Where to find high quality & free stock art

During school, the best activities were art activities for me as I’m a very visual person.  Like all nerds, I loved school projects and having the excuse to design things.  Fast forward, now I find myself needing stock art to put on the blog or just designing things for fun.  Some of the sites even lets you use the art for commercial use (business cards, book covers, cds, etc) but there are limitations, so read the license carefully if you are heading down that road.

The best sites I’ve found for amazing quality clipart are listed below.  They are sponsored by companies who hope that you will eventually buy some stock art from them and I’ve done that before.  It’s astounding what is available for use, they are truly beautiful graphics which would take me hours to do myself!

How to download & use files:

1) When you click on any site, either use the categories to find what you want or do a search.

2) Usually they want you to open a free account, which is the price of admission.

3) Pick what file format you want (jpeg or eps) and save to your folder on your computer.

4) Open in your graphics program or put into any office software program for use (eg. microsoft office)


 Pixelbay –  high quality photos and stock art


Stock exchange – another site for high quality photos and stock art

free v

Free Vector art and graphics archive – gorgeous vector art for every project possible and divided into categories!  I didn’t realize that you can download pre-made infographics which look really slick.

v open stock

Vector Open Stock – only click in the middle area if you want free vectors.  It gets confusing when top and bottom bars appear and they link to other sites.

How to apply for a copyright in Canada

Recently, I was thinking, if I’m going to blow my money travelling to one con, it would be in San Diego.  So I contacted them to ask about getting a small press table.  It turns out there is a “jury” that decides on who gets these tables and you have to send in one publication with copyright dates 2013-2014 in order to quality for a 2014 table. So I started looking into how to apply for copyrights in Canada.

Definition of copyright from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office:

“Copyright means the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form.”

This copyright registration protects your work internationally, so it doesn’t matter which country you file it in.  You only do it once and you own the copyright for as long as you live, then 50 years after you die the copyright expires.  When you create a piece of work, you automatically own the copyright, but registering offers more protection legally.

1) Go to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website

You will find information on how to copyright things ranging from a book, poem, painting, musical score, performer’s performance and computer program.  There is a guide with basic information available which goes through the terminology and instructions.

Suprisingly, you don’t have to send in a copy of what you are copyrighting or even pictures.

This is why people keep giving me advice that before the book is published, you should print and send a copy of the manuscript to yourself via courier and then not open it.  This archived manuscript will be opened in court if anyone tries to say that your work belongs to them and sues you for the copyright.

2) Call them if you have questions

Hours 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday
Phone 1-866-997-1936

My question: If I want to do a book of concept art with different pieces from my artists, do I have to copyright each piece of art in the book?

Answer: No, you do not have to copyright each piece of art.  Once you assemble the compilation and you copyright the whole thing, each piece of art can be used separately and the copyright still belongs to you.

3) Register the copyright…wait, you can’t just register!  Turns out you have to go to the Industry Canada website and open a free account there before you can do anything.

I was fretting about this one.  As an individual can I really go onto Industry Canada and register an account?  I started emailing my entrepreneurial Viking husband who told me to stop emailing him for advice as he was busy.  So I took the plunge and went into the system…

And I discovered that yes, anyone can just apply for an Industry Canada account.  In fact, they didn’t even ask for a business registration number or anything.  In general, the books will be published under my husband’s company.  To be honest, I’m too lazy to incorporate myself (registering a business, opening a business account and dreaded tax documentation)…hopefully he won’t divorce me if things go really well with the books and I’ll be ok!

4)  OK, let’s register this book!

Back to Canadian Intellectual Property Office website – you click on the “forms” page and “copyright” to access the registration forms, pay fees via credit card.  You can do it cheaper online or mail it in via a paper pdf form.

Fees when paid online is $50 Cdn or $65 Cdn via paperwork.

I looked at the US Copyright Office as well and their fee was only $35USD.  But everything else such as getting a paper copy of the copyright was super expensive, so I suppose there is a trade off…

Forging ahead, I discovered that you can only copyright something 3 months ahead of time.  Or you can copyright something unpublished, but there was no Q & A about what happens if you do publish it.

