The Art Of Depressing Someone

This past weekend I had the chance to visit with my in-laws in Pittsburg for our Christmas Extravaganza.

This is entirely our thing … every year we pack the car, turn on some Christmas music and take the boring, bland 8 hour stretch of I-80 east bound towards the quant town of Cranberry, PA.  My husband and I have been doing this for the past five years … it’s something I look forward to, as the weekend always promises to be nothing short of fun.  Ample food, good conversation, plenty of alcohol, and a little good tidings and cheer to round it out.  It’s how we launch we the Holiday Season in our home, the first of our various Christmas celebrations.

This year was no different.  We were able to see family and friends, we ate too much and drank way too much.

As the evening lulled into good-byes and well wishes, we sat down in front of the television.  My mother-in-law turned on the Hallmark channel and the conversation lapsed into how “predictable” the various stories were.  Always the same formula of life’s grand lessons … he’s cheating, she’s heartbroken, he’s moving on, she’d dying … the names and places and dates may change, but the situations hardly ever do.

Before I launch into the art of depressing someone, we should cover a few ground rules first …

1. NO ONE beside my mother-in-law, father-in-law and husband in that room, at that moment, knew I had written a book.

2. I’ve always said my book would fit a Lifetime Movie perfectly.

… Okay …

So, as we’re digressing into the finer points of predictability when it comes to women specific television, my in-laws friend says … and I quote … “this movie is probably about a parent dying of cancer who writes a letter to her child.  How much more depressed could I be?” … end quote.

Now, picture me: I had a half full glass of wine in my hand, eyes wide, slightly flushed, embarrassed … raising the glass to my lips and skillfully swallowing the entire thing in one gulp as though the 4 ounces of wine were a shot.

Speechless.  I was just … speechless.

But now that the hours of drinking have passed … and the thoughts are clearer … my rebuttal is this …

I never wrote my story to depress anyone.  No, not at all.  Yes … there are pings of sadness in the 94,000 words that may hit home … places I worked on so hard to evoke a feeling of loss.  Real life, it can be sad.  But the story of loss … any loss … shouldn’t be depressing, it should bring someone to a thoughtful place.

Here is a bit of full disclosure …

When my mother was sick … our home was never a depressing place.  Honestly, it wasn’t.  She was given a 30% chance of survival in the dark days of modern medicine — we could have been grim … we had the right to be grim.  But still … we had candles and flowers, we laughed far more than we cried.  We talked to each other, we spent time together.  It was a place and time of collecting and gathering.  We never let her illness define us, and although there was hurt — there always was hope — and hope was far more measurable.

Death is depressing.  It’s a dark place by nature.  But there is a light side to it as well, and that light is the legacy of love shared between people over the span of a lifetime — no matter how long or short that lifetime is.  The scale of that balance is dependent on how an individual sees it.

Jenna Chamberland, my protagonist, she isn’t a wallower.  That’s not her nature, believe me — she showed me that all on her own.  She is strong in the face of uncertainty and, like my own mother, hopeful in a place of heartbreak.  The tapes … they were a gift.  A thing of love.  A show of devotion.

The art of depressing someone with words, it’s a balance.  I’m not a believer in things having to work out perfectly to have a happy ending.  Happy endings … and depression … are subjective.  Love doesn’t always end with Prince Charming kissing the princess awake … nor does it end with sunshine and gold stars.  For my parents friend … the final gift of a parent to child may be thing a sadness … for me, in the context of my story, it’s a source of joy.

My favorite quote on writing is this … “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself.  You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world.  You bring your history and your read it in your terms” .  So, if you ever glance a copy of my book and decide to buy it … bring to it (along with all of your thoughts) that this story was written to be a hopeful one.

 

 

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Picking A Quote To Define Yourself

My web designer, Scarlett, e-mailed me this evening asking for a quote … something to put under the header of my website that would speak either from me or about me.

I was stumped.  That’s the truth.  As a writer, we say a lot of things and we write a lot of words.  We talk about the craft and the experience of being involved, we talk about our books and our passions and the things that make us tick.  But, unlike my blog which is for other writers — my site is for readers.

What could I say that was important?

In some ways, my readers will never get to know me.  I don’t know if anyone else has ever thought that … but for me, as a blogger, it’s kind of heavy.  They will simply know me as the woman who wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES.  But, that’s very … one note.  They won’t know nearly as much as my blog followers.  And what I put on my site, I do want it to mean something to them.

