Let's Look for Youkai in Sumida Park!

Sep 26, 2020, 12:00:45 PM

Let's Look for Youkai in Sumida Park!

Kamiko and her buddy head off to Sumida Park to scope the place out for any bad monsters. Will they find any? Or just a lot of animals? Do owls even hang out in Sumida Park? (I don't know.)

I tried to color this in an entirely different way, because I felt like it. Shades of blue and yellow highlight to make things pop. There's no real strong style for Magical Girl Kamiko when compared to The Rabbit and the Moon.

What's New?

A month ago, I told you I was backing up my art files from my iPad because I ran out of disk space. This, of course, was a big "to-do".

I got it done. And freed up a bunch of space.

I had to manually migrate files from Procreate to iTunes on my Windows machine and copy all of the .procreate files. Then late in the stage of backing up my art from my iPad I decided I should also save them as PSDs because Windows has no way of opening those files and I have no way of knowing what they are since no other software opens .procreate files.

Anyhow, since it annoyed me, I vented on Twitter (what else).

One of the responses I got back, out of the blue:

"Get Iexplorer for PC inexpensive and backups everything apple and categorizes as well. While I'm here when will book 3 of The Mechanical Bird come out. Or is it a dead project. I thought I saw somewhere that you were on final edits."

I didn't use the software suggested since I had figured out how to pull the content. But maybe that would have sped things up.

It's the second part of the tweet that got me.

While I'm here when will book 3 of The Mechanical Bird come out. Or is it a dead project. I thought I saw somewhere that you were on final edits.


Let's talk about The Mechanical Bird for a hot second

If you're new here, you might only know my work on the site. I draw and write these webcomics -- they're goofy and I try to be funny. I did all of the work for the Rabbit and the Moon back in the day, and now I'm continuing with new stories. The artstyle is different, but I'm trying to find a way to do something of my own and share it on (at least) a weekly basis.

Back in 2016 I started writing a lengthy novel called The Mechanical Bird.

Well, maybe I should step back about, oh... 7 years. In 2009, before I met Kamiko and decided I wanted to do the Rabbit and the Moon, I created a story about a young woman and her steam powered airplane, it was called Alicia and the Mechanical Bird. She would fly around and help people.

It was inspired off an anime series called Kino's Journey -- here's a link to the "rebooted" version of the show but I watched the old 2003 version. In that story, Kino traveled with their talking motorrad Hermes (yeah, you heard me) and went from town to town. Kino traveled for the sake of traveling and exploring the world, and I modeled the short stories of Alicia's around that idea. My original stories are more fairytale-like with some Victorian horror thrown in, and focus mainly on Alicia and a traveling companion named Lilith.

I stopped writing the shorts around 2010 when I came up with This Mortal Coil and focused on that.

With Mortal Coil done in 2016, what was I to do creatively?

I thought about picking up The Mechanical Bird again, but I didn't want to write short stories. I wanted to write Alicia's origin story and expand it. How did she go from a country girl to a world traveling aviatrix?

Did she build the plane? (Yes.)

Okay, but, like, how did she build it? (Science and engineering.)

She's a country girl, farmer's daughter with a grandiose dream of flying like a bird. How do we go from that to building an airplane? My first guess was, probably, school. A university.

So, okay the Mechanical Bird is about Alicia as a young woman going off to college for the first time. Okay, I did that once upon a time and I can draw from that wealth of experience for getting my higher education.

That got the snowball rolling.

I started writing. But I had no intention of publishing. I figured I'd just see where it went.

It turns out my life long enjoyment of shoujo, shoujo-ai, yuri, and josei anime plays a pretty strong role in the story. The Mechanical Bird is very slice-of-life.

It begins with Alicia taking a trip into the big city with her father to sell at a local farmers market. There she encounters a student who jumps from a window and flies using a glider. It entrances her, but she also realizes she can't attend the school because women aren't allowed to go to the university.

But that changes because their country goes to war. The men are conscripted, and a noblewoman named Stacy Windham uses the war to give women a societial leg up. While the men fight, the women should take on jobs and other civic roles that were left behind. And to do that, they should go to school, and the door opens for Alicia and a lot of other young women to attend the royal university.

In the story, I don't really focus on the war. I don't really want to. It's the background noise.  The story is about Alicia's life living in the countryside and her going to school. It does also paint a picture of how the war beings to effect their lives in the countryside and the big city. But through it all, Alicia makes new friends, studies for the entrance exam, and goes off to the big city.

And things snowball from there.

