That’s her!

The appearance of main character Ariel was always well formed in my mind. She had long, thin, straight red hair. She was tall and slender, with an athletic body. She was confident, with a bit of attitude. She is the only character I captured on one of the original covers,  although it was from the back.

When I decided to rename my books, I needed new covers. Current fashion is to show the main character (from the front), so  I needed my new designers to keep my vision of what Ariel really looked like.

By the time we started the cover for Flickers of Fortune, the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design had already implemented their way of dealing with people like me, who are picky about their MC’s physical appearance. On the previous book, they sent me six potential models to choose from. I expected to see a half dozen or so redheads auditioning to be Ariel. I was surprised when I only got one.

They were spot on. She was Ariel. Not a single modification needed.

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Ariel to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. This particular model had other photos to choose from. DDD selected one in which she looked similar, and it would have worked fine.

Looking at it forced me to see other photos of this model, however, and I found several I liked so much better.  Doesn’t she look so much more interesting in the other three photos?

I persuaded DDD to try an edgier look and I was happy with the result. So were most people in my informal focus group, although one person thought she now looked slutty. Sigh …. Not what I intended.

Other people’s opinions aside, I decided to go with this vision of Ariel. I think it’s really her.

 

 

The fifth one

The fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design and I are getting pretty good at working together, I think. (It would be interesting to find out if they feel the same way.) We’ve both learned that I care so much about my main character that the process goes better if they send me photos to look at before they begin.

This time around they knew they’d found my Ariel and only sent  me one option. They were right; she was perfect.

Cillian, the other main character to be featured, appeared perfect too. I’d struggled with whether fellow psychic and love interest Siarnaq should be featured on the cover instead,  or perhaps Mikkel, the other love interest. In the end I picked Cillian. While there is no romance between him and Ariel, he has the most important precognitive skills and he goes on to play an important role in book six.

The first cover came back and I liked it a lot.

But there’s almost always a snag and this cover had two.

First of all, in the book, Ariel and Cillian can’t touch each other because it results in a painful electrical shock. That’s a problem given the way they are standing. I should have guessed the designer would put them right next to each other, but I didn’t, so I had to ask for a revision in which they were separated.

While we were at it, I also wanted more blue ocean in the background. So a design was produced with both corrections.

It had  separation and more ocean, but unfortunately, the beautiful blue on the left of the cover  got lost along the way. Also, a weird serpent like rock appeared off to the right.

This wasn’t going to work.

Then, someone pointed snag number two out to me. They thought Cillian, who is supposed to be in his forties, looked a little too old and could even be mistaken for Ariel’s father Alex, who is in his fifties. At first I didn’t think so, but upon reflection I saw the vague resemblance.

Would getting rid of Cillian’s grey and maybe his facial hair solve both problems? It seemed like it would go a long way towards distinguishing the two men.

So I requested  a revision with younger hair on Cillian, the blue and rocks  on the left put back, but the waves and water on the right left there.

This came back with two out of three. I definitely liked the younger looking Cillian and was happy to have my rocky cliff and thunderous sky back, but I’d really liked those waves and they weren’t there.

I will say, at this point it is tempting to give up. You feel like you’ve been enough of a problem and that the cover is close enough and you should just accept it and move on.

However, experience has taught me that covers matter a lot, and it is worth getting just want you want. So I sent this photo trying to explain what I was hoping for.

It worked!

The final cover is shown below and I don’t think I could be happier with it.

What a shame there is only more cover left to do. I feel like I’m finally getting good at my part in this.

Guess I’m just going to have to write more books, so I can get more covers done. 🙂

 

Finally

It’s interesting that the one cover I struggled with the most when I first released the 46. Ascending novels was for the third book. Interesting because the second time around, it’s been the same. The nice people of Deranged Doctor Design have sent me more varieties than either of us care to count. The first cover is shown  above.

I needed a more yellow sky. I needed a  new head for Alex. I needed a new body for Alex. I didn’t like the swirl. Or the new one. Or the one after that.

Finally I decided I didn’t want a swirl at all Just a bright light. Brighter. But with less dark edges.

Really, I’m not usually this hard to please. I’m not sure what it is about this story. Maybe, deep down, I think it’s the best thing I’ve written. I want this one to be perfect. I finally decided the version to the right was close enough.

Tonight I’ll send off the specs for my fifth novel, Flickers of Fortune. It was the other cover I had the most trouble with. Will history repeat itself?

 

The Sound of a Story

This was complicated enough. I’m overseeing the design of six new covers. I’m giving all six books no less than three separate edits, each one focusing on a different aspect of what will make a novel PERFECT. I’m setting up blog tours and assorted publicity for each book as it comes out, and for the first time I’m trying my hand at Amazon advertising to give these little glowing embers every chance to catch fire that I can.

