November 29, 2013

Self-publishing a picture book is really fun!

Well that was a gigantic lie.

I've been busy. Making a book. To self-publish. In other words, I am in HELL.

I thought I'd start making some of my stories into books. I've got some BIG BOOKS planned baby! But instead of starting with one of the biggies, I thought maybe I'd better test the waters with a story that's already proved its mettle, so to speak, on my blog. I selected a story, a well loved family story, with a universal theme - the junction between childhood and adolescence - The LAST Snowman.

This story is fully baked. Should work fine as a book, right?


Oh so wrong.

I have never been so wrong...(unless you count that time with that guy).

I noticed things in the drawings that bothered me and I had to finesse them. The pacing suddenly didn't work when I imagined another parent reading the story to their child. Establishing context became more important to build the tension. More drawings were needed.

And the text - where did all these repeated words come from?

What did I mean when I wrote this?

Do I really need to write that something happens in the story if I
show it happening in the illustration?

I reached out to those with more knowledge than I, and received valuable editing suggestions and advice. I honed, crafted, massaged, second-guessed and streamlined the story, and tried to stay true to the feel of the original blog post. I don't know if I've succeeded. A blog post is one thing; a book is another.

And then came formatting the bugger. With digital publishing, there's different types of files that you can make for a book. Oh're making a picture book? And it's in "horizontal"? Sorry, but NONE of the eBook sellers out there (Amazon Kindle, iBook, Nook, Google Play) seem to be there yet. Here's the skinny (as far as I grasp it, which is not nearly as far as I like to throw this book):

You're supposed to start with InDesign and bring your pretty pictures in there. I hate InDesign with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. Then you export them to the different file formats: PDF, ePUB and MOBI. You really have to install plugins and screw around with the settings. My goal was to achieve a "two-page spread" - that is, one image spread over two pages, in the horizontal aspect of the device.

The PDF looked beautiful in iBooks on my iPad.


But it failed at displaying
horizontally in the Kindle app on my friend Stephie's Android tablet. The bottom was cut off.

Stephie screencapped this for me while she was in a bubble bath; that was nice of her don't you think?

The ePUB file supposedly works well for text heavy books with a vertical (portrait) aspect ratio. Horizontal picture books? Not so much. Also, the colours were a bit washed out.

Some kinda weird artifact glommed onto this page and it won't shake loose.

MOBI (for Kindle or a device that has a Kindle app on it) - same dealio.

Two different sized frames on the vertical. WHY???
Remember, I'm looking for something that delivers a single image on each page change. I want to control all the things!

And then...I discovered the Kindle Comic Creator. KC2 is made by Amazon just for creating comics and picture books for Kindle, it's easy to use and it's free. I downloaded that baby, and threw my images into it hoping for the elusive two-page spread. Ten minutes later I had this:


Ideal preview results on all the Kindle Fires. No messing around with InDesign and all those crazy export settings.

Just for fun, here's the Kindle Paperwhite:


But I still had to check out how it would appear in the Kindle apps on actual tablets. The Android passed with flying colours.

My friend Brandie screencapped this on her new Samsung tablet. 
And then I tested the KC2 MOBI (KF8) file on my iPad. It was a fail.

I blame Steve Jobs.

The KC2 Guide says it will work on the iPad Kindle app, but from what I can see, it did not deliver my "two-page spread".


I hear you laughing.

For all you Apple-cores, I'll be checking out the iBooks Author at some point. Or I'll just go with Blurb. We'll see.

Now the next big question is, "should I hire a publicist?" 

The LAST Snowman will launch during the first week of December 2013, Kindle version on Amazon. Holy crap, that's next week.

November 20, 2013

The BROW Crease.

Kick, kick, kick.

Every time I lay supine the baby growing inside me would wake up. I rolled onto my side and put my hand where I imagined her feet to be. One more month and I would be holding this new little person in my arms.

First babies are game changers. There's a dawning realization that you must now care for another being completely. Eight months into my pregnancy, I looked in the mirror and I noticed something that wasn't there before.

It was...a line.

Just a tiny vertical line nestled between my eyebrows.

About 2 months after my first child was born, I suffered post-natal depression. This manifested as morbid intrusions, where I would imagine some disaster befalling us, like a bomb or a house fire, from which I'd have to save my baby. 

Those episodes were debilitating, they froze me in my tracks, kept me from sleeping, and eating...I was sick.  But my baby thrived in real life.

The line between my eyebrows deepened into a crease.

It took a few years but eventually I recovered from the post-natal depression. With each of my subsequent children, my brow crease became more visible. 

The midnight barfs, the public temper-tantrums, the watching them break-away and get on that yellow school bus without me; all this intensified the crease. 

I began to accept it as a part of my face. 

