April 13, 2017

Vert Swiftwing – The Dragon and the Human: Painting Episode 6 Cover Art – Part 2

Hello! Hello! It has been a while since my last post. This one is a continuation from Part 1. So, let’s continue.

After painting the dragon to about 90% completeness, I decided to work on Vert in his human form. I’ve been seeing Vert inside my head for a while now; however, I’m not such a genius that I can pain realistic looking humans without a reference (this is what I aspire to). Fortunately, I was able to find a model on Pinterest that looked so much like Vert, that I found the experience creepy.

A model that looks like Vert inside my head.Close up of the model that looks like Vert inside my head.

The only difference is that he did not have Vert’s green eyes. However, another model provided those.

A model with Vert's eyes.

When drawing humans, I often take pictures of myself in a pose I require to help me out with anatomy. However, this time, I found a truly great image by SenshiStock on DeviantArt.

Vert's pose by SenshiStock on DeviantArt.

As you can see I’ve adjusted the pose to fit my needs.

Just as when I was painting the dragon, the first step was to paint (or block in) the basic colors, shadow, and light.

Vert Step 01

In the subsequent steps, I’ve continued to add details and refine the shape of Vert in his human form. I’m always thinking about the form and the direction of the light source. What is the focus of the image? The focus should always be sharper and more contrasted than the rest of the image. Sometimes I go back and lose some of the edges, allowing them to blur with the background. I always work from larger forms towards details, never the other way around. Painting digitally, I have the luxury of keeping separate layers. Therefore, I can make quick changes to parts of the painting, or I can paint over the painting on another layer. This way, if I do not like the changes I made, I can always delete the layer. Painting digitally, I do not have to worry about experimenting. This is very different from a watercolor painting, which I always must pre-plan.

Vert Step 02.Vert Step 03.Vert Step 04.

The last step was to add light, shadow, and in this case magic.

Nathan Fowkes showed me how to paint light. It involves creating a group of layers to simulate light.

Nathan Fowkes' layers that make up a Light Group in Photoshop.

The first step is to create a color layer by clicking on the half black/half white circle symbol at the bottom of the Layers Palette then choosing Solid Color. Pick the color you wish your light to be. In my case I chose a bright greenish-yellow color. Since Light is translucent, I changed the opacity of this new color layer to 18%.

Next, I used the Adjustments Palette (Window > Adjustments) and modified my Color Layer until it felt like light. It is important to use the Adjustments Palette, because unlike selecting modifications from the top menu, the Adjustments Palette creates new layers that modify the image, without affecting the painted image.

As you can see with the image above, I’ve played with Color Balance, Levels, Hue/Saturation, and another Color Balance layer until I was happy with the adjustments made to my Color Layer. Then I selected these layers and added them to a Group (folder). I renamed this folder as Light.

I dragged the folder to the rectangle with the white circle symbol found at the bottom of the Layers Palette. This created a Layer Mask for the folder. I clicked Ctrl + i and inverted the mask. I clicked on the image icon next to the folder.

I chose a soft round brush, and by selecting pure white, I began to pain in the light. Choosing pure black allowed me to pain out the light. I kept adjusting the Opacity and Flow of the brush (found under the top menu when the Brush Tool is selected), with Pen Sensitivity turned on, until I was happy with the results.

After painting in the light, I repeated the process and painted in the shadows.

For the shadows, I chose a contrasting color, a dark purple-red. Using a contrasting color when painting shadows makes the painting appear more vibrant then by simply choosing black or brown.

The last step to this stage was to paint in sparkling stars. I used my own star stamp brush I created earlier.

Vert Step 05.

At this point, I felt the image was 99% complete. I took a couple of days off from painting so that I could see it with fresh eyes.

The last thing I did was to adjust the Levels and the Vibrancy of the entire painting. I also darkened the dragon’s eye. Then I added the title, and cropped the image to the appropriate cover size.

This cover is ready to be published.

Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series Episode 6 Cover
Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series Episode 6 Cover dragon detail.
Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series Episode 6 Cover Vert detail.

If you would like to see the Time Lapse videos of the entire process, click here.

If there are a few videos missing, that’s because I have not had the time to render and upload the last few videos yet. Check back in a few days.

Thank you for reading through my painting process. If you have any questions, ask them in the comments, or feel free to contact me privately via the Contact Form on the Right, or through Social Media.

Bye-Bye for now!


P.S. FYI The painting took about 15 hours (not counting research and sketching). I would charge $600 just for the painting stage. For the entire artwork, it would cost between $800 to $1000. This is why I recommend that if you are looking to hire an artist, you do all the research and have a clear vision of what it is that you want, before you approach the artist. Just as you would not want to work for free, please do not ask the artist to work for free.

You can find out more about Mili Fay Art commissions here.

© 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 Lumijer, who grows into a queen as she defends Ardan from dragon people (people that change into dragons) and a hermit dragon prince, Diamond Pendragon, who is forced to rejoin Ardanian society and reevaluate his convictions.

Mili Fay Art Fan Club
"Together we support the world one artwork at a time."

April 05, 2017

Lauraliee Elizabeth Vicomptessa Lumijer

Born: October 3rd, 5982 A
Height: 5’ 9” (175 cm)
Weight: 68 kg (150 lb)
Eyes: grey, can look blue, green-blue, or violet depending on light and emotion
Hair: chestnut, curly (big curls not small), thick
Age (in 5999A): 16 going on 17
Other distinguishing physical features: long nose, “chipmunkish” teeth, long legs
Parents: Queen Dragana and King Mihajlo of Ardan
Crush: Gerrard DeVent
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Companion: Emerald, a Unihorse
Favourite Treat: Chocolate covered roasted hazelnuts… Actually anything with dark chocolate.
Occupation: Queen-In-Training
Secret Occupation: Nenya, the Water Warrior
Unusual talent: Fencing. She is a Sword Master, undefeated since she was fourteen.
Hobbies: Reading, drawing and painting, exploring with her cousin and sister.
Dominant Element: Humans tend to be balanced and thus have no magic. However, Lauraliee has a bit more Water than any other element in her, which allows her to bond with Nenya, the Water Spirit.
Weaknesses: Second-guesses herself. Lacks confidence. Perfectionism. A know-it-all. Terrified of being in the spotlight. People-pleaser.
Fun Fact: Lauraliee is based on Mili Fay. Her character was changed over time to suit the story, but she still retains some of Mili's characteristics, looks, and colouring.

Lauraliee wants to lead an ordinary life, so of course she was born a princess, and not just any princess, but next in line for the throne of Ardan. If she had her way she would spend her life painting, travelling, and studying. Instead she has to constantly fight her fear of being in the spotlight and rule the Land of Ardan as The Queen the moment her mother decides to retire.

Lauraliee would gladly abdicate in the favour of her sister, but she does not want to disappoint her parents and other adults in her life. If she could find the courage to disappoint them, a regretful part of her believes that Nikolina (or her cousin Vladimir) are not quite up to the job. She also feels guilty for wishing to pass on the crown since Fates decreed she is to be Queen, and thus the crown is her responsibility.

Lauraliee spends her life wishing for personal freedom, but takes on more and more responsibilities as they are shoved at her. When she gets an unpleasant task she will privately rage about it, but then would take a deep breath and do what needs to be done. Though she is a dreamer, she is also very organised and practical.

Lauraliee feels things deeply. She thrives on praise, and is diminished by criticism. She knows she is far from perfect, but at all times she tries to be perfect and do what is expected of her. She always feels as if she cares about the people in her life more than they care about her. She is not sure if she has real friends, or if her friends are with her because some day she will be The Queen.

She exercises her frustrations through fencing, and by flying with Emerald.

Lauraliee loves her family dearly. She would sacrifice herself for her family and the good of Ardan without a second thought.

