Saturday, 12 November 2016

How to create a Kindle Book from scratch and WofV Episode 1



I have just recently published my first Kindle book, Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series Episode 1, from scratch. It was quite a lengthy process for me to figure out. However, I am a perfectionist and I did everything I needed to do to make sure that my Kindle looked better than most trade-published eBooks I found in my library.

To find out more about this process, and what you can do to create your own Kindle book if you have no XHTML markup experience, read the following post on my official website's blog.

Best wishes,

Mili Fay
© 2014 CDC Photography
Mili Fay, an award winning artist, trained as a classical animator at Sheridan College, but when computer animation took over the field, she decided that she loved drawing more than animating. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time. Today, she passionately creates imaginative artwork and stories, always graced with a humorous modern twist.
Currently, Mili is working on an epic YA fantasy series, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess, Lauraliee, who becomes a queen as she defends Ardan from dragon-people (people who turn into dragons), and a secluded Prince who was a King all along.
Warriors of Virtue Episode 5 Cover Art ThumbnailWarriors of Virtue Episode 4 Cover Art ThumbnailWarriors of Virtue Episode 3 Cover Art ThumbnailWarriors of Virtue Episode 2 Cover Art ThumbnailWarriors of Virtue Episode 1 Cover Art ThumbnailAnimals In My Hair Cover Art
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"Together we support the world one artwork at a time."

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Warriors of Virtue Episodes 1-9 YA Fantasy Rough Cover Art

I'm currently seeking fans of fantasy who would like to read Warriors of Virtue in exchange for an honest review. If you liked The Lord of the Rings, Sailor Moon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and love mythology and fairytales, contact Mili Fay Art.

To watch time-lapse videos and receive free full-resolution artwork join Mili Fay Art Fan Club. I only write to keep you in the loop and to send gifts. I hate spam and will never share your e-mail address.

     
 

If you are new to this blog, I have been writing and sketching a fantasy series, Warriors of Virtue, since I was sixteen years old. Currently the text is with my editor, and I've been illustrating the entire series while I wait. However, after speaking with several fans who cannot wait for the illustrated edition, I've decided to release a limited text-only edition. This edition will feature more realistic cover art appropriate for a YA audience. Each episode features one of the main characters.

Episode 1: Featuring Cornelian and Artemis

Rough sketch showing Cornelian and Artemis looking inside The Cauldron. I was inspired by some Arabian designs for the cauldron. This moment is the catalyst for the entire series.

Cornelian the Great is great because he helped defeat the Dragon Lord Malachite approximately 150 years ago. He is the greatest wizard in Ardan (the land where the story takes place), and a catalyst for Warriors of Virtue. When writing Cornelian I was inspired by Gandalf the Gray and Merlin from Disney's The Sword in the Stone. Cornelian has a quite complicated story of his own that I may write in the future, in this series he serves as our heroes' teacher and guide.

Artemis is a descendant of Athena's Little Owl. He's lived for millennia, is immortal, arrogant, and brilliant. He did something terrible to anger the gods and has been sent to serve Cornelian as punishment. However, by the time this story takes place, Cornelian and Artemis are friends, colleagues, and companions, not master and servant. Artemis loves tea and manicures.

Episode 2: Featuring Lauraliee as Nenya

Lauraliee as the Water Warrior, Nenya. Lauraliee at sixteen has a freakish talent with a sword. She has not been defeated in a swordfight since she was fourteen.

Lauraliee Elizabeth Vickomtessa Lumijer (I have included her full name but am excluding all the exalted titles) is the sixteen-year old main character of the story.

Warriors of Virtue is written in the third person omniscient point of view, follows the point of view of many characters, but if Lauraliee is in the scene the reader is focused on her experiences.

Lauraliee is a reluctant princess, who knows that one day she will become Queen, longing for an ordinary life. However, she has also been raised well by her mother, the reigning Queen Dragana, and takes responsibilities of her stations seriously. She is the eldest child in her family, and strives to set a good example for her sister and cousins. Lauraliee loves to read and paint, and has an unusual talent with the sword. She has not been defeated in combat since she was fourteen.

As the story progresses, she becomes Nenya, the Water Warrior.

Warriors of Virtue (originally there were five: Nenya/Water, Narya/Fire, Viliya/Air, Terrya/Earth, and Mettya/Metal) were created by Mistress Nature (creator of Ardan) in the Great War to stand against Lord Malachite. Malachite killed the Earth and Metal warriors and managed to capture the spirits. As our story begins, there are only three Elemental Spirits free: Water, Fire, and Air.

Episode 3: Featuring Vladimir as Narya

Vladimir at fifteen is the Fire Warrior, Narya. Even though he does not use the bow and arrow (in the first volume he only uses darts), he is superior in archery.

Vladimir Nicholas Alexander DePompier is Lauraliee's fifteen-year-old cousin. His mother is Queen Dragana's sister. His father's family is famous for breeding fire-steeds, horses of brimstone and living flame. Vladimir is a quick-tempered, charming prankster. He's been living at the Empyreal Castle most of his life, and is more like a brother to his two cousins. He's in love with Anuck, the only child of chief Muhawaka. Vladimir loves Mushwaki and often argues with Nikolina over games. He is also a talented archer.

Mushwaki is a sport played in Ardan similar to soccer but at a certain point before scoring a player must continue the game keeping the ball of the ground (without using his hands). The ball is smaller, and the goalie must prevent its entrance by using a racquet-like instrument.

