Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Art of Making a Cover

The kindle version of the last Romance Arts book is now available for preorder. As usual, I rejected quite a few covers on the way to the one currently gracing The Art of Friendship. A few of the ideas didn’t work out the way I pictured. And a few of the ideas were just bad ideas. I’m not above admitting I sometimes have bad ideas. I’m not even above making fun of my ideas.

Let’s start with the original picture. That’s Lake Erie, if anyone is curious. I think an Ohio resident could be inspired to paint a great lake. But how would she make it kooky?

My first thought was a monster lurking beneath the surface, something the viewer wouldn’t notice right away. I pictured something a little like a giant catfish with all those creepy spikes coming out of its head. I knew there was a problem even while I was imagining the beast. I can’t draw. The graphics software I use doesn’t have a “sea monster” effect. It’s very old. It doesn’t even have a “magically blur the bad drawing into a murky creature” effect.

The best I could come up with was a little Nessie head poking out of the water. Anything popping out of the water is really good at drawing attention, which is a problem when the kooky isn’t supposed to be the first thing anyone notices. It was the first thing anyone noticed when I made it much smaller. It was still the first thing anyone noticed when I shifted the “painting” to include a big tree. Plus, Nessie is not what I wanted, not original, not feeling like something Audra would paint and… I eventually called that bad idea number one and moved on.

Then I had an idea about tweaking the horizon, making it somehow unnaturally-shaped. I tried tilting it, which only looked like someone had tilted the painting. Yes. I should have seen that coming. I tried warping the horizon in a small section. That looked like an island. Is an island in Lake Erie kooky or original? No. God did that a long time ago. My best version was this odd jagged line. It’s… bad idea number two.

I tried to turn some rocks into music notes. My test audience thought they were weird birds. It’s only clear they are notes when zoomed in. Audra’s pictures are things that could appear in nature but don’t. I wish I’d remembered that before I spent I’m not going to tell anyone how long making note-shaped rocks that look like birds.

Lightning on a clear day would be unexpected. And it was at least fun. I zapped different parts of the beach and kept changing the size and hue of the bolt. Some of my lightning looked awesome, but I couldn’t get any of it to blend, to fade into the rest of the scene. I asked myself how I could make the lightning more subtle. Obviously, it needed to be off in the distance. Where there might be clouds. That either ruined my idea of forced me to see that it was bad. Back to the drawing board regardless.

For a while, I thought the sand on the shore was the key. I tried stacking it and adding ripples. Sand is pliable though. Everything I did just looked like someone was playing in the sand, which was exactly what I was doing in a digital sense. I returned to the water for the idea I used on the final cover. I think it was a good idea. I have a few of those, too. I hope readers agree.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

I think I'll keep doing it wrong.

The well was dry this month. I was scrambling to come up with a topic, and that caused me to do something rather desperate. I searched up author blogs to see what others had written recently. I hoped I could find an idea to “borrow” or perhaps mock in a friendly this guy was out of ideas, too, sort of way.

What I found instead was a ton of advice for author blogs. I thought there might be a list of suggested topics somewhere in all that advice. No. Really no. There was only a long list of things I’m doing wrong. Here are some of the dos and don’ts I’ve been screwing up.

1) The most frequent advice for writing an author blog is don’t. It’s about ten years too late for me to fix that. The reason I shouldn’t have started is that I won’t make money writing a blog. I never expected to make money doing this so I guess I was wrong about that, too.

2) If I write a blog anyway, I shouldn’t think of it as blogging. I’m supposed to think of this as “online writing I do for free.” This way I always remember that I’m giving away something valuable here. The implication is that the goal of a blog is to inflate my ego. I’ve never been comfortable using blog as a verb so I generally think of this as writing a post. And it’s only one of the main goals I’m getting wrong.

3) The primary goal of my blog should be to drive traffic to my author website. My blog is my author site. Another source specifically told me they should be the same so I thought this was one thing I actually had right. Now I’m even wrong about being right.

4) The primary goal of my blog should be to move readers to an email list. Oops. I don’t even have an email list. My primary goal has always been that if someone reads one of my books and decides to look me up, there will be something here, maybe even something mildly interesting. But now that we’ve established that all of my motivation is wrong, let’s dive into the specifics I’m messing up.

5) Every title should be clickbait. It is wrong to make titles match the content. My titles should hint at shock and life-changing information, no matter what. You won’t believe what I’m writing next! More books. I bet no one saw that coming.

