Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Monday, April 30, 2012

Barrett Shaeffer

Barrett Shaeffer has been (so far) in three of my books. She  appears in Moon Dust as the best friend of the heroine. Barrett is at that point separated from her husband and balancing raising a toddler with her career as a psychologist.

She shows up again in Evening Star when she professionally counsels, Marla, heroine of that book, who is wrestling with some major emotional problems. At that point Barrett is divorced and having her own struggles with having a career and being a single mom.

Second Chance opens eight years after Moon Dust with Barrett readying herself for a client. The last thing Barrett wants is a serious relationship with any man. Her life is hectic and a love relationship would only make it more so. She is dedicated to making sure her daughter, Tiffany, has all her emotional needs met. She and her ex are mostly at odds over what that means.

Physically I described Barrett as a beautiful redhead. It wasn't easy to find her face but finally on Can Stock the above showed up. It works for how I saw her. I used oilify to give it more the look of a painting than a photo. What I liked about this expression is it shows the stress in Barrett's life, which won't be lessened as the story unfolds, but I think it also shows her strength of character.

The cover for the eBook has on it only the image (and no face) of the hero as it's about his danger that the book and her eventual biggest problems will revolve. Basically although she has a busy life, she becomes immersed in his which could seem bad, but she's not giving up hers. She instead comes to a realization that hers hasn't been as full as it could be.

What makes Barrett a worthy heroine is that she is a take-charge woman. She enjoys being a female, but she also has good memories of her tomboy years. She accepts that her parents are remote and off on their own adventure even if at times she acknowledges some resentment. She is raising her daughter to have freedom in choices as much as possible and even while being a working mom, she makes sure she is there for her. Her close relationship with Susan and her family helps with that.

When Barrett meets the hero, he's the last man with whom she would want to become seriously involved. Over and over she tries to convince herself this isn't worth it but in the end (this is a romance after all) she not only decides it is, sees its value for her daughter, but also puts her own life on the line to make it happen.

If you leave out the physical danger in this story, Barrett is a prime example of many working, single moms, and at no point does she not take her daughter's well being into consideration for her choices.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heroines of note

As I said was the case with the heroes, I do like all my heroines. They are the kind of women I'd like to have for friends. Sometimes they are like me but mostly they are different in significant ways. With only a few exceptions, they are career women who are good at and like what they do. I don't write many stories about young women and when I do they are the most struggle for me to care about them. My favorite heroine will be in her mid to late 20s and often in her mid to late 30s-- a time when I think women hit their prime.

When I began reading romances, the kind that changed the genre from Jane Austen to bodice rippers, I had a hard time with the heroines. It seemed to me their main characteristic was to be beautiful. It's why the hero would want them, why he'd save their bacon after a multitude of stupid acts. There was a lot of-- resent him but let him coerce her into sex (which sometimes was virtually rape even if she enjoyed it later). That has mostly changed for the genre and not thought highly of by many authors or readers.

In my own books, my heroines never say no unless they mean it. (That's a life lesson I believe cannot be overestimated as to its importance. Playing games with sex is deadly). The women I create have goals apart from getting a picket fence and sometimes are as conflicted at whether they want a permanent relationship as the men are. When they do want a man, they don't play coy. They have problems that have nothing to do with getting a ring on their finger.

I have never created a story where the heroine is mad at the hero most of the way through the book. How many times in real life do you think the man who irks you the most is the one you fall in love with? Not saying it doesn't happen but generally speaking we know when we are attracted or not.

Now that doesn't mean that in the beginning these women always know exactly what they want. I try to stick to how I feel life can be. What we want is sometimes not what we need and vice versa. But treating someone badly and then falling into their arms. No thanks. I'd hate to read such a heroine and sure don't want to spend a lot of time with that sort of woman, definitely not the months it would take to get a book together.

My heroines are generally pretty at least. Some are striking. They are all slim which is both about the genre but also my preference. I like me best when I am slim even if I don't always manage it. I admire disciplined people.

Generally speaking I am writing about the heroines I would also enjoy reading about, no fools, disciplined when required, and able to feel the passions of life fully once they decide what they want. These women won't turn away from life. They will live it fully. Some of them are more directed than others, but they aren't the sort the hero has to constantly pull out of self-made disasters. The bad situations in these books come out of the situations not stupidity-- not to say mistakes don't happen.

