Pretty fantasy artwork for New Year’s

Let’s start off 2015 with some really gorgeous fantasy artwork/creatures!

tsintaosaurus_by_tepuitrouble-d88ipnc

Tsintaosaurus by tepuitrouble

Because even duckbills can be awesome.

little_gatherers_by_the_sixthleafclover-d876ruf

Little Gatherers by the Sixthleaf Clover

Cute little dragons “helping” in the kitchen!

january_by_atenebris-d7zzg9h

January by Atenebris

Because a snowy griffin encounter like this deserves a story to go with it.

sunny_may_by_alsaresnolynx-d84dev4

Sunny May by AlsaresNoLynx

Also, little griffins are cute.

syracosaurus jungle

Styracosaurus Jungle by raven-amos

This one is a T-shirt design! Because everybody loves a good tribal styracosaurus design.

apocalypto_by_88grzes-d27uazb

Apocalypto by 88grzes

Because any chick with jeans and black wings is totally bringing about the end of the world. Also, she totally looks like the End Boss of the Spacetime series. 😀

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A look at my personal indiepub stats in 2014

It’s the end of my first year of being self-published, or indie published, which is the hip term. This past year I’ve released three titles–two novels and a novella. Here’s how it fell out:

Nov 2013 – Storm Chase

February 2014 – Turned

September 2014 – Chronocrime

November 2014 – Wraithblade

I also put Storm Chase through a major revision in the July/August area.

The first half of the year was pretty dry in terms of sales, but I sold at least one book per month. It was more like two or three. Once Chronocrime hit, sales rose a little–I started having about five sales a month. When Wraithblade hit, it rose to about ten sales a month.

I made about 40 bucks this year, all told. I’m very happy with it–I went into the game expecting to make zero. Anything more than that is gravy!

I wish I could crank these out faster. It usually takes me 2-3 months for a first draft. Then another month to get it beta-read, and another month to apply deep rewrites (if I’m that fast). I had a big gap between February and September, because I was chewing through major rewrites of Chronocrime. (I changed one of the villains from male to female, which changed the entire emotional resonance of the book).

I’d wanted Wraithblade to launch in October, but revisions on that wound up taking two months, instead of just one. I had to add a bunch of extra scenes and conflicts, and follow the logic threads better.

So, next year, I’m going to try to do one novella and two novels again. Here’s the plan:

A sequel to Turned, called the Bramblewood Werebear.

The first book of a paranormal romance trilogy, called Malevolent.

(Malevolent and Werebear are currently going up on Wattpad for critique purposes. I’ve done it with my other books, and got them good and shredded by the target audience.)

The fourth book of the Spacetime series, tentatively called Spellweaver.

Basically, I’m moving forward with two existing series, and starting a new one. Gotta try different genres and see what sells, you know? The lightning has a bigger chance of striking if I have a bunch of lightning rods out there waiting.

I know a lot of people out there are gnashing their teeth about the state of indie publishing. But all these stories are things I’d write anyway, because it’s fun. If I make a few bucks, that’s cool. Mostly, though, I’d like to make friends with folks who like my stories.

It’s why I’m currently scribbling out a fanfic that my Sonic peeps on deviantart requested. But fanfics don’t factor in to my publishing quota. 🙂

Christmas 2014 pics

Ah, Christmas is over at last, and the kids have proclaimed it their best Christmas ever.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

I observed that the toys they were happiest with were the ones that encourage open play–stuffed animals, the block town, and so on. But I think the best thing was just being together and enjoying things as a family. Mom and Dad were happy, and that made the munchkins happy. I think overall, that’s what made it such a good Christmas. 🙂

Today, I have a pot of wassail on the stove that the kids are drinking like crazy, and everybody’s just enjoying their new toys.

When you want a creche, and you don’t have a creche …

Make a creche! Out of LEGOS!

lego-nativity

I didn’t have any camels, so the wise men are on horseback. But aside from that, I think it came out pretty good. The kids can play with it, and any damage is easy to fix. I’m trying to figure out how to build sheep.

