Cover Me

475px-the_scream1

 

My time lately has been concentrated on researching book covers: designs, designers, how-to, software, stock photos, pre-made vs. commissioned. What I’ve decided is since I want to give the book its best chance possible I am going to commission cover art. My reasons are thus:

1. I want good art that will stand out, and won’t make me feel embarrassed to show someone, like these would. (Fair warning: you may need trauma counseling after viewing that site.)

2. The book is the first of what I hope will be a trilogy.  I want a cohesive look, rather than a mish-mash of different styles so I’m hoping to be able to have the same artist do the covers of the next books as well.

3. Design programs like PhotoShop or GIMP have a steep learning curve. If you don’t already know how to use them, it’s not likely to be something you can learn to do well in a weekend (unless you’re a whole lot smarter than I am). I suspect it would take years to achieve the level of mastery I’m after.  I got as far as downloading GIMP and was flummoxed. As much as I love playing around with it, I have no idea what I’m doing and the effort would be amateurish at best.  Again, the embarrassment factor.

4. I love really good cover art. Most of the pre-made covers are formulaic, or just not quite right and make me want to tweak the design this way or that, even if the art isn’t bad. I don’t want to settle for something that’s almost there.

5. I’m not an artist and know only the merest basics of design principles.

What can I say? Champagne taste on a beer budget.

It will cost more money, but people do judge books by their covers (I know I do) and those cheesey, bad CGI covers with ugly fonts are a turn-off to me, so probably are to most other people as well.  I’ve solicited information from three or four artists online (and dismissed others out of hand due to their prices) and am pretty well focused on one. It’s not that I begrudge these people their rates, god knows a real artist with real talent deserves to be compensated for their work. I simply can’t come up with that much money right now. And high prices are also no guarantee of talent, as you can quickly discover. I trolled the internet for a couple of weeks, looking up all kinds of artists, checking out the DIY options, pre-made offerings. This, I believe, is the best course.

The whole process is kind of taking my breath away, and my heart beat faster. This is really happening. Unless I chicken out and decide not to do it. I’ll probably just quietly put the book up on Amazon and hope no one notices…

Blessed Beltane

Blessed Beltane to all my pagan followers, of whatever tradition you follow. Beltane/Beltaine is also known as Walpurgis Night, or Walpurgisnacht, and it’s one of the four big fire festivals of the pagan year.

 

UPDATED:  I changed the video, this is a better version, especially for those who won’t be joining a circle around the fire tonight.

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Brown lady of Raynham Hall

I had an interesting conversation with a woman on the bus this morning. I’ll call her Carol. Now Carol is a very religious Christian (not sure if she’s the ‘born again’ type or not) who not only attends church every week, she also attends something called ‘Life Group’ which I gather is some kind of Bible study session,  and talks as if it has never occurred to her that there are people in the world who don’t believe what she believes. Maybe it hasn’t.

That’s all fine, people are free to believe whatever they like. Frankly I’m a little surprised she still talks to me since I ‘fessed up about reading Tarot cards. She did seem a little taken aback by that, but nonetheless we get along very well and she’s a very nice person.

So this morning, I was more than a little surprised to hear her laugh at the idea of spirits or ghosts. Recently her own mother took in an elderly lady (let’s call her Milly). Milly is a cousin of Carol’s mother’s husband (with me so far?), somewhere around 97-years-old,  is quite frail, nearly blind, and could no longer live on her own. Milly started insisting she could see people in party dresses of all different colors who were there to visit her, and could also see members of her family (her mother, father, and a sister who I assume are all deceased).

Carol thought this was hilarious, but she played along, asking what color dresses the people were wearing, and who she was pointing at and so on. She asked if the people in the colorful dresses were going to a wedding, and Milly replied that no, they were there to see her.

I said how surprised I was that she, as a religious person, would scoff at the idea of spirits, or visitations. I mean, if you’re going to believe in Heaven, and people rising from the dead, how much of a stretch is it to believe some people can see spirits?

When my own mother was in the hospital for the final time before she died, she kept asking who the woman was who was sitting on the chair in her room. She said it was an Asian woman, who never spoke, but she saw her on several occasions. Mom was pretty sharp, right up to the end. She had many other incidents over the years that she attributed to her guardian angel (she once swore she found herself going the wrong way on the road, and the car was lifted up, turned around and set back down so she was facing the right way. I wasn’t there, I couldn’t say what did or did not happen). She also had a near-death experience many years ago when she had a heart attack. It wasn’t pretty.  She found herself floating down a long dark tunnel, until a voice said, “It’s not time, bring her back up.” At that point she said she felt a hand on each elbow (I think she said she saw a figure on each side of her) and she was lifted back up and woke up in the hospital.  I wish I had written down more of these incidents that she told me about. Mom was a Norwegian Lutheran who hadn’t actually attended church since she first got married, but she was strong believer in the Christian God and Jesus just the same.

