Writing

Want to be a Serious Writer? Be prepared… it’s Expensive, But There are Some Tricks to Save Money

I have been honing and practicing my writing skills for nearly a decade. Along the way, I’ve had to spend money on editing, cover design, and marketing services. It cost a lot. I am not kidding.

I also fell into the trap of using “self-publishing” services, which were actually vanity presses. They offer publishing packages from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. And those books sell few to no copies. I would avoid those at all costs. And not just because of the pricing, but because of how they treat authors, take their money, and result in poor sales of their books. Try to use legitimate services where you just upload your materials, such as Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital. Both are free to publish on.

But it’s more than just that. I will return to the publishing and marketing topics after I discuss editing and cover design.

Editing can be pretty expensive. Some editors will even charge thousands of dollars for their services, especially if they’ve worked with big-name, bestselling authors. So, unless you already have the money, I would suggest avoiding those. There are editing services that charge moderate amounts. There are also beta readers, who are usually quite affordable. Many don’t price their services over $100. It may be worth using them for content editing.

Also, a lot of editors will be willing to split the payment plans. That might be useful if you don’t want to spend too much money at once. Another approach is not to get every single draft of your manuscript edited. I don’t just mean the sloppy first draft, but any draft you may feel needs more work… from you.

Everyone’s writing process differs, so the editing necessities will vary, too. If you’re new to writing, it may be challenging to improve your writing abilities without customized feedback. You can read books on the writing craft and more, but they could only take you very far. My suggestion would be to spend less on any unnecessary items outside of your writing time. Or take a side job and save your earnings for book production service.

Which brings me to the next part: cover design. Unless you have a great reputation in graphic design or illustration, it’s best to hire someone. But like editing, some may split the payment segments. Keep in mind your book’s genre and what cover design would be appropriate and attract more people. Regardless of that saying, everybody judges books by their covers.

Now back to marketing. If you self-publish on Amazon, you can price your book as low as 99 cents. If you do the select program, you can run a free promotion for up to 5 days. However, if you do KDP select, your eBook can’t be available anywhere else digitally, like your website or blog. You can also ask Amazon to make your eBooks perma-free by publishing them on sites like Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and making them free. This is an option if you publish through Draft2digital. Amazon may or may not price-match your book to other retailers. If you write a series, Amazon might be more likely to allow you to make the first installment free.

There are a lot of eBook promotion sites that will share free and 99-cent eBooks. And they usually cost less than $100. Maybe even $50.

So, there you have it. While being a writer won’t prevent you from spending a lot of money, you can still use these techniques to pay less.

art

Collaborative Art Project: Medallions with Abstract Designs

In order to get through the pandemic without highly stressing out over it, my friend, “Veronica” (not her real name) and I are collaborating on different art projects. The first one we worked on were medallions with abstract designs. This was inspired by an assignment I did in college. In an art class (I was a fine arts major), we had to do a large series of small drawings. So, my professor suggested medallions for me.

When the pandemic happened and I was (and still am, big time) tired of not being in control of my life, my mom sent me an article, where it said that helping another and vise versa can improve your feelings. After thinking about ideas, this is what I came up with: collaborative art projects.

Because I was an art major in college, I had to learn a lot of vocabulary related to it, as well as how to critique forms of creative works. That is what I applied to when helping Veronica.

I drew a few abstract designs inside circles, and then finalized on this one to color.

The markers were old, so they were kind of faded. However, it also allowed me some room for dimension with the various (and unintentional) tints and tones. I also picked colors that I felt would go well with one another.

The same happened with Veronica. She also colored in the shapes that she felt went together well. The shapes reminded her of different objects, too. So, she picked hues based on what the elements looked like to her.

Another thing she did that I also used to do a lot was turn the paper when drawing and coloring. She said that she learned the technique in school. Below is her medallion.

She colored one section all maroon, which is when I taught her the idea of filling in each shape between the lines a different color. I also informed her about something the same professor told me about one of my projects later in my college career. If it were copied into a black and white replica, it would be all the same tone. I used it as a compliment on how Veronica paired the hues.

The message you can take home is that you can help someone close to you with anything that you’re strong in and that the other person may benefit from. Hopefully, this will work for my friend and I, as well as pretty much everybody.

art

Character Design: What I Learned and Even Discovered Recently

You haven’t seen an art post in a while. That’s because I haven’t been doing a lot of it these days. However, there is something about it that I discovered quite recently. Obviously, it’s about character design. You want to know what it is?

