Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Drawing Challenge Update

Since I issued my "draw something every day" challenge to myself, life has been doling out the stress from multiple directions, and it has definitely gotten a grip on my psyche--and this has taken a toll on my drawings.

Sure, I've been able to stick with the idea of drawing every day (well, except Saturday because I was out of the house from 7:30 am to 11 pm helping my kids' choruses with a competition they were attending), but like I predicted at the beginning, masterpieces, these have not been.

It started with my Veranna piece. While I was pretty happy with how Veranna turned out, the dance mistress, Devna is not great work. And without the context of the booing audience and flying rubbish, the scene lacks the impact I went for in the story. But it was meant to be quick, and thus the focus on only the major players.
Mind you, this is just a sketch of the final idea
The final will use a real font

After that, I worked a bit on the Geek Girl design, which will likely be the concept that gets the most mileage from this whole endeavor, and honestly, if it pans out, it will be worth the whole experiment, because I think it has potential to be a great t-shirt.

Next, I had a couple days of misfires, one of my elf character from Curse Bearer (Culduin) which failed to capture him at all, and one of mermaid that I actually started a redo on today. The redo is coming out better, but I want to get further on it before I post it. Somewhere in there, I did a scribble of Fiernoth, a dragon from the next Windrider novel, Valor's Worth. That one rises slightly above the level of misfire.

The fact is, it's hard to draw when you are feeling under pressure, (even self-imposed) from multiple directions. Couple my overladen life with the fact that the supplement I was taking to help my sleep and my anxiety has turned out to have digestive side effects that make it too miserable to take, and you get more misses than hits on the drawing target.

But honestly, beautifully-rendered drawings aren't the goal of this whole endeavor, and I need to remind myself of that--daily. If polish was the goal, it would be the "draw something every two weeks" challenge. For now, it's enough that I'm working to carve out the time where I can. In the end, there will be a few gems within the tailings, and I can't complain about that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Draw Something Every Day: Day 2--Geek Girl

Here on day 2 of the "Draw Something Every Day" challenge, this one has a semi-strange inception.

I was talking with some on-line friends about how writers conference attendance is heavily dominated by female conferees. Fun for a guy looking for a mate, I suppose, but perhaps intimidating otherwise. Anyway, that got me thinking about how the population of Geek Girls is also on the upswing. So that led to the pondering: what's the right t-shirt to be the uniform for that club? Hence, the image above was born.

I foresee the silhouette overlaying chunky letters that form a pretty exact square that say "geek girl." I haven't found the right font yet, though, so that's why you see no lettering involved.

We shall see where this and the other other drawings that crop up over this challenge lead.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Draw Something Every Day Challenge: Day 1

Veranna is ushered from the stage by the dance mistress when the crowd turns ugly...
On my way to work today, I was thinking about some of my artist friends who have been working full-time in the art industry since we graduated college in the late 90's, and how I admire the way their craft has grown because of it. I've been what you would call "all over the map" in terms of what I have been doing with my days since college, ranging from game animation, to full-time parenting, to managing files for a sheet music company, to writing novels and novellas--so needless to say, drawing has taken a serious back seat. I don't love that truth.

So in an effort to limber up, I've decided to challenge myself to draw something every day for the next 30 days. Some of them I'll post here, some I might throw onto Facebook only. But I thought I would give you the method behind my madness as I begin.

Now, there are destined not to be masterpieces, but just little sketches I can crank out on my lunch break or while I'm waiting for files to upload.

Today's sketch is inspired by a short story I just submitted for an anthology that gives readers a glimpse into the early life of the prophetess, Veranna, from The Windrider Saga. I hope you enjoy this little journey, and maybe you, too, will be inspired to try something you haven't really focused on lately but still love.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Your Book Cover has the Potential to Make Me Embarrass Myself

One of the thorny things about social media is just how wide open it leaves you to making a fool of yourself. Take today for example: a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a book she had just read and was very pleased to report it defied all the stereotypes of self-publishing in terms of story. Unfortunately, all I could respond to was the cover of said book, having not read it, and I was direct about the fact that I thought it was a shame that the cover on the book was not as professional as what my friend said was inside. This wouldn't have been such a big deal, except the author of the book was privy to my friend's posts.

