Cover Art Q&A With Anne Coffer

DBCmock01title8

Dragon Bloode: Covet

Today is going to be a little different. I’m going to do a little Q&A session with my cover artist, Anne Coffer. I can talk about cover art until I’m blue in the ears, but in the end she’s the one who actually did mine. So, let’s get started!

Q: First off, what is your graphic art experience?

I want to start by saying that I don’t have any kind of degree or formal schooling in graphic art. I’ve been dabbling with it since I was a kid on my parents’ Packard Bell in the 90s. It really took off for me in the early 2000s when pixelated dolls were a huge thing and from there I built up my own websites and images. It’s always been a hobby and it’s only recently that I’ve started to do it professionally.

Q: How do you approach a cover image? 

When doing work for someone else I always ask for a basic concept–if they have any in mind. If not I’ll ask for any palette preferences. Then maybe one or two words to describe their novel. Like for yours you said “gothic” and “fantasy” and I tried to incorporate that into the design. I also try to keep in mind the genre and what looks are most appropriate for it and make any suggestions I have from there. If it’s a romance I’m not going to have blood and creepy eyes on it. It’s really down to how the author communicates with me and what they want to convey to their audience. I don’t have a form they fill out. When making a cover for myself I usually focus on color first. Then, what is it I want people to assume about my story when they look at the cover. I guess I do that for other people too.

Q: What are your favorite cover art designs?

I love monochromatic and simple. It reflects in my designs. I dislike very busy covers because they’re overwhelming or distracting. I’m much more likely to notice a simple design with a bold title. I go for the look that attracts me as a customer. I also greatly dislike 3D images. I could see using a 3D program to set up a reference for a cover, but a cover that is 3D itself looks so unprofessional to me. I also don’t like when someone frankensteins a bunch of stock photos over a picture background. Yuck. I also like unique but legible fonts. There’s nothing worse than trying to decipher the title of a book. I’ve had instances where I needed to turn to the title page to figure out the title. You need to find that perfect balance between simple and interesting. Sorry, I guess this turned into what designs I don’t like.

EoR001Redfixedwithtagline3

Q: What programs do you use?

I use Paint Tool Sai, Paint Shop Pro 7, Paint.net, and Photoshop CS. Sometimes a plain piece of paper and pencil to sketch an initial concept.

Q: What other sources do you use?

When I search for materials to use, such as fonts, I always search for commercial use and royalty free. As an artist myself, I don’t want to use something someone else created without their consent. I never use clip art for both commercial and preference reasons. I create the images I use for covers myself in graphic art programs. I’ll use references (usually things from around the house or myself as a model) if I need them but it’s rare. For instance, on your cover I used a photo my husband took of my own hands because I couldn’t find any applicable references.

Q: What do you charge? 

I do cover art for my friends for free. Otherwise, at the moment, I’m not doing any commissions. If I ever got into it on a pay scale I’m sure I would take into consideration many factors before deciding on a price.

Q: How do print covers differ from ebook covers? 

They’re a mixture of more fun and more frustration. You have more room to fit in taglines and the publishing house, so more room to play in other words. Then again you have more to do. I create the ebook cover first and then build up the paperback cover with it.

crowbar_final

Q: Do you do anything else for books? 

I do ebook and pod formatting for my friends, but nothing beyond that.

Q: What advice do you have out there for aspiring cover artists and authors? 

My most important advice is don’t do it yourself unless you know your way around a graphics program and have an eye for design. I also advise you check out the portfolio of any potential cover artists before making a deal with them. I would also stay away from pre-made covers, but that’s more of a personal choice. Most importantly, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Until Next Time…

A big thanks to Anne for putting up with my questions and answering them! Be sure to check out her tumblr and remember Dragon Bloode: Covet is available everywhere ebooks are sold! Until next time, keep on keeping on!

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing can make a good story an amazing story.

Let me tell you a little something about myself: I’m one of those people. I can always tell where the story is going by reading into and picking up the hints dotted along the trail in books, tv, and movies. Now, I’m not a jerk. I never voice my predictions aloud because I’m not into the business of ruining it for everyone else. In fact, I’m usually disappointed in myself because I’m rarely surprised. I don’t do it intentionally, but I just can’t help but to deduce a conclusion from what’s given to me. I know I’m not special in this regard and I feel there’s a reason that I, and many others, are this way. The foreshadowing is done wrong. It’s lingered on, or out of nowhere, or is even out of place until the very end. Of course it’s even worse when there isn’t any foreshadowing and things happen because the writer decided “because I said so”. That is by far the worst crime here.

So, when should we use foreshadowing?