So, I thought a lot about the life of a reader.  I write, lets just face it, a very specific sort of novel.  I deal with real life.  I don’t create worlds or mythological beasts or other times in distant places.  My readers will … to some extent … be asked to bring a bit of themselves to the table.

So, I chose …

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” – Angela Carter

I wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES for my mother based on our lives and my curiosity about the other side.  And I’m sure some reader, some day will sit back and think “that’s my story … we lived that” … and that’s okay.  That’s what I want.

So, if you were asked to pick a single quote to define yourself … your work … your stories … what would it be?

 

It’s Worth What? — An Exploration of Pricing

I’ll soon be facing the conundrum of deciding what my book is worth and where to effectively price it.  Do I go free and drive up the sales?  Do I slip quietly into the .99 cent ghetto … I mean … bin?  Do I price myself to challenge the market at a rousing $2.99?  Or, do I plow headlong into the $4.99 bracket and practice a little patience because other “literary fiction” sells for at least that much and often times much more?

These are real questions … depending on where I fall will directly correlate with how well I sell.  It’s a seriously strategic business minded move.

The schools of thought on this various from professional to professional and author to author.  Some think, hey, go free–get the reviews and then up your price, because hey–everyone likes to get something for nothing.  Some think, no way is free is the way to go, it screams INDIE and polarized potential customers.  The under the buck mentality is referred too as the “ghetto” … an obviously sad term when you consider the love that an author pours into a book.

The fact is … my book is worth something … but what that something is remains unknown.

I was sitting down this morning trying to figure that out … and I’ll share my thoughts …

I bank with Bank of America.  I use my debit card more than anything else.  But, sometimes I need cash.  BOA has a lot of ATM’s in high traffic places, but they aren’t on every single corner.  Sometimes I have to visit another banks cash station to do a withdrawal … and each time I’m pinged $2.50.  I never spare a thought on that … paying the nominal fee is part of life as far as I’m concerned.

When I fill up my SUV with gas, I pay all sorts of fees I’m unaware of.  But, that doesn’t stop me.  It’s part of the price per gallon … and I just do it without thinking about it.

This holiday season, when I was buying gift cards, I bought Visa branded ones.  And, I paid an extra $5.00 a card.  Why?  I don’t really know.  But, I did.  It didn’t really bother me … it’s just what you do.

I heart Starbucks.  I will willing pay $5.00 plus tax for a swanky cup of coffee just because I like frothed cream.

I adore the movies, and when we go, we pay $20.00 for tickets and about $30.00 for a popcorn and two sodas.

My point is … all the time I have money going out on things that I need or enjoy and I never give it a second thought or backwards glance.  I realize that … you know what … these companies (be it the bank or the gas station) are businesses with overhead and they’d like to turn a tidy profit.  Am I really that different?.

No, actually, I’m not.  While reading is a little luxury for most people, it just so happens to be my business.  I’ve invested in the start-up cost of publishing and I’ve worked my ass off to make sure what I’m sending out into the world is a pretty, easily enjoyable read. I should be … at least in my mind … rewarded for my efforts.  I don’t think free is for me.

I think when you’re starting out, you’re setting a bar.  You’re introducing yourself and the quality of your work.  If you’re free … what does that mean?  How can you possibly go from nothing to something and not expect someone to shake their head in confusion?

Writing is art.  It’s entertainment, designed to provide pleasure.  Is $5.00 really too much to ask for that?  Not in my mind.

But…I’m posting for opinions.  What are your thoughts?  Where did you price and what was the result?  Share and share alike 🙂 your wisdom’s are rewarded with gratitude!

 

A Writer’s Holiday

I woke up this morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and immediately checked my e-mail.  I’m working with a few people overseas right now on my website and my communication with them often happens at odd hours of the day–either late at night or early in the morning.  It reminds me very much of when I was actually writing the book, as those magic hours amounted to my “author work day”.

Normally, I wouldn’t notice such a thing as it is almost common place now, but, this is also the morning before Thanksgiving.  In years past, I would have made a cup of coffee to go, deposited myself in my mother’s kitchen and been up to my elbows in potato peels by now.  I would have stopped along the way for a newspaper, removed all the Black Friday ads and started scouring them for the best deals.  I would have been setting the table and boiling pumpkin and running to the store to join the droves of the other just-like-me last-minute and frazzled shoppers hoping all they need hasn’t been picked over yet.