He becomes Narya, the Fire Warrior.

Episode 4: Featuring Nikolina as Viliya

Nikolina (fourteen years old) is the Wind Warrior, Viliya. She has the ability to speak with animals.

Nikolina Katherine Marissa Lumijer is Lauraliee's fourteen-year-old sister. She is extraordinarily beautiful, sweet, and kind. However, she is not afraid to get in a skirmish with her cousin. She is a tomboy, who loves exploring nature and can speak to animals. She adores her sister and cousin, but just because she's the youngest does not mean she will let them get away with anything.

Nikolina becomes Viliya, the Wind Warrior.

Episode 5: Featuring Srdjan

Srdjan knows how to use a wooden staff. He also has more Earth than he should and becomes Cornelian's Apprentice.

Srdjan Jović's parents are court ambassadors. When he and Lauraliee were seven they met, got into a fight, and became best friends. He moved into the Children's Tower and has been tutored by Cornelian with his new friends. He has a talent for wielding a staff, and has more Earth in him than any human should, eventually becoming Cornelian's apprentice.

Episode 6: Featuring Vert

Vert Swiftwing is Prince Diamond's best friend and Captain of the Guard. He can transform into a green dragon of Swift class.

Vert Swiftwing is Prince Diamond's Captain of the Guard and best friend. He is about 200 years old but appears to be twenty. This is because dragon-people age slower than humans. Vert can transform into a green dragon of the Swift class. He has no issues with humans, but must follow Lord Malachite's orders. Unlike Diamond who never ventured far beyond Storm Rock, Vert has spent his life exploring Ardan. He is witty and charming. His weapon of choice: throwing daggers.

Episode 7: Featuring Diamond

Prince Diamond Pendragon was a ruler of the dragon people for hundred and fifty years. He does not know whether to believe his father when he says that humans are evil.

Diamond Pendragon has ruled his people in a hermit kingdom at Storm Rock after the defeat of his father, Lord Malachite, since he was five (or should I say fifty) years old. He witnessed his father's imprisonment (and—he thought—death) at the hands of the Warriors of Virtue. In the hundred and fifty years of his rule, he never returned to the council of Ardan, keeping his people to themselves. After his father's miraculous escape, he argues with him against a war on humans. However, what if his father is right and humans are a plague that will destroy Ardan in the end? Diamond wishes he had bothered to find out more about humans when he had the chance.

Episode 8: Featuring Lady Avalon

Lady Avalon is an accomplished witch and in the author's opinion a total nutcase.

Lady Avalon Starshine is Diamond's Aunt, twin-sister of his mother, Elonway. Daughter of a dragon nobleman and a star, she's extraordinarily beautiful and well-versed in magic. She practices all kinds of magic, including Dark Magic, but she is not as powerful as Malachite, Cornelian, or Mistress Nature. She loves Malachite Pendragon, but is not particularly fond of her nephew.

Episode 9: Featuring Lord Malachite

Lord Malachite has a very good reason for hating humans to the point where he wants to exterminate them.

Lord Malachite Pendragon, a.k.a. the Dragon Lord, is the ruler of the dragon-people and Diamond's father. He learned to hate humans and has spent the last portion of his life trying to exterminate them from Ardan. He hates humans so much that he tried to get rid of his own human side with Dark Magic, but instead managed to get stuck in a form neither human nor dragon. Malachite is the most powerful sorcerer in Ardan, only Mistress Nature can match his magic and she's a goddess. His goal in life is to destroy every human in Ardan, thus saving all the non-human residents, and rule as his people have ruled for generations.

Well, there you have it: the first nine YA covers. Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you are interested in reading the first 9 episodes in exchange for an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads, please contact me.

All the best!

Mili Fay
-----------------------------------------
Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy series, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Mili Fay Art: “Together we support the world one artwork at a time.”

Monday, 15 February 2016

Mili Fay's Best Writing Tips: The Idea, Writing, Editing, and Going Public

MILI FAY'S BEST WRITING TIPS

The Idea, Writing, Editing, and Going Public


I love to read articles where famous writers discuss their writing. I always anticipate a grand revelation that will take me from a mere writer to an amazing writer. Such gems are rare and precious. The most precious of 2015 was reading Stephen King declare war on adverbs. The man hates adverbs, and I could not understand why, since I used them often. The key word there is: used. It turns out that adverbs are facilitators for all that “telling” and not “showing”, which you (as a writer) know is the death knell of the written word.

That is all the explanation you will get, because I’m not an editor and this article is not about writing style, but H.O.O.T.’s of Wisdom on writing. If you would like to read a great article that blew my mind on editing, please read Sharon Miller’s Self-Editing Tips: Part 1 and Part 2.

On Writing

The Idea

What the inside of Mili Fay's head looks like sometimes. Inspired by Pixar's Inside Out.




I find that when I create I get two types of ideas:

1. Ideas that amuse me.
2. Ideas that consume me.

The less scary of the two is the first. These are simple ideas that belong to themselves. They come from life; someone would say something, I would see or dream something, read something,… They usually begin with: What if…?

Such an idea resulted in my first artwork book, Animals In My Hair. I heard my mother tell my father that he should get a haircut, because his hair was a forest! (This is a common Serbian expression.) I was doodling in my sketchbook and translated from Serbian into English, then asked myself: What if our hair really was a forest? Surely there would be animals living in the hair. But, why would animals be living in someone’s hair? Because, people have destroyed their habitats and they needed a place to hide! Several years later, I published a book about a little boy who goes for his first haircut and endangered animals tumble out of his hair.