It is not as if I want to be a princess. Since I was four years old I've spent every birthday, shooting star, wishbone, and lost eyelash wishing I did not have to be a princess!” ~ Lauraliee Lumijer

March 15, 2017

Vert Swiftwing — The Dragon and the Human: Painting Episode 6 Cover Art — PART I

Have you ever wondered what it takes to illustrate a book cover?

Think about it.

The book cover is the most important device for attracting potential readers. It is the first thing a reader sees. In book stores, more often than not, all the reader sees is the book’s spine! At least with digital books, an artist has the entire space of the front cover to play with.

The cover must invite the reader to read/buy the book. A tall order.

I’ve agonized over my book’s cover designs. At one point I thought about just designing the logo and some text — this seems to be popular with fantasy fiction today. Personally, I miss the wonderful paintings of John Howe. Then, I decided to paint my cover populated with 3D animation-type characters. However, I quickly realized that option seems more suited to 9-12 year-old audience. Though Warriors of Virtue begins as if the book is written for that age range, as the characters grow through their journey, the subject matter becomes mature and too disturbing for children.

In the end, since I really miss the old painted covers I grew up with, I decided to paint the covers with realistic-looking subjects. YA fantasy books these days usually feature photographs of teenagers, often with their faces hidden or turned away. I presume this is because it’s easier for the reader to pretend he/she is the hero/heroine if they do not know what exactly the hero/heroine looks like? Sometimes these covers work for me, but I prefer to see the characters’ faces. Therefore, for Warriors of Virtue each Episode Cover Art will features one of the main characters from the book (The first episode features both Cornelian and Artemis, because they are always together.). You can see the completed covers here.

If you scroll through my Mili Fay Art Facebook Page, you will see the progression of my work as I designed each cover. Currently, I’m working on Episode 6.

I’m painting my first dragon ever! Finally!

Episode 6 is the first cover to feature the opposing side, and instead of beginning with the other main character of the series, I chose Vert Swiftwing — the main character’s Captain of the Guards and best friend. I did this for a reason, but I will not share this reason, because it may spoil the story.

As mentioned, I never painted a dragon before. I’m also still new to digital painting, so I decided to take my time.

I’ve figured out the size of my final cover from Amazon, then I decided to make the image slightly bigger (3600px x 5200px), just in case I need to make adjustments in the future.

Vert is a green dragon, so my background will be green — just like the previous cover. However, this time the green will be brighter, shinier, like the scales of a lizard.

Since the dragon is in the background, I worked on the dragon first. I blocked in the basic shape, colours, light, and shadow of the dragon.

At first I thought Vert will have the front leg structure like that of a horse, or a lion, but after considering the movements he makes, the ball-and-socket joint of the human arm seemed more appropriate.

After sketching in the shape, I worked on figuring out the anatomy using ArtPose iPad App for reference.

The anatomy of the arm seemed OK, but I’ve lost the sketchy feeling of the painting. I reworked the arm to bring it back. Then, I added some texture to the background using the leaf-stamp brush provided by Photoshop.

The dragon was looking solid enough, so I felt the need to begin designing scales. I can’t recall the last time I painted scales. Though I love lizards and snakes — I think they are interesting to look at — I prefer fuzzy, cuddly animals. When I draw animals, I tend to draw ones with fur.

As reference for Vert's scales, I found a few dragon images on Google and I also used my own photograph of the bearded lizard I took at the Toronto Zoo.

I spent over an hour working on the scales, when my tablet died, and I lost all the work! I usually save my work as I go along, but I must have been concentrating too hard to notice that my battery was running low. The good news — because I was forced to rework my drawing, the scales] pattern looks even better!

If, like me, you have no idea what you are doing, it is important not to rush the painting process as you are trying to figure things out. Remember: fast is slow, slow is fast. Once the scale pattern has been established, I began adding more light and shadow, defining the shape and detail of the scales. Since the head is most important, I began with Vert’s head.

