Concept Art

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of an audible reader/writer – I don’t tend to visualize stories as I read them/write them. I hear them in my head, instead (one reason why I rarely bother to read to stories aloud when I’m editing them. Since I hear it as I write it, reading aloud is redundant).

This means that I tend to write my characters all in “white space.” I’ve had to train myself to write in background details for scenes, so that my characters aren’t all talking heads.

This also means that when I placed my sci-fi novella-turned-novel From the Shadows on a futuristic spaceship, I didn’t bother visualizing how the spaceship would look, its design, or anything beyond a vague “sleek and shiny.”

I knew I would need to get more detailed at some point, but when Amanda and I were discussing elements for the cover and decided that it needed an image of the ship on it somewhere, I had to buckle down and figure out exactly what it looked like.

This led to figuring out logistics as well, what parts of the ship did what, and a rough sketch of the outline to send to Amanda so she could see what I had imagined.

I never claimed to be a great artist

I never claimed to be a great artist

Somewhat to my surprise, it was fun, sketching it and plotting it and detailing it. (I have a rough plan of the inside layout of the ship, too, but that isn’t even close to fit for other people to see – I need to polish it up.) And it has helped with the writing, as well – knowing what the setting looks like in my mind helps me to unconsciously write more natural details into the scenes and keep the characters from being the talking heads I veer toward so naturally.

I’ve been toying with the idea of once in a while sketching out scenes from my books now, in hopes that it strengthens my ability to be a visual as well as auditory writer, and that it makes for more detailed writing and a fuller experience for the readers.

(Also, it makes me wicked excited to see how Amanda incorporates the ship into the cover art.)

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Magic Most Deadly Launch Day

This is it! Today is the day my firstborn book child officially enters the world. I am so pleased and proud to be able to announce …

Magic Most Deadly

mmd_small_res_final

For Maia Whitney, life after the Great War is dull, monotonous, and drab. Nursing soldiers in the bloody fields of France hadn’t been easy, but it was better than life at home, standing in her sisters’ shadows. There seems no chance for a change until the night she witnesses a murder in the woods.

The last thing Magic Intelligence Agent Lennox Davies needs is this outspoken, independent lady crashing his investigation. Bad enough that a murder happened on his watch; much less that she had to see it happen. He works alone, and he does not have time for Miss Maia Whitney’s interference.

But as Maia’s own magical talent blossoms and danger thickens around the two with every step they take, before long Len and Maia must rely on each other in a fashion neither has ever done before. If they can’t learn to work together, England itself might topple. Even worse, if Maia doesn’t learn to control her magic soon, she might do more to destroy them even than their shadowy enemy.

Can they set aside their stubbornness and self-reliance in time to save themselves—and all England?

This book brought so much joy to my heart in the writing of it. I wrote it for fun, for me, without any initial thought of publication. I justified watching Downton Abbey as research for it, and snorted in amusement to myself at some of the parallels between the Crawley sisters and my own Whitney sisters, and knew that, if ever it did get published, I would hear claims that I was copying Downton.

I read and re-read all of Agatha Christie’s books set in the ’20s, and took great glee in turning the Tommy-and-Tuppence relationship on its head with Maia and Len – where she was the methodical, practical one, and he was the one given to impulse and flashes of insight.

I realized partway through that not only was I thoroughly enjoying writing this, it was shaping up to be the best thing I’d ever written, and the most publishable.

I wrote two short stories set in the same world, but with different characters and in different eras, and in doing so ended up solidifying the way the magic works and the rules surrounding its use.

I wrote, and re-wrote, and sent to beta readers and editors and friends, and re-wrote some more, and polished it up again, found an amazing cover designer and formatter, and now, at last, about four years from starting this project –

Here it is.

Magic Most Deadly is available right now in ebook form through Amazon and Smashwords. Nook and iTunes should be available by the end of the week (I’ll post live links as they become available). The paperback is available through Createspace right now, and through Amazon by the end of the week as well (ditto with that link).

The Goodreads giveaway for a paperback copy is still running, and will be open until October 10.

A thousand thanks to everyone who has encouraged, helped, watched, and cheered me on along the way. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

Special thanks especially to A.M. Weir, Angelika O, TJ Loveless, Laura R, Kathryn Jonell, Amanda McCrina, and MOST especially to Carl, Joy & Grace, Mom & Dad, and Lis.

