Posted by: WriteBrained21 | July 8, 2016

How to Be Productive During Writer’s Block


“Now, wait a minute, Shell!  How can you be working on three sequels, a short story, and editing a first draft in four different plot lines at the same time?”

Excellent question.  Like ogres, the answer has many layers.

  1. Because fresh, vine-ripened muse is so HARD to recover, I tend to be a “yes woman” to my muse.  It’s like getting five minutes in passing with your favorite celebrity – make it count!  And milk that sucker until it’s dry before you move on.  Getting to the good stuff first will save the vision and quality of your story if, in fact, it goes on to become a full story.  Even if it’s not useful now, it could be something else’s sequel or a good one-off for a contest entry down the road.
  2. Often times, writer’s block is caused by “writer’s over-saturation” and requires you to step back from your work for a week or month or so.  When you stop looking for the answer, it will find you.  But working on some other project in the meantime minimizes downtime when writer’s block strikes.  Greater Perspective, The Harp Effect, and Tindispensible were all in production at the same time, which not only caused them to be completed in succession, per my point here, but allowed them to help each other succeed, which leads into my next point…
  3. Many a time, working on Project B will give me the inspiration I needed to unkink Project A, especially if they deal with the same/a similar subject matter.  What is not working in B might actually work in A, or vise versa.  Who knows?  Project A might even absorb Project B.  Or, one of them might actually rekindle your inspiration for C.  Or, you might get something completely different.  For example, Tindispensible came into being as an offshoot of a single scene from an early version of The Harp Effect.  (And now, in the final version of The Harp Effect, there is a Tindispensible Easter egg.)  And both of them plus Greater Perspective each took turns defeating each others’ story blocks.
  4. Following your muse around to all your different story ideas eventually shows you what you are capable of writing and what you’re not.  Be honest with yourself as a writer and be brave enough to identify story ideas you will never get to or the ones for which you’re just not the right writer.  In that case, do the rest of us a favor and give away those ideas on your blog or Facebook. ;-)  (Something I plan to do in the future.)

At the end of the day, though, it really is more about quality than quantity.  If you can do both, I doff my hat to you.  But my advice is not to sacrifice the former for the latter.

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | July 3, 2016

Bravo, BFG


*No spoilers per se, but I do give my opinion on how the characters and plot were developed, so if you want to form a fresh idea of the movie for yourself, read no further.  If you’ve already seen it, then you’re good to go.  Feel free to agree or disagree with me.*

Just saw Disney’s The BFG this afternoon.  Overall, this film could be described as a whizzpopper:  it started off with a bang and then lost its potency as it progressed.  That pretty much goes for everything in the story, as well.  It’s like they had some great ideas and then partially developed them because of time constraint.

YAY:  Mark Rylance did an excellent job with the character of the BFG!  He was more clever than usual and even cheeky.  His best feature, however, was his endearing smile.  He was actually not as crazy as his former adaptation and original selves and was quite relateable.
BUT:  There was an interesting tragic element to him that Disney opened up with a few lines of dialogue here and there and then didn’t follow up on.  I demand a sequel to address these issues; I don’t care how much Disney has to pay out to the Roald Dahl estate…unless they already have.
While Rylance’s performance was top-notch, I do have to question the writing for BFG.  Oddly, he did not really seem to nurture Sophie as before, and I’m not sure what the screenwriter’s(‘) intention was there.  To give BFG a harder, more world-weary edge?  He does seem to have a tired, timid, melancholy about him…except when he’s demonstrating the “jollifying” power of Frobscottle (which was handled somewhat more tastefully…and magically, if you can imagine that…than the animated feature).  It’s made clear that he’s afraid to be caught and heckled by humans, but he’s so downtrodden about it that I kept expecting a backstory to surface.  But no such luck.

YAY:  Sophie was impressively spunky and I liked it at first.  She really dishes it to BFG.
BUT:  However, there were times were I felt she was overdoing it.  I wanted to shove her down in a seat and say, “Shut up!  Leave the poor giant alone, Soph.  Sheesh.”  It’s almost like Disney was overcompensating for the very prim and proper, soft-spoken Sophie of the animated film.  It’s no wonder BFG treats her like the uncles in Second Hand Lions, but I don’t think that was an intentional connection the writer(s) was/were making.

