Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in PHILLY! 
I don't typically let my geek flag fly as much as some bloggers do, but when I learned that the 11th Doctor and his companion Amy Pond were going to be in MY city, well...it was something that could not be missed.

This was my very first Comic Con. I don't read comic books. Superheroes...I can take 'em or leave 'em. Other than Wii Fit and online puzzle games, I don't really play video games either.

Waiting for the Dr. Who panel with the fourth Doctor!
But I was totally willing to rub elbows with the geekiest of geeks for a chance to see Matt Smith and Karen Gillan live. They have great chemistry, love to laugh, and are just so thankful to have been a part of SciFi's longest-running TV series. The Q&A session ran 90 minutes, and fans asked lots of really great questions beyond "what is your favorite memory?" I especially liked their thoughtful responses to what aspects of their characters do they wish there had been more time to develop. For Karen, it was the period when Amy went through four therapists trying to cure her obsession with "the raggedy man." Apparently the two have an ongoing rivalrly to see which can remember the season and episode number for the particular plots. (Matt won, I think.)

Over the years, these conventions have diversified, and now include all kinds of SciFi and fantasy cultural production, beyond comics and gamer culture. If you like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Torchwood, Orphan Black, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead you won't feel entirely out of place at a Comic Con.

"Cosplay" is the term for all the amazing getups you are likely to see. Here's a small sampling.

Name those characters...'cause I can't.
Tim the Enchanter: "what is your favorite color?"

The boy wonder at Panera!

Sean has been acting since 1981. He's a busy guy!

The convention floor is largely a giant geek supermarket, where you can trade in or purchase an entire comic collection, pick up a light saber in the color of your choice (teal anyone?), build an enormous t-shirt collection, get signed films posters without the hassle of stalking stars, and turn your hard-earned cash into a cache of geeky gadgets and knickknacks.

My husband, daughter and I spent two days at the con, the first largely on the convention floor, the second largely attending Q&A panels with various TV and film stars. In addition to Karen Gillan and Matt Smith from Dr. Who, we also heard James Marsters from Buffy, Angel, Torchwood and others; Sean Astin, who you might know best as Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings films; and finally, Firefly and Serenity stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion.

The Firefly panel was by far the most crowded--standing room only. For a show that ran only one season, over ten years ago, it was pretty surprising it has such an enormous cult following. I think part of what keeps the show alive is these two guys. They continue to do lots of convention appearances and are completely hilarious together. Tudyk does lots of voice work for animated films, so at times he answered questions as King Candy from Wreck It Ralph or as the Duke of Weseleton from Frozen.

One of the funniest things they did was give out signed gifts to anyone brave enough to come to the microphone and ask questions. And those gifts? Random items from Alan Tudyk's bag--old mugs, t-shirts, script pages, a pack of gum. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that fans absolutely adore starts who are approachable and willing to be a bit silly.

Have you ever attended a Comic Con? What questions would you have asked any of the stars I saw?
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 Laurel Garver
Karen Gillan and Matt Smith in PHILLY! 
I don't typically let my geek flag fly as much as some bloggers do, but when I learned that the 11th Doctor and his companion Amy Pond were going to be in MY city, well...it was something that could not be missed.

This was my very first Comic Con. I don't read comic books. Superheroes...I can take 'em or leave 'em. Other than Wii Fit and online puzzle games, I don't really play video games either.

Waiting for the Dr. Who panel with the fourth Doctor!
But I was totally willing to rub elbows with the geekiest of geeks for a chance to see Matt Smith and Karen Gillan live. They have great chemistry, love to laugh, and are just so thankful to have been a part of SciFi's longest-running TV series. The Q&A session ran 90 minutes, and fans asked lots of really great questions beyond "what is your favorite memory?" I especially liked their thoughtful responses to what aspects of their characters do they wish there had been more time to develop. For Karen, it was the period when Amy went through four therapists trying to cure her obsession with "the raggedy man." Apparently the two have an ongoing rivalrly to see which can remember the season and episode number for the particular plots. (Matt won, I think.)