Once the head looked good enough, I moved on to the body. I’m trying to keep the sketchiness in my work by defining and losing edges, placing more detail in the focused and light areas, losing details in shadows.

By this point, the dragon is 90% complete. Now, I need to begin painting the man.

Until next time consider my choices. Do you think my idea for the cover is interesting enough? What do you think could be better? If you are working on a fantasy of your own, what kind of art would you like to have: realistic, painted, photographed, graphic...?

Below, are the images of my favourite cover art of all time:

Infernal Devices Series

The Selection Series

Touched by the Wolf

© 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 Lumijer, who grows into a queen as she defends Ardan from dragon people (people that change into dragons) and a hermit dragon prince, Diamond Pendragon, who is forced to rejoin Ardanian society and reevaluate his convictions.

Mili Fay Art Fan Club
"Together we support the world one artwork at a time."

February 16, 2017

How To Write An Epic YA Fantasy: The Beginning

Next to the book’s cover and the back-cover blurb, the beginning of the novel is the most important part of the book. The first paragraph, the first page, decide whether the person reading the book will invest their time and money to read your story, or walk away.

When writing the beginning of your book, keep in mind that the reader has plenty of choices — you have only one: as the author, you must convince this potential reader to continue reading. In that single page, you need to prove that you are the greatest author there ever was, that your story is the best, and that the reader’s life would be poorer if he/she does not read your book.

When writing an Epic Fantasy novel, this task is even harder, because you cannot rely on the reader’s understanding of your world, while explaining the workings of your world may prove tedious.

This may be why many of the fantasy authors have opted to write Urban Fantasy — where characters live in our world, but there is a hidden magical world within that most of us humans know nothing about. Two of my favorite fantasy series, the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling and The Infernal Devices/The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare are Urban Fantasies. This approach is great, because we follow the hero/heroine and learn about the world as he/she makes discoveries. The explanations are given on a need-to-know basis, and are mostly experienced, rather than simply told.

I feel it is more difficult to write a fantasy set in a fantasy world, because what we would find strange or wonderful the characters would take for granted. The author has the responsibility to tell us what’s going on. When “telling” instead of “showing” the potential for boredom is imminent.

Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy is different from the above examples. I do not know if there is an official classification for such a fantasy, but I think of it as Disney Fantasy — set in a magical world, but the rules of behavior and speech concur with our time/world.

Deciding on the begging for my fantasy series has not been easy. There were three distinct versions, and sixteen+ drafts before I’ve finally settled on one. Read on to discover what decided my final choice. Along the way, you will also learn about the Land of Ardan, and the mysterious workings of my fantasy world.

Writing Warriors of Virtue: The Three Beginnings

One: Disney Classics’ Beginning

I grew up watching Disney animated movies, so when the time came for me to write my book, I borrowed the classic Disney opening — the narrator letting the reader know what’s happening in the first few pages of the book, before the story comes to life.

I like this approach. This approach has not only been used by Disney, but by many authors before Disney, including Shakespeare. This approach works with my inner sense of order.

I began Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series by telling the reader how the Land of Ardan came to exist and the bit of history that leads to where our story begins. The gist of the first Prologue:

There was a great war between magical species and non-magical species of Earth. Magical species were losing. Mistress Nature appeared and led the survivors to the Land of Ardan, a land she created deep beneath the Alps. There she set a few humans as rulers, to everyone’s surprise. The land flourished for a time, but wars eventually erupted. The worst war was led by a Dragon-Lord determined to destroy every human in Ardan. Fortunately, he was imprisoned. Our story begins.

The trouble with this approach was pointed out to me by one of my writing teachers. Though I do not mind the narrator approach, apparently, the modern audience does. “Show don’t tell!” has been shouted at me from the moment I began taking creative writing lessons.

I do see their point. Though the narrator approach is still acceptable when telling the story around a camp fire, the readers want to be dragged into the story, like tiny specters hovering over hero’s shoulder, or walking in a hero’s body. It is more exciting to experience something happening, rather than being told of a great experience by someone else.

