Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Getting Visual

I've tackled a little art project this morning that I've been meaning to do for a while -- a collage for my 2nd book, "Sex on a Schedule". I think I'm about seven chapters in, give or take (I should know this, but this is an example of why I need the collage), but this book has been a little different than the last. When I wrote "Love and the Placebo Effect" I was a stay-at-home-mom. That isn't to say that I had loads and loads of free time, but I could multi-task. I was able to write while supervising my children.

This cover is almost as crappy as the original
cover for "Love and the Placebo Effect." But
that's another project.

My situation is a little different now, and has been for the last year and a half. I went back to work full-time. This means that I have only a few hours in the evening to do the things that I could stretch out over a whole day before: play with my kids, prepare meals, clean house, craft, and write. This has seriously put a cramp in my style. I wrote my first draft of "Love and the Placebo Effect" in six weeks, then spent a couple months revising. I was in the process of querying - that is, shopping for an agent - when I went back to work. I had started "Sex on a Schedule" and was really excited about it. I had a spunky new heroine with a bad case of hormones and a sexy, sarcastic hero with a southern drawl. (An editor would say, this is all backstory, get to the plot!)

Long story short, I have been writing in short spurts with long gaps in between. This causes me to forget where I am in the story and to lose the mood a bit. To help with remembering the story, I wrote out a detailed outline (something I didn't do with the first book until after it was done). But that doesn't always help me stay in the emotional space I need to occupy in order to continue writing. That's where the collage comes in.

I got the collage idea from Jennifer Crusie, my writing hero. She has a blog called Argh Ink with lots of interesting posts about writing. I recommend reading anything Jennifer Crusie writes - she's awesome. Anyhow, the idea behind the collage is that you put together lots of things that inspire you and remind you of your characters, plot, setting, etc. Your collage pieces could be bits of paper, pictures from magazines, color swatches, beads, whatever. You could go to Michaels and spend $50 or you could raid your junk drawer and magazine rack and see what you come up with. You know me, I raided my sewing room and paged through some magazines I got from work. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, but it got the job done.

Not high art, but it'll do.

I've done a little section for the ex, the new love interest, and the heroine. Imagine a 30-year-old Daniel Craig with green eyes in one of those sexy fireman calendars. Imagine the brunette a little older and not so perfectly styled. The ex is "50 shades of beige" so don't bother to imagine him at all.

I plan to continue to add bits and pieces to the collage as I find them, but I'm hoping this does the job. I feel like I'm about ready to start writing again. I'm hoping to make some real progress this week, since I'm off work until next Monday. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Proof that I'm NOT a Designer

My amateurish cover screams "self-published" 

Although working a 40-hr a week job doesn't leave much time in my life for crafting or writing, I have learned a lot about design and publishing, namely the importance of having a professional on the job. However, at $85/hr, I can't really afford to hire a pro to do my book cover. I think my first royalty check from Amazon was a whopping $8, so maybe I could afford about 6 minutes of design time. That's about enough for a designer to turn on their computer and open up Photoshop and InDesign. So, like the do-it-yourselfer that I am, I jumped in and designed my own cover, quickly, with 3 kids jumping on me. Needless to say, the cover of "Love and the Placebo Effect" leaves much to be desired. 

So last weekend I got the brilliant idea that I could redo my book cover: take a few more hours, come up with a concept and execute it brilliantly. Easy peasy. 

Step 1: Whip out my art supplies. I love my Prismacolor pencils, but it's been
a while since I did any real drawing with them.

Not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I do have an art degree. However, it is not in graphic design -- I majored in sculpture, which incorporates a whole different skill set. My one graphic design class (typography) is no substitute for years of training, an internship, and a design job. Still, I'm not entirely without skill, so I decided I'd take a stab at it and see what I could come up with. I started by sketching out a concept for the cover image. If you've read the book, you probably recognize this as Jane's "Eve".

Jane painted "Eve" with oils, I merely sketched with
Prismacolors. I reserve the right to take artistic license.

And here's "Eve" on the book cover. 