Magic Most Deadly Cover Reveal

This cover.

You guys.

I thought it was going to kill me. The delays. The parting of ways with my first cover designer. My blithe assurance to her that I had it all under control. The near panic as I realized I, in fact, had nothing under control. The frantic search for a new designer who would meet my budget and give me what I desired. The – literally – sleepless nights as my mind wouldn’t stop worrying the matter, like a dog with a bone.

(It probably didn’t help that all this was taking place right before, during, and after our move.)

Then, in a serendipitous bit of Google searching, I came across Fly Casual. I loved the name first, quite honestly (Star Wars FTW!), even before I saw samples of Amanda’s work or realized that her cover and formatting package fit my budget exactly.

Amanda is a writer herself, as well as graphic designer, and a fan of many of the same mystery novels I love, and which inspired Magic Most Deadly. We hit it off right away. The very first concept design she sent was amazing, and we were off and running from there.

Less than a week from our initial contact, she was emailing me the final product. And it all was more perfect than I ever dared to hope.

mmd_small_res_final

For Maia Whitney, life after the Great War is dull, monotonous, and drab. Nursing soldiers in the bloody fields of France hadn’t been easy, but it was better than life at home, standing in her sisters’ shadows. There seems no chance for a change until the night she witnesses a murder in the woods.

The last thing Magic Intelligence Agent Lennox Davies needs is this outspoken, independent lady crashing his investigation. Bad enough that a murder happened on his watch; much less that she had to see it happen. He works alone, and he does not have time for Miss Maia Whitney’s interference.

But as Maia’s own magical talent blossoms and danger thickens around the two with every step they take, before long Len and Maia must rely on each other in a fashion neither has ever done before. If they can’t learn to work together, England itself might topple. Even worse, if Maia doesn’t learn to control her magic soon, she might do more to destroy them even than their shadowy enemy.

Can they set aside their stubbornness and self-reliance in time to save themselves—and all England?

Magic Most Deadly, by E.L. Bates, coming out September 30, 2013.

Hurrah!

If anyone is looking for a cover designer and/or interior formatter, I highly recommend Amanda of Fly Casual. She understood almost instinctively what I wanted, listened to all my nit-picky suggestions with infinite patience, and produced an amazing, professional, meticulously crafted finished product even sooner than her projected finish time. All around, working with her was just a wonderful experience!

Character Sketches

By which title I mean, real sketches of my characters. Not written sketches of their personalities, etc.  Art. Done by me. Not an artist.

I was trying to put together a concept sketch for a potential cover designer last week, and got enormously fed up at my inability to draw anything better than stick figures. I used to take art lessons, said I, and the pencil drawing I did of a horse has hung in my parents’ house for years and nobody ever guessed it was drawn by a kid, and the bird in pastels I did for Grandma is now hanging in my kitchen, and looks lovely, so why do my fingers no longer obey my brain when it comes to drawing?

Enough is enough, said I. If I’m going to be teaching art to my children, I better start believing and practicing some of the precepts.

A few hours later, I had come up with two reasonable sketches – one of Maia, and one of Len.

They aren’t perfect. If I were to draw them again, and again, and again, I know I could get them better.

But you know what? I like them just the way they are. And I think they convey a lot of strength and personality that wouldn’t necessarily show in a more polished and perfected piece.

So here, without further ado, is the first public appearance of Miss Maia Whitney and Mr Lennox Davies, co-protagonists of Magic Most Deadly:

Maia Whitney

Maia Whitney

Lennox Davies

Lennox Davies

After finishing Len’s portrait, I was bitten by the art bug, and now every time I sit down for a few moments you can find me picking up a pencil and paper and working away on noses, eyes, and ears. I drew a couple fairies for my daughters to play with, and even got bold and attempted a unicorn (er … definitely need work in the direction. Proportions were WAY off).

After telling myself for years that “I wish I could draw, but I’m just not an artist,” it’s fun to prove myself wrong. Anyone can become an artist, especially if you’re willing to accept that your first attempts will not be great.

Who knows, maybe by the time I’m ready to publish the next Maia and Len book, I’ll have even better portraits of them ready to go!

And speaking of publishing, and speaking of art …

I found a cover designer! Amanda of Fly Casual, and she did the most amazing job, I am so blown away. I can’t wait to share the cover with all of you. So that’s what I’m going to do. NEXT WEEK. Monday the 16th.