YAY:  Dream Country was very cool.  And the Queen of England is phenomenal (especially for “Downton Abbey” fans) and very believable.

YAY:  The evil giants were entertaining, as the trailer promised.  I could watch a show just about them.  (Get on it, Disney.)
BUT:  The sting of their villainy was greatly subdued, as there was an absence of seeing them in action.  Even the cartoon shows a giant going after a sleeping child and then cuts away before the act is committed.  The ending also lacks the climactic clash between good and evil that is in the cartoon feature, which, with it gone, serves to point out how intrinsic it was to BFG’s character arc.

BUT:  In fact, I’m not real sure who has a character arc in this version.  In the animated version, both BFG and Sophie become emboldened by their challenges.  In this one, I don’t think anyone is changed by the struggle…except, with the bad giants gone, BFG gets a vegetable garden in Giant Country, allowing him to make better soup than the mush he’d been making out of the snozzcumber.  I mean, when I was growing up, I was watching The Secret of NIHM, The Neverending Story, An American Tale…pretty deep stuff.  I mean, heck, in Disney’s The Lion King, 22 years ago, Scar throws Mufasa off a cliff and the latter is shown dead with his son crying over him.  So, don’t tell me we need to oversimplify things for kids.  I don’t know – maybe I’m behind the times.

YAY:  It was a potentially charming story.
BUT:  The plot was woefully bereft of suspense.  Between Sophie’s mouth, BFG’s lugubriousness, a bunch of tragic but interesting backstory hints that were never explained, and an anticlimactic ending, I think I would have found this movie to be pretty pointless if I was not already a fan giving it the benefit of the doubt.  To that end, it almost seemed to be written to the fans, who already have an understanding of The BFG; otherwise, I might have been lost.  Even the thickness of my pro-giant bias could not make an excuse for bad story management.

 

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | July 2, 2016

Best Editing Solution


Nothing helps you take an axe to your own work like being tired of working on it.  You might rationalize that the pressure of a deadline helps, and it does, but I reiterate the former statement.

When the “honeymoon” is over and you start caring more about getting your first fans than about every word being a stroke of genius, you begin seeing your story as first-time readers will.  To quote Police Chief Bogo in Disney’s Zootopia feature, “I don’t care.”  (I’m going to hear his voice repeating that now every time I do a blunt edit.)

I recommend the following order of events in your writing process:
1. Write the complete first draft of your story initially in the heat of your passion.  This will ensure that your scenes are as rich as they need to be.
2. Edit your first draft with “the Bogo ‘don’t care'” and remove any sentence or dialogue that is overly dramatic, belabors the point, or doesn’t actually add to the scene the way you thought it did when you were in fanatical mode.

Now, let’s not be Wayne Szalinsky beating apart his shrinking machine when he thinks it has failed.  It’s prudent not to delete significant things by accident simply because you’ve lost interest in or “the vision” for that line or scene.  And just because you’re drained by your own work doesn’t mean a fresh reader won’t see the value in what you’ve created.  But a sure sign that something should be deleted is when you can’t decide to delete it or not.  Chances are you’ve forgotten how this is important to the story or enhances the reader experience, making it roughage in the story.  If you, the author, won’t miss it, the reader sure won’t.

Don’t worry.  After several complete read-throughs (for me, personally, it’s about three), it’s super easy to spot things that aren’t necessary to the intended feel or communication of the scene.  Lines that get “the Bogo ‘don’t care'” can be, but are not limited to…
– extraneous comments in dialogue or narration that are redundant or just slow down the pace.
– character prattle that comes after the point where the conversation should have ended or transitioned, but is only there to support a last minute joke or a piece of information that wasn’t properly transitioned to earlier.  This will reduce the punch of the previous conversation, as well as point out that something was thrown in at the end for its own sake.
– anything that now seems overly dramatic for the tone of the scene or the character development.
– anything where you’ve forgotten the original intent or meaning.  If it occupies a transitional space, whereby deleting it would leave a gap in thought, try your best to replace it.

