Friday, September 26, 2014

Dante's 9th circle is full of - seals?

Just a short post to share a photo of a recent trip I took with my family. We were vacationing along the Oregon coast and stopped at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Now, I can't really tell you how outstanding it was, since it was a cold and foggy afternoon when we visited, but I'm sure it would have been a worthwhile trip on a clear day. The lighthouse was amazing and I highly recommend reserving a tour.

Even though it was very foggy and cold, we enjoyed the visitor center and the lighthouse. We also enjoyed walking along Cobble Beach,  and despite the fog we could see seals playing in the water. A few were curious about the visitors on the shore and started swimming in closer. My husband got a picture of them, but didn't think it would be very good because of the poor visibility.

I finally got around to viewing the pictures from our vacation and came upon the Cobble Beach seals. Have a look for yourself, but if Dante's 9th circle for traitors is a frozen lake with the heads of traitorous souls sticking out trying to break free, I'm thinking this is what it would look like. Can you pick out the seals' heads sticking out of the water? Yikes!
Seals in the water at Cobble Beach, Yaquina Outstanding Natural Area

Monday, September 22, 2014

Communication and cover art

Making edits and all-out story changes are definitely not my favorite things to do. It makes me second guess my writing, and sometimes, like now, I am hit with the realization that I am making changes that don't need to be made. But I'm recharged because my amazing cover illustrator from Lake Joy Design sent me the thumbnail concepts for my novella.

And both images really are amazing. Both images also convey two entirely different emotions. So which one to choose? First off, it depends on what kind of story I am telling. Unfortunately for me, both images would work, as each evokes a dark and otherworldly vision. I need to choose the one that will best communicate to interested readers that beyond this image lies a daring tale of demons and rage. (Want to see them? Keep scrolling!)

Now, as much as I want to show everyone what her amazing mind comes up with, I also have to keep in mind that what she gives me is not the final artwork, only rough sketches of what could be majorly awesome artwork. However, I still want to share with you a tantalizing tidbit of her creativity. I am showcasing a part of her cover concepts so that you can tell me which one intrigues you more. I also want to show how two different, yet similar, images can change what you think a story is about.

© Laura Henion, Lake Joy Design
When we first met to talk about cover art, I knew I wanted a black wing and a simple and dramatic look. This first concept has stylized feathers that remind me of gritty graphic novels like Hellboy and Sandman. It also reminded me of anime along the lines of Afro Samurai and CLAMP's X. It appears more fantastic or dreamlike. If you were to see a cover with this image, what kind of book would you expect?

© Laura Henion, Lake Joy Design
This second concept image has a more detailed look to the feathers, which gives off a more ominous feel to the image, much darker and maybe more violent. The idea of fallen angels is brought to my mind, and novels like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series or Neil Gaiman's American Gods seem to match the vibe of this image. How would your expectations of a book change if this were part of the cover instead?

I can't decide which direction to take the final artwork, so I would love to hear from my visitors! Tell me in the comments section which image would draw you in more to read the story, or share your thoughts on Twitter or my Facebook page.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Writing: With a little bit of help from my friends

Mystery Cover!
I am in the mad-dash-final-draft-edit-before-my-editor-edits-and-I-need-to-edit-the-final-version-to-publish stage of my novella. It was supposed to be ready for readers by the end of September, but unfortunately I was not able to follow my editing calendar. What is it with me and calendars? Anyway, A Demon Born will be ready by the second week of October and I look forward to many comments and reviews!

Which brings me to today's post. I can write to my heart's content, but if I want to share my work I understand that my story (while it makes perfect sense in my head) must make sense to other readers. So I would like to thank the beta readers that helped locate all sorts of character development flaws, continuity issues, and other random things I would have normally not caught on my own. And now that I have reworked nearly the entire piece and practically rewrote two whole chapters, I hope I didn't create more problems. I will leave that to my editor to decide.

I was a little stumped on a discriptive problem I was having in a scene, and so took to Facebook and Twitter to ask for inspiration:

Not easy to get responses on Twitter, especially when you have 200+ tweets coming at you every hour, but I got a couple of responses from FB and I would like to say thank you, I was inspired and you shall see your suggestions in action (if you get my novella). Again, thanks to my friends I was able to improve my writing.

