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Latest News

Hi all! Just dropping in to let you all know what’s happening with me lately. I’m currently in Hong Kong, and instead of taking a well-earned break, I’m OF COURSE doing work. I have a bunch of stuff I want to work on, which I’ll list here.

Fabled Kingdom News: Chapters 8-10(of21) is done, but I need to edit and proof-read it. I’ve finished writing Chapter 11, and I hope to get Chapter 12-14 at least started while I’m away from my drawing table. Anyway, book 2 should definitely be done by the end of 2015. Meanwhile, book 1(of3) is finished, containing Chapters 1-7 (212 pages), and out in print and ebook format. Head on over to my Store page to check it out.

 

Fabled Kingdom Art: I’ve started to post animated gifs of my colouring/toning process over on my Tumblr, so I might as well post some here on my blog too. More coming!


 

Here’s an article I wrote: It’s for a blog, for Australian women writers of ethnic origins. I decided to write an article about body-image and cartooning, which is actually quite an interesting topic, mostly because of the way we regard the self-image of teen girls these days.

 

Updating my website: I’m reworking my website, and updating the way it looks. This will take a while, and a lot of bloopers, me thinks.

 

Geting my Comics-Prose Tutorial up: Halfway done! Need to step on it – it’s on at DeviantArt, due to the ease of asking questions and building a community there. Warning: I need to finish rest of the articles, so remember, it’s not yet done. After the tutorial is finished, I’ll probably look to do a self-publishing tutorial.

Posted in Art, Comics-Prose, Fabled Kingdom Series | Leave a comment

Fabled Kingdom: Book 1 in PRINT

It’s finally here!
…And I finally got the print quality to as good as it can be.

 
 

Previous

Purchase Information

BUY as PRINT BOOKS:
Amazon** || Lulu

**If you buy this in print, you can buy the ebook version for $0.99 with Amazon’s Matchbook Program

BUY as E-BOOKS:
Amazon || Smashwords (PDF)* || Apple iBooks*

Also available on Kobo and Nook, but the older versions of these ereaders may have difficulty displaying the pages. Please read a sample first before buying.


 

More on the Printing Process

I didn’t expect so many problems with the printing, but in retrospect, I can see where the problems came in. I used Lulu and Amazon to do my printing, and both turned out very good once I got the settings right. The interiors are high quality black and white art, which are identical in both books. Below, I talk about what went wrong with both printers.

 

Lulu:

I’ve been printing with Lulu for years, and I messed this one up by accidently choosing the wrong paper settings. Lulu has changes its interface every now and then without telling you, and I accidently clicked the “white” paper setting for the 6″x9″ size without realising that there is NO good quality white paper setting for that size. The end result is that I got an inferior paper quality, which shocked me. In the end, I changed it to a cream colour page, which is high quality and is what differs the Lulu book from the Amazon book.

 

Amazon Createspace:

Oh boy. It’s my first time printing with Createspace, and it took a while to get right. I think CS has the best print quality out of all the printers out there, but the entire process is a black box. The best thing about CS is that human beings actually handle the printing process, but that’s also the biggest problem. The human handling your files can tweak your files without you knowing what they did, so the end results can mean that your colour cover could look different from one test print to the next. The good news is that once it’s been approved, the settings stay the same, so your next book will look EXACTLY as the previous one, right down to where they cut the paper (usually a few mm off… eh, can’t be helped. Lulu has the same problem).

Anyway, the mistake I made is a very important one. I can sum it up as: NEVER SUBMIT GREYSCALE FILES TO CREATESPACE. It seems that if you submit 600 dpi greyscale files to CS, they will automatically downgrade it to 300 dpi without telling you. In the end, I got around this problem by turning my greyscale files into black-and-white dot art through the photoshop “halftone” function. At least no one can do anything to black and white files, so that’s why the Lulu and Amazon books look identical in its print results.

The other good thing about CS is its Kindle Matchbook Program. Right now, if you buy a print copy of book 1, you can get the ebook version for 99 cents. An excellent thing.

Posted in Books, Comics-Prose, Fabled Kingdom Series | 1 Comment

Women’s History Month 2015

This was written for ‘Women’s History Month 2015’. This year’s theme is to describe a moment in your life where a hurdle occurred, and explain how you overcame it. I decided to choose the topic of drawing as a manga-style comic book artist, and the gender-related labels that come along with it.

 

Working in a Male-Dominated Industry?

When I’m interviewed for my comic book work, a question that comes up often is ‘what’s it like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry?