*An exception to that last point is in the occasion that it has resulted from a poorly-tended cut and paste error between different versions of the scene.  Oy.  That’s the mistake that is easiest to overlook, especially when you’re so tired of reading this same story over and over.  In my opinion, it’s the second most embarrassing mistakes you can make (first being using a word incorrectly).  Make sure that if you change one part of a plot thread, you remember to go through the entire story and accordingly change every piece of information that’s dependent on it.  The fastest way I’ve found to do that is to use your “Find” tool in Microsoft Word and search for key words pertaining to that information.  That way, it will give you a sidebar listing every mention of your keyword in the document so you can easily and directly check where your info of interest may occur.  However, it is still advisable to do at least one final read-through before it goes to press.  I have been amazed by the things I and even my editors have not caught even after a gazillion edits, which are better to catch before press than after.

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | July 2, 2016

What’s Next?


Thanks to the eagerness of Greater Perspective fans, I have finalized a compelling, character-centric plot and great title for the sequel!  Like Book 1, it promises to be huuuge and just fantastic, let me tell ya.  I know these giants and they are all fantastic.  They will make giantdom great again.

While we wait, there are some other goodies for you to enjoy, coming off the assembly line soon:

  1. The Harp Effect (The Hominutian Revolution, Book 1).  It’s tantalizingly close to being finished.  I can’t stand it myself, but the hold up is a few final tweaks and the map of the place, which I need to finalize and then make it look all nice in Illustrator, so that you guys will be able to keep track of the difference between Belnorag and Belamy and where the heck The Foundlands are in relation to everything else.  The cover will be different, too (although, I will miss that giant and harp/girl shadow).
    By God’s grace, I will hopefully have it out by this Christmas.  In the meantime, feel free to read about it under it’s respective tab and read the excerpt.
    *The Harp Effect also has two awesome sequels in production.
  2. The Attraction of Dr. Gulliver.  I’m always surprised by my fan fiction.  I highly recommend it as a writing exercise.  It’s like wasp spray on my writer’s block – kills on contact.  That’s how Greater Perspective got its start, at any rate.  Well, while making pirate-y adjustments to The Harp Effect, I attempted to recharge my muse by embarking on a romantic comedy staring a Gulliver of my own invention.  Significant beats within all three acts materialized within a couple of days, which is a very good sign of the plot’s ability to build upon itself.  The entertainment in it works so well that I’ve decided to put it on the printing queue, rather than keep it as an exercise.
    I fought hard for that title, dang it, as simple as it is.  But I like things with multiple meaning because they’re so efficient, and “attraction” definitely makes use of all it’s meanings as far as Gulliver’s life as an incidental spectacle (literally an attraction), his attractive qualities, and the object of his attraction.  Kaboom!
    No idea what the projected time of completion will be, but I perceive that this one will be much shorter than my previous works, possibly between 50-70 document pages (which is 90-140 pages in book form), and, as such, may have a quick production rate.  (To be honest, I haven’t written something that short in 20 years.)  If it’s short enough, I may even make a script version of it on the spot.

*Now, Tindispensible has it’s own tab because it has a completed Draft 1, but it’s in need of some editing that may involve reconstruction.  But it will be in the queue with the sequels of the other books once The Harp Effect is out.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll get a shout out from a Christian Fiction editor who will say, “Hey, I’d like to help you out with Tindispensible!”  (Know any?)

How do I keep it all in circulation?  Read my post How to Be Productive During Writer’s Block

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | July 2, 2016

Richard Harris – A Forgotten Gulliver


While our best-known Gullivers are Max Fleischer’s animated Gulliver (1939) and Ted Danson (1996), Gulliver’s Travels was actually imitated a lot in the 60’s and 70’s, and more often as a hero’s adventure rather than a stinging satire.  The one I doff my hat to, however, is the performance by Richard Harris in 1977.  Previously unaware of this gem, I came upon a clip on YouTube while trying to satisfy a recent Gulliver craving with absolutely anything Gulliver.  After watching the clip, I had to see the rest.  A mixture of animation and live action, the plot is overly simplistic, but the characters are enjoyable.