The trouble is, that I still needed to explain my world. How can I do this, while keeping the reader involved?

Two: The Live Narrarator

My second attempt at writing the beginning, I decided to use The Princess Bride approach. In the movie, we meet the characters, who are reading the story, before we get into the actual story.

In the second beginning, a little girl on Avalon, reads from a magical book. She knows she is not supposed to read the book, but she can’t help it. She reads a warrior’s first-person account of the Last Battle before her mother catches her. Her mother is furious with her, because what she’s been reading is The Golden Book of Eternity, a book of memories — everything that has ever happened — and if the book or memory was damaged that timeline would have been destroyed. However, the mother forgives her daughter who keeps begging to know more of the world and about the warrior. The mother tells her that warrior’s story is not for little girls, but she tells her the creation of the Land of Ardan and then begins our story — the story more appropriate for children.

I loved this beginning, too. I found it highly entertaining, and I could not help but fall in love with the little girl and her mother. I’ve also left a few hints. A clever reader might have been able to deduce who the mother and daughter are. The mother is called Memoria, the girl: Emitá (a time).

This beginning gave me a whole new layer of understanding about the workings of my fantasy world. I imagined a whole new set of characters, with a whole new set of rules. Memoria, Emitá, and Destiná are the three Fates. Emitá ages every day from a little girl to a young woman. When she is in the form of the little girl, she is not aware that she is one of the Fates, and treats Memoria as her mother. At this time, if she reads, or if Memoria reads to her, from The Golden Book of Eternity what she’s reading is currently happening (Emitá is time/Present). This is also the reason my fantasy series is written in the unusual present tense.

When Emitá is in her grownup form, she knows who she is — the Middle Fate. She also takes on her role as the universal catalyst. Her job is to set things in motion. One of her roles is The Lady of the Lake. She is the keeper of Excalibur and gives it to Merlin to set it in the stone for Arthur.

Like Memoria, Destiná has a book, The Silver Book of Possibility. Destiná sees possible futures. When she sees the future that thwarts Chaos in his goal to destroy Everything, she sets Emitá to read from her book and thus create a future thread of memory.

Using this beginning, I bracketed the main story of each book in the series with snippets of the Fates’ story.

The trouble with this beginning, though it was entertaining, is that it took too long to get to the actual story.

Memoria, Destiná, and Emitá will make an appearance in the third book of the series, but they no longer have the scenes of their own in my fantasy. I will miss them, but they had to go.

After many years, I finally found a way to set everything up and thus I’ve created the third and final beginning.

Three: The Vignettes

Do I begin at the beginning of the current story?

I thought about it. I really did. Why should there be any prologue to my book at all? The beginning of the actual story is entertaining enough.

“In the depths of Armalis Forest grows a cottage.”

How can a cottage grow? Personally, I am intrigued. The story begins mysteriously in the cottage of a wizard, who witnesses the impossible, and the tale is set in motion.

Why didn’t I begin my story at the beginning?

If you’ve studied The Hero’s Journey, you know that any story following the pattern (all the stories ever written in the Western World) begins at the beginning with the hero, not knowing he (or she) is the hero, living his ordinary life. Then, something happens to set him into motion and push him on to a path that eventually makes him the hero.

The trouble with these first few steps is that they can be boring, because it takes time to explain what needs to be explained. Writing an Epic Fantasy — a format that has many characters following their own paths, I did not want to rush the beginning. I really wanted to establish who my characters are; I wanted to show their privileged life and that what they thought of as “problems” were not problems at all when compared to the true “problems” they will face on their journey.

The beginning takes time. I’ve done my best to make it as entertaining as possible, but it does not have that immediate heart-pounding action the audience of today seems to take for granted.

If you read books today, more often than not they start at the climax of the story, with the hero in deep trouble running from something, about to die. Then we are taken to the beginning and led on a journey to that heart-pounding moment.

