Showing posts with label Sorcerous Moons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sorcerous Moons. Show all posts

Sunday, October 11, 2020

How I Gave Myself a Fire Lizard

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the item from your books you most want to own and why.

In mulling this topic, I've come to an interesting realization: I rarely have interesting "items" in my books. With a couple of outliers, I don't really include objects of power or other magical artifacts in my stories. There's the Star of Annfwn in The Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, but it's not something I'd necessarily want to have. There are a couple of objects of power in my Forgotten Empires trilogy - most notably the orchid ring - but I wouldn't want that, even if it could be mine.

Mostly, the interesting stuff in my books that I'd like to have comes in the form of personal powers. And I'm noticing now how often the ability to control weather - like being able to make it rain! - crops up in my characters. So, sure, I'd love to have Lia's connection to the land and weather in the Forgotten Empires, or Salena's storm-making magic in THE LONG NIGHT OF THE CRYSTALLINE MOON in the UNDER A WINTER SKY anthology and the other upcoming Heirs of Magic books. I think it would be totally cool to be a shapeshifter as in Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms.

But those aren't items. 

The closest I can come is a familiar, which is a living being, not an item, but can be "owned," more or less. So I'm picking Chuffta from my Sorcerous Moons series. That's him, on Princess Oria's shoulder on the cover of book one, LONEN'S WAR. Chuffta is a telepathic, tiny white dragon. More or less. It's complicated. He's also Oria's best friend and staunch companion - even though he suffers from an unfortunate fascination with fire that occasionally gets him into trouble.
And yes, Chuffta is totally wish-fulfillment because I always wanted one of Anne McCaffrey's fire lizards for my very own!


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Screaming Love and More for You

At the SFF Seven this week, we're discussing author fan groups – whether we have them, like them, how they work, and we're interested in what the readers think about them. Do you belong to any fan groups and what do you like about them, which are your favorites and why?

I confess I didn't have a fan group for a really long time. I don't really love the word "fan" to begin with, and given the opportunity, I'll say "my readers" instead. With I think of "fan" I immediately picture Simon Zealotes from Jesus Christ, Superstar, singing and dancing with his crew about their fanatical zealotry.

What can I say? Early impressions and all that.

But I did finally form a fan group on Facebook because one of my readers asked me to. I did it back in November of 2016 and it's called "Jeffe's Closet." That's a bit of an inside joke. I used to have a Tumblr called Jeffe's Closet. Actually, it's still there - but because Tumblr freaked out about erotic images, and my closet was full of naughty pictures, it's been gutted. Or it's there, but behind a firewall? I don't even know anymore. I haven't added to it in forever, mostly because in the era of Trump, images of girls in chains began to feel too literal and not at all sexy anymore.


Anyway, I like my private group! I post extra things there occasionally, and ask people to weigh in on stuff. Probably I should post there more often. So that leads me to ask - what should I be posting? What author fan groups do you belong to, what's the platform and what are your favorite things to see there?

Oh, and in case you haven't seen it, there's the final cover for LONEN'S REIGN! Out March 20 and available for preorder now :-)


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Jeffe's Musical Inspiration

A little tease of the LONEN'S REIGN cover, which we'll be revealing in my newsletter sometime in the next 24-48 hours. If you want to subscribe, the link is here. 

Our topic at the SFF Seven is what playlist or poetry we use for inspiration. Longtime followers of mine know that I don't have playlists for my books. I prefer silence when I write. Maybe some birdsong, but I don't even like classical music to play.

When I first started out, yes, I used music - especially movie soundtracks like The Mission and Master & Commander - but I changed over time. Silence allows me to immerse the flow of writing and forget the real world.

That said, some songs really do resonate with me. They capture a feeling in music that I'd love to convey in words. This song is one of them. I particularly love this rendition, as Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel bring to it their long friendship and all the years that have passed and strengthened the ties between them. You know that, just like Galinda and Elphaba, Kristin and Idina have had conflict over the years of working together. Recognizing that friendship can survive conflict and come out the other side has incredible emotional resonance.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Free and First - A Little Backlist Love

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is A Little Love For Your Backlist: Promo/Blurb from one of your previously published books.

