on, but I don’t think I ever saw automatic hyphenation function work, so when needed, I inserted the hyphenation manually.

After setting up my left and right Master pages, I started by making each chapter its own file, applying paragraph and italicized styles (my italics weren’t transferred from MS Word), then adjusting the tracking (spacing between words), widows, orphans, etc. Once finished, I added each chapter to the main book body file.

This worked well initially, but since this was my first typography job, I wound up tweaking the tracking inside the much larger main file, which meant I had to deal with a slowdown in program speed. But if I had completed all my tracking 100% to my satisfaction in the individual chapter files, then added them to the main file without touching them afterwards, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Scribus was still usable during this time—it just required a little patience.

My biggest technical hurdle was shifting text blocks—first when my corrective tracking caused pages to switch from left-side to right-side pages (and vice versa), then shifting the text blocks away from the gutter and down from the top after I got my first author proof back. (I recommend all authors set their inside margin wider than you think you’ll need!) Luckily Gregory Pittman came to my rescue with his very helpful shifting script! (He was also kind enough to modify the script to include vertical shifting after an email exchange. Mr. Pittman is a gentleman and a scholar!)

I found Clif Graves’ previous Scribus Success Story   invaluable as both guide and inspiration, along with John Osterhout’s Scribus templates  and DJ Mills’ “Creating Print-on-Demand Interiors and Covers Using Scribus” tutorial.

I’ve had numerous compliments on the look of the Gingersnap Cat Christmas paperback—and now that I’ve done it once, I look forward to using Scribus to publish print versions of my other short stories and novels.

 

New Horror Story: THE GIRLFRIEND WHO WASN’T FROM DELAWARE

Art, News from Pixelvania Publishing, Writing

Cover for THE GIRLFRIEND WHO WASN'T FROM DELAWARE - A giant hand made of blue static reaches down to pluck an apartment out of a building like a Jenga blockApartment walls are thin.

Reality may be thinner.

Ray Belga lives in the ugliest apartment building in town—but at least it’s quiet. Until a mystery neighbor’s fridge starts acting up.

At least…Ray thinks it’s a fridge. But he’ll soon learn you can’t trust everything you hear through apartment walls…


I hope you enjoy this (slightly twisted?) story about a guy with noisy neighbors. Just in time for Halloween!

Buy from your favorite eBook retailer here (includes Amazon)

More info and excerpt here on THE GIRLFRIEND’s Pixelvania Publishing page.

10K words reached on Girlfriend story!

Writing

…and you’re all, what Girlfriend story?

It’s a horror short I started last September, but it got put on the backburner when I started working on Gingersnap Cat. I was feeling a little fatigue on the Nosferatu Novel and thought I’d pick it up again. I can feel I’m nearing the end, so I’m really trying to put in my time on it. (It’d be great to have it out before Halloween!)

And now you know…the rest of the backstory. Good day!

PS If you’re looking for a nice uneasy read, you gotta read the original novella for THE BIRDS, it’s unnerving in a lovely way.

Rusty Lake Fanart: Corrupted Soul (OK, and a Corrupted Cat)

Art

The shadowy, creepy-eyed figure of the CORRUPTED SOUL, from the Rusty Lake gamesI played all the free (and creepy) Cube Escape games from Rusty Lake, then got hooked on the premium games. So I did up a little fanart of the Corrupted Soul after finishing chapter 2 of their latest release, Cube Escape: Paradox.

They’re surreal and creepy fun and really thoughtful, and I feel like their premium games are a good value (especially with Paradox…after 5 hours of play I still have  achievements and the alternate endings to get!)

A frequent MuseScore user reviews LilyPond with Frescobaldi

Music, Music Composition, Reviews

Once I got into the flow of text entry, I *really* wanted to like LilyPond (and Frescobaldi). And when I say flow, I mean the full-on Csíkszentmihályi experience.

Black kitty with white paws typing like the wind! (From Aaron's Animals on YouTube)

Pictured: me inputting musical notes in LilyPond

Never in all my years of writing and adapting music in MuseScore did note entry go so fast. The notes flew out of my fingers.

When done, I pressed the little green lily pad button in Frescobaldi to see my plain text turned into beautifully-engraved music in the tiled window just next to my text editor.

If I had never coded before in HTML and CSS, I’d say it was like magic.Screenshot of an old version of MOUNTAIN BELLS, being worked on in Frescobaldi

That’s the promise of the free program LilyPond: beautifully engraved sheet music made with fast (text-based) input. And when you pair it with the free program Frescobaldi, the “coding” becomes close to What You See Is What You Get, once you hit that lily pad button. Plus, Frescobaldi played the music back to me.

Yes. Once I got used to it, the text input was MIGHTYFAST and I loved it and wished it would go on forever.

BUT I don’t think it’s a good tool for piano sheet music.

Because 1) setting up the right hand section in paragraphs in separate-but-parallel sections to the left hand got old quickly, despite Frescobaldi highlighting which text part corresponded to which printed notes. This was extra apparent when adding new notes and phrases in the middle of completed measures. One note gets shifted, then—bazoom!— both staves are misaligned and it’s very heard-wrapsy to fix it all on the text side.

2) Though the documentation claims there’s a way to set up staves one atop another, I just couldn’t figure it out. And folks, I just taught myself how to typeset a novel in Scribus from the ground floor. If you look up “self-taught” I’m at least in an example sentence.

While shifting notes and phrases around can also be a pain in MuseScore, it’s a nuisance-pain, not an MC-Escher-word-puzzle-being-solved-through-a-laparoscope pain. Mess up in MuseScore, you can directly cut, paste, and adjust on the score. In LilyPond, you have to go hunting through text, run the engraving process again, then pray you aligned everything correctly.

If input speed were my sole consideration, I might try using LilyPond and Frescobaldi for banjo tabs, or something else with only one staff.

But my understanding is MuseScore can do tablature too—and editing a multi-stave piano score makes far more sense to me in that program than it does LilyPond.

Sorry, folks. For this piano composer, MuseScore is just easier to handle.

New! A GINGERSNAP CAT CHRISTMAS – my first paperback release!

Art, News from Pixelvania Publishing, Writing

A GINGERSNAP CAT CHRISTMAS Book Cover: A ginger cat with a halo smiles at a terrified black and grey kitten hiding behind him.

Gingersnap Cat is an orange tabby feeling blue. Heaven’s paradise, but it’s just not home without his human family by his side. Not even Christmas with his feline friends can cheer him up.

But when Heaven needs an extra paw, Gingersnap answers the call. Sent back to Earth, Gingersnap must help a little kitten fulfill a big destiny!

Announcing my latest Christmas novel (and first paperback release!), A Gingersnap Cat Christmas.

If you’re like me, you love Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Disney’s Prep and Landing, and A Garfield Christmas Special. But while all of these shows are great at talking about Christmas spirit, it’s hard to find a kid-friendly story (with exception of A Charlie Brown Christmas) that even mentions Jesus Christ, the actual reason for the season. And it’s doubly hard to find a Christian Christmas story that’s not too…well…preachy.

That’s why I wrote A GINGERSNAP CAT CHRISTMAS–to meld all the festive fun of a classic Christmas special without leaving the Savior out of his own celebration.

(I also wanted to write a story where the cats are the heroes, instead of selfish jerks.)

Anyway, if you ever wondered what Highway to Heaven would’ve been like with feline stars, you’ll love A Gingersnap Cat Christmas.

At 200 pages long, it’s a great novel for voracious young readers, but with 25 chapters, families can read a chapter a night in December for a new Christmas tradition.

You can…

Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope this book can help you whittle down your Christmas list early. 😉