Monday, July 16, 2018

Tour My Pinterest Storyboards

Pinterest is a great place for story inspiration. I try not to spend too much time on there (because I can easily be on there for hours) but on the way home from a good friend's out of town wedding a week ago, I did go on and add to some of my storyboards and writing resource boards. Now, my storyboards aren't nearly as full as those of a particular author friend I could mention, but I still enjoy building and looking at them. It helps to get me in the mood for my stories, and makes me want to write. I've been writing snippets and rereading bits of several of my in-progress stories a good bit lately, as well as looking at their storyboards, and I'm just like "I NEED TO WRITE THESE BOOKS!" Unfortunately, writing is slow and I have other commitments that are higher priorities, so I'm still only partway through Acktorek, and can't rewrite Espionage sequel or Cassie.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some of my favorite pins from my WIPs.


Espionage Sequel

Cassie Story

Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Cover Design: A Librarian's Perspective

I've learned a lot about book covers in the 2 1/2 years I've been working at the local library. (Has it really been that long already? Wow.) What looks professional, what doesn't, what belongs in what genre and age group, what looks new and what looks like it was published twenty years ago, and more. I'm absolutely no expert, and honestly, I couldn't probably put a lot of what I've learned into words. It's more just a feeling. A knowing what works and what doesn't, without necessarily being able to put your finger on it. I've just got to learn how to translate that to my own covers.

There's so much variety in covers. Some interesting Photoshop jobs like this one that I love:

Note: I haven't read it, so I can't vouch
for content. It's a prodigal son story.

And then there's how different covers can make books with the exact same title look and feel so completely different. Like these two I once shelved at the same time:

Note: Again, I haven't read either book and can't vouch for
content. I just find the contrast between the two fascinating.

But there are some things even more important to me in cover design as a librarian. I've got me a list.

1. Please, please, PLEASE, if the book is in a series, put the series title and volume number clearly and prominently in a place on the spine that is unlikely to be covered by a library label. 

We have so many series at the library that are difficult, or even impossible to shelve in order. Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are difficult because the number is only on the front. Captain Underpants is annoying because it just says stuff like "Another Epic Novel" or "Ninth Epic Novel" on the front cover, and not everyone is dedicated to keeping them in order. Geronimo Stilton puts the number on the bottom of the spine where everybody puts a library label, so on a few of them you can see just enough of the number to put it in order, but not enough to do all of them. Then there are series with no number on them at all. Luckily, I've read Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series, so when a girl came to the desk with #2, I was able to get #1 for her as well so she wouldn't be totally lost.

2. If you wouldn't want your small child to see that cover image, or the cover might cause your child to ask questions you don't want to answer, please don't put it on the book. I don't want little kids to see them, and I don't want to see them either.

Luckily, there haven't been terribly many, but there are some Stuart Woods, James Patterson, and Sandra Brown covers that I regularly turn over on the desk or hide in the middle of a stack of books. When it's on the front cover or on the back, I can conceal it for the most part, but there's nothing I can do about pictures on the spine. And I don't care if the photo is strategic enough to not technically show anything bad—if I can still tell that woman is scantily clad, I'm flipping it over. I'm guilty of shifting Patterson books because I was tired of seeing a woman in a skimpy bathing suit every time I turned down that aisle. And you don't even NEED to put those kinds of pictures on the cover. Fifty Shades is awful, I refuse to read a single word when I'm flipping through to check for damage, and I dread shelving the series, but at least I don't have to flip it over on the desk.

3. On that note, snake books. Just why?

Yes, I flip those over too. They creep me out.

4. Make the children's book covers interesting, please.

I really talked up my experience with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle to a little girl because our copy had this cover and she'd just decided against a book I hadn't read because it looked boring.

That cover just looks...old. I like this one much better.

She ended up not reading it after all, but I can't be sad because of her reason. She'd started reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and was loving it.

5. This is just my personal preference, but it's something I wouldn't necessarily know about without working at the library. What's wrong with realistic style illustrations on children's books? Why must they all look like graphic novels or Pixar knockoffs?

They've redesigned Boxcar Children from my favorite editions.

They've redesigned the A to Z Mysteries (and I really hate the new ones).

Just why? Why ruin the cover?