I thought I'd share LONEN'S WAR, which came out in 2016. It's the first book in my entirely self-published Fantasy Romance series, Sorcerous Moons. It's also a free read if you have Kindle Unlimited, or you can request a free copy while signing up for my newsletter.

 An Unquiet Heart

Alone in her tower, Princess Oria has spent too long studying her people’s barbarian enemies, the Destrye—and neglected the search for calm that will control her magic and release her to society. Her restlessness makes meditation hopeless and her fragility renders human companionship unbearable. Oria is near giving up. Then the Destrye attack, and her people’s lives depend on her handling of their prince… 

 A Fight Without Hope 

 When the cornered Destrye decided to strike back, Lonen never thought he’d live through the battle, let alone demand justice as a conqueror. And yet he must keep up his guard against the sorceress who speaks for the city. Oria’s people are devious, her claims of ignorance absurd. The frank honesty her eyes promise could be just one more layer of deception. 

A Savage Bargain 

 Fighting for time and trust, Oria and Lonen have one final sacrifice to choose… before an even greater threat consumes them all.

It's an apropos time to mention this book because I (finally) came out with the fifth book in the series, ORIA'S ENCHANTMENT, on January 23, 2019, and book 6, LONEN'S REIGN is available for preorder at Amazon and Smashwords, scheduled for release March 20, 2019! (I will get it up for preorder at more retailers as the date gets closer, possibly even on my own store on my new website!)

Also, speaking of backlists, you only have 4 days, 11 hours and 44 minutes (as I type this) to get the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. 16 books by 12 authors, and you can get the bundle for as little as $5, and support charity, too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

New Release: ORIA'S ENCHANTMENT by @JeffeKennedy #Fantasy #Romance

As proof Jeffe put in a lot of work last year, her second release for 2019 dropped this week. The fifth installment of her Sorcerous Moons fantasy romance series continues the adventure, the passion, and the challenges of Oria and Lonen's love.

Sorcerous Moons, Book 5

The Temptation of Power
No longer a princess and not yet a queen, the sorceress Oria welcomes the rush of power the ancient mask brings her—though the obsessive connection to it frightens her and alarms her barbarian husband, Lonen. But retreat is not an option. She must wrestle the magic to prevent an annihilating war, even if she must make the ultimate sacrifice.

A World in Flames
If Lonen wants to reclaim his throne—and save his people from destruction—he must return by sunset on the seventh day. What he thought would be a short and simple journey, however, leads them deeper into the mountains—and Oria deeper into the thrall of foul magic. Until he must choose between two terrible paths.

A Heart-Wrenching Choice
Struggling with conflicting loyalties, Oria and Lonen fight to find a way to be together… lest they be separated forever, and their realms go down in flames with them.

BUY IT NOW:  Amazon |  Nook |  Kobo

If you haven't started this amazing series yet, pick up Book 1, LONEN'S WAR today!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Jeffe's Sly FanFic Move

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "If you were going to write fan fiction, what show/characters/etc would you write?"

Now, I'm not an author who got her start by writing fan fiction. I totally respect that many writers developed their chops that way, but it frankly never occurred to me to do that. I fantasized plenty about the books I read, made up stories in those worlds where I got to be the hero - but I never thought to write them down. It seemed wrong to me.

The intervening years have seen a huge growth in the world of fan-fiction writing, and a legitimizing of it. Still, I've never done it and don't think I ever would.

That said...

In my Sorcerous Moons series, I gave my heroine a winged white lizard Familiar, who breathes fire and communicates with her telepathically. This is totally my version of Anne McCaffrey's fire lizards and dragons from her Pern books - one of my favorite daydream subjects.

