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My interests are varied and I'm likely to write anything from funny to poignant to informational, so my blogs are organized by topic. Just choose your favorite topic on the left. I'd love to hear from you in the comments section or go to Contact and email me privately if you like. Thanks for coming by!page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
7/28/2011 8:00:57 AM
Trippin' With Nina
I actually made it to Cabo and back. Sounds like a simple thing, right? Unless you are a person with a stupid, bizarre condition like I have, then you could end up at the airport and in a plane looking like this:
(Note the ears on top of my head.) How does something like this happen to a forty-blahblah year old woman, you ask? Well, florescent lights have been giving me migraines lately and I knew I'd have to wait in the airport for at least a couple of hours in florescent lighting. Lots of echo-y random noise also makes my medical condition worse. I decided I needed a sleeping mask (I envisioned one of those silky black ones) to wear while sitting in the airport and some comfortable earphones with soothing music playing in them. However, I couldn't shop around for these items myself because the stores have florescent lights.
So, I sent my teenage daughter out to get the items and I wound up with this little girl sleeping mask from Claire's and these heaphones with pointy ears from Hot Topic in the mall. I wonder how many other travelers took pictures of the "crazy lady" at the airport? Anyway, on the plane I started gettting a migraine anyway because of the vibrations. I took my major medicine and was fine by the time I got off the plane.
After we arrived, Abel found out that Mexico is not that different from the U.S. when our "concierge" informed him he looked like both Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. (This also happens to him in the U.S. and he doesn't believe it's possible to look like both JC and BL simultaneously.)
In our room, I discovered the main lights were florescent, but the lamps weren't, so I went around turning on the lamps and removing their shades for more light. That's when I realized I'd never danced around with a lamp shade on my head, so I went out to the balcony where I could hear the music from the pool and remedied the situation:
If I look a little stiff, keep in mind, I had no alcohol in me. (But maybe that's not a good thing to admit when showing a picture of yourself with a lamp shade on your head.)
The best time we had in Cabo was on the pirate ship (eat your heart out Jennifer Bray-Weber). It turns out that Mexican pirates are quite fun-loving and especially enjoy conga lines, YMCA (Village People), and getting Americans to do the Marcarena with them.
They're also darn good photographers. One of them took this relatively flattering picture of the 3 of us in front of the famous arch:
One of the best things to do in Cabo is eat. They have a lot of good restaurants if you know where to go--not on the main tourist strip, of course. Abel's been a stringed instrument musician since he was 4 and, when we're watching American Idol, he often screams "What the hell is that guitarist doing to the song?" at the TV while we're trying to listen to the contestants. However, he was extremely impressed by the number of really good guitarists who are strolling around restaurants in Mexico singing for tips. He especially loved the restaurant Mi Casa because of it's great atmosphere and variety of musicians. He tipped the solo guitarist/singers, the mariachi bands, and even the girl who danced flamenco with a candle on her head.
He stays indoors working/playing on various electronic devices when he's at home, so by the fourth night, he was drunk off sunstroke and musicians and as we left Mi Casa, he "tipped" the Day of the Dead statue they have out front with a little kiss:
So all went pretty well until Thursday when we went to exchange our towels and the guy informed me that they weren't putting chairs down below the hotel on the sand that day. "High tide," he explained.
Hmmm... I'd been to Cabo 3 times before and hadn't heard of them not putting the chairs on the beach. I had a sneaking suspicion..."Todo el dia?" ("All day?") I asked. "Si," he answered.
Uh, oh. A high tide that lasts all day...I was afraid I knew what this meant. Abel, Sierra and I went to the wall and looked out at the beach. Most of the jewelry/hat/blanket sellers weren't around and the few that were stayed close to our resort steps so they could jump up on them whenever the waves made it all the way up...and splashed against the resort wall. "This isn't normal," I said. "I think there's a hurricane somewhere out there."
When we went back to the room, I tried to find some weather on our TV, unsuccessfully. Abel used the Internet on his iPhone to look it up and found a tracking image of a level 5 hurricane that appeared to be headed straight for us.