In the end I took a break here – since San Diego needs to see a copyright number in the book with a date, this is something I can’t provide until Jan 2014 or Feb 2014 at the earliest.  The deadline for table registration was Oct 2013.

So I’ll copyright the book next year and try to get a table in the future when I have more books to sell.

The idea of going to San Diego scares me a bit too, considering their attendance is about 130,000 – it’s a lot of free stuff you have to give away for promotion!  I worry about people coming up to the booth and then complaining they didn’t get a freebie…sigh…not selling any books would probably be just as embarressing as well.

Ramping up for self publishing!

I was a shark in my last life, as I can’t sit still on any project…Agents and publishers only take 1% of the pile of stuff they get, so I think I will have to go the self-publishing route as my multicultural vampire book query has received multiple rejection letters. Apparently there are too many vampire books on the market right now.

I was hoping for a happy ending to avoid self-publishing as it is a very expensive endeavor to undertake! You have to do everything from hiring an editor, to doing the marketing, to creating the print book and ebook.

It feels like I’ve stepped into a tornado! I know, I should think about things as I need to cross the bridge…but I’m the type to scope out the bridge ahead of time and consider the different possibilities before I cross the bridge!

(Think I’m also feeling super hyper on this Chinese medicine stuff. Can’t sleep properly because I feel too awake all the time. Will have to tell doctor when I see him next…)

Come rain or shine, The Undead Sorceress: Book 1 of the International House of Vampires will be available May 2014.

The next steps I need to do over an 8 month period I’ve scheduled for myself to make this book happen:

1) Find editors who offer consultation services, ask for quotes from different editors

2) The editor quotes determine how much money I should try to raise from Kickstarter to cover some project costs

3) Running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds – write and rewrite text for campaign page, shoot and reshoot video to explain the project and why I need the $$, look around other people’s pages/videos and decide what incentives to entice future investors in the project (aka what carrots should I offer?)

4) Learn video software properly to add close captioning, splitting scenes and not to overuse special effects as my first video made my producer friend nauseous

5) Follow up with artists I’ve hired to do artwork for Kickstarter campaign. Have 3 of them on hand, hoping one of them will give me some drawings to buy from them! Got a 4th artist name, will wait a few weeks before I overdo it with asking artists for stuff…they need time to ‘create’

6) Start looking at books on my bookshelf to determine size of paperback I want to make.

7) One editor who wrote back said that I used 2 spaces between sentences instead of 1 – which led me on a route to read about formatting stuff for printing. OMG! Have to destroy all formatting and start over…after editing is done.

8) Found out I shouldn’t think about pretty text for the first letter of each chapter or life will become more difficult. But I want pretty text, so when I reach that point I will have to decide what to do.

9) Decide if I should hire someone to format for print book, Amazon e-book and Smashwords e-books. They all have different formatting rules = pain in the butt.

10) Can’t make the cover for printing until I know how many damn pages the print book is, as this will determine the size of the spine which affects front and back covers. So I have to wait on this one. If it is too complicated to make, will have to hire someone to do it for me.

11) Upload book into print book and e-book formats, look at proofs (print book could take a few weeks to receive in mail) and make sure things look ok. If something goes wrong, start over with formatting.

12) Amazon and Smashwords have different programs you can take part in. For Amazon, to get into publishing catalogues, it’s an extra $25 USD per year and then there is some Kindle borrowing program thing.

13) Then there is the issue of different ISBN numbers. Print and e-books have to have different numbers. I can also apply for my own ISBN for more control or just get a free one from Amazon or Smashwords…decisions, decisions…

14) Look for tax forms. Eventually if I make more than $10 profit I will have to ask Amazon or Smashwords to send me a letter to vouch that I’m not American. Then I have to contact IRS and ask them for a special number to avoid paying US taxes which are automatically taken off all book sales through Amazon and Smashwords.

15) For the book launch, I have been talking to a convention I volunteer at annually in May, so this is my drop dead date to have everything done by then. Hopefully they will let me do a panel on vampires, do a book reading and throw a party there. After confirmation of permission, need to think about banners, what to give away, food to bring, etc.