So ... maybe the line between homage and fan fiction is a fine and narrow one. But it's an apropos topic for me, because ORIA'S ENCHANTMENT, book #5 in the Sorcerous Moons series, just released. Buy links are going live as I type this, but you can find them here as they're available.

The Temptation of Power
No longer a princess and not yet a queen, the sorceress Oria welcomes the rush of power the ancient mask brings her—though the obsessive connection to it frightens her and alarms her barbarian husband, Lonen. But retreat is not an option. She must wrestle the magic to prevent an annihilating war, even if she must make the ultimate sacrifice.
A World in Flames
If Lonen wants to reclaim his throne—and save his people from destruction—he must return by sunset on the seventh day. What he thought would be a short and simple journey, however, leads them deeper into the mountains—and Oria deeper into the thrall of foul magic. Until he must choose between two terrible paths.
A Heart-Wrenching Choice
Struggling with conflicting loyalties, Oria and Lonen fight to find a way to be together…
lest they be separated forever, and their realms go down in flames with them.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Artful Juggle: Planning Future Books While Keeping up with Current Deadlines

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven - the challenge of maintaining a writing schedule and trying to prepare for future business - is an apropos one for me right now.

Because, boy howdy, have I been wrestling this particular challenge lately.

I'm what we're calling a "hybrid" author these days, which means I publish both traditionally - with a publishing house - and I self-publish. I make my living this way and my income is roughly split between the two. In 2016 my income was 62% from self-publishing and 38% from traditional publishers. In 2017 it was 43%/57%. Pretty even at this point.

Obviously it's important to me to balance both sides of my writing career.

On the traditional side, that means meeting my deadlines. And not just the ones for drafting, though those are the big ones. Those are also the ones I know about from the time I see the contract. There are other deadlines - sometimes quite abrupt - for completing content revisions, line edits, copy edits and proofing. Sometimes those come in with a "We need it by the end of next week." That kind of thing can really impact the rest of my schedule, so I try to pad a bit, to allow for those things.

The traditional side also impacts my self-publishing schedule because many traditional contracts now include exclusionary clauses where I can't publish a novel in the same genre within a certain window on either side of a traditional book release.

On the self-publishing side, I have reader expectations to take into account. Because I don't have a legal contract with my readers - although I do take the author/reader contract very seriously - the self-publishing schedule tends to give way to the traditional schedule. Also, because I can't control the traditional publishing release schedule, I have to fit books in the same world into that timeline.

For example, people keep asking me if/when I'm going to finish the Sorcerous Moons series. That one has gotten seriously derailed. The main reason it has is because something had to give and that series isn't connected to anything else. But I WILL finish it! I'm planning to have books 5 and 6 out this fall, in quick succession. I had to keep up with the books in The Uncharted Realms series, to sync with the upcoming Chronicles of Dasnaria books.

(That's part of why I included the newly revealed cover of THE ARROWS OF THE HEART here. The cover is all ready, but the book is not. I ended up having to push it back some, to meet a traditional publishing deadline, alas. That's another part of the juggling act, getting all the pieces to come together at the same time, more or less.)

BUT, the trickiest part of this whole juggling act is the precise point of this week's topic: preparing for future business.

Because traditional publishing has such long lead times, I have to plan now for books that will come out two to three years from now. Another example: I began writing THE ORCHID THRONE last March. (March 15, 2017, to be exact.) By June 15, I'd written and polished just over a hundred pages of the book, plus proposal, working with Agent Sarah all that time to position the book in the market. By July we'd sold the book to St. Martins Press.

All that time, I was also writing on other projects. There's a lot of stopping and starting while working up a new series, waiting while Sarah read it, fitting it in around other deadlines, etc. Once we sold it, I could set it aside, because the completed book isn't due until July 15, 2018. A WHOLE YEAR after we sold it. And it won't come out until August of 2019, with Books 2 and 3 in 2020 and 2021.

All of this means that, to maintain the traditional publishing side of my career, I have to start thinking NOW about books and series I can sell that will start coming out in 2020 or so.