Typically, these sorts of questions come from well-meaning people. They tend to be into ‘geek culture,’ but are not quite informed enough to understand that comics is a large pond–deeper on some continents than on others. If you take all the different comick-ing styles in the world and put them under the same umbrella, you’ll find a mishmash of aesthetics, philosophies and audiences that tend to have nothing to do with each other. To an outsider, it can be confusing, because typically they understand comics = superheroes in tights and capes. This perception cannot be further from the truth.

Luckily, there’s a way for me to explain this in a sentence or two. All I have to say is: ‘I draw manga-style comics. So it’s not a male-dominated industry at all.

The reaction is usually polite, mostly because while the interviewer is bound to have heard of manga, they don’t know anything about it except that it’s ‘comics from Japan.’ While that’s a technically sound description, it doesn’t describe the no man’s land of being a manga-style artist in the West, which is the thrust of this article.

Being a manga-style comic book artist comes with gendered labels and assumptions, both by people inside the industry and outside. And it’s a label that is tagged entirely by the style in which you draw, rather than by the content of your work.

 

Comics for Girls

When manga first became popular in America, it was mostly through the translation efforts of a company called TOKYOPOP. As the first publisher I ever worked with, their editorial department was clear on one thing: we market to girls, because they’re a neglected audience when it came to comics.

That was true at the time, and it was a clever business strategy. In fact, they succeeded almost too well at it. A few years and a global financial crisis later, TOKYOPOP’s publishing department is dead, but the impression they left on the American comic book market remains. Unfortunately, that impression on non-manga readers is that manga = girl’s comics, which is a misconception at best, and downright misleading at worst.

As an artist who draws in a manga-influenced style, this was a huge hurdle to overcome. Despite being a non-Japanese artist whose debut work was ‘The Dreaming,’ a Picnic at Hanging Rock-inspired horror story, I found it impossible to escape the girl’s comics box that people put me into the moment they laid eyes on my work. What the story was about seemed to be irrelevant. Some people’s eyes glaze over immediately when they see the style I draw in, even though they were initially interested in the story when I first described it to them.

How do you fight against something like this?

I wish we live in an age where we can have true gender-equal entertainment options. I wish we live in a culture that valued female-oriented entertainment as much as male-oriented entertainment. But we don’t. Unfortunately, there’s something about the girl comics tag that can give a male reader pause, and not just that, give parents (both fathers and mothers) pause when considering whether to buy something for their son (but not so for their daughter).

Anyway, the causes of this are too many to cover. However, I can talk about how I managed to break out of the girl’s comics tag, something that was done entirely by accident.

 

Mixing Prose and Comics

Sometime in 2010, I began experimenting with something new: mixing prose and comics together. This was partly-inspired by ‘Small Shen,’ a book by Kylie Chan that I adapted into what I now call ‘comics-prose.’ The book was enthusiastically received by the publisher and readers, which thrilled me. I felt comics-prose had a lot of depth and potential, and I started to work exclusively in the format.

When I started showing my work around to others, one of the first reactions I got was this:

‘I can read this, because it’s not manga.’

I looked my friend in the face, to see if he was joking, but he wasn’t. He was in his late-30s and a reader of comics, but he never read manga, claiming that the art style didn’t appeal to him. This was perfectly acceptable, until I found out the real reason why he didn’t read manga – whether knowingly or not, he seems to think that reading girl comics will give him girl germs. My comics-prose story was drawn in exactly the same style as my traditional manga-style comics, so if he was willing to read my new work (but not my more traditional work), then it couldn’t be the art style that was turning him off. It had to be the girl comics tag, even though he denied it.

Again, how do you fight against something like this?

In the end, I didn’t fight against it. I came up against the hurdle, and I responded by morphing into something different, though I was still able to retain the essence of what I did. It ended up opening a path that led to somewhere completely different, which was unexpected but not unwelcome.

I was meant to tell a story about how I overcame a hurdle, but sometimes hurdles are not meant to be jumped. Sometimes, they can be tunnelled under, or you can find a way to walk around it. Truly, an example of how life can be strange, wonderful, and never the way you expected it to turn out.

Posted in Comics-Prose, Other | Leave a comment

Fabled Kingdom

Hi all! I finally got some time to post up news about my latest project, a fairy-tale inspired fantasy called “Fabled Kingdom”. It’s planned for 3 volumes, each with 7 chapters.

NOTE: I’ll be serialising the first 2 volumes online here. Updates 3-4 pages every Friday.
 


