Interview With Cover Artist Renu Sharma

Today is ultra-special because I’m able to introduce you all to the über talented Renu Sharma, digital artist extraordinaire.   As with all of recommendations, Renu is someone I worked with on THE MILESTONE TAPES revised cover.  She and I worked through e-mails to capture the vibe and essence of my book–which she nailed with limited instruction and her unmatched skill.  She has a way with pictures–the ability to capture the light and dark of an image and bring it to life.  She has a true gift.

She was so good, I couldn’t keep her to myself…

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Tell us about you (where you live, what your interests are, do you have hobbies…etc…):

I was born and raised in Noida, India. Being a part of the NCR(National Capital Region) the proximity to cultural and artistic events is a blessing.  After art, my second love would be music, especially rock and metal music from bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle and so on. Love watching movies, favorite genres would be fantasy, comedy and drama; but any genre would do till the time it is nicely made.

 

What made you interested in doing book covers:

Ever since I began to create art, I’ve always been more interested in the creating part than trying to sell it off.  I sold my first book cover about a year back. Recently, another writer stumbled upon my work and contacted me. She turned out to be an angel and told me about kindleboardsforum and insisted that I could do really great as a book cover artist, so here I am!

Have you ever done any book covers for publishing houses, or do you work strictly with Indie Authors?  What other mediums for your art (print, magazines, etc…) 

So far, I have only worked with Indie authors but am open to working with publishing houses as well. As a graphic designer, I’ve designed websites, brochures, ads, social media pages and so on .And, if I ever get around to it I’d love to work for musicians as well for album art and such someday.

 

Your art is amazing!  Can you explain the process to us?

I do both traditional drawings on paper and digital artwork. Some of the digital art is painted with a pen tablet from scratch till finish, while most of the recent work including all the book covers is through photo manipulation.  When creating an artwork that is not commissioned, I look around stock pictures to see something that inspires me, and then work on them on photoshop, also taking the aid of a pen tablet to create the artwork that you see in my gallery.

 

What is the length of time from raw photograph to finished piece?

That mainly depends on the detailing involved in the artwork but it usually do it in about 5-7 hours.

 

How many covers have you done?

So far, I have sold 8 covers including 2 commissions.

 

Do you do this work full-time or do you have another job?

After realising this is what I want to do, I do this full-time now.

 

Is there a wait list?

None as of yet.

 

You have a portfolio of work that doesn’t have an Author behind it, which is where I purchased my cover image….can you explain how that works?  What is the pricing of those almost-finished pieces?

Apart from the pieces on sale which are for $120.00, the prices vary from $250.00 to $550.00 depending on the amount of time an artwork has consumed.

 

What does that price include?  (amount of revisions, font, alterations to the image–if any)

The price includes the artwork at the highest resolution available, a component for doing the fonts and resizing of the work if required in 2-3 different dimensions. I don’t mind doing minor alterations and revisions for up to 2-3 times because I want the client to be happy about it.

You also do commissioned work–which is totally custom–once an Author commissions you, generally speaking, how long does it take to receive the finished proof?

So far In case of the commissions I have already done, after the initial payment has been made and both the author and I have agreed upon the stock images to be used, I request for a time-frame of bout a week, and have always been able to deliver within it .

 

What is the price of something like that? (please be totally descriptive)

The price of the completed artwork is based on the number of stock images used, the amount of overpainting it is going to take to get the desired effect, the kind of fonts to be used and how much of styling they need. The price ranges from $250.00 to $550.00 again.

 

What does that price include? (amount of revisions, font, alterations to the image, brainstorming sessions?)

That price includes everything that a pre-made artwork includes. In addition to that, it includes finding and selecting just the pictures that fit the author’s description of the character to be on the cover. I also ask for an overview of the story and character description so I can come up with ideas of my own to suggest to the author for the cover. After the idea gets a go ahead, I start working on it.

 

Sometimes you run specials….how often do you do that and what is a “normal” special for you?

The specials running right now are the ones I did quite a while ago, more like practice artworks So I don’t mind selling them for a lesser price because they aren’t as detailed and time-consuming as are the more recent ones. I will certainly run specials in future as well for artworks which are ‘quickies’ but still turn out to be good enough.

 

Have you ever worked with an Author that was simply impossibly (no names)?  What do you do when you come across conflicting ideas?

Luckily, all the authors I have worked with so far have been really nice and very co-operative to work with like yourself.

 

I’ve read your contract, but for those who haven’t, can you explain what you ask of an Author before starting their cover?

