Cover Art for The Thirteenth Tower, Part One

Designing the cover art for my book was a fun, and educational, experience. It was something of a luxury, having a vision of what I wanted yet letting someone else do all the hard work to bring it into being. In this case, that someone was the talented artist Ferdinand Ladera. I must say, it was a pleasure working with Ferdinand. I was a rather picky client, and he obliged my finickiness with good humor.

 

However, during the process one thing became stunningly apparent: I don’t know the first thing about designing book covers. If there is one lesson that I took away from this experience, it’s that a pretty picture does not necessarily result in a good cover. But, as the chatty “they” are so fond of saying, “a picture is worth more than a thousand words.” So I thought I’d share the process with you, from the early sketches down to the final result.

 

To keep this post from getting too unwieldy, I’ve decided to split it into two parts. In part one I’ll share the black and white sketches. Part two will feature the color studies and the final image. The second part will be somewhat longer, as there are more colored images than black and white ones. There were also some setbacks on the path of finalizing the image, but I’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s look at the sketches.

 

It started with me giving a description of what I had in mind. I wanted a snowy forest, with a falcon somewhere in the image, and ivy growing upon one of the trees and twining across the ground. I found some pictures of forests with angles similar to what I was thinking. With the given information, Ferdinand supplied the following two sketches:

 

[tabs slidertype=”images” fx=”slide”] [imagetab width=”464″ height=”290″]https://saracsnider.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/sketch1.jpg[/imagetab] [imagetab width=”464″ height=”290″]https://saracsnider.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/sketch2.jpg[/imagetab] [/tabs]

 

My first thought was, “wow.” Had I been forced to settle for one of the pictures as-was, I would have been pretty happy, even with it in black and white. But this was just a first draft.

 

So I considered what I liked and didn’t like about both pictures. That was really hard. Both pictures were good, each having its own strengths and weaknesses. The result was that I liked the trees in one picture, but liked the falcon in the other. I didn’t like all the birds in the sky, as it made me feel like there must have been a dead animal somewhere (which is probable, given it’s a forest, but not relevant for the purposes of the cover). I also didn’t like all the bracken on the ground, as I felt it made the forest look much harsher than I imagined and also might be too cluttered for the purposes of a book cover. There was also the ivy missing that I wanted on one of the trees. Ferdinand took the feedback and provided the third sketch.

 

[tabs slidertype=”images” fx=”slide”] [imagetab width=”464″ height=”290″]https://saracsnider.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/sketch3.jpg[/imagetab] [/tabs]

 

And there it was. The picture I had in my mind (or near enough, anyway), now sketched in black and white. I loved it. It had that calm, quiet feeling that I was looking for. I’m honestly still kind of amazed that Ferdinand was able to capture what I wanted so quickly. I approved the sketch and we moved on to the color study.

 

Please stay tuned for part two where I’ll share the colored versions of the sketches, and the bump in the road when I realized that a book cover needed to be more than just a pretty picture. Not to mention, of course, the final image that will be the cover of my book, The Thirteenth Tower.

 

You can find part two of this post here.

 

 

Summertime

Summer is here, and in Sweden that means long, sunny days. It’s nice, and a little weird, waking up at 2:00 am and seeing the sky still blue, with the sun just below the horizon. Surreal. But that’s one of the reasons why I love it here in Sweden.
 
Particularly pleasant this month is that I have family visiting, so I’m taking the month off from writing to have fun and relax. Which is also why this month’s update is so short. It’s kind of hard, stepping away from my book when it’s so close to being finished (I hope to have it done by the end of the year), but it’s not often I have family from California here in Sweden, and the manuscript will keep.
 
I hope the summer months find you happy and well and I hope you’ll join me next month where I’ll be sharing the cover art for my book as well as writing about the process of creating it. Until then, a little poem:
 

‘Twixt and ‘tween the river’s bend,

A hollowed log upon ferny fen.

On moony nights do the fae here dance,

While frogs on stools swap parlance.

Book Review: Realmgolds

Realmgolds Realmgolds

Mike Reeves-McMillan

Published March 2013 by C-Side Media

Rating: Two stars

 

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Realmgolds is a steampunk fantasy novel about Determined, the Realmgold of Denning, who is forced to contend with the eruption of a civil war within his borders. He receives guidance and assistance from Victory, Realmgold of neighboring Koskant. However, a magical treaty prevents anyone from Koskant crossing Denning’s border under arms, so Determined and Victory need to get clever in how they tackle the uprising.