Talk about planning!

So, that's been my other thing - I've been working on a very exciting collaboration. A new series - new genre, even - and we're close to going on submission with it. It's a slower process, working with someone else, learning to write as part of a team, and also stretching me in good ways. That means, too, that it's taken creative energy away from my other writing projects, so that's part of the challenge.

And all good, too. Challenges make us grow, yes?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Trigger Warnings - Do We Need Them?

The first SFWA Fantasy Story Bundle has been selling like hotcakes! DO hotcakes sell, anyway? Maybe fast before they cool off too much. But these stories will keep. For only $5 you get four full-length novels and for $15 total, you can get all twelve. Keep them forever and read at your leisure! A great way to discover new-to-you authors while supporting both those authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, who does so much to advocate for the genre and the profession. The first book in my Sorcerous Moons fantasy romance series, Lonen's War, is a part of the bundle.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Trigger Warnings: When Subject Matter is Controversial.

This topic itself has become somewhat controversial in recent years, almost worthy of a trigger warning right there. The thing is, "controversial" doesn't equate to an actual trigger. The term comes from mental health circles, where "triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk." (Reference) Thus a "trigger warning" is intended to advise people with mental health issues of this variety that they may want to steer clear of the content. For example, a fictional rape scene might come with a trigger warning to advise victims of rape that reading could adversely affect them.

However, the term - as can be witnessed by the wording of our topic - has come to be associated with anything controversial in any way. The term "triggering" has become part of the modern lexicon for any topic that elicits a strong reaction. Or even a response that's out of the ordinary.

The thing is... art SHOULD elicit a reaction. Certainly out of the ordinary. Hopefully a strong one.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Sure, a lot of our entertainment is designed to be soothing, to lull us back into a level of numbness where we don't have to think or feel. With that sort of thing, mild is best. TV sitcoms strive to be amusing without being controversial in any way. The edgier comedies have more divided audiences, with equal numbers hating the show as love it.

Genre fiction is often escapist, yes - but I think the best kind also stirs grand emotions and ideas in us. That's what I love best, when a book moves me and makes me think about things I normally don't. But that's not being triggered.

I'm blessed enough to be more or less trigger-free. I have my hot button, sure, but I know what most of them are and I'm able to manage my responses for the most part. For people with actual triggers, I do try to be aware of what those might be and warning people appropriately. That's the compassionate thing to do.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Killing Prince Charming

Okay, so... the cover for THE FORESTS OF DRU isn't  *quite* ready, but here's a teaser. You guys, it's so pretty!! The good news is that the book is up for preorder now!! Just at Amazon so far, but the rest will be coming. Release date is January 24 for sure!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: Burning Bridges: Killing Off Characters in Your Fiction As a Plot Point.

I'd lay money down this topic is one of Jim's. The man loves to kill off characters, I tell you.

For me... I don't like to so much. But sometimes it's necessary. A lot of times I fight it, but death in fiction, as in life, is inevitable.

I'm going to talk about my book THE MARK OF THE TALA, the first of The Twelve Kingdoms books. If you haven't read it and don't want a huge spoiler, better stop now.

Okay? All the spoiler-nervous folks fled?

(Not like they couldn't guess from the title, though.)

So, THE MARK OF THE TALA ends with Hugh, the handsome and noble prince who marries Princess Amelia just before the start of the story, dying unexpectedly and brutally. As one guy who read the book said to me, "I can't believe you killed Prince Charming!"

I've quoted him a lot on that, because it does perfectly sum up what happens - and how I also felt about it. As I wrote that book, I fought the dread all along that Hugh would die. There's a recurring premonition where Princess Andi - the heroine of the story - sees Rayfe, the hero, dead in the snow. At the end, fate twists - because Andi changes it - and Hugh dies instead.

It really sucked and I cried over it.