Over the years, these conventions have diversified, and now include all kinds of SciFi and fantasy cultural production, beyond comics and gamer culture. If you like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Torchwood, Orphan Black, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead you won't feel entirely out of place at a Comic Con.

"Cosplay" is the term for all the amazing getups you are likely to see. Here's a small sampling.

Name those characters...'cause I can't.
Tim the Enchanter: "what is your favorite color?"

The boy wonder at Panera!

Sean has been acting since 1981. He's a busy guy!

The convention floor is largely a giant geek supermarket, where you can trade in or purchase an entire comic collection, pick up a light saber in the color of your choice (teal anyone?), build an enormous t-shirt collection, get signed films posters without the hassle of stalking stars, and turn your hard-earned cash into a cache of geeky gadgets and knickknacks.

My husband, daughter and I spent two days at the con, the first largely on the convention floor, the second largely attending Q&A panels with various TV and film stars. In addition to Karen Gillan and Matt Smith from Dr. Who, we also heard James Marsters from Buffy, Angel, Torchwood and others; Sean Astin, who you might know best as Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings films; and finally, Firefly and Serenity stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion.

The Firefly panel was by far the most crowded--standing room only. For a show that ran only one season, over ten years ago, it was pretty surprising it has such an enormous cult following. I think part of what keeps the show alive is these two guys. They continue to do lots of convention appearances and are completely hilarious together. Tudyk does lots of voice work for animated films, so at times he answered questions as King Candy from Wreck It Ralph or as the Duke of Weseleton from Frozen.

One of the funniest things they did was give out signed gifts to anyone brave enough to come to the microphone and ask questions. And those gifts? Random items from Alan Tudyk's bag--old mugs, t-shirts, script pages, a pack of gum. If there's any lesson to be learned, it's that fans absolutely adore starts who are approachable and willing to be a bit silly.

Have you ever attended a Comic Con? What questions would you have asked any of the stars I saw?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By Tyrean Martinson

Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com 
We all find ourselves believing in the myth of “enough” time. With busy schedules, work, family activities, and much-needed relaxation time all competing for time in our lives, we often find ourselves wishing for a few more hours in a day or a week so that we could have “enough” time to pursue our writing or other creative pursuits. We chase the myth of “enough” time.


I homeschool my kids. I volunteer at my church. I teach classes at a homeschool co-operative and for that I must prep classroom exercises and homework for my students, and grade all their homework. I write stories, poetry, and novels. I like to ski, bike, read, and do fun activities with my family and friends. And, I never have “enough” time.

I have to make time.

When my kids were tiny, the time I could find for my writing came in the midst of their activities, or when they were sleeping. Most of the time, I wrote poems and snatches of stories when they were busy at play between lessons in early elementary school. I had to keep ideas written down in lists so that way when I had the chance for fifteen minutes of writing, that writing time was all writing time. No daydream or planning time could take place when I had the chance to sit down. I planned my ideas while folding laundry, doing dishes, or on my daily exercise walk. When I sat down to write, the pen hit the paper or my fingers hit the keyboard and went flying with no time for thought or worry over word choice in a rough draft, no time for planning a character’s emotional development or choosing actions to show the character’s emotional state. That had to happen outside of my writing moments. Then, three or four days a week, my husband would give me “alone” time with my writing for an hour or two. Again, I tried to focus that time on writing only. No e-mails, game playing, or daydream allowed – even about the story. Sometimes, during the long sessions, I actually had time for revision.

When my kids hit the older elementary years, they needed less of my “teaching” and more time of learning on their own – reading, doing math problems, writing, and doing science experiments without me hovering at their elbows. The reality is that although some learning is done during a lecture or discussion (or on the lap while reading when they were little), a lot of the connections and work take place when we are on our own and engaged with the material. My kids no longer needed me to read them all their lessons out loud, and they didn’t want me to. They needed me to plan, present, grade, and discuss, but for shorter bursts throughout the day. Other than that, they were happy to have me “out of the way” but engaged at a separate task near at hand for help.