When it comes down to it, I enjoy writing about strong people and the women in my books are no exception. They will be stronger as they go through the fire. They will fight alongside their man when that's what is needed-- and in most romances, it is needed.

So next blog will come one of those heroines-- she will not be my favorite between Rachel, Raven,  Katy, Susan, Helene, Christine, Marla, Barrett, Maggie, and Sara (last two from books coming out in May and June) but will be pulled from one of these books already out. Trailer for all my Kindle contemporary books (now and soon) and a blurb about each follows:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dillon Thomas Delaney

Dillon Thomas Delaney, hero of Dark Angel, is one of those heroes often described as bad-boy types. Except he is not a bad boy. He's just a man in a bad situation where he didn't get into it by himself, but he has to play it out. He was one of the rare heroes where I actually saw his face before I began writing the book, before I saw an image that fit him. It happened in a dream.

In my other blog I have mentioned how I dream movies sometimes. When I do, they sometimes are complete plots and I get to see how the stories turn out. I might be in them but generally I feel I am not. It's like watching a technicolor film (or whatever they call color technology these days).

This time it was just a small scene taking place in an office and he was facing guns held by two other men. I knew he was trying to protect someone else. He was shot. I woke up knowing this vignette had given me a hero and put my mind to thinking what else was there about this man that would fit into a good story. What I came up with led to Dark Angel.

Dill is a reluctant hero. He grew up in communes across the West, raised by a single father, who meant well but was often distracted or on drugs. He pulled himself out of that world only to end up in an even more troubling one as he goes undercover through pressure by a federal government agency.

The Dark Angel title comes because that is what the heroine calls him when she first sees him and knows he's the bad boy she's always been warned about. She is suspicious of him, but then becomes his salvation-- but it's not an easy salvation because Dill is a man with things he needs to forget and forgive. He's still caught in the dilemma that nearly kills him but it's more what is inside Dill that makes him both a hero and a man at the center of his own story.

Dark Angel is a bit of a fairy tale story, and when I was editing it, I realized it was Beauty and the Beast, a good man caught in a bad situation with only one way out. Dill doesn't know that it's love though. He's more busy trying to figure out physical survival until he reaches a point where he's not sure he can survive.

When I saw him for who he was, I incorporated the love theme from Beauty and the Beast into his story. Dill has been living as the beast, his wits and strength are what have enabled him to survive in a virtual jungle.  He's a rough but handsome man; so this is not a beast of the flesh but one of the soul, darkened by experiences and needing light to survive and be what he was always meant to be-- a hero.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Holding out for a hero

In real life, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They do heroic deeds in many different ways and most of us admire them for stepping beyond the norm to risk something while attaining something worth the risk. Real life heroes sometimes die for what they have risked. Humans tend to want heroes and often wrongly judge who is one based on appearance (influenced by what we saw in media).

In all fiction, the hero is just a name for the lead male character. Like real life, he could be any shape or type. But in romantic fiction, well he's usually something out of the ordinary. Most frequently heroes are gorgeous, examples of the height of masculinity. They inspire, they risk, and they fall in love-- something that often costs them a great deal. Will they win? It would be a tragedy not be a romance if they would not-- think Beauty and the Beast for how a romance will end.

Frankly, don't we get enough tragedy with real life? I am all for that hero winning, but I want it to be believable that he would do so. I want him to overcome all those odds and that the reader sees he had the tools within him to do it.

My fictional heroic creations range from ordinary looks, to ugly, to that gorgeous specimen. Sometimes they recognize their physical gifts and use them. Sometimes it gets in their way and causes them to find it difficult to be taken seriously. When I set them into difficult situations (and they will be in difficult situations), they will show their true colors. They will shine. They will be victorious even at a high cost.

The truth of it is that in romances, generally speaking, the heroes are the most important character. I know, it's a woman's book but that is likely why it is that way-- or has been.

I told a consulting writer once that my favorite characters were always the man and said I had to work to find interest in the female. She said she thought it was my generation and hers. We grew up with male heroes and they were the ones doing exciting things.

Times have changed and there are more female heroes. Covers have apparently changed also and there are more dominant appearing females on them, sometimes brandishing guns-- ala Angelina Jolie types. However, for me, I still have a soft spot for men and don't pretend otherwise. It logically shows in all that I write.