Oh…my…Gulliver.  Richard Harris is hands-down the most adorable Gulliver ever.  How adorable?  If I had to bet money on YouTube cat videos or Richard Harris Gulliver, I would go all in on the latter.  Sorry, cats.  And it’s not just because of my bias.  The guy is not a looker per se, but he is as polite and as sweet as he is big.  I was already dying from cuteness overdose, but Harris put the final nail in my coffin with the scene where he is moving a jump rope for a Lilliputian girl.  I said, “That is it!  You are under arrest, sir, by the S.A.P. (So Adorable Police), on charges of public displays of charm and lovability.  Way, way too much warm fuzziness going on here.”

Another way Harris breaks the mold is that his initial reaction to the Lilliputians is one that we’ve all be waiting for Gulliver to have—he talks to them like a normal person.  Maybe a bit too casually, but he just turns his head and says, “You there!  Little fellow.”  No hysteria.  No screaming as if he’s being bitten by spiders.  While a little surprise would have seemed natural, he has an overall even-keel reaction to seeing miniature human beings for the first time.  And he actually makes some pretty rational, self-aware points about his state of being as a giant.

I also have to give credit to the King of Lilliput for being a delight in and of himself.  He was so delightful, in fact, that when he loses his temper over Gulliver not destroying Blefuscu, it seems out of character—or, rather, contrived to add otherwise nonexistent drama to the plot.  (There is technically “drama,” but it’s more like blowing marbles out of a straw:  they just roll off the end and fall.  Obviously, it was a made-for-TV family film of a 1970’s grade.)

I like the King of Blefuscu even more, a character we rarely see or even hear of in other versions of the tale.  Both he and his ambassador can be considered cool guys that I wouldn’t mind having afternoon tea with on the veranda.

There’s nothing original or intriguing about the bad guys, though.  Notwithstanding being 2-dimentional figures, they are pretty flat.  You have your typical, hard-ass military officer who only wants violence, to validate his position, and some other ugly guy in the court who looks like that Muppet whose always carrying around the detonator box and blowing things up.  Speaking of blowing things up, they actually borrowed the concept of using Gulliver’s own gun to shoot him from the Max Fleischer animated version.  At least, I assume they had to because that’s not in the book.  (But Fleischer’s script is far superior.)

Overall, what the film lacks in edge-of-your-seat suspense and intellectual value, it makes up in being a good representation of the feel-good entertainment of the 70’s that has been largely lost in today’s movies.

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | June 16, 2016

The Real Giant Science


There are no hard and fast rules for giant physics because the situation is entirely up to interpretation, and to draw from other things in nature takes some patchworking that still results in estimation.  However, in storytelling, I believe there are ways to go about it that just make sense.

Gulliver’s Travels is probably the only work of literature in existence that goes into great detail about the giant/tiny experience.  Every move Gulliver makes in Lilliput, for example, is almost always overpowering for the Lilliputians.  His normal speaking voice is too loud, clapping can bring a crowd to its knees, and even a sneeze can blow a man off his feet like a leaf in the wind.  To that end, I’m really surprised Swift didn’t say much about the ground shake when Gulliver walks or sits.  (That’s my favorite part!  That’s why I’m always pointing it out in my books.  The ultimate expression of passive power, as it were.)  Perhaps all that was for effect, to show Gulliver’s physical superiority to the Lilliputians, but not under any sense of realism.  But if your goal is like mine, in that you want to shed an inviting light on interaction with giants, there are some things you just have to de-emphasize.  Let’s take a look at how I’ve handled some of those things in my own giant-handling.

