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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Designing Woman


When James Garcia Jr. approached me about doing a cover for his paranormal romance, “Seeing Ghosts”, I was giddy with anticipation. I had read the excerpt he posted on his blog and studied his short synopsis, reading it over and over again, trying to get a “feel” for the story.

Usually, I have to convince my clients that their covers shouldn’t be a laundry list of things they think are important. A cover should be spare of ornamentation. You want it to incorporate only the most essential things to convey emotion, genre, and story. But I didn’t have to do any convincing with Jimmy. He was open to anything I had in mind.

Almost immediately, I knew how the cover should look.


I was taken with the idea of a dead wife and a man not quite ready to let her go. It was personal and it was surreal. Losing a mate is soul-wrenching and I wanted to convey that overwhelming sadness of the living, and the otherworldliness of the Afterlife.

I must confess, the model I used for Seeing Ghosts was someone I was keeping for myself. I loved everything her body language and expression said, and everything it didn’t say. I hoped I might be able to use her in one of my future novels. But when I read Jimmy’s synopsis, I knew that model belonged to him. It was as if she was made for his story.

The house (seen in the print version of the book) was a different matter. Jimmy had renderings of the house he had in mind and it took me quite a while to locate a few suitable candidates. We finally agreed on one house, but it was in terrible disrepair—far worse than the way it was described in the novel. This house was going to need some major renovation.

Luckily for Jimmy, I know a thing or two about remodeling houses—and Photoshop. When I was done, the house had regained all its siding, a new door, a solid roof, and no busted windows. If only real renovations went so easily.

The foreground, background, and sky were another matter. I needed atmosphere to create that otherworldly feeling to complement the stark reality of overgrown weeds and the specter of crosses.

The title was probably the hardest to conceive. I needed something simple, while reinforcing the “ghostly” theme. What better device than to make one word solid and corporeal and the second word at the edge of ghosting out.

There’s a misconception that all a good cover needs is to slap the right photos together, but that’s not usually the case. This particular cover required twenty-six layers of elements. There are very few covers I’ve designed that don’t require at least a dozen or more layers to get the look I want.

A good cover should create an emotional response. It has to make you want to STOP and take another look. I’d like to think I accomplished that with “Seeing Ghosts”.

I tease Jimmy Garcia that he was a lot of trouble, but in truth, I adore him. He trusted my instincts and advice and allowed me to create this for him.

The official release date of "Seeing Ghosts" is June 2nd so put this book on your “buy” list. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you have any questions about cover art? Any secrets you’re dying to know? I’m ready to tell-all.

 ***

Need a cover of your own? You can find more information about me and my work at Book Cover Diva.

  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day US

If you live in a free country, thank a soldier. And if you happen to know a soldier, take him or her out to dinner.

***

I have company coming in a few days so I'm hustling to get house and land in order. Greg has been gone for weeks so it's all up to me.

I may or may not take off next week. It all depends on how busy my company keeps me. But this Thursday, I want you to come back and visit. I'm going to have a special post on how I went about creating a cover for one of my clients.

Feel free to ask questions or share your cover experiences. It'll be fun!

***

So what's on everyone's agenda today? Do you have the day off? Can you pop over and give me a hand cleaning out chicken coops?

Hmm...that's what I thought. 

What's on your to-do list today?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ahoy, Matey. There be Pirates

The other day I got a whole box load of books from ye olde publisher. I have to admit, even though I prefer to read ebooks, there's nothing quite like the feel of a paper book. It's just vanity I suppose. And since I rarely indulge my vanity, I'll wallow in its coolness this once.


Mistress of the Stone releases in print July 2, 2013.



When I browsed through the book, I was pleased to find review blurbs from some big name reviewers too. Wow!

I promised my editor that I'd do some Goodreads giveaways and I might do a couple here too. I'm here to share da luv...and da luv of pirates. There are plenty in this book, along with ghosts, ghouls, and gargoyles.

***  
Are you still a diehard print book fan or do you read more ebooks now? It happened so gradually with me I didn't realize that the majority of my reading was now 90% digital. 

How'd that happen?

Monday, May 20, 2013

What's Important?

Greg finally signed the papers for retirement, with the addendum that he stay another year to train his replacement. 

I'm relieved and a little nervous, but I'm also looking forward to it. Now comes the hard part. What do you do with the last quarter (or more) of your life?