When I thought I'd write about heroes, what makes a man into one, I decided to pick one of mine and describe his key characteristics. Picking a favorite isn't easy as frankly I fall in love with every hero I have written about. When I am writing that story, he's my favorite only to have another take over with the next book or editing. There isn't one I don't see things that I adore about them. When I am writing these men, I make it obvious why the heroine would fall for them. Who wouldn't?

These guys might be gentlemen or those who earn a living by their strength but they are never wimps even if the heroine might start out thinking they are. They aren't bullies, braggarts or blowhards. Their strength is held leashed for the moment it is needed. It sounds like a bit of a fantasy, but I know personally a LOT of men who are just exactly all those things.

Well back to this one individual hero from one of my books. There is no way I could pick one favorite between David, Dill, Jake, Dane, Phillip, Judd, S.T., Randy, Reuben, and Billy (last two are from books that will be coming out in May and June). Each of them have characteristics I admire and yes, with which I fell in love when I wrote the story.

Since this went on so long, I'll describe him next blog and what makes him not only a hero but capable of winning the victory.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Desert Inferno

Because it makes my books more easily seen in the Amazon lists, because it's nice to be able to give people one of them for free, Desert Inferno is once again on the free page for April 23, 2012 and will be until midnight tonight.

It is one of my favorite books which is part of why it has a trailer. Well, it also has a trailer because it's about one of my favorite places-- the Arizona Sonora Desert. I have loved this land since I first saw it and although it's prickly, it's also got an energy that I find nowhere else.

One of the things I have learned in doing trailers-- I like most the books that are as much about the land as they are the characters. I have often said that in some books the land is a third major character. That is definitely the case with Desert Inferno.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Taking and hunting down more photos for covers and trailers

For the next month or thereabouts, I will be in our Tucson home. I will have almost a month to visit as many locations as possible for a variety of photographs. The wildflowers were still blooming in the mid section of the state as we drove down.

We came south through Nevada with our three cats, which has its drawbacks for travel, not the least of which is finding motels that accept cats. Now that we are here, it is making me happy to have not left them at home. Two of them have more reservations.

The third came from here. He was a stray that I fell in love with almost twelve years ago. The first time I saw him he was sleeping on our outside carport shelf. He ran for his life and over the next days I would see him, find evidence of his kills, and try to attract him to me. He'd hiss and I'd make welcoming sounds. Then the day came when he came to me-- hissing all the way as we both took a risk when he let me pet him. He shortly after moved into the house. Now that I think of it, sounds a bit like a romance itself.

From then on he's been mine. But the price he has paid for that was to live most of his days on our small ranch in Oregon. I tell him that's the price he pays for being a pampered pussy cat. Once in awhile he comes back with us, and when he does, he rolls in the dust, explores old haunts, and in general loves the desert as only a few can know.

On this trip, he became enthusiastic, began to sniff the air when we were in Beatty. Yes, he's a desert cat; and although I don't let him roam free down here anymore, too many predators (bobcats, coyotes, javelina) come through our property, and he's no longer fast as he was back then, he will be enjoying this place as much as I will until it's time we head back north.

My goal while in Southern Arizona (besides working on the house, hiking, swimming, getting some sun) is to collect photos for a cover and trailer for a western romance which I wrote at least fifteen years ago. The story, set in 1883, ranges between Tucson, Tumacacori, Tubac, Nogales, San Rafael Valley, northern Mexico, and Tombstone. I call it more of a western romance than an historic although it does mostly stay true to life in Arizona of that period.

Western history buffs know that in the fall of 1881, Wyatt Earp and his brothers changed southern Arizona's history forever with the gunfight at OK Corral; and even more the aftermath which is still debated today. Did Wyatt really come back to Southern Arizona and kill a lot of outlaws? Were he and his brothers good guys or bad guys? Surprising as it might be to anybody who has watched the movies about him, talk among old-timers in Tombstone was mixed for who the Earps were or for that matter the Clantons.

I should add, my story isn't about any of that other than how it impacted the area. Whenever someone writes about an historic period, they really do have to know the politics, history, likely attitudes, divisions, and physical reality the people faced.