The second kind of idea frightens me, because it is not contained in itself. This kind of idea keeps changing as I grow and change, until sometimes the world I am creating seems more real than the one I live in. It is the kind of idea that can tip a creative mind into madness.

Warriors of Virtue, my fantasy series, grows from such an idea.

Prior to Warriors of Virtue, I was doodling comics with my own and mythological characters inspired by Greek/Roman Mythology and Sailor Moon. One day, I was watching Anne of Green Gables the Sequel. There is a scene where Gilbert tells Anne that she should write about people she knows. I thought that would be fun. So, when I read The Lord of the Rings instead of creating fictional super-characters, I added my cousin, sister, and myself to the story. Eventually, my story outgrew Middle Earth and I created the land of Ardan. Ardan is populated by creatures I have never seen before, and have no idea where they came from. Every character has a life. If I would think about a character, even a minor character, glimpses of their memories would come through. All the pain and sorrow I’ve felt, some characters felt. The fears I’ve had, some characters lived. The meaning of life is revealed in a way that makes logical sense to my own meaning of life. A few years later, the characters that started out as myself, my cousin, and sister, took on lives of their own. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m a conduit to a parallel world, and sometimes I wonder if this world will consume me in the end. Warriors of Virtue is everything that I am and that I wish to become. The stories keep tugging at me. One day, will I forget to tug back?

I fear that greatness or madness is the result of such ideas. I treat them with caution, because only time will tell where I’ll find myself.

Writing

Publishers and teachers recommend writing outlines.

I write outlines… Well, sort of...

When I’m writing a formal paper outlines are essential. They keep me from repeating myself and help me organize the paper in a logical, scientific, manner. I find that writing fiction is different.

Once, while I was still seeking a trade publisher, I tried to write a detailed outline showing my characters’ motivations, conflicts, and resolutions on their journeys. Then I realised that for me, outlines are a waste of time. These days I write a roadmap. I know where my characters are, I know where they’ll end up, but I have no idea how or why they will end up there. I leave that bit of the story fluid, letting the characters take me on their journeys. Often, they surprise me, taking me down paths I would rather not travel… at least not without an invisibility cloak.

Once I have the idea and the roadmap, I write.

At this point I become a filmmaker. All the characters are living their lives. Where do I place my camera? What angle of the story do I show? What do I reveal? How much do I conceal?

There is so much to show, that I have to keep telling myself: LESS IS MORE.

Given half a chance, I would go in and focus on the pale morning sunlight kissing the budding leaves of a powerful oak tree. Unless a character is about to pop up from behind one of those leaves, there really is no point to write about the tree at all—is there?

While writing, I also remember Hitchcock who said he shows the audience only what they need to see.

I write, letting everything pour out of me without stopping, because I know editing comes later.

I also write beginning to end. I may note down bits of scenes to come in a journal, but I never write chapters out of order.

I write and I save often. Then I copy my work in case something happens to my computer.

I also keep an Encyclopaedia of characters, places, magic spells, powers, etc. I’m amazed how faulty my memory of my work becomes… Well, just as faulty as real life memories. However, when writing I need to know that my character wore a blue gown on a particular day, so I would not write about her lovely pink outfit. If my characters go on a journey, I need to draw a map and keep track of their days. If it takes human characters 6 days to reach the Forbidden Mountains on foot, how long will it take the Dragon-Prince Diamond to fly to the Empyreal Castle and back to the Forbidden Mountains?

At one point, I was developing the Ardanian language. However, I decided not to bother, because the language can be gibberish and still add interest to the story.

Editing

Writing is rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting,…

I wrote Warriors of Virtue when I was sixteen as a 30-page short story for my English class. My teacher nearly had a heart attack; my classmates submitted short stories that did not exceed five pages.

Shortly after, I wrote the second part of the fantasy series (currently titled, Cured by a Rose, a name I will change because it sounds too girly). The second part was about 200-pages long. Then I decided to expand upon the clinical-like precision of Warriors of Virtue.

After sixteen years of rewriting, Warriors of Virtue is about 600 pages in length.

I wrote the original in the past tense. The current novel is in the present tense. There is an excellent reason for this that involves the Three Fates, but I’ve deleted the intro bit that explains why the story can only be written in the present tense, because I wanted the reader to get to the meat of the story sooner in the fantasy series.

I hope I’ve made my point: writing is rewriting.

After I’ve written the first draft, I no longer think of my work as writing, but editing. A great tool that helps me edit my own work is the “Text-to-speech” feature. I’m currently using Microsoft Word, but I’m sure that all writing programs have this feature. Though the computer voice is flat and monotone it helps me pick up on typos and the rhythm of the language.

I would edit my work, then I would turn on the text-to-speech feature and edit the work again. After that I may leave the work for a few weeks, or if time allows months. Then I will edit the work again.

While editing I keep aware of my audience and ask myself: Do I need this to communicate my ideas? Most of the time my work is shorter after I edit, though sometimes it can be longer. People are taught early to connect the dots.

For example: “What do you mean?” He asked bewildered. These two sentences are overkill. The question mark indicates that he is asking (or inquiring, or wondering,...). The sentence itself makes us understand that he is bewildered. Therefore, the sentence in quotation marks can stand on its own.

