Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Haiku* About Spring

Spring scrubs at winter.
It washes away the grey,
And welcomes summer.

*A Haiku is composed of 3 lines with 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 syllable line pattern.  Haiku concentrates on nature and it is short and concise.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Cinquain* About a Favorite Toy - Scooter

Scooter on the left of vehicle.

Clunky, rusty
Slowly gallumps down hill
My dearest, sweetest riding toy
A Joy

My children had scooters. Actually, the process was more like this: Playskool rider, tricycle, bigwheel, bicycle with training wheels, bicycle, scooter, skateboard, car. Oh, the process of growing up. I never had a scooter, but I saw how much my kids treasured it.  Maybe one day, when I'm old,
I'll be gallumping on my scooter.   Sort of like the lady below. 

She seems to be styling.

* A Cinquain is composed of 5 lines, 22 syllables in a 2-4-6-8-2 syllable pattern.  A Cinquain describes something or tells a story.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flooding and Tornadoes - Oh, Houston!

 Oh Houston, when will you fix our flooding problems?  Some children can't leave their schools because the streets surrounding the schools have disappeared.  Most of us can't get home after work.  Any cars parked on the street go under. 

Sometimes home are destroyed by flooding waters.  This occurs in mostly poor areas.  This is so sad.  The poor don't have home or rental insurance.  Most of the elderly don't either - just ask my parents.  I was stuck safely at home.  My street was an island surrounded by water.

Houston is also part of "Tornado Alley".  Surrounding areas got hit with tornadoes that tore roofs off and knocked down trees.
My husband was stranded at work. 
My son missed a day at the University of Houston.

Our cars were not parked on the street.  This poor person found the
parking space at work full. So, he parked his car in the street as many
others had. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trailer for "Adolfo and Athena" - Post 1

The work has begun on a storybook trailer for "Adolfo and Athena".  After getting the gist of a script for my trailer, I began viewing the picture book trailers that have been made by authors in the "12 x 12 in'12" group.  I noticed that the trailers on YouTube contained music and sound but no voice over or people.  I searched some more on YouTube and found the same thing.  This made me wonder.  Was that the correct format for trailers?

My trailer will have at least one actor, scenes, and voiceovers.  I'll be acting as myself, but what I say will come from a fictional script.

At the moment, I'm sketching the mice (the main characters of the story) in a variety of poses.  I'm also considering whether the trailer can be shot in my backyard.  Any additional settings can be hand painted.
Shimmy is looking at the mice sketches.

The trailer will probably turn out very unprofessional and homey, but I like that.  Will it hurt my book sales?  I don't know.  But, the audience will get to see art and perhaps enjoy the creativity.  (Oh, God is so good; what creative fun we will have.)
Just need to crop and add color.
Love Elephant Ears

I wonder if the weeds will stay in time for filming.
 I'll try to post the trailer script for "Athena and Adolfo" tomorrow.  (BTW, the storybook "Athena and Adolfo" is freshly out on Kindle.  Check it out.  :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Testing 1, 2, 3" Authors and Beta Testing

  As a new author, just freshly out on the book market, I'm a rookie.  Today I learned a new term - beta testing.  Beta testing is when you select a small group to test your product.  I guess you could say it's  sort of like having scientists analyzing the results of their work by using control groups.  Or, a software developer sending his product to a select group of businesses asking them to try his new product out.  It's called the debugging stage.  Well, authors must also have a debugging stage - the beta test.

Alpha Testing -
First, we have what is called the alpha stage.  At this time, the writer asks for her work to be critiqued by her writer's group, family, etc.  (I spent a couple of years in this stage.)

Beta Testing -
Then, there is the beta stage.  This is when the author releases her book without much fanfare.  She is waiting to see what the response is to her book.   What corrections must she make before it goes out with all the toots and whistles.  (I spent too few days at this stage ... live and learn.) 

I highly recommend that writers not skip beta testing.  It is really helpful for producing a professional product.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Holy Grail for Publishing on Kindle with Color Images

At last, I have found answers for my Kindle Direct Publishing dilemmas.  I found the answers on Kindles Community board.  That is where authors go to ask other authors and publishers for help as they attempt to format their manual into an epublished book. 