Then there are times when I wasn't a big fan of the original cover:

So then I like the new cover:

And then they go and change it again to make it look all computer animated:

Am I the only person on the planet who likes to picture characters in juvenile fiction as real people and wants the front cover to help me in that?

I just love covers like these. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

So there you have it: my librarian's perspective on cover design. What are some things you like and dislike in book covers?

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Declaration of Independence

"When, in the course of human events..."

This Independence Day, let's remember what we're really celebrating. Not BBQ and fireworks, but freedom. The life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness we enjoy, for which so many people gave their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. I'm proud to be an American.

(Also, please forgive the random neighbor who, through his ignorance, ruined the authenticity of the video by starting to mow his lawn part way through. 😉 )

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Swords of Time Blog Tour: Aunt Anna Spotlight

Sarah Allerding has a new book out! I haven't read this one yet, but it sounds interesting and I enjoyed her previous book, Rainland. First, a little bit about the book, and then I'll share a spotlight of one of the characters. Braden has one goal: knighthood.

Unfortunately, he lives on a horse farm in modern day America with his uncle, his younger brother, and an aunt who absolutely hates him.

Against all odds, Braden and his brother, Jamie, stumble across a pair of special swords that sweep them back into medieval times. They land near a castle whose lord has a task for them.

His older son is lost somewhere in time, and only someone who can control the Swords of Time can save him.

With the goal of knighthood suddenly in sight, Braden's not sure he wants to leave, but he wishes to impress the lord. Can he protect his brother, find the lost heir, and fulfill his dreams, or will the lord's younger son ruin everything?

Character Spotlight: Aunt Anna

Physical appearance: Aunt Anna is short with brown eyes and short blond hair.

Personality: She has a very bold personality and is not afraid to speak her mind.

Background: Aunt Anna is the youngest of four girls. Her older sister was Braden and Jamie’s mother. Aunt Anna could not stand the man her sister married because of something he did. Because of this, she takes out her anger on Braden, who looks like his dad.

Blog Tour Stops:

Monday 25th
A Day in the Life - CS: Braden
Rachel Rossano - Interview

Tuesday 26th
Morgan Elizabeth Huneke - CS: Aunt Anna
O.Scarlett Reviews - Review

Wednesday 27th
A Day in the Life - Interview
Hunting for the Truth - Review

Thursday 28th
Jaye L. Knight - CS: Sir James+Sir Richard
Knitted By God's Plan - Interview

Friday 29th
Bookish Orchestrations - Interview
Reality Reflected - CS: Jamie
A Day in the Life - Review

Saturday 20th
Roxbury Books and Book Dragons - CS: Darren

Monday, June 18, 2018

Narnia Reading Order

Narnia nerd here to talk about why I think the original published order is the best way to read the series. And yes, I'm aware I am wholly incapable of being brief when talking about Narnia. This is the shorter version. ;)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Finding My Writing Method

It's been awhile since I talked about my writing method. Possibly because I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I'm kind of a contradiction. I need a plan. I can't function if I don't know where I'm going. Yet at the same time, all the minute details of a well thought out plan overwhelm me and stress me out because I can't possibly keep up with them all, and then it's just easier to not do anything at all. The other thing is that if I get too into my planning brain, I get analytical and squash my creativity. This is true in life as well as writing, and it's difficult, because it's a hard balance to find between the two.

I'm working on figuring out exactly how I write best, and that's not easy. Especially when most writing resources out there are plan heavy. Outline your novel with the snowflake method. Plan out your plot points and story structure. Outline, outline, outline. Plan, plan, plan. But for me, detailed plans don't work.

I've analyzed the way I wrote before I started struggling with writing. I know, analyzing it sounds counter-intuitive, and it kind of is, but I discovered something. I write best somewhere in the middle of extreme plotting and extreme pantsing. Which really makes sense. For my early stories, well, basically everything up through Time Captives, I had a very general plan in my head. I had my beginning. I had maybe a couple of random stops along the way. The Battle of Feliho Forest in Across the Stars was one of those random stops, though it turned out differently from how I planned. Miss Reginald's experiment on Edmund Rubin "to see what kind of a monster I can create" in The Experiment was another, and one that played in my head like a clip in a movie trailer. And then I had my end goal. Save Emoria. Free America. Defeat the strytes and establish Joseph and Olivia as king and queen of Calhortz.