This year is decidedly different.  I have to work.  I no longer have the luxury of free time.  Just because I’m not going to my day job doesn’t mean my other job isn’t clamoring and chiming for my undivided attention.  I anticipate bring my laptop along to Thanksgiving tomorrow and either blogging, answering e-mails, working with my team across the globe or simply staring at the open Storyist page while going glassy-eyed without the benefit of a globed glass of red wine (if I drink while I write, it looks a lot like a mess 🙂 ).

It’s a writers life…and this is a writers holiday.

When I compressed my book into a neat little word document and mailed it off to the editor, I blissfully believed this would be an easy month, a nearly free month.  I figured that I could lose myself in my second book and that when the holidays crept around, I would be able to kick back and really just decompress.  Uh…no.  Not at all.  Silly me, I should have know, holidays are for people with normal lives, people who aren’t running towards publication and people who have the good sense to realize publishing around the Holidays is an almost certain disaster.

I’m busier now than ever, November has officially knocked me on my ass–I can’t wait for December (can you see the sarcasm dripping from the page?).  As the book comes to completion, I’m scrambling.  I have to write a dedication, table of contents, blurb–and that’s simply for print.  For my site, I have to do all of that and then some.  Not to mention to aligning the next steps for THE MILESTONE TAPES and making sure those people are in the know.  Somewhere in there, there is a second book that would like to be written and of course, this blog begs to be updated (thank you Jesus for giving me the foresight to do a blog party!).

It’s finally clear, my time is no longer my own.  Writing the book was a cake walk compared to this.  Writing was my time, if it didn’t get that done perfectly each day–oh hells bells–eventually I would.  Not now, now my time belongs to several other people and projects and plans, each one needs to be given 100% of my effort and focus–I’m no math savant but that seems highly unviable.  If I don’t get-right-on-that I slow them up.  That’s not fair–especially to the people who I have commissioned who would like that final cheque.

So, I work.  And that means–yes–over the holiday.

This is a brave new world…a writers one 🙂

 

 

 

 

The X-Factor, You & Me

Tonight I was watching The X Factor and I caught the part where Stacy Francis was singing.  I should probably say Stacy isn’t my favorite…but she’s a pretty darn good singer.  This week was “rock week”…the singers sang, well, what else but a rock song.

Stacy story goes like this:  She’s a mother and she was a wife.  Her ex-husband allegedly put her hands on her and she escaped the bad marriage to go on to bigger things, to get out and save herself.  She had a dream of becoming a singer.  She ran after her dream and after several false starts and a lot of stops, she now takes the stage as a finalist on The X Factor under the tutelage of Pussy Cat Doll, Nicole S.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, the drama surrounding her has been telling.  She came on the scene saying “nope, I’ve never done this before” when that is less than true.  And while I don’t understand the lying nor do I support it–I can always, always get behind someone chasing a dream.

That brings us here…

Tonight Stacy took the stage singing Meatloaf’s It’s All Coming Back To Me ballad that was, once upon a time, covered by Celine Dion.  She didn’t kill it but she did good.  However, the judges fired back with scathing criticism of her song choice.  And, as it turns out, Stacy picked that out herself (no eye daggers for Nicole tonight I suppose).

I sat in my bed and watched Stacy go stone-faced as the panel pummeled her with their verbal rocks.  And I realized…what we do, with the whole putting ourselves and our books out there…it’s not really so different.  We may not have the bright lights and back up singers…but we have our voice–sung or written–it’s what we’ve got, love it or leave it.

I’m not doing this post to discuss her lackluster night or even point out the fact that we’re more alike than different.  I’m posting because she handled herself in such away that…for lack of better words…is something we walk away with in our back pocket.

Stacy did herself proud.  She got out there, dropped the pretenses and let her inner wounds run clean.  She faced the trauma of her own back story and laid it out for America to bare witness.  It may not have been the best of the night or the season…but she lived up to what her fans wanted to see of her.  And that’s exactly what she said “I did this because this is what I wanted to do”…okay, not her words–they’re my own–but the message was clear.

When you’re shooting for the stars and you don’t make it…how you handle yourself in that moment is as important as anything else you’ll ever do.  I’ve faced rejection over and over again on this journey…but even in the face that, it remains true that I did this because this is what I wanted to do.  So, an agent in New York, another in Canada and one on the far left coast didn’t love it…if my future readers do, if I can live up to their yet-unknown expectations, that’s a source of pride.  And that’s all I really need…all you really need…all Stacy Francis really needs.

 

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…

****

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.