"How to Transform a Word File to a Kindle Ready MOBI Book" by jtbigtoad

One of the (many) posts is called:  How to Transform a Word File to a Kindle Ready Mobi book.  It is reader friendly and will take you through the whole process without causing you to hyperventilate.  The author of this post goes by the name of jtbigtoad.  I printed his notes out.  They are 9 pages of well written instructions.  I am forever grateful to him.  I wish you the same success.

Book uploaded and displayed in black and white.

Full color book on Amazon.com Prime.  Ready for the public. 

Now, I will create an author's page for my storybook, Adolfo and Athena.  I am so happy. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kindle epub's so easy, a computer illiterate (me) can do it. Right?

Last week, I decided to epublish an illustrated story I'd finished.  Kindle made it sound so simple.  I thought, even a computer illiterate, like me, could do it. 

On Monday:
I found Kindle's epublishing site: Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), awesome! https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A2J0TRG6OPX0VM Its page had 3 tabs.  I read, clicked and reread everything.  Any techno lingo I didn't know, I researched (I asked my family or Googled it).  It was an intense exploration day. 

On Tuesday:
I had the grand idea of releasing my ebook for epublication on Friday, my birthday.
I began preparing my text for the book (that's formatting in techno lingo).  Everything needed to be converted to JPEG.  What is JPEG?  My photos and illustrations were on tif and png.  How could I convert my illustrations and photos into JPEG?

I saw that there was a place for making a book cover for my book.  Hmmm, JPEG again?  I also needed to add a title to my book cover.  I had learned how do that when I had played around with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), a free web download program. 

The Kindle directions for the book cover were easy enough to understand.  I succeeded and had a nice JPEG ecover for my book.

On Wednesday:
I learned to convert all things to JPEG.  I downloaded my story into Kindle's KDP.   The download was successful!  I did a preview.  The skeletal shape of the book looked pretty good, except the book was in black and white and none of my images showed up.  Heartbreaking!  What could I have done wrong?  I had followed all the instructions.  Would the images show up once I had published the book?  (I was on "save draft" book mode.)

I went back to my story.  I tried to fix the errors I found in my ebook story.  I submitted the story again.  No luck. 

On Thursday:
I gave up thinking my story would be in ebook form for my birthday.  My husband suggested that I pay someone to transform my story for electronic publishing.  I gave it some thought.  Surely, if Kindle gives the public instructions on how to epublish a manual, it's not impossible.  I researched some more.  I watched videos on  how to use Microsoft Word.  Maybe I was becoming techno savvy (maybe just a little bit).  Research, research, and more research.

On Friday:
The day of my birthday I had tunnel vision - all things were Kindle.  Then, Hubby called. 

"Why don't we invite our parents out to dinner to celebrate your birthday?" he asked.

"No.  I don't want to.  I'm too immersed in this Kindle stuff." I answer.

"How about lunch with our parents on Saturday?" asks Hubby.

"No.  I mean, I can't think.  I don't know.  I can't think right now. Okay, but not lunch.  A brunch.  Okay?"

"At what time?" asks Hubby.

"Look.  I can't talk.  Sorry.  I'm all wrapped up in this.  Sorry.  We'll talk when you come home for lunch.  Love you. Bye."

After the call, I realized I needed to walk away.  I needed a break.  When lunch time came, Hubby took me out to lunch.  I talked about everything but Kindle.   Went to my favorite eating place. We had a nice time together.  We set the time and place for the birthday brunch.

Once home, I researched some more until... (to be continued)

Tomorrow's Blog:  Finding the Holy Grail of epublishing on Kindle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Poisoned Apple of a Newbie Writer

I joined SCBWI December 2010.  Stepping into the society of writers and illustrators was like stepping into a foreign country.  It seemed everyone knew so much and assumed that I knew just as much.  I was in the land of Oz. 

I made my first blunder when I passed out my story "Adolfo and Athena" for one of the critique groups to read.  Rather than shutting up, absorbing all the comments, and being thankful, I defended my writing decisions.  Silly me.  I know better now.

