Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 5 - 8

As exciting as great world-building or conflict is to a novel, one of the most crucial elements are the characters and their relationships. How do they act and react around each other? Is their relationship fraught with tension or do they buoy each other up? How does their relationship change during the course of the story? Which relationships break? What new ones are forged? It's fascinating to think about.

Real life focuses on relationships. In my opinion, a good novel should reflect on real life by exploring relationships and their outcomes. My debut novel Trefury: Mendi's Curse gave me the opportunity to study and write about several different kinds of relationships.

Some of these relationships are:
1 - Parent to child
2 - Extended relatives
3 - Friends
4 - Enemies
5 - Partnerships and ex-partnerships
6 - Societal versus personal
7 - Work associations
8 - Divine to mortal
9 - Human to non-human
10 - Stranger to stranger

I'm grateful for the multiple opportunities to reflect and analyze relationships. I think in a subtle way, doing so has helped me strengthen the real relationships I have. I was a very introverted, reclusive child who developed into an introverted, reserved adult. However, those people I truly came to know and who grew to know me have developed something special, fun, and unique. I look forward to making more good relationships, and it's one of my goals to be more open and out-going.

So which songs (that I haven't featured already) helped with creating the writing zone I needed for some of these relationship scenarios? I hope you have a few minutes and are in the mood to listen to music, because there were several. I'm only featuring a few here.

First up is 'Dilemma' by Selena Gomez:

This one describes pretty well the frustration of one person who wants to have a relationship with someone else, but there are communication issues, and the point of view person doesn't quite understand the other. They don't want to just walk away and forget about that person, they're drawn to them. I had to do a little male-female flip-flopping in my mind because it's the male whose baffled by the female in my story.

The second one is 'Outlaw' by Selena Gomez:

When I first heard this song I smiled and thought "Wow, that fits one of my lead characters perfectly." There's a price to be paid for discarding people.

The third one is 'Uninvited' by Alanis Morrisette:

There's a lot of psychological action in this book, including telepathic and emotional intrusions. Characters literally get in the heads of other characters, but there is one character who has such a strong will that no one gets in "uninvited." It makes this character a mystery to the others, even though this person seems pretty readable and easy-going.

The last song I'll feature this week is 'Silent Movie' by Natasha Bedingfield:

We seldom know what one interaction with someone else will snowball into. Lives criss-cross; we touch each other and pass on, but we leave a mark on each other. Our actions can lift someone up or destroy them. And perhaps we're more interconnected than we think.

This song also deals with a lack of communication with a surprising outcome. One who scoffs at another will eventually find they care about the other character, a lot more than they thought possible. Just like in real life, we may think someone else might not suit us and then find out we were wrong.

Question for you:
What relationships do you like to explore when reading or writing? Do you have a favorite or a must-have?

Previous Behind the Scenes Posts:
Forbidden Without Knowing Why
Let's Talk Hair 
My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 1
My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 2 & 3 
My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 4

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 4

Okay, this soundtrack dates me, but that's okay, because Trefury: Mendi's Curse was conceived back when I was a teenager and this song was playing on the radio. It's been twenty years, roughly, since I wrote the first draft. I still have it, written in blue pen on notebook paper. I even have the graph sheets where I diagrammed the infamous East Wing and my early drawings of Cortnee and Thssk.

Trefury's come a long way since that rough draft. Time periods, settings, characters, and even plot lines have drastically changed. The best parts haven't changed much at all.

Track 4 is 'Elevator Man' by Oingo Boingo. It fits in well with my Thssk character, his notorious reputation and personality. I won't give away too much. Once you've read the story, you'll see the parallels in the lyrics of the song. I only ask that you take away the romantic connotations, because this story isn't a romance story. It's the battle of wills between age and youth, compulsion and agency, a seductively persuasive character versus a closed and guarded one. One takes the other away from everything they've known with the intent to use them (Note: there's no sexual content of any kind in this book.). I'm talking about mental and emotional seduction with the intent to manipulate.

Thssk's voice is hard to resist. My critique partners fell for him. Will you?

Here's my track 4 song. I couldn't find a link that showcased the words, but if you listen they aren't too hard to depict.

Previous Behind the Scenes Posts:
Forbidden Without Knowing Why
Let's Talk Hair 
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 1
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 2 & 3

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tips to Help Indie Authors Help Their Cover Artists

I used to work in travel as a tour wholesaler, which basically means I would package together travel elements such as a plane ticket, a hotel stay, and transfers to and from the airport then turn around and sell the package to travel agents, who would then sell it to the public. The most annoying part of my job was dealing with travel agents and/or through them their clients who had no idea what they wanted.

I'd get calls that ran something like this:

Travel agent: "My client wants to go to the Caribbean."

Me: "When would they like to go?"

Travel agent: "Oh anytime between June and August. When would they get the best airfare?"

Me: "That depends on where they want to go."

Travel agent: "Somewhere cheap. I'd like pricing on four, five, six, and seven nights."

Me: "I need you to narrow it down."