In case of a commission, I ask for at least 50% of the payment upfront so I can start working on the artwork. Once it is complete and we’re both happy with it, I send a signed agreement to the author and ask for a signed and scanned copy back. The agreement includes the rights to use the artwork for all kinds of promotion related to that particular book. It also is exclusively sold to that author so I cannot sell it to anybody else for commercial purpose. For right now, my art is royalty free to be used. In case of pre-made artworks, first and foremost we go with the agreement. Once done with that, follows the payment from the client’s part and the completed book cover from my end.

 

What is your favorite genre to work with?  Do you have a preference?

I’d have to say that I love fantasy, dark themed work will come a close second, all in all any art that includes people . These would be my preferences but I do not mind taking other kinds of works either like dragons, zombies, landscapes etc.

 

What are some of the high challenges that come with working with clients over the internet as opposed to face to face or via phone?

The biggest challenge is to not be able to get a prompt response from the client sometimes. It takes a few days at times  to get simplest of things further.

 

Closing remarks…anything you want to just say or tell us….now’s the time!!

I just want to say that it is really amazing to be able to collaborate with other artists (writers) to bring the magic of imagination to the world. I hope my art on your cover grabs a lot more of people’s attention so you have a lot many readers. I am really looking forward to doing a lot of book covers! Art is the best thing to ever have happened to me. My all time favorite quote which goes to all the artists and writers:

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. – Twyla Tharp.

Thank you for doing this interview Ashley, cheers!

(You can reach Renu Sharma at renu.artist@gmail.com or view her work portfolio and images for sale on her Facebook page :))

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I feel this is the perfect opportunity to show you what Renu can do.  I’m officially releasing the rekindled cover THE MILESTONE TAPES.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is written in a series of months rather than chapters, giving the reader the sensation of time and what the passing of it means. The season of fall plays a key role in the story.  As we all know, when autumn comes the leaves fall, the nights get longer, the air grows a little colder and life changes.  For both Mia and Jenna, fall means the end of life as they know it and the beginning of a new reality.   With Renu’s image and skill, she was able to bring that to life for me–and hopefully–for my readers as well.

Artist Credit: Renu Sharma

Japanese Glass Floats–The Emerald of the Sea

photo courtesy of: Jo Jibber Jabber

Once upon a time these beautiful glass balls were used in commercial fishing across the globe. Referred to as “Japanese glass floats” (although, the origins stretch far and wide) these enchanting blue spheres were lost at sea–escaped from the twine fishing nets that held them so long ago, left to float aimlessly across the wild waves, through coral beds and tangled in seaweed, they bobbed and ebbed for upwards of twenty years before washing ashore. A little worse for the wear; their once glossy glass finished aged with churned sand and violent saltwater, they are truly the prize for a beachcomber who can search her whole life and never find one.

In THE MILESTONE TAPES, I’ve left an Easter egg to pay homage to these beauties.  So, let me explain…

Glass floats comes in all shapes and sizes.  Collectors cherish the odd and unique for their character, while I could personally care less.  I get caught up in the magic of all–each one, any size, any condition.  Glass, surviving the wilds of the sea, washed ashore despite the perils of open water.   To me, they beat the odds of what they up against.

My first glass float (and it was actually a pair) came from a small antique mall in Port Orchard Washington.  We on our way to Port Angeles and stopped to stretch our legs and do a bit of browsing.  There they were, hanging on a peg-board, side by side.  I was almost immediately in love.  I gently lifted them from their hooks and took them to counter.  The owner of booth was actually working the store that day.  She rolled them around in her hands, looking at me from over the rims of her glasses and asked if I knew what “these were”.  Of course, being a midwestern girl through and through, I did not.  She smiled and told me only that they floated over from Japan.  I was enchanted, of course, but I still didn’t understand.

Later in our trip, under a gloomy sky and spattering rain drops on First Beach we met an old man with a dog.  I had just almost been drug out to sea chasing a rock in the deceiving “low tide” of the Pacific Ocean when he caught up to us.  He was looking for glass floats.  He elaborated on what the sales woman had said–saying he’d been looking his whole life and found only two.  It was then that I knew these beautiful balls were special.  A treasure of sorts, the emerald of the sea.  Found on the rocky shore lines and haunted with a passion that kept some coming out, day after day, armed with nothing more than hope and wonder.

When I was writing, I wanted there to be one moment between mother and daughter than brimmed more than the others.  A moment that…years later…Mia could look back on and have something from.  Since my book is set in the Olympic Peninsula, I thought a glass float would be perfect.  I, as the author, understood the meaning behind it–the treasure a float is and the importance of its journey, it played perfect both of the scene and metaphorically speaking as well–but, I also knew, my readers may not.  My point of this posting is to let you all in.  So that if someday you pick up a copy of THE MILESTONE TAPES and humor me with read…you’ll understand.

