Friday, February 16, 2024

The Velvet Starfish

Once upon a time, there was a velvet starfish. This is a true story. How can it be a true story about something that doesn’t exist? Don’t worry, it’s not the main character.

A writer was trying to design a cover for one of her books. She gathered some items relevant to the story… a paper house, a pair of shiny black turtles, a strip of lace and some flowers. She arranged those things in a myriad of ways on several different backgrounds, taking pictures of everything. Then she took those pictures to her computer to see what she could learn.

She learned that it takes some people more than forty years to consistently take pictures that are not blurry. She learned that the lace was too narrow to frame the title of the book. She learned that the turtles no longer looked like turtles when flattened to two dimensions. They looked like black blobs. She also learned that the burgundy velvet made the nicest background, great color and texture.

The writer took many more pictures – with her new knowledge and without the turtles – on the best background. She tried to create a cover from one of those pictures. One attempt was unbalanced. She saved that and started over. One attempt was washed out. She saved that and started over. One attempt appeared to have a house floating on top of a flower and was just super weird. She saved that and started over.

Whenever it became clear that a cover was going bad, she saved it before she started over because this wasn’t her first cover. She had learned through years of experience that some good might be mixed in with the bad. She might eventually look back at previous attempts and realize that the effect on cover11 worked better with the higher contrast image on cover23.

Enlarging the lace had solved one problem. But the writer had been so focused on getting the title right that she hadn’t paid enough attention to the picture. Once her attention shifted, she noticed that there were some odd wrinkles in the velvet. The wrinkles met in the middle to form a shape that bore an uncanny resemblance to a velvet starfish. The writer did not want to explain to anyone why there was a velvet starfish on her cover. She saved that one and started over.

The writer gathered her supplies again. She paused to knock her head against the wall a few times, then snapped another big batch of pictures. She tested the new pictures behind the prepared title layer. None of the new pictures came close to working. Somehow, the flowers were sideways in several, carpet was sticking out in a few, at least one was blurry, and the writer could only conclude that she hadn’t actually been <i>trying</i> to take good pictures. Rather than another round of photography, she started sifting through the images from the beginning.

Those black blobs that were supposed to be turtles were still black blobs. A few images might work if they could be magically zoomed out. The house floating on a flower was so weird it could almost pass for intentionally unconventional. Except almost. Finally, she did find one image with decent composition. Composition was even a good, arty word. The writer believed she was onto something. She pasted on the title layer, added a cool effect. Yes. It was beginning to look like a real cover possibility. And then she saw it. The velvet starfish was back. In her desperation, the writer had let that annoying velvet starfish creep back onto the cover. Argh. She saved that and started over.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Here we go again.

I finished typing up the rough draft for my next book. While I’m working on the editing, I’ll need to imagine and then execute a nice cover for it. I’ve already begun brainstorming. Since this series will be sort of a sequel series to Love in Anduak, I think I should pull some element from those covers. They each have an oval around the title with a background image. I’m thinking I should do something like that only not like that for the next series. Maybe change the shape of that title card.

I have a book that needs a cover and so far my idea is… wait for it… rectangle.

This is not going to be hard. All I need to do is turn “rectangle” into a beautiful cover.

I have had a few thoughts on that. Notice that the oval on the previous covers has a rough border. I was going for fancy, a fancy border. I don’t remember how I got the rough border I ended up with so I probably couldn’t redo it anyway. But I’d like to try a border on the rectangle that’s also like that but not exactly like that, one that’s actually fancy.

Now my idea for the new cover is… rectangle with a border I’ve proven I don’t know how to make.

I am definitely on the right track. I’m imagining something that looks like lace around the edge. I have some lace. If I can figure out how to take a picture that doesn’t look like a picture (it should look like something drawn) and doesn’t have anything weird showing through it (because lace has holes), I’ll have a nice place to put the title of the book. Then I’ll only need an image for the background.

I’m thinking the background should be colorful but somehow blurred so the title is the focus. The background should be a recognizable picture but only when someone is trying to look at it. It should naturally fade into the background because it’s a background. I only need to think of something I want in the picture. And there we have it. The cover will be a bright but muted picture of something undetermined with a title printed on a fancy but impossible rectangle. It’s practically done already.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Christmas Fiction - Part 3

Here is the last part of a little Christmasy short story.  Start here to enjoy it from the beginning.


    A baby was crying when Joseph returned. He’d gone upstairs for a break while Jessica was leading a class for moms with babies. His eyes quickly found the source of the noise. One of the little ones hadn’t liked being placed on the floor. But he quieted as soon as his mom started doing push-ups over him. Another baby giggled at the rising and falling of her mom.
    Joseph made his way around the back of the class to the desk by the door. Jessica had asked him to try not to look as though he was watching the class because it would make some of the women self-conscious. He tried to busy himself with the schedule for the first week of January. As much as he loved his gym, he didn’t want to think about it while he was on vacation. He looked up as the door opened and saw a teenage girl enter and nervously approach his desk.
    “Hi,” he said. “Can I help you with something?”
    “Um… maybe.” She kept her hands in her coat pockets and pushed them together. She appeared to hug herself as much from nerves as from the cold. “I, uh… my teacher hangs some artwork here. She said… she said I could have my painting back early.” She drew in a shaky breath, and her eyes searched the wall behind Joseph rather than looking at him. “But she forgot to get it for me, and…” That was the moment she realized she didn’t see what she was looking for. Words failed and her face turned a darker red.
    “You’re Claire, aren’t you?” he asked.
    She was startled by his guess. Her eyes darted towards him but quickly back to the floor as she nodded.
    “I’m pleased to meet such a talented artist. Your work got a lot of attention while it was here.”
    Her lips twitched in a shy smile she was trying to hide. “Does that… uh… did Mrs. McDonald get it after all?”
    The answer was no. Joseph knew that if he gave that answer, Claire’s next question would almost certainly be about who did have the painting. Then he’d be in the same position Natalie had faced, trying not to say her mom had it when he couldn’t honestly pretend he didn’t know. Joseph tried to dodge. “Your painting has had so many admirers. Everyone has said it’s beautiful. A few even said they wished they could have it.”
    “Did one of them take it?” Her mouth fell open.
    His stomach dropped just as far. He had not meant to imply someone might have stolen her work. “It’s safe,” he said. “It’s… I’m sure it will somehow make its way back to you… eventually.”
    She nodded slowly, looking not the least bit reassured and still confused. “Okay. Uh… thanks?” She moved towards the door with her shoulders slumped.
    Joseph wanted to stop her from leaving so downcast. He wanted to think of something he could say to cheer her up. He couldn’t tell her about the frame though. How could he convince her nothing bad had happened to her precious painting without giving away something he shouldn’t?
    Claire’s hand froze on the door. She’d been watching the babies as she left. Her head snapped back to him, and she looked him in the eye for the first time. He saw the lightbulb had turned on. She’d realized who else she knew who had been in the gym.
    He offered a tiny nod of confirmation. It didn’t count as spoiling anything if she figured it out for herself. And he enjoyed watching the grin spread across her face as she left. Her lovely work would be on display again soon. With snow in the forecast, her family might even have a chance to reenact the idyllic scene she’d created. That would be a pretty merry Christmas.