Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year New Blog Topics

Now's the time to be thinking about my blog for the new year. Dark Treasury's been doing pretty well. Thanks to all of you! Engagement and pageviews are consistent. I remember, years ago, when it felt like I was talking to myself. I'd miss a day posting and lose followers. Now, that doesn't happen. Thank God. But, the blog's not growing. Hasn't grown for awhile.

A couple of weeks ago I came across Blogging for Authors: How to Create a Blog that Can Grow With Your Career by Anne Allen. I got some interesting blog post ideas.
  • "Focus on your genre or subgenre (unless you’re still experimenting with different genres.) You can discuss movies, videogames, TV shows, even jewelry and costumes—as long as they relate to your niche.
  • Offer links to important information. If you’re writing a memoir or fiction about certain health issues, promote organizations that help with those issues. Link to support groups and they might even link back.
  • Provide people with the benefit of your research. If you’re writing historical fiction about a certain time period—post the research on your blog. (This is doubly useful because it will help keep you from cramming it all into the novel at the expense of story.) Have to research guns for a thriller? Poisons for a cozy? Are you basing the story on a real case? There are people who would love to read about this stuff."
Because of this post, I download a mind map app SimpleMind Free and started mapping out potential topics and subtopics. 
I've done a lot of research for my novels. Now, I just need to find a way to write more blog posts out of that information. I've been taking classes in publishing, but I haven't done much blogging about the things I've learned. Gotta do something about that. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Behind the Cover: Another Redesign

And now we're back to our regular schedule...schedule. Sorry for being afk (got gaming on the mind from an anime) for over a week. Christmas threw off my blogging.

I recently completed a cover redesign for Deborah Johnson (my mom) and her co-author Mark Wallace. Last year, they published We Are Not The Enemy.
 It's about putting a positive spin on federal employees. People keep talking bad about the entire government when only a select group of people are crapping things up.

The authors are releasing an update soon. They wanted me to make a new cover. They wanted to it be "different with more focus on people."

For those getting into cover design note, you will sometimes get vague requirements like this. It's your job to ask the right questions to find out what they mean by "different." I didn't ask any questions because I'm new at this.

As usual, I did the cover in Adobe Photoshop.

I started with these stock images from Shutterstock:


They weren't speaking to me. I searched again through iStock, Shutterstock and 123rf for stock photos. Again, nothing was speaking to me.

Like writing, when I hit a wall in cover design, I take a step back and do something else.

While commuting to class, an idea came to me. I don't know where it came from. I must've seen something on the street that inspired me. I don't remember.

The first cover was supposed to be people focused, so I have several images like these:


What if I turned them into patterns and put them in letters-- in the title. This was born:
That's four images inside the letters. I separated the words-- made them into different layers. For "WE" the "W" and the "E" are separate so they can have different patterns. Similarly, for "ENEMY," "ENE" and "MY" are separate layers.

I use four different images because I want the cover to be diverse, representative.

I didn't use the pattern for "ARE NOT THE" because that would be a bit too much. An important element of cover design is focus--where you want people's eyes to go. "We" and "enemy" are about people. They're the most powerful words in the title. I gave them the pattern. "Are not the" also draws attention to itself because it's different from the other words.

I played with Blending Options. As you can see, the patterns made the letters almost illegible.

This was an gamble. One of the authors doesn't like wide fonts. But, the only way this would work was with a wide font. The author likes it. This entire cover was a gamble.

Then, I needed a background. I could've gone with a red or blue solid background. I tried it. Didn't like it. In general, I don't care for solid color backgrounds. They're too flat.

I went back to the stock photo sites and looked at "government" images. I went to Amazon to examine other covers for books about the federal government.

The thing is We Are Not The Enemy isn't just for government employees. I didn't want it to scream government because it would turn off most of the target audience. On the other hand, its a book about the government. The cover can't be so different it's misleading.

I hit another wall.

I stepped back. Did something else.

Old parchment came to me. It's government-y without being obvious about it. The background is simple so the overall cover won't be too loud.

I like the burnt edges. It's a good representation of the government and the themes in the book. The subtitle for We Are Not The Enemy is "Restoring honor to U.S. Civil Service."

Here's the final cover.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fantasy World Maps!!!

Almost finished the world map and the new map of Jael. I just need to add darker boundary lines.