I like to stay busy. Greg, on the other hand looks forward to time off so he can relax. Given that we're closer to the end than the beginning of life, I'll meet him half way and plan on doing the fun things we've always wanted to do. We'll travel, entertain, and sit back more.

My mother, a spry 80+ year old is constantly scolding me to have more fun in life. (She thinks I work too hard.) But working IS fun for me--though I suppose I could do more sightseeing and less digging ditches. I'll bow to her extra years on earth and admit that she's right.

So here's the big question. What's important in life? When all the work is done, raising kids, growing/buying food, and providing the family with adequate shelter--what's left for you to enjoy?

I'd love to hear your ideas. If you were retired this very minute, what would you do for fun? What's on your bucket list?



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wood Floor Refurbishing: It Worked!

The floors are DONE and the house is ours again. We still haven't moved all the furniture back, nor did we have time to install a new water heater before Greg left, so it's on the to-do list for his return.

The floors turned out pretty good except for one deep scratch that you can only see if you stand over it. (I'm still upset about that.) We bought runners that cover the heavy dog-traffic areas. First, to keep their sandpaper paws from rubbing off the finish, and secondly because the floors are slick now. They feel more sure-footed on the carpet.

I don't know if the pictures will do it justice, but I'll post before and after photos. But first, a photo of one area that seems to have acquired a couple of spots when I was taking pictures. Pests? Troublemakers? Floor rats? Yes. The only way to remove them was to bribe them with cookies.

I can recommend this process of refurbishing wood floors as long as it's just lost its color or is rough-looking. It disguises or removes light scratches, but it can't remove deep scratches. The company we used is called NHance.

This process was cheaper than sanding floors to bare wood and refinishing. Had we gone with traditional refinishing, it would've taken weeks instead of days, and I'd have to live with fumes until the finish cured. All in all, a better option for us. 


Notice the traffic wear marks--all DOG-made. The guy told me that dog pads are the worst things for wood floor. Not their nails, but their pads. All that trotting back and forth slowly sandpapers away the finish.





The same floor but from the opposite angle. Everything is smooth and even-colored.










My front living area and library. It's the most serene room in the house. Excellent for reading.




I am glad this renovation is over. Now to work on the water heater and then prepare for family descending upon us in June.


UPDATE: I have to say that after several months (this is December 2013) I wish now I had spent the money to strip the floor to bare wood and refinish them from scratch instead of refurbishing them. 

Even though I've placed runners and taken a lot of care in keeping the floors clean, the color is beginning to come up in spots. I can no longer recommend this process.

***

Can you believe May is half over? 

We were hit with supercell thunderstorms last night, and a town where we once house-hunted got flattened by a tornado. There were several tornadoes spotted, one a mile wide, but thankfully, they missed us. I was ready to herd the dogs to the laundry room and spend the night there. Very scary night.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Beer & Bread, Cinderella Style

Shelley Munro is in the house and she even included a recipe combining the two most favorite foods in the world. I love fresh bread, but I'm too lazy to bake half the time, so this might be perfect for me. Greg actually has some craft beer in the fridge he doesn't like so I'm going to try this with them.

Oh, and don't forget to enter Shelley's contest. There's a link at the end of this post.

Cinderella Breaks Bread 
by Shelley Munro

Most of you are familiar with the tale of Cinderella. You’ll have read the book as a child, seen the Disney version at the movies or taken your own children and grandchildren to watch Cinderella catch her prince.

Recently, I ventured in self-publishing territory with the publication of One Night of Misbehavior. As you might guess from my intro, my story is a modern retelling of Cinderella, and the gorgeous cover was designed by my wonderful host, Maria under her Book Cover Diva guise.

Charlotte Dixon, my poor hapless Cinderella, has good reasons for staying under the roof of her wicked stepmother and slaving away day after day, cooking, cleaning and looking after Gran. She’s a creative person who enjoys design, photography and scrapbooking. Charlotte and Gran spend their free time trying all sorts of crafts.

Cooking is another creative outlet, one Charlotte enjoys—when her stepmother and stepsiblings remember to leave something for her to eat after her hard work. During the course of One Night of Misbehavior Charlotte makes pasta dishes, salads for her diet-conscious stepsisters and steampunk cupcakes. She also makes focaccia bread.

Today I thought I’d give you another bread recipe from Charlotte’s repertoire. It’s the type of bread she makes when her stepmother springs extra guests on her at the last minute or her stepsisters eat every scrap of bread in the house and forget to tell her.

