Happiness is…

(spending three days with a favorite author)

That was Terry Moore at Torino Comics 2012… Happy Fangirl Barb hasn’t seen him since and had SiP – 25 years later from the Italian publisher, sigh.


Random Friday

Since it belongs to the dawn of indie publishing and the early years of this blog, I shall link to this old post about the Sweeties or Mercenaries?!Β as they were known to my old pen pals. What, you don’t know what I’m talking about? PEN pals used SNAIL mail (and it was really a snail, I remember it took 6 MONTHS to get to Australia by BOAT and you had to pay extra for air mail…) and at some point in the 1990s I had about 30, mostly in the US but also in the rest of the world, Down Under included. *waves at Nikalee*

Why am I bringing them back? Because of those two stories I wrote last week. I actually have a prose version of that comic in Italian but 1) it’s still the old version of the Varian Empire (it had a makeover when I wrote the Books of the Immortals) and 2) it’s really too episodic to be a novel. Either I make it a serial, sort of like Star Minds Lone Wolves Team, or it stays in the drawer.

One day I might scan and publish the comic, but that’s another long story. I even started redrawing it, and then stopped. So unless there’s a high request – I could make it a Kickstarter project or a Patreon reward, LOL! – my comics will probably stay in the stacks of paper folders.

What? You don’t know about PAPER folders either? Sheesh! Yes, I still draw on paper and make little use of Photoshop, so that’s why I’m not rushing to try DAZ Studio! πŸ™‚

Ahem, well, so these two stories are with three of the original Sweeties and I estracted a sweet M/M romance and Princess Sapphire, who will be on the cover of this prose version along with Ludwig (see the above old post that leads to a guest post where he’s talking – I checked, the link is still good! πŸ˜‰ ).

Stay tuned for mid-February. I still think I want to do more drawings – I got the proof of Beautiful Illustrated – but at the same time I feel there aren’t enough hours in the day. If I want to write, draw, translate AND publish while still having a part-time day job, I’ll have to give up something.

So no new comics for now. And no old ones either, considering that even the one I put on Kindle has 3 more issues that I never scanned and put up! πŸ˜‰ (Fleur de Lys 1 & Fleur de Lys 2 @Amazon.com) I might consider doing the prose version, but like I said, after the failure with Lovers, I probably won’t!

Have a wonderful weekend! πŸ˜€

Random Friday

So, this was the week of morning nausea (and no, I’m not pregnant, it’s either the summer/winter and temperature excursion, low blood pressure, a virus or a womanly thing) and headaches, therefore I couldn’t do much. Thus I don’t have much to say today. I hope next week I’ll feel better or I won’t be able to attend the writers group meeting – and I really need their comments on a couple of stories I want to submit by the end of the month.

This weekend I’ll have my cover artist coming over, so I’ll let her go through the pencils of S.K.Y.B.A.N.D., since – like in #12 – I have a couple of pages with naked people in it, so I’ll need her expertise! πŸ˜‰

I’m thinking about a new story – I have a vague idea of the characters, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen to them, so if my brain doesn’t turn completely to jelly, maybe by Loncon I’ll have at least jotted down an outline and decided when it’s set in the long history of Silvery Earth. I have considered doing another graphic novel, but considering how long it’s taking me to finish S.K.Y.B.A.N.D., my failing eyes and the fact that I couldn’t even set up the idea I got last year or earlier, it’s probably going to be a prose story – it has more chances of seing the light! πŸ˜€

If I stick to what I have now, it will be further in the past of Silvery Earth, before the stories that came out so far – and I will also rewrite in prose the old graphic novels that are so badly drawn that they better stay in their folders forever. Sorry, only a few lucky people can say they own the paper zines I did in the 1990s. Unless I gather fans at the Loncon panel and start selling my graphic novels, that is (although I’ll probably do also the prose version anyway)!

Have a great weekend!