Jael is the main province (land) in the series. Book 1, The Sciell, was set in only two places- De'Ray and Raesul. The characters didn't care about the rest of the land. In Books 2 and 3, the characters come from different parts of the province. They've been overseas. Throughout the stories, they travel from one end of Jael to the other.

 Because of that, those stories required more world building. Also, as I mentioned before, Books 2 and 3 take place 50 years after the first one. The world is going through an apocalyptic event. Many people in Jael moved away from big cities to take over abandoned villages/towns  in the middle of the land. New places grew between Book 1 and 2.
I'm thinking, for the final book, I'll take you to another land. We'll see. That'll mean more world building and another map.

Now, I have to figure out how to divide the world map. It's going on two pages in the paperback version of Chains of the Sciell. No way I can put it on one page and make it legible.

If you want a larger version of each landmass, check out The Sciell's World

Monday, December 15, 2014

Inspiration Marches In NYC


"Protesters streamed out of New York City's Washington Square Park on Saturday to protest the killings of unarmed black people by police officers, as part of the "Millions March NYC." (Huffington Post)
I usually don't get useful information from the morning news. If it hadn't been on in the background, I wouldn't have found out about the rally against police brutality in DC and NY.

Of course, I had take pictures so I can blog about the protest. The news can be a bit unreliable when it comes to matters like these.

The crowd was amazing. It was truly inspiring. I don't usually get emotional, but even I got a little choked up.



Different people coming together to protest injustice. Beautiful. This is not just a "black thing."

The signs were as amazing as the crowd size.


Because of the sun, I couldn't get a clearer picture of this. This is the window of The New School.




I hadn't planned on marching, just documenting. Then, I saw him.

How could I not march after that?



The spectators were just as inspiring.
I didn't climb scaffolding to take pictures. I did stand on the barriers--the ones that control traffic. I'm 5'4. Everyone is taller than me. I had to stand on something.



 
I hope this continues. Because of the ambiguity in the Michael Brown case, I can kind of see why that cop got off. The officer who choked Eric Garner should have been charge with something. I mean there was a video.

How did he get away with killing an unarmed man who wasn't threatening him?! Garner was not the first person to resist arrest. He didn't need to be killed because of it. That is just disgusting. What is wrong with our system? Feels like we're heading back to the 50s and 60s.

I like peaceful protests like the ones over the weekend, but I do understand the rioting that erupted in Ferguson. After a while, you just get tired. People marched after the Sean Bell shooting and nothing changed. This is not a new problem. You're not supposed to grow up afraid of the police.


It was so cold and still thousands of people marched.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Self- Discipline


I admire those who can write everyday. I've tried. It's not for me. I have a short attention span. It hasn't been a problem in the past because I've always needed to multitask. I may not write everyday, but I get enough work done to finish/publish a handful of stories. Now, I need to go over my publisher's comments for Chains of the Sciell by Sunday.

That wouldn't be a problem if I could read more than ten pages at a time. My goodness is it hard to just sit and read anything for long periods of time. Forcing myself to read makes me dislike the story.

I need to stop looking at writing as a hobby. Being an author is one of my career goals.

Here are some articles about self-discipline for writers.

Writer's Digest: 10 Disciplines for Fiction Writers

"First efforts on a new idea are like falling in love. You can’t wait to get to the writing, and being away from the page is exquisite torture.
Soon enough, though, writing becomes work. Any worthy project does. You must find a way to write consistently if you wish to be a working fiction writer.
The primary way writers keep momentum going is through the daily quota."

Jody Hedlund Blog: How to Become a More Self-Disciplined Writer

"Forcing ourselves to work regardless of feelings develops perseverance."

Kristen Lamb's Blog: Traits of the Successful Author—Self-Discipline

"Small decisions/actions add up over time. Yes, this blog has a large, active and amazing following, but that didn’t happen overnight. I had to blog even when it seemed I was only talking to the ether and the male-enhancement products. Every novel is written one word at a time, one page at a time, one day at a time."

 Dumb Little Man: How to Build Self-Discipline – The 6 Key Elements

"Reward yourself at milestones throughout your project or your take. Perhaps it is that you have not started a project yet.
Tell yourself that if you work for one hour on your project you will be rewarded with whatever it is that you want to be rewarded with. Set yourself little rewards throughout your project to help you build your self-discipline."

I was  surprised I didn't find more articles on self-discipline for writers.

