Friday, April 19, 2013

Got Inspiration?

Calvin (don't you just love him?) might be trying to procrastinate his way out of a school project, but he still has a point. Creativity requires a mood; it needs a spark of inspiration. But what do you do when inspiration refuses to light up?

You go find some kindling, that's what you do!

Here are eight links to help you out if you ever need some extra help recovering your inspiration.

1) Litbridge Creative Writing Prompts

This is an incredible site with literally thousands of writing prompts. What I enjoy most about it is that it classifies its prompts into clear categories. We can find categories for different holidays, periods of the year, even categories such as "animals", "the universe", "road trips" or "zombies" (I found this last one contained especially creative ideas!).

2) Daily Writing Tips - Writing Prompts 101

Here you'll find an interesting article on writing prompts, and several links to prompts, too!

3) Writer's Digest Writing Prompts

Writer's Digest offers fun weekly writing prompts.

4) Writing Prompts

This site is simply called that: Writing Prompts--but don't let its simple name fool you. You might just crack a smile at all the illustrated prompts hiding in here. I especially liked Dr. Who meeting Disney's Belle.

5) Creative Writing Prompts

This is a very simple website: just hover over one of the numbers and you'll receive a short prompt. The ideas here are short and clear, for example "Write about someone you'd love to see in jail". However, if you stretch your creativity a little, I'm sure you can turn that one-line prompt into a complete story.

6) Poets and Writers - Writing Prompts

The website Poets and Writers offers prompts for poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

7) Writing Forward: 25 Creative Writing Prompts

Here you'll find exactly what the link says.

8) Warren Wilson College - 20 Creative Writing Prompts

This post contains 20 prompts and challenges. Writing challenges involve creating a short text following certain rules (you have to use a certain amount of words, your sentences have to begin a certain way...)

I hope these links help you if you ever have trouble coming up with something to write!

Writer's block can be avoided. When you feel its cool breath drawing goose bumps on your nape, remember this:

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Making of a Cover - With Artist Keith Draws

It all begins with an idea...or, in my case, a total lack thereof!

As a final treat in the Serving Time discovery blog tour, I have the pleasure of having Keith Draws (the awesome artist who did my cover) show you the steps involved in creating a professional book cover.

With just a short list of my likes and dislikes, accompanied by a grueling summary of Serving Time (sorry about that, Keith!) and even a PDF copy of the manuscript, Keith was able to combine the major ideas of the novel into this fabulous piece of art.

But how did Keith go from the gibberish in my emails, to the artwork you see above?

In many complicated steps, I can assure you! How about having Keith himself tell us all about it?

Over to you, Keith!

First of all, I read the brief sent by Nadine, then went on to read the book. As I read the book I made notes with consideration to the information already supplied by Nadine. From there I went on to write down ideas. Basically, this was a lot of notes about the key elements, what I thought the story was about, and plot, and underlying themes.

I sat down and started connecting ideas and eliminating others. Eventually, I felt I had all the information I could work with, and so opened Manga Studio to begin sketching.

The first thing I did was apply a template of Golden Sections in order to help me create a balanced layout. I feel that since this worked so well for Leonardo DaVinci and many other wonderful artists it's probably the best way to work. After sketching for a while, I had eliminated even more elements and had selected what I felt were the core images I could use and laid them out in a relevant composition.

I ended up taking an image of Time, the starship the main character is travelling in, the Earth, and of course, the universe. Since Time is said to be watching over the characters and influencing their actions throughout the book, I decided to make her a part of the surrounding universe so that it would appear that wherever the characters travel they cannot avoid her influence, hence her hand caressing the starship.

Once I had a pleasing layout (this was just for the front at this point), I decided to add the title and the author's name and sent this initial idea over to Nadine for discussion. Now it was quite possible I was going in completely the wrong direction so I needed to be sure. This is the layout that I sent.

Overall, Nadine was pleased with the layout and made a few suggestions, including  “Time's eyes... They're literally ALL black with stars,” as well as a few pointers on how Time should look, the view of the Earth: “A space ship can approach a planet from any angle. Since the main characters are from western Europe, maybe the Earth could be shown from that angle, and maybe a little tilted”, and the design of the starship, which I hadn't really thought about at that point and had just scribbled something quickly for the layout. The text needed re thinking but right now I felt that wasn't too important, since the core of this cover is the image.

