Old Dog, New Tricks In May

I’m back in the saddle with my KDP book projects, getting ready to publish my books again at Amazon. I spent the past month learning new publishing techniques that will help ease the burden of being an indie author who self-publishes their books.

First among the list was learning the latest Microsoft Word program after I replaced 2010 with 365. The learning curve was small on that, which carried me onto Amazon’s latest version of Kindle Create. Again, the curve wasn’t too difficult since I last used the program five years ago.

Next on my list was learning to use Inkscape so I can create my book covers for paperback books. I usually use MS Word and an old PhotoDeluxe program for that, but I wanted to learn something new. The curve on that is big, so I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials to ease the process. I have a college BA degree in graphic design that I received in 1990, so I’m a relic when it comes to all the gadgets and their bells and whistles in the digital age. Don’t let me get started on all my failures while using Photoshop twenty years ago. The program was Grand Canyon huge and clunkier than my grandfather’s Model A Ford back then, so I got rid of it and settled on its streamlined and swifter little brother, PhotoDeluxe. Inkscape doesn’t seem as difficult as Photoshop but has plenty of bells and whistles.

During all this excitement, I replaced my Win7 laptop with a Win10 one. I spent a weekend moving files and learning 10’s shortcuts. It was funny when the computer connected to my old 2007 Hotmail account and wanted to use it as my primary email. I’ve been using Gmail for a decade and I forgot all about my Hotmail account after I transferred all my contacts to Gmail ten years ago. It was funny and a little bewildering to see my face from 2007 on my computer’s sign-in screen. Ah, the old gray hair isn’t what it used to be.

In between writing, prepping my books for publication, and getting comfortable with Win10, MS Word 365, and Inkscape, I decided to dive into the deep end of the author pool by downloading Scrivener version 3. More tutorials at YouTube helped me with its steep learning curve and I enjoyed how easy it was to create ebooks and paperbacks ready to send to Amazon’s KDP.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, I created a new author logo.

I plan to use this on my book covers to give them a unique look. I’m tired of seeing plain fonts on covers, so the artist in me took over during one of my book cover design sessions. Although the one pictured is red, I can use any color.

As an experiment, I threw this cover together for the first ebook at my KDP website.

I made it with MS Word and PhotoDeluxe—my old standby method—but I’ll probably use a cover built on Inkscape when I actually publish the book.

So, there you have it, my busy month of May in less than 1000 words.

Have a great June and stay safe.

Peace and love!

Coming Attractions [plans]

August is ending. Summer is almost over, which means it is time for me to return to my writing and art. And with that, it is time to break those long periods of silence here.

Before I took large portions of the summer off to collect my wits and to catch up on the parts of my life not connected to the Internet, I was reworking my books about Verawenda. This has been an ongoing project for several years, and one I would like to see come to fruition by the end of the year.

Other projects involve photography, which I plan to reveal during the autumn and winter months.

Winters are long where I live, and January, February and March are often brutal enough to keep me at my computers instead of going outdoors. You can expect to read and see a lot from me during those months. I also expect to return to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing during that time. I do my best writing in the winter, so I’m 99.9 percent positive I’ll have something to publish.

More about that later.

I’m excited about seeing another October come along. If I could perform one magic feat, I would make it October for at least six months of the year. And not because of Halloween. There has always been something romantic and magical about October, from the smells in the air to the lighting of the sky each day. And, of course, the colors of nature before the leaves fall.

No other month has such a pull on me. April and May come close with spring and the start of baseball, but October will always be my favorite month of the year, which makes November a melancholy one for me.

But enough of that.

It’s time to focus on good things for this blog.

So, as another summer winds down and my creativity begins percolating again, I guess the only thing I can say in closing this blog post is, “Stay tuned.”

The Lonely Road of Creating

My blog is often a neglected child crying for attention. I have a tiny window of time to write, proofread, and post new blog posts. My daily life is a rush that keeps the heart pumping and puts a limp in my walk at the end of the day.

Smile. There is always a moment when I can write a few sentences or thumbnail a new drawing or painting. It’s a yin and yang thing that keeps me balanced.

I have pages of incomplete sentences too, in notebooks, on index cards, and even in fancy leather journals. I am a sketcher. I see a light at the end of a tunnel and work my way to it. Sometimes, it takes years to get there. Sometimes, which is often the case, I find another tunnel and branch into a new direction.

Sometimes the tunnel is not a tunnel at all, but a lone highway that starts with no people, houses, or traffic. I take those lonely walks along such highways when I begin writing my stories. But I soon meet an interesting character—sometimes two or more. They join me on the journey, taking me to places and other people, showing me which way to go and telling me how to get there. That’s the fun of writing stories.

But that is internal. Externally, I am by myself, thinking, planning, writing—or thinking, planning, making art. I suppose, that’s the true walk on the lonely road. It’s what writers and artists do.

An artist friend calls her time spent sketching, her social time. It’s time spent with family and friends while she gathers and plays with ideas. But the time she spends while painting is a time for solitary confinement. And she’s right: I cannot write a book, or draw or paint artwork without shutting myself away from the rest of the world.

It’s lonely, yes, but necessary. Because that is where the lightning is—the juice that brings your creation alive. Without it, you’re just walking alone in the dark, going nowhere in particular.

To all my creative friends, I encourage you to walk the lonely road and create something great.

Back To the Drawing Board [drawing]

If I were able to go back in time and relive my childhood while keeping the knowledge I have now, I would choose again to be an artist first and a writer second.

I was an early and avid reader when I was a child. But I was also and moreover an art lover. Art, especially picture art, is what I first saw when I stepped inside someone’s home … beyond the mudroom, of course. Drawings and paintings on people’s walls captivated me and made me want to be an artist. So I worked long and hard to be one.

When I’m introduced to people, I’m announced with the title “artist.” I earned that distinction long ago.

“You’re an artist,” friends remind me when I struggle to write my stories. “Draw something. Paint a picture.” And I do, just to get away from whatever writing problem I’m dealing with.

And it comes so easily, drawing and painting. If only writing were so easygoing for me.

So, for a change of pace after a long bout wrestling with my next novel, I took up my drawing pencils and drew a portrait for a friend and co-worker. Below are displayed the fun I had creating the art.

First came the photo to work from.

It was the only photo she had of the couple together. Photos are limiting. And this one had many lost values in the edges, especially around the woman’s hair because of the busy and cluttered background.

I didn’t like the arrangement of her and the man she’s with—they are too far away from each other—so I rearranged them and brought them closer. They are married, after all.

I began with black marker and sketched a black and white composition that I call a cartoon. It gave me a reference of white space and something very important to composition, a something artists call “eye flow.”

I found the upper right and bottom left white space threw the composition off balance, so I trimmed it out and brought the couple closer together. When I was satisfied, I took new drawing paper and began sketching in what became the final drawing.

After it was done and I framed it behind glass, a friend photographed it and gave me a copy. It’s the only photo I have of the finished art.

My co-worker was pleased with the drawing and so was I.

I love drawing. I wish I could do it every day instead of working at the job I have now. But making art doesn’t put a roof over one’s head or food on the table for everyone who can do it.

Still, if I were able to go back in time, I would still choose to be an artist first.