Latest online comic discovery…

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to post links of online comics, because there’d be no end to them.  But a few days ago I spotted a page from a comic on Deviantart, went to the website, and ordered the first paperback collection ten minutes later.

Lackadaisy, by Tracy J. Butler.  Best cat comic since Blacksad and Omaha.

There’s nothing like discovering a great new online comic, and realizing there’s about five years of backlog to check out.  It’s like finding a great book by an author you’d never read before, and finding out it’s part of a series of twelve.

“Amulet” artist doing new Harry Potter covers

Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the Amulet, Copper, and Daisy Kutter graphic novels, will be doing cover art for a new set of paperback editions of the Harry Potter series.

Good choice!

If you haven’t already, check out the aforementioned graphic novels.  Kibuishi’s website, Bolt City Productions, has plenty of links to places you can find them.

Embedding fonts on Kindle

I loaded a test version of my Zorya manuscript onto my old keyboard Kindle.  I used the same process I’d used before:  imported my basic Word file into Adobe Indesign, made the proper format changes, added a table of contents, and then used Amazon’s Kindle converter plugin for Indesign to create the .mobi file.  Then I just mailed it to my Amazon Kindle e-mail address, and in a short time it showed up on my Kindle.

When I opened the book, the font looked thin and spidery, and hard to read. I checked the Kindle’s display control panel, and noticed a line I’d never seen before: “Published Font: On/Off” I switched it off, and the text popped in nice and clear.

I checked a few purchased books, and none of them had that line in the control panel. Then I checked Castle Falcon, the one I’d published to Kindle before. The “published font” line was there, and it was switched off! I turned it on, and got the same spidery font. Yipes. That version is out there on sale.

I went back and made new Kindle files of both books using the plug-in, and this time switched off “embed fonts.” Tests of the results show they display nicely, and there’s no “published font” toggle confusing things.  I uploaded an update of Castle Falcon to Kindle Direct Publishing, and will try to get Amazon to tell purchasers the update is available.

So, if you’re making your own Kindle books, I recommend not embedding the fonts unless there’s some special reason they have to be in there. For most of us who are just writing regular normal-text books, the Kindle reader default font ought to work just fine.

Online comics and art

Fair warning:  I’m not putting any links in this post.  I wouldn’t know where to start with great examples, and I wouldn’t know where to stop.

I just want to point out that the Internet and computer drawing tools have combined, and art and cartooning talent is busting out in all directions.   I have a bookmark list of about two dozen online comics that I check frequently, and they’re all great.

The kicker is that for me, this list could easily be fifty to a hundred links long.  Most online comics have ads for other online comics, many of them excellent.  It would be real easy for me to kill a lot of my day reading them.  It’s tough enough staying away from the Internet when I have useful things to do.

It’s a lot like book self-publishing in that the tools for getting your work out there have never been better or easier to use.  Will some people break out into paying careers doing this kind of thing?  Sure.  We’ve already seen that in the book and e-book self-publishing industry, and there’s no reason we won’t be seeing it someday for online art and cartooning.

You’ll never know unless you try.

Manuscript sweeping

Once my “zero-th” draft of my book was done, I started the editing process by running “sweeps” through the document.  Each sweep has a specific purpose, and is designed to check for specific problems.  By focusing on one issue at a time, my fried brain doesn’t get distracted and miss things.

At least, that’s the theory.  In practice, it ends up being a bit more haphazard.

My first sweep on Zorya was a basic read-through of the story for large-scale screwups.  That’s because this is the first time I’ve ever actually read the whole thing from start to finish.

When you’ve written something over a year’s time, a lot of what you wrote at the beginning might get overlooked when you write the end.  Did I set up a Chekov’s Gun and leave it on the shelf?  Did a character change drastically part way through?  Did any characters that were important at the beginning disappear?  Did any appear out of nowhere?  Why the hell is this scene in there?  Just how many different ways can I spell that guy’s name?  Yikes!  Is that a plot hole?  Good Lord, what was I thinking here?  Say, this part really drags, doesn’t it?

This was where I made sure things flowed correctly from one thing to the next.  Where running gags were tuned, themes polished, and character development checked.  It’s where I pinned everything to the wall, stepped back, and saw if the storyboard still worked.

I picked up a few other loose threads along the way, like spelling errors I spotted as I read (my formal spell check came later).  I also typically write dialogue without quotation marks at the beginning, so I don’t interrupt my train of thought.  When I finish a scene, I go back and add the quote marks and other punctuation, but I often miss a few.  I caught those on this sweep, too.

The next sweep, using text search, was to catch something I had problems with in this particular book:  my story’s character is nocturnal, and it was real easy to forget that.  I needed to make sure day was day and night was night, and I hadn’t flipped it around.  I wasn’t too surprised to find quite a few of these mistakes.  Things like “afternoon” sneaking in there.

I ran another couple of sweeps to check for certain words and writing idiosyncracies I tend to overuse.  I have way too many of these.

Then came the spell-check.  This is enormously tedious.  Microsoft Word’s spell checker is okay, but the grammar checker is quite stuffy about sentence structure, and not very reliable either.  Most of the time I ignore the grammar function, but I have to run it through just in case it catches something important.

Finally, I had to carve the book up into chapters.  I don’t write in chapters, but people expect them, so I had to find the right spots to put the breaks.  This actually went a lot easier than I expect.  Luck, mostly.  I had to think up titles for them, too.  Then I tweaked the new chapter ends to add a bit of cliff-hanging “snap” where necessary.

I printed it out today on my nice little duplex printer, and had it spiral bound at the office store for about eight bucks.  Much cheaper than having them do the double-sided printing for me.  I just presented the first draft to my best beta reader:  my wife.

Hope she likes it.