Cue the Muse

Today, I have a guest blogger who needs no introduction on my part.  She’s perfectly capable of introducing herself.

Call me Grace.  I am a muse.  Specifically, I am Hart’s muse.  We bonded when she was ten.  Her fourth grade class’ tarantula died a few days before open house.  Heartbroken, she wrote her first poem which her teacher posted above the abandoned cage.  And that’s how we met.  Though she didn’t actually know me yet.

In seventh grade, she decided to write a book about her adventures at a private girls school from the point of view of a bug.  Don’t mess with me here; I came up with the idea, and it was a good one.  Unfortunately she never got very far with it.  She still hopes to write a memoir about her experiences at the school, but I think the bug didn’t make the cut.

In high school, she and her best friend began writing a screenplay based on a historical incident.  She also fell in love with the Beatles.  I couldn’t compete with the Beatles, and her friend served as her muse for some years.  I retreated, remaining idle for a long time.

This is the way of it for us muses.  Unless the creative one opens her soul up to us, we wither a bit, but we never die.  Some artists—and I’m using the term in its general sense here—believe their muse has deserted them when in reality their fertile field needs to lie fallow for a little while.  Or for those of a more technical bent, their computer needs to reboot.

I reentered Hart’s life when her high-school-and-after friend had moved on, and she opened the door to me once again.  I handed her the third book in a series she’d begun reading many years earlier, and after she reached its end disappointed, I offered my best to her—a story in need of telling, a story she’d ache to tell.

Poor Hart.  It took her years to fully realize what I had given her, but when she finally surrendered to my magical gifts of whimsy and myth, the story took off.  She has now published book 1, Fractured, with book 2, Tainted, to follow within the next couple of weeks.

I have to admit, though, that I can’t wait to dig into the final book, Blooded, as this book hasn’t been written over and over.  Save for the characters, everything about it is new.  Nothing more enticing to a muse such as myself.  I plan on participating fully throughout the entirety of the process of creation on this one.  All I can say is it’s gonna be fun.  And there’s nothing more exciting to a muse as the potential for fun.

Judging a Book by its Cover

A year ago, I published Fractured, the first book in the Lisen of Solsta trilogy.  At that time, I couldn’t afford to hire anybody to do anything for me, so I edited, proofread and formatted the book for both print and e-book myself (see the 2-partBeware of Falling Rocks along the Learning Curve” below).  I also designed the cover, using CreateSpace’s template and inserting Waterhouse’s “The Lady of Shalott” for the picture because the subject of the painting appears appropriately “fractured.”  It was a decent cover, considering my good eye for layout but my nonexistent abilities as an artist.

cover4blog

Here’s the problem, however.  It’s a great cover for a historical novel.  Adults, in the main, tend to appreciate the clean, unflashy lines of a pre-formatted book cover.  On the other hand, YA (young adult) books require something much flashier to grab the attention of teenagers.  You have to dazzle them with color and seduce them with something a little sexier than a painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style, even if that painting is a classic.  In other words, the cover was boring.  Beautifully executed…but boring.

Enter the idea of hiring a cover artist.  I began my search for a cover artist back in March.  My quest began with a woman who designed from stock photos.  She created excellent covers, great for romance novels and the like, but Lisen required a specialized touch because she’s not quite human.  I moved on.  My second potential cover artist used photographs, but what she did with them was incredible.  I loved her work and made an appointment to start working with her a couple of months after our first contact (her first free moment).  I couldn’t wait.  I was all worked up and excited.  The time came, I e-mailed her and asked if she was ready, and she begged off—too busy and my concepts were too complicated.

Sigh.

I tweeted and posted to Facebook the details of the horns of my dilemma.  Aidana WillowRaven tweeted me back and offered her services.  I knew I was about to come into a little extra money, so after we chatted online for nearly an hour, we struck an agreement for all three books.

It took time, more time than I’d anticipated.  But I began to recognize the difference between someone who Photo-shopped stock photos and an actual cover artist and designer.  It was a collaborative effort.  I described Lisen to her, and she created a first draft of what she saw based on my description.  I critiqued that initial effort and requested changes, and in the second draft, Lisen took form.  It’s amazing how I felt looking at her in that draft.  She looked nothing like what I’d pictured for years during the writing, and yet she was Lisen.  My Lisen.

The drafts moved on through clothing, the pouch (eventually eliminated from the first cover completed, the cover for Tainted, the second book in the trilogy), and finally the setting.  This last Sunday morning, Aidana and I both signed off on the picture, and on Monday I had the remainder of the cover for the print version.

I am thrilled.  I’d say thrilled beyond words, but I seem to be having no  difficulty finding them at the moment.  We will start work on book 1 very soon, and I hope to reissue Fractured before the end of the year.  In the meantime, I have begun writing book 3, Blooded, and plan to publish it sometime in 2015.  Have hope, fans.  I’d set a 2014 publication date for Tainted, and I’ve come in early on that one.  Maybe Blooded will write itself and be ready for publication by the end of 2014, but I don’t want to make any promises I may not be able to keep.

So, here it is—the reveal.  Ladies and gents, meet the gorgeous, seductive cover of Tainted, available in both print and electronic editions and due to hit a retailer’s web site near you in early November.

front cover shot - low rez (2)