I have heard this “phenomenon” of seeing people, or an individual, when death is close, is relatively common. Children have been reported to see the same woman, many of whom have called her by the same name (Bridget?). So I was very surprised that a person of such deep religious conviction would be so skeptical about something like this.

So, what do you think? Does seeing ghosts or spirits dovetail with belief in an afterlife, or is that too ‘New Age-y” for a traditional Christian?

Say When

water overflowing

So, I quietly did Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I thought maybe without the fanfare of announcing I was doing it and worrying about write-ins and taking part in the community (although all those things are great, and a wonderful part of the experience of NaNoWriMo) I would be more focused on the writing and less on talking about it. It seems to a have worked.

What did I work on? The sequel to Revenants Abroad, tentatively titled The Age of Revenants. Is it finished? Hardly. Let’s call it a good start. It’s about as rough as you’d expect 50,000 words cranked out in haste over 30 days to be. But that’s all right, I needed to get some ideas down, and why not put them towards the goal? A couple of things are kind of going off on tangents so may get revised out later, or possibly saved for something else. But I’m pleased that I was able to get this much done. And let me tell you, it was not easy. It’s one reason I’ve been very quiet on Twitter over the last month. And I really had to make a push during the last weekend. So apologies for any crankiness. It’s an insane way to get some writing done, but I feel like I have no choice these days. Would that I could quit the dayjob and just write. I’m so close to handing in my notice I can’t even tell you.

It felt good to get some of this stuff down, but it seems like the more I write, the more ideas I get. I’ve become better about grabbing a pen and paper when I get those lines just as I’m drifting off to sleep, which seems to happen more and more. I suspect I’m not unique in this.

Now to finish RA, get a cover, and get it up at Amazon. I’ve decided to self-pub via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) as agents seem unanimous in their distaste for vampire stories these days. I think there’s still a market, so am taking it upon myself to publish it and see what happens. As I told my dear friend Bunny this morning, I’m taking steel wool to the last few pages, finishing up edits (caught a couple of doozy typos), then I’ll need to get a cover created, and maybe a couple more beta readers, and hopefully have it up for sale before the end of the summer. I have to be done with this so I can move on to the next one. I just haven’t figured out when to say “when.”

Pictures of Spring

strange skies

Interesting cloud bank to the west, and strangely colored clouds.

 

Ornamental cherry trees

I’ve been meaning to get a picture of this street for years. The ornamental cherry trees are stunning. When the petals fall the street looks like it’s covered in pink snow.

 

UPDATE: I have just found out when the petals blow off the trees and it looks like a pink snowstorm, there is a Japanese word for it:

kissing cousins

showy

 

tulips yellow and pink

Maybe if I quit taking so many pictures I’d have time to write.

The Bluest Sky

(with apologies to Toni Morrison)

 

Bluest sky

TulipdaffodilsMagnoliastreet

Oregon view

 

Winter here is like the long dark of Moria, and we don’t have Gandalf to lead us through it. Seeing sun and blue sky after all the rains lately is cause for celebration. Have courage, wherever you are. The sun is still there, I’ve seen it!

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost

Snow Day!

Portland is having a rare late season snowstorm, which began yesterday. My office manager gave me a lift to the park-n-ride where I leave my car during the day since the buses were running so slowly and conditions were rapidly deteriorating. The wind and blowing snow were rocking my managers SUV. She commented at one point that there didn’t seem to BE any buses. We didn’t see any in the six miles from the office to my car.

The snow was building up rapidly and only in a few spots was the pavement visible. It was pretty amazing for this area that is normally far more temperate and is one of the things the inhabitants love about it. My 12-mile drive from the park-n-ride lot took well over an hour at an average speed of 20mph. Not a snow plow to be seen, I don’t think any of the towns I pass through have any. I know, boohoo. My new-old car did splendidly though, no sliding or spinning tires. The old Mercedes I had was a death trap in snow, which I never understood. You’d think the Germans would have a handle on engineering cars that could handle snow.

I was one of the lucky ones, making it home in roughly an hour and a half from the time I left the office. Many motorists were stuck in gridlock for hours due to accidents, bad road conditions, abandoned cars.

Back at the ranch, we found this on the car:

Angel wing icicle

Well.

Just a couple more shots of the snow, and then I’m off to write. I have a new idea that’s barely forming for a fantasy story and I want to work it up.

February 6 2014 snow

February 6 snowstorm

Feb 6 2014 front & street

Ok, away I fly to take advantage of the unexpected free time and create worlds of chaos. Metaphors be with you, and all that.