I received great advice from Sally E. Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide.  The book suggested that I attend a conference for writers.  I dutifully signed up.  I also signed up for a critique of my story.

My precious story -  I read and reread and worked and reworked my story.  Until at last, I had a finished product.  Then, I sent it off to have it critiqued by one of the professionals at the conference (a picture book author).  I couldn't wait for the day of the conference.  What words of wisdom would the great wizard say.  I was so excited.

The time came for my critique.  I sat calmly ( the reserved adult on the outside/ giddy for Christmas on the inside) before the picture book author.

He looked pained.  "What were you thinking?" he asked me.  The material I had handed him was too violent for a picture book.  He shook his head and told me he had read the first page and quit.  This could never be a picture book.  I had brought the poisoned apple to Oz.

I sat stunned.  The story was good.  It was clever.  It was funny.  Yes, there was a scary moment where the cat caught the main characters (2 little mice), but they had tricked him - cleverly turning the whole situation upside down.

I left crushed.  He hadn't even bothered to read the story.  He hadn't given it a chance.

It was later that I realized my mistake.  Because I am a writer/illustrator, I had illustrated the story.  Thus, I thought I had written a picture book.  In reality, I had written a storybook.  Oh, ignorance!
So, I learned 2 more things as a writer.  First, a picture book is for little ones.  A storybook is the next level up.  Second, IF I ever critique someone's work for pay, I will read all of what they give me and try to understand what the heck they were thinking when they wrote it! 

I have been an at home writer and illustrator since the Fall of 2011.  The folks at my critique groups have given me lots of sound advice.  I think my story is ready for the masses.  "Adolfo and Athena" will go to Kindle Direct Publishing this winter.  Let the true critics decide whether my story sinks or swims.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Critics, please help!

It is usually difficult to get critiques with insightful criticism from people.  Is it because they...

don't want to hurt feelings (Yes, I can be crushed by comments.),
don't know the writer/illustrator well enough for trust to have developed,
are unfamiliar with the type of writing/illustration you have produced, or
aren't confident enough in themselves as critics?

When I'm in critique groups, I try to be gentle, BUT I want to be honest.   I think we all want that.  We want to know if our writing is fluent, clear, visual, free of redundant words, and evokes emotion.

Illustrators also have issues they want resolved.  They want their illustrations to draw out emotion from the viewer.  Does the viewer understand what is happening through the actions of the characters, the setting, the texture and color of the medium, the composition of the objects.  Is the message (or illustrator's intent) clear?  Does everything fit in neatly with the story?

This week, I was pleased with my husband's critique of my illustrations.  He gave me insightful criticism.   Was he right?  I asked myself.   I had something to think about.

Below is the illustration. It is from the story, baby spider. :

He asked why Baby Spider was so big.  He was bigger than the lizard which was in the foreground.  If he's little, shouldn't he be really small?  After some though, I took the illustration and began reworking it.  This is no easy task for someone who is just beginning to explore graphic illustration.

 As I try to improve on my illustration, I wonder how do I focus the viewer's attention on Baby Spider if the lizard becomes the largest character? Putting the main character in the center and using action  strokes to show movement is a start.  Also, the bright color of the spider and blah color of the lizard helps draw the viewers eye to Baby Spider.

Now, what size should Baby Spider be?  To me, he's small enough in the picture below.  He should be about the height of a 5 year old child.  Critics am I wrong?  Do you have any advice for me? Seriously, please help!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Neighbor to Neighbor, page 4

Last week I setout on a daring mission. I invited all theladies in my neighborhood to a bible book club via a flier I posted on the houses. I have never been in a bookclub, but I figured a book club would meet my needs. You see, I want someone to read the bible along with me. Then, to share what we get out of the passages.
You might argue that perhaps a bible book club won’t work. How can Pentacostals, Catholics, Baptists, Atheists, Methodists, etc. get together to read the Bible and not get into arguments.