It’s how I was better at it at age 13 than at age 23 in 2017. Okay, you may be looking at me like I have 4 heads. And at the time 3 years ago, when I was 23 and finishing college, I didn’t realize or think of it. But I could portray characters more accurately, based on their personalities, when I was just 13 years old.

Well, they weren’t my own characters. They came from the “Harry Potter” series. At that age, I enjoyed the franchise very much to the point that I did fan art of it. But most of it was silly and the characters did things they would never do. However, that’s a different story.

Aside from the wackiness, I also drew the characters alone, with facial expressions based on their personalities. Below is an example.

I must applaud myself for drawing (movie) Snape pretty well when I was 13. I also liked to use arrows to direct at the characters, which I don’t think is conventional in character design. But I could be wrong for some companies or designers.

Ten years later, in my final semester of college, I took an illustration course. One of the things we had to learn was character design. However, I just drew characters in stock poses. The example below is a replica I did of when we had to design characters for a comedic live-action TV show since I don’t have the original anymore.

It wasn’t this sloppy. I just did it from memory. Plus, I haven’t been doing a lot of art these days. I’m hoping my skills aren’t deteriorating.

Anyway, that above is supposed to be Megan from “Drake and Josh.” I used a simplistic style since I felt it was appropriate for a slapstick comedy. But when we did a class critique, somebody pointed out that I could have given her a more sinister look based on her personality and traits.

If you’ve seen “Drake and Josh,” you know that Megan pulls pranks on her older brothers, but her parents find her innocent. So, a wicked smile would have been more suitable.

Another assignment we had to do was illustrate a story that Disney did not adapt. I picked “Perseus and Medusa.” Just like with the other assignment, I drew the characters in stock poses again. Even though I don’t have it anymore, I illustrated Perseus with a default smile on his face. That was when I learned not to do that anymore.

So, from that point on, I portrayed the characters more accurately based on their traits. Below is an example of another character from the same Greek myth.

For those who don’t know, Polydectes was an evil King in “Perseus and Medusa.” This is why I drew him the way I did.

If you are interested in learning character design, it is important to know as much about them as possible for you to illustrate them for whatever project you work on. Even if it’s only for personal use, these tips could come in handy.

art

Lost Fonts? How to Fix That

Adobe Suite changes over time, including Photoshop. That means they gain new features as well as alter existing ones. Unfortunately, a handful of elements go away, too, such as fonts.

When my computer needed to be rebooted due to some virus, I had to reinstall and download everything. So, when I downloaded Photoshop, it was a newer version. Therefore, changes have been made and I had to adjust to them.

But when I opened a file of an image I had with text, the fonts were missing. So, I could not use them. I had to delete them and replace them with available fonts.

However, this was a cover of a published book that needed to be updated. I was giving the story a new title. So, without the designated font, I had to figure out what to do.

I considered downloading the font from the Internet, which you can do. I might have found that removed font. However, it didn’t seem to make it into the software.

That was when I came up with another solution. I opened Microsoft word, and luckily, I could still get that font there. So, I wrote some letters in big sizes, took a screenshot, opened that file in Photoshop, and altered them to match the font I’d originally used. I also created a library designated for symbols of that font.

But they are images and not symbols you can use your keypads with. For instance, you can’t delete them with the backspace, move them with a space or return key, and so forth. If you want to make a word, you have to drag them with your mouse or touchpad. You can use keyboard shortcuts to put them near or far from each other with the transport tool, though.

I think it would be good for anyone to create a library of different symbols in various fonts, just in case they go. If they’re common or standard fonts, such as “Times New Roman”, then it’s unlikely that they’ll disappear from a program. Still—better prepared than to have to scramble for the same or similar styles.

art, cooking

It’s Fun to Draw Cakes

Although it’s unlikely typical for people to want to draw designs for their cakes, no matter the reasons, I enjoyed it in my youth and still do now.

As a creative and artistic person, I’ve constantly come up with various ideas and specific envisions for just about anything.  With cakes, I’ve drawn how I wanted them to look. Sometimes I’ve had my own drawings scanned onto them. During that time, I also discovered that copyrighted images could not be scanned onto cakes. So, I had to stick with my own ideas.

I would also illustrate a few different ideas of one cake. I did that for my sweet 16 cake, and used every possible point-of-view (except the bottom, obviously). The bakery used one of the designs and that pleased me.

Recent years, though, I’ve designed cake appearances for me to bake from scratch. One of my college friends is allergic to peanuts, and unfortunately, there aren’t many commercial options near me that are 100 percent safe for those with nut allergies. It sounds strange, especially since I live close to New York City. But even there, I had trouble finding a place I could trust to be fully nut-free. There are some, but they’re also dairy-free, gluten-free, and so on.