 

Trick or Treat!! Happy Halloween!!

Halloween may possibly be my favorite Holiday.  For me, it’s always the been the night where anything can happen, where the lines of reality and make believe blur for the span of 24 hours–you can be anything, anyone you want–you can be dark and dangerous, sexy and coy, sweet and adorable, silly and absurd.  The possibilities of who you can be are limited only by your own creativity.  What a glorious thing!

As an adult, I adore carved pumpkins that cast shadows with tea-lights.  I love handing out candy to children dressed adorably in costumes who remember to say thank you as you drop handfuls of sugary treats in their plastic orange pumpkins.  I crave spiced cider and a warm fire-pit that is all embers and woodsmoke.  Ahhhh…Heaven!

When I was a teenager, I used to trick-or-treat with my neighborhood friends…we’d go for miles, stopping back by the houses for grilled cheese and tomato soup, pizza and desserts.  We’d dump our pillowcases on the floor once they were too heavy for our little arms and plot our next attack.  Halloween night seemed to go on forever back then, and we’d stay out until the houses shut off their lights and closed their doors and no more candy was to be had.

As a child, my Dad always took me treat-or-treating.  We’d go with other families, the kids running full steam ahead while the parents leisured behind with beers and thermoses of something a bit stronger.  I’d dress as a ballerina or princess…but my favorite costume of all time was Dorothy, complete with a wicker basket (which I gleefully filled with sugary offerings) and my very own ruby slippers that my Mom had made–dozens of crystals, glued on by hand over the kitchen table.  My Dad likes to tell the story of how those shoes pinched my toes so badly that 10 houses into the event, he had to carry me.

Halloween was always the moment when you got to pluck your alter-ego from the shelf and decide for yourself who you wanted to be–and be rewarded for it.  The magic has never died, it’s only managed to change.  I no longer dress up–but applaud the adults who do.  I am now the holder of the “treat”…and I get more joy from dropping candy bars into the waiting bags than I ever got from being the one doing the collecting.  I buy the biggest pumpkin at the farm, and decorate the house to thrill the little ones.  I love Halloween–and always have.

Naturally, I’m very much looking forward to tonight and I just wanted to wish you all a fun, safe (!!!!), and happy Halloween!

 

Do you have any special Halloween plans?  Memories?  Are you dressing up or dressing it down?  Feel free to share!!

This Thing Is Pretty Remarkable

I have to share this because I just discovered it…AND I LOVE IT!

Have you ever stumbled upon a product so perfect you just want to know why you didn’t come across it sooner?  For me, that product is Storyist.

If you haven’t heard of this really inventive, user friendly software…let me have the honor of passing it on.

Storyist is basically, in short, the writers software.  It allows you to map out your story with pictures, sticky-notes, cork board post-it notes for plotting and all the other really amazing things that you wish you had–but didn’t have before.

Speaking only for myself, it allows me work like no other software I’ve used.  And, even better, it’s allowing my second novel to come together visually–which will only stand to make it better in the long run.  It keeps me organized and thoughtful.  It brings my characters into a new dimension, it allows me to hone in the the finer details of their lives–like their homes, or family room.  It saves me time, keeping my voice and vision consistent–which, as many of us know, can get muddy the further along we go.

I–adore–Storyist.

I encourage you to download it–15 days for free.  Try it.  See if it works for you…no harm in that.  The software price is a reasonable $59.00 and even better…if your a NaNoWriMo member, you can score an additional 25% off with a special code!

I also should note–since many of you may be Indie Authors–Storyist has dumbed down the formatting processing, making it super easy to upload directly from the software to your Kindle account and ePub account.  Anything for simplicity–right?

I simply cannot beg you all hard enough to try this–at least for 15 days.  It’s an amazing product, and does truly help with your craft–start to finish!

The New Kindle Family

My life on Kindle goes like this…

I first was introduced to “THE KINDLE” on Oprah.  She loved and, of course, had to do an entire show on it.  I was sold–it looked like honest-to-God magic.  The key to the city.  The world of literature in the palm on your hand.  I was all over that.  I charged downstairs and said:

Me:”Mark, honey, Oprah was just talking about this Amazon Kindle thing.  You read books on it.  It’s very, very cool.  I love to read, I think I should buy one,”….

Mark: “How much is it?”….

Me: “Only $399.99″….Mark: “::laughing:: You could just buy a lot of books for $400.00″…

Conversation over.