 

It All Boils Down To The Blurb

We’ve all this moment…

We’re standing in the middle of a bookstore.  Rows upon rows of beautiful covers wink at us from their neatly organized bookshelves, names we recognize and those we don’t.  We’re simply there because we want to read something.  Maybe it’s a mystery or a scary story, maybe it’s a great love story or emotional saga. We’re looking, actively seeking out an amazing book to lose ourselves in. We narrow it down based on the cover art, we look further into the Easter eggs a title teases us with. And finally, We find a novel that calls to us, we gently lift it from the shelves and turn it over….

A good blurb is the first foray into a writer’s style.  It’s the first words of theirs we’ll read, it will either sell us on the story or it won’t.  With a blurb, there is simply no middle ground to walk on upon.  It’s kind of a big deal–you know–for us wordsmiths, since we have all of five seconds to capture our audience, invite them inside and entice them to stay.  This is the moment where we sell our story.

My book will be available in both print and eBook, as well as audio.  I’ve spent a lot of time worrying and finessing the finer points of publishing.  I think I’ve done okay…but with a blurb…there is genuinely no “how to” that is one size fits all.  Sometimes a call to action works, other times we have to pluck the heart-strings.  But, whatever is our motivation, we must do it well.

So, I’m turning it over to you all.  That’s right…

I’ll be imbedding four potential blurbs, and each vote matters–I want your opinions!!  When you’re reading–ask yourself–does this pull you in, excite you, make you want to learn more.  Remember, this is a work of women’s fiction or literary fiction.  Polling closes in 24 hours from the moment this blog goes live.  While I can’t promise I will use the “most popular”…I will consider all opinions sincerely.

And, as always, I welcome your thoughts.  Tell me what you think–what feelings the blurb evokes in you as you read it.  I’m anxious to hear from you all!

Thank you in advance for your vote!

BLURB ONE

Jenna Chamberland, a mother with a young daughter, Mia, she is dying of breast cancer and in the final months of an all out war for her life–one that spanned three years and hung always from a feeble string of hope.

When it is clear that no further medical intervention will save her, Jenna is forced to watch her life come together as the end approaches by inches.  Desperate to help her husband Gabe make the gentle slip from married man to widower and single parent, Jenna longs to remain the devoted mother she’s always been, worrying about who her daughter will become. Jenna, in a moment of reflection and worry, decides to record tapes for her daughter, the milestone tapes.

In a story deep with sadness and grief, there is beauty and healing.

Mia reemerges from the tragedy of Jenna’s death nine years later as a precocious sixteen year old.  Her life is changing all around her at once–and like any child, she just wants her mom.  Through the recordings, Jenna voice returns, brought back on the thin-film of tapes to teach Mia the magic of life at large. Mia takes from the recordings what she will need to know to gain a better sense of self–to spread her wings and embrace the challenges and changes with humor, grace and hope.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is the story of a mother and her daughter, and the love that still holds them when time no longer can.

BLURB TWO

Jenna Chamberland adores her daughter, her husband and their life together, it was all she ever wanted.  Now, after a three-year war with breast cancer, her life is ending and only mere months linger.  Jenna must face the reality that awaits the ones she loves on the other side of her disease.  Her husband, Gabe, will be forced to make the slip from married man to widower, left alone to raise their daughter, Mia.  As Jenna watches the pieces come together, she wonders how her daughter will remember her.  In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to leave her voice behind–recorded on the thin-film of tapes, hoping they will serve as a touchstone for Mia as the years and milestones pass her by.

Mia emerges from the tragedy of Jenna’s death nine years later as a precocious sixteen year old.  Her life is changing all around her at once–and like any child, she just wants her mom.  Through the tapes, Jenna voice returns, brought back to teach Mia the magic of life; to remind her of how deeply she was loved and to encourage her to spread her wings and embrace the challenges and changes with humor, grace and hope.

The Milestone Tapes is the story of a mother and her daughter and the love that holds them together when time no longer can.

BLURB THREE

Jenna Chamberland never wanted anything more than to be a mother and wife.  That was, until she realized that her life was ending after a three-year battle against breast cancer.  Then, all she really wanted was more time.

With 4,320 hours of life left, Jenna is watching the pieces come together, knowing what awaits her loved ones on the other side.  Gabe, her husband, will be asked to make to slip from husband to window, left alone to raise their seven-year old daughter.  Mia, will be forced to embrace life without her mother by her side.  Jenna worries what will become of them all.  In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to record tapes for her daughter, the milestone tapes, leaving her voice behind as a touchstone for her daughter.