Even though I’ve been cooking since I was 12, some of the cake designs I’ve envisioned were a little too advanced for me, like the ones below.

The gradient technique is called an ombre. It looks beautiful, but I’m not sure if I know how to do it properly (in spite of researching it). And some of the flowers are probably best for elite and highly talented bakers. Here’s another cake image I drew that I felt was too hard to actually do in real life.

It most likely would be easier than the one with the ombre and detailed flowers. However, this would have involved a lot of work.

So, at times, less can be more with designing and decorating cakes, especially if it’s a casual party at your house with a group of friends. I learned that cake appearances can still look dazzling, even with few decorations. That is what I did for my 26th birthday November 2019.

Okay, maybe me looking away from the camera might be kind of distracting. But if you look carefully at the cake I’m cutting, you see only two colors, one type of decorative design, and the writing on a white chocolate bar in the center. That was good enough for me, especially with all the cooking and other preparations I had to do.

So, there you have it.

art

Graphic Design and Invitation Creations

I was a graphic design major for one semester of college, but didn’t enjoy it that much. So, I switched over to fine arts (big mistake). Anyway, what I learned included typography, the study of type, sizes, spacing, colors, arrangements, and fonts. I had to learn how a font could communicate the message that was intended. And that was anything but easy. Nevertheless, I got a B+ for the class.

Despite not being super-passionate about graphic design, I did take home the skills I learned when designing birthday invitations. I took into consideration everything about design I’ve listed in the above paragraph.

While the invitations weren’t intended to be judged, since they were for my friends, I still executed as many design elements as necessary.

Take a look at my 25th birthday party invitation below:

Not only did I use colors that screamed “Hollywood” as well as add a filmstrip, but I also made the heading font pop so that it would be the first thing people saw. The message about my birthday needed to stand out, too, but not as much. And, of course, the gray lines are meant to hide and protect my personal information.

The following year, this one, soon to end, I designed another invitation in Photoshop for my 26th birthday that has just passed.

I didn’t want to copy the previous year’s design. However, I still did research and took colors and type into mind. Notice how “Double-Feature” and “Movie Night” look kind of 3D? That was what I wanted people to pay attention to the most.

The other information in the white font felt natural to be on the sides, including the white lines hiding my personal information again. Instead of a filmstrip, I added a camera with a yellow spotlight.

While the invitation for my 25th birthday looks more exciting and will more likely remind everyone of Hollywood and movies, the 26th birthday one seems more relaxed due to the deep shade of red.

I might not have loved graphic design, but it sure did teach me valuable tips and tricks.

art

Mayhem with Multi-Page Website-Making

As a writer, I am passionate about my books’ world, characters, magic laws (they’re fantasy), and more. I don’t know if I got inspired to expand more because J.K. Rowling does it with her “Harry Potter” franchise. But a while back, I did plan on having a print guide about my books’ universe. However, I was told that things like that are usually reserved for big, popular franchises. So, I decided to come up with a website.

I have a main author site, too. And now I have a website dedicated to my books’ world and content called magicalmissionsworld.com. While I admire the homepage, I am not fond of the articles about my characters. It’s not easy to make several pages with Wix. Therefore, the only solution I could find was making my word docs PDFs. I am not happy about that now.

I want to change the web builder and make a more professional multi-page website using Adobe Dreamweaver, as there wasn’t a lot that I could find online. I looked at other multi-page sites and theirs look way better and easier to use than mine.

So, now I plan to experiment with Dreamweaver and rebuild my franchise’s site using that. I believe you can still add text, images, and more. You can also code, which I’m just okay at.

Anyway, as soon as I figure out Dreamweaver, I am going to take down my current book series’ site and launch a new one.  

art

Mini Art Show: Birthday Card Design

 

sale birthday card 1

It’s my birthday this Thursday, November 22nd (whoo!). I’ll be turning 25.

So in honor of that, I decided to post a birthday card design that I made myself. That’s right. I illustrated the cupcake and decided on the text font, color, sizes, and alignment, based on my graphic design studies and greeting card research. I did this in Photoshop, but the cupcake image was hand drawn. I then retraced and colored it on the computer.

I chose pink since it is a light color and expresses (usually) positive feelings. And birthdays are often associated with positivity, such as a time to celebrate. Of course, as much as we’d all wish, birthdays are not always happy. I, myself, have had some miserable birthdays throughout my life.

But that’s a different topic. Anyway, I decided to make the cupcake look cartoony and give it eyes and a smile. It adds a very energetic feeling that makes many think partying rather than a more realistic or soft style, which would make a lot of people think sophisticated, relaxed, and quietness.