Now, with a fiercely independent middle school kid and a high school kid with a lot of ideas and need to spend time with her friends, we’ve gone through more changes. My writing time and teacher preparation time has expanded, but I need to be ready to drop it at any moment throughout the day to present material/drive places/help with math conundrums/discuss serious matters of history, literature, and politics that arise from the curriculum we’ve chosen. It’s hard to write and then stop, and then write, and then stop, but I’ve found that it works for me most of the time. When I need a long, “solitary” session for writing or revising, I do that during my daughters’ activities: at the dance studio, in coffee shops, and even on the docks during kayaking. Overall, I usually feel that their learning and activity helps give me perspective in my writing and increases my creativity. (And I haven’t even mentioned how busy my talented husband gets – whew. The family calendar is full six days a week.)

The routines of writing have fallen into and around the routines of life. There is never a day when I feel I have “enough” time, but I find a way to make some for each activity, including writing. Some days I only get in a paragraph in my journal. Some days I type five pages. It all depends on the day. Goals are good, but I have long since left the “perfectionist” 1,000 words a day word count behind and tried for getting words on the paper each day and overall “realistic” monthly goals. Sometimes, I get up before everyone in my house does when I have an idea burning bright in my head at 4a.m. and sometimes I barely get any writing done while sitting in a car with rain pouring down while my youngest is kayaking in freezing water.

My tips to any and all busy writing parents are:


1. Take the writing time you have and use it to the fullest extent.

2. Set realistic monthly goals for whatever time of life you are in. I couldn’t write novels when my kids were in early elementary school and needed near constant attention and lap-time.

3. Use the time in which your kids are engaged in activities that they love – sports, dance, with friends – to benefit your writing.

How do you find time to write?

You can find Tyrean Martinson at Tyrean's Writing Spot and Twitter.

Her latest novel is Champion in Flight, book two in the Champion Trilogy

A year after she won the battle for Septily, Clara feels trapped in Skycliff by the Allied Council. As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Covert Drinaii mercenaries and the Council aren’t going to stop Clara from her quest to heal her broken blade. As Champion of Aramatir, she must act. Meanwhile, in the joint kingdoms of Rrysorria and Wylandria, the youngest and still cursed swan prince despairs of ever being whole again. In a moment of anger and desperation, Liam discovers a blood link between him and a dark sorceress.

Clara won the battle for Septily, but her battle isn’t over.

Champion in Flight is available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 Laurel Garver
By Tyrean Martinson

Photo credit: kconnors from morguefile.com 
We all find ourselves believing in the myth of “enough” time. With busy schedules, work, family activities, and much-needed relaxation time all competing for time in our lives, we often find ourselves wishing for a few more hours in a day or a week so that we could have “enough” time to pursue our writing or other creative pursuits. We chase the myth of “enough” time.


I homeschool my kids. I volunteer at my church. I teach classes at a homeschool co-operative and for that I must prep classroom exercises and homework for my students, and grade all their homework. I write stories, poetry, and novels. I like to ski, bike, read, and do fun activities with my family and friends. And, I never have “enough” time.

I have to make time.

When my kids were tiny, the time I could find for my writing came in the midst of their activities, or when they were sleeping. Most of the time, I wrote poems and snatches of stories when they were busy at play between lessons in early elementary school. I had to keep ideas written down in lists so that way when I had the chance for fifteen minutes of writing, that writing time was all writing time. No daydream or planning time could take place when I had the chance to sit down. I planned my ideas while folding laundry, doing dishes, or on my daily exercise walk. When I sat down to write, the pen hit the paper or my fingers hit the keyboard and went flying with no time for thought or worry over word choice in a rough draft, no time for planning a character’s emotional development or choosing actions to show the character’s emotional state. That had to happen outside of my writing moments. Then, three or four days a week, my husband would give me “alone” time with my writing for an hour or two. Again, I tried to focus that time on writing only. No e-mails, game playing, or daydream allowed – even about the story. Sometimes, during the long sessions, I actually had time for revision.

When my kids hit the older elementary years, they needed less of my “teaching” and more time of learning on their own – reading, doing math problems, writing, and doing science experiments without me hovering at their elbows. The reality is that although some learning is done during a lecture or discussion (or on the lap while reading when they were little), a lot of the connections and work take place when we are on our own and engaged with the material. My kids no longer needed me to read them all their lessons out loud, and they didn’t want me to. They needed me to plan, present, grade, and discuss, but for shorter bursts throughout the day. Other than that, they were happy to have me “out of the way” but engaged at a separate task near at hand for help.