But... Prince Charming had to die. While these books do end with Happily Ever Afters, as in life, those are only for some people. Others are passing through stages of grief and loss. This series, and the continuing saga in The Uncharted Realms are all in a way about loss of innocence. Or, at least, the loss of comforting illusions. Each heroine discovers the world isn't what she thought it was. The truth she discovers is often better in ways - certainly better for her - but each much shed the old beliefs of childhood to move forward.

For all of us, that means putting Prince Charming in the grave.

Because the idea of Prince Charming is one of the most profound illusions we're told. As an archetype he borders on ridiculous - forever riding about on his white charger, hair gleaming gold in the sun and noble visage in handsome profile. He is without flaw and utterly... dull. In THE MARK OF THE TALA, Hugh's essential flaw emerges in that his nobility blinds him. He can't see past it. And, in his zeal to be Prince Charming, he is ultimately the agent of his own demise.

Love this bit from Into the Woods. "He has charm for a prince, I guess - I don't meet a wide range."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Ones Who Gave Up: Great Cautionary Tales

At last, the much-anticipated next installment in the Sorcerous Moons series, THE TIDES OF BÁRA is out! About and Buy Links at the bottom of the page.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "My favorite great cautionary tale in the writing world."

This might even have been my suggestion, because I think it's really important to pay attention to the cautionary tales. Sure, there's an aspect of rubbernecking to these, or schadenfreude (or Franzenfreude, for a specifically literary metaphor). The key, however, is not to exult in the failures of others - because there but for the grace of the blessings of the universe go we - but to learn from them.

That's why they're Great Cautionary Tales. Don't cry wolf, don't be unnecessarily unkind, don't lose your soul to material possessions. Our core stories tend to be cautionary tales. It's up to us to take those cautions to heart and live by them.

There are many Great Cautionary Tales in the literary world, even more so with the internet ruthlessly detailing each to the miserable deaths of the final squirming pieces. I write a lot of them down and have been since I was a very newbie writer. In fact, lately I've been doing this enormous cleaning of my writing office, including files, and I found a set of notes I made back in 2000, when a writing teacher of mine won a prestigious statewide fellowship. We'd all applied, with shining puppy eyes, as we did every year. She won (deservedly), but showed up only for the awards ceremony rather than the associated conference, wearing scruffy jeans and called the honor "neat." My note says "Always remember to honor the honors you're given. Even if they seem small to you, they might be lofty goals for someone else."

When I finally received that same fellowship in 2006, I made sure to honor it.

But let's take a look at that. Six years between the disappointment of not winning -  yet again - and when I finally did. Ten years since I first applied for it.

I could cite a lot of Great Cautionary Tales, but with NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) on the horizon, I'm going to pick this one: Don't Give Up.

Or, put positively, Keep Going!

I'm thinking back to those days of my crit group, the starry eyed aspiring writers who all applied for that fellowship. There were twelve of us, more than half who went on to publish in some fashion (from literary magazines to novels), a third of whom won that selfsame fellowship and a quarter of whom are now dead. None of them were old women, either.

But one of them, who I'll call Diana, lingers on in my mind. She was older than me then, but I'm thinking she must have been about the age I am now. A professor's wife who'd spent most of her life raising a family, she wrote these incredible stories about the passive/aggressive rage in women who gave up their ambitions. Her stories were deftly told, lyrical, and explosive. When I read Meg Wolitzer's The Wife, I thought immediately of Diana. Of all of us, I thought she was the most talented writer.

I still do.

And she never published anything, that I know of. No, she's not one who died, that I know of.

She moved away when her husband retired and we fell out of touch. She has a common enough name that Googling her would be very nearly futile. Oddly resonant, that.

The reason she never published was not because of the gatekeepers, because she was rejected too many times, because she didn't want to learn to self-publish (which back then was highly suspect anyway). She didn't publish because she never submitted anything to anyone. We were the only people who read her work. When we encouraged her to send in a story, she'd demur and say it wasn't ready. Once she confided in me that she couldn't bear for it to be scrutinized and rejected, that it was enough for her to write it.