Despite that there is a war going on, this book is pleasantly low-action. Most of what takes place is “behind the scenes”, focusing more on the people making the decisions than those carrying them out. While I appreciate the idea of it, the execution, for me, fell flat. For a story focusing on people, there was surprisingly little character development. Far too infrequently were we allowed in Determined’s head to find out what made him tick. He tackled each problem as it came up with rarely an indication of what he was feeling. This made it very difficult for me to get more than a vague idea of what he was like, and that’s a shame because it made me not care – about him or the story.

The writing was competent, though there was far too much “telling” and not enough “showing” for my taste. The result was a flattened narrative that made me feel as though I was reading a very long newspaper article rather than an engaging novel. This, combined with the emotionally distant characters, made the reading laborious.

The world was interesting and well conceived. I liked how magic and high fantasy races were married into a technological world, which gave the setting a freshness that is sometimes lacking in fantasy novels. There is also a depth to the world that is hinted at in the story, leaving plenty for future novels to expand upon. This is a good thing. For, despite the story’s shortcomings, the potential is there. I hope Mike Reeves-McMillan takes that potential and runs with it. Even if his books aren’t for me, it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Enjoying the Little Things

This past month has been difficult. Health issues cropped up, leaving me not only physically drained but also emotionally stressed and fatigued. Anxiety flared, sleep suffered. I’ve spent this past month getting a hold of my emotions, of relaxing my anxious nerves and getting my life back. While I can’t say I’ve succeeded 100%, I have succeeded enough to where my life almost feels normal again. Right now, that’s a big deal.

 

So now it’s May, and I’ve started writing again. I missed April’s update for this blog, for which I apologize. I actually had an article already written that I had planned on posting, in which I discuss my thoughts on the editing process. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to post it. After the turbulence of April, discussing editing seemed insincere, irrelevant. Like I was trying to deny my own emotional turmoil and pretend that editing really was what was on my mind at that moment. It wasn’t, and still isn’t.

 

So instead I wanted to write an article about what is on my mind, of what’s important to me. And right now, it’s all about enjoying the little things. It’s about living in the moment as much as I can. Letting go of events in the past, trying not to worry about what might happen in the future. Instead I try to focus on the present and find pleasure and beauty in the things around me.

My walking/running grounds.

My walking/running grounds.

 

I used to run three times a week. Instead of running, I’m now walking daily. While I always enjoyed being outside while running, I never really appreciated my surroundings. I’ve started noticing things that previously had escaped my attention. Like how the trees rustle in the wind. Or the way a certain bird chirps the loudest in a particular area of the forest. I’ve watched, each day, as the snow melted and collected into pools and streams. I’ve watched as birds have flocked to these pools to bathe and hunt in the water. I’ve watched the small flowers blossom from the bracken and leaves of the forest floor. I’ve seen how the wild blueberry bushes have grown taller with buds that will soon blossom and leaf. I usually stop while walking, just to listen and smile and enjoy the moment. These moments give me peace and it is because of these moments I will continue to walk frequently, even after I start running again.

 

Blåsippor

Blåsippor

Although it is, perhaps, easier to find pleasure in the beauty of nature, I also strive to find pleasure in my daily life. I’ve started eating healthier and it’s a challenge I’ve decided to tackle enthusiastically. I push myself to see just how many fruits and vegetables I can eat in a day and the interesting ways in which I can eat them. I enjoy seeing and feeling the beneficial changes in my body. My waist and legs have slimmed; I have more energy, my headaches have lessened. I feel like I am being kinder to myself and that fosters feelings of love and compassion for myself as well.

 

I enjoy the fact that I am writing again and that I’m fortunate to spend each day doing something I love.

 

Focusing on the little things has helped me remember what’s important: my health, my family and loved ones. It has helped me to remember to embrace life’s challenges and to learn and grow from them and not to fear and worry over the uncertainties of the future. I can’t say I always succeed, but I’m getting better at it, and that’s enough for me.

 

What little things in your life bring you happiness?

Book Review: OCR is Not the Only Font

OCR is Not the Only Font  OCR is Not the Only Font

Damon L. Wakes

Published August 9th 2012 by Smashwords

Rating: Four stars

 

 

 

OCR is Not the Only Font is a collection of 31 very short stories, written over the course of 31 days for Flash Fiction Month. The mission? Write a story every day ranging from 55 to 1000 words. The result? A fast-paced romp of wacky hijinks where robots are romantics and minotaurs are oppressed. Intrigued? You should be.
Okay, okay, I exaggerated a little bit. It’s not all madcap-mayhem. Some of the stories are, actually, serious. In fact, if you look at the graphs at the end of the book (and, yes, I did skip to the end and read those first), you’ll see the pie chart indicating that about 1/4 of the stories are of a more serious nature. So, it’s 3/4 wacky hijinks. Not bad, right?