I’m dizzy with it all.

Then my husband, supporter of my writing and all around good-guy, decides he’s going to read my books aloud so I can have audio books and he’s starting today. Wow. At first blush, this seems great. He knows the books. He has this deep, rich voice, honed from years in a classroom. And, he’s free. I mean, he has the time, but more importantly, he doesn’t cost anything. Narrators are expensive.

And then ….. I’m on the phone with Amazon trying to clarify requirements. He’s making many, many little files and I’m trying to find software to concatenate and convert them and really this just isn’t something I know much about or have time for right now. Arrrgggggg!!!!

You know what. It’s great. I’d rather have a wealth of opportunities coming at me than too little to do. Unlike Ariel, I don’t know  the future. I’ll take my chances throwing as many fishing lines out there as I can. Maybe I’ll catch something.

A Step Forward, a Step Back

Every part of self-publishing is an adventure. The process of having new covers made for my six novels has been no exception. I’ve been working with a group known as Deranged Doctor Design (you’ve got to love the name) and they’ve been great to deal with. We’ve been working on the cover for the second novel, Shape of Secrets, and just finalized the last step, the paperback version of the cover. Isn’t it beautiful? I especially love the beach on the back cover.

Oddly enough, the part requiring the most revision was the color of the spine and the insert on the back. I was determined for it to be orange, the designer wanted something in the burgundy/brown family. Finally she suggested this more transparent look and I loved it.

But no decision is without ramifications. The cover for the first novel, One of One, was finalized a few weeks ago. I love it, too, but take a look at the cover for the paperback.

It needs a semi-transparent spine and back cover inset now too, doesn’t it? Lucky for me the designer at DDD agreed, and One of One is getting its redo right now.

I’m starting to get a feel for the cascading ramifications of making a decision when you really, really want all six covers to match. One of One will be released in January about the time that the new cover for book three is done.

Should be interesting. I really hope we don’t come up with something on cover three that is so great, I have to stop and redo covers one and two again. What do you think are the odds?

Then of course, there are still covers four, five and six coming along. Like I said, it’s an adventure.

One Last Look

Burning Man is the most visually stimulating event I’ve ever attended, so it’s not surprising I ended up with far more photos than I used in my posts. Before I move on to blogging about more recent things, here are a few more I just have to share. Yes, it was quite the experience.

 

Day 16. What Rules? What Road?

Planning doesn’t work particularly well here on the playa. In fact, today it doesn’t work all. I’ve signed up for a couple of morning chores at my camp, and after dutifully completing them, I have this idea to go spend the hot middle of the day checking out four events found in the program, instead of napping or laying in the shade like I’ve done the previous two afternoons.

I down a breakfast of scrambled eggs mixed with salt and vinegar potato chips (delicious, you should try it) and get on my trusty bike filled with enthusiasm for the day ahead. It’s a great mix I’ve selected. First, I’m going to go get a facial. Then, it’s off to a camp serving ice cream cones. How cool is that. Then I’m going get a reading to find out what my spirit animal is and finish it all off with a henna tattoo.

Except the facial-giving camp informs me they are doing facials tomorrow, not today, and I must have read the booklet wrong. I’m totally welcome to have a seat and chill for awhile though ….  I sit awkwardly for a few minutes, certain I have read the booklet correctly, before giving up and moving on.

The ice cream camp turns out to be demonstrating how to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen, which is not only cool but like minus 100 degrees cold. The camp is filled with many if not most of the children at Burning Man, and their parents, and my odds of getting an ice cream cone appear to be slim to none. I mean what kind of adult pushes little kids aside to get ice cream? I consider pushing aside a few of their parents, but my better nature triumphs and I move on.

The spirit animal man gets his wisdom from turning over a deck of special cards, and I have the misfortune to show up right before a group of eight others. Flustered, he rushes through me, and I’m not sure if it’s a lizard, koala bear, or wolf I share a kinship with but I do get that I need to be following my dreams while having a plan B. Okay. I could have told him that, but I try to put sincerity into my thank you.

I spend about half an hour trying to find the henna tattoos, located at 4:00 in center camp. (Later I learn the Center Camp area has its own clock system unrelated to the main roads.) Hot and cranky, I finally give up.  This has certainly turned into a shitty day.

Then I stumble upon friends and next thing I know I’m on an art car with some sort of south seas theme. It takes us to a memorabilia-filled tiki bar tucked into a bus and I’m drinking rum drinks and talking to a psychiatrist about phobias when I meet an older burner at the bar who’s been doing this since the early 90’s and he kisses my hand and suddenly I feel so welcome here.

But there’s no time to linger. The person I’m closest to has friends getting married at sunset and he’s realized it’s getting late. Suddenly I’m following him on my bike, pedaling as fast as I can to catch up with a bridal procession that is heading out towards the temple.