I tried to respect that, but I think of her from time to time with a sense of great regret. When last I heard from her, she said that, with her husband retired, she'd given up spending time and energy on writing.

She gave up.

I know a lot of writers who have. It's a difficult business, fraught with challenges and opportunities to throw in the towel. It's frighteningly easy to let a small break become a hiatus that becomes a sabbatical that - years later - turns out to be quitting. It doesn't get easier, either. Many writers give up after having multiple books published by Big 5 publishers.

I'm asking you not to be one of them. Because the writers I know who are successful are the ones who kept going no matter what. Not the most talented. Not even the most prolific. Just who kept going.

This is the great lesson of NaNoWriMo, as far as I'm concerned. Writing 50K in the 30 days of November teaches you to build a writing habit, yes - but it also teaches you to keep going. To "win" - to reach the goal - requires that you don't let anything get in the way of completing those words.

It's the most necessary skill for being a writer.

So I'm urging you all: KEEP GOING. If you want to write, WRITE. Let nothing get in the way. Never surrender.



A Narrow Escape 

With her secrets uncovered and her power-mad brother bent on her execution, Princess Oria has no sanctuary left. Her bid to make herself and her new barbarian husband rulers of walled Bára has failed. She and Lonen have no choice but to flee through the leagues of brutal desert between her home and his—certain death for a sorceress, and only a bit slower than the blade.

A Race Against Time 

At the mercy of a husband barely more than a stranger, Oria must war with her fears and her desires. Wild desert magic buffets her; her husband’s touch allures and burns. Lonen is pushed to the brink, sure he’s doomed his proud bride and all too aware of the restless, ruthless pursuit that follows…

A Danger Beyond Death… 

Can Oria trust a savage warrior, now that her strength has vanished? Can Lonen choose her against the future of his people? Alone together in the wastes, Lonen and Oria must forge a bond based on more than lust and power, or neither will survive the test…

Buy the Book

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cover Reveal and Teaser!

Guess what???

We have a cover for The Tides of Bára!!

It's so incredibly beautiful, I literally gasped out loud when I saw it. The incredibly talented Louisa Gallie knocked this one out of the park.

Want to see it?

Yeah, you know you do....






TA DAH!!!!


And, since I was supposed to write Autumn Equinox flash fiction today, and you all know how I feel about flash fiction....

Here's a snippet from the recently (like, last week) completed draft. Chuffta, Oria's small dragon Familiar, has turned out to be a bit of a firebug...


Closer by, Chuffta worked intently to drag what looked like a tree limb to a blazing bonfire. He had his wings spread and managed it by half-flying, half-hopping on one leg, and wrestling the thing with mouth, tail and the free foot.
“What are you doing?” she asked aloud, for Lonen’s benefit, though the words scraped her raw throat.
“I’m feeding the fire,” he chirped happily. “Keeping you warm!”
Lonen groaned. “Hey, man. Enough with the fire. You’ll roast us.”
“No?” Chuffta paused, releasing the limb with foot and mouth, but keeping his tail wrapped around it. He sounded terribly disappointed. He cocked his head at the fire. “Maybe just one more?”
“No more, please, Chuffta.” She rubbed at her gritty, sensitive eyes, though it only made them water more. She certainly wasn’t weeping. She blinked them open to find Lonen grinning and grimacing at once. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him,” she said, ducking her face so he wouldn’t see.
“I like fire! It’s hot.”
“His first time with fire?” Lonen suggested. “Other than your purple magic kind.”
“Could be.” She must have sounded dubious, because he shrugged.
“Some people are like that, obsessed with fire. Why not a derkesthai?”
“I’ve never played with fire before,” Chuffta confirmed. “It’s not like breath-flame, that runs out. As long as I keep putting wood, in there, it goes and goes.”