Random Friday

Total randomness… this interesting campaign in India about women. I guess Laxmi is right, lots of people will disagree with this depiction of goddesses. I think the message is clear, though. I’ve read bad stuff about women in India – both Westerners and locals. Means I need to travel with aΒ  bodyguard whenever I manage to make it over there! πŸ˜‰ I’ll have to cajole my friend who often goes to India (because he’s a man, so he can) into coming with me! πŸ™‚

I shall continue the randomness with some form of Art Friday, although my book covers are not as good as my pencil portraits, LOL! As I was drawing #13, I realized the scene inside the chapter didn’t match the cover, so I modified it. This was the original cover:

Chapter 13

Chapter 13

This is the modified version:cap13covTXT_resizeI’m almost done with the inking of the whole chapter, then the hard part comes: colors! 😦 I’m using Photoshop 7 since I couldn’t find anything more recent. For whatever that old copy can’t do, I’ll use Photoshop Elements 10. Then comes the lettering, which is actually the easiest and 5 pages are already done, since there’s a lot of prose in this chapter (for the last time in this story).

Before starting on #14 I plan to do some experiments with digital paintings of landscapes – might be useful to paste in the two final chapters of S.K.Y.B.A.N.D.! πŸ™‚ Also, I’m afraid this will be the last graphic novel of this length (330 pages when complete). I will do more comics, but they will be shorter. And probably plotless, like someone said in a review of Lady Ice (there’s one on Smashwords and one on Barnes&Noble that say almost the same thing – that free comic was an experiment to force myself back into drawing, and it served its point! ;)).

I’m also planning a couple of covers (like redoing Smeraldo and Kyrio in color) for a couple of short stories that will come out also in Italian. I might use those landscapes experiments to create the POD covers in October as well… lots of ideas popping in my head, I’ll have to line them up, lest I get lost in procrastination! πŸ˜‰

One a final “art” note – I’ve ordered my calendars for 2014… as soon as I get the proofs, I’ll show you how they came out! I used Lulu again – at least for the calendars. I’ll be using CreateSpace in October for the new editions of POD books… Have a great weekend! πŸ™‚

Writer Wednesday

In spite of driving me crazy with the premium distribution and the NCX (not sure the meatgrinder recognizes the word Chapter in another language, which means manual TOC on Italian titles, sigh), I’m still loving Smashwords. They’re even doing some promotion a la Amazon! In my latest trip on the site to leave a review, I saw in the left hand column “People who recently viewed this book also viewed these books” and “People who purchased this book also purchased”. It’s not on all books, but it’s a start, so yay for Smashwords! πŸ™‚

Now, even if Amazon saved your life, like it did for Jessica Park, don’t forget the Kindle is not the only e-reader on the market, and that if you go KDP Select you’re not reaching the part of population that read e-books in e-pub format (Sony, Kobo, i-Pad, smartphone apps, etc)… We want to reach every possible reader, don’t we? It’s an international market, remember? The US might be at the head at the moment, but the rest of the world is following and Amazon hasn’t opened everywhere yet… so for the sake of your readers, try not to give exclusivity to anyone.

Now, about reviews: I never respond to any review on any of my books (OK, sometimes I have to remind the reviewer to post it everywhere, but I never ask to change anything), neither good nor bad. Yes, I read them. Yes, I pout over the “bad” ones. That’s why I don’t check my B&N page anymore because there are plenty of anonymous no-text reviews that are only a waste of my time. And I don’t think adressing the reviewer is professional in any way. But you might want to read the point of view of someone else – and the comments as well. I never respond to reader reviews. But this is a free world, so do what you feel comfortable with! πŸ™‚

Just remember – it’s the end of the world as we know it, especially in publishing. Kris Rusch’s analysis is spot on, as always. I still think the best marketing tool is writing a good book, publish it, and write the next one.

Now I’m falling behind with CVE3 because I’m not happy with it, but by the end of the week I should be ready with the new version. Still looking for betas, in case anyone is interested. Then I’m back to finishing the sci-fi title so I can send it to betas for a summer reading. But I’d love to publish CVE3 on August 1st, so if there are any volunteers, please let me know ASAP.