“She’s a trained opera singer,” he whispers to me as we get off our bikes and the bride, dressed in a sort of Victoria’s Secret corset, picks up a guitar and prepares to sing. The setting sun glitters off of the groom’s grey and black sequined tux as he listens to his beloved’s song of love. I think I have never attended such a beautiful ceremony. This has certainly turned into a fantastic day.

Do I have a rule of the road to glean from today’s experience. I suppose I do, but I’m more inclined to say “What rules? What road?”

I do have a song for the day, though. Lights and Music. It captures the sound that accompanies me across this magical desert.  Enjoy it at the end of this post.

Once the wedding party starts dancing, I head out to the deeper playa, to enjoy the art that comes alive in the dark. I wander around for hours, marveling at how fast things change, and wondering why the nice folks that put this shindig together even bothered to print up a booklet listing the events.

Maybe they do it just because they have a sense of humor.

Day 4: Bloom here

That has got to be rule four. Be here now. Bloom where you are planted, even if you are planted here along the Mississippi River for only four days.

I’ve spent two nights at my sisters and have two more nights to go. This is the longest stop of my 28 day journey, save one, and half of my brain at least is already worrying about the trip ahead, checking on reservations, considering needed supplies. No, I tell myself. Stop it. Just stop it.

This is precious time. The river is wonderful, the company irreplaceable. I settle back into my seat on the boat. Is there a song for this? Of course there is.  Here it comes, live from all the way back in 1969.

Day 3. Just Don’t

Day three. Today I’m off the road enjoying my sister’s hospitality, and her boat. She and husband Gary like to drive up and down the Mississippi, eating, drinking and feeling the wind in their faces. It’s not a bad way to enjoy life.

We stop for lunch and my sister insists I try one of the many flavored long island ice teas. I’ve already had a glass of Rose and it’s only 11:30 and hard liquor doesn’t sound good …. but this is vacation, and who could resist a blood orange long island ice tea. Two sips into it and the headache starts. Bad idea. I should have resisted it.

Rule three, I decide, is if it doesn’t sound good to you, don’t order it. Don’t eat it. Don’t drink it. No matter how much your sister likes it, or how much you like your sister. Just don’t.

I invoke rule two, forgive myself for the mistake, and go back to slowly sipping Rose aboard ship. The wind blows through my hair and I decide, headache or not, this is going to be a good day. My sister reminds me of what our father used to say on days like this….  Now this is living. He was right, it certainly is ….

Is there a song for this kind of day? Of course there is ….

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

Day 2. Rules of the Road

Day two.  499  miles (7 1/2 hours of driving, 9 hours in car). A journey from the Ohio River along the Indiana border northward on I75 to Indianapolis, then west to Bloomington, north to Rockford and then a ride through beautiful countryside on highway 20 west to Galena Illinois. The back of my car remains packed and secure as I play my music heading down the road.

Only today my music keeps getting interrupted by Google Maps. The app is experiencing ongoing frustration because I have chosen to take a slightly longer route and not drive through Chicago. Nothing against the windy city, it’s a great place and I know it because I once lived there. I just don’t want to drive through it.

“We’ve found a route that is 19 minutes faster,” it chirps as soon as I’m on the highway. “Touch screen to accept.” It continues to try to route me through Chicago for the next four hours. An algorithm apparently cannot comprehend why I’d rather drive extra minutes to enjoy rolling countryside and less traffic.

About 3 hours into my trip I remember that I’ve left something at the Airbnb. It’s sentimental; in fact it’s a lightweight blanket with my name on it, a gift from long ago that I often take when I travel. I’m not willing to leave it behind, so I arrange to send my host PayPal money to express the blanket to me at another stop. It’s a stupid expensive mistake and I’m being hard on myself for making it.

The number one rule of the road is to make sure everything is well organized so you don’t spend all of your time looking for things and can easily see if you are leaving something behind, the sterner part of my brain insists. And it is right, that is a key to having a hassle free trip. But there are lots of rules of the road, and I decide rule number two has got to be to forgive yourself if you break rule number one and leave something behind.

Yesterday I found a song of the day as I was driving into Louisville. Today I have a playlist called Songs to Make You Smile and it is filled with odd and old tunes. Most of them do make me smile, and Lady Gaga’s Telephone and The Weather Girl’s It’s Raining Men make me laugh out loud.

As I drive along 20, enjoying the lovely view that cost me an extra 19 minutes and so distressed my GPS, I finally hear what I know is the song of the day. I’ll be at my sister’s house in a few minutes, enjoying time with someone I love and seldom see. This is what it’s about. The world doesn’t need better organization and more efficient routes. What the world needs now is ….