As much as I like beaches, my worst fear is to be stuck in an resort with a hurricane coming. I was instantly a nervous wreck. "Can you get us a plane out of here earlier?" I asked Abel. "Check now. When everyone realizes what's going on, they might all try to get out."
That's when my 16-year old honor student, my lovely mature child who is always careful and logical blurted out, "But then how will I get my hair braided?" (She likes to get it done the day before she leaves Cabo so she can have it a few days when she's back home.)
My stress boiled over onto her at this point and I yelled something like "Do you not understand what a hurricane is and that an impending natural disaster is a little more important than your hair?" I'm sure she was embarrassed about her blurt afterward, and I felt bad about yelling at her, but she is going off to college in a couple of years and a mom wants to feel like her kid has her priorities in order.
Anyway, Abel found more info on the hurricane and we realized it wasn't supposed to hit us and that they expected it to die down to a tropical storm when it reached the colder waters. In then end, we got no storm at all, but we got an amazing display of the power of mother nature:
Friday, Abel suggested we go up to The Office (a beach restaurant) where the "tide" wasn't quite as bad and see if the ladies were out so Sierra could get her hair braided. The restaurant had an unintentional pond in the middle from a few of the waves that had come up that far. They advised us to remove our flipflops and put them in a chair because the water was likely to come up onto our feet as we were eating. We sat at a table on the border between restaurant and beach so the braiding lady could do Sierra's hair. When our food came, Sierra and I had each only eaten one of our 3 tacos when a rogue wave came up and splashed water over our plates, leaving Abel's untouched, of course (because he has that kind of Bruce Lee-slash-Jackie Chan power.) No problema! Our waiter came and happily took our plates away and brought us new ones. In Mexico, you can't let something as minor as a water-logged restaurant stop you from making your tips for the day.
On the way back, Abel got upgraded to first-class and gave me his seat hoping it would help me. This made the guy next to me look like an ass because he took the upgrade himself and let his wife sit alone in coach. Unfortunately, the plane vibrates just as much in front as in back so after a few minutes, I was wishing I had Abel to comfort me instead of the extra leg room.
But I'm back. I'm recuperated. And I'm excited about releasing my book Don't Make Me Make You Brownies on August 8!
6/24/2011 9:50:11 AM
Don't Blow Your Cover! Know Your Goals Before You Design
(If you haven't already, I suggest you read my previous blogs "A Title By Any Other Name" and "If You've Got it, Font It" before reading this one.)
I've been involved in a lot of conversations lately about covers for authors who are self-publishing. Writers often find that covers have something in common with blurbs, synopses and loglines. They wonder, "How am I supposed to represent hundreds of pages of manuscript on one little cover?" The possibilities seem endless. The mind reels.
If you're in this position, there are several things you need to keep in mind to stay on track.
First, remember that traditional publishers put out some very compelling covers, but they also release many books with covers that just don't hit the mark. The advantage you have in self-publishing is that nothing is set in stone. If you come to believe a cover is not working for you, you can upload a new one later. Now breath a big sigh of relief so you can read the remainder of this post calmly.
There are several problems that have come up lately, so I'd like to get the "nots" out of the way first.
1. Your cover is not meant to win a popularity contest among the authors you know who may not write or even read your genre. (Also, the majority of fiction writers I've met are not natural marketers, so going to a writer for cover advice is like going to Steven Tyler to get your taxes done.)
2. Your cover does not need to be the "prettiest" ever in the history of the universe, or have the most cutting edge artwork. It needs to get the job done.
3. Your cover is not just a book cover. It is THE advertisement for your book. You must treat it like you are designing an ad.
4. Just because a graphic artist likes something does not mean it should be on your book. Graphic artists are the visual equivalent of authors. Most are not marketing people. They probably haven't even read your book and may want to put whatever they think looks the coolest or most artsy on the cover. The artist is a tool for you, but not the ultimate decider. You are the decider.
5. A cover is not a problem with only one right or wrong solution. There may be many options that would work, but you need to keep your goal in mind with each decision you make.