16) Once Kickstarter campaign and convention confirms things are a green light, start emailing, blogging, posting a link with details to people. This is where you find out how many friends you actually have and if you have to depend on the kindness of strangers to make things happen!

17) Keep blogging, posting when I don’t have a headache!

There is a wedding in between all this in Korea, so a few weeks is a write off as I travel. Or maybe I can do research on stuff for the next book! My end goal is to break even in regards to expenses, although time is net negative! But if this all works out, maybe I can end up with a series that gives me some money to buy a few cups of coffee every year!

Setting up a kickstarter campaign

What is kickstarter?  It’s a US site that lets people put up their projects to ask for crowdsourcing funding.  Say you need $1000 to publish a book (my situation) – people can chip in $15, 35, 50, or more, in exchange for a copy of the book and other bonuses.  Projects can range from books to movies to a product.

I have been thinking about putting together a campaign for the past year, but was thinking of Indiegogo (a similar but less popular site), as up until now, Kickstarter did not allow Canadians to raise funds.  The issue was that Kickstarter used Amazon Marketplace payment system which is only open to US residents with a US SIN Card.  Now, starting in September 2013, Canadians can use Kickstarter, with funds deposited into their bank accounts directly.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  Free money!  When you look at some campaign pages, people have raised over $200K for some projects, which is amazing!  The idea is that people will put their money into projects that they want to see appear in the market.

12 piggy-bank117574 smaller

There is a catch – if you don’t reach the goal you specify (eg. $1000), then you get $0 and the project campaign is considered a failure.  You can launch again, but all previous donations will have to be re-pledged by people.

If you have a great idea and want to set up a campaign, it’s pretty easy if you are willing to put in some blood, sweat and tears.  Also, you do need a thick skin because if you are asking for money, you have to put your face onto video and sincerely tell people what you are doing with the money and why your project is important.

What you need to do:

1. Think of a project

2. Write about why you are doing it, who you are, what you need money for

3. Make a video asking for help

4. Open a kickstarter account

5. Fill in pages of information and pledge information (if people give you money, what do they get in return?)

6. Send finished campaign pages to kickstarter staff, they have to approve the project before it becomes live

7. If it is a go, think about who you are going to beg for support via email, facebook, etc.

8. Wait a month and hope it works; pray for the kindness of strangers

Each step sounds simple, but in reality it is all fairly time consuming!

Trying to figure out how to make a video with sound, editing graphics, writing the script, etc, took me a few weeks. Writing the pages for the campaign took a few days.  I bought a video camera as I wanted better quality videos than webcams or phonecams (I wanted to make sure voice sounds were properly captured). For a professional book cover, I hired a graphic artist company to help me create one.  Prior to kickstarter opening to Canada, I was hunting down Americans to see if I could find a silent partner with a SIN number.

Anyhow, I am in the process of putting together for my non-fiction book, “How to Make a Munchkin” and will see if I can launch a campaign in September then!  Will be bugging you soon!


Freezing your fat away! Sounds awesome!

I was super excited today when I saw an ad which claimed that a service was available to “freeze away your fat and sculpt a body you want with no exercise or surgery”!  Intrigued, I visited the website, freezeyourfataway.ca which describes a technique called “cool-sculpting.”  According to them, no exercise, needles, surgery or nozzles is required because this breakthrough technology will cool fat cells in certain regions to reduce bulk.  It uses a technique called “cryolipolysis” which freezes fat cells to kill them off and then the body’s natural immune system will gather off the cell remnants, leading to an overall decrease of fat cell content in the body.  During treatment, clients can read or watch tv as a vacuum sucks onto the part of the body they want to treat and the controlled cooling is applied.  It was discovered by doctors at Harvard so it must work!
freezing fat

Is this really safe?  According to a 2009 paper, researchers studied this technology for reducing fat layers and there were pretty good results found in both human and animals when cryoloipolysis was done over a period of two to four months.  In one treatment session, the top fat layer thickness was reduced from 20-80% depending on the individual.  Some side effects seen were skin redness, bruising and temporary numbness lasting for about a week.

Ready for the ‘it’s too good to be true part?’  The same researchers also concluded that this treatment works best with people who don’t have many discrete bulges in the first place.  So this treatment is only for people who aren’t that fat!