First let’s look at what foreshadowing actually is. According to Google, foreshadowing is “a warning or indication of (a future event)”. Foreshadowing can be necessary in certain conditions, but you have to be careful of how often and how strongly it’s implied. You can even disguise it in a way that it’s not noticeable. As an example of what not to do, I read a book a few years back about a princess (it was a historical fiction about a real woman) and at the end when confronted with physical conflict, she magically knew how to handle a rapier. She was not only gifted with this magical, yet never previously mentioned ability, but she was also able to beat another master. Moments like those feel as though the author pulled a suitable trait out of a black hat for convenience. Even the most simple sentence earlier in the story with a mention of training or experience would have solved any qualms I had.

The art of foreshadowing is also subtlety.

There is a fine, delicate, dear lord don’t drop that balance of foreshadowing. How do you apply it so that the ending makes sense, yet the clues aren’t super obvious? It’s impossible to do for everyone. Plain and simple. You have to cater it to the majority of folks. There are always going to be people like me calculating and predicting on a compulsive level. There will also always be people who need to be hit in the head with a brick (figuratively of course) in order to understand the clues. There is a balance, however, that can satisfy most consumers. Finding it can prove difficult.

What do I suggest?

I’ve heard many times that mystery/thriller writers outline their stories backwards. Well, and that’s the first thing too, outline your story. It is always an option to write your story and implement foreshadowing during rewrites because as you’re now well aware I say do what works for you. When it comes to creativity I don’t really believe there’s a right or wrong way to do things, just a suggested way. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Foreshadowing doesn’t have to be some complicated imagery or mysterious dialogue. It can be a simple sentence in passing. There, noticeable, but not shouting out “hey! look at me!” One of the best examples of foreshadowing I can give you is from the film Abnormal Beauty. If you want to watch it, well stop reading because spoilers ahead! It’s a Hong Kong film by the Pang brothers (who brought us The Eye) about “A teen girl with artistic inclinations, Jiney (Race Wong) takes acclaimed photographs but is unhappy with her work. After witnessing a fatal car crash and shooting pictures at the grisly scene, Jiney becomes preoccupied with death. Followed by the obsessive, camcorder-wielding Anson (Anson Leung), Jiney soon heads down a dark path. While Jiney’s friend Jas (Rosanne Wong) tries to help her, it may be too late to prevent her macabre decline, which has roots in a childhood trauma.”

The reason I bring up this film in particular is because of what I mentioned above, I am rarely surprised. This movie surprised me. It foreshadowed who the culprit was in a clever, yet sensible, way. Throughout the whole film you’re thinking it’s the friend, Anson. It seems a little obvious but that certainly hasn’t stopped filmmakers before. The killer (again, spoiler warning even though this movie is 12 years old) is actually in a bit part. Jiney goes into a bookstore to buy a book of photography on death and the clerk has her fill out an information card to join their rewards program. Well, the stalker is the clerk. It was quick, brief, and very effective! He had all of her information from the rewards card and even made conversation with her about the book and her interests. I know reading about it in paraphrasing has watered down the effect, but obviously this movie has stuck with me for that one particular reason. It was foreshadowing at its finest.

In my own novel I have things planted, some obvious and some not. I have things planted in the first book that don’t come to light until the third. A fantasy novel is different from a mystery or thriller, however, and that’s another challenge itself. What kind of story you’re writing will determine what kind of foreshadowing to use.

Let’s Do Some Exercises

1. What needs to be foreshadowed?

What are the parts of your story that have a twist? A climax? What are the things that you want to shock the reader with? What revelations?

2. Do those things need to be foreshadowed?

Your story may lead the way to a revelation without any need for foreshadowing. Foreshadowing shouldn’t be used for the sake of having it, but if it’s necessary. Like the princess example I gave above, foreshadowing was necessary to make it believable. Women weren’t traditionally taught how to fight or yield weapons in those times. However, it wouldn’t have been necessary if it mentioned her being a good dancer as it was common for royal women to know how to dance. You have to keep in mind general knowledge of the subject. Of course if it’s a made up world, readers will still fill in the gaps with the other cultural clues you give them.

3. Let’s Practice

Ex) I need to show my readers that Joseph can in fact ride a horse with no saddle, as it will be pivotal to the final scene.

“As the herd galloped beside his pick-up, Joseph laughed. The dip in their backs and flowing manes reminded him of his younger years before he gave in to the saddle. His freedom on the bare back of his own chestnut mare brought him closer to her. The saddle blocked the connection he always felt towards Daisy, but as time wore on and his health declined the mane and bare back gave way to the bridle and horn he would need to hold onto.”

Not my best example, but an example nonetheless. So if later on in the story Joseph finds that he can once again reprise his role as a cowboy without a saddle, it’s believable and certainly doable. It also plays a double role in laying out his backstory whilst preparing the reader for future accomplishments.