When writing, I also try to keep my language as simple as possible; I use “talking” instead of “confabulating”. As a writer, I want to make sure that my audience understands what I’m trying to say, instead of impressing them with my handy thesaurus.

Ever since the “congealing dust” incident, I use Google often to define words. I want to make doubly sure I know the meaning of the word I’m using. Google also helps me find adequate synonyms when I find I’ve repeated a word too often.

Another lesson I’ve learned is to avoid descriptive passages. I love descriptive passages. Tolstoy is great when it comes to descriptive passages. However, the reality is that people today have more visual information than people prior television. Think about this for a second. When Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes, he wrote passages and passages describing the jungle. Today, all you need to write is “jungle”, and everyone who has ever seen a jungle travel or nature program knows what a jungle looks like. As an author today, my job is to set the mood of the scene, and that can be done in a couple of sentences. I do not need to go on and on about the crisscrossing vines and broad leaves, sunlight fighting through the foliage,… Unless, the description is important to the character, I leave it out. For example, there is a scene in Warriors of Virtue when the main character stares at herself in a mirror. I could leave most of the character’s description to the reader’s imagination, but in this scene the description is important. The character overheard one of her friends say to the other that she is not pretty enough for a princess, and the character studies herself in the mirror trying to determine if her friend is right.

The sad truth about editing is that it does not matter how many times I go through my work, I always find something I can change to make it better. I must have edited the first three chapters of Warriors of Virtue at least sixteen times in sixteen years. My editor went through the work, and at my last attempt I found bits and pieces to delete. An important part about editing is learning to let your work go, because if you do not stop, you will never publish.

Yes, your writing will improve with time, and you will cringe at the work you have done only a few years ago, but that is all part of a writer’s life. I know I have to accept that what I have done is the best that I can do at this moment in my career. Then I need to trust my editor to see the mistakes I’ve missed. After, the public will let me know if my book is worthy or not.

Going Public

Never let others know you have doubts about the quality of your work. If you let the public know that you do not feel good about what you have done (which I think every author on the planet does) the public will choose another book to pass their time. Never, ever, defend your work (unless you are fighting for your PhD). As an author I have something to say, and if I’ve managed to communicate that something to my readers that is all that matters.

I have days when I think my work is the greatest written piece since Shakespeare, and days when I think I should forget about writing and just focus on being an artist. This is normal.

So far, everyone has loved Animals In My Hair. I do not have a single negative review. This does not mean that I will not get one someday. Negative reviews are perfectly normal. The ones that explain why they do not like the book help improve the work. The ones that are negative just for the sake of being negative are written by Trolls and should be ignored. Creative works by nature are subjective; a question of taste formed by experience, rather than conclusion backed up by evidence. A lot of people loved Napoleon Dynamite. I cannot recall why, but I remember after watching the movie that I wanted those two hours of my life back. This does not mean that the movie is bad. It just means that the movie is not for me. Game of Thrones is insanely popular, but I doubt I will ever read the books or watch the series even though I am a fantasy fan. Why? Because I do not like excessive blood, death, and gore. By reputation, Game of Thrones is riddled with all three. The key when writing is to find a group of people who will love what you do (your audience) and make them happy. I have a small group of such fans, and I’m grateful to them; not only for their support, but because their praise inspires me to be better and gives me courage to take risks.

When you go public, everything you ever write online is online FOREVER. Keep in mind you ARE under public scrutiny, even if you are not famous and no one is reading your blog at this time. Once you find your audience and your work takes off, your fans will look you up online. The moment you become a great success, there will be those who will wish to pull you down. It’s human nature. I never understood why people love to trash and invade celebrities’ lives, but if you went on a rant in your teen years, that rant will find its way to a magazine once you step into the light. We all have our moments, I know I have mine, but there is no reason to “air out your dirty laundry” in public.

Now that Warriors of Virtue is only a few months away from publication, I find I cannot settle. I wrote this series, because I wanted to read this series. Reading Warriors of Virtue the last time, I loved the story. I wrote it and still I found myself shivering and laughing at bits. That must mean it’s good, right? I wrote this story for me, but now I want to share it with the world. Will the public like it? Will they think it the greatest thing since Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar the Last Airbender? Only time will tell. I have had my say, the public will have theirs. I believe that most people will enjoy this work, but what I know is that I’ve given everything I have to this story. As an author, at the end of the day, that has to be enough.

H.O.O.T.S of Wisdom


Hire a professional editor. Do not publish unless a professional editor (or at least a PhD in English graduate) with credentials edits your book. It will not matter if you've written the greatest story ever, if you've done so with poor style, faulty grammar, and lots of spelling mistakes. An editor is not where you want to skimp if you are self-publishing. There were books whose ideas I loved, but I could not get through because English was terrible. One of these days, I'll contact the author and beg him/her to hire a professional editor, republish the book, and let me know when the new version is out because I really want to read the story.

Keep a notebook by your bed, and one near you at all times. You never know when a great idea will strike. I cannot count on my memory to remember everything. Can you?

Write out character sketches for every character in your book. Copy and Paste text where they are mentioned with page references. Create your own Encyclopaedia. You can use this in the future to promote your novel.

Think of yourself as a filmmaker not script writer. Instead of telling what your characters are doing, show us how they look, the movements of their hands, reactions to scenes, etc. Every gesture must have a meaning to the story. If a gesture does not reveal something about the character or the story, leave it out.