Travel agent: "Why?"

Me: "Because you know your client better than I do."

Travel agent: *gives a big, annoyed sigh* "Try Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, and Turks and Caicos."

You get the idea. Often people don't have a clear idea of what they want. Dumping their vague expectations on someone else is not only unfair, but it's always bound to lead to disappointment for both sides.

If you're an indie author getting ready to publish your book, you need a great cover for your book. Sometimes this means working with an artist. It's important to do your research when selecting an artist, checking into pricing, availability, and getting an idea of what an artist's work is like. But your job isn't over once you have all that figured out and lined up.

In fact, even before you select your artist, it's a good idea to do cover research first, since that will give you a pretty good idea of what you want and help you find an artist that has that vibe or capability.

1 - Visit bookseller or reader websites. Select the genre your story is written in (or genres if you're writing a cross-genre book) and scroll through the list of books. Don't spend time reading the book summaries. Examine the covers. Take note of which covers leap out at you and make you curious to read the summary. Look for patterns in not only layout, but color, and the type of art being used for your genre. Take copious notes.

***Your cover needs to reflect the genre it is written in. A potential reader should be able to glance at your cover and instantly get a feeling for what type of book it is.***

2 - Doodle. Experiment with layouts for your cover. Use block shapes and circles. You don't have to be an artist. Doing this helps you realize how important the placement of the title and other words are, how big the images might be, and whether you have too much or too little in mind.

***Coming up with two or three possible layouts will cut down on time for your artist. Which could save you money.***

3 - When choosing elements to go on your cover, think about your novel. Maybe you want the lead character(s) featured on the front. How much of them do you want to show? How much do you want to leave to the reader's imagination? Maybe you want a setting which will showcase your world-building. Maybe you want something symbolic. What elements are going to entice readers without giving too much away? Don't throw these questions at your artist. They didn't write the book. You did. Your artist will need you to come up with the details, such as what your characters look like and what they are wearing, or what your setting looks like. Make up a list or even better, give you artist excerpts from the book to show them what you want.

Sometimes it's helpful to make up a sort of scrapbook, using pictures that have the flavor, look, or idea of what you want. Models in the right stance, people who look like your characters, scenery (whether real or made-up) that have echoes of your world, fabric or color swatches, even fonts or decorative script samples. These samples don't necessarily represent your idea in full, but they will help your artist stay on track.

***This will also save time and money. It will also help prevent your artist from having too much freedom of interpretation that could mean coming up with characters, settings, or symbols that look nothing like what you want.***

4 - If you are not purchasing a font for the words on your cover, you will need to design your own, and that made-up font will need to be embedded into the artwork. Check to see if your artist will help you design a font. Make sure that you consider carefully your word placement on your cover. Will your name or the name of the book be bigger? Do you have a subtitle? Which words will get the flashy treatment and which ones will be plainer? What colors are you going to use?

5 - Know your deadline. Make sure you give your artist plenty of time to complete the project, with extra time for revisions. Don't demand a great cover within a few days or even a week. You'll need time to discuss your ideas with your artist, time for preliminary sketches, time for them to do the actual artwork, and then revisions (there will always be revisions). Your artist may have other clients at the same time. Check with your artist to find out their timetables, availability, and how fast they can work.

***Remember, the more research and prep work you've done, the less time the artist should need to complete the project.***

6 - If you have a good rapport with your artist, and they have both the time and inclination, let them read your novel before starting on the cover. It makes a world of difference if they understand the story and where you're coming from when you give them your list of cover elements.

7 - If your novel is the first book in a series, or you plan on hiring this same artist again for other novels, you'll want to cultivate a good relationship with your artist. Be grateful for their time and work. Promote them to your other writer friends. Make sure you've mentioned them on your copyright page and in the acknowledgements of your novel. Artists, like authors depend on that precious word-of-mouth recommendation for their work.

Question for you: Do you have an artist you've been very satisfied with? What was your working relationship like? Go ahead and promote them in the comments.

Do you know of any other good tips for indie authors who will be working with an artist?

You May Also Like:
Interview with My Cover Artist, Nicolle Raty
Cover Reveal for Trefury: Mendi's Curse

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Tracks 2 & 3

Sometimes you just need mood music as you write. Here are a couple of songs I listened to a lot to help me stay in the zone as I worked on my debut novel, Trefury: Mendi's Curse.

The first one is found on OC Remix: Chrono Trigger 'Crying Mountain' by Saiko:

This song was my transition song, or the travel theme song. Appropriate transitions are important to storytelling, and the beat helped remind me to keep them brief and to the point. You want to keep moving with a story, not get bogged down in one place.

The next song is also found on OC Remix: Diddy Kong Racing 'Shiva Nataraja' by Guifrog:

I really went for a heavy mishmash of Asian and Middle-Eastern (with some Western) vibes when designing the country and world a couple of my lead characters come from. It helped listening to upbeat Asian-techno and Indian dance music. Pandora was also a help when I really wanted to get into that mindset.