Ex2) I need readers to know that my princess is proficient with a rapier.

“Princess Royalface waved goodbye to her father as the carriage passed through the iron gate. She covered her mouth with her manicured hand, tears welling her eyes. She was going to a strange husband, home, and livelihood. Gone were the days of playtime and fanciful daydreams. In her mother’s absence, King Royalface taught her the skills of a well-versed prince; the art of politics, war, and hours of practice with a rapier. She beat him for the first time when she was twelve, and over the years as her father slowed and she quickened, the princess found herself faking incompetence to ease his old pride.”

This serves as not only foreshadowing but as character development. It not only says what skills she possesses, but her relationship with her father. From this paragraph we know what kind of man her father was and the love they held for each other.

The examples are in full paragraphs to show how nonchalant a foreshadowing example can be implemented into other character development.

Until Next Time…

For some reason this was a difficult blog to write, so if I seem all over the place I apologize! XD I hope this has helped somewhat. Foreshadowing is difficult to organize because it is in such varying degrees affected by genre, story, characters, etc. So many things. Keeping that in mind, it doesn’t have to be a big deal either and it sometimes isn’t even necessary. I’ll leave with this: if you do use it, use it wisely.

Dragon Bloode: Covet available everywhere ebooks are sold.

Passive Vs Active

passivevsactive

Hey guys! Sorry I’ve been gone a couple of weeks, but I’m back with another action packed blog about stuff and things! To be honest, it’s rather difficult to find blog topics that haven’t been done a million times and by better people. XD Despite this, I’m going to talk about passive writing vs active writing from my own experiences.

Initially when someone told me about passive vs active I was confused. No joke. I didn’t even know where to begin. It never feels structured to me when people present it. So, as usual, I tried to organize some basic rules, so to speak, to keep in mind when writing or editing.

Just Write Anyway

Sometimes there’s so much advice floating around out there it’s hard to keep it all straight. A lot of advice is conflicting as well and despite the fact that I dish out a lot myself, I always say do what works for you. What works for some won’t work for others. I offer mine in the hopes of maybe helping someone or to bring up an idea they may not have thought of. I’m not in the business of expecting everyone to do as I do. I don’t think we should all write exactly the same because if we did, how boring! If you’re too busy thinking of the rules as you write it’ll interfere. So just write. Don’t think about verb usage or any other technical rule while you’re writing. Just pump that baby out.

Recognize Your Own Habits

Passive writing isn’t just about what words you use, but even patterns. I’m a sucker for -ed to -ing sentences. Or vice versa. I also use way too many “the”s and “that”s. Use variations in your sentence length. It might seem hard to notice, but if you’re really reading through your work you’ll notice the patterns. It’s easy enough to break up a long sentence into two or three to break up the monotony with it. If you can recognize your own passive writing habits, it makes them easier to look for and identify when you’re editing.

Speaking of Editing

This is where you’ll do the meat of your passive to active work. As mentioned above, don’t worry about these things while you’re writing. Get that story out. Finish it! The characters won’t mind, I promise. I’m going to throw out some phrases that you may want to replace if at all possible: had had, there was, s/he heard, s/he saw, s/he felt. There are some specific words as well. Check your “was” usage. Is it really necessary? Can you replace it with a better verb? Same with “had”. I use the find feature in word to look for trouble phrases or words and replace them when possible. Sometimes you have to use them, and that’s okay! The point is to not always use them.

Examples of Passive VS Active

Just like the picture above, I’ll lay down a few sentences to show as examples of passive vs active. I hope you enjoyed my purpletastic picture by the way.

1p) I heard a loud boom come from outside.
1a) An eruption down the street shook the frame of my house.

2p) I saw a pink flower blooming.
2a) Pink petals opened against dark green foliage.

3p) He was coming toward me.
3a) He ran towards me.

4p) She had a bad night’s sleep.
4a) She endured another bad night’s sleep.

5p) She felt cold in the wind.
5a) The bitter wind of winter cut through her jacket.

Cheat Sheet

Things to try to replace: was and had (and for the love of Bob had had).

The five senses: heard, saw, felt, tasted, smelled.

Remove as many “that”s as you can.

Remove unnecessary “the”s.

Something extra about “was”. Usually “was” is before a verb, right? He was staring at me. She was walking away when I shouted after her. Most of the time “was” is unnecessary and you can simply past tense the verb after. He stared at me. She walked away while I shouted after her. A little tweaking can go a long way.

Until Next Time

I hope this helped and can be something you refer to during editing. Using the find function on your word processor can help as well as just being on the look out for these trouble words during your editing process. Also, don’t forget my novel Dragon Bloode: Covet is free at Smashwords until July 17th! Use coupon code: ZT57S. I’ll return next week and until then, keep on keeping on.