After much deliberation, I decided that I wanted to have that heart-pounding moment, too. However, instead of showing the climax of my story, I decided to show the past. In my previous beginning attempt, Emitá reads the memory of a Warrior of Virtue on the day of the Last Battle.

The memory is written in first-person, so the reader is inside the character as he thinks he is about to die. You cannot get more heart-pounding than that.

I decided to begin with this memory for several reasons. It is packed with passion and action. It introduces a Warrior of Virtue. It introduces our villain. It also introduces a short glimpse of three other characters in the story I want to tell. It introduces the reader to what it means to be a Warrior of Virtue. It introduces the object the heroes need to destroy. Something happens, and the reversal of that something happening is what sets my story in motion.

This prologue is as perfect as I can write.

However, what about the Land of Ardan? What about the creation of this world? Shouldn’t there be something about that as well?

I took the Creation of Ardan I’ve written in the first beginning and rewrote it into a stanza of a hymn. (FYI, I sang in a church choir for years!) Once I did that, I had my beginning.

I wanted my story to feel real, so in writing it, I’m pretending to be an explorer who has been to this land and has had access to Memoria’s The Golden Book of Eternity. As such, I’m translating the events that are happening in the book.

After the poem comes the Prologue.

I’ve solved the problem of characters in a fantasy world taking the fantasy world for granted, while the reader has no idea what they’re talking about, by including footnotes — as any explorer translating a text would.

After the Prologue, I have the Title Page.

The quote is a foreshadow and also gives us more about the Warriors of Virtue — the reader knows who created them and why they were created in the first place.

Finally, the story begins.

I feel that by taking time to set my story the way I did, I’ve created the illusion of mythical grandness. Do you agree?

Imagine if I just started my story with the story. Imagine if I just had the Prologue, before getting to the story.

It would not feel as grand, would it?

Another reason I think this beginning works is that it does not take 2 chapters to get to the beginning of the story. (As it did with beginning number two.) It takes 7 pages, and the reader is set up, allowing me to avoid lengthy explanations.

I did not share everything with my reader, but I showed little glimpses, vignettes, that revealed the necessary information.

I believe this beginning works, and I could not have thought of a better one. What are your thoughts?

My Favourite Beginnings

I have shared with you the journey of crafting what I feel is the perfect beginning for Warriors of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series. The beginning I wrote works for me. If you are a writer, you will need to decide what beginning works for you. Look at the beginning of your favorite books. Are they good? Why do you think they are good? What do you need to do to make your beginning just as good? Better?

To help you, below are my top three favorite beginnings.

1. The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

“Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys. A sixteen-year-old pupil named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, cause by a fractured femur, to resume his education.

Almost every word in the preceding sentence is false. Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb. He has never before set foot in Eton. His name was not Archer Fairfax. And he was not, in fact, even a he.

This is a story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to change the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.

Expect magic.”

So good! I honestly have never read a better beginning in my life. Reading the first paragraph, I’m thinking: “Why should I care?” Then I read the first sentence of the second paragraph — “What a heck?” By the last sentence, I’m convinced this book is going to be fun, epic, and I’m dying to know what happens.

2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

How can something be both? From the beginning of the sentence, I want to know what’s going on. I’m hooked. The conclusion of the sentence show me sarcastic humor that I love. If you’ve never read Charles Dickens, you do not know what you are missing. He is a master writer. I can’t say that A Tale of Two Cities is a work that I loved. Reading the first two thirds of the book, I was wondering why it was on the list of the greatest books ever written. Then I read the last third and have been disturbed to my core. Personally, from the works of his I’ve read, I love David Copperfield. However, if you are going to study the beginnings of books, I think Dickens has the best beginnings in the trade. Read them, and judge for yourself.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Is it, Jane? Is it? Masterfully done. A single sentence and I’m hooked. The potential for humor is there, and I know this book will revolve around marriage to a man of good fortune. The whole book in a single sentence. If you have not read Jane Austen, you do not know writing. I don’t think she has a bad book to her name. I only wish she lived longer; I wish she wrote more than six books. Persuasion is one of her works that is not as popular, but I think it may be the best written story of the lot.

