Designing a Book Cover

Hello there! For the last few months, I’ve been setting aside some time to design book covers to add to my portfolio because it’s something I’d love to do for self-publishing authors (if you are one and would like to work together, please send a message through the contact page on my website here) because I love doing it. Most of the covers I do are of already published books, usually something I’ve read or is a favorite of mine. I redesign them for fun and to put up on my portfolio, but for this cover, I did something a little different.

This time, I first found the original stock photo while searching around on Storyblocks and wanted to build a cover around it. So, this cover is not of a real book nor is Nathan Patterson a real author. I made it all up to fit around the concept, kind of reversing what I usually do. I wanted to do more fantasy and more work with photography rather than vector art, which is what I usually do, and thought I’d share the design process for this particular cover.

First, as I said, I found the image that I wanted to work with. It’s a stock image a photographer has available on Storyblocks that immediately made the gears in my head start to turn.

There were a few things that I wanted to edit and fix of the original: the fold in the fabric close to eye needed to be smoothed, the contact lenses the girl are wearing are a bit crooked, and I wanted to smooth out the fabric in general so that it didn’t look quite so cheap-looking (this was done later, so not shown below). So those were the first steps. I achieved these tweaks in Photoshop.

Below, you’ll see that editing out the folded-up part near her eye doesn’t look perfect, which I knew would be okay because I was going to be doing more work on it.

After that, I took the photo into Lightroom just to play around with the coloring and shadows to make it look darker and less bright and green in the background (on the left). Then, I brought back into Photoshop to continue editing to smooth out her skin, darken her eye makeup, and smooth out the fabric to look less like velvet (on the right).

Once the photo was where I wanted it, I continued in Photoshop to add more effects. This included darkening more of the background to even it out, coloring her contacts to be blue, and adding this stock image texture I found, which reminds me of metallic eye shadow or something. After applying the texture over it, I erased it just around the eyes so that they would still pop and not be too covered up.

One thing that I wanted to try, was having a smoke/fire/magic-looking effect around the text of the title. After much trial and error, I was able to achieve the desired effect by removing all the black from the original smoke image in Photoshop, then digitally erasing and painting in several layers of the text in order to make it appear as though it is within the smoke, not just on top of it or behind it.

And there it be! I’m very excited with how it turned out. This was my first design using many of these techniques and the first I’ve ever done using a photo of a person, too. I pushed myself to go beyond my usual style and comfort zone, and I’m glad I did!

Here are some more covers I’ve done:

Again, if you’d like to work with me, whether it be for a cover design or something else, visit my website and use the contact page to ask any questions you’d like!

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The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

Writer’s Block Is Fixable

Occasionally, like most writers, I periodically suffer from something known as “Writer’s Block.” But listen, it’s not real. Okay it is real, but it’s not what you think.

Hear me out — I just think that it’s an over-used term that’s often romanticized as this “You don’t understand! It’s too difficult! My muse has left me! I shan’t go on!” [proceeds to dramatically faint, landing on a chaise with one arm draped over forehead] kind of thing. As if it’s something that just falls upon you like an illness.

But listen! That’s not what it is! And it’s easily fixable!!!

If you’re struggling from writer’s block, it’s not because an evil Cupid-like demonbaby shot you with an anti-idea arrow. You shot yourself with that arrow. Because a lack of idea comes from a lack of something else in your life. You need sustenance. You need sleep. You need a break. You need inspiration, that “muse” you claim left you. So go get it back.

I mean, the problem is simple: you are creatively, mentally, or physically drained (or a combination of the three) so you’re unable to write. The answer: you need to fill your creative well by stepping away and reading or absorbing some other art; take a break and breathe and/or meditate; or go for a walk, stretch, exercise, sleep, eat something, and/or drink some water (or a combination of all of it). It’s usually a combination of all of it. Sometimes, as someone who deals with mental health problems, it was my depression and/or anxiety getting in the way. That’s a whole other issue, but working through those hurdles is just as important.

The point is, your writer’s block is a symptom of a different problem.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been writing for almost eleven years and I have not once felt like I had “writer’s block” as it’s often described. I, of course, go through spurts where I don’t have any ideas or I can’t seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or I just don’t want to write because it’s become something that no longer makes me happy. So, instead of staring at the empty computer screen or notebook page, I do as I mentioned above. I’m usually creatively drained and need to fill my creative well. I read, watch a film, go to an art gallery. Or I’ve been at the computer too long and I need to go for a walk. Sometimes that fills the well, too! I just go outside, walk through the woods a bit. Something will come. Something always comes.