The text was done in a serif font (which is when the letters have tails at the ends of their lines compared to sans serif fonts, like Helvetica) because I wanted to add a little bit of sophistication and have it resemble the way letters are often styled on cakes. Bakeries may exclude the fancy style of writing on the cakes, but it varies. I never really paid much attention to the style of writing on cakes.

However, I do notice that fancier calligraphy is common on occasion cakes, especially for formal events, such as sweet sixteens, mitzvahs, and other catering events. I live in New York on Long Island, and while many other parts of the country usually only use catering halls for weddings, where I live, people do them for other milestones.

Anyhow, the “You” is large because I felt that it would make the word feel more personal to the birthday person. I’ve even had the cards printed and provided them to my friends for their birthdays. One person has complimented on the design looking professional.

Note, that this was not a college assignment. I chose to do this on my own. I thought it would be fun as well as a way to hone my graphic design and illustration skills. I even have this image on my online portfolio along with other independent art.

art

Collage Comedy

In college, I took a 2D design course. One of the assignments was to make collages of scenes in different moods. There were a few choices, but the ones I remember, and the ones I chose, were content and melancholy. We has to make them humorous or somehow positive. We also couldn’t use words.

I like to apply humor to many of my creations. In high school, we did slideshows on endangered species and I was assigned some type of wild pig (I can’t remember the species, though) to present on. I had a man lifting a big dumbbell and drew a pig over his head to show the hog’s strength. To reveal its lifespan, I used a picture of Pumbaa from “The Lion King” and drew a beard on him.

Of course, this isn’t a science post. I don’t specialize in science here on my blog. Anyway, let me show you the collages I made and why I used the specific scenes.

collage 1

This was the collage with the content theme. I always admired the idea of non-native species in certain areas of the world. I especially liked the idea of a non-native creature in Italy, such as the lion above in the gondola with a singing-man.

Obviously, lions don’t live in Italy. And no, I didn’t use the ancient Roman animal fights as an inspiration. Honestly, I don’t remember how I came up with using a lion. It’s been a few years.

And onto the next collage:

collage 2

Above is a dingo eating a baby as the assignment for melancholy. This is actually based off a true event. In the late 90’s, a dingo actually ate a baby. That is, of course, really sad.

However, at some point, people used that event as a way to express humor. It was a tragedy turned into a comedy. That was why I used this scene. It was the first thing that came into my mind.

Collages can be used as scrapbooking style, like random information about you. I’m assuming many people had to make them in school when they were kids. I most certainly did. They can also be used artistically to make images. I’ve actually done that in high school in an advanced art class. I don’t have them here on this post. In fact, I don’t know if I have them anymore.

But I found these after searching all over my room. I made them 3 years ago. They are still great to admire now.

fiction

Down with Design: A Flash Fiction Piece

Someone needs to design a better hotel. I just came back home from Greece. Yes, I am aware that European luxury hotel designs may differ from those in America. I also know that Europeans often pack less than Americans due to space in their homes.

However, the decorations made it seem more like a Victorian Era mansion. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Marble statues stood on the floor. Gold and red dominated the whole hotel.

Hello? Someone could accidentally knock something down. Or, someone like me, may prefer more modern décor. That’s when you eliminate unnecessary decorations. You have simple shapes and minimal color—at least based on what I’ve seen.

Now I’m not saying my trip to Greece stank. I had a good time, from seeing the Parthenon to boating around Crete. However, this was my first trip to Europe. I’ve never left the United States, except when we went to Canada for my cousin’s wedding two years ago. Even there, the hotel we stayed in had a more modern design.

I am now in my room in New York City, overlooking Times Square. There is a parade happening, but it is about Mexican Culture. Right—it’s Cinco de Mayo. The Mexican Hat dance is playing. People are wearing Sombreros. I, myself, am Mexican-American.

I look out my window, thinking about my culture as a observe the parade from the fifteenth floor. I just turned fifteen a few months ago. I had huge quinceanera at a hotel in midtown. The banquet room had chandeliers, gold and red color scheme, and a lot of old-fashioned décor.

And yet, I disliked our hotel in Greece. Who am I to blame? Old-fashioned interior design will exist forever. I have to get used to it. It might be 2018, but still. How could I forget that my own party had been held in a room like that? And not only did the room have old-fashioned décor, but so did the entire hotel.

Friends and family from all over have come to watch me turn fifteen and celebrate it. My parents still have the balloons that spelled out my name, Angela. You know what? I should know better. Design may matter, depending on the building and who it targets to, but I need to accept all types of décor, whether it’s old fashioned or modern.