And this month I’m not publishing anything, becauseΒ  I was supposed to upload a couple of Italian short stories. None of my Italian friends volunteered to review what is already out, so why bother? Yeah, Facebook friends,Β  I know! πŸ˜‰ Anyhow, Italians don’t read, so what’s the hurry? I’ll take June off from publishing – except the last week I’ll be formatting and relettering like crazy to put stuff on DriveThruComics. But that’s another market – comics and graphic novels don’t always go with prose.

By the way, Dear SKYBAND Reader, I’m coloring chapter 11. Our heroes have reached the former Black Empire (due to the skin color of its inhabitants, not because they’re eeeeevil), so I had to do some research (like for the Islands Empire) for new architecture… here’s a sneak preview of the first town they reach (there’s no lettering at all – I’ll do that when I finish coloring).

Now as DayJob gets crazier and I prepare to my two weeks off (but don’t worry, I’ll be offline only for one week, mwahahahahaha!), as the weather is hot cold hot cold rainy sunny rainy sunny and whatnot (Mother Earth must be really pissed at us, can’t blame her) and my blood pressure goes up and down accordingly, making me sleep at all times and my stomach struggle with any food, I’ll just trudge on my path, looking forward to this brand new world! πŸ™‚

Writer Wednesday

First I’ll send you to Smashwords blog for a post on new viral catalysts. I’m also reading Mark Coker’s Secrets to e-publishing success, but I’ll do a full review when I’m done, LOL. Well, I’ve read the part where Mark Coker credits Joleene Naylor for his new cover… I should hire her for my future non-fiction book! πŸ˜€

I’d like to add also Michael Stackpole’s post on DRM or lack of it – he’s right, Kindle owners (except me, LOL!) shop only on Amazon, Nook owners on B&N, etc. Sure, you can use Calibre to convert those e-books, but that’s whyΒ  I love Smashwords – once I have bought the book, I have access to all formats, including old-fashioned pre-Kindle PDF.

But then, I’m not an average reader in any sense. And if you were wondering why I love Smashwords more than Amazon (hence KDP Select won’t see me at this time), well…

This will come out as Happiness is this month as well, but here’s the short version! πŸ˜‰ That’s an e-mail I was really looking forward to! So one year and one month after I published the first novel on Smashwords (Jessamine was published in January, but it went free during the summer, so I’m not really counting it) – still my “bestseller, “LOL – I’m starting to see the results. In December I was stuck with 9.13$, not enough to get paid… which means that the first quarter of 2012 I earned more than the whole of 2011! πŸ™‚ Maybe because I had more books out? Not all the 2012 sales were of new titles… last year’s novels were being discovered this year! πŸ˜‰

Anyway, that much expected e-mail came with the reservation of the Chicon7 hotel and the receipt of registration for the con… so if any of your are going, let’s meet there at the end of August! πŸ˜€

Also S.K.Y.B.A.N.D Omnibus 2 is out on DruveThruComics, BUT the wonderful guys are preparing some kind of sale, so if you add it to your wishlist, sometimes during the month you’ll be able to purchase it with 25% off. So go register and fill that wishlist of comics and graphic novels now! (Please note not all publishers might want to do this – I’ve requested to be added to that list, but I don’t know how it actually works yet!) I might end up actually buying what I have on my own wishlist there too, while I’m at it, LOL!

Oh, and thanks to all who told Amazon, Books of the Immortals – Prequels is now FREE on Amazon.com (any way of making it free on the other Amazons?). The switch having happened at the end of the month, I have no idea how many downloads on the first day yet, but here’s a screenshot from Monday (mid-day in Italy – was 99 when I last checked before going to bed).

David Gaughran made an excellent post on visibility on Amazon, so I’ll make sure to let you know when I get into the top100 free Kindle books, LOL! Also read his story with self-publishing – I wasn’t this good, as last year I didn’t see a penny or cent of royalties, but I knew it would be a slow growth. I mean my expectations weren’t really high and I chose self-publishing because I’m prolific and don’t want to wait for traditional publishers.