These are just a couple of the mood music songs on my playlist. I have several more. Many writers prefer this kind of music to write to, rather than songs with words. I limit my non-worded music, trying to especially avoid soundtracks, as these tend to make me think of the movies they come from and the characters in those movies. But there are times when I don't have any specific song that fits the theme, emotion, or situation I'm writing about. Then I queue the non-movie, no-words music.

Question for you:
How important is mood music to your writing process? What do you look for when choosing your mood music?

Previous Behind the Scenes Posts:
Behind the Scenes #3: My Writing Soundtrack for Trefury, Track 1
Forbidden Without Knowing Why
Let's Talk Hair

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Interview with My Cover Artist, Nicolle Raty

 As promised last week, I'm featuring my cover artist, Nicolle Raty, on the blog today. Nicolle and I go way back, I mean, way, way back. She's one of my best friends and she's watched me develop as a writer as I've watched her develop as an artist. Naturally, she was the first person I turned to when I needed a cover for my novel. Finding a reputable and good artist can be tricky or a lot of work, so for you authors still searching for an artist, I'm making one possible choice a little easier today by giving a personal reference. If you like what you see here on the blog or by following Nicolle's links, she may be the right artist for your next novel.

Copyright Nicolle Raty
J.A.: Nicolle, what do you love about being an artist?
N.R.: I love learning about things I draw or paint. I love the realm of discovery as you sketch and create, and magical moments when something suddenly appears or works out better than you originally planned. Seeing the excited looks on authors'/clients' faces when their ideas become tangible.

J.A.: What professional credits do you have?
N.R.: I earned my Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design/Illustration with a minor in History from Brigham Young University Idaho in 2004. Since then I've worked on a variety of projects form book illustration, graphic design, murals, Native American crafts, and more. 
Copyright Nicolle Raty
J.A.: What are your artistic specialties? What kinds of art projects do you want to do?
N.R.: Fantasy and/or children's books.

J.A.: What should a writer do to help you visualize their project?
N.R.: Be specific and detailed. Giving me a "whatever you think is best" means I decide how things look. Extra corrections and adjustments will cost you more.

J.A.: How do you prefer to be contacted by prospective clients?
N.R.: Via email: nicolle.nic.inc(at)gmail.com
You can also contact me through my Facebook or Behance portfolio sites.

J.A.: Do you have any limitations, restrictions, or art projects you won't take on?
N.R.: I won't do anything extra-violent, sexually suggestive, gay or lesbian, political, or last-minute rush projects (2 weeks or less) unless it's very simple.

Copyright Nicolle Raty
From my own personal experience with Nicolle, she's fast, fun to collaborate with, has a great sense of humor, and is one of the sweetest people I know. I'm very pleased with the cover she did for me and I can't wait to see the interior illustrations she's been working on.

Be sure to click through and check out her links for more samples of her artwork. She's been doing a fun series of coloring book pages for kids on Facebook.

And congratulations are in order as Nicolle is getting ready to get married in September. It's going to be a big month for both of us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cover Reveal for Trefury: Mendi’s Curse

And here it is, the first cover for my novel, Trefury: Mendi's Curse, coming out September 2014. This will be for the hardcover edition.

This cover is original artwork and copyright protected.

An ancient legend is remade.

Meet the oddest, most-likely-to-fail partnership the planet Niyhel has ever known. He’s cunning, intelligent, and dangerous. She’s slow to trust, reckless, and loyal. And both of them have their own ideas about how to do things.

Thssk, a six-thousand-year old norhendra, has unwittingly caused the near extinction of his kind. Then he abandoned his handler, momentarily forgetting that she was an astral. She curses him as he flees the battlefield: the next handler he chooses will avenge her. Hunted by his past, it takes a divine summons and a volcanic eruption to rekindle Thssk’s competitive spirit after a long hibernation. Racing against his enemies to rescue a boy from another planet?—he’s the only one capable of pulling it off. But there’s a catch, he has to select a new human partner to work with.

Tech savvy Cortnee Feyandihar is tracking down the people responsible for her mom’s death while trying to gain a footing on a career path in the fields of music and dance. But when she goes too far with a corruption exposé, a last-ditch effort to salvage her future sticks her in the middle of an inter-world showdown and right into Thssk’s coils.

On a world where starships are born, homes grow, and flowers can flatten entire cities, the fates of two lands hangs in the balance, as do the lives of millions of people. Yet it all pales in comparison to Thssk confronting the repercussions of discarding his previous partners as he struggles with his unpredictable new one. Everything Cortnee thought she understood has turned inside out and she must utilize every skill in her arsenal to get a grip on her new reality. If they can’t learn to communicate and work together, he won’t achieve the great future he was promised, but if they do, Cortnee could fall like her predecessors—into madness.

Stay in the know with the book's release by following this blog, my page on Facebook, or my Twitter account. A couple of giveaways are forthcoming.

If you love the look of the cover and want to know more about the artist, come back next week when I interview her. 

Enter to win a copy of the book.