Nine years later, Mia is a precocious sixteen year old. Her life is changing all around her at once with each passing day, and all she wants is her mother. Through the Tapes, Jenna’s voice returns to teach Mia the magic of life, and she’s able to show her daughter with words how to spread  her wings and embrace the challenges to come with humor, grace and hope.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is the journey of love between a parent and children and the bonds that hold them when life no longer does.

BLURB FOUR

Dealers choice…

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A Change…

We’re back on covers, folks.  (Does publishing ever feel like a never ending merry-go-round?  I’m totally on board right now–spinning, spinning, spinning–two steps forward, five back)

Let me begin with this: The 11th hour change was as unexpected and surprising to me as it will be for you.  We all know how much effort and energy I poured into it making the original cover “just so”…now, the change that is coming…while exciting, as anything creative naturally is, it’s also equally surprising…

I like my first cover and I was initially thrilled with it.  It fell snuggling within my budget (hooray!) and the artist, Christine, came highly recommended (double hooray!!).  It was a wonderful experience working with her and she did capture my self-imagined image perfectly.  I cannot recommend her enough to anyone looking for an artist to make cover magic happen…and I cannot find fault with her on anything, whatsoever, this is all me–100%.

But…because there is always a but…

A couple of things happened…

1. Christine is highly sought after.  Her business blooms constantly and a wait-list developed rather quickly.

This created sort of a kink in the armor, shall we say.  I plan to have THE MILESTONE TAPES available for both print-on-demand (POD publishing) and electronically.  I always knew this was the agenda for the book, but–for whatever reason–I failed to commission a spine and back design at the time I commissioned the cover. My bad. Christine made a public announcement saying she was booked solid for a good and long time. Ergo, if I stay the corse, I’ll be putting off publishing for an undetermined amount of time simply because Christine is so popular–good for her, bad for me.

2. The more the original stared at me from the screen of my computer, the more I wasn’t sure.  I need to be sure-sure.

When you’re going it alone, like I obviously am, everything from editing to a cover matters a whole lot.  And the entire onus of your product, your brand is on you–you and you alone.  What you put out, you need to love–you should love it with every fiber of your being, that’s sort of the point of keeping your spoon in the pot for the whole process.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you get ONE CHANCE with your book to make the biggest splash possible.  Without a marketing machine behind you, your responsible for your own ship.

Once I started to think it over seriously…look at it through the eyes of the reader…I wasn’t sure if it had the pop I originally believed it did.  Again, this isn’t about anyone but me.  I’m most critical of my own creations, that should be fairly obvious by now, and my critical side was giving me the “hmmm” voice.

3. While the “rights” to use the image for my cover are mine–whereas, promotional usage is limited.  I cannot create book marks or magnets or any other swag with its likeness.

That, right there, is a big flippin’ deal.  Again, something I didn’t know, but am smarter for figuring out now as opposed to later.

This is a good thing for us all to think about, really: If you’re ever going to use the image for anything other than the cover, you’re SOL unless you’re willing to shell out serious cash for all the rights.  And let’s face it, if you’re an Indie Author and you’re beating feet traveling to book fairs and pub clubs and panels, you need to offer something to your public, funds be damned really.  You, as the author, need the trinkets that say to someone “buy my book!”.  Have you ever been at an Expo and saw a product that was great but you wanted to think about it, only, you forgot to get the card?  That’s what this whole thing equates too.  It’s the deal sealer, the final offering…it’s you’re appeal of: please, take this book mark and remember me.

So, that changed things.

Again, I was out there looking for someone to do something amazing….

I discovered an artist, Renu Sharma, who does original work.  She is extremely creative and her digital art is some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t afford her.

Renu works as a commission artist.  That simply means, she hires models, takes their pictures, digitally changes the image to reflect an otherworldly theme and makes magic happen.  They are sincerely original–from the model to the finished piece.  That comes with an equivalent price tag.

I originally contacted Renu to work with me on my second cover.  But, she launched a fall sale on pre-done, noncommissioned work.  The process is all the same…original model, original piece, only, the ones on sale were homeless.

THE MILESTONE TAPES is a character driven piece of literature.  It pings into the lives of imaginary people with all the gusto of real life.  Since I write women’s fiction or literary fiction, the world is real while the people are not.  But, it all needs to stay grounded in the “it could be real” realm of writing, it should all feel real–the characters should be interchangeable with people you know.

Have you ever been haunted by something?  That one thing you should have bought because it would have been perfect?

Welcome to feeling that inspired the change.