When you are ready to go public, create a platform for yourself, have a website with your own domain, and a blog where you can connect with your fans. Even if you are not yet famous, think of yourself as a public figure and act with wisdom and grace. Ask yourself: do you want to be a fad or an institution?

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Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy series, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Mili Fay Art: “Together we support the world one artwork at a time.”

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Defeating Artistic Blues: Mili's Tips On Finding Happiness During Blue Days


DEFEATING ARTISTIC BLUES

Mili's Tips On Finding Happiness During Blue Days


Warning: This article talks about my sad days and my thoughts on suicide. There will be a lot of personal honesty that may make you feel uncomfortable. If you are looking for something fun to read stay away from this article. 


Bundled up in my warm coat I’m happily walking down the street, enjoying the crisp fresh air of approaching winter, when I suddenly hear: “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” 

I really, really, REALLY despise this John Lennon’s song, and especially that lyric. It does not matter what I have done, I always somehow feel I could have done more. So, I wrote a book, painted some really great paintings, won an award, travelled… But maybe if I was more clever and less lazy I could have brought about world peace or cured cancer? 

Suddenly, I am nothing. I am worthless.

If this does not sound familiar, thank your lucky stars, because I believe this is what everyone refers to as “artistic temperament”. I call it: “disproportional sensitivity to stimuli, resulting in crazy pendulum swings of emotions”. However, “artistic temperament” will do. 

I am not alone. I use to think I was, but after living with creative people, I have found these reactions rather common among my species. It may be a cliché, but we artists are a sensitive lot. 

I believe that if I was kept in a bright vacuum, I would spend my life feeling positive and content. I am at the core a happy person. In company, I’m mostly happy and sometimes bubbly. A friend once said I reminded him of a Disney Princess--singing included. However, this happiness is sometimes a mask I wear in front of people I do not know well. I was raised to be pleasant in company and solicitous of other’s feelings before my own. Therefore, regardless of how I’m feeling, I will never show a negative side to a stranger. I will even keep any negative feelings from my close family and friends, because I do not wish to burden them. Rarely, will I let the sadness I feel emerge to the surface for others to see. 

I do not remember this, but recently I met with an old school friend who has a memory of playing with my sister, because I had one of my crying fits. When she asked my sister what was wrong, she replied: “Oh, sometimes she just has to cry.” 

I am older now, but I still have days when I just have to cry. I am content most of the time, but there are days when I feel despair; such deep despair that I wonder if life is worth living. I usually have these days when I have not seen the sun for days, when I’m sick, or when a project is not going as planned. Sometimes, during these crying fits I do not even know why I’m sad. The rational part of me argues that my life is good. I may have personal difficulties, but who doesn’t? I may not be a famous artist making the big bucks, but I have a home and people that love me. I have seen and done things most people dream of, so why am I so sad? 

On the other hand, the emotional part of me sees life as a deep dark hole full of pain and series of disappointments and losses, and wonders why I should suffer through it at all. Wouldn’t it be nice if I was just gone? If there would no longer be this terrible pain? What do I contribute to society? Am I not just a burden to people who love me? One slice to the brachial artery and it can all end in minutes… 

Online other artists seem always successful and happy, sometimes angry, but none are sad or talking about how difficult a life of an artist can be. I wondered if there is something wrong with me. Am I the only artist struggling to make a living? Then I realised, I too only wrote about my successes and shared my triumphs with my fans. I never wrote about how being sick for months made me want to end my life; how there are days when I feel I can save the world and days when I can barely get out of bed; how sometimes I cannot draw, because I hurt too much; how I worked for below minimum wage and was not able to scrape a living; how I could not understand why I’m failing in real life when I was so good at school… 

Is it possible to feel too much? I believe that it is this artistic sensitivity that makes me a better than average artist and writer. My skills might not have reached the level of unsurpassed mastery, I am not Shakespeare or Monet, but I have deep empathy and a well of feelings that lets me put emotion into my work that strangers can experience. I also believe that this sensitivity to life around me that makes me special is my greatest weakness. The pendulum swings of my emotions that hits the highs and lowest lows sometimes frightens me. 

I had to find a way to bring my feelings under control. Should I look to my fellow artists for a solution? 

I like my ears well enough, thank you Van Gogh. 

I also have no intention of ever using drugs or alcohol to make myself feel better, thank you other famous artists. 

Manizing? (Is there a male equivalent to “womanizing”?) 

No, thank you. 

Eventually, I did discover what works for me, and I hope these H.O.O.T.s of Wisdom on dealing with Artistic Blues will help you as well. 



H.O.O.T.s of Wisdom


Defeating Artistic Blues

Avoid negativity. Negativity can come in many forms. The worst comes from the people you care about, because their opinions matter to you. However, negativity can come from outside sources as well as fiction. 

When Artistic Blues hit I avoid all negative sources of energy. I try to keep away from negative bitter people. I stop watching the news (Can they never report the good things that are happening in our world? What can I realistically do about any disaster?). I keep away from drama and horror, and opt to watch or read comedy instead. 


Smile. I believe that life trains us to deal with disasters. We remember disastrous experiences better than the good ones, because we need to protect ourselves in the future. However, we must not forget that Life is beautiful! Why worry about disasters that may never happen? Find something to smile about today. 

If you cannot think of anything under the influence of the Artistic Blues, get up, stand in the superhero position (your hands on your hips, feet apart, head high) and smile. Stand like that until you do remember something good and happy in your life you can truly smile about. 