April was a slow month both in sales and blog visits, but I’m still quite happy and excited and thinking of ways to entice fans at Chicon7, LOL! I have to decide if I want to bring cards, postcards or CDrom with my e-books on it… will have to check Zazzle prices and other options… This following Michael Stackpole’s advice on selling direct – but don’t worry, you won’t see me pestering all the fans at the con. I’m still a very shy person who hates to be at the center of the attention. But if in a conversation somebody asks “What do you write?” I can have something handy to show, know what I mean? πŸ˜‰ I will NOT obsess about it (as suggested by SPAL)!

Loralie has an excellent post on Scrivener tips, except the only thing that caught my attention is the name generator… But I think I’ll stick to Open Office for the time being, LOL! And Stephen did a wonderful round-up of articles on DoJ/Amazon stuff for whoever wants them all in one place. I think indie writers shouldn’t give anyone exclusivity, or they might as well go to a traditional publisher… don’t leave all your eggs in one basket, right?

Now, Blood Red Pencil says May is short story month… uhm… I have scheduled two novels/longer works for my other pen-names this month… no short stories… Ah, well, you can have two in June! Along with CVE3 which will soon go out to beta and editors… OK, I never liked to follow the flow and I can just say because I’m on this side of the ocean, I’m not following US “rules”, LOL!

That’s all for today – written during a holiday with only a break to have lunch at mum’s, I’ll have to find a day of the week to study all the blogs, LOL! And now I’m behind with April’s writing, so I better go back to work! Have a great week!

Writer Wednesday

So, I missed a Sunday post, LOL! You can tell I needed a break… And great break it was! Five days without writing, and reading very little. But still mulling about ongoing projects, and discussing writing with other creators, so the break was only from the actual writing. And no, I don’t feel guilty because I didn’t write. I know I’ll catch up! πŸ˜‰

Thursday I took my fast train to Torino and spent the next three days at former FIAT factory, Lingotto, for Torino Comics. You can read of past editions on this blog (2010 and 2011) but this one was very special for me, and I’ll ramble about it for the rest of the week, so brace yourselves (and be happy I don’t blog daily anymore), LOL!

This year I spent the whole three days at the comicon because I was assisting (except during the one panel he had) the guest of honor, Mr Terry Moore. If you haven’t read Strangers in Paradise yet, go grab it now. I re-read it all on Easter Monday (and the following Tuesday) and cried over it again. It’s a graphic novel and the way it’s told (prose, comic, song lyrics, poems) inspired me for SKYBAND – heck, I wanted to write the screenplays when I was trying to conquer Hollywood! πŸ™‚

Anyway, I finally got to meet the creator and talk to him and his wonderful wife about the joys and sorrows of creating something and publishing it. He, being mostly an artist, works with a sketchbook; me, being mostly a writer, I have my moleskin and notebooks. But the process is fairly similar. Of course drawing a graphic novel takes much longer than writing a novel! πŸ™‚

character from graphic novel (David of SiP) carries Barb's book... swoon!

As I helped with translations on a couple of interviews I also got to know more about the genesis of my favorite graphic novel and I thought that by the end of the Comicon – sitting next to such a great artist for three days – I wouldn’t touch a pencil for a month, but on Sunday the place was so crowded (record of presences, but it was 3 very rainy days – where could people go but there? ;-)) I just sat down and started… drawing. I should have bought SYBAND 11, LOL!

I also hope to hire Terry to do my covers in 2015 (Terry, if you’re reading this, I know I said 2016, but I checked my publishing schedule and that trilogy is actually for 2015, LOL) for a project that is still in outline/research state – so my pitch to him was vague because I myself haven’t thoroughly thought about it yet… but knowing I can have Terry Moore’s covers makes me want to go and write it right now! πŸ™‚

Other writerly discussions were about “throwing away” my old stuff – no way, I’m “throwing it out there”, and like Dean says, if I’m not proud of it, I’ll put another pen-name (one you haven’t heard before) and just put it out there. I know that the next new thing I write will be better than the old ones, but I don’t want to throw away old ideas either.

Terry has notes of graphic novels that will never be. I also have notes and outlines of stories I’ll never write. But stories that are already written and only need a polish or a translation… why throw them away? Get ready to be flooded with my writing! πŸ™‚ Not all of them, but at least half why not. Some ideas were good, just poorly executed for lack of experience on my part. Why discard them altogether?