In general, I have an aversion to structure. I will try to be better. I doubt I'll ever write everyday. If I don't have a story to work on, I'll spend that time doing graphic design, school work, brand development... You know how I feel about writing/publishing rules. I ignore the ones I don't agree with.
"It wasn’t a matter of being “good enough” or productive enough or disciplined enough to be a writer.... It’s important to acknowledge and fully realize what choices we are making—either in the short-term or long-term—that impact other things we want to achieve. What sacrifices are we making, implicitly or explicitly?" (How Do You Make the Time to Write?)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Character Family Tree

Writing and world building aren't the only fun you can have while crafting a story. It's funny. I never would've gotten into Photoshop if I hadn't jumped out of my comfort zone and went the non-traditional route to publish my stories. I didn't think about Photoshop until I realized it'd be cheaper to make my own book images.

I'm not saying the non-traditional route is the way to go. Try jumping out of your comfort zone once in a while. You never know what you'll discover.

Since I started selling my books, I stopped seeing writing as fun. It's not torture, either. It's just something I do. I still love world building. For actual writing, I've been working out of habit. I've been writing so long that I can't stop even if I wanted to.

 It's nice to find something else in this process that I enjoy.

I've been in a rush to finish all my book images before I go home for Christmas. Won't be bringing my desktop with me. I'll only have Photoshop on a computer that can't handle it.

I mentioned before that I'm including a family tree in each book. Here's the one from The Sciell.

Here's the one for Chains of The Sciell. Don't worry. The "deceased" label doesn't give away the story. Those characters were dead before the series started. 




Monday, December 8, 2014

Creepy Inspiration

Funny how December can turn a beautiful park into something out of a horror movie.

I braved the NY cold over the weekend to take some pics. It wasn't too bad...at the start. I wore gloves, but I couldn't change my camera setting or zoom with them on. I had to take one off each time I took a picture. Less than thirty minutes in the park and my fingers felt...amazing. It became a pain trying to get good pictures. Did not stay long after that.

Most of these got Photoshoped just a bit. Wanted to see if I could make them extra creepy.

As much as I enjoy trees with their colored leaves, I like how creepy they look naked.





Not all my pictures came out horror-y.


Didn't know naked trees could be colorful.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Character's Power

I've talked a lot about magic powers. I love, love giving my characters powers. Making their abilities realistic can be a pain. I talked, in general, about powers in the post Fantasy Powers: Magical Beings. Let's get specific.

In The Merging Worlds Series, the characters can use their power to create basic things like shields, swords, electricity and fire. The power is stored in the body. Since all bodies are different, every power use is different. Their bodies can mold the power to do somethings better than anyone else. This is called Nanta. The characters discover their special abilities in Chains of the Sciell. In rare cases, this ability is something no one else can do.

It's widely believed, in the story, that Nanta is one ability beings can master. The characters learn throughout the story that a person can have more than one Nanta. This is rare.

How do they discover their Nanta?

  1. They get beaten up until their power has no other choice except get creative.
  2. The characters practice and find that they favor one ability.
  3. The character allows the power to do as it pleases.
  4. Some characters have been studying Nanta for so long that they know the feel of it. They can battle someone and tell them what their Nanta is.



Divine Mathews 
His Lifeblood (power) can talk to the shadows. He can make them do whatever he wants. He's the most powerful person in the story yet his Lifeblood favors defense. It's best at protecting others. His ability baffles other characters. Everyone's power is alive. However, Divine's power has more personality than most.

Josephine Royal 
She uses anger to transform her aura into a fire-like substance. She becomes surrounded by this fire, burning anything near her, including her clothes. To Josephine's annoyance, her power only has the ability to create a scythe. Her Nanta is combining the weapon and her burning aura. Instead of lighting her body on fire, she can use the scythe to transfer her burning power into the environment. She then controls it with Tai Chi like movements. This way, her power only attacks who/what she tells it to.
Blea Carlton 
He’s sneaky and strategic. He places invisible untraceable bombs across the battlefield-- setting a trap. He then lures his opponent into said trap. Being strategic becomes a power for him. His traps works on almost everyone.  He uses his senses to track other’s movement and counter them within seconds.

Aliceanna Carlton 
She can send most of her power and her mind out of her body to create a second body made of Darkness. Her physical body becomes useless when she does this. In her new form, she can’t be touched. Her body can poison her opponents. She can solidify Darkness into any form but does not use it often.

