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Category: Reading and Writing

On Books and Bees

I went to the library and found all the best fairy books in the kids section. I came home with one called the Faerie Door and I’m almost done with it. My favorite thing about libraries is that you can just sit there and read and no one bothers you and then you can bring the book home and continue to read it because you can’t pull yourself away. I think the kids section is the best part of the library because all the most fantastical stories are there – the authors don’t have to prove themselves to the adult world and they can be as imaginative and wondrous as they please, and this is why I mostly read YA books.

The kids section is the best part of the library

A photo posted by Kiery King (@kiery28) on

My particular library branch is small, and the dvd and adult sections don’t have a lot in my particular interests, but the teen section is what really stole my heart. They had so many resources – I can tell that my library actually cares about the youth that frequent it and I was trying hard not to cry even though I’m years removed from teenagehood. It would have meant so much to me if my library had emergency numbers, LGBTQ resources, and books dedicated to assuring me that I am indeed okay.

There’s this fiction book, called stronger than you know, about an abused homeschooled girl with PTSD who is rescued from her family, lives with her aunt and uncle and is trying to brave the world. I couldn’t bring myself to read more than the first page without being overcome and also wanting to leave it there for the inevitable person who’d need it after I left.

So I came home with a book I’ve barely been able to put down. I’ll probably finish it tonight and then drop it off at the library before going to explore a waterfall tomorrow. Yesterday I watched some bees pollinate lavender while waiting for the bus and taking in the breeze. I’m not sure how much I like being disconnected from twitter and facebook – half of me wishes I were all the time, and the other half knows it’s not good to be in a bubble cut off from the world forever, either – and the fact is, twitter is a better place for news than the news. I can also easily get lost in my head, and need a way out – sometimes it’s pleasant, a lot of times…..it’s not. I get lost in remembering things my parents said and did and I get upset with little to distract me.

I think the moral of the story is, I need to consciously remember to watch the bees, take in the air, take breaks, but also consciously live outside my head, and pay attention to the world.

Happier? no, less angry, maybe. Calmer? yes. More productive? somewhat. I just need to listen to myself.

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Book Review: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

IMG_0166I have to admit, I was really hesitant to start reading Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu – not because I doubted it’s good-ness (she worked with my friend Hännah on it, so I knew it would be good) but because I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the story I know so well, again. Devoted is about a Quiverfull daughter escaping, and Jennifer worked really hard to get the story, and the feeling, and capture everything it means to leave that environment right, without making it over the top. She did so beautifully.

It was painful and cathartic, as a former quiverfull daughter myself – I remember what it was like to leave and not say goodbye, I remember what it was like to have to clear my browser history, and feel like the eight of us who existed just weren’t enough. Devoted captures those experiences perfectly, and I think people who are curious about what it’s like to grow up in that environment, now have a way that they can understand.

If you’ve ever been curious about what my childhood felt like, this book is it. Read it. This is the book I wish I could give to everyone who wonders, or everyone who thinks maybe this lifestyle is totally awesome.

If you’re an escapee from this environment, Devoted is so good it hurts. Someone else understands, and I can’t put into words how good that feels. We’re not alone, we’re not freaks, and we are undeniably tough as nails.

Devoted comes out June 2nd. Go buy it. My copy is tear-stained, so.

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Book Review: Homeschool Sex Machine

rough cover-fixedThe author of Homeschool Sex Machine, Matthew Pierce, writes from his perspective growing up in a religious homeschool environment where purity culture reigned supreme and being pubescent meant you were trouble.

I read it earlier last week, and was just overcome with feels. It’s a short read – and captures that cringe-y kind of hilarity that you get when you read something funny but it’s also oh-so-relateable. That “been there” kind of thing that reminds you of when you were also a young pubescent kid trapped in that crazy world, and the mental lengths you went to so you could maintain purity but still also…be dealing with puberty.

Homeschool Sex Machine is also a great way to understand what it’s like to grow up male in the midst of purity culture. As much as I could relate, it was also eye opening to notice just where some of the emphasis changed. While Matthew maybe wasn’t told to cover up or get raped, the idea of attraction being evil (and by proxy dehumanizing women to be temptresses placed by satan, and men mere hormone balls) and all that entails was rampant. When your complete virginity and purity is the most important thing about you, things get fucked up pretty fast. Crushes? what are those even? pre-marriage feelings? sounds like a bad idea.

Anyway, I could go on, but for a cheeky look at purity culture and growing up in that world, just…go read the book. It’s funny, it’s cathartic, it’s a little uncomfortable in a good way, but mostly, it’s just good. Find it on amazon.

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Good Reads

I’ve been going through some stuff this month – between my medications trying to get back to normal from being kicked off because vicodin, and the lovely little guilt-anxiety cycle and general overwhelmingness, I’ve felt a little lost. Some of the truths I discovered in Spring, this year and last, are more distant, which isn’t cool because they’re kindof…..really super important to my being and my confidence and my artistic journey.

