Monday, January 31, 2011

Author in the House!

Helena has been taking such wonderful steps to move things forward with the project, I felt it was time for me to do something on my end to keep the momentum moving forward. I have researched trademarking and believe that I will pursue that soon. But what I really needed to dive into is the world of self publishing. I needed to educate myself more on the process, the services, the types of publishers, and figure out what is really right for me, for Helena and I, and for this project to be successful.  Success is not the only key, but to also have the outcome we want, and for us to be in control.

My vision is one I want to make come true and start on this journey having the end product most represent this vision. Not that I could even convince a top end publishing house to be interested in my stories yet, but they will hand the story over to an editor whom has their own vision based on what they read. They may not be versed in the background, and may not convey the original intent with the right style illustrations, colors, sense, feelings, or overall package. So this is part of the reason why I intended to self publish first. To, 1) have control, and 2) Because the odds are against someone who is not yet established in the market. And I have a day job, and young kids, and no time to spend sending thousands of query letters to prospective publishing houses. And 3) Because the market is rapidly changing. E-book sales beat out paperback this last year for the first time ever. More self publishing companies are offering conversions to e-books like Kindle and iPad in their publishing packages or as add-ons.

So, the first night I found a few companies. Some offered free newsletters or publishing guides and asked for some brief information. To my surprise the next day 2 companies were knocking on my door. Now I fully understand that publishers are putting their own money into the production, while self publishers want to sell you their services. But I was still shocked at the immediate response. One company really seemed like they were just trying to sell me something. Wanting me to call them back and wanting to know if I wanted more information or was ready to sign up. But I still needed to know more. The other company's publishing consultant took the time to answer my questions, send me the contract upfront for review, explain to me the packages, the options and learn from me what I was looking for without sounding like a telemarketer. They took the time to build my trust.  They offered a great discount and shared much advice with me.  I spent the last week searching and researching many more companies, but still really feeling comfortable with this one until I found some complaints about them. The complaints did seem to sound like they came from others whom may not have done their research so well or didn't fully understand the contract they entered. I questioned the company and they calmly and rationally explained the reasons for the complaints and in many cases websites set up by competing companies, and honestly just plain stupidity of some people to not comprehend that your book is not necessarily going to sell. You have to market it. And if they didn't for example take the time to get it professionally edited, that could also be a reason why it was not selling.

Some self-publishing companies are called vanity presses. This one was referred to as such, but is not that way today. This is where you publish and have to pay for a certain amount of books like 1000 to be printed and delivered to you, but they do not get distributed, and you have to sell and store them.

Others are called Print-On-Demand or POD publishers. These publishers print on demand when someone orders the book from a site like or Barnes and However most of these companies also offer editing, distribution to wholesalers to be printed or ordered, list you in the Library of Congress, and so basically your book is out there and able to bought by many. They also offer artistic services (but Helena has that covered for me), layout, and even marketing services.  Marketing services range from free business cards and bookmarks to guide on setting up book signings, doing radio and media promotion, and more. They offer discounted prices for the author to purchase books, handle copy-writing, and supply ISBN.

Being the big engineering nerd that I am, I created a big spreadsheet to weigh and rate each company I reviewed. In the end, the services with the right price and the ability to still be in control of the final product and know that the company is one of the largest, has the best possible rating with the Better Business Bureau (despite web slander) and is not going anywhere gave me the security I needed to make the decision. I also read some articles saying you have to create your own publishing company, or don't go with a vanity press as no large publisher will ever take you seriously. I think these are mainstream elitist authors/publishers, etc. And times are changing, rapidly. What worked yesterday does not necessarily work today. Doing things the same for the sake of it does not allow progress or improvement.

But in reality I do think it is all about exposure, initiative, and intent. You have got to get your product out there if you want it to be useful to others. And if you can get others to believe in you then you are on your way. But believing in yourself first is the key.

Ok - so, I reviewed the following companies: Lulu.comBlurbSelf PublishingOutskirts PressiUniverseBRIOTraffordInstant PublisherU Build-a-bookCreate SpaceFriesen Press;Heirloom; and Author House. I am sure the longer I look the more I will find. At some point though, enough is enough, and I didn't want to over think it or stress about it. This is a journey I am taking for the joy of it. I do not want it to become obsessive.  

So I signed up with Author House today! I got a spectacular discount - essentially developmental editing for free, flexible schedule, and non-exclusive contract (able to walk away and on to a larger publishing company at any time).

So I am another pea in the POD, but this author in this house is ecstatic to complete and publish a book with Author House! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Painting on Dark Days, continued...

At the left side in the top photo are 2 images. One is the Beatrice painting Ive been working on in this blog. On the right you see an older, rejected version. I wasn't happy with body or face and was using this reject to experiment with, mainly exploring the nature of the paper . While working on the leaves a motif came to mind which I hope to draw this evening.