Here’s the munchkins all together, posing for the camera.

fourkids

They were very happy to do so. I’m raising a bunch of hams. 🙂

Raptor sketches, both kinds

I’ve had the itch to draw for a while, so I sat down and scribbled out some velociraptors.

raptors-sketches

Gotta draw some feathery ones and some Jurassic Park/Jurassic World ones. As I was drawing, I kept up this running narration to the kids:

“See, real velociraptors are three feet tall, and they’re feathery, like roadrunners. They probably wouldn’t eat you, again, like roadrunners. But Jurassic Park raptors were made back before they knew about the feathers, and the idea of a six foot tall two-legged lizard was terrifying. Think how fast those things go. So the new movie has the lizardy raptors because they’re scarier than cute widdle fwuffy waptors.”

Christmas and other lunacies

Can you believe we’re already to December 10th? The mind boggles! Wasn’t Thanksgiving last weekend?

… Maybe I should throw out those leftovers.

We put up our Christmas tree this weekend, and it’s made our living room so festive. The kids play with it constantly. It’s just a fake tree, so they’re always rearranging the branches and messing with the ornaments. We have wood and plastic ornaments, so it’s one hundred percent kid-friendly.

One silly kid, one kid fussing about having to have her picture taken.
One silly kid, one kid fussing about having to have her picture taken.

Beyond that, I’m always at a loss as to how to make Christmas special. I’d love to do Advent, but by the time I think about buying supplies, it’s December 10th. This is the first year we’ve had money to buy presents for the kids, and I forgot how fun/overwhelming Christmas shopping is. The hardest thing is keeping the results a secret. I want to give them their presents immediately, you know?

My hubby just got made full time at his job, so we’ve been pretty excited about that. Just waiting for the paperwork to finish up. He hasn’t had a good full-time job since we got married. God’s really been good to us. We’ve lived hand to mouth for so many years, we’re flabbergasted at the idea of actually having money. We can do things like order pizza.

We’ve had a really laid back school year, what with babysitting a four year old five days a week. But they’re all making progress in their reading and writing, and I’m very satisfied. We’ve also enthusiastically studied the solar system and space all year, owing to my son’s excitement. I’ve also read aloud to them every night, which I think has helped a lot. This week the boy I’m babysitting has suddenly improved in his reading skills–he’s struggled all year with the basics, so I had scaled back and was letting him grow a bit. It’s heartening to see a little one make that jump forward.

Are you really getting into this Christmas season? Or are you like me, and feel like a Christmas noob?

Jurassic World’s raptors aren’t feathery and that’s okay

Ever since the Jurassic World trailer came out, people have been throwing a fit about it. Particularly scientists, those all-knowing folks who look closely at fossils and say, “OMG it had FEATHERS.”

microraptor-fossil-1

“The dinosaurs don’t look like dinosaurs” they shriek. “They still look like LIZARDS. We want BIRDS.”

Well folks, filling a theme park with giant carnivorous ostriches wouldn’t sell many tickets. Especially since this is a SEQUEL. And you kind of have to, you know, use the same monsters as in the original movies. Admittedly, these monsters look much spiffier than they did in 1993.

jurassic-world-poster

No scientists are squawking about the GENETICALLY MODIFIED D-REX, the star of the movie. Which, going by the buzz, means we finally get the rad dinosaurs from the Lost World book that could turn invisible.

Nope, all that matters is that the raptors and gallimimus don’t have feathers. Yep.

six-foot-turkey

Nevermind that the velociraptors in JP are technically utahraptors, and only a couple of fossil fragments of them exist–therefore we don’t know if they had feathers. (Seeing as their smaller cousins did, we can assume they did, but we don’t KNOW.)

The point is, Jurassic World is a movie. Likely a GOOD movie. With the sorts of lizardy dinosaurs people expect from the series. Scientists can go off and make another season of Walking with Six-Foot Turkeys, if they’re going to whine so much.

How to make a book cover from stock photos

I know that graphic design isn’t people’s strong suit, yet lots of peoples are desperate to make free covers for their ebooks. I’ve been experimenting with making cover art for quite a while now (Wattpad is a great place to practice really awful covers until you get it out of your system).