That’s simple, if…
we remember that it’s not about us, what leaders we follow,or what they declare to be true.

we remember that we are to be kind to everyone and showgrace when we come to doctrinal differences.
we meet, because we want to grow in knowing Christ more.

we will honor God through our faith, love, and gentleness. How beautiful it will be to praise him. To talk about his love for us.

The books of I and II Timothy warn against arguments.
2 Timothy 2:14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

2 Timothy 23-24 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments,because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

My youngest son made this for our home.  These bible verses tell us that if we do not have love we are empty inside, we are nothing, and have gained nothing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Baby Spider, page 2

Baby Spider shows everyone he is too brave to be little.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself in the business of publishing a story. When I take this first draft picture book story to my critique group, they will probably (gently) say, "Work on your story some more. It needs more Oomph!" But let me say, that the joy of being an illustrator is that I get to capture my imagination and put it into visual form.

Now, you're looking at Baby Spider and wondering why I made him yellow-orange with black spots. Well, that's because he is from the Genus Poecilothomisus. He's a crab spider from Australia. The real crab spiders are beautiful. Actually, they look like they are made of shiny plastic. I couldn't resist. Take a look yourself:

Crab Spiders of Australia -

Genus Poecilothomisus
The Find – A – Spider Guide for the Spiders of Southern Queensland

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Neighbor to Neighbor, page 3

I must be getting old. Or, maybe I just needed water. Posting 105 fliers around my subdivision today took a lot out of me. However, I'm thrilled with the results.

My bible book club will have a membership of 5 ladies (and counting). I couldn't be happier.

The first lady (#1) who called, is very active in her church. She attends bible study and choir practice.

Lady #2 had never read her bible except in church. But, something kept nagging at her that she should read her bible at home, too.

Lady #3 had bought the house that my husband and I had wanted to buy. I had met her husband working out in the yard many times, but I had never met her.

Lady #4 had been going to bible studies all her life, but she felt she could always learn something more. I told her I was sure I could learn from her.

Lady #5 is an elderly woman who is in a wheelchair recuperating. She wishes she could attend, but she is on the mend. She asks that she be kept up to date on how our meetings are going. She would also like to read the same passages we are reading while she is at home. I look forward to visiting her as she has invited me to come over some time soon.

Lady #6 is me! Thrilled to make new friends who are willing to share their wisdom with me.
I should mention that I was 20 fliers short. So, tomorrow I'm hitting the street one more time.

60 + 80 + 105 + 20 = 265 There are approximately 265 homes in my subdivision. Now, I know.

Baby Spider, page 1

This is the story of Baby Spider - who's out to prove to the world that he's not little.

About graphic illustration:

Yesterday, I started learning how to use the free online software called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulating Software). I thought I should see whether or not I enjoyed illlustrating stories using graphic art. I really loved it. However, it was a slow learning process and there's so much more to learn. (I had forgotten to put black spots on the Momma spider. Now, they're on her.)

There are online courses for Photoshop and Illustrator. I'm thinking of taking those to see what software I prefer using. I can't wait to learn how to add shading to my illustrations. Shading will make them look 3-D.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Neighbor to Neighbor, page 2

      Last night, I thought about what I had done.  I had passed out 60 “Neighbor to Neighbor” fliers inviting ladies to a neighborhood Bible Book club. Afterwards, I had gotten such a sunken feeling in my heart.  What was I doing?  Who would call a stranger about joining a Bible Book Club?  Maybe after they read the flier they were thinking, “What a weirdo!”  And my neighbors who knew me, would they be stereotyping me as a bible thumping narrow minded hypocrite coming out of the closet?  These thoughts so disturbed me, that I quit. 
     Then, I asked God for help.  After all, it wasn’t my idea.  The Holy Spirit had been prompting me to find someone to read and share for over a year now.  I had asked my husband, but he says he likes to read the Bible on his own.  I had asked my Sunday fellowship group, but everyone is far away, and I have no car.  Besides, some of them work overtime, and others like to read the Bible on their own.
      So, when I gave my burden to the Lord I felt much better, because this hadn’t been my idea.  I had given God the burden, but I refused to pass any more fliers out.  I decided to wait until the Spirit put that burning desire in me again.   At 9:00 PM, the phone rang.  Someone was interested in being in the Bible Book Club!  I went to bed with a happy heart.