I hope I managed to illustrate the importance of writing a good beginning for a book. I hope you make time to study the works of great authors of the past, but also pick up top books in your genre that have been released in the past two years. Though there are beginnings that stand the test of time, the audiences of today may demand something different.

I grew up on classics, so initially my own writing style was classic. However, I soon learned that people of today do not require the information of yesterday. For example, I enjoy descriptive books that use clever language to lead me into the story and a world I’ve never experienced. I was surprised to discover that I’m in the minority, but when I thought about it, it does make sense. Think back to the last century, before Internet and global Television programs. If someone said the word “jungle”, how many people would have an image of a jungle in their head? Not many. Not many people of the past have ever seen a jungle. If you say it to the modern audience? Everyone who has ever had TV and has watched nature channels, or has access to Google knows what a jungle looks like.

Write for yourself, but don’t forget to write for your audience. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, if you know yourself and your reader, your book will sell.

© 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 Lumijer, who grows into a queen as she defends Ardan from dragon people (people that change into dragons) and a hermit dragon prince, Diamond Pendragon, who is forced to rejoin Ardanian society and reevaluate his convictions.

Mili Fay Art Fan Club
"Together we support the world one artwork at a time."

January 22, 2017

Mili Fay: On Editing Warriors of Virtue

If you are curious as to what I'm doing all month between publishing the episodes, I'm about to reveal my process.

I have already written and polished the first 9 episodes of the series (getting sick at the end of last year, I hope I'll find the time to write Episode 10 soon).

Those 9 episodes are with my editor. He is very busy, but thus far he did manage to get each episode done by the 15th of the month. I need at least 15 days to get the book up and running on Amazon.

The first thing I do is read through my editor's edits and make changes to the text. Sometimes the edits are few, sometimes not. I had to rewrite large chunks of Chapter 12 in Episode 4. One of the things my editor pointed out is that I need more description in certain areas to bring the scenes to life. As an author, I know what's happening inside my head, and though I try to give my readers enough description to bring the picture to life, sometimes I miss my mark. I was flabbergasted at his comment, because my past reviewers suggested I should write shorter descriptions; however, when my editor pointed out the passages, I realized he was completely right.

The above is why it is so important to find a good editor, not just someone to polish your grammar, but someone who can point out other issues — such as the flow of the story, unvarying sentence structure, too much or not enough scene setting, wrong word choices...

After making changes to my text, I use the Text to Speech feature in MS Word to have the computer read the text back to me. This helps me notice most typos, and the general flow of the story. I may go through this process a few times, until I pass through the text without making any changes.
Only then do I markup my text, make an ePub file for eReaders, adjust the ePub for Kindle, and crate a Mobi file.

I read through the Mobi file to make sure there are no errors.

Then, I give the file to my sister to read. Every single time I hope she'll return my iPad with “Wonderful! Nothing to change.” in the comments. No such luck. She usually finds a bunch of things that she thinks could sound better. We usually argue about the use of commas. Also, my sister is a doctor who writes medical research papers, so sometimes we argue over style — I do not want my book to read like a medical journal, and occasionally the rules of grammar need to be broken to bring forth the feel of the story. For example, if a character speaks without pauses (nervous, frightened, or chattering), I as a fiction author may wish to write a run-on sentence, or a sentence with no punctuation.

Regardless, her edits make my story sound better, too. After incorporating my sister's changes, I give a little prayer that there are no more errors and publish the text on KDP.

This is why I need those 15 days. The remaining time in the month, I spend working on other projects. In the coming month, I hope one of these will be writing Episode 10.

Warrior of Virtue Epic YA Fantasy Series Episode 4 is not the only book I'm releasing this month. I'm going to release my first ever sketchbook, The Phantom of the Opera Inktober 2016 Sketchbook. I'm nervous and excited, but mostly I'm wondering how I'll ever be able to get everything done. Regardless, you are all invited to attend my upcoming book launch on February 4th, 2017.