If anyone wants to help me share the cover, let me know in the comments and I will email you the details. In the meantime, go check out Fly Casual! Amanda is a wonderful graphic designer, and a joy to work with.

Dredging the Deep

Funny, when I had absolutely no time to blog, posts kept popping into my mind right and left. Now that I’m back to a regular schedule, the well (as I posted on FB) has run dry.

But look! Pretty photos!

Riding the carousel at Boston Commons

Riding the carousel at Boston Commons

Live music in the Public Gardens

Live music in the Public Gardens

We found the Mallard family!

We found the Mallard family!

Grace picking blueberries
Grace picking blueberries

Joy looking for the best berries

Joy looking for the best berries

Filled our baskets with blueberries, on to the blackberry patch!

Filled our baskets with blueberries, on to the blackberry patch!

 

We’ve been having Adventures.

We also survived our first week of school, and now I get to change the schedule completely since we’ve seen what does and doesn’t work. Namely, starting at 9:00 is not going to happen until the girls are able to make their beds in less than thirty minutes.

And I’m trying not to fret over this whole book cover thing. My biggest problem here is that what I want, I can’t afford and do not have the know-how to be able to do myself. What I can afford, or can figure out to do on my own, I don’t really like. This is a dilemma.

But! Luckily the extra time I’ve had to work on Magic Most Deadly has been useful, allowing me to go through it one more time and put in some extra tweaks to make it just a little bit better. Also it has allowed  me to put off formatting a bit longer, so hurrah!

(Sometimes I think I’m not really cut out for this indie path. But then I think about dealing with traditional publishers, and I think well, even these stresses are better than that.)

I’ve also been journaling almost every morning, and that has been good. I am also giving Anna Karenina a fourth try, and am halfway through (further than I’ve ever made it before) and seriously wondering why people love this book so much. Can anyone clue me in? I mean, I don’t hate it, but I don’t understand the great, deep passion so many have for it. And after I finish this, should I try War and Peace, or move on to Dostoevsky (and if so, which one)? So many questions.

In addition to all this, I’ve been grieving deeply over Syria, which doesn’t exactly inspire me to write fun, fluffy blog posts.

So. That’s a little bit of what life has been like for me this past week. How about you?

 

Book Covers & Sundry

Quick post today. Our first day of school got pushed back a week because the science curriculum took longer to get in than I anticipated, so TODAY is our first day, instead of last Monday. Starting in 20 minutes, in fact! But I wanted to at least get something up. Trying to get back into some sort of a routine here, even if it’s ragged at first.

A little while back, I contacted an artist friend of mine about doing a painting I could use for a book cover for Wings of Song, the story currently in 2nd draft form. I have learned how long cover art can take, so I wanted to get a head start on it!

She both moved more quickly than I could have imagined, and produced something more beautiful than I could have dreamed. Here it is:

by Valerie Monroe

by Valerie Monroe

(clicking on the photo will take you to her studio’s FB page)

It’s STUNNING. I’m so pleased. The physical painting should be getting to me this week, and I have every intention of hanging it above my desk after I’ve scanned it into my computer to add title and author.

Ironically enough, right around the time Val and I were completing our transaction, the cover designer for Magic Most Deadly and I came to an amicable parting of ways – her life took a few turns which meant that she wouldn’t be able to tackle the cover for another several months, and I just couldn’t bear waiting that long to put my book-baby out there.

So now I’m figuring out my options for MMD. Do it myself from stock illustrations? Simplest, but also liable to make me tear out my hair. Hire someone else to do it? That gets pricey, and I’m also kind of fussy about my covers – standard covers today, with photos of real people gracing them, just don’t fit my writing style. Talk to artists I know and see how they feel about Art Deco? Maybe, but that also gets pricey, and can take a long time.

Plenty of options, I just have to figure out the best one. I find it thoroughly amusing that I have a book cover for the unfinished novel, and nothing for the completed one. Seems a fairly typical pattern for my life!

And now I get to put writing concerns aside for a few hours, and instead focus on teaching my kids. Science, math, and handwriting for the 1st grader today, and letters and numbers with the preschooler. Hurrah for the first day of school!

(By the way, I finished this post with TWO minutes to spare. Go me.)