Cover Design in Less Than Two Minutes (a reprise)

We’ve been sharing information here on the designing of book covers and I remembered a related post I wrote three years ago that I thought you might enjoy seeing again. (More accurately, I seized this opportunity to use something from the archives because I forgot to write a post last night. There! I’ve admitted it… but it fits in so well with my last few posts that I don’t feel one bit guilty.)

Here’s a time-lapse video that cleverly utilizes the process, condensing a six hour process into less than two minutes. It’s fascinating, albeit dizzying. In it, the Creative Director of Orbit Books, Lauren Panepinto,  displays her process for designing the cover of Gail Carriger’s Blameless. While vampires and werewolves aren’t my genre of choice, I thought the resulting cover was a good example of what Rachel Cole said in Friday’s post, that the cover design must reflect the genre, or potential readers won’t pick it up.

There’s more about the the making of this video on the Orbit Books website, and a further detailed commentary by Lauren Panepinto on the Design Related website.

It all goes to show that creating exactly the right cover isn’t a simple process.

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Collections… or, why I have rocks and wood in my house

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DSC00866Different things fascinate different people. I lean towards items with textural appeal, like rocks, wood, and pottery. I have a collection of handmade pottery mugs… singletons, each chosen as a memento of a special place. This one came from Israel as a gift from my hubby when he visited there many years ago.

The bits of wood are from two very different locales. The one piece riddled by gribbles and shipworms with a small seagull feather caught in it, came from the ocean’s shore on Vancouver Island. The other, barely two inches long and with minuscule bits of almost-petrified leaves, came from the tundra of the northern Yukon. I probably should have left the latter where I found it, but….

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Rocks are something else. It’s not their geological aspects that catch my attention, but interesting shapes, designs and textures. One of my young granddaughters is attracted to rocks — she had one in her pocket to take home on the airplane yesterday — and my BFF’s husband used to regularly pick up a rock on his daily runs. Their front garden displayed an impressive collection!

DSC00861I’ve taken to using a felt pen to print the source of many of mine on their undersides. It’s impossible to recall where all of them originated so you might wonder why I bother to keep them. I may not remember the exact occasions, but I know I would have been enjoying a stroll along a rocky shore, or wandering a wooded trail, visiting a special holiday location or perhaps marvelling at an awesome view when I stooped to gather the stones. Their existence is a pleasant reminder of my past and in an obscure kind of way they make me happy just by having them to admire.

In one of my novels a character dries and presses flowers to create a collection that preserves her memories of a place that was special during her childhood. Collections are distinctive and represent a person’s interests. They tell us something about that person without the need for a narrative description. (I admit to not wanting to know what my collections say about me!)

Are any of your characters collectors? Are you?

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Finding the bright spot

Daylight Saving Time wasn’t a problem for us. My hubby systematically turned all the clocks ahead during the previous evening and we went to bed an hour early without really noticing. Judging by the attendance at church on Sunday morning, however, not everyone fared as well.

There were a number of empty seats, and I overheard a lot of mumbling about lost sleep, the struggle… the reluctance… to get moving in the morning, and more than the usual grumbling about the drizzle after a much-too-brief sunshiny Saturday. Then in the sanctuary I found this exquisite bouquet on the chancel. A small note in the bulletin said it was placed in celebration of a child’s first birthday. I don’t imagine those parents got any more sleep than the rest of us, but they had found a reason for joy and shared it.

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The news broadcast last night told the story of a young woman whose joy was to sing. She has developed a rare form of throat cancer and yet she’s found a way to make the best of the situation while she waits for surgery.

I know people who are discouraged and/or depressed for many different reasons, but I also know others who are in equally difficult circumstances but still manage to find something, however small, on which to focus and glean joy. Ann Voskamp, author of ONE THOUSAND GIFTS, has suggested the answer to surviving our bad times is to express thankfulness. It sounds outrageous, I know, but she’s right.

“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.”

