Tag Archives: book covers

stalling, emo whinging, and some cover art

Gah.  I really pushed, and pushed, on finishing up the dreams novel (still no title, am considering Dream Creatures) edits and have this draft down except for One Scene.  The most important scene.  The BIG SCENE.  I mean, I have a draft of that scene, but it sucks.

Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but anyway, I got sick.  I spent most of the weekend sneezing and lying around.  I’m freaking terrified of this scene!

I am a big baby.

My two beta readers are waiting on the draft-as-is.  I need to finish this scene.  Instead I am writing this blog post.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is shaping up into a really cool book.  It has some great stuff in it and contains some of my most favorite characters written so far.  I just….I need to figure out this one scene is all.

Oh, will you look at the time!  Better go do yoga!

For fun, here is the current iteration of the cover, with the current trial title.  Don’t get too attached, it might change….

lucidity effect heading off to the editor, my newest baby is growing up

Posts here have been sporadic as I’ve been pouring all writing time into another edit of Lucidity Effect, having gotten it back from my first round of beta-readers with some useful critique.  Mainly, I’m rewriting the big showdown chapter for the umpteenth time (probably not the last time, either) which is great because I’m finally kinda sorta figuring out what the book is about.  I always do that last, it is so backassward.  What the hell, right, creative process agony and sleepless nights, that’s just part of the job description.  But if I keep banging my head against the manuscript, eventually I’ll get the lumps out. I think.  (Wait, out of my book?  Or out of my head?  Both are pretty lumpy…  Maybe it is a lump transference we’re talking about?)

But the plan is for it to go to the editor this weekend, so I’ve been slamming to get through this pass quickly before said editor goes on vacation next month….Of course, I’m alternating between loving this new novel and thinking for sure that it is my worst one yet.  Pretty much par for the course at this stage in the game.

Anyway I’ve got blog posts in my head about learning Japanese, about Minecraft and education, about some great manga I’ve been shooting up reading late at night when I should be asleep (or writing), but I haven’t had a minute to put any of them down.  Either I wait till I can do them right, or lower my standards and just spout off the top of my head, hmm, let me see.  I can’t decide.

So, in lieu of a real post, I’ll leave you with a first look at a very rough mock up of the coming book cover to tempt you.  Typography is still in process but isn’t that a cool image???  Super happy about that.  I can’t wait to get this one out!

children of the fallen…how to make a book cover in 4239 easy steps!

Making a book cover can get pretty hairy.  But its also super creative and fun, even as it is nerve wracking.  I love love love a beautiful book, you know, those gorgeous books that by sheer power of their intriguing design make you want to pick them up and fondle them.  Maybe even read them.  I want my books, too, to be as gorgeous as I can make them, even though I’m no graphic designer.  I try. I probably worry too much as I go.  I muddle along.  I do think I’m getting better

Anyway, I thought a behind-the-scenes, making-of post for the Children of the Fallen‘s cover might be in order, since the book looks to be coming out in a few short days.  Holy crap!  [insert nervous hand wringing, excited hopping from one foot to the other, nail chewing, etc.]

The first problem with making this cover was that there are so many visual moments in Children that could make a cool cover image—it was hard to choose! I still waffle and think, shit, I should have picked another moment, maybe this one, or that one, would have more perfectly conveyed what the book is about, been more intriguing, whatever—

But its done!  I will let this go and move on!  Any moment now!

So, the image I did choose is of a photograph one of the characters takes—this young man is blindly snapping shots off his apartment building’s roof, only to find  that he has captured an angel on film when he gets into the darkroom.

Here is a bit from the book when he sees the negative for the first time:

She was on the last shot, standing close, staring straight into the camera, no smile, the sun lighting her hair swirling around her, lighting her wings, a corona of fire.  Staring at the picture, Daniel’s legs became weak and he had to sit on the floor.  She was so beautiful! But it was more than that.  Was it divinity itself reaching through her skin, through the grace of Her, to light him on fire?

Get a grip on yourself, he thought.  It’s only chemicals on paper, arranged in a certain pattern, to mimic life.

Right?

But her eyes watched him, questioned him.  He was sure of it.

He nodded, without realizing he did so. Whatever you’re asking me, he thought, the answer is yes.