While cruising the “sale section” of Renu’s portfolio I discovered the most magical, beautiful, haunting image of this little girl.  She had dark chestnut hair and ethereal blue eyes with the sweetest pouty lips.  She was my Mia.  Okay, not literally Mia…but as the author, I can tell you, that is Mia.  The highlights of dark and light and the innocence of the face, my guttural reaction was–that’s my girl. Oh my God, the moment itself was surreal, it was as though I looking at a picture of my character.  It was seeing her…which tripped me out…but also inspired me to rethink my stance on covers at large.

When I wrote Mia, it was after I had written Gabe and Jenna.  I knew what they looked liked, I had fleshed them out so clearly and I mashed them up to create their child; his eyes, her hair, his nose, her smile.  So seeing a photo that so entirely caught that image and held it–it was more like seeing them all stare back at me from the screen of my computer.  How do you walk away from that moment?  The answer is, you don’t.

I quickly took a screen shot and sent it to the only other person who has read my book cover to cover.  She loved it.  Her exact response was  “Mia?” and all I had to say was… “Mia.”

While it’s more literal than the first cover, it’s still falls way short of spelling out the context of the book.  I am not generally a fan of characters on covers.  I feel like there are times when “spelling it out” steals an experience from the reader, the chance they have to–in their own mind–create the character in the image of which the writing inspires.  But, I can’t help myself.  This girl needs to be on my cover.

So…change, it is a coming.

Soon THE MILESTONE TAPES will have a new beautiful face lift…and I will be the real owner of it, free to use it for any and all promotional plugs I desire.  I will probably still use the original cover in some fashion or another–a special release or paper back edition–but I am so drawn to the new cover, I can’t make promises.

Don’t You Love It When You Find New Things To Love

I believe that songwriters are perhaps the most gifted of all writers–across all genres and mediums–for they are the ones to capture an entire moment, memory, milestone or a lifetime in the span of four minutes and breathe real life into it.  That’s why songs make us cry, make us laugh, make us dance…because the authors of them hold a gift and they use it perfectly.  Songwriters can make it real for you with a simple melody and thoughtful lyrics.  They can pull you back to your first kiss, transport you to your senior prom, your wedding day, the day you first saw your child, the moment of your first bittersweet heartbreak, the moment you knew life would go on or even last Saturday night.  Every good movie has an amazing score behind it that sets the scene.  Every good book was written to playlist.  Music is a thread, woven intricately through our lives.

I have fallen in love with Christina Perri.  Deeply, madly, truly in love.  That girl, now, she’s a songstress.  She has the most beautiful voice–earthy, deeply noted, fresh and just plain, old fashion good in the era of auto-tune.  She’s a little Anna Nalick, the best of Sarah McLachlan, touches of Jason Mraz, and lull of her own exceptionally unique brand.

Her song, Jar of Hearts, first bled through the speakers on a winding road while I was driving home.  From the hook, I needed to know who she was.  Her voice, her song–it was magic–it put me back in that moment of bravery, the moment when your heart is broken but you decide to move on because no one has the right to hurt you so much.  I downloaded it and was instantly a fan, not simply of the song, but of the artist.  Then, as if fate spun in, I found out she was doing the theme song to Breaking Dawn part 1.  A Thousand Years…well, now that song may just be my favorite song ever.  Being a Twilight fan, owning all of the past soundtracks, I feel Christina was able to hammer home to the heart of Breaking Dawn.  She was the perfect person to do this…and she did it very well.

I think we can all learn something, as traditional authors with our thick books and long chapters, from our lyrical counterparts.  What they can create in those moments, it is art.  They give something.  They truly, no matter the subject, can evoke feeling in the reading, as we should evoke feeling in our readers.   What they can do magically is bottle it up for us.  They don’t need 400 pages, though the effect is often the same.  There is something beautiful in the soft, short span of it.

As I begin the second book, I think I’m going to try for a different format, a different rhythm…because I realize, it can be done. Glimpsing life without giving it all away.  Give the reader the what matters, pull them in, make it real and make it resonate.  THE MILESTONE TAPES isn’t that.  It’s a slow build, a small fire that eventually, page by page, grew.  Book two, it will be flashes of warmth all the way along.

Do you write to music?  Do you learn from it?  Does it set the scene of the blank canvas for you?  Are you inspired by it?

And as a reader, when you’re reading, do you hear a soundtrack in your mind?  Does knowing what the author listened too while writing make the book better for you?  Do you wish books came with scores?