And then within that basic framework, I had total creative freedom. Honestly, though, even that framework was fluid. I rarely wrote any notes down. If a previously created scene didn't end up working for the way the story was going, it was out. And that was sad, especially if I was particularly attached to it, but it was okay.

I'm trying to return to that with Acktorek. Mainly because the more I've tried to outline, the stiffer and more contrived my stories feel. Stories need to be organic and flow naturally. There can be plenty of rabbit trails and extra fluff in a first draft. That's why we have rewriting and editing. Then sometimes the rabbit trails and extra fluff turn out to be incredibly important. If I hadn't made random decisions and gone down rabbit trails in Time Captives, we wouldn't have Adriel!

I have a general plan for Acktorek. I have my beginning. I have a few random scenes along the way, one being that wrong turn I took a few months ago. It belongs in the middle, not close to the beginning. I'm not really sure of my ending. The short story I wrote that sparked the book is from somewhere in the climax, so I have a general idea of where it's going, but who's going to survive? I don't know. How will Emma's life be changed? I don't know. What direction will Mitchell's life take after this? I don't know. Will Emma and Mitchell end up together? My original snippet indicated probably, the beginning of the story convinced me absolutely not, my sister says they have to, and I'm currently undecided and not telling you which direction I'm currently leaning.

In a way, it's scary to not know how I'm going to get from point A to point B. Especially considering that this kind of story has a much less straightforward storyline than the save-the-world plots I usually write. Sometimes I don't know what's going to happen next. Actually, a lot of times and then something random happens and I hope it's good. I kind of just have to make it up as I go along, and hope I do it as brilliantly as the Doctor. ;) But it's certainly interesting, and in a lot of ways, it's freeing. I don't have to worry about working in every detail in the first draft. I can explore. I can discover new things. It's like the sonnet, which Mrs. Whatsit compared to life:

Monday, June 4, 2018

Who is Emma Edsel?

Short answer: the main character of my latest WIP Acktorek.

Emma is a sixteen-year-old senior in high school, who lives in a fictional town in northern California called Gondora Heights. (Don't ask why California. I'm a Georgia girl through and through. These characters just told me it was California, so I went with it.) She's the oldest of two girls, and her younger sister, Carla, is blind. Her dad is hyper focused on her sister, and her mom is OCD with anxiety issues, so Emma tends to get neglected. This is largely why Via in Wonder stood out to me.

Emma has attended a prestigious private school since kindergarten. (Again, I'm a homeschooler through and through, but this was the easiest way to get her to meet the main guy, so I went with it.) She's really smart, and she actually skipped two grades in elementary school, so she'll be graduating early. Emma is really into science, and taking both chemistry and biology at the same time, as advanced as the school offers. She intends to become a molecular biologist. Carla attends the school as well—I guess they have accommodations for the blind—though she's more into the music department. Emma, well, she's not a dreamy, musical type. She wants hard facts.

Emma is kind of a loner. She has one friend, Grace from next door, but even Grace doesn't really understand Emma. To be honest, if they didn't live next door to one another, the chances they'd be friends are next to nonexistent. Grace is always trying to get Emma into pop culture things...unsuccessfully. It doesn't help that Emma is extremely anti-romance.

She's just not interested in boys. It's kind of a relief to write her after Vannie, in this respect. Vannie was quite the challenge to keep at a PG level. Emma? No problem. Emma's too focused on her studies to have time for a boyfriend. She wants to learn everything she can about chemistry and biology. She wants to be a research scientist. But at the root of her attitude towards boys and relationships is her relationship with her family. She doesn't really trust people to actually be there for her. She doesn't trust people to walk by her side and show her they care about what's going on in her life. And there's a part of her that hopes that if she really makes something of herself, her parents will be proud of her. They'll make time for her. They'll show her that they do see something outside of Carla and their own personal problems.

Emma is an interesting character to write. I've always tended to be more about the family-focused, motherly, artsy, musical type (nerd) girls because that's who I am. I'm not career focused. I want a family. But that's not who Emma is. She's a girl that is hurt and broken, and trying to find her place in a world that doesn't accept her—a world she doesn't even truly want to accept. I'm not sure just how Acktorek will turn out, but it's sure to be interesting.