—–

And here is the bit where the resulting photograph is described by another character, later in the book:

He stopped before “Angel Photo #13,” this one the same winged girl from the mausoleum, now lit by the flaming sunset behind her.  She looked straight out of the picture at him, the edges of her huge wings bright with golden fire from the setting sun, her expression full of such longing it pulled Jeremy’s chest tight, evoking echoes of the Sound all around him.

—–

So I emailed my wonderful cover artist, Ida Mary Walker Larsen, sent her these bits of text, and this lame-ass crappy pathetic sketch I’d made of my idea of how the photo would look, and asked if she thought she could do it.

To which Ida replied, “sure, no problem.”  Because she’s confidently bad-ass like that.

Next I combed the stock photo places for images that would get across what I wanted, and possibly be of use to Ida in her work, if we found one we wanted to buy.

I thought this gal had the right face, the youth and vulnerability, the worry…

And I wanted it to look like a photograph so I asked for lens flares, like these:

I wanted crazy, improbable, wind-whipped hair, something like this:

And I wanted feathery wings something like this:

Ida is so patient with me.  She receives all these missives and conflicting pictures and she just politely takes it all in stride and telepathically gets the download somehow without laughing at me.  She is awesome.

Because she went through her contacts at DeviantArt (an amazing site, I highly recommend roaming around over there if you are looking for an artist, its where I found Ida in the first place) and found THIS:

To which I immediately replied YES.  YESYESYESYES.  This is an image taken by Marcus Ranum, of Courtney Simonds, one of many images Mr. Ranum has posted of “sad angels.”  Digital artists need raw base material from which to weave their photomanipulations, and so people take evocative stock images like this one and sometimes offer them up to other artists to use in their work.  For example, here is Ida’s own page of stock images of herself that other artists in the Deviant Art community can (and do) use as base material from which to make their own images.

So!  From this photo, and all my requests, Ida sent me this:

GAH!!!  Wow!  How does she do that????  She even tilted it, like a photograph might be if one was shooting blind….

But it wasn’t perfect.  We still fiddled with it.  For example, the feet weren’t right.  We tried a few iterations:

Should she be floating?  Should she be lightly landed?  Could we integrate her more with her surroundings, maybe a mist, maybe change the lighting?  I thought I had settled on lightly landed with a bit of shadow when Ida sent me these feet…

…which I loved.

So the art was finished.  My turn.  As usual, I tried a million fonts, placements, sizes, colors…

Etc. Etc.  Ad nauseam.  My family started running whenever I said, “What do you think about this one?”  (You’ll notice I was working with a different title, then, too.)

I found I liked the hand-written fonts and I tried dozens of them. I know, I know, these sorts of fonts can be hard to read and legibility counts mega-points in book covers. But still, there was something about them that appealed…and then I found a font that is based on Cezanne’s handwriting.  How cool is that?

But everything I was coming up with seemed too pretty, looked too much like a romance book, which this book (although it has romance in it) is definitely not.  And you don’t want to send the wrong impression because people will buy thinking they are going to get X and then when they get Y they are rightly annoyed and write 1 star reviews, and its just all downhill and drinking from there.  I thought the title was part of the problem. It was pretty, but it didn’t tell much about what the book—this dark, urban fantasy ensemble piece—was about.  And I had already gotten this pretty piece of art that I adored…pretty + pretty = shit!  I gone and gotten the wrong cover!

So I changed the title to something more descriptive and less pretty, with the word FALLEN in it to get across there are problems, these are not rosy angels—even though this particular angel is looking quite rosy under this Maxfield Parrish sky.  So, next I played with the colors, darkening it up, fiddling with contrast and saturation, all while moving the words around, looking for a way to get in enough atmosphere to get the message across that this is NOT a romance!  This is contemporary fantasy!  This is some weird shit that also includes a few pretty angels (and some decidedly NOT pretty angels…)!

Until I got the current iteration:

Which, I think, I hope, between the title and her uncertain expression, has achieved some elegance, plus the needed darkness.

And, honestly, I do love how it looks.  If it is a cover just for me, I think Ida and I nailed it.  If I’m the market, and I saw this book on the shelf, I would totally reach out and pick it up, curious.  I hope other readers agree….