Forgive yourself. Currently I’m taking an online course with a great artist who has an enormous lack of sensitivity to others’ feelings and temperaments. He has health, energy, and will to create dozens of sketches a day and fill out a sketchbook every month. In his lectures he goes on to browbeat us students with sentences such as: “If I could do this assignment daily in my great busy life full of responsibilities you wish you had, then there is no excuse why you cannot do the same.” 

I would leave his lesson determined to prove to him that: “Yes. I am great. I can do just as much as he can.” Then… Life happens and here I am: my homework is not done and I feel a complete and utter failure. I have spent days feeling like an utter failure, not just as an artist, but as a human being. The Artistic Blues have hit me again, resulting in me doing even less, because I cannot produce quality work when my feelings are a mess. 

Then one day, I decided to forgive myself. I am not the same person this great artist is, but that does not make me any less an accomplished artist. The important lesson I’ve learned is to accept that everyone is different. 

Please do not feel you are a failure if you cannot fill out a sketchbook every month, or if you cannot publish a book every two months. Jane Austen only published 6 books in her entire lifetime! Harper Lee wrote two! So, you may not be Nora Roberts, but that does not make your artistic contributions any less valuable. 

Forgive yourself. You are human. Someday you may write/draw more, someday you may not write/draw at all. Therefore, forgive yourself and let the ridiculous expectations of others go. 


Look at what you’ve accomplished! In addition to forgiving myself for not being superhuman, I stopped comparing myself to others. For years I felt a complete failure when I compared my work to my heroes. What I did not realise is that I was comparing myself to artists at the height of their careers. Then one day I went to an art fair where I saw what people my age were creating, and I was fine. Of course I’m going to be a better artist ten years from now than I am today. In ten years I will gain more experience and will gain more knowledge. 

What about artists who are younger than me and are producing better work? 

Well, good for them. They do not have the experiences in life that I had. Maybe they come from artistic families who guided them and they did not have to stumble as much as I did? Maybe they are prodigies? Who cares?! What’s important is what I can do. 

Just keep working on your skills, create, measure your own accomplishments, and stop obsessively comparing yourself to others. Look at what you’ve accomplished! 


Keep a Happy Book. When Artistic Blues hit and I am moping around my home feeling worthless, a waste of space, and that the world would be a better place without me in it, I go and read my Happy Book. For my birthday my friend gave me a journal and told me to fill it with only happy experiences. I named it Happy Book and in it I record the nice things people say about my work, myself, and any achievements that make me proud. When Artistic Blues hit, I cannot remember these good things about myself. I only see my failures and the bad things that surround me. By rereading some of the happy experiences, I realise that life is not as horrible as I think it is, and that I’m not as worthless as I think I am. 


Accomplish something every day. The night before, or while I’m brushing my teeth in the morning, I think about what I wish to accomplish that day. I start small. I’ve learned not to put too much on my plate. At the end of the day I check off the items from my list. I transfer the items I failed to accomplish that day onto another day, but instead of berating myself for the things I have not accomplished, I gratefully admire everything I have accomplished today. 

If you find you fail to accomplish all your tasks, do not despair; this usually means that you’ve given yourself too much work. In the future adjust your schedule accordingly. 

Never forget: Adding a grain of sand day by day, will eventually make a beach. 

When Artistic Blues hit you the hardest and you feel you cannot work at all, accomplish just a small task. I find usually that accomplishing something small will give me momentum to keep working. Whether it is just a single rough sketch of a would-be illustration, or a couple of pages of text--what you have accomplished that day, you will not have to do tomorrow. 


Do what makes you happy. Sometimes when I feel the pressure of a complicated assignment, or if I’ve been working too long on a project and have been drawing in the same style for months, I have to step away from my work and do something that makes me happy. I like to do Mini-MEs, or draw princesses. I’ve always drawn princesses. Drawing princesses makes me happy, because it takes me back to my childhood when I was happy. I allow myself to get silly and fanciful, before I have to get back to the real work. 


Go outside. Staying indoors too long can make anyone blue. I sadly tend to spend way too much time indoors. I blame the Toronto weather. Even if I do not go anywhere, in Summer I can sit outside, work, and not feel dreadful. In fall, winter, and early spring I would look outside my window and all I want to do is burry myself in blankets and go back to sleep until the sun shines again. Instead, I force myself to get dressed in my heavy winter clothing and go outside for a six-kilometre walk almost every day. Fresh air, even if there is no sunshine, can do wonders to revive my spirits. It’s even better if I can find someone to keep me company. But if not, a romance novel or a fun fantasy audiobook is almost as good. 


Exercise. Though exercise might be the last thing on your mind when you are Blue, getting your heartbeat up and allowing the endorphins to kick in will perk you up. The knowledge that you have done something good for your health will make you feel better, too. 


Avoid sweets, alcohol, caffeine,… When I’m Blue, my weapon of choice is chocolate. Yes, chocolate does make me feel better, but then after a few minutes I feel even worse, because not only am I sad, now I feel I’m getting fat! The temporary high of an influential substance is not worth the deeper misery that will follow. Exercise is a much better option. If I really need something sweet, fruits should do. If not, I try to limit myself to one or two squares of dark chocolate, and not a whole bar. 


I hope you find these H.O.O.T.s of Wisdom useful. If none of these tips help to dispel the Artistic Blues, you may need to seek professional help. I know a few friends who are on anti-depressants and their lives have improved immeasurably. There is no shame in asking for help. 

Do you have your own tips for avoiding Artistic Blues? If so please share them. 