Now I had confirmation that my layout was working I moved on to the next stage. The first thing I did was design the starship Pascagoula. I made a few quick sketches based on the description on the novel and then used these as a basis to create a 3D model. I do create 3D for a lot of my work because I can use the models as reference for the final paintings, adjusting lighting, angles, etc. much faster than just sketching. Here is the model:

I then went on to make models of Time and the Earth and put a layout together in 3D:

Here I started to think about the back and spine so I made a quick render and began painting a more revised layout including those elements. Nadine had also asked if I could include the demon Nybbas from on the back and so I made a quick sketch, unfortunately I failed to check his description and so it didn't really look like him.  Here I also spent a little time on the revised typography, keeping it simple as Nadine had requested.

At that point I also had the idea of creating Time's hair out of a nebula and so I did that too.

Nadine really liked this but was unhappy with the demon, so she pointed me to the description and I tried again.

You probably noticed by now that with each change I have also worked up the image a little more and more.

Anyway, at this point we decided to leave the demon off since he was just overcomplicating the cover and I worked up the image to the final piece you see today:

Thank you for walking us through the creation of that cover, Keith! I am impressed with all the thought and work you put into your projects. Guys, isn't he amazing?

Now I have some questions for you.

How long have you been a cover artist?
Apart from book covers, what other artwork have you done?

These are interesting questions and I'll answer them as one with a quick bio since they are connected.

I was born in Manchester UK in 1962. After leaving school in 1978 I attended Rochdale College of Art and from there went on to work for “Creative Artists”, an advertising agency based in Manchester, as a Junior visualizer. Soon I moved on to various advertising agencies primarily as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Photo Editor. I worked through the ranks, eventually becoming Production Director of “Promedia”, one of the leading advertising agencies in Manchester at the time. This first part of my career spanned about 25 years. I learned a great deal about all areas of the business and had the opportunity to successfully work on many groundbreaking projects with many well-known brands.

After working in upper-management for some years, I began to sorely miss the hands-on side of the business and so decided to try my hand at the relatively new field of 3D and animation; I found this much more satisfying.

About 6 years ago I relocated to Mexico and set up a small studio to cater for a very diverse range of clients, including “McGee” (a broad based construction company and multi-disciplined specialist based in London), and “Catalyst Pictures” (based in Manchester, they produce animation, web sites, e-learning, games and widgets for agencies and direct clients including the BBC). I also supplied 3D and graphics for many design studios and advertising agencies as well as an alternative rock band “Twelve Foot Ninja” from Australia who later hired me on to create a 72 page graphic novel. Working on that graphic novel shifted my focus to illustration and especially cover artwork, so I began to offer reduced rates to independent authors. I have enjoyed creating these covers since October 2012 when I began, and have netted just over 50 covers for very satisfied authors in a very wide variety of genres and styles since. Recently I relocated to Texas.

How many hours does an ebook cover generally take you?

It varies but on average I'd say about 24 working hours (3 Days). But that doesn't include the reading and  notes.

Do you keep count of how many ebook covers you've done so far?

Every cover I've done since October can be seen on my Wordpress site and right now it’s just over 50 covers, though I have done other illustration projects as well.

What do you enjoy drawing most?

I like to create things that we don't see in our everyday life, so it’s unlikely you will ever see me produce a still life unless it’s part of something else. I suppose I began drawing because of exactly this. It was my way to pretend. I remember my mother used to get really upset with me as a child because I always destroyed my drawings. It wasn't deliberate, though. I remember I used to draw a lot of World War 2 fighter planes, and as I drew I'd have this whole story going on, I'd be voicing the pilots, navigators and the enemies too.

Suddenly, my plane would arrive over the attack zone and at this point I would draw in the landscape below (with gun emplacements etc.) and enemy planes. My plane would shoot down a few of the enemy planes and to indicate this I drew explosions over them and then smoke trails snaking down to earth. Eventually my own plane got shot down so I'd draw where the bullets hit the fuselage and then the engine and then the ensuing explosion and smoke. This of course meant that the page ended up completely destroyed, covered in a mass of scribbles. My mother never had anything but scribbles to put on the fridge.