It's interesting to go to Tombstone even though it's very touristy. I was there the first time in the fall of 1965 and enjoyed it and its museum because it's simply rich in historic events. Boot Hill is a place most go but again it's a tourist spot now.

If our work here at the house goes well, I  will be there again soon and hopefully figure out what I can actually use from historic photos of the town back at the time my hero and heroine would have ridden in for the end of their own story. I'd have used the word climax but since this is a romance, I thought I better not-- but a few climaxes might be involved that way too ;).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Free Days

Hidden Pearl, which is a romantic suspense, has a free day Thursday, April 19. Follow the link under its image if you have not already read it. Always be sure Amazon has the promotion set up right and the book is free.

Some wonder why anybody would do free days. I can't answer for others but it's my way to resurrect a book which might be disappearing on Amazon. For those who do not know, dollars dictate how visible your Kindle book will be. If there are no sales, it soon goes further and further from being seen. At that point, only someone with a lot of time to kill would ever find it if they hadn't already heard of it elsewhere.

Free days don't help with moving a book into better ratings. But they do bring in readers who might then give another of the books by that author a try.

Hidden Pearl has had three covers to date. I liked them all. Readers evidently didn't find them equally of interest. They all revolved around water because at one point, when S.T. and Christine are trying to undo a mystery, they hole up in a friend's second home on the Umpqua River. It is an important time for their relationship. So I went through various ideas until I came up with this cover. For more about the book, check it out on the link alongside here and be sure, if you want it free, that you click on it before midnight when it turns back into a pumpkin.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Trailer

In between other things I was doing, I began gathering images for a new trailer.  My goal in the beginning of doing these was one that listed all the books and two for individual books. I decided the second should be 'Desert Inferno.' It was an easy pick because it's in Arizona, a state I much love and the first contemporary I ever wrote.

Deciding how to limit the images to put into a video is tough. I am not sure what other authors do but I opted for an image of each main character and then symbolic photos that would say more about that person or the situation in the book.

The hardest part for this one was finding an image for Jake. He is supposed to be a good solid 6'4" and solid muscle. Tall is not hard to find because you have no idea how tall anybody is if they are by themselves in a photo. But what was harder was he's also supposed to be seen as ugly by many people including himself. Big rugged and not handsome man wanted.

What you find in stock photos are either boys (Jake is no boy), handsome or average. Finding the kind of face I wanted became impossible; so I had to create it using a stock image and altering the features. The face had to both be appealing but at the same time rough enough to make him and others see him as not attractive. That's not an easy balance to find. If he doesn't look like he can take care of himself and anybody around him, it won't work.

Finding a young woman doing a sketch was perfect for the love interest. The image looked as beautiful as I imagined Rachel. I also got one of the two of them kissing in the desert (well I had to set them into my desert) which could be during their race for life or earlier. It looked right for what it suggested.

For this trailer, I also wanted a villain. I got lucky on that one and found a strong looking image which makes Diego Ramirez an even stronger adversary than I had imagined.

The other objects in the video are all from my own photos, most from Arizona.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Where books are going

Last night I had one of my very vivid dreams which I am still evaluating for its meaning. Basically I was in a used bookstore and looking to see what was being published in the romance line. I opened some and to my surprise, they were a combination of words and little videos which were like movies with sound and moving images. I was a little upset by it as it seemed the videos, although very attractive, were distracting from the words.

It's not hard to understand why I'd dream such a thing given my work lately with covers and trailers. I had even seen a book trailer on YouTube which did have actors portraying the characters in live action.

Although I've gotten into the idea of trailers and want to make at least one more, I have also seen a drawback to them and that includes the more graphic covers. When I wrote my stories, I tried to use descriptive passages to let the reader imagine these characters. When I began to put together covers with photos, even when digitized, they took on a reality that then gave them a focus point that they hadn't previously had. The cover image became the character.

I guess that dream was an expression of the conflict I feel. Create a photographic kind of cover or trailer and it is a draw. For me, it's also fun to do, but it also is a firming up of something that previously was only in imagination and words. When words for books went from paper to this world of light and color, the potential for trailers as part of the book was there.

Where it comes to the issue of eBooks or paper ones, I like both and feel no conflict as some do. This new world is, however, throwing a lot of preconceived notions into the air for rethinking. With the government going after eBook publishers with the accusation they have been in pricing cahoots (like what part of our consumer world isn't?), there is a lot of concern for what it will mean.