Until next time, 

Mili 

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A few thoughts on suicide: 

Have I ever thought about suicide? 
I’m an artist, the moment I hear something I think about it, imagine it, and live it. (Another reason why I stay away from horror movies, or anything depressing.) I have mostly thought about suicide after reading “Veronica Decides to Die” (Paulo Coelho) and “Pilgrim” (Timothy Findley). 

Have I ever planned my suicide? 
Yes. Frequently. The last time was at the beginning of this year when I was sick for months, having one cold or flu after another. I could do nothing but stare at TV all day, or listen to audiobooks. There were things I needed to accomplish and I could not accomplish one. Even after I got better, I could barely walk around the block. I remember thinking my winter clothing was too heavy. 

How would I end my life? 
Cutting the brachial artery with my x-acto knife. 

Would I ever commit suicide? 
Not as long as there is a single person left in this world that loves me. My friend’s younger brother committed suicide when I was in college. He was a teenager at the time. I kept imagining how I would have felt if my sister did the same. Regardless of the pain he felt, there were people around him that loved him and would have been willing to help him if he just asked. Suicide is a selfish act. Ending my life like Cleopatra at the end of everything, so I would no longer suffer is acceptable to my sensibilities. However, causing pain to people that love me is not.

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Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Mili Fay Art: “Together we support the world one artwork at a time.”

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Illustration Research Package: How To Prepare An Illustration Research Package To Minimise Your Project’s Cost?


ILLUSTRATION RESEARCH PACKAGE

How To Prepare An Illustration Research Package To Minimise Your Project's Cost?


In the previous articles I attempted to solve the mystery of illustration pricing and to guide you to your perfect illustrator. I have mentioned that one way to minimise your cost when hiring an illustrator is to prepare the necessary research for the illustration project. 

In my experience and my friends’ experience I find that regardless of our skill level all of us turn to Google before beginning any project. Let’s say your project is set in 18th century France. Most people when they think of France would think of Paris with the iconic Eiffel Tower. However, Eiffel Tower did not exist until 1889! What did the Paris of the 18th century look like? What clothing did people wear? Did men and women mingle as we do today? What was the difference between the upper classes and the lower classes—is it just in clothing, or is there a way a servant would stand compared to the master?... 

If you have plenty of money and are willing to pay an illustrator to spend a lot of time on research, please feel free to do so. However, if you are pressed for time and cash it is up to you to give your illustrator all the information he/she may need to begin illustrating the project. No one knows your project better than you, so before contacting an illustrator think about how many illustrations your project needs and what kind of visual and written information the illustrator may require. Then do the research and create an Illustration Research Package


Illustration Research Package 

Currently one of my projects is a fantasy novel called Warriors of Virtue. You would think that as the author I know what my own characters and settings look like. Let me see if I could explain why I do not. 

The main character lives at Empyreal Castle, crafted by the most skilled dwarfs when her family came to power at the end of the Great War. Resting atop the Empyreal Hill, the castle is a tall red-roofed and white-walled structure. It has four main doors on each of its compass sides: gold to the North, silver to the South, copper to the West, and oak to the East. 

Close your eyes and picture this castle. 

Do your castle’s walls make a square? Does it have a tower on each corner, each one of different height? Are there window corridors connecting the towers and the walls to the central circular throne room with a glass covered dome? Does the castle have outdoor terraces at the Queen’s and King’s living quarters? Are there walled gardens, kitchen gardens,… What about the stables and the grounds? Can a giant fit comfortably in the rooms? 

I think you get my point; there is much more that I see in my head than I have written on the page. There is even more that I do not see, but I know that it should be there. Ardan, the land of the Empyreal Castle, is a fantasy kingdom. There it would not be unusual to encounter giants, dragons, sphinxes, mermaids… I know of these things, but I know little about them; therefore, I have to research. How can all these different peoples live in harmony in a single castle? 

Settings are complicated, so for the purpose of this article, let’s see how you would create an Illustration Research Package for a single character. 


Designing Vert Swiftwing: Illustration Research Package Case Study 

Character Description 

Vert (vɛʁt) Swiftwing 

Lives at Forbidden Mountain 
Prince Diamond’s Captain of the Guard and best friend 
200 years old, but he looks 20 
Race: dragon-people 
Race Characteristics: extremely handsome/beautiful, look human, but can turn into dragons at will, straight hair, can have any natural skin colour, intensely coloured eyes 
Vert can turn into a green dragon at will 
Height: 6’ 4” 
Skin: Caucasian mix, flawless, permanent perfect tan 
Body type: dancer 
Hair: dark brown (looks black), slight wave (unusual in dragon-people who have straight hair) 
Eyes: very green, ranging from light green to the colour of wet leaves 
Characteristic feature: big smile that often turns into a grin or an amused smirk 
Character traits: friendly, great sense of humour, brave, kind, loyal, generous 
Character flaw: impulsive, over confident 
Dragon: Green, long body, moves swiftly and as silently as a wind, blends with the tree canopy Parents: Classified 
Sexuality: Bisexual 
Clothing Reference: Dragon-people do not feel cold or heat as humans do; therefore their clothing tends to be of lighter materials. The cut is similar to what one would see in Medieval Western Europe; tights, puffy-sleeve shirts, tunics with embroidered coat of arms, leather boots, swords, cloaks… As the Captain of the Guard, Vert sometimes wears a light silver-plated vest that can protect his chest from most cuts and thrusts. 
Costume colour combination: shades of green and brown, with gold embroidered accents 


Photographic Reference 

I usually find everything I need by Googling images with descriptive keywords. Two other great sources of images are Pinterest and DeviantArt. If these fail I go to the reference library and museums. Sometimes, I have to purchase books, too. 