But, over the last few weeks – as I’ve been taking the situation back into my own hands – I’ve run across several posts from the Rebelle Society that were just…perfect. Maybe it’s the universe, or maybe it’s coincidence, but, I thought I’d post them here:

Facing the Darkest Side of a Beautiful Person

Self-Criticism: The Way You Break Your Own Heart

So, yes, stress is good

I think I’ll come out on the other side of this stronger, for having, I don’t know, been in a sad-sauce hole for a while. I hope, anyway, because I sense something starting to come back to me, and I think that’s a good thing.

 

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Self Publishing tips I learned the hard way

I’ve spent the last year and a half/two years stumbling around with self publishing and illustrating. I read a lot of things online, but most of what I learned came from making mistakes and trying to fix them. So with the re-release of the Balloon Lady well underway, I thought I’d compile a list of helpful things that took me longer than they should have to figure out.

  •  if you’re illustrating: scanning your images in at 600dpi gives you more room to work with than the standard 300dpi

The first batch of illustrations I did, I had no clear layout, I used an unfamiliar medium, and I only scanned them in at 300dpi. Which, after having to maneuver and stretch the images to fit inside the book format ended up looking…less than what I’d hoped. When I tried to use the same images again on the fatter createspace version of the book, they looked so bad that I decided to remake them because I could not bring myself to print those that way. I could have scanned them in again at 600dpi, but there was no rhyme, reason, or consistency to them anyway.

  •  if you’re illustrating: work with a medium you’re familiar with.

For the second round, I used acrylics on watercolor paper and because I’m good at acrylics and know how they work, the process was much smoother than the first time when I tried watercolors and pen. I generally lay as much paint on things to correct mistakes as possible (and with acrylics, that works smashingly) but if you’re using watercolor, you get mud. Which happened a bit with the first round.

  •  Decide on a format and size beforehand

With the first edition I wrote and illustrated everything without having anything remotely resembling a layout. So I went with the one that I thought would be able to fit the images. Turns out that one didn’t even have an ISBN for that size and I spent a long time trying to make everything fit reasonably. The second time around, I knew what size I wanted, so after I ordered the proof, everything I painted I made the size of the cover, and I left room for text on some of them (not that I used that much, but it was there).

  • Decide who you want to publish with and think about how you’d like to distribute

I recommend lulu and createspace for two reasons. 1) lulu can get you into the ibookstore – although, when I tried it, it was really difficult, and with the new iBooks Author, I’m not sure entirely how that works, but they offer it for free. 2) createspace is sort of amazon and partners with them which means, it’s easier for people to find and access your work. It’s also very easy, they have online tools and proof capabilities, so if you’re like me and you got your proof and made a few margin tweaks but don’t really want to order another one (even though it’s *really* cheap at $7 – versus, somewhere near $20 on lulu, but I got faster shipping so it could be cheaper) you can view it there and make sure all of your text is out of the gutter and approve it without having to buy another copy just to see how it looks.

  • tweak, tweak, and more tweaking!

I’ve gone through I-don’t-know-how-many uploads and saves and re-exports over the last week finding things that I missed. It gets really really frustrating, but the end result is worth it. Just today, I was about to hit “I approve!” but I decided to re-read the proof just one more time to make sure there weren’t any spelling errors after I fixed all the margins, and I found a rogue “t”, a “d” instead of an “r” at the end of a word, and a “she’d” instead of “she”. So I fixed those (with a few app crashes because my laptop is getting old) in the iBook Author version and the createspace version. I’m reasonably satisfied that I’ve now fixed everything – but it’s taken me countless times to the point of sort of hating it to get there.

  • iBooks Author is harder than it looks

iBooks Author just came out a few months ago, and I hit a couple snags; You have to have an ISBN. One sells for $150. This is the biggest and only reason I would suggest using a company like lulu to get on there, because they give you free ISBNs (createspace doesn’t support ibooks, just kindle, naturally) for it. But if you have one, or have one that you can use, then use IBA to make it and launch it. There are some really irritating problems with IBA. It’s great until you’ve spent 12 hours trying to move a picture without moving text and then you have the brilliant idea to use text boxes. 1) The pages don’t turn, they slide. It’s not something you can change either. 2) There’s a really annoying Table of Contents page and you have to either do everything in a chapter or section – which isn’t ideal for illustrated children’s books.

So when you’re using it, my advice to you is fill in everything, make sure you name your file in the chapter section, otherwise the TOC will come up as “untitled”. Fiddle with the TOC page, and test it on your ipad before submitting. I made the mistake of doing none of those things, so I’m still waiting to hear a rejection so I can upload the new file that I’ve been tweaking as I’ve found errors in the createspace proof.

  • Use text boxes!

If you’re making a book with pictures – children’s or otherwise, the best way to get text and pictures on the page without messing up the order of either too much is to use text boxes. In pages and ibooks it’s a little T with a square around it. You just write or paste the desired text inside of the box, select it all to change the font and size and then move it where-ever. I try to set the layout of the images to “none”, so it doesn’t move the text.