The notion is that eBooks, which don't have physical substance, should be cheaper than those published on paper. The argument on the other side has been that the big publishing houses must be protected from the encroachment of this new world which might sink them, and that publishers and authors deserve the same price for an eBook (or even more).

Well if the worth of a book is in the words, than they are right. If the worth of a book is in its cost to produce, the argument grows slimmer. But publishing houses maintain editors, graphic artists, publicists, and the facilities required to create and get to the market. They sell books not just by the reputation of the author but also their house. So they do have cost that Amazon won't have for the books they put up like mine. Should their industry be protected even if that means price fixing?

An author's fame can help sell a book. It happens again and again. People want books by authors who are famous and have been reviewed by experts (although some of those experts are basically in cahoots with publishing houses). When someone like a Tom Clancy brings out a new book, he has sales waiting. Is that worth more money? Up until now, the market determined that. If his book didn't sell at the higher price, the publishing house would either lower it or find a new author.

I have heard indie writers worrying about the cost of the big name writers coming down and fearing it will impact their already meager sales. I don't see that as an issue as unless an indie writers wants top dollar, their books  (generally between $.99 and 2.99) will always be a lot less than the big guys.

As to whether videos will ever become part of books, I doubt it. The cost alone would preclude most writers going that route. In the dream I found it hard to pay attention to the words on one page when on the other was a scene being acted out.
The idea there was you'd go between videos and words to get the whole story. It's rather as though a movie had been created from the words, kind of like graphic novels (where some go a stage beyond the comic book to a theatrical film).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dark Angel

Sometimes a story all but writes itself. Such was the case with Dark Angel. A minor character in Hidden Pearl, Katy is now a widow of two years with two small daughters to raise, a powerful father and an interfering mother. She has been born to wealth which isn't bad nor good but has given her a privileged life which had lasted into marriage with a strong man. When he was killed, she learned that privilege didn't protect her from bad things.

Dill is the dark angel of this story. Born into a world of not much, he has used his strength and intellect to rise up, but life has a way of throwing us curves and his had had more than a few. When he sees her, he is in a bad spot, and the last thing is he wants is this princess getting pulled in with him. Inconvenient timing doesnt mean it won't be happening.

Fairy tales often have a classic, allegorical story. There have been more than a few romances written around Beauty and the Beast. Although mine was not consciously, it fits the concept of a rough man who is in big trouble (not under a spell though like the Beast) but good at heart. Along comes a woman who is stronger than she looks, a woman who knows love matters more than economic class.

When I wrote it, some of the opening had come directly from one of my dreams. In that dream, I saw this hero and knew it could evolve into a full book. At that time the music that inspired me was from Phantom of the Opera.  But when more recently I refined it, it was instead the love theme from Beauty and the Beast. (If you haven't heard that song in awhile-- Beauty and the Beast.  It truly is a beautiful love song.)

Although I had long ago written this book, the characters came to life in a new way when I found the images for their cover. It is now like thinking of a movie as I imagine this fanciful story that is a bit of a fairy tale itself.

Available at Amazon Kindle -- Dark Angel

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trailer for my covers

Wahoo! Yippee! Wow! I got my first two videos for book trailers onto YouTube and really love the system. errrr hopefully I can find them again. The second video is of all the eBooks that I have on Amazon Kindle or soon will have.

The challenge of creating any trailer is all about words. For this one, I needed a relatively short description (between 30 and 50 words) for each of the covers. I wanted it to be read in the time available (8 seconds) and make the book seem tempting. It's harder than it sounds.

Now the problem will getting back to the needed editing and not getting caught up in the fun of mixing images and words into a satisfying new creation-- a book trailer. It's addictive just for wanting them to look right, to flow, to have the feel of the books.

Actually I am already thinking what might come next for the stories. Yes!!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Trailers for books became the next thing that excited me about marketing. When I began, I didn't even know there were trailers for books. Once I knew there were, I began looking at some to see how the creators put them together. It inspired me to do some of my own. I have no idea if trailers sell books, but I know for sure they make a writer like me fall even more in love with their own work as it brings to life what once was only words.

The first one I chose was a natural because of my love of Montana, ranch living, and relationships-- both what we think they are like and their reality. Illusions are so much a part of human life. It is not as though it's new to our era.