Until there is a brighter day its very difficult for me to predict how these will reproduce. The paper is bright white but as you can see, it looks much darker. even though I brightened the image in Photoshop.

While experimenting I was thinking of the kind of books I liked when very young. Lots of color, clear patterns, contrasts. Somehow this triggered a cascade of ideas which may or may not be plausible for the book.

Painting on Dark Days...

Today was a typical cold, dark January day in Illinois. Sounds like a great day for being inside, painting, but at this stage a brighter day is preferable. My lighting is designed for artists and mimics daylight, but when working with blues and blue greens it gets tricky because even though I have made myself a color coded chart and endeavor to compensate, contrast and intensity will always be a bit off. After today's work, the foliage may be too saturated and busy. I'm unhappy with the paper as it continues to shed filaments in abundance. The photos here were taken early afternoon, by sliding glass doors.

While waiting for one section to dry I was experimenting with a discarded version and happened upon an idea for the book, which Ill work on tonight ( a pencil drawing, not painting). Meanwhile I took photos of the Beatrice painting as she is now, and the first version. The top image is what Ive been working on, with abundant foliage and wing details being filled in.

In the nest blog entry Ill compare her with the discarded painting and discuss why it has revived my interest~

Monday, January 24, 2011

Painting Beatrice

In the last blog I wrote about looking for a new space and since then have found one. We'll save the details of locating an affordable work space for a different entry because today was a painting day without interruption and I'd like to share what was happening with the art . People sometimes ask whether I use a frisket or mask to keep paint from covering areas where it dosnt belong. The answer is no, never. My work is detailed and to use frisket would take too long, its far easier and much quicker to just paint around the white areas. After regular practice your hand/eye coordination will adapt. A hot press surface is best when leaving minute white areas, the water and pigment glide off the brush and there are no textures to inhibit the flow. At right you see a close up of what is being worked on, at the tip of my brush. In some paintings I draw the negative space in before beginning, other times I just move along leaving the white spaces while painting, wherever they feel right. They can always be washed over later.

Here's a closeup of the above section, partially filled in. I painted the stems first, then came back later when they were dry and applied the browns.
Notice the segments in the leaf and how they are rendered. Compare the penciled lines in the leaf in photo 1, above, with the same leaf, at right. Eventually Ill be coming in with even darker browns and purples, adding some depth to those shaded areas. Doing so will cause the foliage to 'pop' and create the impression Beatrice is sitting above and upon the foliage. This is a timely process, hurrying will result in sloppy brushwork and blurred lines.

I have a difficult time aligning all my photos in one entry. Ive a photo of the entire painting as it looked when finished, but can't seem to get them loaded correctly. On tomorrow's blog Ill include a photo of where I left off today. Sorry!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finding My Three Little "P"s

So I have been focusing on this next year and moving forward, and read in Oprah that we all need to work on finding Joy. I thought, "How true is that? Amen, sister." When I sit back and observe how people treat each other publicly, and see how self absorbed everyone is, yet - oh - so in touch with someone on the other end of the cell phone, yet so disconnected to the here and now of what they are actually doing and people with whom they are physically interacting, it deeply sickens me. It sickens me what we are not teaching our children and what we are not personally experiencing. I hope through my stories and my writing to bring the here and now and joy back into our lives and our children's lives as well. After all we are the examples of what they become. If we cannot find JOY, how will they ever have a chance of finding it?

So as I focus on 2011 I came up with three words to focus upon for myself, and really for everyone as sort of mantras to remind ourselves in 2011 what is important and by focusing on these words and practicing them,  may we all find JOY and be good teachers to our future generations on how to find JOY.

PURPOSE – To have purpose behind everything that is done. Not to pursue anything without a purpose, in essence not to waste time on meaningless things.

PRESENCE – To be present at all times, taking in the present experience and not worrying about the past or the future, but just being in the present.

PATIENCE – Exhibiting patience as much as possible, relaxing and taking in the moment, not worrying about being late or getting uptight that things are not happening on my timeline the way I envisioned them or wanted them. To be comfortable that the universe may have a different clock than I do.

So as we all move into 2011, let us focus on purpose, presence, and patience and hopefully find a very JOYOUS year ahead!

Monday, January 10, 2011


CLICK THE HEADING, ABOVE, and link to a typical artists space and residence page. Cities often have several arts organizations offering similar services. In the suburbs, good luck finding anything as space is at a premium, and loft or old apartment buildings are priced to the max. Similar ads appear in Craig's List. Search terms: Art space, artist's space Chicago area, artists studio space. And heres an example of same, but for writers needing a quiet place to work:

If you are creating at home, and sharing that home with partners running their own businesses, children and often, aged parents, consider an outside space. It might enhance creative flow and quality of work. My creativity and production have slowed to a crawl after my partner set up his home office and an adult child moved home. I swear, its like running the front desk in a busy airline terminal and trying to paint in between customers, announcements, interruptions and non - stop cacophony from various media sources, meetings, friends and the dog's frantic, angry yapping. Also, for most of us economics and distance are determining factors when finding a space. Id love a romantic gazebo studio or artsy urban garret but in my area even a shabby, downsized version starts at $1500.00 per month not counting utilities and licensing. For now, a quiet place where nobody can find and pester me is the target.