So moments after I called the cover "unprofessional," the author chimed in, wanting to know what was wrong with it. I winced.

Now, to give myself a little credit, I don't think I was mean or unprofessional in the way I worded my thoughts on the cover, and I did get into specifics with the author. Hopefully that particular spec-fic enthusiast is not too slighted, even if my assessment stung.

Fortunately, the cover was nothing like the stuff you find at Lousy Book Covers. Otherwise I might have been snarky and eating major humble pie right now.

So, maybe you're an Indie Author and you need to get a book cover together without sinking all potential earnings for the book into an illustrator. If you don't want to join the hall of shame over at the above site, there are a couple of principals I admonish you to remember.

1.) The title of the book is the star.
I don't care how awesome the illustration is, your title will overlap some of it. Don't crowd your text into the corners or along the edges of your cover so you don't overlap any part of the image. If your cover features a large face, the title will cover a portion of that. Plan accordingly. Better yet, make sure your illustration has natural "quiet zones" where the title can dominate. If the text takes up less than 1/3 to 1/2 of the cover real estate, your title is probably too small.

2.) Too many fonts are bad design. As are fonts that are too whimsical. Choose wisely, and stick to one, easily-readable font. Maybe two, in rare instances, but it takes a very deft hand to make multiple fonts work. Trust me on this.

3.)Make sure people other than you can tell what the image on your cover is. There's nothing like someone picking up your book, squinting, and saying, "What is that?" It's almost as bad as when your 4 year old brings you a picture they've labored over, and a wrong interpretation from you has the potential to send them into a fit of tears.

4.) Free stock art tends to look like what you paid for it. Couple it with bad photoshop layering that accentuates every stray pixel around the heroine's studio-windblown hair, and you're sure to tempt the Lousy Book Cover people to feature you.

And last, a piece of general advice: the best design elements are out there, waiting to be reinterpreted. Look at book covers. Lots of book covers. From big publishing houses with large design budgets. Decide what you like in what you see, and then find ways to incorporate those concepts into your own book cover. I'm not saying steal anyone else's design. I'm just saying that there are established principals that make some images compelling, and once you figure out why something you see works, you can apply the principal to your own cover. The only way to grow into a master is to imitate one until you have the principals in your bones and can draw on them at will.

That's my rant for today. I imagine I will come back to this cyclically, since I can't seem to get this bee out of my bonnet. If Indie Authors and small publishing want the credit they deserve for good craft, we've got to make sure we're wrapping those words in top-notch images, because as we all know, people do judge a book by its cover.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Coming this Summer: Valor's Worth, book III of The Windrider Saga

Whew. The last 10 days have been, in a word, insane.

On April 30th, my husband and I became first-time home-owners through a fairly complicated loan process called a 203K loan, which is a federal loan that lumps home purchase and renovation into a single closing. The loan type exists to make it possible for home buys who can't simply pay cash for a house that needs rehab in order to be livable. (As I understand it, you can't finance a home in any other way when the place has no plumbing due to vandalization, needs electrical work, and generally needs overhauling.) The house we bought isn't much to look at right now, but when we're done, we hope to have a cozy little place to call home that we can enjoy together for the long haul. While I am excited to finally quit renting, the purchase has reinforced my hatred of wall paper.

Then on May 1st, we rolled out the registration for Realm Makers: 2013, the first-ever symposium to address the creation of science fiction and fantasy through the lens of a Christian worldview. Although the conference will not deal with exclusively Christian market topics or players, faith will definitely play a part in the content. Registration is going strong, and I'm convinced we're going to have a great group of excited attendees learning from a top-notch faculty.

And lastly, I have officially signed the contract for my next book in the Windrider Saga, Valor's Worth. Unlike it's predecessors, this book is a full-out novel, some 400+ pages, and it no longer runs in the episodic format. This, I suspect will be to the great relief of some readers, and the equal chagrin of others. But I am confident in saying it is the best book I've written to date. We'll see if my readers agree, since therein lies the true test, right?

And for now, I'm off to get a cast put on my eldest son's broken arm. Yes, we have that going on along with everything else. Never a dull moment!