Of all the sensory input of giantdom, sound is the one Swift harps on the most.  In Lilliput, Gulliver has to whisper all the time and has trouble hearing the Lilliputians if they are not shouting or otherwise speaking directly into his ear.  In Brobdingnag, where he is the only tiny person among giants, Gulliver complains incessantly about the noise level and describes being exhausted from shouting to be heard.  Is there any realism to that?  We’ll never know for sure because we don’t have giants that size around, nor tiny people to tell us how annoying we are.  But, in my estimation, the sound would not be that bad.  A good example is in The Harp Effect, where the giants and smaller people are on that same 1/12 scale that Jonathan Swift uses both in Lilliput and Brobdingnag.  An average adult male giant is roughly 72 ft. tall or close to it, give or take a few feet (6 ft. tall to their own).

Can giants hear little people without having them shout?  On this scale, yes.  If you, giant, are sitting next to someone on the ground who is about 5-6 inches tall to you, I don’t think you’re going to have trouble hearing their normal speaking voice at a distance of your hip.  Put your hand there.  Yes, right now.  If you’re an adult, your hand is probably about 6 inches long.  It’s not that far from your ears, is it?  Now, if the little person next to you is whispering to a friend, you will certainly miss that conversation without doing some very noticeable eavesdropping.  Everything else, you’ll be able to hear just fine.
In Greater Perspective, I admit that I fudged on this.  A three inch tall person would be quite difficult to hear in most situations without requiring them to shout, yet the giants very seldom raise Celeste to their ears.  Because Celeste is often in a three-way conversation with her giants, or conversations where a giant other than the one holding her will interject, I waived the concept for ease of scene flow.

How about standing?  Yes, if you are standing below a 72 ft. giant who is also standing at full height, you will probably have to shout to be coherent.  At the feet of the Greater Perspective gang…just forget it.  You’d better have another way of getting their attention from the ground.

Are giant voices too loud for the ears of tiny people?  This is a little more realistic.  My answer is “maybe.”  The bottom line for focal giant characters, though, is that, if they’re unbearable to listen to or to be around, that’s not going to make them very endearing characters.  So, I’ve bent the rules of physics in both series to make your giant-viewing experience more relaxing.  Although, I did give credence to their massiveness by making things like sudden laughter, shouting, cheering, forceful whistling, and clapping a momentary disturbance.  For example, in Greater Perspective, 95 foot Derek, whose regular speaking voice is not abrasive on normal human ears, nearly takes out the crowd by whistling at Celeste and Vincent in a catcall manner.  Overall, while it is the law of giant etiquette to speak in a mild volume around little folk, I don’t think whispering is necessary.

Probably the single most exaggerated act of giantry in film is the sneeze.  With comical, hurricane force, it blows all objects and furniture to the other side of the room, or uproots vegetation and farmhouses.  “Myth Busters” time.  Would a giant sneeze realistically knock down a tiny person at close range?  Hopefully, your giant friends have enough self-control and politeness to turn away from you when they must sneeze, but, for the sake of giant science, we’ll say that you were subject to a dry blast.  On a flat, stable surface, the force packed by a giant’s sneeze would likely cause you to stagger backward, but not fly across the room, or even a couple feet from where you were standing.  The air would rush past you like a sudden gust of storm-force wind, lasting about one second (and, hopefully, it’s all wind and no rain, if you know what I mean).

Derek, of Greater Perspective, and I were chatting one day during production and he asked facetiously why giants seem to be relegated to moving in slow motion.  They don’t.  But I contend you can look awesome while doing it.  I was once watching a historical documentary where, during the voice-over and dramatic music, certain characters would approach the camera in slow motion.  My father humorously said, “It must mean they’re important.”  So, let’s go with that, Derek.