But that’s it.  There we have it. As is the case with any indy-publishing endeavor, all fault is mine and mine alone.  I can’t blame anyone but me if my cover sucks!  With great power comes great responsibility.

Of course, since Waking Dreams Press is me, I reserve the right to change the whole thing with zero notice, on a whim, whenever I feel like it.  And amazon will magically update all the e-copies ever sold, all through the magic of whispersync….

The final formatting on the manuscript is being done as we speak.  It is not unlike waiting for the impending birth of a baby, only without the swelling and the labor pains.  I can’t wait to release it, we are days away people, DAYS.

angel book update: covers, editors, and fans, oh my!

The current iteration of the cover…

You might notice that the title has changed.  If you feel like commenting, I’d love to know what you think this book is about—I don’t mean in-depth analysis, just that sense you get when glancing at a cover, “oh, that’s historical romance,” or, “that’s kick-butt heroine and vampires,” or, “that’s literary family drama with a touch of magical realism,” or whatever.  I’ve gone through a gazillion iterations of titles, covers, fonts, etc, because I became worried that the other cover/title was too pretty and seemed to promise a romance.   I don’t want people buying the book expecting story A, but getting delivered story X, and then getting GRUMPY.  Grumpy people become anti-fans, and then leave 1 star reviews, oh THE HORROR *shudder*.  No no, we must avoid THAT.

So, informal survey: any comments on this cover?  Would it draw your eye if you were scrolling through amazon?  And what does it make you think this book will be about (in very rough terms)? THANKS.

The notes from my editor were terrific and really pushed me in a great way.  Translation: I am working through a TOTAL REWRITE of the ending.  Meta-translation: RISK MORE.  But really, this is exciting because I think the book will be much better if I manage it.  So.  YAY.  But it’s a lot of work and I’m getting my sleepy self out of bed at stupid-o’clock in the morning to get ‘er done.  The goal is to get it to the copyeditor by June 1 and I think I’m still on target for a Summer Solstice release.  SUMMER SOLSTICE, oh my god, I’ve got to get to work.  It always takes more time than I thought it would….

But it’s so much fun to be doing all of this.  I love love love putting out my books, designing covers, editing, all of it.  Especially fan mail, I LOVE fan mail, haha, woo hoo for fans!!!!!  I’ve been getting some really nice ones, thanks you SO MUCH.  Y’all rock my freaking world!  Because, really, I’m absurdly insecure and write mostly to get external approval and bolster my pathetically low self-esteem.  And also because if I don’t write I get, you know, symptoms.

But I won’t trouble you with my madness now.  That’s for another post.

the surprising and convoluted history of a novel, plus some gorgeous cover art UNVEILED

I just got the last editor letter back on the angel book and am deep in edits.  The plan is to finish this, as in done done DONE, by the end of May and send it off to the copy editor by June 1.  I’m so excited for this book to finally see the light of day!  It kind of contains my entire professional writing history in one 350 page package, starting with the first short story I ever published (see the sidebar over there, its posted to the wall like a cafe’s first dollar earned) the guts of which is in this book.

That story was written in twenty-four hours for Orson Scott Card’s Writer’s Bootcamp in 2001.  2001!!! Two Thousand and freaking ONE.  A decade gone in the blink of an eye!  I will never, ever forget Scott reading the first paragraph out loud, putting the paper down and saying, “You can’t teach writing like this.”  I burst into tears.

That first paragraph, that story, became the seed of this novel.  From that seed, I wrote the bulk of the material while in my second year of grad school, getting my MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  That manuscript got me my (then) agent who said she loved it, that it had made her cry, and that, even though it was different, she was sure we could find an editor to take it on.

Fast forward a couple of years and nope, turns out no one wanted it.  Into the trunk it went.  Sob!

Anyway, a couple years passed, a couple more novels written, a couple of babies born, but I still couldn’t stop thinking about my fallen angels.  So I pulled out the manuscript and did a deep edit, a structural overhaul on the thing, giving it over a 100 pages of new material and generally bringing it up to the state of my current writing ability.  That must have been 2007 or so.  Still no sales joy.  Back in the drawer.

I wrote Conjuring Raine, then Toby Streams the Universe, published them, and have been thrilled with the response.  And still my angel book, at various times called “Falling”, “The Fallen”, “You Who Are Made of Light”, and “Made of Light Made of Dark”, whispered at me.  So I pulled it out again last year, reworked the whole thing again.

