Click on the image for more information.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pillow Talk

I envy Greg. He can sleep anywhere, anytime. 

Me? The slightest noise wakes me up. The tiniest lump in the bedding will keep me tossing and turning. 

I use a Japanese buckwheat hull pillow because it can cradle my head at the right elevation without applying too much pressure. Too high and I can't move my neck the next morning. Too low and Greg says I snore like a 300 pound truck driver.

I desperately want a new bed but Greg and I can't decide which one. I've had friends rave about those Tempur-pedic foam mattresses, but they allegedly can also get too warm. 

Greg would never tolerate that. As it is, I have to sleep bundled in heavy blankets because he cranks the air down to Eskimo level. We are true opposites when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

Strangely enough, by morning I'm nearly naked, while he buries himself in all the blankets I've thrown off. Sometime during the night he gets colder while I get warmer. Weird!

Even a traditional bed would be hard to fit for both of us. I like my beds firmer, while he prefers a softer mattress.

All this is to explain that I haven't been sleeping well for a while. 

Usually when that happens it's because of troubling premonitions of something awful that's about to happen, but if there've been any nightmares, I don't remember them.

I think it's just the bed. It and I have had an unhappy relationship for years. I can't remember the last time I've had a good night's sleep. It's been that long.

It's time to replace that torture device, but since it's such a costly investment, I want to get something that's comfortable for both of us.

Any suggestions? What kind of bed brand do you use? Do you ever have trouble falling asleep--or staying asleep?


Monday, August 11, 2014

Cover Design: Behind the Scenes

Since Barbara Wright asked, today's post will be about what goes on behind the scenes when designing a cover. It's actually very similar to how publishers deal with their authors--only with me you deal directly with the artist.

When someone expresses interest in getting some work done, the first thing I do is send him a cover art questionnaire. I ask only for a brief synopsis where I look for keywords that will help me pinpoint what's important in the story, and what's saleable.

After I've emailed the client with my thoughts or questions (to make sure we're both on the same page), I toy with various pieces of art and fonts to see what clicks.

Why does it cost as much as it does?
There's a common adage that says, you get what you pay for. I think that's true for the most part.

I don't make as much as when I worked for 'da man' doing the same sort of work, but there are other perks for me. Like working on what interests me and creating visuals for an industry I love. A book cover or poster is so much more exciting than doing a plumber's full page ad.

Most of my expenses come from two things. Looking for art. And paying for it. Since I usually charge a flat fee, every hour I spend hunting for the right model is an hour I'm not getting paid for putting the final art together.

Maria's 3 Rules for Hard-working Art
Whether it's a cover, a Facebook banner, or a printed poster, I try to make sure the graphic obeys three rules.

Rule #1 
It's gotta stop traffic. Good cover art is a selling tool. It should convey genre and subject matter to the intended audience. It must trigger an emotional response to stop and look deeper.

Rule #2
Make it memorable. I want it to haunt the viewer so that it becomes instantly recognizable when they see it again on someone's Goodreads bookshelf.

Rule #3
It should be unique. Especially with romance, if all you have are two people in a desperate clench, it loses its impact because that visual has become cliche.

Instead I try to design something subtler and more evocative.  It's a psychological ploy. Your brain will catch the nuance, but it doesn't register except perhaps on a subconscious level. It's like planting a seed in someone's mind. 

And because Barbara asked:
How do you deal with a client who thinks they're an artist (when they're really not) and uses words like, "this needs more zazz!" or "I love it. Change everything."? 

You mean aside from swallowing dangerous amounts of aspirin? It happens, but fortunately not very often. I try to be gentle and steer them in the right direction. 

Too much input diminishes the creative process to grunt work. You end up making compromises to please a client rather than producing a piece of art that will be a selling tool.

Sometimes I'll give them what they want and say goodbye. But, if what they want is utter trash, I walk away. I don't want my name associated with it.

That's the beauty of freelancing. I can work with who I want.

By the way, Barbara, great questions!

This was fun! If you guys have any other ideas for future posts, leave me a comment. Does anyone have any questions about the process?

I'll leave you with a few jobs I've done recently. If you need some art, this is where you can find more information

Book Cover
Bookmark, side 1

Post Card

Blog header

Monday, August 4, 2014

Michael Keyton: Master Wordsmith

I've known Mike Keyton for several years. We met on the online critique site, OWW, but I don't remember which one of us critted the other first.

I knew almost from the start that Mike wasn't just another wannabe writer though. The guy had real writing chops, the kind that make you doubt your ability to judge one's betters. But he was equally gracious when he analyzed other people's work.

Even when I was writing bilge water, he found enough redemptive qualities in my work to dissuade me from cutting open my wrists with a fountain pen.

If my writing has improved over the years, I can cite Mike as one of my role models. We have vastly different styles, but he's taught me so much about sneaking up on a story and teasing out those subtle details that put flesh on bone.

It brings me great pleasure to announce Mike's first foray into romance. DARK FIRE is billed as a historical paranormal, but it also borders on magical realism. At least it did to me.

This is a novella that covers a great span of time, so expect it to jump quickly between eras. The main characters inhabit other bodies, even other genders, as they struggle to find each other again through time. 

I would've been content if the story had stayed in one era, but Mike's eloquence kept me invested to the very end. 

Lovers of the metaphysical will devour this story in an afternoon. But writers of any genre should read this too, if only to watch a master wordsmith paint with prose.

Well done, Mike. Now if I could only talk you into writing a strictly historical novel.

Writers: Have you ever had a critique partner inspire or mentor you? Have you ever found yourself in a mentoring position to others?