I’m having one of those days where I feel like an old and decrepit crone. Earlier this week I tried to open the window. And pulled a muscle in my back. Granted, the window is over the head of our bed, it was the middle of the night and I was trying to be stealthy, so I twisted oddly… but still. My body is transient and passing weak.
The upshot has been that my usual after-work hours to work on writing and art have been even more constrained than usual because I can’t find a comfortable sitting position, and standing facilitates other work, and frankly I’ve just been achy and cranky. But this post is not about my general fussiness. It’s about one of the many projects I’ve been working on. One that is finally beginning to near completion. I wrote about it here some time back, as I am using Affinity Publisher to lay it out and prepare it for print.
My verdict on Publisher will have to wait until I am holding a proof copy of Inktail, Too! in my hot little hands. So far, I have to say, so good. The process of setting up spreads in Publisher, tweaking layout of text and illustrations, and then exporting to a formatted pdf for KDP was almost painless once I got over the initial hurdle of ‘what the heck am I doing?’ and into the drag-and-drop routine of it. The difficult part for me was the decision to turn this book from a coloring book to an activity book. I chose to go that route because I’d been warned that KDP was auto-correcting out blank pages from manuscripts. When I published Inktail, I’d done so with every coloring page backed by a blank page. The paper KDP (and Createspace before it, as they are the same facilities with different names) uses for white paper in their books is too thin to be colored on both sides.
Which is why Inktail, Too! has bloomed into far more than just a coloring book. I’ve put poetry in there, activities, learning tools, silliness, and more illustrations. My First Reader is getting his first publication credit as he volunteered to write doggerel for a couple of the illustrations. My husband is a poet and doesn’t know it… yet. I also plunged into the archives of public domain poetry and pulled some obscure – and one not-so-obscure – verses to include as well. All of this took more time and effort than I had planned to put into it, but I’m not sorry.
The thing about Inktail, both books, and another one in the wings (I have the illustrations complete, simply need to begin this layout and content addition process again) is that I will not make money from them. Oh, sure, I’ll sell some. There may be a tiny profit. But it’s not like the novels, or even some of the shorts. The adult coloring book rage is dying back, and Inktail was never meant to be adults-only. Children’s coloring books are not an item parents want to spend a lot of money on, so I priced the original Inktail as low as I could, and I offer an e-coloring book on my website that can be downloaded and printed as many times as desired (or just that one favorite page printed over and over! I remember those days…). This was never about making money. It was about making fans happy, the fans who suggested I create a coloring book in the first place. And I am, as mercenary a wench as I am, perfectly happy with this situation. Inktail makes me happy. Seeing the joy the little dragon brings others is just the cherry on top.
Ultimately, this is what drives me as a creator, whether in art or writing. I like doing it. I’d have quit a long time ago if I didn’t. For one thing, I have too many days like today, where I try to figure out how to cope with the pain long enough to accomplish… something. Whatever it is. I set aside the discomfort for the longer-term payoff of succeeding in whatever that is. I was listening to a podcast by Jordan Peterson and he was discussing Pinocchio – it’s a fascinating lecture series, I recommend it – and the differences between childhood and adulthood. One of those was the ability to see that what makes us happy in the moment might not be what will make us happy in the long term. That ability to delay gratification, Peterson points out, is what divides the adult from the child.
As I was thinking about this, and what I drew into the art of my book, I realized that I’d set something up I hadn’t intended to. Inktail comes from my heart, not my mind. What I mean by that is that the art is more emotional than logical for me. Not all the time. I plot, sketch, and create carefully. But Inktail is my default little character, so sometimes I just start and see what happens. But in this book you’ll see Inktail reading – a much more delayed gratification than videos and video games – and you’ll see him doing the chores, and other things. I’d like to think that unconsciously, introducing these as desirable concepts to a child coloring is a good thing. As a mother, I want my own children to have picked up on these (they are grown, and only one at home now, so I think my time of influence is waning). As a child, the inner child that comes out in my art, these were a big part of my life. I helped with milking goats, gathering eggs, and many other chores from the time I was big enough to get a hand around a teat. I have read for longer than I can remember. I have watched bugs, and flowers, and learned what is to be found in a tide pool… and all that went into this book.