6) Write a ton of repetitive stuff. All of the advice about frequency suggests a number of posts per week, not per month. The quantity of my writing is apparently way more important than what I’m writing about. I was wrong the moment I tried to put some thought behind it.

7) Everything I write should be at a 3rd grade level because people are busy. Why does having a lot to do lower intellect? I guess I’m too busy to understand this advice.

8) Every post should include at least one image. I’m told the picture doesn’t have to be related. It only has to be colorful or attention-grabbing. My lack of pictures is so wrong. I didn’t know I was supposed to make people feel busy for not getting why there’s a pile of crayons next to a post about my next release date.

9) Don’t write about my writing process. People don’t care about that. Some people don’t care to read romance. Maybe my fiction is wrong, too.

10) Write about my writing process. Readers like “a peek behind the curtain.” I’m confused.

11) My writing process is only interesting to other writers. Oh. Maybe. I’m still not sure this makes sense.

12) Do regular interviews with people who fascinate me. Wait a minute. This is an actual topic suggestion. But when I make a list of people who fascinate me, it quickly becomes apparent that most of them have one thing in common. They’re dead. This puts me back to square one. I’ll worry about that next month.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Trivia Time

For something a little different, I have an interactive post this month.  Try this little quiz to see if you are a solid fan or if maybe it’s time to reread some of my books.  Follow this link to enter answers. 

1 - What is NOT kooky about one of Audra’s paintings in the Romance Arts series?
A) a face in a patch of wildflowers
B) a purple bee
C) corn in a wheat field
D) striped clouds

2 - When Owen tries to change the frosting color while making cookies with Gaby in The Christmas Project, what does she threaten to do if he tries again?
A) frost him
B) kick him out
C) not give him any cookies
D) write his name on the burnt ones

3 - Julia Dierksheide is the narrator of which book?
A) The Christmas Project
B) Everything Old
C) By Its Cover
D) Not Complicated

4 - In which Coffee and Donuts book do the donuts go missing?
A) Said and Unsaid
B) A Perfectly Good Man
C) Sofie Waits
D) all of the above

5 - What does Daniel say he is willing to do for Molly in Not Complicated?
A) dunk his hands in lice water
B) walk through fire
C) yodel in front of strangers
D) wait in line at the DMV

6 - Which book is the 2nd book in the Love in Andauk series?
A) By Its Cover
B) Into the Fire
C) What Goes Around
D) Everything Old

7 - In Said and Unsaid, what does Alexa say would be a good name for a band?
A) Brilliant Hippo
B) Sparkly Alligator
C) Bald Monkey
D) Jumping Fleas

8 - Which book is the 3rd book in the Coffee and Donut series?
A) Said and Unsaid
B) A Perfectly Good Man
C) Not Complicated
D) Sofie Waits

9 - Angel Melling is the narrator of which book?
A) Into the Fire
B) The Art of Communication
C) Sofie Waits
D) Collecting Zebras

10 - Where does everyone try to hide in Andauk?
A) Burger Brothers
B) St. Jude’s
C) Granny’s Shelf
D) Seymour’s Market

11 - In A Perfectly Good Man, what is wrong with Heidi’s perfectly good remote?
A) battery cover is taped in place
B) the 5 doesn’t work
C) the 7 doesn’t work
D) a large crack on the side

12 - Which book is the 1st book in the Stories From Hartford series?
A) Jealousy & Yams
B) The Christmas Project
C) Andrew’s Key
D) Collecting Zebras

13 - In They See a Family, what does William’s young niece say he does badly?
A) bark like a dog
B) sing
C) pretend to be a person
D) pretend to chop wood

14 - Whose house in Hartford is rumored to be haunted?
A) Andrew’s
B) Rebecca’s
C) Jill’s
D) Mabel’s

15 - Which book is the 4th book in the Romance Arts series?
A) The Art of Introductions
B) The Art of Patience
C) The Art of Communication
D) It doesn’t have an official title yet.

0 – 3 correct: You probably don’t even remember what links you followed to end up at the quiz.

4 – 7 correct: Maybe you’re a new fan and haven’t gotten through all the books yet. Keep reading. You can do it!

8 – 11 correct: Either you got some lucky guesses or I should thank you again for reading.

12 – 15 correct: You might know the books as well as I do. It means a lot that you’ve spent so much time with my work.