Beer Bread

3 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
400 ml/12 oz of beer (not low alcohol beer/if your can of beer is smaller make up the difference with water.)

Grated cheddar cheese

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Add the beer and combine all ingredients well. Place mixture in a greased tin and sprinkle the cheese on the top. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/400F for 33 minutes. Turn out of tin and cool a little—if you have the patience!

Notes:
1. I vary the types of flour. The loaf in the photo is made with one cup of wholemeal and two cups of plain white flour.

2. Experiment – add sunflower seeds, nuts or herbs to the mixture.

3. The original recipe says to cook the loaf for 40 – 50 minutes. I have a fan oven and 33 minutes is the exact time for a loaf of bread to bake. You know your own oven so just be aware the cooking time can vary.

4. You can free form the loaves but I like mine in a tin because the mixture is on the sticky side.

Doesn't this look good!


This bread is also a staple in my household. I’ve been making my own bread instead of buying it for about six months now. Beer Bread is my go-to recipe when I don’t have time to mess around with waiting for yeast to do its magic i.e. when I want to concentrate on my edits. 

It’s quick, easy to make (as long as I can steal a can of beer from Mr. Munro) and is ready to eat in just over half an hour. It also keeps well and makes excellent toast—if there are leftovers!



CONTEST: Fill out the rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift certificate. What is your favorite type of bread to eat and have you tried making your own?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy called Bella. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel and bake bread. To learn more about One Night of Misbehavior and Shelley’s other books visit her website at http://www.shelleymunro.com.







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Monday, May 6, 2013

Madness and Puppy School

I feel like I'm living out of the trunk of my car. Everything is put up or inaccessible. To make things even MORE interesting, we just found out one of our water heaters has sprung a leak. It not only overflowed its basin, but through the ceiling and into our bedroom. Replacing the water heater isn't an issue. It's the idea of hauling that monster up to the attic. The joys of home ownership!

Meanwhile, we are in a state of suspended animation until the floor refurbishing is done. The work crew should be here any minute.

***


Greg & Nana after school
We took Nana to her first day at puppy school yesterday. She was timid, which was to be expected considering the enormous stimuli of crowds, noises, and strange dogs, but she got into the swing of things as the hour progressed. 

It's not just a proud mama saying this, but Nana was the best puppy in the group. Not only did she learn our first day's commands immediately, but she sat quietly the whole time. 

Meanwhile, one dog never stopped barking and another was looking for a fight. Even Iko didn't misbehave like this when I took him to puppy school. I raise my kids better than that.

I'll be in and out the rest of the week. I'm working off an antiquated laptop and the most it allows me to do is surf the web--if my internet is working. Right now, I'm too frazzled to think. We've been working nonstop to get the house emptied. 

The dogs have been good as gold throughout the calamity. Tank is the only one who seems upset by the turmoil. I'm afraid he thinks we're moving again. Poor old guy. We keep reassuring him that all is well, but he's not too sure. We just have to get through this week.




Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chaos in 3, 2, 1

Our home and our lives will be disrupted for the next few days. Monday, we have a crew coming in to refurbish our wood floors. 

We have a lot of floor.

I'm told they'll be working on our floors for at least two days. Inconvenient for us, but I anticipate lots of headaches as we try to reassure our dogs that the workers mean no harm.

Starting today, we'll be moving furniture from two-thirds of the house into the remaining one-third. I imagine we'll be watching a lot of television in the bedroom--that is if we can see past all the other furniture piled up in it.

From what I understand, the crew will then super-clean, buff and then recolor the floor to match its original tone. After that, they'll put a sealer on it then treat it with some UV light that's supposed to make a harder seal.

I'm worried that it won't look as good as the pictures they advertise. The before and after photos look convincing, but I know what Photoshop can do!

Still, the person we talked to seemed an honest sort, so maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Normally, we would've refinished the floors ourselves, but we don't get up and down as easily as we used to, and Greg is gone so much, so we decided to hire this job out.

Anyway, I'll probably be on the computer a lot while we're waiting. They'll be doing one half of the house at a time so at least we'll have bathrooms available.

I'll report back after they're done and let you know what kind of job they did. Maybe I'll post some before and after pictures too.

What's the longest you've ever been inconvenienced due to a remodeling job? Did it turn out all right?

Yes, I'm nervous about the outcome. Can you tell?