Now, with a fiercely independent middle school kid and a high school kid with a lot of ideas and need to spend time with her friends, we’ve gone through more changes. My writing time and teacher preparation time has expanded, but I need to be ready to drop it at any moment throughout the day to present material/drive places/help with math conundrums/discuss serious matters of history, literature, and politics that arise from the curriculum we’ve chosen. It’s hard to write and then stop, and then write, and then stop, but I’ve found that it works for me most of the time. When I need a long, “solitary” session for writing or revising, I do that during my daughters’ activities: at the dance studio, in coffee shops, and even on the docks during kayaking. Overall, I usually feel that their learning and activity helps give me perspective in my writing and increases my creativity. (And I haven’t even mentioned how busy my talented husband gets – whew. The family calendar is full six days a week.)

The routines of writing have fallen into and around the routines of life. There is never a day when I feel I have “enough” time, but I find a way to make some for each activity, including writing. Some days I only get in a paragraph in my journal. Some days I type five pages. It all depends on the day. Goals are good, but I have long since left the “perfectionist” 1,000 words a day word count behind and tried for getting words on the paper each day and overall “realistic” monthly goals. Sometimes, I get up before everyone in my house does when I have an idea burning bright in my head at 4a.m. and sometimes I barely get any writing done while sitting in a car with rain pouring down while my youngest is kayaking in freezing water.

My tips to any and all busy writing parents are:


1. Take the writing time you have and use it to the fullest extent.

2. Set realistic monthly goals for whatever time of life you are in. I couldn’t write novels when my kids were in early elementary school and needed near constant attention and lap-time.

3. Use the time in which your kids are engaged in activities that they love – sports, dance, with friends – to benefit your writing.

How do you find time to write?

You can find Tyrean Martinson at Tyrean's Writing Spot and Twitter.

Her latest novel is Champion in Flight, book two in the Champion Trilogy

A year after she won the battle for Septily, Clara feels trapped in Skycliff by the Allied Council. As the last pieces of information about the Healing Caves fall into place, Clara is attacked by an assassin. Covert Drinaii mercenaries and the Council aren’t going to stop Clara from her quest to heal her broken blade. As Champion of Aramatir, she must act. Meanwhile, in the joint kingdoms of Rrysorria and Wylandria, the youngest and still cursed swan prince despairs of ever being whole again. In a moment of anger and desperation, Liam discovers a blood link between him and a dark sorceress.

Clara won the battle for Septily, but her battle isn’t over.

Champion in Flight is available at Smashwords and Amazon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Today special guest C.M. Keller is here to share insights into writing series and to tell us more about her latest release, Screwing up Alexandria. If you like learning about history, and also love an adventure story with a touch of humor and fantasy elements, you're sure to enjoy C.M. Keller's Screwing up Time series.

Could you tell us a little about Screwing up Alexandria?

Screwing Up Alexandria is the third book in the Screwing Up Time series. Here’s the blurb:

Time traveling has never brought Mark Montgomery anything but grief. And then, things get worse.
When Mark comes home from Babylon with a coded tablet, he never dreams someone would be willing to kill to get it. But they are.  So Mark and Miranda kidnap an ancient cryptographer named Nin and take her to the Library of Alexandria to decipher it.

The search for the truth of the tablet takes all of them to the most dangerous time on earth. And when Nin ends up on an altar surrounded by blood-thirsty crowds, only Mark can save her. But he’s blind.

What inspired you to set this book in Alexandria? 

I’ve always dreamed about the amazing library at Alexandria, where they tried to collect all knowledge of the ancient world. Can you imagine walking the halls? Reading the scrolls? Talking to the researchers?

What discoveries surprised you most when researching this book? 

While much of this novel takes place in Alexandria, Mark and Miranda also travel to the future and to ancient Uruk. I didn’t know much about Uruk when I started the book, but it’s a fascinating place and is known as “the Venice of the ancient world.”

Who were your favorite characters to write in this book?