Fortunately, these days I stop before I get to that point.

Do you have a favorite genre or motif?

While I enjoy working on science fiction, fantasy, and horror I am not exclusively in love with those genres. In fact more than I enjoy any particular genre, I love the challenge of creating a cover that works kind of like a movie trailer. It captures the viewers’ interest and generates the desire to see more. So that is pretty much genre independent, and I have to say that one of my favorite cover creations is actually for a cook book and was primarily an exercise in typography (another love of mine):

Is there anything you hate having to draw (or something you enjoy less or find particularly difficult)?

I don't find drawing one thing any more difficult than another, but some things can be more time consuming, such as drawing mounds of long hair, which if I'm honest can be a bit annoying for me, but being something of a perfectionist I still keep on drawing away at it until it looks something like how I imagine it should.

As far as I am concerned, though, there is nothing I am afraid to draw. It’s just a matter of looking at the world around me; if I can draw one thing I can draw another.

And finally, where can we contact you?

Well, you can email me keithdraws (at) gmail (dot) com or message me on Facebook.

Thank you so very much, Keith, for the post and the interview. Now, all you authors in need of a cover, what are you waiting for? You've found your guy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Eneld's Sneak Peek and Tristan's Interview

The Serving Time blog tour is coming to a close!

Yesterday, author and member of Critique Circle Ryan Sullivan offered you a sneak peek into the novel! Ryan is an award-winning blogger and the author of Aundes Aura. Don't forget to stop by his blog to check out Serving Time and Aundes Aura.

Today, Shane Jeffery, yet another author and fellow CCer, has a very special interview for you: Tristan Cross, the protagonist of Serving Time. Shane specializes in writing horror, so his work is not for the faint-hearted! ;-) Stop by his blog to see if Tristan gave him a hard time, and check out his novels!

Tomorrow, a brand new (and very precocious!) author will post yet another sneak peek into Serving Time: Maeve P.! Maeve is currently hard at work on her debut novel, and adding to her word count day by day.

WIP Blog Hop - Making Time

Now that I'm about ready to release my debut novel, Serving Time, it sounded like a good idea to join in another blog hop for my second novel, Making Time!

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you'll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy.

My gratitude to fellow author Khaalidah for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click on her name to learn more about her work.

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

What is the working title of your book?

The title is Making Time. It is the second book in the series. The first book is titled Serving Time. You might have heard about it or been hit over the head with it several times by now. ;-)

Fun and/or confusing fact: originally, Making Time was the title of my first book. I wanted a play on words with the word "time", but I wasn't so sure that the title reflected the plot adequately. One day, I was brainstorming ideas for my then untitled second book, when I realized Making Time was the perfect name for it! So Book 1 was left without a title! The credit for Serving Time goes to fellow CCer and author Kelly Walker, who came up with it in a jiffy once I told her my problem.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea has always been latent somewhere inside me like a virus waiting for the right time to start replicating. Since Making Time is the second book in a series, the ideas in it are a continuation and expansion of the ideas in the first book.

What genre does your book come under?

The easy and incomplete response is "science fiction".

The complete and complicated response is "dystopian science fiction with a heavy dash of fantasy". The action takes place several hundred years in the future. Mankind has more or less settled in colonies all around the solar system. The Mars terraformation project is a joke, though, since the jungle (and all the crawly critters inhabiting it) has been out of control for decades. In this science fiction setting, an entire menagerie of fantasy creatures have control over the universe.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Honestly, I never think about that. I've tried to find people who resemble my characters, but I can't really visualize a specific actor playing one of my characters. Actually, I'm more excited about creating a comic book version of my novel instead of a movie. Although a movie would also be fine!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Making Time is a sci-fi expedition into Hell. :-)

Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Just like its predecessor (Serving Time), this book will also be self published in ebook and print formats.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote most of it during NaNoWriMo 2012. It was a fantastic experience! I reached fifty thousand words on November 14, and managed sixty-six thousand words before the end of the month! However, there were still many missing scenes and many parts I hadn't thought through well enough.