According to Elle Magazine, if you are already in good shape (within 15 to 25 percent of your target weight) but have bits of fat you can’t get rid of with diet and exercise, then this procedure if something you can try.  Cryolipolysis is $750 to $2,000 per area while the more invasive liposuction can cost $5,000 to $35,000.

If you want a DIY method, this webpage features instructions on just putting bags of ice on your tummy for a few hours a day instead.

There’s no way out of it folks, looks like diet and exercise is still the best way to lose weight!

The Price of Changing Your Sex

The other day at dinner I commented out of anger due to pain from time of the month that I wanted to be a man.  My male dinner companion quipped, “It’s not too late!  You can do it anytime; there’s lots of surgery options!”  I was a bit taken back by this as usually my Viking just groans and nods whenever I complain like this.  Anyhow, I decided to look into it and see what is involved.

The official term is sex change or gender reassignment surgery when one decides to change their gender.  There are usually 2 reasons for this: 1) babies are born with intersex deformities, so their sex is decided by the parents and surgery is done or 2) people believe that they are physically a different sex mentally and emotionally.  There is also the unofficial reason #3 of people being exploited for the sex business, but all the sites I found were for people who want to do it on their own.  Stats are difficult to come by as many surgeries are done in private clinics. Surgeryencyclopedia.com estimates that annually in the US 100-500 people have such surgeries and the number worldwide is estimated to be two to five times larger.

TSSurgeryGuide.com outlines a number of steps for either female to male or male to female surgeries required.  Before some of these surgeries, extensive planning is required, such as scheduling multiple doctor appointments; dealing with family, friends, work; insurance; legal documents; taking time for recovery from surgery, etc.   Transsexualroadmap.com offers tons of advice and financial calculator for those serious about change.

Male to Female (MTF) Surgeries

Breast Augmentation
One Stage MTF SRS/GRS – vaginoplasty
Orchiectomy -removal of the testicles
Tracheal Shave – Adam’s apple shaving

Female to Male (FTM) Surgeries
Ring or Simple Metoidioplasty – constructing the penis
Testicle Implants
Top Surgery – Chest reconstructive surgery

Male to Female (MTF)

Other than surgery, according to someone named “Clones Don’t Have 200k Pts” on Yahoo answers who made the transition from man to woman, there are a number of other things needed.  Their transition cost about $80,000 USD:

  • Therapy. Sessions run $100-150/hr.  At least a couple dozen sessions.
  • Facial hair removal. Done with electrolysis, laser or a combination of both. Electrolysis can cost $50-80/hr and between 150-300 hours is required to be hair free.
  • Body hair removal. Many people need laser treatment to help reduce excess body hair still left after starting hormones.
  • Endocrinologist. This doctor evaluates health, prescribes hormones, monitors progress and orders labwork to check hormone levels and liver function. Average cost per visit (with labwork): $500.
  • New Clothes. Cost depends on person’s fashion sense.
  • Legal fees for legal name change. New Birth certificate. New passport. Costs vary.
  • Facial surgery. Facial Feminization Surgery, the most expensive part of transition. Usually $20,000-45,000.
  • Breast augmentation. About $6-8,000.
  • Sex reassignment surgery. Costs vary,  North America ($18,000-20,000) or overseas ($8,000-15,000).

Historically, one of the first recorded surgeries took place in the US in 1962.  For those that aren’t queasy, it is amazing what kind of female organs can be created – medical diagrams and pictures are on this vaginoplasty site.

Female to Male (FTM)

Surgeryencyclopedia.com states that  female to male reassignment surgery can exceed $50,000 USD while male to female reassignment is $7,000 to $24,000 USD.  I’m guessing that female to male is more expensive due to removal and reconstruction of so many things (taking out uterus, making penis, creating broader torso, etc).  Also, female plastic surgery in general is more common than male plastic surgery, so there is most likely better competitive pricing.  Other items cost relatively the same (therapy, legal changes) and overall estimates I’ve read about online roughly total $80,000 USD as well, same as male to female.  Medical pictures of these surgeries are outlined in a scientific paper published in Seminars in Plastic Surgery journal and surgery recovery time from penis reconstruction is stated to be about 2.5 weeks.  This is only recovery time for one surgery, for multiple surgeries, times for recovery would vary.

