Tara West

YA paranormal/fantasy and New Adult author


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Deadly 777, Curse of the Ice Dragon

PJ Jones tagged me in a game, Deadly 777, where I get to post seven lines from page seven of my current WIP. I’m actually working on two books at the moment, my YA paranormal Whispers Book Four, Visions of the Witch, and a YA fantasy, Curse of the Ice Dragon. Here’s seven lines from Curse of the Ice Dragon, which is nearly completed. Cover will be coming soon as well! And a BIG KUDOS to my editor, Vickie Johnstone, for making these lines sparkle!

Rowlen laughed, his booming voice shaking the stagnant air. “My son will be a great man, a fierce hunter.”

“A hunter need not be fierce to feed his people. His skills must be tempered with kindness and compassion.” Dafuar’s eyes softened, saddened, before he closed them altogether.

Rowlen knew Dafuar was lost in distant memories; knew he would soon conjure up the old tale about the cursed hunter who was killed by the breath of the beast. The prophet had served him well this night, but he had no time for the old man’s foolish fairytales.

Okay, time to tag some friends. You also have to post seven lines from your current WIP. Well, you don’t HAVE to, but it would be fun if you played along. I know some of you have just finished a book. Maybe you can post seven lines from page seven of your new release: M. Edward McNally,  Sharon Bayliss, Julia Crane, Vickie Johnstone, Saranna DeWylde, Liz Grace Davis and Lizzy Ford.


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Confesions of a Cover Artist – Selina Fenech

Welcome to another installment of Confessions of a Cover Artist. When I saw Selina Fenech’s work I was blown away. Unlike me, Selina isn’t just a cover artist, she’s an amazing illustrator, who also has several illustrations in her YA dark fantasy novel, Memory’s Wake. Though the story looks awesome, I admit I bought her book mostly for the pictures and can’t wait to read it. It’s in my TBR pile right now. Though Selina isn’t currently taking clients until this fall, she still sells some amazing premades that would make beautiful cover art.

TW: How did you first get started as an artist? Was it always your plan to be an artist and a writer? Did one outlet influence the other?

SF: I’ve loved writing and drawing since I was a child. Illustrated books had a huge influence on me, mostly fairytales, and I always dreamed of being able to make pictures like the ones in the books. In high school I succumbed to peer pressure and stopped reading books as much (reading wasn’t considered cool at my school, such a shame!), and turned my attention more towards visual art, and pursued my art career from then onwards in one way or another (first I wanted to be a comic book artist, then a children’s book illustrator, then a graphic designer, then fantasy artist). I’ve thankfully been very successful with my artwork, and have made a living with my art since 2003. It was after a brush with cancer in 2008 that I decided I wanted to pursue my other childhood dream, of being an author. I’ve been putting a lot of my attention to that goal now. Part of me still loves the sequential art format (i.e. comics) and illustrated books, so my first book I released, Memory’s Wake, includes 44 illustrations I did specifically for it.

TW: What have you learned along the way?

SF: Getting into writing has been a steep learning curve, but so much fun. I had a story in my mind for years that I wanted to share, but I realised I hadn’t really learned the craft of storytelling, or the craft or writing. I didn’t just want to throw words on a page just to say I wrote a book and get my story done, I wanted it to be done well. I wanted to learn how to write well. In the past four years since I really dove back into writing, I’ve probably bought and studied about fifty books on the art of writing and storytelling, and read many more online tutorials. I joined online critique groups (specifically sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com was fantastic) where I learned from other writers. I made a conscious decision to approach storytelling with the same professionalism as I did my art career.

TW: What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing art?

SF: Human proportions have always been difficult, and I made a lot of mistakes with them early on. Once I even drew a character’s foot on back-to-front (they were sitting cross legged and I didn’t think enough about how the foot came out of that). As a practice in humility, I keep an almost complete archive of all my artwork at http://selinafenech.com/archives/ so that people can see all my old and embarrassing work.

TW: Do you design art for covers on commission? How does an author go about using your art for a cover?