But, the Kindle haunted me.  I still read, all the time, but it was different… I couldn’t help but to just picture myself like the ad…with the ergonomically (read: clunky) designed Kindle cradled in my hands.

Flash forward to Christmas, of the same year, talking to my Mother-In-Law:

Me: “Mom, have you seen this Kindle thing?”

MIL: “Oh, yes, I almost bought you one…but I didn’t know if you’d like it”

Me: “Oh my God!  I have been dying for one since I saw Oprah”

MIL: “You should get one…MARK!”

Mark: “Ya, Mom?”

MIL: “Ashley want’s a Kindle”

Mark: “What’s a Kindle”

::insert a long conversation about the Kindle the pro’s and price point::

Mark: “Oh, yeah, okay, order one if you want”

Me: jumping, hugging, kissing, ordering

Long story short…I ended up with a Kindle 2 after months upon months of waiting.  It has, in every single way, revolutionized my reading.  I moved on to the Kindle 3 when it was announced…and yes, I have pre-ordered the Kindle 4 and the Fire.

Why?

Because Kindle inspired me.  It, kindled me.  And for that, I will upgrade and keep promoting Amazon until my dying breath, it means that much to me.

Look at it like this:

If this was 2003, and I was sitting here trying to get published without a nibble of interest from The Gatekeepers, I’d be wallowing–big pity party for one, please.  All kidding and cute phrasing aside…I’d be miserable, looking at this huge book I wrote thinking no one will ever read this, what did I do?!?!…but, thankyouverymuch, this is 2011, and we have “THE KINDLE” (not to overshadow the Nook, or Sony or Kobo or iRiver).

It’s true, of course, I could have self pub’d in 2003…ran a few to Indie book stores and hoped for smoke (you know: where there’s smoke, there is fire–and so on).  But now (thank you Amazon and ePub), my audience is wide and tall.  I still have to work hard–pound the pavement and promote the you-know-what out of myself and my book in equal measure, but it’s easier and the distance my efforts will go are vast.  I’ll still run around the Indie Bookstore circuit, Kindle has given my book a chance–a huge one.

With the edition to the Kindle family, the lowest eReader running a meek $79.00…the audience will boom.  All those people (like my husband) who choked on the price tag can finally look past the dollar amount and see the value.

There is something for everyone.  Not a fan of eInk?  Buy the Fire.  Not a fan of LCD?  Buy the Kindle.  Is $200 too much?  Get the basics for under a hundred.  Everyone can unlock the world of reading for a reasonable pocketbook friendly price.

I’m excited, thrilled, tickled and looking very much towards the future of reading.

Check out Amazon.com to see the models

The Girl’s Guide To Homelessness

I should probably just point out that I love biographies.  They are my weakness.   I really enjoy other peoples extraordinary lives and journeys…I try to take away lessons and inspiration from each one.  But, there is also the other side of the coin–that one that just sits wrong with me.

Welcome to Brianna Karp’s world.

She’s a twenty-something living in a trailer in the parking lot of Wal Mart.  She’s armed with a blackberry, laptop and a boat load of misfortune.

I read about THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HOMELESSNESS in PEOPLE magazine and was looking forward to picking it up. The idea, I thought, was interesting enough and the book was made to sound like it would be quick read. I finished it in a single night, mostly because I couldn’t wait to write a review, but felt in order to do so, I owed Brianna a fair shake at things.

This book should have been have been written in three parts: Belief, Suspicion of Disbelief and Total Disbelief.

I harbored a feeling, a strong feeling at that, that most of this book is written from Brianna supposed reality, and I highly doubt most of it is actual reality. A lot has been made about fictions claims and stories in the books–and I’m guessing that is probably the only true account when it comes to this story.

Brianna claims to be homeless, and yes, by definition she is without a stable home, ergo “homeless”. But she’s far, far, far and away from the image of a woman sitting curbside begging for change. She’s not that by a mile and a half of hard road.

She works really hard to sell you on why her version of homelessness is still legit, despite having money enough to fly her online boyfriend around the world 4 times, own a Blackberry cell phone, a neo mastiff (which she boards–and can afford to keep in food) and 2 cars, oops…lets not forget her trailer which serves as her home for the duration of the story. Brianna tries, and fails, to justify these actions by pulling the old “poor little me” excuse to explain away various expenses she occurs in the pursuit of wooing her man–like the antique ring or the the trips across the globe last minute.  She’ll tell you (more than once) that being homeless doesn’t mean you have to go without, for example, that owning a blackberry is a necessity of the modern world despite the $40.00 a month service plan that comes along with it.