I love Mark and Miranda, of course. But this book had a new character, Nin. And she was wonderful to write—she’s witty, clever, and always sure of herself, even when she’s wrong.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

So many difficult things were going on in my “real life” when I wrote this, and often I felt weary and worn-out. But writing the book was a wonderful opportunity to escape and relax.

What was the most fun? 

I loved writing Mark and Miranda’s interactions with Nin. Their repartee was a delight.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

I don’t really think about a message as I write a story because I let the characters tell their stories. But I know that the things I value are part of the characters’ stories. So issues like truth, perseverance, forgiveness, and doing hard things all figure into the plot.

What specific challenges come with writing a series?

One of the biggest challenges is keeping the stories fresh. But writing time travel it great because it gives me opportunities to explore new cultures and new people. In book one, Mark explored the Middle Ages and got to meet Miranda. In book two, he and Miranda went to Babylon and met Niri. In book three, Mark explores Alexandria, Uruk, and the future while meeting Nin and a whole host of secondary characters including a zoo keeper (until I started researching, I didn’t know that the library at Alexandria had a zoo) and a Jack Sparrow lookalike.

What piece of advice has helped you most as a writer?

I have two favorite writing quotes. One is from Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” And the other one (I don’t know who originally said it) is “A first draft is a celebration of everything that can go wrong on a page.”

These quotes really inspire me to sit down and do the work. Stories don’t write themselves. And they aren’t easy—they involve blood, sweat, and tears. And to alter a quote from The Princess Bride, “…anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something.” And yet, using your gift even though it’s difficult and messy, is a celebration and so much fun.

What is your background? 

I grew up all over the United States. I’ve lived in California, Illinois, Georgia, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Tennessee. I have a degree in English literature and worked at Harcourt. My husband and I have four kids, a black Lab, and a hamster.

How can readers connect with you?

I have two blogs. (Where you can be added to the Screwing Up Time mailing list, if you’d like.) http://screwinguptime.blogspot.com/ and http://connies-pen.blogspot.com/
My Twitter handle is @CMKellerWrites.
And I have a Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/C-M-Keller/145636898869893

Get it now

Screwing up Alexandria is available at Amazon

Any other questions for Connie?
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 Laurel Garver
Today special guest C.M. Keller is here to share insights into writing series and to tell us more about her latest release, Screwing up Alexandria. If you like learning about history, and also love an adventure story with a touch of humor and fantasy elements, you're sure to enjoy C.M. Keller's Screwing up Time series.

Could you tell us a little about Screwing up Alexandria?

Screwing Up Alexandria is the third book in the Screwing Up Time series. Here’s the blurb:

Time traveling has never brought Mark Montgomery anything but grief. And then, things get worse.
When Mark comes home from Babylon with a coded tablet, he never dreams someone would be willing to kill to get it. But they are.  So Mark and Miranda kidnap an ancient cryptographer named Nin and take her to the Library of Alexandria to decipher it.

The search for the truth of the tablet takes all of them to the most dangerous time on earth. And when Nin ends up on an altar surrounded by blood-thirsty crowds, only Mark can save her. But he’s blind.

What inspired you to set this book in Alexandria? 

I’ve always dreamed about the amazing library at Alexandria, where they tried to collect all knowledge of the ancient world. Can you imagine walking the halls? Reading the scrolls? Talking to the researchers?

What discoveries surprised you most when researching this book? 

While much of this novel takes place in Alexandria, Mark and Miranda also travel to the future and to ancient Uruk. I didn’t know much about Uruk when I started the book, but it’s a fascinating place and is known as “the Venice of the ancient world.”

Who were your favorite characters to write in this book?

I love Mark and Miranda, of course. But this book had a new character, Nin. And she was wonderful to write—she’s witty, clever, and always sure of herself, even when she’s wrong.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

So many difficult things were going on in my “real life” when I wrote this, and often I felt weary and worn-out. But writing the book was a wonderful opportunity to escape and relax.

What was the most fun? 

I loved writing Mark and Miranda’s interactions with Nin. Their repartee was a delight.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

I don’t really think about a message as I write a story because I let the characters tell their stories. But I know that the things I value are part of the characters’ stories. So issues like truth, perseverance, forgiveness, and doing hard things all figure into the plot.