  • Keep Text out of the gutter!

I discovered something recently I should have discovered a really long time ago.

I should have turned on “show layout”. Because that shows you exactly where the margins are, and if you try to keep your text in between them, like magic, your text is out of the gutter.

 

  • Use a two-page (or two-up) view if possible

It’s so much easier to see what you’re doing if you can see both pages. It takes me forever to find this button. In pages, it’s where the zoom is located. 

  • For easy navigation, use a thumbnail view

I found this by accident while trying to find the two-up view. But thumbnails make it easy to find specific pages – especially when you know where a misspelled word is and don’t want to scroll through the whole document to fix one letter. In the screenshot, I obviously already have thumbnails turned on – but if you’re using pages, that’s where you’ll find it.

  • Other things to consider

ISBN’s – if you want to do any type of real-world distributing at all, you’ll need an ISBN. Libraries need ISBN’s, professional reviewers need copies with ISBN’s, iBooks needs ISBN’s – so make sure that if you want to make a book for more than friends and family, you select a format that is ISBN supported.

Formatting suuucks, and by the end you’ll probably hate your computer, your software, and you’ll be utterly sick of your story, but it’s worth it.

I didn’t talk about it much, but editing (before you tweak) is crucial. I sent my manuscript (without pictures) off to some friends who are grammar nazis, editors, and have really good outside eyes for story bits that I might have missed. I used InkWork Services as my professional editor – she’s great!

Above all, hang in there and push through. It’s hard, but it’s worth it – if for no other reason than an author’s profile on goodreads.

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:D

Createspace Proofs

The new proof came in, to illustrate (haha) the difference, I put the old version and the new one side by side.

I spent the afternoon tweaking the margins and title page, and fixing one illustration and the back cover. As soon as those get out of review, I’ll be hitting publish because this version has an ISBN!

I think, also, I’ll write a post about some self-publishing tips I learned the hard way, but right now, I’m really excited. The new illustrations are clean and vibrant and all the faces match. ^.^

 

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Check, check, and check

ETA: you can view a sample by clicking the going to The Balloon Lady (book) > The Book > The Preview in the nav bar above, or by heading over to this cute little splash page here.

So, my Month Of March Book-ing-ness is almost over, and guess what….

I’m done!

Well, mostly.

The iPad version is currently in review in the iBookstore. There’s this thing with the Table of Contents and the pages slide, but unfortunately, those are the fault of the apple developers and I’m unable to fix it. However, it *does* look good on there, and hopefully, they’ll confirm it and/or let me upload the fixed version with the title in the TOC page…because “Untitled” doesn’t look very professional, now does it?

I spent most of yesterday/last night working on the new version for createspace, and this morning, I ordered the proof! It all looks great on their online proof display, but I really want to see what the illustrations look like in print. So that should be here around April 5th.

I’m actually very very proud of the illustrations this time around, and I’m actually excited to put my name to them. The first batch were ill-conceived, though heartfelt. I’m happy I made them, and used them, and used that experience to progress into what’s hopefully a much better version of the same story. I also learned to work with the medium I’m more comfortable with. This round of illustrations I used acrylic paint on watercolor and multimedia paper, with, if I may say so, much better results. I was even able to paint the faces instead of inking them in with pen!

So, I’ve officially crossed it off…

A few other things are crossed off too. Monday, I went to the library and finished the paperwork for my passport application, so in a few weeks, it should be in my hands! Also, I finally bought myself a bikini. I can’t wait until it’s summer and I can wear it. It’s yellow and grey and surprisingly looks quite good on me…

Bikini

I ended up almost finishing out my wardrobe shopping while I was at it, so lots of progress all around and it’s only been a month! 😀 Exactly, actually.

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Sensing

read: my book, so. many. times.

taste: nothing..

see: The upload progress bar….too many times this evening.

hear: Mass Effect 3 – Alex is playing ahead of me, I’m hoping it’s not spoilers.

smell: Well, I really should take a shower…I meant to…but got distracted by formatting the book

touch: trackpad…in frustration…for much too long

think: it’s weird how easy it is to fall in and out of blogging habits. It was really hard focusing and not posting, and even not being on FB every so often at first, but now I’m so close to finishing the book (if it would upload and not take for.ev.er.) that I’ve sort of gotten into a habit of doing random book stuff and that’s been keeping me off facebook *on my computer until evening, and blogging, sadly – but expectedly – has become less of a daily thing. That won’t last forever though, but interestingly, doing less blog/online/social writing has decreased facebook and increased twitter. I plan to return to regular blogging again after this book crunch – especially because I have some epic bits of news related to my list.

feel: exhausted.

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2nd Round

All of the new illustrations are DONE!

That’s kind of huge, considering I started on them in September. Also, I think they look much much better, the real tell is going to be seeing what happens when I start scanning them in tomorrow.

After that, it’s formatting and releasing in the iBookstore, and then getting another proof (probably April) and releasing with Createspace, WITH an ISBN!

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