BONUS: Sometimes none of the above works. Sometimes. And I can tell you exactly what that is — or, at least, what it’s been for me. Because none of those things worked, I knew that it was the story. It wasn’t ready to be written. It needed to simmer in my brain more. I needed to put it away and work on something else.

But even still — the block wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom and I needed to work it out.

TO RECAP, “Writer’s Block” is a symptom of something else. It’s not the cause itself. And, most of the time, you can work through it. You can fix the problem by troubleshooting. Water? Rest? Creative dry spell? Take care of it. Move on.

Now, go forth and write and write and write. But don’t forget those breaks. And don’t forget to refill your creative well by reading and watching and listening. Then write some more.

Writing: Current Works in Progress and Goals

So, I’ve talked a lot about my writing here. I’ve stated over and over that I’ve decided to change directions and write something different. Well, for once, that’s not what I’m going to talk about! I’m sticking with the current book, Thoughtless, which I’ve posted about before. For this post, I just want to talk about all of my writing projects for a bit and my goals for the new year. I already posted about my goals for the year, but I wanted to dive deeper into each project, what they’re about, and what I want to accomplish with each in 2019.

Let’s just start chronologically, which projects I’m going to working on and when. There’s some overlap with most, but for the most part, a large chunk of the year will be dedicated to each project. I tend to write like this anyway. The seasons changing always get me in the mood to write one particular project or another.

First and foremost, I need to finish the first draft of the book I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018 with. That’s the first goal. It’s the story of a fake family of thieves who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. I had such a blast starting and writing the first 50,000 words, but I believe that it’s just over halfway, and I want to finish it between now and the end of March.

Second, I’m working on the book I’ve been working on for a few years off and on, tentatively titled Thoughtless. It’s a science fiction story set in the future about a young woman becoming the youngest police officer, joining the Force, in a world in which humans have evolved to be able to read minds. I’m planning to work on Thoughtless throughout this year. I originally wrote the first draft of this book many years ago, I think in 2013? And I reworked a lot of the plot last year, slowly rewriting it ever since. I’m hoping to finish this second draft by the end of the summer.

Third, I’ve been itching since October to start a new fantasy series. I came up with the idea, which is less of an idea and more of a set of parameters (a long series, same length for each book [I like the idea of a fantasy series that doesn’t grow exponentially in length with each addition], an interesting complex magic system, and a magic school that isn’t like other’s I’ve read). That’s literally what I was thinking about when I came up with the series. I usually have a character, an idea of a plot, something. But no, I just wanted to write the perfect fantasy series for me to read. The plot and characters came much later–I still don’t know entirely what the series is about. I have a few vague ideas. So, I want to outline the series/first book this winter because…

Fourth, I plan on writing the first book for NaNoWriMo 2019! I’m incredibly excited. I’m obsessed with this fantasy series in my head. It’s not a particularly original idea, yet. It’s sort of a basic fantasy concept, but the more I research and start delving in, the richer it’s becoming.

Fifth, I want to write another script for a full-length film. I wrote one last year and enjoyed the process a lot. Writing a film is so different from writing a novel, but I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for as long as I’ve been an aspiring author — I just love telling stories, in either form. Not only do I want to write another full-length film, I want to write and hopefully shoot a short film this year, too. I don’t have any idea what the short will be about, but I have the story worked out for the full-length one already. It’s another sci-fi, like last year’s, but an entirely different tone and way of telling the story. To begin with, the idea is that it would be a real-time, two hours of a single mother dealing with an invasion of some humanoid creatures of undetermined (by me; I can’t make up my mind) origin and fighting to save her kids. I see it so vividly in my head. I just want to watch it.

That’s the key to writing, for me. I always write what I want to read or see.

So those are all my current writing projects and what I plan to work on this year. I hope I can accomplish it all. A year seems so long and promising until it’s December in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

Shifting Gears…Again – Writing Update

About a year ago, I posted about needing to shift gears and abandon the novel I’d been working on for a long time and deciding to work on the book I like to call Book E. All of that is explained in the other post. However, one thing that I’ve been thinking about for the past year since making that decision: I’m worried about the genre.