6. Your book is not for everyone. If your writing is good, then there is a percentage of the population who will want to read it, but don't expect everyone to like it. Your book will not be loved by all your fellow writers, all your old high school friends, or all your relatives. There may only be 1-2 people in each of these groups who "get" what you write. The rest of your readership is out there...somewhere in the great beyond, and your cover needs to help identify them for you.
So, assuming your goal is to make money on your books, it's important that you follow the basic precepts of advertising when creating your ad (a.k.a. your book cover).
When I was in college, the advertising concept the professors drummed into us over and over, was "target market, target market, target market." The best type of advertising is not the advertising that is seen by the most people, but the advertising that gets the message across to the particular consumers who are likely to be interested in what you are selling.
You increase your chances of hitting the target when you make each decision based on one question: Will this appeal to MY readers? (If you have no readers yet, this is where you must imagine the types of people who will want to read your book.)
Here's an example of a lovely cover from a publisher that I thought missed the mark and did a disservice to a wonderful, heartbreaking, heartwarming, gutwrenching, yet humorous, women's fiction novel.
Although all the elements on the cover appear in the story, when placed together like this, the story seems rather flip, when it is anything but.
I tried to tell people how great the book was, but after I gave a description,they'd ask the title or look at the cover, if I was holding the book. When I'd show them, they were turned off. The story was at odds with the title and cover image. (If you haven't read this book, I beg you to do so. It is women's fiction at it's best.)
Here's a more recent example: My friend Jennifer Bray-Weber--a very talented author, and RWA Golden Heart finalist--was using my daughter Sierra to help design a cover for her in Photoshop. She had a hero/heroine photo she wanted superimposed on a photo of a storm-tossed ship. She'd gotten a draft of the "finished" cover from Sierra and Jenn began showing it around to authors, a graphic designer, etc.
The more she showed it, the more confused she became, trying to combine all the suggestions. I received a distress email, and decided it was time to be very blunt. (Luckily, Jenn is the kind of person who appreciates honesty and doesn't hold it againt you...for long.)
The professional graphic artist's advice would have been good if this were another type of romance, but it wasn't, and the artist had no way of knowing that. Other advice Jenn got about the font not reflecting the tone of her story was also good, but you couldn't take an appropriate font for her edgy story and use it with the original title (Upon a Moonlit Sea).
Bottom line was, her title didn't go with the gritty, action-packed feel of her pirate romance novel. After some brainstorming, she settled on Blood and Treasure, which is much more in line with her story. It also allowed the title to be placed in a combination of a "piraty" font with a "romancy" font. The result is a cover that reflects what she wrote. A pirate romance novel with lots of action, danger, and hot lovin'.
This image did take a bit of photoshop work to lengthen the guy's hair, fix the back of the woman's head, which was cut off in the original picture, and mist the pictures so they blended into one image.
However, a cover can often get the point across with a much simpler image, without paying for any photos. Let's go through the development of Cheri Jetton's cover. She sent Sierra a regular scanned in photo (below)...
and asked her to put her title on it: Crimson Snow, which I thought was a good title for a suspense novel where the heroine gets gunned down in the snow. Below left is the photo with the title.
However, Sierra thought it needed a little something more, so she made another option for Cheri, turning the shadows and footprints red.
Finally, she added more red, hinting that the snow was saturated in blood and that was the final Cheri chose.
This simple ad (okay, cover) gives potential readers the idea of what type of book is being offered, so they'll read the blurb and decide if it's something they're interested in. Although Photoshop is complicated, there are now other free photo editors on the Internet that are simpler and there's a good chance you have a young person in your family or neighborhood who will do this for you inexpensively like my daughter does, or you could hire a professional graphic artist. (You will still need some idea or image to give the artist. He/she is not likely to read the book, so it's up to you to ensure the genre and tone are conveyed appropriately.)