So you see, this book really does have my whole writer-story up-to-now inside it: my first publication, OSC’s Bootcamp, grad school, getting an agent, the emotional grind of being on submission for over a year with no sales, leaving my agent, and now Waking Dreams Press which feels like rebirth.  It’s time!  It’s time for this book to be born!  Hallelujah!  Now called When Light Falls, I want so much to get it really there, all on the page the way it is in my head.  I hope, I hope, I hope I can do that.

I’m working hard on getting that last 10% as solid as I can, and, as I said, the plan is to do this in May.  Yikes!  What am I doing writing a blog post?  I should be working on the book!!!  I get SO NERVOUS when I’m about to release a new one.  Like, awake at night, manic/depressive, can’t eat/eat too much, crazy nervous.  And this one has been a long time coming.  Eleven years worth of nerves!  My poor family!

I’ll leave all you lovely readers with the gorgeous cover art made for me by Ida Larsen.  I’ll do another post on the making of the cover in a bit, and of course, this version (the text, fonts, placements, etc) is subject to change right up until the day I hit publish, haha.  But the art is set, the art is GORGEOUS, I’m so happy with how it turned out.

Oooo!  Ahhhh!  So pretty!

toby’s cover and ida’s amazing artwork

I’ve had several people ask me about the cool artwork for the Toby Streams the Universe cover, so I thought I’d do a post on it.  The image (not the text) was made for me by Ida Larsen, a digital artist living in Denmark.  She also did the art for Conjuring Raine.  I did a post on her artwork here.

Here’s how it happened.  I had a basic idea for Toby’s cover, and so I made a pathetic attempt at a sketch and sent it to Ida, who did me the service of not laughing at me.  She might have laughed behind my back, quietly to herself, but that’s cool, I respect that.  To my face she was nothing but professional.

I know, I know.  There’s a reason I’m a writer and not a visual artist.

Anyway.  So Ida came back with an image that was very close to my sketch (again, this is all the art, not the text) but, well, I hated it.  I mean, the guy’s face was just off, and I couldn’t figure out why.  It was sort of interesting, actually, to TRY to figure out why.  His eyebrows were too angled, his hair cut was too military, his lips were too sultry and down-turned.  I felt sorry for this guy whose face I was deconstructing in such a manner! I’m sure he’s lovely, I said to Ida.  I’m sure he’s a very nice person.

Well, turns out, he wasn’t a REAL person.  He was a 3-D model.  That is, I guess, he IS a real person, somewhere, who was scanned into a computer to create a posable, photo-realistic animated figure.  Weird, huh?  I didn’t even know they have those, but they do. Check it out.

But this, I decided, was why I didn’t like him.  He looked that tiny bit off that even the best CGI people look.  And in a close up, it was…disturbing.  In a non-identifiable way.  So…no.

Back to the drawing boards.  Or rather, back to the stock-image sites, looking for a man’s face, a real-live-human’s face, that would work.  I must have looked at THOUSANDS of pictures of young men, scrolling through thumbnail photos by the boatload.  It was bizarre.  This one’s too happy, that one’s too silly, his lower lip is too big, his eyes are too small, he looks too romance-cover, he looks too mean, he’s too old, he’s too young, he’s too sexy, he’s too funny.  ETC.  I sat with Sophie and iPad at one point, flicking through photos, and she started to get what I was going for too, and would say exactly what I was thinking about each one.  How did she catch on so quickly?  Perceptive kid, I guess.  Most of the faces were smiling, which automatically took them out of the running.  Those that weren’t smiling tended to be doing the sultry, come-hither look that I also didn’t want.  And if not that, then the guy looked MAD.  Arg! Happy, sexy, angry.  Doesn’t anyone take photos of young men that are outside those three emotions?

Finally I found this one, only part of a face, at the wrong angle, wrong hair, etc, but maybe Ida would be able to do something with it.

Turns out, she could.  Amazing to me that she could work her magic and from that, get this:

This image was one of many where we were trying to put in some wavy-lines to indicate something psychic or paranormal was going on.  Her initial image also didn’t have any clothes on, so I had her add a shirt, “kind of ratty looking,” which she did.  We tried lines going this way and that way, with sparkles, without, skinny, broad, all kind of lines.  Finally we settled on a vertical set of lines, like a wave, to sort of stand in for Toby’s “stream.”