You can read more about the sketchbook project here. Otherwise, I hope to see you on February 4, 2017. Trust me if you are a Phantom or Mili Fay Art fan, it is an even you do not wish to miss.

Until next time...



© 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 Lumijer, who grows into a queen as she defends Ardan from dragon people (people that change into dragons) and a hermit dragon prince, Diamond Pendragon, who is forced to rejoin Ardanian society and reevaluate his convictions.

Mili Fay Art Fan Club
"Together we support the world one artwork at a time."

December 07, 2016

Artemis the Wise Owl

Species: Athene Noctua Sapiens 
Height: 20 cm (7.87")
Wing-length: 25 cm (9.84")
Tail: 5.5 cm (2.17")
Colour: Brown, white, beige
Eyes: yellow with a moss green circle around the pupil
Origin: Goddess Athena's Little Owl, Sophie, ate a moonbeam and gave birth to a tinny spotted egg.
Favourite Beverage: tea
Weakness: tea
Hobbies: reading, pampering himself
Best friend: Cornelian
Occupation: Cornelian's assistant
Sexual Orientation: Unknown (maybe asexual)
Dominant Elements: Air and Earth
Flaws: selfish, temperamental, arrogant

Artemis, an immortal wise owl, was named after his godmother, the goddess Artemis. He was the favourite of the Greek Gods, praised for his wisdom and ingenuity, until his arrogance led him to do something horrible. (We do not know what--maybe he's responsible for the sinking of Atlantis? It has to be something truly horrific.) As punishment, he was expelled from Mount Olympus and given to Cornelian as a slave. Cornelian was instructed to teach Artemis to behave himself.

After a rocky start, the two became best friends. Cornelian has power over Artemis, but he does not believe in slavery, so Artemis became his assistant and companion instead.

Artemis can be a diva. He loves to be pampered, is nocturnal, and has a mild obsession with tea.

He is also the logo for Mili Fay Art.

"I am not a common pigeon!" ~ Artemis

The following are more cartoony versions of Artemis representing the Mili Fay Art brand.

November 21, 2016

Cornelian the Great

Height: 6' 6" (198 cm)
Build: skin and bones
Weight: indeterminate — wizards can change their weight and size at will
Eyes: pale, blue-grey, dotted with unusually small black pupils
Hair: silver-white cut to mid tight, long beard and mustache
Age: In 5999A Ardanian's believe him to be at least 200 years old. This author can tell you, he is much older.
Other distinguishing features: Elven ears; long, colour-changing nails; aquiline nose
Parents: Classified
Lovers: Classified
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual — all wizards are.
Companion: Wise Owl, Artemis
Staff: Silver, topped with a phoenix spreading his wings and a blue stone.
Favourite Pastry: Cinnamon Rolls
Occupation: 5999A - tutor hired by the Royal Family of Ardan
Hobbies: Reading, flying, and experimenting.
Dominant Elements: Water and Air.
Weakness: Overthinks things, then when something happens he acts impulsively. Tends to believe he knows best all the time. Pride. He cannot see the faults of people once he loves and trusts them. Incapable of letting things go. Lauraliee Lumijer (she is the daughter he never had).

Cornelian grew up in an Overworldlian orphanage. He was found wrapped in a scarf stitched with his name to identify him. He became Cornelian the Great when he stole Dragon Lord Malachite's Blood Ruby with a simple switching spell, rendering him powerless long enough for Warriors of Virtue to defeat him in The Great Battle.

When he was seven years old he was training with a group of wizards. He was able to perform the Curio Spell on his first try.

His past is classified. To be revealed throughout the series.

He is wise, kind, neat, and fastidious. He has a great sense of humor. He is also not afraid to get his hands dirty and is a capable warrior. 

"Failure is naught but Success waiting to happen." ~ Cornelian the Great