Book E, like the original book I’d been writing, Book A, are both set in the same universe. They are connected. And I’d been working on them thinking it was the best option for me to focus on. The problem is, both Book A and E, while different in tone and style, have the same thing in common: superpowers. Book A is more fantasy, while Book E is a little more urban fantasy, but both have characters with the same superhero-like powers.

And what type of films/books/everything has there been a lot of lately? SUPERHEROES.

Media is over-saturated with superhero content right now. And I’ve learned that a lot of agents aren’t really looking for those right now because of it. I had a feeling that this was happening, but I was still in denial that I could make something original enough to stand out. But I couldn’t. I can’t. And honestly, I don’t want to. Because like many of us, I’m sick of superheroes, too.

I still love those books and I know that someday I might go back to them. I think sometimes that if I’d finished them years ago like planned, maybe they could’ve been published at the peak of this superhero obsession, which would’ve been great. But I know that Book A is not as strong or original as I thought when I first started writing it at the age of fifteen (it checked all four of the over-done tropes that one of my top picks for agents listed on their blog) and Book E is great, but also resembles some superpower-centered stories that are out there right now. So I know that now I’m going in the right direction.

So what will I be focusing on then, if not Books A or E?

Book C! The science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012 that I think is a much more original concept and has a much better chance of catching the eye of an agent to eventually be published. It had been my plan a long time ago to finish both Book A and Book C then decide which one was stronger to query with, but then Book E came along. Now that I want to change directions a bit, Book C is the perfect project to work on.

I’m extremely excited to get back to working on Book C (or Thoughtless, as that is its tentative title) though I know it’s going to be a ton and a half of work. The first draft was written when I was a much younger, less-skilled writer—boy, can six years make a difference (and with any luck, that constant growth will continue.) But because of that, I know it’s going to be difficult to turn this book into something good. I’ve already decided that an entire rewrite is necessary and a huge re-structuring of the plot is the first thing that needs to happen.

However, before that, one of my goals for January was to finish the draft of the book I’d written during NaNoWriMo’17. So that’s what I’m working on right now. After that, in February (which is the month I’m focusing on writing) I’ll be tackling Book C and starting again from scratch.

It’s a scary and exciting phase.

2017 Goals: End of Year Wrap-Up

2017 was A Year and a Half™ and I’m glad it’s over, honestly. It was stressful on many levels and my lofty goals didn’t help. But, here we are, ready for the next year to start and glad this one is over.

Design & Illustration

So this entire past year, I’ve been struggling to work out what I want to do with my design career. I’ve known what I want to do, just haven’t yet been able to accomplish them. Though, the last month or two has been more productive. I’ve been redesigning book covers to put up on my upcoming portfolio—I posted about this here—to start doing freelance work and soon, I want to start designing and printing products to sell online (prints, screen printing on totes, cards, etc.) and do more illustration. That’s the goal for next year, and I’ve started putting the pieces together for that. Now, with illustration, while I started out the year fairy well with illustrating and sketching, I’ve fallen off a bit. But, I now know that trying to create a full color illustration once a week and daily sketching isn’t feasible for me right now. So I’ll be continuing on next year, just at a slower pace to keep working on my illustrating skills (I’m excited to start using the new art supplies I received this Christmas!) and updating here. I also worked a bit on hand-lettering, which went okay, but I definitely need to work more on my skills there.

Month of hand-lettering practice: CHECK.
Daily sketches: not daily, barely reached mid-year.
Full color illustrations: 13-14 finished out of 54.

Writing

This has been the most up and down goal of mine this year. I struggled this summer—and posted about that here—and have recently reconciled with my love of writing. I finished the first draft of the novel I started in NaNoWriMo 2016 and completed the NaNoWriMo 2017 challenge of 50,000 words (haven’t finished the draft yet, planning on finishing the last few thousand words in January)! I’ve been working periodically on Book E and have taken December off from writing, just to help focus a bit—I don’t think I would’ve had time anyway, it was a busy month!

Finish NaNoWriMo 2016: CHECK.
NaNoWriMo 2017: CHECK.
First draft of Book E: SORT OF.

Reading

I’m done with trying to read more than 25 books. I didn’t even reach my back up goal of 25. I’ve read 22 books this year and I’m fine with it. I’m honestly tired of being stressed out. Next year, I’m going to set my goal to 25 and read shorter books and just do my best. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get to 50. Or even the 35 I set this year. But all the books I read, I loved—well, most of them—and here they are:

 

Read 35 books: 22. MEH.