So attempt number 2 left me with a book cover that was more interesting than number one, but it still doesn't quite look professional. Real romance novels have nicer artwork. They also have things like "New York Times Bestselling Author of..." across the top, but I really can't claim that honor. I don't have any nice blurbs from well-known authors either, just my title and name. It still doesn't look quite right. My thinking at this point was that if I had better artwork it might make the whole thing look better. That led me to the next idea: I'd use a model to make it look more realistic.

Lacking money to hire a model, I used what I had on hand:
me. And with no snake around, well I had to improvise
on that point as well.

So I played model, make-up artist, and photographer and captured this image. My face isn't exactly the face of "Eve" as I imagined it, but, well... I used what I had available.

Since I own the above image, I decided to take a short cut:
I printed the picture on drawing paper so that I wouldn't have
to take time sketching and I'd already have a base color
to layer over. 

But, of course, my printer is out of yellow ink, and possibly
cyan as well. So here we have "Eve" in good ol' magenta. 

Even though my printed picture wasn't exactly what I had in mind, since I wanted a warm/passionate image (and since it very nearly matches the pink in book cover number 1) I decided a magenta base was okay. I Googled "coiled green snake" to get a few snake images to work from and got to work with my Prismas once more. A few hours later, voila:

I didn't quite get the snake's eyes right, and it doesn't
quite look as real as the face, but I still think it's better
than the first sketch.

Since I am not a real designer, I don't have Photoshop or InDesign, the two most common design programs used these days, so I put this picture in my trusty Photoscape (which I discovered makes all images 120 dpi; no big deal for the web, but a problem when printing. But, I digress...). Because the image was so big, and I was using my old, slow computer, it took a long time and I had a lot of difficulty manipulating the image in Photoscape. I finally gave up with when I got to what you see below, basically the same as book cover 2 with the updated image. Not really great.

I think the colors are better here, but there's too much
blank pink space. Maybe I'm picky, but I'm still not

So this is where I am, I have a decent image but still an amateurish product overall. Still, I think if I give it another shot I might get somewhere. And maybe a few tweaks to the drawing will make a big improvement. It's a multi-media piece already, no reason I can't paint some better snake eyes over the color pencil. The possibilities are endless ;)

Want more info on my book? Check out my Chloe Craft website HERE.


So I took into account some of the comments
I received (Drop shadow on the text, texture on
the solid color, incorporate the drug aspect of
"Placebo Effect") and this is what I've come up
with. I think it's much better than the other
options, so now I've updated it on Amazon,
The Book Patch, and my website.

Amazon  <--Kindle Version
The Book Patch <--Paperback Version

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dollhouse Bits and Pieces

I was in my sewing room fixing some broken dolls and princess crowns this morning and came upon a bag of treats I had picked up at the Dollar General a few weeks ago. It was like discovering buried treasure! I bought these things on a whim but haven't done anything with them yet. Along with some of the other treasure in my sewing room, I've gathered almost enough materials  to start on a new Barbie house - or a major renovation of one of the houses we already have. Check it out:

Hangers! These fancy-schmancy paperclips will really help
Barbie organize her closet.

These guys were 75% off after Christmas, so I picked up a couple.
These could be fancy frames for paintings, mirror frames, or even

Picture frame windows are made much like sun catcher windows.
Trace the shape of the inside of the frame, cut it out with a knife,
and glue in place. Hot glue won't hold, I recommend Elmer's glue
or epoxy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stained Glass Windows (aka Sun Catchers)

Remember these things? I used to paint sun catchers like this with my sisters when I was a kid, and now my kids are painting them :)

Sun catchers make great stained-glass windows for a cardboard dollhouse. When your paint is dry you can trace the shape of your sun catcher on the wall of your dollhouse with a pencil and cut it out with a knife. Use hot glue to secure your "window" in place. Easy peasy.

Fig. 1 - cut an opening for your window.

Fig. 2 - Glue in place with hot glue.

I haven't put a "stained glass" window in a dollhouse recently, so I don't have any photos for you. If you use this technique, please post pics of your dollhouse on my Facebook page! 

Happy crafting!