Not bad if you like silly stories, which I do. Some are clever with little twists that make you smile. Others are rather corny, taking on the quality of a joke that makes you groan while waiting to hear the “ba-dum-tish” piping from your computer (or e-reader, or whatever you use). But I love to laugh, so even these found a way into my heart and I admire the author’s moxie in not only writing such things down, but also in sharing them with the public in all their cheesy glory.

There are, of course, the more serious stories. Though these are good, it was the fun, quirky tales that drew me into the book. At first I thought it was the nature of flash fiction that lent itself well to silliness, but after further consideration, I don’t think that’s the case. There’s something unapologetic about these stories, exhibiting the act of writing for the simple joy of it. Considering the circumstances under which they were written, I think that makes sense. Who could manage to write a story every day for a month, if one didn’t love to write?

The writing itself, though rough in spots, was quite good, and any bumps in technique were made up for in heart. The brevity of the stories provides for an easy read, creating a “just one more” craving, like intellectual potato chips. It’s fun, it’s whimsical, and it’s worth picking up. After all, where else can you find stories about a drunken Superman or revolutionary zombies, all in one spot?

Chasing Dreams: Finding the Road to Becoming an Author

Why did you first have the idea to become a writer? I could be wrong, but it was probably because you read a book that touched you so deeply, that pierced you to your core, that you thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to inspire this feeling in others?”

 
[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #8f1f1f;”] T [/dropcap]his is what Joe Bunting recently asked in his article “To Be a Writer, You Only Need to Do Two Things”. The paragraph resonated with me because, well, this is exactly what happened. For me, the book was Neil Gaiman’s Stardust – a modern-day fairy tale full of magic, whimsy, and love. It struck all the right chords and was the first book where I remember thinking, “I want to write stories like that”.
 
Yet even with that revelation, I didn’t begin to write. My own self-doubt and refusal to believe that I could, actually, become a writer was probably my biggest hindrance. Another was a distinct lack of inspiration. Quite simply, I didn’t know what to write about. I was waiting for the clouds to part and the light to beam down on me with The Idea that would become my story. But it didn’t happen. I had fragments of ideas, small scraps of stories that, on their own, didn’t amount to much. I lived with these ideas floating around in my head for several years before I finally realized inspiration wasn’t going to fall into my lap and I would have to work for it. So I started sifting through the scraps. Some of them came together, some didn’t (and are still floating around in my head, waiting for me to find them a home). Then, with an infusion of fresh ideas to marry with the old, I finally had it: my story.
 
And yet, I still didn’t begin to write. Not really. Every now and then on a weekend evening I would sit down for an hour or so. My progress was slow. In a year, I had written the prologue and one or two chapters (most of which got scrapped later due to poor writing). It’s easy to make excuses, to get caught up in the daily routine of life and not make time for the things that matter to us. Especially when you have that nagging little voice telling you, “You’re not good enough”.
 
I’m fortunate. Extremely so. An opportunity presented itself, giving me the chance to write full-time. It wasn’t until I took this opportunity that my writing finally took off. In a year, I finished my first draft.  But that’s not what’s remarkable. What’s remarkable is that I’m starting to believe in myself. I still hear the nagging little voice, telling me I’ll fail. But I’m learning to recognize it for what it is: my own fear – fear of change, fear of success, fear of putting my heart on a page for all the world to see. Facing our fears helps enrich our lives; it makes us stronger, helps us grow. Doing so is rarely easy and sometimes we need a little help (or a lot) to get us started. But if you can get through it and come out the other side smiling, then it is a struggle well fought and well worth the effort.
 
For me, writing isn’t about book sales. (Of course I hope my book sells when it’s published, but that’s not what’s important.) It’s about connecting with others, of sharing a story that, at one time, was only a vague idea floating around in my head. It’s about the joy that comes with others experiencing the story in their own way, and from their own perspective that differs from my own. It’s about facing my fears, of putting my heart out there and, win or lose, being proud of what I’ve done. It’s a bumpy road, and it’s not always easy to walk. But I’m walking it, and I’m excited for what the future holds.

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