Of course the ones that were writing experiments/exercises or were written only for myself will stay on my bookshelves (handwritten on notebooks) or on my hard drive, but everything else goes out in the world, and even if I sell one copy every three months it will still be more than not selling any, right? πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I’m back – to writing and reading as well. I’m revising/rewriting my sci-fi title while I type CVE3 so I can send them both out to betas ASAP. Sorry I didn’t visit any blog and don’t have links to share, but it’s been a busy week! πŸ™‚ Friday you’ll have Happy Fangirl Barb rambling about the Comicon, but this writer here better cut this short and get back to work.

Oh, I found a few more happiness during those five days, so the “recycling” of old vignettes is postponed! πŸ˜€

Now I’m off to writing… and reading a PAPER book – I brought my Kindle to Torino, but only read a couple of chapters of Kris Rusch’s Freelancer’s Guide. Have a great week!

UPDATE! I still don’t see it on Barnes&Nobles, but Books of the Immortals – Prequels made it to Kobo! Please go and tell Amazon of the lower (FREE) price, thank you! πŸ™‚

Writerly updates

So, the publishing year is closed for me with 5 novels and 15 other – mostly shorter – books under the Unicorn Productions umbrella with another pen-name writing contemporary fiction in English and the Italian one. I uploaded more (cheaper) titles on Kindle as well, and even managed to duplicate one, yikes! 😦 Blame it on the first cold of winter or life getting in the way (DayJob sucks and my mum had health problems – solved now).

Anyhow, IΒ  even discovered I uploaded the Italian novel on Smashwords with the WRONG ENDING when I checked the Kindle version… luckily I had had only sample downloads and even if it had gone through the Premium Catalog, I doubt I have sold any copies yet – the Italians are still catching up with the e-book thing, in spite of the opening of Kindle Italia.

I’m falling behind with SKYBAND, but when I draw I have too much time to think – which is very good if you’re in creative mood, not so good if you’re on the down curve of a depression. So I’d rather keep my mind busy with reading, editing and writing. And no, the Holidays are NOT my favorite time of the year. Sorry, people.

Still, I managed to discover wrongly numbered pages in Chapter 10 of SKYBAND, which meant some readjusting of frames and dialog to fit the 22pages format. I was happier when I didn’t care about page numbers and improvised even the comics and graphic novels – sometimes not finishing them, sometimes ending with odd page numbers, sometimes having to find “fillers” for the printed version! πŸ˜‰

In spite of depression, I did find a few more happiness to share, so I have another couple of months covered. And I’m struggling with backgrounds on SKYBAND, and have to draw many covers anyway – meaning, my dear one reader, that I will finish SKYBAND but probably won’t do the next. But then, you never know. I tend to change my mind a lot with drawing – because it’s not a talent that comes natural like writing to me, more of a passion, and passions come and go. Right?

Ahem, well… wishing you a happy week!

Oh, and another good news: the map-maker has been spared as he finally did the map for Earth. So check it on the maps page. I also made the final trailer with the decent map! πŸ™‚

Friday read

It should have been a Review Friday, but as I said, these two weeks are a little exceptional.

First of all I wanted to point you to the six sentences of a lovely lady who wrote this piece about a child, but I could recognize myself in it even if I’m no longer a child.

“I only imagined how difficult it must have been for her not to be able to express exactly what she wanted and/or needed in a way others could understand.

Coupled with that was that those people she couldn’t communicate with tried teaching her how to communicate using methods she didn’t feel comfortable using. In fact, even when Jaimie tried expressing herself, she was told it β€œwasn’t the right way.” Then those people tried making Jaimie do things their wayβ€”their β€œright way”—without trying variations of their way to see what worked best. Finally, how she related to those people changed on a daily basis depending on her own sensitivity levels. If she wasn’t able to deal with a person’s smell, for example, she wasn’t able to concentrate on the task at hand, which caused frustration on both sides.”