Even though I have an idea in my head of what the character should look like, until I find the appropriate reference it is just a vague, blurry image in my head. As I am doing this part of the research, I feel like a Casting Director asking myself: “Who would be the best person to play the part?” 

Most of the time, I find a combination of images and blend all the people into my one perfect character. That is the beauty of art, we artists do not have to depend on an actual person to play the part. 

Sometimes, as I did while searching for Vert, I would come across a photograph of a person that fits the character perfectly. That vague veiled image in my mind suddenly clarified as I looked at the following photograph and I said: “Oh my God that’s Vert!” 


Source Link

From his shaggy hair to the structure of his face the model Stephen Walker is the perfect man to play Vert. The only feature that does not fit are his eyes, but I found them on another man: 


These are basic model photographs. As an illustrator I need to know how this character would move. Vert is someone who would fearlessly leap off a balcony and transform into a dragon. He is not human. Elements that influence his life are air, fire, and earth. 

The closest humans could come to Vert’s moves are male dancers. Therefore, I tried to find some pictures of male dancers to inspire Vert’s movement. 

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And here are some that should inspire his dragon’s shape. 

Body shape fits Vert as a dragon.

I like the humanity in this dragon's eyes.





Now that we know what Vert would look like and how he would move, it’s time to clothe him. Since this is a fantasy novel, costumes do not have to fit reality. I can mix cultures and time-frames and it will still be acceptable as long as there is a reason for me to do so. When I think of the dragon-people they are dressed in costumes resembling those of Middle Ages. So, I Googled “men’s costumes Middle Ages” and discovered a costume shop, “Dark Knight Armory”. 

I like the shirt, and maybe the vest in this photo.



I like the material of the sleeves. It almost looks like dragon scales.





Clearly these costumes are not of the quality or materials one would expect in reality, but they give me the shapes and designs to work with. When it comes to costumes and props, not only do I need to know how something looks like, but why it looks as it does. For example, if Vert was to carry a sword, what kind of sword would it be? 

In the Royal Ontario Museum there is a room of various armour pieces and each piece had a function. The variety of swords had me taking notes and sketching for hours. There were single hand swords with a short hilt. Double hand sword with a long hilt. The groove down the middle of the sword was not just for decoration, it was to direct blood away from the edges. The swords for cutting are broader, the ones for stabbing have a sharper point. The really long swords that look as if no human should be able to lift them and spears were used to hold the front line and to prevent horses from getting through… 

Vert moves swiftly. His costume and props should reflect that aspect of his character. Therefore, for everyday protection, I do not think that he would carry a heavy two-handed sword. He would most likely not even carry a sword on casual strolls, since he can turn himself into a dragon; maybe he would only wear a dagger? However, as a 200 year old man and as the Captain of the Guard he is able to wield any weapon known to man and is not afraid to take up the best to suit his needs. 


I may have to do more research depending on which scenes with Vert I’ll need to illustrate, but the character description and reference photos provided here are enough for me to start sketching. What you see above is the minimum of information you will need to provide to your illustrator for every single character. 

Settings are even more complicated. If your illustrator needs to draw them, even if you want to leave your readers with only the description saying “opulent room”, the illustrator will need to know the details: How many doors into the room? Is there a hidden entrance? A terrace or balcony? Is the room panelled or does the stone show through? Wall decorations? Furniture? Where are the windows facing? A light from a North window is different from that of a West window, especially at sunset. You need to provide visual reference and written information for everything! 


HOOTs of Wisdom

Illustration Reference Package For Authors

Research.While you are researching for your project, keep in mind that your illustrator will not only need to know how something looks like, but also how it moves and why it exists. As you are writing your own notes, keep a separate file of relevant information that you will share with your illustrator. 

List. Less is more. Time is money. There is no need for you to include pages and pages of writing. Point form list is more than enough. 

Variety.Include a variety of images from different angles when possible. The best photos for drawing people are the ones when the subjects are seen in a ¾ view. If you can, also include the subject’s profile, front, and back. 

Organise. Create a main folder for your project, then create sub folders for settings, characters, and props. Within those folders create a separate folder for every individual subject matter. You want to include a copy of the prop a character is using within the character’s folder as well as in the general prop folder. If your characters are related, make sure to include a note of their relatives in every description, because these characters will have to look alike. 

As always, if you have more questions, please write them in the comments and do not hesitate to contact me on social media. 

Cheers! 

Mili

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Mili Fay, a Toronto-based artist, classical animator, illustrator, writer, and singer, is an award winning graduate of Sheridan College and Art Instruction Schools. In November of 2011 she created Mili Fay Art determined to support the world one artwork at a time.

Her latest published work is Animals In My Hair; a story about a boy who goes for his first haircut only to find endangered animals falling out of his hair.

Currently, Mili is working on her first ever illustrated Fantasy novel, Warriors of Virtue, about a reluctant princess who must prevent a war with the dragon-people, while keeping her mission a secret from her over-protective mother.

Join Mili Fay Art Fan Club to stay in touch with Mili Fay and to be the first to find out of her upcoming books and artworks.

Mili Fay Art: “Together we support the world one artwork at a time.”