I'm going to ask for more inspiration now - You walk into a cafe where the wait staff are dressed as Victorian maids and butlers. Your attention is drawn to one thing, what is it?

My goal is to create stories worth reading. First, it has to be a story worth telling, so if I don't like to tell it who's going to want to read it? But once I discover a story I feel compelled to share, I want it to be the best possible reading experience. Every writer should have a band of friends with the guts to tell you where your story went south. Or north. Winter is coming, after all. They don't need to be best friends, or even good friends, but they need to be readers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: A little book about making books

Little book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books
By Charlotte Rivers, 2014
Publisher: Potter Craft
Binding: hardcover

Summer is still trying to hold on in the Pacific Northwest, but September is here and fall is sneaking in with cool weather inserting itself more often between hot, sunny days. It may seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but I'm actually a bit late. August is when you are realizing school is around the corner and you only have a few weeks to get all the school supplies in order. So "Christmas in July" is my shopping motto.

I like to think about Christmas gifts early because I want to give personal, handmade gifts and it takes me a few months to actually figure out what I will make, how I will make them, and what I need to make them. When I don't give myself time to plan my gifts, Thanksgiving becomes less thankful and more stressful. It was shortly after I finished my son's back-to-school shopping that I discovered Charlotte Rivers's Little Book of Book Making. Its subtitle, Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books hooked me into thinking, "Hey, here's something that will give me ideas AND show me how to make them!" (Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.)

Upon first opening the book, I was a little disappointed. More than half the book is is filled with "ideas," beautiful examples of book art that I could never hope to duplicate in the space of a few months. Not until the very end of the book do you find instructions on how to make basic versions of the masterpieces showcased. Momentarily disheartened, I returned to the beginning of the book. After reading the "Foreword" and "About This Book," it was clear this book was meant to provide more inspiration than instruction.

I skimmed the first section and stopped on a piece that looked simple enough and read the short write-up on the creator's process. At the end of the write-up was a notation, "See also," which gave the page for instructions to make a similar piece. I went to the page and upon closer read discovered detailed directions that were easy to follow. The art showcased in this book goes far beyond the simple techniques in the how-to section, but the instructions are written to allow you to get the basic idea of making a particular book, and then letting your imagination add to that basic structure.

This how-to section is titled "Bookmaking in Practice." Here you will find a comprehensive list of tools and materials needed and offers illustrated step-by-step instructions to produce a variety of handmade book designs. I tried one of the very basic folded binding techniques first with a scrap piece of paper. Once done, I could visualize what such a simple folded piece of paper could become. I was surprised to discover the possibilities!
My creation: an anniversary card!
Readers should not come away from this book feeling intimidated by the complex creativity highlighted in the book. After all, every artist started as a beginner, and any creative soul can see a masterpiece in the simplest of forms. Do browse the first four sections. Not all showcased art has a "See also" attached to it, but most of them do, so if you find an interesting piece, go ahead and look at it's corresponding instructions if it has one and give it a try. I give this book a four out of five stars for the beautiful pieces it showcases and its easy-to-follow instructions.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Communication and Giving

What is with this "ice bucket challenge" for ALS? It seems like social media believes this is the only cause worthy of donating to, and it makes me mad.
Every day I am bombarded with requests to give money. Every time I go to the grocery store, the drug store, the hardware store, the pet store, I am asked at the register if I want to donate to some cause. And now my news feeds and social media are pockmarked with "ice bucket challenges" as people post pictures and videos of getting doused in ice cubes and cold water for ALS.

First off, without looking it up, I couldn't tell you anything about ALS besides a famous baseball player, Lou Gehrig, had it and had to quit playing. I also know it is a degenerative disease. That's about it.

But I can tell you about malignant melanoma. I can tell you that there are four types of melanoma and once you get to stage 3 and the cancer metastasizes, your chances of survival are a slim 20 percent. I know this because a very dear teacher I had in college lost his battle with nodular melanoma. How many of you donated to the Skin Cancer Foundation to help increase the odds of surviving?