“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks
and ask for nothing to change.”
*

Joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice. I remember first hearing that from Sara Frankl. If you don’t know Sara’s story I hope you’ll take the time to check out this Dayspring video, Sara’s Story – Final. For years before she died Sara kept a blog. At a time when she needed much, she gave of herself to everyone she encountered. Her blog is still being maintained by her family, but on its sidebar you’ll find Sara’s own words:

I’m just a girl who used to write for a magazine to make a living, and now writes a blog to make a life. Extremely blessed, well-loved and choosing joy while learning that homebound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.

Ann Voskamp talks often about choosing joy, too, and has created a Joy Dare Collection of little cards that you can print out for each month with reminders to search for specific joys each day… to help us make a habit of looking for the tiny moments of joy that otherwise may slip past unnoticed.

As I step into this new week I am once again aware that no matter the circumstances, there is always joy. The choice is mine whether or not I will look for it and be thankful.

How about you? Can you think of at least one thing for which to give thanks today?

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“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.”

Psalm 9:1a

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* Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

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Welcoming a Debut Author

If you aren’t a writer you may not understand the strange passion that storytellers experience when they create with words. Spending time with fictional characters may seem like a frivolous pursuit… just as frivolous as splashing paint on a canvas or producing a series of musical sounds. Trivial stuff that any child can do, right?

But for the artist who struggles to express his creativity, the passion is a byproduct of talent stirred by emotion. I’ve always believed there is a subtle difference between talent and ability, talent being an aptitude or gift and ability being more of an acquired skill.  I’m beginning to think perhaps it’s just a matter of different semantics.

Norma McGuireMy aunt, Norma McGuire, has been heard to say, “My husband was the artist; I paint.” Well, in addition to being an artist, he was a storyteller. Years ago he created a cast of characters for a series of bedtime stories that entertained his sons and later his grandsons.

After his death eight years ago, Norma began transcribing his stories, embellishing them and adding her watercolour sketches to produce a chapter book for young readers. Her goal? “I would like [the manuscript] published as my gift to all children.”

With two friends assisting her in the editing process, she went through nine drafts before beginning to approach agents and publishers. All authors know how long the querying process can take. Finding an agent who will represent you can sometimes take years, and then finding an interested publisher can take the agent many more months.

Steve Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency, and a 30 year veteran of the bookselling industry, provided this rough guide to the average length of time it takes to get a book published.

  • “From idea to book proposal to your literary agent: 1-3 months;
  • “from agent to editor and book contract offer: 2-5 months;
  • “from contract offer to first paycheck: 2-3 months;
  • “from contract to delivery of manuscript to editor: 3-9 months (sometimes longer);
  • “from delivery of manuscript to editor actually working on it: 2-5 months;
  • “from editor to publication: 9-12 months.
  • Total time from idea to print: approximately 2 years.”

My aunt will be ninety this spring, and her family wanted to make her dream happen sooner rather than waiting for an indefinite later. So… we had it self-published as a surprise Christmas gift for her.

(All photos courtesy of Ra McGuire)

(All photos courtesy of Ra McGuire)

Now that she has had time to recover from the surprise and decide on marketing details, THE ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY AND MR. FREDERICKS is available to order. Information is on her blog, ‘Nonie Grace’ and also on the book’s website here.

I hope you’ll stop by to welcome this very special and talented debut author to the writers’ community and check out her new release.

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The Colour of Winter

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“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.”

Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894

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We acknowledge scripture references that speak of God as a creator — a sculptor, musician, an architect and artist. We marvel at the impressive beauty in his world around us, in the glory of a sunset or a rainbow, the magnificence of snowcapped mountains or the miracle of a newborn’s eyelashes. I saw beauty today in the simplicity of bare twigs against a barren landscape. From God’s palette, his chosen colour splashed into an otherwise unimpressive winter’s day.

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Interior designers will suggest adding an unexpected touch of colour to enliven an otherwise unremarkable decor. Artists and photographers know about highlighting one special feature to take a scene or painting from ordinary to extraordinary. What about authors? How do we make our writing go from common to exceptional?

As a writer, do you think of yourself as an artist? By being creative, how are you reflecting the creative power of God?