SF: I’ve been closed to commissioned art for many years now. Like many artists, I was burned by one or two bad clients, and as I didn’t need the commission money anymore I stopped taking them. Here’s the big BUT- I’ve been loving being part of the indie author community, and would love to offer my artwork to other indie authors for their covers. Right now, I’m midway through an illustration project for a publisher with a looming deadline and much work still to do, but once it’s done (November 2012) I’m planning to open up to book cover commissions again! Until then, many of my existing artworks are available for use on covers. If an author is interested, just get in touch and we’ll work something out.

TW: List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

  • Indicative of the genre/target reader
  • Relevant to the story
  • Professional typography (many covers, no matter how great the image, are let down by bad typography.)
  • An eye catching image (or eye catching text and design if there is no actual image)
  • True to the story- more something that annoys me personally, where a detail on the cover doesn’t match the story, e.g. model’s eye colour is incorrect.

TW: What are common mistakes indie authors make when designing their own covers?

SF: Poor typography is one of the hallmarks of self-published covers. Even complete amateurs with a decent eye and good taste can put together some great looking graphics, but typography is an art form in itself, and without some understanding of the art and science of type, it’s rare that the text on a book cover is going to look good.

TW: What advice would you give to the indie author trying to design cover art?

SF: On typography again, if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, follow the Keep It Simple rule. No more than two fonts on the cover (including variations of the same font), and a simple ALL CAPS, Serif font (Trajan is great, widely used on movie posters) will keep things classy with little room for error. Check out some professional book covers and see how they lay out their text as a guide as well, although, many mass published books will have the author name way more prominent than the title itself. For Indie authors, it’s probably better to have a bit more balance, or emphasis on title instead of name.

TW: What software do you use to create art? Where do you go for inspiration?

SF: I almost exclusively use Photoshop CS5 for all my design work and also my digital painting work. I am also spoiled in owning a Wacom 24HD, which is a pressure sensitive screen for digital art. I paint straight into the screen!

TW: Tell us a little about your novels. Where can we buy them?

SF: I write exclusively to the young adult market so far. My first novel, Memory’s Wake, is a dark fantasy with a Victorian flavor, and Emotionally Charged is a paranormal romance novella, about super-powered teens who’s abilities are charged by other people’s emotions.

TW: Memory’s Wake synopsis:

SF: Lost in a world of magic and monstrous fairies, a troubled sixteen-year-old with no memories must discover who she is, before she is discovered by those who want her dead.

Thanks, Selina for stopping by my site and sharing your beautiful drawings. I can’t wait to read Memory’s Wake. 🙂 Tara

Selina Fenech – Portfolio Website

www.selinafenech.com

Fairies and Fantasy Pty Ltd – Selina’s Online Art Store

http://www.fairiesandfantasy.com

Memory’s Wake – Illustrated Fantasy Novel by Selina Fenech

www.memoryswake.com


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Confessions of a Cover Artist – Char Adlesperger

Char Adlesperger was recommended by a few authors on KindleBoards. Her site, Wicked Cover Designs, is truly wicked. I love her use of color, tones and her ability to manipulate a common stock photo into something totally unique.  Please welcome Char to Confessions of a Cover Artist, and if you like what you see, check out more of her Wicked Designs at her website.

TW: Why do you design cover art? How did you first get started?

A: I started out designing my own book covers first when I was 13 for my own books, now 5 years later I do it because not only do I enjoy it, but I provide a cheaper service than what I ever found. It give authors a good deal as well as a professional and great looking cover for their books.

 TW: What have you learned along the way?

A: I learned alot of things as I’ve gone along. I found there is a style to each genre and you can’t just do any cover for a book. A cover for Fantasy won’t really fit a Historical Romance, I think, haha.

TW: What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?

A: They were the wrong size, I used to do 6×10 before I found out I have to use 5×8 or 6×9.

 TW: List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover. 

  •  1) The image, its what draws in the reader. Something cheap looking at a higher price is not going to sell well.
  • 2) The font, you cover font MUST go with the cover design, it has to fit like a glove otherwise the wrong font can suggesst a whole different meaning then you want.
  • 3) Color, your color theme should match the mood of the book.
  • 4) Where you put your text, you wouldn’t want to cover up the most important part of your cover images, or make it look unpro. Placement is just as important as the words.
  • 5) Overall look, it has to look beautiful big AND in thumbnail.