First, investigate what’s out there. Artist spaces are listed on artist guild billboards, publications, online art communities and Craig's List. Be flexible. Example : a small room in a a law firm or real estate office might serve your purpose – many are renting their empty rooms to generate extra cash. Next blog entry will focus on pros and cons. An other option is households with a large spare bedroom, walk in attic, or other spaces. Many empty nesters and singles or working couples are happy to renting out unused space for daytime use. I'd steer clear of any residence with children for obvious reasons.

Factors to consider when sourcing out locations for your space, aside from monthly cost and rental details are below. Italics are responses particular to my own requirements.

1. Estimated travel time to and from, and traffic patterns. I loath driving in heavy Chicago toll - way and north side city traffic even with great music or an audio book. Drive time, one way after the rush hour requires 1 hour 45 minutes, usually 2 full hours. (2:00 a.m. it's 60 minutes)

2. Fuel or transportation costs. Fuel costs are estimated to double by the end of 2011- am I prepared to move out of the studio and find a closer space if this occurs, within a year?

3. Do you want to work around other artists or prefer a quiet place? If another artist in the shared space is overly talkative, plays her music loud or has many loud visitors will this be a problem? For me, solitude is preferable.

4. How much space does your medium require? 250+ square feet is fine.

5. Do you require natural daylight, ventilation? I prefer indirect natural daylight.

6. Days and hours – when will you be using the space? Sometimes you can split the rent with another artist. I’m planning on 3 full 8 hour days in studio per week. Other days will be used for my jewelry business and art related business like web maintenance, invoicing, preparing and shipping orders, phone calls etc.

7. Do you need somebody available to sign for and receive shipments when you are out? No

8. Heat and air conditioning. Heat is a must; a fan might be fine in the summer. In the Midwest temps range from frigid to sweltering.

9. Do you need a location near galleries? Often, nearby artist buildings are included in gallery walks and tours. Nice perk but not essential; I need work space. Socializing with artists or gallery owners and clients, marketing, and community are not on my radar. In 2 years this may change as Ill have built up a new body of work and seeking exhibition spaces.

10. Stairs, elevator, a loading dock, and locks on the doors or a cubical in a large shared loft space – these are some of the details to bear in mind. I may be loading and unloading my studio furniture by myself. This include drawing table, a collapsible work table, chair, lighting, some shelves, possibly the large easel. So I prefer walk in, a lift, or elevator access.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Owls are wonderful parents and talented hunters, navigating the woods in the night, spending their days in the treetops alone, avoiding the crows and pestering starlings. Some creative individuals are this way - we like others of our species just fine but need our space and time away from the flock. This week I'm addressing the need for a space of one's own, and sharing the experience start to finish.

Some creative individuals prefer working in a group, especially those in the hobby and weekend workshop categories. These group sessions are about social and communal needs as well as creating. What about those of us who aren't 'joiners', always flying off on their own and lacking the 'flocking' instinct? Like owls, we prefer flying alone, and associate with a limited circle of like minded creatures. I require space and no interruptions or conversation when painting because all my focus is directed toward the work at hand. Socializing when creating jewelry or beading is great, but painting and drawing access my deeper processes and require focus and dedication of a different sort.

With family returned home and a husband who works from a home office this place can get busy, its like an airport terminal or busy storefront around here. Creative and work time has decreased significantly since my menfolk have returned to the nest, while domestic responsibilities have increased. Its getting out of hand lately and like many working at home women I'm feeling pressed into a choice. Either become a full time domestic goddess, or get a separate space where I can create and run my business.

After trying all the obvious solutions it may become apparent that you, too, will seek a place in which to create without the frequent interruptions that result when adults share a small living space 24/7. This is a common and understandable situation today, when parents who've downsized suddenly find themselves with adult children and often, older parents, moving in. We love our families , value their company, and like communal living...but we need our space too!

In the next entry Ill begin the process of deciding what is required and the adventure of hunting for and finding that space.

The owl in the photo was rescued after being wounded when somebody shot at her. She lives at one of our wonderful Illinois wildlife refuges and is well cared for. This photo was taken when the local preserve staged a community awareness day at the local strip mall. Her protective handlers demonstrated knowledge, gentleness and understanding. The owls and hawks were kept safe and out of children's reach.