Enter 20BooksTo50K

The name means this: If you can self-publish 20 books in series, you could potentially make $50,000 annually, and having that kind of passive income from a backlog of 20 books would be a good retirement goal.

I don't know how I came across these folks, but it started with a grainy Youtube video from a guy named Michael Anderle.

He had written a book and put it on Amazon Kindle, and then another one, and another, and another... until he started making sales, double-digit, then triple-digit weekly sales.

I got interested, and yeah, got the dollar signs in my eyes too.

Could I do that? (Sure.)

He was writing what he wanted, and also building a book empire on Kindle.

I really wanted to dip my toes in and make a bunch of mistakes. It's what I do best.

I had no intention of publishing The Mechanical Bird before, so I thought, why not this thing?

What if I edited the story, to the best of my ability, this first 34k words, designed a cover, and put it on Amazon and see what happens?

So I did that. It took maybe a month (I had no other job to do). During the day, I read chapters outloud to make the dialogue and descriptions sound more natural. I used a tool to do grammar and spell check (ProWritingAid). I used Inkscape to help me design the cover -- I was going for something like an old Victorian-style poster, and I put the book out.

If you're curious here's a side-by-side at my progress with graphical design from 2017 to 2018:

The Mechanical Bird Book 1 cover progress

The Mechanical Bird Book 1 cover progress

I read and learned a lot of stuff about self-publishing from the 20BooksTo50K guys on Facebook. Folks were sharing their stories of how they began to make income on their books -- hint: write a series. They taught each other about analytics and marketing on Amazon and Facebook. I began to notice a correlation between what they were discussing and what I had learned from doing an LLC and making indie games on the Apple Appstore. Different type of product, but all the stuff around it, the same.

Some of those folks are machines and write 10k words a day. They put out new books every two weeks. They write to market and for the masses and do it at such a rapid clip it's dizzying. More power to them. They are serious about their business.

Me, I decided I had to get a job. It's the best way to pay my bills.

So I found work as a software engineer and Book 2 of The Mechanical Bird took a while to get done and out. It was summer of 2018 when that finally was done.

Climb the Mountain

Another thing the folks at 20BooksTo50K also say is that every indie author finds their own way up the mountain at their own pace.

I'm not a writing machine like some of those folks. In fact, I was still meandering artistically -- I have been since May 2016. Should I make new webcomics? I did for a little while and wrote a short follow up to Rabbit and the Moon. But, I certainly wasn't ready for a multiyear webcomic again.

All things seemed daunting after a while.

I had to remember one of my own tenets that plays hand in hand with the one from 20BooksTo50K: do a little at a time, and eventually you build a heap of stuff. That's how the Rabbit and the Moon got done. That's why there's so much stuff on this site, and that's why I've written over a million words in my life. One word, one drawing at a time. The big picture is a good one to aspire too, but the hardwork is done piece by tiny piece in stolen minutes and hours from here and there.

As an experiment after Book 2, I did try and managed to write a novella in a week -- that ended up being a one-off for This Mortal Coil called "The Shinigami."

I took my time. After a while I concluded that I had to at least give Elena and Alicia an ending, but I had to approach this from my own way. I'm not a writing machine. I want some balance between producing art, working, and the other parts of my life.

Recently, a friend began to do the whole eBook thing on Amazon. Seeing him work, got me back to writing.

And Book 3 of The Mechanical Bird?

Mechanical Bird seemed complicated and that kept me away. My head was reeling from what it could be... there's the potential to talk about social issues especially because their world reflects our own, and because that's where the story naturally grew out of. It's a lot of experience that's not mine, and I didn't know how to approach it in a culturally shifting world.

But that's all big picture stuff. It's vague. Preachy. Readers want to fall in love with characters and be involved in their plight -- and then like all good things you slip in the other stuff when they're not looking, and if you do it right maybe they won't notice until the call's coming from inside the house. But this is all me worrying about what other people are going to think about the story, and honestly, who knows what Mechanical Bird will really say. I've had so many ideas in the past. I certainly know where the characters will end up, and that's what matters.

Instead I decided to write more of This Mortal Coil because it's escapist fantasy (with a lot of its own issues). So I wrote a novella for that instead and took my time with it. I wrote on weekends. I shared my progress with my buddy. That's what I did all summer while self-quarantining.

But then I got one tweet at the end of August. One person in the world wondered where the third Mechanical Bird book was, if it even was at all.

That's the straw that broke the camel's back.

I broke out my old notecards and they're laying around me right now and I'm working on putting together the rest of Book 3.

More next week. In the meanwhile, I guess I have a mountain to climb and I better start climbing.