Remember, when your book is up on Amazon, it will be offered in thumbnail size on various pages, so you want to convey a message about the genre and tone as clearly as you can. This is why my romantic comedies (Not Dreaming of You and Don't Make Me Make You Brownies), which are heavy on the humor, have cartoon-style covers. It was the easiest, clearest way to reach out to the types of readers who would be interested in what I've written.
Again, there are endless possibilities and many options that could work for any given book. Although marketing may be new to you, you can help design a cover that will work for your book, if you just keep its purpose in mind.
6/11/2011 9:29:47 PM
If You've Got It, Font It!
I was going to post my other long article about covers yesterday. I had several visuals and I thought it was pretty good. Then, when I was publishing, I somehow lost half of it. I now have to go in and recreate the rest, but first, I have to stop being so annoyed that I lost it!
Meanwhile over the last couple of weeks an issue has come up with some of my writer friends that I think may need discussing before the cover article anyway, since it's an integral part of the cover.
When an author is designing a book cover, font choice is the most likely aspect to be overlooked.
Honestly, I'm so naturally non-visual, I think I wouldn't have a clue about fonts if the type, size and placement of fonts hadn't been drummed into me throughout high school and college in my journalism and advertising classes.
There's a reason the programs on your computer contain a plethora of fonts. Every font has it's own characteristics and the choice you make gives potential readers an idea of the tone of your story.
So here is a title for my imaginery book: Blood, Sweat and Tears.
It's an old cliche and when you read it in the font above, it doesn't tell you much. It could be a book about almost anything. However, look what happens when font choice, font color, and background color get involved.
With a medium or light blue background on the cover and script, this is definitely a book for women. Maybe it's a romance or women's fiction. It looks somewhat emotional, traditional. I would expect to sink down into this story gradually and be touched, maybe cry a little.
Hmm...I'd still guess this was a story for women because of the color combination. But the colors and font indicate a more modern voice, and maybe some humor. But I'd expect my heroine to be going through some major drama because of the way the word "tears" is singled out in a larger font and different color. This would probably have a drawing/cartoon image on the cover to tell me a little more. This youthful look could signify a chick lit or YA voice.
Wow, this one's a different story completely. It's done in classic horror colors with the word "Blood" emphasized both with color and size. Maybe it's a vampire book. However, notice the font that's used. It feels a bit fun and campy. Maybe this is a tongue-in-cheek horror book. Something along the lines of the movies "Love at First Bite" or "Sean of the Dead." Again, if you were making the book cover you could choose an image that would clarify it a little more.
Notice that the second two examples are so visually interesting, you could probably get away with no image or very simple images with the titles.
Here's an actual example that my friend Tea Trelawny gave me permission to use. She'd contacted me with concerns about her cover. This was her first version:
This erotic romance just wasn't evoking the right feeling when I looked at it. Why?
Hot picture? Check. Hot double entendre title? (The guy is a photographer) Check. Sexy author name? Check. All the elements seemed to be there except...
I realized the simple block-like font was cancelling out the sexiness of everything else. So Tea sent a new version:
It was a little better, but I still wasn't getting that feeling. I typed her title and name into a blank word document and copied them a bunch of times on the page, then I tried some fonts on them. First I thought script would be the answer for the title, but all the script fonts made the word "Exposure" look strange, not sexy. Finally, I came upon several fonts and thought I might have the answer to the riddle. I emailed her back that I thought the key to doing justice for this cover was in using a title font with sexy "x's." This is what she sent next:
Finally, I felt it! The hot photo goes with the sexy title (in a sexy font) and the great author name (also in a better font). The cover now looks like one unit, all working together for the same purpose. But Tea had another trick up her sleeve. She also sent this option.
I told her she'd gotten to the point where it was now a pure judgement call or preference. You could rightly choose the yellow so it stands out more from the page or the pink because, with this color scheme, it gives more of a boudoir feel. I also thought she should try the author name across the top and see if she liked it, but, again, once the font was right, it all became a matter of preference, not necessity.
To see what she chose as her final cover look, click here.
Next blog, which I'll put up as soon as I finish recreating it: Watch out! Don't Blow Your Cover!
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