There are moments where you’ll feel for this girl, of course. If this story even harbors 1/100th of truth, that’s a real shame. But, at the end of the day–and all else aside– she’s an active and willing participant in making poor decisions, al a, taking her unemployment, when she’s too broke to buy food mind you, and flying her boyfriend to the US for an extended “sex and getting to know you” vacation. Those tickets aren’t cheap, people.

I have no doubt Brianna struggles, be it from her circumstances or free will, but the reader will have a hard time reconciling the two. If it wasn’t for bad luck, Brianna would have none and so I wish her the best and hope she can realign her priorities so she can get back to on an even keel.

I disliked this book.  With passion.  I felt like it was blatant fraud.  She wasn’t living the life she wanted, true, but she wasn’t homeless.  Homeless means without a home, she had one–it was a trailer, maybe not the best living conditions long term or rise up to meet her standards–but a real homeless person, someone who has dumpster dived and begged change, would consider a trailer a treasure, a gift, a home.

The Twilight Saga

I think, as an author, one of the best things I can do is read.  It makes me a better story teller for one thing, and it also shows me the other side of the coin.

One of my favorite stories is THE TWILIGHT SAGA by Stephenie Meyer.

First of all, I don’t consider TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, ECLIPSE and BREAKING DAWN to be separate in and of themselves.  It is one story broken up into four parts.  And, it’s brilliance.

Meyer’s saga of shape shifting werewolves and sparkling vampires has caught a lot of flack by “big” authors, Stephen King comes to mind, about her writing style–going so far as to say, “…Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn…she’s not very good,” (eonline.com).

To that, I have to say, say’s who?  You?

The first time I read Twilight, I’d already seen the movie.  I was home sick with the flu, as so often happens when you’re chasing after germy kids all day–but I digress.  I’d heard about the hoopla surrounding the books, Robert Pattinson and K. Stew flitted across my television looking every bit the part of those thrust into the lime light resembling two people who didn’t really anticipate such a career windfall.  But, I didn’t get it.  Vampires?  Werewolves?  What’s the big deal?

Then I saw the movie.

I immediately sent my husband to the bookstore demanding he pick up every single book in the series, and gouged myself on Edward, Bella and Jacob over the next three days.  That’s right, 4 books, 3 days, no sleep.  I didn’t care…I was officially on the road to becoming a Twi Hard.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA is quintessential YA, save for BREAKING DAWN which has hot R rated goodness dripping from the pages.  The books ping into the heart of every teenage girl, changing their expectations of love and teenage-hood and what it means.  Gone are the things like cool clothes, fancy cars and promiscuous sex…enter: loving waiting for marriage — or the right person, confidence in ones self and following ones heart.  Not a bad message to send the youth, right?

Other long published, successful authors may miss the point entirely.  But a reader won’t.

TWILIGHT was published at 130,000 words, a dictionary by publishing standards, but it inspired kids–kids, who have their noses in video games, and cell phones and live chat on the internet–to read.  To love to read.  To look forward to reading.  It took adults, with their adult responsibilities and obligations, back to the time when love was innocent and as simple as how you felt inside.  And from there, grew a phenomena.

TWILIGHT may not be everyone’s bowl of ice cream–that’s why there is chocolate and vanilla.  But no one can deny the positive things it gave the literary community.  And isn’t that what a good book is supposed to do?  So when someone says, “oh, Meyer can’t write”…I have to ask…if Meyer can’t write, then what is it that she did here?

Since I fell in love with Edward Cullen THE TWILIGHT SAGA only visited Forks and La Push, but I’ve attended the conventions and opening night of the movies, I’ve visited the blogs and forums and fan sites.  And guess what I’ve found?  Not only are people inspired to read…but they are inspired to write and craft.  Not only do I see gaggles of girls in their “team appropriate” attire, but they are there with their mothers, grandmothers, fathers…there is a connection made between people over these books and movies during a time when connections between parents and children (the teenage years) are tenuous.

Fan fiction and fan created art flood the internet.  Sites like Etsy.com boast page after page of locally crafted wears, jewelry, photo albums, and the like. In this economic climate, crafty folks are supplementing their income by filling a niche.  Fans of the series are writing fictional takes on what could have happened.  How amazing is that?  Kids that can barely force out assigned homework without grumbles and groans are taking to the interest to expound upon the Cullens and Wolf Pack, Bella and Charlie.

Good books make masses of people think and feel.  Not everyone, but some.  So, by definition, TWILIGHT is a really good book.

For more information, including outtakes, soundtracks and breaking new visit: www.stepheniemeyer.com