Now for the good part.  Ground shake.  It’s the first indication that a giant is near.  There’s a running joke in my casts that giants never have any stealth simply because of that.  (I have to say, though, that Disney’s new BFG has some skillz!)
So, from how far away does ground shake effect the environment of the onlooker?  It’s a question I’ve spent a lot of time on.  But, because I don’t have access to a physics lab and a few tons of stuff, I usually go for what works for suspenseful effect in the story.  When reality is not good enough, just make it feel good.  That goes for anything story.  I implement shake where I need shake, but try to give it some realistic progression.  Naturally, shake is minimal, at first, and will increase as the giant nears, the rate and intensity of which will all depend on the speed, size, and even character of your giant.  Jurassic Park, the movie, executed the suspense beautifully with the recurring use of ripples in a glass of water.
While the quake is progressing, I love to use that time to double the suspense by going inside my diminutive character’s head and explore their thoughts – maybe even fears – on the situation.  As much as I love giants, some do feature as villains in my stories – and I love fearing them right along with my protagonists (who are actually not loving the fear like I am).

Giant shake is also something greatly exaggerated for effect in movies.  In the movies, a giant’s every move is generally earth-shattering.  And that’s neither practical nor realistic.  Sitting or taking to knee on the ground (depending on how considerate your giant is), running, jumping, and falling are going to yield you some abrasive quakes, while general walking is much lighter than the cinema has lead you to believe.  It depends on the objects in the environment to absorb the shock.  In a city, where there are lots of little, moving parts, things are going to rattle significantly.  Out in a field, the tremor may not be as noticeable.  In my estimation, a giant on a stroll, with casual footfalls that don’t come very far off the ground, will not jar your environment until they’re right up on you.  Before that point, you might get some rattling of your loose items and the walls.  For greater and sustained shaking, your giant could be walking with purpose or making carelessly heavy impacts out of either apathy or naivety.  If you want to get a sense for how to implement ground shake in a small, contained area, walk around in your own dining room or kitchen, or some place in your house where glass or metal is stored.  Listen to how things rattle as you walk, run, sit, etc.

Ground shake is my favorite element of giantry not only because it’s exciting, but because of the thematic things you can do with it.  I love the juxtaposition of great strength and power with innocence and gentleness of equal intensity.  Bobby, one of the giant children in The Harp Effect and Princess Reaona’s best friend, is a great example.  He is a 60 foot ten-year-old boy with lots of curiosity for the little folk, which is no comfort for some villagers.  He knows that in order to maintain his visiting privileges among the little people who fascinate him so much, he must control his strength and distribution of weight.  But, he’s not perfect.  Still, if his fluffy, blonde hair, soft apology, and adorably sheepish smile doesn’t charm your pants right off, nothing will.
Another example is the never-before-seen giant/human relationship between Celeste Nortram and her boyfriend, Dr. Vincent Harcourt, the latter of whom becomes 103 feet tall in a genetic experiment that went awry (Greater Perspective).  What they prove is that, despite Vincent’s capability to crush Celeste effortlessly by any means, even just a few fingers, which he initially fears, they still manage to be (safely) physically intimate with each other in unique, adaptive ways.

I always make a point to show off the power of my giants, even to the point of being overbearing at times for their tiny friends, in order to make their gentleness all the more amazing and impacting.  Even since early elementary school, I’ve just had an innate sense for it.

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | June 14, 2016

A Signing of Success


The signing this past Sunday at Barnes&Noble’s first Teen Book Festival was a success.  Thank you to all who came to my table and made a purchase.  The support of family and friends was also great.  It was a great relief to see my own name and picture on a sign with my book.  One small step for giants, one giant leap for Author Michele.

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Posted by: WriteBrained21 | June 7, 2016

Best Retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk”


Now, Brian Henson did a pretty good job adapting “Jack and the Beanstalk.”  But he doesn’t hold a candle to this guy.  Enjoy!

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | June 7, 2016

The Giants of Brian Henson’s “Jack and the Beanstalk”


Once upon a time, in a year far, far away – 2001, Brian Henson put together a lovely film known as Jack and the Beanstalk:  The Real Story.  The storyline does justice to the giant community by revealing Jack as a villain (finally) and his modern-day successor, also by the name of Jack, must right his ancestor’s wrongs against the land where giants and smaller folk dwell harmoniously.  (Pun not intended, but there is a harp involved, who/which is very intrinsic to the harmonious living conditions.)