Talk about touching. That’s why I feel an outsider sometimes… and sometimes a rebel, because I refuse to follow some rules that are passed as the only right way to do things. There is no right or wrong way, there’s each’s personal way in everything. Take it from someone who tried desperately to fit in until she realized she shouldn’t force herself to be what the others wanted her to be.

Next week you’ll have some musings about writing and everything related as I relax with my nephew AND my Kindle – my wonderful techie bro set up the wi-fi, so I’m all set to start a TBR digital list! πŸ™‚ I guess he deserves a BIG present for his upcoming b-day! πŸ˜€

Working on SKYBAND (which might have found more readers), I did the cover for the next chapter:

and it so reminded me of the Sweeties, or the original Mercenaries?! (you might remember the working title for this graphic novel was New Mercenaries) as you can see here:

Of course I’ve become better at coloring with Photoshop, so the next generation looks better! πŸ™‚ I’m also noticing now that Birdsong (first on the left) has the same shirt as Brayan (upper drawing blond guy with long hair)… but it’s OK, as Birdsong is actually Brayan’s uncle! πŸ˜€

Now, to today’s announcement: Soul Stealers is now available on Smashwords and Lulu (and even on Kindle,Β this time I uploaded the Smashwords .mobi file and it went live much quicker)! I didn’t do a book trailer for this one, so enjoy the cover only… and happy birthday, Keanu! πŸ™‚

Battle of graphic novels

… or Mercenaries?! vs SKYBAND. Have you read Ludwig’s guest post on Leigh’s blog last week? I promised to reply to him… so here I am! πŸ™‚

I did “the gathering” of those five for a “contest” (it was by a friend, who had only two entries, so we were both winners… no comment on that…) while I was still working on my previous graphic novel (that should go in the M/M category, without the Japanese drawing style, that’s why I didn’t sell many) so indeed they had to wait until I actually wrote down the story. I decided I wanted 65 short chapters but the first were from 8 to 12 pages until I had a couple of episodes printed in a British zine who wanted max.8 pages, so I decided to stick to 8 pages-chapters (which is very good for issuing them 5 at the time, BTW – that was the time of photocopied zines, after all! ;-)). I didn’t write it all in one sitting, and I probably changed my mind a couple of times during the story, so when I read it all in one sitting when it was done I went a little “ARGH!”. Hence the attempt to redraw it and color it etc.

I also made changes to Silvery Earth in the meantime, so the winged guy was called Angelo Brandret and he wasn’t a Sila yet (I came up with that name around 2006, I think). Which means, really, I should rewrite it to fit in with the new Silvery Earth… so eventually I might delete all the handwritten balloons, and rewrite it from scratch – although I feel I’ve become better at drawing, but then it’s also thanks to them, haha! Here’s the complete team at the end of the story:

standing l.to r.: Birdsong, Hal, Rosebud, Erwan, Maxian, Brianna, Winged Brandred. Seated l.to r. Ludwig, Zaphir, Rihannon and Winged Lilith

When I decided to do another graphic novel, I indeed had my heart still set on the Sweeties. But I wanted to do something more realistic than them. Still the idea was one of mercenaries, so the working title was New Mercenaries – until I found a seven letter word and matched the initial to their names. And, like I said, I tend to use always the same models, so the faces are really recurring. For your comparative pleasure, here’s SKYBAND:

Brianna has become Axelle, Winged Brandret has cut his wings and grown his hair into Brayan, Ludwig (who was the youngest) has become Desiderio (who is the oldest, but still looks the youngest – because, well, the model is younger…), Maxian the wizard has become Swan the minstrel and Birdsong (who is gay anyway) turned into the warrior woman Ylenia (with a different hair color as well). That’s the original team, but in the final one you can see also Rihannon, who becomes Nadira, and there was also Killius, as Brandret’s childhood friend Winged Keanu (yeah, I didn’t bother to change his name in that case, haha! :-)) – a secondary character.

So… Ludwig is right. Luckily he has no lawyer to sue me! πŸ˜€ (Besides, I’m Brianna, and I’m stronger than him, haha!)

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