Mythologies encouraged humans to build cities, temples, to dream of romantic love, and on the negative side to fear authorities and do what they were told.

From Here to There is about two great mythologies-- the perfect love and the Old West. Incidentally mythology doesn't mean false. It simply is a story that teaches a lesson. The mythology of the Old West was of the independent settler, the heroic gunman, noble or vicious (depending on where the mythology was from) Native Americans, brave soldiers (or land thieves again depending from where the myth came),  mighty cattle herds, wars and bringing civilization to the country (again depending on from which angle you saw that one). That mythology inspires many people yet today-- some to want whatever they can find left of that life and others to read books or paint paintings.

Looking for photos to bring this mythology to life was both fun and challenging. I wanted my first trailer to be around one minute. I didn't want to spend any more money than needful in creating it.

I interspersed searching through photos of people on reasonably priced stock sites with looking through my own photos of Montana. I have way too many great photos of the West to make that easy. People were the only ones I had to buy.

One thing I decided was to go for the painterly look even on the photos I purchased to give this trailer a more mythic feel. I did that both through my own digital work and something new I recently learned to use called Oilify (on GIMP 2 and on the newest version of Picasa--both free). With it you can turn a photo into a total abstract or just tease a bit.

For those where it didn't work at all, I used Corel Photo-Paint7 which has been my favorite tool for digital painting. (For someone who has never tried painting with light, which is what I consider digital painting, I did this awhile back to describe my own process-- Creating a digital painting. There are many others with using collages or painting over the image changing the colors to look like a painting and eliminating whatever doesn't fit.)

While I was searching through my own photos as well as looking at stock sites, I began to think about words which in a trailer do matter but should never overshadow the images.

When I had the words and pictures, as I wanted them, I knew I already had the music which I had bought from Jewelbeat. For several days I fooled with how many images I could use to make the music work and still let a reader read the words. It ended up 16 and 4 signs. Cutting down to the minimum is not easy as I love all the photos, love words, and yet knew a person looking through trailers would never stick with it if I made it too long. I've seen some trailers which bored me before I got to the three minutes which is about the longest trailers usually are.

So, if you are interested in trailers for your own future books or just curious how I ended up doing this one, check out--  Trailer for From Here to There and on YouTube at From Here to There -- book trailer

For me, this book and trailer are love stories not just to the couple falling in love but also to a land and way of life. If the book looks interesting to you, it's at Amazon-- From Here to There for $2.99. It can be downloaded onto a computer as well as a Kindle device with a free app on their site.

At the top is one of the many photos which I loved but that didn't make the grade. Maybe some future book, it'll find itself in a trailer.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Creating a cover using photos from stock site.

The book From Here to There has had three covers-- so far (I liked them all) and that is only since I had it published. Another one came even before that where I just didn't like the look of that hero.

The woman needed to be attractive, have a sense of innocence but also stubbornness and determination. She had chopped off her hair once she moved onto her uncle's ranch.

The hero needed to be handsome, a very successful man, but a city guy who has come to the ranch to prove his ability to do whatever he needs. He had to look strong-- the kind of man who could succeed in a boardroom or a western ranch.

The ranch was set out of Livingston, Montana, in a fictional valley which led into the Absaroka Mountains. It was rather isolated as well as a beautiful place for those who love the ranch life.

I knew I had the background photo already but found an even better one in going through my Montana photos from 2008. While it wasn't quite where the ranch was set, this is a make-believe story; so it could have been. It was important that there be a road because after all this is from here to there.

I was not going to digitally paint any of this-- so it would be all photos. The right background mattered a lot as this is a story not just about people but of a land.

Then came finding the woman, Helene. That was a little harder since she couldn't be overly made up, had to look natural. A lot of the women in those stock photos are wearing dark lipstick. She could have by the timing of the story but it wasn't her style. Then I saw her with a wondering expression; and other than needing to give her a hair cut, she was perfect.

I went looking for a possible guy to play Phillip and got lucky as this guy could be more in the distance, leaving Phillip's face more unseen but you get the idea of his type.
Both people photos are from Can Stock and copyrighted, but I have the right to use them not only on the book cover (up to 500,000 copies) but also on a website. I can crop and use them as required. It's the advantage of using stock photos.