Onto the process!

Step 1: RESEARCH

Get on Amazon and search for books similar to yours. Fantasy? Romance? Sci fi? Chick lit? Whatever it is, look it up. I’m writing what I’m calling Regency Shifter Romance–basically it’s werewolves in a Jane Austen setting. Except this particular book features a dude who turns into a bear. Does Amazon have stuff like that?

Why, yes, yes it does.

werebear-cover-examples

These were the top hits when I searched “werebear romance” on Amazon. Now, let’s break it down.

werebear-cover-examples2

In case you can’t read my chicken scratch, here’s my observations:

  • All the covers feature a hot guy and a bear, with a forest background
  • All the covers are blue, green, or purple, with the guy/bear trending toward orange
  • The fonts have a surprising lack of cursive “romance” fonts. They trend more toward paranormal. Although cursive does appear on the better-designed covers.
  • The text always falls in the center or toward the bottom
  • The byline is at the bottom most of the time, but it can be at the top

Step 2: FIND STOCK

Now I have an idea of what the genre expects for covers, I can go find the stock I want to use for mine. I get on DeviantArt and carefully comb through the stock photos, looking for unrestricted use, or free for use stocks. There’s really awesome stock that requires payment, but I’m cheap. I usually look for the really really old stuff, too. DA’s been around ten or twelve years, and there’s a crapton of art on there.

Here’s the stock I wound up with:

victorian_couple_6_by_digimaree-d4yteqi

brown_bear_3_by_prints_of_stock-d461wif

dsc_0015_01_groombridge_pla

Step 3: LAYER STUFF

I dump it all into Photoshop and start rearranging. You can rent Photoshop from Adobe for 30 bucks a month, or you can use the Gimp or something else that’s free. The image editing for this art involves cropping, erasing, and moving layers.

I’m working on a canvas that uses Amazon’s book cover guidelines: 1,563 x 2,500 pixels at 300 ppi (pixels per inch, which is the image’s resolution).

werebear-cover-steps-1

At this point, all I’ve done is erase backgrounds and move stuff around.

Now I drop a blue-black gradient into the background.

werebear-cover-mockup2

With the images on top of it, it looks like this:

werebear-cover-mockup3

But Kessie! you cry. How did you make the house all blueish like that?

With the layer settings, of course! As you paste each pic into the image, Photoshop will stick it on its own layer. Just find the layer you want to make all transparent, and change this option:

werebear-cover-mockup4

Now’s the point where I like to fiddle around with the title and byline, to make sure the images fit around them. The title has to be BIG, so it stands out in thumbnail, and high contrast.

werebear-cover-mockup5

These fonts are Alex Brush for the script, and Gabriola for the print stuff. Ah, but it’s still kind of hard to read. Grab your airbrush and scribble in some black on a layer below the text.

werebear-cover-mockup6

Much better. Now, the background is looking kind of dull and empty. A lot of those other covers use trees for the backgrounds to give a foresty impression. Were-animals always run around in woods. (Somebody needs to write one who runs around in deserts, or alpine tundra.) The picture of the house had a nice tree in it that I clip out and drop into the background.

werebear-cover-mockup7

Much better texture! Now, since I’m lazy, I’m going to copy the bear and people layers, and set the copies to Multiply. And I’ll drop in a byline and scribble black behind it, too.

werebear-cover-mockup1

Looks decent, doesn’t it? I have some painting left to do–like I need to remove the grass on the bear, and airbrush the couple to make them look more painted. But it’s well on its way, don’t you think?

So that’s how you make a book cover. Mostly it’s looking really closely at other, similar covers and figuring how they put theirs together. Also, the right fonts is a MUST. I left out the hours I spent tinkering with the text, moving it, changing the fonts, and so on. I’m still not satisfied with the look on my byline, and I’ll change it some more.

I used this site to find great fonts for my genre.

Now go forth, and create book covers from stock! Always remember to respect the photographer’s stock use rules–pay or credit or whatever they require.