Today, I printed out 80 fliers.  The day is beautiful.   I have my walking shoes on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Neighbor to Neighbor, page 1

I am a walker who loves long walks.  Being outside is refreshing or hot, cold, wet...  When I can, I listen to oldies rock music or sermons via my fancy phone.

One day, my husband and I wanted to do community service by cleaning up the busy street in front our subdivision.  I passed out fliers.  The first time took me 2 days and 4 hours.  We received about 20 phone calls.  Interestingly, the neighbors on my street were the ones who were the most active.  Then, I passed out more fliers.  This time for National Night Out.  I passed those fliers out to invite neighbors to come visit, sit, and get to know each other.

Now, this is my new flier - 
Neighbor to Neighbor

Dear Neighborhood Ladies ,
For some time now, I have felt the need to be a part of a women’s group that  meets weekly to share what they’ve learned from reading the Bible.  I’ve imagined it to be sort of like a book club. (Although, I’ve never participated in a book club before.)  Perhaps, we would select and read 1 – 3 Bible chapters at home during the week.  Then, we would meet one day a week to reread the selection and share what we’ve gotten out of the reading.  This would bless my Spirit, and I would hope it would yours, too.

I am not looking for a church Bible Study. (Although, I’ve been a part of some really wonderful ones.)  There will be no lectures, and we won’t use workbooks or manuals.  It will be just our group reading and sharing. 
If you’ve had this same burning desire in your Spirit, please join me in participating in a Neighborhood Bible Book club (that’s what I’m calling it for now J ).  You can reach me at....  I look forward to hearing from you.
Brenda Harris

P.S.  The Bible versions I enjoy reading from are: the New International Version (NIV), the Message, and lately, the New King James.  Do you have a favorite?

It's a sincere note. I'm hoping that those folks who have that same desire, will contact me.  I'll let you know how it goes. 
I took this picture in Costa Rica.  The church is called "The Faith Road." 
That's cool. And how symbolic is that car?!

Am I on a Faith Road? 
 Am I counting on God to find the right people for
a Neighborhood Bible Book Club?  You bet.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What is 12 x 12 in 2012 ?

Julie Foster Hedlund (writeupmylife.com) has started the Picture Book Writing Challenge called  
12 x 12 in 2012.  The challenge is to write 12 complete picture book drafts in the 12 months of 2012.  The deadline to sign up as an official participant of the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge is January 29, 2012.  Children's author, Katie Davis (producer of weekly podcasts called Brain Burps About Books) will interview Julie Hedlund on January 11th. 

Mandatory for official participants:
1.   You must sign the Google form on the post announcing 12 x 12 in 2012, if you are interested in joining the challenge.
2.   You must follow her blog.

You will receive a winner badge if you complete the challenge.  There will also be giveaways at the end of each month.  Best of all, comments by experts in the field of children's books will be posted on the first of each month.

Twitter #12x

12 x 12 in 2012 Begins

A new year. A new story for our lives.
Adventures to take. Dreams to fulfill. Visions to plant and nurture to reality.
A blessed relation of oneness with God.

Brimming with promises, I think I'm looking forward to 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

page 6, Octi the Octipus

The End
Thank  you, Tati and Gabi for your wonderful story.
This story, written by Tati and Gaby, shows us (adult writers) what a first grader may deem important in the literature that they read and stories they write.  The story includes danger, friendship, a clever heroine, no adult character, and science (Octi's black ink is used to blind the shark from being aware that Swimy had fallen in the water while fishing). 

The young authors are aware of the foundational structure of a good story: main characters, setting, a problem, solution, and an ending.  The story flows.

Studying a child's illustrated story, may help point a writer in the right creative direction.

page 5, Octi the Octipus

three cheres for Octi
heray  heray  heray!

page 4, Octi the Octipus

right when swimy was puting her fishing pole in the water
SPLASH! She fell in the water.
it was a sharck.  But with Octi's black ink she safed the day.