What specific challenges come with writing a series?

One of the biggest challenges is keeping the stories fresh. But writing time travel it great because it gives me opportunities to explore new cultures and new people. In book one, Mark explored the Middle Ages and got to meet Miranda. In book two, he and Miranda went to Babylon and met Niri. In book three, Mark explores Alexandria, Uruk, and the future while meeting Nin and a whole host of secondary characters including a zoo keeper (until I started researching, I didn’t know that the library at Alexandria had a zoo) and a Jack Sparrow lookalike.

What piece of advice has helped you most as a writer?

I have two favorite writing quotes. One is from Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” And the other one (I don’t know who originally said it) is “A first draft is a celebration of everything that can go wrong on a page.”

These quotes really inspire me to sit down and do the work. Stories don’t write themselves. And they aren’t easy—they involve blood, sweat, and tears. And to alter a quote from The Princess Bride, “…anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something.” And yet, using your gift even though it’s difficult and messy, is a celebration and so much fun.

What is your background? 

I grew up all over the United States. I’ve lived in California, Illinois, Georgia, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Tennessee. I have a degree in English literature and worked at Harcourt. My husband and I have four kids, a black Lab, and a hamster.

How can readers connect with you?

I have two blogs. (Where you can be added to the Screwing Up Time mailing list, if you’d like.) http://screwinguptime.blogspot.com/ and http://connies-pen.blogspot.com/
My Twitter handle is @CMKellerWrites.
And I have a Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/C-M-Keller/145636898869893

Get it now

Screwing up Alexandria is available at Amazon

Any other questions for Connie?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

After picking up a book that includes pretty pen drawings, like Nina LaCour's Hold Still  (see image below) or Kristen Hubbard's Wanderlove, the thought may occur to you indie authors: I could do that.

photo by amberinblunderland.blogspot.com
You could. But there are a few things you ought to know about the technical side, especially for producing a print version of your book.

I've worked directly with printers on everything from full-color magazines to posters and brochures (as a managing editor and a graphic designer). One important lesson I learned is that every set of equipment has its own vagaries in terms of how it lays ink on the page and how it handles paper. It's almost impossible to have quality control over images when you can't work directly with vendors. But you can get better results if you make design decisions that take certain issues into account.

Below are a few key concepts you need to know about one-color printing (black ink on pale paper) so you (or any designer you hire) can create designs that consistently reproduce well in a print-on-demand environment.

dot gain

Every printed image is made up of a series of ink droplets. Some machinery has the tendency to be overwet in feeding ink, so the dots can spread (or the dot pattern can enlarge going from computer to press). That's called "dot gain" by the industry pros. Other machinery can be a little stingy with ink, resulting in "dot loss," or a less intense, somewhat washed out look.
Dot gain illustrated (image: underwaterphotography.com)

When dealing with solid blacks, dot gain is often not noticeable to an untrained eye. And dot loss is something most printers vigilantly check for.

But when it comes to what are called grayscale images--like black and white photographs, pencil drawings, or pen-and-ink illustration that has shading created with pointillism or fine cross-hatching--dot gain or loss can seriously mar the final printed product.

Bold line art will hold up better across a variety of machines than grayscale images. Thick lines and less detail should yield the very best results.

If you're working with clip art, you want an EPS file or what's called a "vector graphic," rather than a TIFF (tagged image file format), because it won't pixelate if you enlarge it.

Any hand drawing should be done on the smoothest, whitest paper you can buy. When scanning the image, follow these helpful tips.

bleed tolerance

A "bleed" in printing is an image that extends off the edge of the page. CreateSpace allows you to have interior images that bleed and gives very specific instructions for doing that, which I quote below:

Does your book contain images?