And Then?

For the rest of their lives, people who change gender will need to continue taking hormones to counteract their “natural” ones.  In an article published in Archives of sexual behavior, researchers studied 32 male-to-female and 23 female-to-male post surgery and found that female-to-males seem to have better sex lives.  Generally, people’s expectations were met at an emotional and social level, but only 80% reported improvement of their sexuality.

What if you regret surgery?

Apparently it’s possible to go back…just do it all over again!  A British millionaire named Sam Hashimi became Samantha Kane and then became Charles Kane.  Dailymail UK interviewed him and apparently he is happier as a man now.  Granted, going back and forth isn’t very good for the body as there is probably some consequence such as desensitization to certain areas due to nerve damage, etc.  There are a number of other stories of regret online as well in which people become miserable for the rest of their lives as they suffered from bad surgeries or just changed their mind, but couldn’t go backwards for some reason.

Sam Hashimi  Samantha Kane   Charles Kane

Gender is a complicated issue and there are no easy solutions if one feels like they are suppose to be another sex.  For those who actually do take all these steps to fulfill their dream of becoming a man or woman, they are super brave!  Kudos to them!  I hope they find happiness after all these challenging steps.  In the future, would these surgeries become easier?  It’s hard to say, cutting into flesh seems painful regardless.

When I was joking with my Viking that if I get a penis it would be bigger than his, he nodded with raised Spock eyebrows and said, “Of course, dear”.  Hm, I guess this is what he means when he claims that I test/torture him everyday!  Anyhow, I hope you learned something new from this random post!

The Cell Phone Accessories Market Is Worth How Many Billions?!!! Women Spend How Many Trillions?!

Last weekend, my visiting mother-in-law wanted to go to Pacific Mall, the largest Chinese mall in Canada that is open 365 days a year.  It is set up like a Hong Kong shopping mall, with multiple tiny shops, street names such as “Hollywood Ave” and is a chaotic place in general.  I haven’t been there in over a year as it is quite far from where I live.

Anyhow, over the last year, perhaps due to crackdown of police on too many illegal English dvds – the mall has changed from being a giant dvd store to a giant cell phone/tablet case store.  There were over a dozen stores all carrying cases for any phone or tablet you can think of.  The TIFF goddess wanted another leather case for her Iphone and was appalled to see many fake Bottega weave cases.  It took a lot of my own restraint to not break down and buy a Hello Kitty case for my phone, everything looked adorable!  In the end I ordered an “official” Samsung case online as it looked more grownup than the Hello Kitty or Totoro case I had been considering…I have to remember that I’m an old woman, professional, etc…

This got me wondering about how much this market is worth.  Research firm ABI claims that in 2012, the market for cell phone accessories are worth $36 billion USD with $20 billion USD attributed to smart phones.  By 2017, smart phone accessories will grow to $38 billion USD in revenue, both other type of phone accessories will decline to $12 billion USD.  The average smart phone consumer will spend $56.18 USD on accessories for their phone, while other phone owners will spend $28.17 USD.

So are the margins that great for all the thousands of plastic cases hanging around Pacific Mall?  The margins range from 25%-50% according to online retailer Comeparts.com.  Considering the Samsung case which I bought online for $8 with free shipping from China; at Pacific Mall it was about $25 –  it was most likely worth $4 at wholesale.  More stats are available on this page about mobile phone use and consumers, such as “By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people!”

Meanwhile in my random internet searches, I discovered that as consumers, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big!   Harvard Business review states that they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending globally, which could increase to$28 trillion USD in the next five years.  This great article dissects women into different lifestyle categories and concludes that there are many categories for business to lure women, especially in financial services.  Also, in Japan, the men don’t help their wives with chores.  Looking at the categories of women, at moment I believe I’m in the fast tracker category, but of course, it looks like over time things could change.  Just saying…because I’m a pessimist…so we should save our $$ ladies for the rainy days!

Which category are you in, ladies?