Monday, March 14, 2016

Musical Update, Vengeful Half giveaway, video and more!

I have a little more info on the Magic Under Glass musical, Clockwork Heart. The venue will be Reservoir High School in Fulton, MD. (Note: The show is not being put on by a high school. The CCTA just uses high school theaters over the summer.) The show dates are July 28th-31st. I still don't know times or have ticket info, but...will keep you posted!

The Vengeful Half is now out, and available at Amazon as an ebook and paperback, and as an ebook at KoboBarnes & Noble, and iBooks. A couple of people have asked me where they should buy it. You should buy it anywhere you like buying books, it's all good, but if you have choices, Kobo is the best place to buy the ebook. Due to Amazon's file delivery charges, my royalty gets pretty hammered there. Though this is not a problem with the paperback.

I did a video this week to celebrate the release, showing just a few of the 20 years of sketchbooks and notebooks I've filled writing about the Hidden Lands!

I also did a guest post at the Tea and Titles blog: 4 Tips for Writing Compelling Characters. Specifically, I considered writing Alfred, because he is my favorite character. Oh, if only every character was as easy to write as Alfred! Sample: "Some of the most common advice given in writing books is that a character must want something very badly, and that desire will drive the entire plot. Even better, I think, than writing one thing, is wanting two things that can’t be had at once."

Trish at Wide Angled Life has been so supportive of The Vengeful Half and is giving away an ebook copy at her blog.

See a few of you at the New York Teen Author Festival this weekend! =D

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Clockwork Heart...the Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone MUSICAL!!

I finally get to tell you the news I’ve been sitting on for a year!!!

I’ve sold the theatrical rights to Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone…to create a rock musical based on both books, called Clockwork Heart!!! I wrote the libretto, and the music is by the crazy-talented Michael Francis Kline.

And HEADS UP, Baltimore/DC! The world premiere (that’s fun to say) will be directed by Toby Orenstein and performed this summer by the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts in Columbia, MD. They’re a non-profit organization that I’ve heard amazing things about and I am so excited for them to put this on! The performances will be the last weekend in July (exact details to come).

By pure coincidence, that’s the same weekend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens in London, and if you won’t be there, well, it would be nice to have an evening of YA fantasy theatre anyway, wouldn’t it?

Readers, I am so excited to share this with you. For one thing, I wrote the libretto, so it’s very faithful to the books. But what I am even more excited for is the music. From the day Mike first played some rough drafts of these songs for me on his guitar…well, if it was possible for my jaw to literally drop out of my skull, we would’ve needed an ambulance that day. He took my playlists for the books and drew from them for inspiration, weaving together 1970s rock, indie, and traditional/world music influences, and brought such an innate understanding of these characters and the mood of my books. I can honestly say that I don’t think David Bowie or Freddie Mercury or Colin Meloy or Arcade Fire or anyone I might have chosen to write a Magic Under Glass musical in my dreams could’ve done a better job of capturing this story…and writing some DAMN catchy music to boot.

I can’t believe I’ll be seeing Erris and Nimira’s love story play out on the stage!! I hope to see some of you there!

They will also be doing a cast album, so if you can’t be there in July, you can still enjoy the music. I also hope to have some songs to share before then so you don’t have to take my word for it.

(And since someone always seems to ask if they can be IN these things, it is part of CCTA’s paid summer camp for ages 14-21:

Also, FYI to reviewers, my new book The Vengeful Half is up on NetGalley. It comes out in two days--eep!--and I'd be honored if you choose to spend some time in my beloved world.

And on the 19th and 20th I'll be at the New York Teen Author Festival! Come say hi!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

On Self-Publishing an Illustrated YA Novel

I wanted to just write this up as an offering to the Google gods, because when I was looking into publishing The Vengeful Half I had a hard time finding initial resources about indie publishing and illustrated novels. I found stuff about comics and picture books but nothing about just weaving little pictures into the books.

So I'm going to write up the little FAQ I could've used. I am by no means an expert, but at least it might help someone.

Q: Can you add pictures to an e-book and if so, how is it done?

Yes! I used the software Vellum (which is only for Mac) which very easily allows you to plug pictures anywhere in the text. Vellum forces you to choose between four sizes, but I didn't find this to be a problem. There is no way to 100% control the size of your pictures anyway, because different e-readers will display them differently. Vellum has a preview feature you can look at as you go, that shows what the picture will look like on different common e-readers. I found this very helpful! However, I have gotten one feedback already that a large picture got cut off even though this didn't show on any of the e-readers in Vellum's previewer. I adjusted the size to be a tad smaller but I have yet to find out if any other readers will have this problem.

Q: What about the print copy for Createspace or other print-on-demand publishers? How do I create that?

I got my partner to do this for me. He used iStudio, a $30 program for Mac. You can also use older versions of Pages but not the latest version. I can't comment on software for PCs. I also can't tell you anything further about how the heck he did it...

Q: Are there any issues I should be aware with uploading picture-heavy files to Amazon, etc.?

Yes, unfortunately, Amazon will charge you a delivery fee for your files to Kindle IF you choose the 70% royalty option. Therefore, an image-heavy file will take money out of your royalties. I added either a single illustration or a multi-panel comic to about 40 chapters or so, and my delivery fee is $0.82. That is a pretty decent chunk and it is a bit of a financial disadvantage for me, as I can't price my book too low without being forced to switch to the alternate 35% royalty.

It should be noted, Vellum's site will tell you that Kindle compresses the files themselves so you can leave them large. However, we brought down the delivery cost SUBSTANTIALLY by shrinking the files ourselves, to below Vellum's recommended minimum. This didn't seem to harm the viewing quality at all.

None of the other major e-book retailers charge a delivery fee or have strict minimum file sizes so you can expect the full royalty at Nook, Kobo, etc.

Q: What kind of pictures did you use?

Mine are all black and white line art scanned as grayscale. I don't have experience with color. I wanted the pictures to be easily visible on B&W e-readers.

Q: How is the picture quality on your basic e-reader?

A: The pictures, admittedly, don't look *AS* good on my 1st gen. Nook as they do on paper or read on, say, an iPad screen, but they'll do. There are probably techniques for creating art to look its best on e-readers but it's probably not realistic to adapt your entire art style for e-readers! And then you'd still have tablet, phone, and print copy readers to consider. One important thing I discovered is that I could not hand-letter the comics I did. I had to replace all the wording with computer fonts.

Q: Is there anything to bear in mind while creating the pictures?

E-readers don't have superb picture quality and they are tall, not long. So don't create big, detailed, wide pictures unless you want readers to have to turn their e-readers around.

Q: Is there a market for teen/young adult or even general fantasy novels with added comics and/or pictures?

I guess I'll find out! But I know what I like and I wanted to create the book I'd love to read, a novel with the feel of a manga thanks to added extras. Comics and visual storytelling is a very different medium from prose. For me, it's possible to express my sense of humor in a very different way by adding comic strips to the text. Whenever I show my sketchbooks to fans of my novels, they love the comics, so I thought...why not just put them in the book??

Q: To my readers: Do you know of any novels for adults or teens that incorporate art? Especially in ways that go beyond simple illustrations, such as comics?

So far I know of:
I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Thieves and Kings by Mark Oakley (a series of graphic novels with prose sections)

I would love to know of more! Surely there are more!?

And if you came to this post looking for information on illustrated novels, I hope you'll consider checking out my series, beginning with The Vengeful Half!