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“He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.”

[Exodus 35:35 - ESV]

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It’s just a Nativity set, isn’t it?

Crude black grease pencil numbers mark the underside of the painted clay manger bearing the Baby Jesus.  They say 79 cents. That was its price back in the mid-1970s when it was purchased in the now non-existent Woodward’s Department Story along with the other figures joining the Babe in our family’s first crèche.

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Budget constraints governed the choice then, but long after we could have afforded to replace them with better quality, we didn’t. We grew accustomed to them – each year carefully unwrapping the familiar figures and setting them into the shelter made by my hubby from a handful of leftover cedar shakes.

I didn’t particularly care for the look of them but after so many years there was a certain loyalty at stake. I admired other nativity sets – one particular ‘other’ – but couldn’t justify buying a second set when the original had nothing wrong with it.

Forty-some years later my wonderful hubby decided the time had come to indulge my dream, and last year for Christmas he bought me the Willow Tree Nativity set.

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Just as in home decorating, clothing styles or vehicle choices, people’s tastes will differ here. We are attracted to things for many reasons. I love the simplicity of the figures in this set… the hand sculpted look and the emotions they evoke, as I visualize that Bethlehem scene over two thousand years ago.

In art there are many different interpretations of the manger scene. There are some… um, unique ones, too, as discovered by youth pastor Mark Oestreicher who has now expanded his collection from last year’s twenty-seven to this year’s impressive forty-two of what he calls “the worst nativity sets”.

Our old set doesn’t qualify for his collection. It’s old fashioned, but typical. We still have it, although we didn’t unpack it this year. I’m not sure what we’ll do with it since it has earned its place as one of our many Christmas treasures and I can’t quite give it up.

Christmas is all about the arrival of Jesus the Christ into our messy world. However simple or elaborate, nativity sets are not meant to take their place in our homes as just another Christmas decoration. While we shouldn’t need miniature figures to remind us of the Love-made-incarnate that came to us that night long ago, they do give us something to focus on when we tend to slide past his birthday celebration into mere social activities.

Come to think of it, it couldn’t hurt to have a set in every room of our house. Maybe I should go unpack the other one.

Is a nativity set part of your family’s Christmas traditions?

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I’m taking a blogging break for the next couple weeks. I’ll still be around and will turn up online periodically, but in addition to my writing I want to take extra time to focus on family activities and the significance of the Christmas season.  In the meantime, consider this quote from Max Lucado:

 “Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him — and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.” *

May he come to you this Christmas.

(* Max Lucado in “The Arrival” from Christmas Stories for the Heart)

 

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The Music of Words

This incredibly heavy box of music is sitting in the middle of my kitchen. It represents over a decade of choral music collected by one of our church accompanists. In the same way as I hoard books, she hoards music, and for the same reason – it speaks to her.

She needed to downsize and was returning a portion of her collection. While I sorted through the six hundred-or-so octavos and several music books, I couldn’t ignore other similarities.

Notes build phrases of melody that blend into harmony, creating music that sings in my heart.

Letters become words and sentences, and grow into stories that beguile my imagination.

Both transport me to a new place. The creativity required to produce the best form of both is art, and originates somewhere deep within. When it is well done, it impacts those who listen… and read.

The creativity represented by all this music staggers me. Each song is unique and represents hours, days, months or maybe even years of the composer’s time. More significant is the piece of its creator’s soul that is embedded in the reality of each.

Composing words and music are both forms of writing, totally different, and yet so very much the same.

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If you are a writer, do you find your creativity spills over into other forms of art?

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Graphics by digitalart

 

The Fourth of July


(I’ll be back with a full post later today.)

A golden metal eagle sculpture is located at either end of the approach to the Golden Ears Bridge,
the newest bridge in the Vancouver Lower Mainland area.

Although not easily seen here, a golden eagle also soars from the top of the two towers at either end of the bridge.
(A click, and second click, will considerably enlarge the photo for detail.)

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Wishing all my American friends a Happy Independence Day!

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“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”

Isaiah 40:31


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