Film: Import / Export

I’ve watched 21 new-to-me films this year. None in the theater. I wanted to have reached 25 total, but that’s okay. I’m fine with what I’ve achieved for now. I now know that I just have to stop having such lofty goals. I wrote my short film, Anya, and honestly I’m thrilled with that alone. I didn’t do any other film or video projects like I’d planned, but I’m good with that. I have plans for the future, it’s just not anything I need to focus on right now.

Exercise

I haven’t done that well with exercising. I did really well between February and July, I even lost some weight and felt great. Then, I sort of fell off the wagon. I’ve been able to keep up with my diet fairly well, so I’ve been able to maintain the weight I’ve lost for the most part—the holidays haven’t helped with that—but in January I’m going to try doing the Whole30 and I have a new exercise plan, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with it in the new year.

Instagram

I completed the challenge of posting once a day all year! It sucked. I’m never doing it again. It was mostly fun but stressful, too. I hated doing it. Though, towards the end, I started to enjoy it more with the holidays and being busy and having more things to post about, but those lulls where I did nothing for a week or two but work, I struggled getting enough photos to post. Overall, I don’t regret it. I think the quality of my posts have gone up since before this year, so that’s something. But there’s definitely some posts this past year that I don’t really like, so I’m glad I’m now able to curate my posts better and post just the photos that are top notch.

365 Posts on Instagram: CHECK.

So, that’s my 2017. Goals accomplished, goals failed. One year, hopefully next, I’ll learn to not have such lofty goals and actually be able to accomplish them. Here’s to 2018! Happy New Year!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Final Wrap-Up

I DID IT!!!!!!!!

With 40 minutes to spare, I completed my NaNoWriMo 2017 with 50,005 words. I could’ve written more, but I was VERY tired that night after writing over 4,000 words to finish.

This year, I found it was easier than last year! I still struggled and fell behind, but not as much. In 2016, I had to write 13,000 the final day to finish and this year I had to write a third of that. Maybe next year I’ll be finished EARLY? Maybe!

Here’s the breakdown of the month:

Words Written:

November 1st – 2,267
November 2nd – 1,830
November 3rd – 1,530
November 4th – 2,130
November 5th – 1,080
November 6th – 1,670
November 7th – 1,232
November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0
November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819
November 23rd – 2,336
November 24th – 1,901
November 25th – 2,684
November 26th – 2,450
November 27th – 1,672
November 28th – 0
November 29th – 770
November 30th – 4,219

The first draft of this novel is close to being DONE done. I think a few more thousand should complete the first draft (my first drafts are rarely over 70,000, usually sitting around the 65k mark) and then it’s off to the next project—finishing Book E!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Three

Another tough week! I ended last week with 0 words on the 15th and had only a few hundred the next day and then ANOTHER 0 word day. Not a great start to the week, but I picked it back up and did some strong days of over 2,000 a day. For the week, I stayed the 2,000 or so behind I was last week and added only a few hundred more to my negative words. But that’s not too terrible. I know I’ll be able to pick it back up.

Most of all, I was in a real tough spot in the story and was struggling to get going. But now, I’m in the most exciting parts of the book that I’m real excited about, so I foresee me being able to blast through those words and catch back up in no time—especially with the four days I have off of work coming up for Thanksgiving!

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819

Total Weekly Words: 11,377

Where I Should Be: 36,674
Running Total: 33,974
Up/Down By: -2,700

Still in the race, but definitely behind. Hoping this weekend turns out to be really productive!!!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Two

OH NO. I’VE HAD MY FIRST WITH LESS THAN 1,000 WORDS AND MY FIRST DAY WITH ZERO. But everything is okay because, fortunately, I had a few hundred words saved away and am not TOO FAR behind. Only a little behind.

Honestly, I’m not worried. Today (being the ZERO WORDS DAY) needed to be that way because it has been A Day. So I’m good. Rested and ready to tackle more words this weekend! I’m hoping to get a real nice buffer going this weekend so that Thanksgiving weekend, I don’t have to do too much writing if I don’t have to. I want to eat turkey and watch movies in peace without stress.

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0

Total Weekly Words: 10,858

Where I Should Be: 25,005
Running Total: 22,597
Up/Down By: -2,408

NOT TERRIBLE. I’m doing GREAT compared to last year. Off to write—actually, sleep, but TOMORROW, we write!!!