And now, at just over half a century of my life well lived, I gaze in wonder at these three opinionated and promising teenagers. 

The eldest, who once kicked me so relentlessly in utero, now blows me kisses as she leaves for University. 

The second child, who flung herself around the supermarket floor as a toddler, now dances around the kitchen singing as we cook dinner. 

The third and youngest, our son, who scared us half to death when he fell from the treehouse and fractured his skull in grade 1, now draws endless variations of Spiderman, his tongue poking out in concentration as he sketches.

Each day I pause to look at my reflection, and I know I'm aging. 

My silver streaks brushed up and away from my forehead, the lines and wrinkles sprout out of control.  

I will never again be unfettered and smooth; the bloom of youth has abandoned me. But it doesn't bother me to see it...

...because my brow crease tells everyone the story of how much I care.

And that makes me smile. My life is written all over my face.

November 16, 2013

The JC Project.

What you are about to read here is a guest post by my friend Lizz Porter, the much-taller-than-me force of nature behind Am I a Funny Girl? It's a surprize, and even I won't see it until after I hit 'publish'. Unnerving...but fun!

Hi guys! I'm Lizz. I am one of JC's many fans, and I blog over at Am I a Funny Girl? I first "met" JC on Twitter, years ago, and then MET met her last October at the Aiming Low Non-Conference. I've adored her from moment numero uno. (Or nombre un, since she's Canadian which is basically pseudo French and all that) This is me when she Toonswagged me at #Blogher13 in Chicago:


I love my chibi-me, and was thrilled when she finally had a chance to swag me up! She's Toonswagged lots of people I love; it's kind of (OK, totally) her thing. Well, I got to thinking. Who will Toonswag the Toonswagger? Enter and some of our friends. I, with the contributions of some friends, was able to commission a variety of artists to interpret our beloved JC, and so here is that work:
Manga style JC Little drawn by CLGTart.

Portrait of JC by Heather from Stepford Life.

JC Little drawn by Julia Roberts from Support For Special Needs.

Cubified JC Little by Tofupanda.

JC drawn as a Power Puff Girl by Retrobin.

Drawing by Neil Kramer from Citizen Of The Month.

JC toonified by Mahesaalit.

Drawing of JC by Jana from Jana's Thinking Place.

Original photo by Neilochka. Photo edit/paint by Androw5.

Adventure Time style JC Little, by MuraUsagi.

JC Little portrait drawn by Mariana.

JC Little drawn by Ahyat.

Cartoony portrait of JC by Ahmed Shaltout.

I wish I could have commissioned a thousand artists, but alas, I only have ten. Oh wait! There's YOU! How about YOU try your hand at toonswagging JC? Tweet it with the hashtag #ToonswagJC so she (and I!) can check out your handiwork! Everyone's welcome: Your kids, you, your husband... let's see what you've got! it isn't about drawing ability... it's about showing JC that she's loved and appreciated. :) Thanks JC for letting me commandeer your blog! Love you lots, lady! XOXO

November 8, 2013


Space...the final frontier. And Rob Ford is certainly boldly going where no one has gone before. No one seems to know what to do with a Mayor who refuses to resign in the midst of an swirling scandal, and neither can they force him to leave. It's an unchartered galaxy!

I wonder if there's any corner of our planet that hasn't yet heard of the wacky Canadian Mayor of Toronto? Raise your hand if that's you! 

November 6, 2013

Ford Nation.

Meanwhile, in a park in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke...

Mayor Rob Ford claims he stands up for the "little guy". But the average little guy in Ford Nation doesn't actually do crack.

My kids wanted to know what was wrong with this strange man. They really can't understand why he's still the mayor of Toronto, where their cousins live. I explained that, yeah he's got a lot of problems that make him act that way, and yeah, it's not fair for all the people who live there, and yeah, the way the city's government works, they can't actually make him leave. And yeah, he's a really good example of what not to be.

The kids suggested everyone should just ignore him; but I pointed out that some people still want him to be mayor.

"But why, mum?"

Maybe they want to hope? I have trouble understanding it myself.

How do you explain something like this to kids?

November 5, 2013

Rob Ford and the Future of Toronto.

WARNING: Political cartooning.

Stuck in bed with the flu so I drew this on my iPad last night. Today I saw that Rob Ford had admitted to "probably" smoking crack and that he will not step down. Obviously I can't draw fast enough to keep up with the man.

Rob Ford needs help and the support of his family. Addiction is serious...maybe that's part of why I'm so fascinated by him. He represents so many human foibles all rolled into one package. And lampooning is a coping mechanism: if we don't laugh, we cry.

But his substance abuse problems and atrocious behavior are not what's bad for the people of Toronto. It's his policy of austerity that will do the most damage.