At this point I started playing with fonts.  I’m using GIMP for this, which is a totally free image-making program like Photoshop, only did I mention that it is totally free?  It’s a bit tricky to learn at first so I recommend, whenever you want to do something, google for a youtube vid that will show you how.  Seeing the screen, seeing the program being used while someone explains it, is SOOOO much easier than trying to read text about complex image-processing click this, open that.  Say it with me:  Youtube.

Okay, so my first thought was to fill up the space with quirky words, like this image, but it seemed like too much.  The face was so strong an element already, a font that stood out so much made the whole cover kind of crazy and crowded. I tried about a million fonts.  Maybe two million.  I finally came back to very straight forward, plain, “boring” fonts.  Sigh.  I really like that quirky font!  I may yet find a use for it….  You can try out a bazillion fonts on places like myfonts.com which lets you preview whatever bit of text you want.  Very helpful before you buy.

Anyway, you can also see Ida added in the New York City skyline at that point, hopefully to identify the book as not an SF space sort of book, what with the galaxy theme and all. She and I were still going back and forth with various details but her work was coming to a close at this point.  She is so patient with me!

One way to make words stand out in front of a picture is to give them a drop-shadow, that is, the same word, made dark (or light) and put slightly off-kilter with the main word, to make it pop off the page a bit.  You can see a drop shadow in the word “universe” in the above image.  One day I gave some accidental key-command on GIMP and bam, all the text and all the text-shadows ended up all crazy, all over the page—and I really liked it.

Then came a bunch of experiments with upside down and backwards shadows, opacity, blurs, etc (you’ll remember a couple of posts back when I was trying a few of these out).  Finally I came on this, the final version.

I really like how the shadows aren’t where they are supposed to be, like Toby’s psychic perceptions of the world.  He is always seeing a double image, out of kilter with present time.  Sometimes it’s the past, sometimes it’s the future, but always it something he has to parse through to get to reality.  Well, I hope this image conveys something of that quality, anyway.

Lots of work from pathetic sketch to finished product!

All hail Ida and her super-powers!  And also hail to GIMP and Youtube videos! Without which, I would have to use that pathetic sketch on my cover.  And man, wouldn’t that suck.

toby streams the universe cover…unveiled!

I’m pretty sure this is the one, the final version.  Final for now.  The really, real, extremely final, for right now, version, ha.

I tried to make it a little less busy, but still get the quirky upside-down thing going, because this is a quirky, upside-down kind of book.  And New York is down there, letting y’all know that this isn’t SF, despite the groovy galaxy in the background, plus “universe” in the title.

So, if it isn’t SF, what IS it?  Toby Hay is a psychic from a family of psychics, struggling with his increasing abilities, his dysfunctional family, and an array of crazy friends including a private investigator, his psychic sister, a gonzo yogi, and a mysterious painter.  There’s also his missing father, a bromance, funny banter, family drama, a mystery, cool special effects, and of course, a romance, because, hey, I wrote it.  And the kitchen sink.  I’m pretty sure I put a kitchen sink in there.  And lot of F-bombs, because, again, hey, I wrote it.

Should be available by December 1.  Woo hoo!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

fantasy art by ida larsen

When I started looking for a cover artist for Conjuring Raine, I searched all over, looking for covers I liked to find artists, surfing the deviant art site, asking other writers…it was a long process.  Fees went anywhere from free to $1000 for a cover, wait times anywhere from twenty-four hours, to six months.  I really, really want as gorgeous a cover as I can afford, so it was important to me to find someone I thought could really tell a story with their images.  And then I found Ida Larsen.

Here she is in one of her pieces, “Airship Captain.”

Ida lives in Denmark and does fantasy art for magazines, covers, commission, and for direct sale at her etsy shop. I contacted her and, although she had a couple of months of wait-time until she was available, I eventually hired her to do the cover for Raine.  I’m so excited about what she’ll come up with.

Here are a few more of her digital paintings.  This one, “Mermaid Isle,” is one of my very favorites:

Here is “The Collector”…

I love the light in this one.  It looks so real, I can smell the ocean and hear the little sounds the dragons are making.