Xurice Altor
Enhanced intuition. He’s the planner. He can see everything about a situation. His powers of observation are well above average. He's able to read someone's thoughts. He's the only person Blea's Nanta doesn't work on.

Resnick Tahylur
He is the best at creating shields for any purpose-- cleansing, defense, offense, concealment...

Kaige Prysn
His power "tastes" his opponent and develops a poison that’ll take them out- slowly or quickly depending on how Kaige feels. He can also create poisons that kills foreign invaders (an infection) inside the body. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Behind the Scenes- Cover Reveal!!!

Here's the cover for Chains of the Sciell, Book 2 of the Merging Worlds series!


For those making covers or any artwork for your book remember, you probably won't get what you want at the first try. It's like a first draft of a novel. Your first try at designing a new cover might be crap. And that's okay. You have to cycle through the crap to better picture your cover.

Unless you plan it out. Even then, the end result may not be what you envisioned.

I don't plan. I search through stock photos until I find something that speaks to me. Planning will probably save you money. I paid for some images I'll probably never use. For me, it's more fun to be a panster. 

I tried this:

And hated it. Then, I tried this:
And hated it. 

Searching through Shutterstock got me this:

I like the chains but hate the flat background.

For those you are using Photoshop- when searching for stock photos, remember you don't have to like the entire image. If you only like a piece of it, figure out how you're going to remove that piece.
I put this grunge image under the chains one.


Then, I removed most of the black in the chains image.

As far as I know, there's no magic Photoshop tool that removes background in one go. I had to select and delete each section between the chains. Sometimes, I had to zoom in and use the eraser because the sections were too small for the magnetic lasso tool. FYI, magnetic lasso, one of my fav Photoshop tools. It's magic. 

By accident, I had the feather set at about 50px which meant, as I was deleting the black, it looked like the some chains were buried in the embedded in background. 
Being bound by connections is a major theme in this book. I wanted the blue butterfly, the mark of the Sciell, to be bound in chains. I had to figure how to confine this:

In chains. I didn't want it to sit under the chains. It would look more like a fence. 

I put the blue butterfly on top of the chains image and changed the opacity, made the butterfly transparent. Then, I selected parts of the chains and created a new layer via cut. 

One of the beautiful things about Photoshop is that layers can be rearranged. I moved the new chain piece layers above the butterfly layer-- without touching the image.
Having some chains go through the butterfly was just a matter of careful erasing. I'll probably do more with the chains to make it really constrict the butterfly.

Throughout this process, I was doing simple editing to blend the images--make them look like one image not three.

As you might've noticed, this blue butterfly looks a little different from the one in the failed covers and it's a bit different from the one on the cover of The Sciell, Book 1. 

I like all the designs. I changed it for fun. The book only describes the mark as:
...an array of thick light blue and black wavy markings. He dragged his finger across it. He’d seen tattoos on humans. Those looked flat, like they were apart of the skin. This one had a grainy texture but Vayle felt only skin when he touched it. He sat back to see it better. The wavy shapes molded into one design and if he squinted, it did look somewhat like a butterfly.
 This gives me some leeway. I haven't decided if I'm going to tweak the design for each book.

...
Here's a journal entry from the first Sciell, Mascenore Tahylur. I'll use a piece of this for the book's description. Chains of the Sciell will be released May 2015. 

The Bonds That Tie.

You would think having so much Power is a reward? How can it not be? We can protect those we cherish. Destroy those who anger us. Humans are food. We're invincible. I have lived long enough to see the curse. This Power is isolation. It changes us, makes us animals. Makes us poison to those around us. 

I plead with you my children, find that person who accepts everything you are. Do not feed that Dark Cage in you soul by creating a false image of yourself. This will weaken your Power. Connect with someone who will free the Darkness. Who will see you. That is the only way to be truly powerful.

But, be weary of those connections you make. Binding someone so deeply to you produces devastating Darkness. I see this in my eldest children Eygress and Bley. They have a connection that goes beyond the natural. They don't need to speak to know the other is hurting. They can feel the other's need no matter where they are in the world. 


They're one mind- two bodies. Hatred can grow out of such a bond. They can hide nothing from each other. If one is enrage, the other becomes infected with that anger. They always have someone else in their head. Our Power knows the loneliness of a long life in solitude. To ease that pain, It can turn bonds into chains.