After NaNoWriMo, I took a break from Making Time, and focused on completing Serving Time. I only returned to Making Time around the end of January, and I'm still drafting the manuscript. I would say I'm about two thirds of the way there.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is really tough, since my series combines science fiction and fantasy--and I'm very selective about what I combine. If forced to choose, I would say both Serving Time and Making Time are comparable to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). Comparable in what way? All these books contain elements of science fiction and elements of fantasy, and they all touch on the subject of "higher beings". Who rules life and death? What is a soul? You can find hypotheses in both series, as well as a great adventure!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration is elusive, isn't it? I can't pin down where I got the idea to create this world, but it all started when I was around 13 or 14. Maybe a dream sparked the idea? Maybe a line from a book I was reading? As far as I know, I don't know.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

During NaNoWrimo 2012, Making Time was featured on The Masquerade Crew! Follow the link for a sneak peek into one of its chapters!

And what's next on our blog hop? Next week, Ryan Sullivan will tell us about his WIP, Aundes Aura. Don't forget to stop by his blog!

Monday, April 8, 2013

John Interviews Eneld Cross

Well, it's a new week, and we have a new stop on our Serving Time blog tour!

Today, John Kang interviews biorobotics engineer Eneld Cross. Eneld is working for the Martian Soil Restoration Program, so I'm sure he'll have lots of interesting things to say!

Over to you, John!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Athina Shows Us Another Sneak Peek!

On day 5 of the Serving Time blog tour, Twitter and Critique Circle friend Athina has another sneak peek for us!

Take a new peek at Serving Time on her blog: Between My Lines.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lanise Brown Interviews the Demon Master

On day 4 of the Serving Time blog tour, author Lanise Brown interviews another character from my debut novel: Robert Westbrook. And, yes, you got it! He's a demon master!

I told you Serving Time was sci-fantasy...

Here's one of the little fellows Robert has to deal with on a daily basis...

Lanise is a member of Critique Circle and the author of Timekeeper's Journal. She's currently participating in Camp NaNoWriMo to complete her work in progress Graythorn Manor. You can find all this and much more on her blog!

Hop on over to Lanise's blog to check out the interview, and tomorrow we'll see yet another sneak peek from the novel!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Serving Time Sneak Peek: Seth

Coming May 2013
Today is day 3 of the Serving Time blog tour!

I'm happy to announce that fellow author and member of Critique Circle Anastasia Leach is hosting a sneak peek into Serving Time.

Let's hop on over to her blog for a glimpse of Seth, and don't forget to check out Anastasia's brand new collection of short stories: Prometheans! Now available on Amazon.

Released April 2, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kelly Walker Interviews Seth

Good morning, happy blog hoppers!

On day 2 of the Serving Time blog hop, we're going to visit author Kelly Walker's website for an exclusive interview with one of the characters: Robot Rehab owner, Seth! Click the link to hop on over to her site!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Serving Time Cover and Blurb Reveal

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the cover of my debut novel Serving Time!

Available May 2, 2013.

Life and death have been industrialized. The Forge, the birthplace of every soul, is a rumbling factory owned by the goddess Time, managed by Lucifer, and powered by the labor of demons and imps. In this dystopian world, a renegade interplanetary pilot running from his past doesn't stand a chance.

Handling Neptunian meth and dodging security cannons are all in a day’s work for Tristan Cross—not that he's one to complain. Working for the smuggling company StarCorp is an improvement over what he used to do for a living.

However, when StarCorp gives Tristan a one-way ticket into the brainwashed—and disturbingly suicidal—Loyal League, he decides to run from the company and start a new life in the only safe haven he knows: Earth. With the help of his brother, Tristan embarks on the most hazardous journey of his life, one that will place him at Time’s mercy. Little does he know the demons running the universe are craving a feast, and his own soul is the next item on the menu.

That's not all, folks. Here's the wraparound cover. Isn't it gorgeous?

The artwork was digitally painted by artist Keith Draws.

Tomorrow, Kelly Walker will interview one of the characters, the owner of the Robot Rehab, Seth! Don't forget to stop by her blog for a glimpse into Serving Time!
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