This next one doesn’t have any obvious fantasy elements, except there is this hyper-reality feeling to it.  I love how each of Ida’s images tells a story, invites questions…who are these people?  What story are they living?  They could be movie stills, mid-action.  My writer’s mind starts concocting answers to a dozen questions for each of these characters.

Two more with Ida herself…

What is happening here?  I’m dying to know.

If Raine’s cover can be as evocative as these, I’ll be thrilled.

raine and joshua get physical

I am talking to a couple of artists about creating a cover image for Conjuring Raine.  This is really fun, and also ridiculously stressful.  But anyway, the current idea has both Raine and Joshua on it, and thus, I’m having to explain something of what they should look like, beyond the deliberately vague physical descriptions I wrote in the book, and, well, it’s hard.  Hard, I tell you.

I make physical descriptions in my books pretty vague because I want readers to fill in the blanks on that.  Also because a character, to me, is what’s on the inside, not the outside.  A few cues on clothes and general hair comments and I pretty much leave it at that.  Raine is early 20s, starts the book with long (unspecified how long) multi-colored hair (due to a bad break-up), has pale-ish skin and ‘dark’ (brown? black?) eyes.  She wears a lot of black.  Joshua thinks she’s pretty and she can wear his jeans, which says something about her size, since he is described as fairly skinny.  But that’s it. That’s what we know about what she looks like.

Have you listened to the book?  Did you have a picture in your head more specific than that?

Of course, for an artist to actually draw/paint/render-in-some-way-visible an image of Raine, it has to be a lot more specific.  Okay, she’s pretty enough—but how pretty?  How does she stand?  How big are her boobs?  Are her teeth straight?  Exactly how long and how thick and how curly/straight is her hair?  How close together are her eyes?  Etc.

ARRG!  I don’t know!

I’ve taken to combing the net for photos.  Stock photo warehouses, google-image searches, stills from movies I’ve seen with characters who kinda sorta look right.  At this point I kind of think of Raine as being a paler, less pretty (or less groomed) Nora Jones.  Maybe.  You know that kind of mixed-race look.  Only not as confident.  And no heels.

But really, some other face could work.  It just isn’t one of those thin, intelligent, sharp faces.  She’s rounder to me, more emotional of feature. And, I suppose, it’s my book cover, so I get to pick.

But Joshua?  Well, shoot, I practically describe him as ugly in the book, while still trying to write him as kind of hot, so hows that going to work made flesh?  I knew this guy a decade ago, a passing acquaintance, who had this super thick, straight blond hair, came to about his shoulder tops, cut blunt, that he wore slicked back into a stump of hair at the nape of his neck.  He had that super translucence to his skin, too, the kind that turns bright red in the cheeks when he got mad.  I always thought of Joshua looking like that, I have no idea why.  Only Joshua is awkward and weird, where that guy was pretty charming. I can’t find any pictures of a guy like that to show cover artists.  I mean, Joshua is stuck at 19 and he came from Eastern North Carolina almost 200 years ago—he’s got to be kind of…plain.  Made interesting by his personality and the whole vampire thing, but still, there are no male-models native to Eastern North Carolina for a reason.

No offense to any Easter North Carolinian dudes!  It’s just a different kind of face is all.  And typical book-cover face is not what Joshua looks like.  To me.  In my head.  If that even matters.  Which, maybe it doesn’t.

Because you can’t put a plain looking guy on a book cover, can you? And anyway probably lots of readers don’t see him in their heads as plain.  Raine doesn’t see him as plain, but of course, she doesn’t care what he looks like.  Hm.Maybe I’d sell more books with a Californian guy on the cover?  Like maybe that Smith from Sex and the City, he had a blond pony tail and a kind of bony face.

No, no! says a voice in my head.  Joshua DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THAT.

Fine, I say back to the voice.  What does he look like then? And be specific, please.

ARG!  AGAIN!

What to do, what to do.  I need a photo of a guy with a kind of bony face, too tall and skinny, super intense expression, with super thick blond hair, blunt chopped at the shoulders.  Yeah, right.  I’ll get right on that.

Any of you listened to Raine?  Got any star-casting suggestions for character looks?  Cause I’m all out.