If you want your images to bleed to the edges of your book, ensure that they extend at least .125" beyond the final trim size from the top, bottom and outer edges and submit your PDF .25" higher and .125" wider than your selected trim size to accommodate the full bleed area.
Keep in mind all live elements must be at least .25" away from the trim lines, so if your file is formatted to be full bleed all live elements should be .375" away from the edge of the page.   
© CreateSpace, 2014
But here's the rub: not every copy of your book will necessarily print on the same press; print on demand means it typically prints closest to where it will ship. Some presses have a marginally different "tolerance" (an "allowed quantitative difference" aka wiggle room, slip, what have you; see an example here). CreateSpace tries to account for this by having relatively large bleed areas and trim tolerances (.25 compared to .125 of most printers). That way you'll never end up with an image that floats with white space around it when it's supposed to hang off the edge of the page. But you could end up having an image trimmed more severely than you anticipated.

Bleed tolerance example  (image by 48HourPrint.com)

All that to say, be mindful that any image that bleeds could cut off just a bit differently than it looks like it will in your page layout software. Make sure detailed bits, like lettering, are well inside the safety area.

What do you think of adding illustrations to books? Too scary or worth the effort?
Tuesday, June 03, 2014 Laurel Garver
After picking up a book that includes pretty pen drawings, like Nina LaCour's Hold Still  (see image below) or Kristen Hubbard's Wanderlove, the thought may occur to you indie authors: I could do that.

photo by amberinblunderland.blogspot.com
You could. But there are a few things you ought to know about the technical side, especially for producing a print version of your book.

I've worked directly with printers on everything from full-color magazines to posters and brochures (as a managing editor and a graphic designer). One important lesson I learned is that every set of equipment has its own vagaries in terms of how it lays ink on the page and how it handles paper. It's almost impossible to have quality control over images when you can't work directly with vendors. But you can get better results if you make design decisions that take certain issues into account.

Below are a few key concepts you need to know about one-color printing (black ink on pale paper) so you (or any designer you hire) can create designs that consistently reproduce well in a print-on-demand environment.

dot gain

Every printed image is made up of a series of ink droplets. Some machinery has the tendency to be overwet in feeding ink, so the dots can spread (or the dot pattern can enlarge going from computer to press). That's called "dot gain" by the industry pros. Other machinery can be a little stingy with ink, resulting in "dot loss," or a less intense, somewhat washed out look.
Dot gain illustrated (image: underwaterphotography.com)

When dealing with solid blacks, dot gain is often not noticeable to an untrained eye. And dot loss is something most printers vigilantly check for.

But when it comes to what are called grayscale images--like black and white photographs, pencil drawings, or pen-and-ink illustration that has shading created with pointillism or fine cross-hatching--dot gain or loss can seriously mar the final printed product.

Bold line art will hold up better across a variety of machines than grayscale images. Thick lines and less detail should yield the very best results.

If you're working with clip art, you want an EPS file or what's called a "vector graphic," rather than a TIFF (tagged image file format), because it won't pixelate if you enlarge it.

Any hand drawing should be done on the smoothest, whitest paper you can buy. When scanning the image, follow these helpful tips.

bleed tolerance

A "bleed" in printing is an image that extends off the edge of the page. CreateSpace allows you to have interior images that bleed and gives very specific instructions for doing that, which I quote below:

Does your book contain images?

If you want your images to bleed to the edges of your book, ensure that they extend at least .125" beyond the final trim size from the top, bottom and outer edges and submit your PDF .25" higher and .125" wider than your selected trim size to accommodate the full bleed area.
Keep in mind all live elements must be at least .25" away from the trim lines, so if your file is formatted to be full bleed all live elements should be .375" away from the edge of the page.   
© CreateSpace, 2014
But here's the rub: not every copy of your book will necessarily print on the same press; print on demand means it typically prints closest to where it will ship. Some presses have a marginally different "tolerance" (an "allowed quantitative difference" aka wiggle room, slip, what have you; see an example here). CreateSpace tries to account for this by having relatively large bleed areas and trim tolerances (.25 compared to .125 of most printers). That way you'll never end up with an image that floats with white space around it when it's supposed to hang off the edge of the page. But you could end up having an image trimmed more severely than you anticipated.

Bleed tolerance example  (image by 48HourPrint.com)

All that to say, be mindful that any image that bleeds could cut off just a bit differently than it looks like it will in your page layout software. Make sure detailed bits, like lettering, are well inside the safety area.

What do you think of adding illustrations to books? Too scary or worth the effort?