“You can build another one when we sleep tonight, how’s that?” she suggested. Chuffta grumbled, but agreed. He stayed by his fire, though, tail lovingly wrapped around the limb he’d wanted to add. 


This will be out October 29, and the books in the series can be found here on Amazon, or here on my website. The preorder links will be up soon!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Crafting the Cover

A timely topic for me this week as we just released book two in my Sorcerous Moons series, ORIA'S GAMBIT, which was a bit later going up than originally planned because we were tweaking the cover.

Okay - because I asked for a huge change after I saw the final cover. Here's the story.

See, I'm still new at designing my own covers. With my traditionally published books, like The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms, the covers are presented to me as a fait accompli. I get a little input at the beginning, but that's it. Because I'm publishing the Sorcerous Moons books on my own, I work with my cover artist, the amazingly talented and infinitely patient Louisa Gallie to come up with just the right cover.

We started with me sending Louisa the draft of the book. She read it (one of the perks for her, she claims) and sent me some initial sketch ideas.

I liked all of them, but none felt exactly right. This is the hard part for me. I have a really hard time envisioning what I think it should look like and communicating that.I kept coming back to look at them over several days and ended up saying:

I think none of these really sing to me, though I totally see what you’re going for. I like the action of #1, though not the exact pose. LOVE Chuffta flying and flaming and I like that background. I also like the background of #2. What about this? What about a pose similar to #2, but in her rooftop garden, with them at kind of a tense standoff and Chuffta flying and flaming above? And maybe she should be in her mask? It doesn’t have to be a scene directly out of the story. Though another thought could be something from the testing scene at the end. I’m just throwing stuff out here....

Louisa replied:

So, something like the pose of 2 but with the tilted, actiony angle of 1, Chuffta, and the background from 3? Trying to get the image straight in my head.
I can put her in her mask, it would work for a tenser scene if we can't see her expression. They're described as smooth and featureless but I seem to remember cheekbones mentioned. So would her mask be shaped with the contours of a face (cheekbones , nose, browbone) but without eyes or lips?

We went back and forth a bit and she worked on it from there and next sent me these sketches:

I still wasn't totally on board, though I wasn't sure why. I was finding that I couldn't get closer to knowing what I wanted by seeing what I *didn't* want. Louisa sent me a new sketch with this caveat:

My clients are never supposed to see this stage of a sketch, but as we're exploring...

I could turn him like this? I did increase the tilted view simply because two people standing side by side, facing the same way, can get boring quite quickly, and it adds some drama. I think maybe I'd want to angle him more behind her just to add some more depth and so they still look far apart (although technically it creates less distance between them on the canvas, which helps with a vertical aspect ratio.

Hear that crazy artist talk? I was all, sure, what you said. Though I pointed out that he should probably be holding the axe in his right hand.

Turns out that's easy to flip! She sent me three more sketches, along with this explanation:

Ok, I've sketched the amended poses out properly, and there's a flipped version so the axe is in Lonen's right hand. I think it maybe looks a bit better the original way, but it's really not much difference either way. So your call!
The only small difference between the two versions here is whether their hands have actual canvas space between them. They're not actually touching in either but if they're just barely not-touching, then technically their hands should overlap because of where Lonen is standing. It does also let me bring them closer together and make the figures a little....but looking at them now, there's no real huge difference. It's a tiny detail and I'd be ok with either.

I was liking it and we went with the flipped version. She sent the next sketch to let me know she was making progress and would be refining details.

I gave her a few thoughts and she sent the almost finals.

At this point I discovered I'd missed something along the way. Enough time had lapsed that I'd forgotten I'd asked for her to wear the mask! I'd been thinking her face just wasn't done and now... well, the mask looked creepy. Also I remembered that Lonen has a scar on his face! I said:

So, what I said about the scar: They locked eyes and wills. His, densely fringed with black lashes, were a dark gray, like the granite their sister-city to the north, Arvda, sent in trade. Surprisingly lovely, they would have made him look feminine but for the angry line of a recent scar that dragged from his forehead, skipped his eye, and continued down his cheek. Nearly missed losing that eye to whatever had sliced at him, something thin and sharp by the look of it.
 Lonen lay on his back, face relaxed so the scar that cut from his forehead, over one eye and down his cheek didn’t pull to the side as it did when he was awake. More scars criss-crossed his chest and concave belly—funny that her sgath didn’t show them.