Once I had an idea of how I would lay everything together, I cut down the background, set it into the proper dimensions for a Kindle book. I put in the man first, rebuilt the barbed wire fence as I liked the symbolic nature of that fence as there is one between this couple but it's an emotional barrier. 

Once I had them together, the couple, the road, the mountains, I ran into a problem as the diverse colors made it difficult to put up a title and author name. For the first time on a book, but it'll not be the last, I used a border. It made it look more like a book and this was especially good since an old journal plays an important part in the story.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's the cover, stupid!

A brief synopsis (for anyone who hasn't been reading this blog) of my own experience with covers for eBooks: First decision was not to invest any money into the project until it made money. I believed since I was already doing digital paintings, that that method would work. Who knew more about my characters than me?

The problem here was that I didn't know the readers-- which led directly to my next insight-- covers weren't working. *sigh*  *angst*  *bemoaning* *questioning* Hey, I thought they looked fine. Readers thought otherwise which led to fourth stage-- Rethink the process and temporarily put up symbolic covers while I figured out what to do.

Through that all I had learned some important things. Covers must fit not just the story but also the genre into which the book falls. To figure out what kind of look that is, go online, say at Amazon and find books in your genre-- ideally of those selling well. It doesn't work to look at them in bookstores either as expectations are different.

So first step in doing a cover is make sure your concept fits within the genre. Memoirs would be very different than paranormal or apocalyptic, etc.

I thought romances generally should have people on them-- one or both of the lovers. I suspect a well-known author does better with one symbol like say a red rose standing in mid air by itself. That sounds appealing but I decided to go for the protagonists.

One of the things that had gone wrong with my digital paintings was they weren't sufficiently complex, not layered, painted thin for wont of a better way to explain what I mean. They looked more cartoonish than painterly-- despite being painted.  *sigh*  My backgrounds didn't work either. Obviously a lot of denial and bemoaning was going on at this point before the light finally dawned, and I began to feel excited by what was happening. I had a chance to make something out of my covers that went beyond my original concepts.

For drawing or painting people, it's not like I could see someone's face in a grocery store, for a passing second, then go home and get it right. Staring at people in public doesn't work well either.  As for using real models-- economics, i.e. business (got to have release forms etc.), precluded that. My friends weren't in the right age group (coming next old age romances). My kids would kill me if I used their faces, and I cannot imagine them agreeing to pose for a cover.

There is a lot of time required to do a good cover. It's no wonder the top graphics artists charge a lot of money. That cover basically lays out the premise of the story, gives a hint to the type of characters inside, even the era, and ideally provides clues to the emotional conflicts and rewards within. A cover is a story in images.

Besides the cost of hiring someone, for me there was another reason I still wanted to put them together. I am a sculptor and painter. I felt I could use those skills in balancing and creating a cover. Through doing it, I have learned a lot even if admittedly often through mistakes. The current covers have all gone through three cathartic shifts. I can't even say the current ones will be the last ones. Time will tell.

After I had a few dollars coming in from sales, I went looking for stock photos to buy and get the rights to use. Even for a digital painting later, I wanted that license to use the images. With a stock photo you can photo-shop the image into something more like your character if it's not quite right. You can crop and copy paste. Basically you are free to play. There is a limitation on how many times the image can be used in sales of a book. At 500,000, I will be a long ways from needing to worry about that.

Going through countless faces and poses made me feel like a casting director for a movie. My perspective changed for what I hoped to get and what I bought. I wanted features close to the character, the right energy, the right pose, the possibility of fitting in another model in case I wanted both figures, and they had to fit some scene from the book or its essence. So features, pose and energy were on the docket.

I found one site that I especially liked for quality and price. They enable (but don't require) you to buy a block of credits which makes the pictures inexpensive-- Can Stock Photos.  You can also offer your own photos there for potential sales. Want to see your face on the cover of a book? You never know...

For my uses, I didn't choose the larger sizes but did get 300 dpi which cost 3 credits. They have set it up so that if you see a model you like, look below their image on the 'buy' page, you can see more images with the same model. That feature alone saves a lot of time and would also make possible a trailer if I later decide to do that.

This post is getting too long. Next blog will go into how I put together one of the covers. The article below is about how the covers have changed with time and readership.