In this telling, the giant, Thunderdell, is shown to have a son, who goes by the name of Bran.  He is quite the teddy bear.  But after Thunderdell’s untimely death, the question remains…  Who was raisin’ Bran?

Apparently, Bran has done very well for himself.  I think Thunderdell would be proud.  Bran became human-sized to get into the television industry.  He has had roles in episodes of the ever-popular “Dr. Who” television series and got his own talk show, in which he markets himself as James Cordon.  To top off his success with a little irony, he was recently cast in the movie remake of the brilliant fairy tale musical “Into the Woods,” as the baker who…helps young Jack…kill the late giant’s wife.  Twisted, Bran.  Twisted.

James Cordon

From left:  Bran, The Late Late Show With James Cordon, the baker (in his hand are the beans).

Other famous giants in the film include…

Magog Attenborough

After coming to Earth in the guise of Dr. Hammond and failing to establish his life-long dream of creating a dinosaur park, Magog decided to resume his position as the Arbiter of Justice in the Great Council of Mac Slec.  (Played by Richard Attenborough.)

Odin Carson

Tiring of the antics between Thor and Loki, Odin retired as the King of Asgard and hoped to make a simpler life for himself on Earth as the head butler of Downton Abbey, taking the humble name of Carson.  (It wasn’t as simple as he’d hoped.)  (Played by Jim Carter.)

Thunder Baretta

Benevolent and beloved Thunderdell, Bran’s dad, racked up so much positive karma in life that he was reincarnated as the highly talented Muppeteer, Bill Barretta.  They might miss him up in the sky, but we humans down here sure got the better end of that deal.

*None of the images used in this post are owned by me.

Posted by: WriteBrained21 | June 7, 2016

Much Ado About Printing Covers


There’s a thing you should know about when self-publishing if your cover has a lot of color subtleties to it, and that thing is called “printer calibration.”  At least the way CreateSpace does it, the printers are re-calibrated every few days, which gives them a different interpretation of color ranges.  Some days your cover way be a little greener than usual, other days a little redder than usual.  Their personnel admit that skin tones are a gamble.  Hmm.  For as many books are out there with people on the covers, this would seem to be a major problem.  (I don’t just have a face on my cover – I have a giant’s face on my cover.)  It does not matter what it looks like on your computer screen, even if you’ve formatted it in CMYK for printing.  (For those who are not familiar with the term, Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black is the best document formatting if you want your colors to translate the most accurately during printing.  Those are the colors printers use.  Red-Green-Blue, or RGB, on the other hand, is fine for if you’re not printing.  You can choose these settings in the “New File” screen in Adobe Photoshop.)  Neither you nor the people pushing the buttons have any control over that.  Not sure why.  You get what you pay for.  But, that just means that everyone’s copy of Greater Perspective will be unique.

The other thing you don’t want to mess with is opacity, making things transparent.  That’s the reason I have seven different proofs of Greater Perspective.  I tried to have transparent chemistry equipment behind my text on the back cover, which looked fabulous on my laptop screen…but, when it was printed, it was either too dark to see, too light to read over, or too green.  Then, I tried a smoking test tube (that’s the new scientist version of “the smoking gun”) and, though the smoke framed the text more than it overlapped, I still had similar problems.  Screw it, I finally said, after almost $40 worth of proofing, and slapped a big, bright, blue, glowing strand of DNA on the back.  And, by George, it actually packs the most punch of all those back covers.  I learned the hard way that CreateSpace’s printers work best with bold, bright colors that have very little variant to them.  If you stick to that, you’re pretty much guaranteed CreateSpace will print a beautiful cover for you.  (Having said that, though, they have never goofed up on the gradient inside the title, both on the front and the binding.  But, in the future, I will bear in mind to keep the images as simple and bright as possible.)

One more important thing about printer language…  For those of you doing your own covers, when you’re adjusting your Lighteness/Contrast and Color Balance, record the values somewhere.  That way, when you have a cover with the best results, you can use the same data for your future covers that have similar lighting and color schemes and hopefully save yourself from a long proofing process on future projects.

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