As for the rest – looking good! Love how the title/fonts look.

Her left, upraised hand looks funky with the way her fingers are spread – can we bring them together?

Also, I think the mask needs to be smoothed. I’d forgotten that we’d talked about her wearing the mask and I was all wtf is wrong with her face?? Lol. So *I* didn’t see that it was a mask, so I think we need to make it more mask-y. A blank oval might work better to make this more obvious?

Can we add a moon to the sky? Either is fine. Maybe too hard with the text and Chuffta, too.
 And it there’s any way to make her hair look more copper (maybe there isn’t) that would be great.

At least she didn't kill me. That was still to come. She said:  

Ok. I really tried with the mask but a plain blank mask, or even one with eyes and no other features, looked totally bizzare. At a normal distance it looked like she had no face at all (like we'd forgotten to add it) and even when zoomed it it just looked weird and at best, sci-fi.  So, I did my best to smooth out the features and make it more metallic so it looks more mask like. What do you think?
Moon did conflict with the text and Chuffta so it's partially behind a cloud, but still there!
I adjusted her hand and gave her hair more coppery metallic tones.
 Unless theres' anything really critical (or really really tiny) this is all the time I have more changes, as I'm on a train after work tomorrow. I'll have a little time at lunch or first thing before work if there's anything very quick.
I'll upload the high res files now, crossing my fingers they're ok, and send you the links! 

And here's that cover: 

And... people - Louisa did an amazing job! But I *hated* the mask. I showed it to a few people and they all used variations of the word "offputting." We were at the drop-dead mark for getting the book released on time, Louisa had killed herself to get this finished by the deadline and was going away for the weekend. 
This wasn't tiny.
But I also didn't want to put it out there with an offputting cover. 
I emailed Louisa with the bad news and she exercised that infinite patience. Five days later, Oria had a face. 
I'm really pleased!
And now we're starting on the cover for book three, THE TIDES OF BÁRA. I'm sure Louisa is breathing a big sigh of relief, as I just approved the very first sketch.

About the Book

A Play For Power
Princess Oria has one chance to keep her word and stop her brother’s reign of terror: She must become queen. All she has to do is marry first. And marry Lonen, the barbarian king who defeated her city bare weeks ago, who can never join her in a marriage of minds, who can never even touch her—no matter how badly she wants him to.
A Fragile Bond
To rule is to suffer, but Lonen never thought his marriage would become a torment. Still, he’s a resourceful man. He can play the brute conqueror for Oria’s faceless officials and bide his time with his wife. And as he coaxes secrets from Oria, he may yet change their fate…
An Impossible Demand
With deception layering on deception, Lonen and Oria must claim the throne and brazen out the doubters. Failure means death— for them and their people.
But success might mean an alliance powerful beyond imagining…

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Clean Fire - Flash Fiction for James A. Moore

We're playing a game this week at the SFF Seven, writing flash fiction inspired by a book cover belonging to the writer who posts on the day after us.

This means I drew Jim.

Hee hee hee.

Oddly enough, it perfectly fits the world of the series I’m currently writing, Sorcerous Moons. Maybe I’ll end up using this. Cheers, Jim!


Fumes from the fire hung heavy in the desert air, only slightly less choking than the ever present grit. Another day, another sandstorm. And, naturally, a hot fire to eliminate the last wriggling bits. Her iron battle axe cleaved through the foully animated golems easily enough, but it wasn’t worth it to stay there, chopping them into pieces small enough to render them completely harmless. They’d emptied the city of all life already.

Might as well burn it to the ground and move on.