 


Book 2 out in December 2015!

Chapters 6.5-8 (in PDF*) out in March 2015!


BUY as PRINT BOOKS:
Amazon** || Lulu

**If you buy this in print, you can buy the ebook version for $0.99 with Amazon’s Matchbook Program

BUY as E-BOOKS:
Amazon || Smashwords (PDF)* || Apple iBooks*

Also available on Kobo and Nook, but the older versions of these ereaders may have difficulty displaying the pages. Please read a sample first before buying.

See More Photos

What if Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother isn’t her real grandmother?
What is her two trueborn grandmothers are both queens – and one is good, while the other one is evil?


 

The Story

Fabled Kingdom is a 3-volume fairytale-inspired YA fantasy. It’s a comics-prose story, written and drawn by me. It will be released both in print format, and as an e-book series.

The story is about Celsia, a ‘Red Hood’ training to be a healer under her grandmother’s tutelage in a small village deep in the woods. One day, she discovers a shocking secret – her grandmother isn’t her real grandmother. Forced to leave her village, she goes on a quest to find her two trueborn grandmothers, who are both powerful queens of magical kingdoms. Accompanied by her childhood friend Quillon and the cheeky faun Pylus, her first destination is the ‘Fabled Kingdom’ of Fallinor, a magical kingdom that was destroyed 60 years ago. Or… was it?

You can also read this on DeviantArt, SmackJeeves, Tapastic, and on my website.

 

Background Information

As you may know, Fabled Kingdom is a comics-prose story, and it was originally accepted by a major publishing house in 2013. However, I didn’t like the contract terms they offered, so I declined. Only 3 chapters of the book was done at the time, and now, I’m halfway through chapter 8. I decided to finish the book on my own, and then see what happens.

Doing this story has been quite an interesting experience, because in terms of length, there is a direct comparison. ‘Fabled Kingdom’ is a 3-book series much like ‘The Dreaming’ was (done 10 years ago), except that FK is in comics-prose format, and TD was a traditional manga story. Due to the differences in these formats, I was able to directly compare the amount of work required to do both. And here is where it gets real interesting.

‘Comics-Prose’ was originally conceived to (1) reduce the amount of time required to draw a single comics page, and (2) to shorten the number of pages required to tell a sequence of events. After having done about 212 pgs of ‘Fabled Kingdom’ (compared to 166 pgs for volume 1 of ‘The Dreaming’), I can declare the points below:

  • ‘Comics-prose’ uses a lot of prose, but ultimately it’s comics. Its length is calculated in pages, not words. Saying a comics-prose story is 70,000 words is a meaningless unit of measurement. Like comics, page count is what matters.
  • It reduces the number of pages required to tell a sequence of events by about 30%. I estimate that 50 pages of comics can be reduced to 30 pages of comics-prose.
  • It reduces the amount of time to draw a single comics page by 40-50%. This is an average, because that depends on the complexity of what’s depicted on a single page.

 

Some more statistics for comparison. These are approximates only:

  • ‘The Dreaming’ vol.1 = 166 pages’ VS Fabled Kingdom’ vol.1 = 210 pages
  • 7 chapters of ‘The Dreaming’ (166 pgs) took 8 months of 10-hour work days VS 7 Chapters of ‘Fabled Kingdom’ (212 pgs) took 7 months of 6-hour work days.
  • ‘Fabled Kingdom’ vol.1 has 26% more pages than ‘The Dreaming’ vol. 1
  • I estimate that ‘Fabled Kingdom’ tells 1.5 times the amount of story that ‘The Dreaming’ does in a single volume.

I’ve mentioned before that I have no intention of going back to doing traditional comics, and this is why. Traditional comics is back-breaking labour; it really is. Having done it for 10 years, the burn-out is terrifying, and it doesn’t get faster or better – in fact, the whole process just gets harder, because you get older.

I’m older now, less naive, and less committed to being chained to my drawing board all day long without even being able to go out for lunch or to meet friends. When I did ‘The Dreaming’, I literally had NO social life. My friends didn’t see me for months at a time, and I almost lost touch with a lot of people. Now that I’m doing ‘Fabled Kingdom’, I have no trouble going out daily, and meeting my friends once a week. I usually start at 4pm, and get two pages completed (pencils, inked, toned) by 12am at night (with breaks in between for dinner, etc). Even on a really busy day, I still manage to get a full page done within a few hours.

To be honest, I feel relieved.

Posted in Comics-Prose, Fabled Kingdom Series, Manga-Comics | Leave a comment