TW: What are common mistakes indie authors make when designing their own covers?

A: They (most) just take any picture and slap some words on it. Cover is much more than that. You need the right image and you have to pay for it if you want to publish your book. Anything that drives me crazy if picking a font that looks beter in crayon on paper. Using pro font saves you alot of trouble, and never, NEVER use a color that blends right in or in an opposite color to the cover theme. Stick to the light colors in themes of whites with a tint of the color you want. Dropshadows behind the text on a cover will save your cover’s life!

TW: What advice would you give to the indie author trying to design cover art?

A: I would suggesst it unless you have experince and go to college (or just classes) for it like many of us had. I have years behind me even though I’m just 18 and some of the first years weren’t my best. I didn’t start selling covers and making them until I was in my first year over college at 17 with a few months of classes to teach me enough.

Go to a pro like me or one of the others. Some of us have prices for the selfpub author so you can afford it! We do this for a reason! My prices are between $35 and $75 unless you want a cover package which includes a lot more then just the cover. A friend of mine who has been a designer for over 10+ years charges anywhere between $450 to $1000.

Go to someone who does it for a living and who you can afford. Never do a cover yourself if you don’t have the skills, you will kill you book sales.

TW: What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?

A: My average cover turn around the last few years has been 3-5 days at max, unless issues come up with the cover or author.

TW: What software do you use to create covers? Where do you go for images?

A: I use the newest verisons of PhotoShop CS, the past year I have been working in CS5 which is a program all professional designers use. If you can’t afford the good stuff like you need the quliaty for your products takes a serious hit.

TW: Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?

A: I always ask for:

  • Book Title:
  • Author Name:
  • Tagline(s):
  • Subtitle:
  • Summary:
  • Cover Idea:
  • And we disscuss what they would like to see.

TW: If you suddenly lost your skilz, who would you hire to design your cover art?

A: Another one of Jimmy Thomas’s great designers! I have worked with him since January and love him and I love some of his great designers. I think Cesena Emilia (Cora) is one of my faves!

TW: Why do you enjoy working with indie authors?

A: Most of the ones I work with are so friendly! Something as an artist we get caught in crossfires over things that they would like done, but they are so nice and relaxed if we have a problem and things go better for it. Plus they have a sense of humor normal people just don’t and thats fun as well!

TW: Do you also write? If so, what genres? Do you think being an author makes you a better artist? How so?

A: Yes, I also write books. I have written 9 books so far (one soon to be published!) and I tend to hop for YA Fantasy, to Historical Romance, and even just Romance 😉 I think it helps some of the times, but when it come to doing a cover you get picky about everything being just right! Everything can always improve!

Please check out Char’s amazing covers at: http://www.wicked-art.wix.com/wicked-cover-designs


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Love Fantasy YA? Check out this giveaway by author Krystal Wade

Here’s your chance to win a signed book by author, Krystal Wade.  She’s giving a signed copy of Wilde’s Fire away to celebrate the upcoming release of Wilde’s Army–the second in the series. What do you think of this awesome cover? I didn’t design it, but I sure like it. Just click on the Rafflecopter link to enter:
Update: Sorry folks but WordPress is just not showing the giveaway icon, but if you click on the entry form, it will take you to the entry form on Sharon Bayliss’s blog.
Book Blurb: “Hello, Katriona.”

Those two words spark fear in Katriona Wilde and give way to an unlikely partnership with Perth, the man she’s been traded to marry for a favor. Saving her true love and protector Arland, her family, and their soldiers keeps her motivated, but the at-odds duo soon realizes trust is something that comes and goes with each breath of Encardia’s rotting, stagnant air. The moment when concern for her missing sister spirals out of control, all thoughts of trust are pushed aside and she finds herself trapped by the daemon tricks Perth warned her of.
However, rescuing those she loves is only half the problem.
Kate still must get to Willow Falls, unite her clashing people, and form an army prepared to fight in order to defeat Darkness. When so many she’s grown fond of die along the journey, her ability to play by the gods’ rules is tested.
How will she make allies when the world appears stacked against her? And will she still be Katriona Wilde, the girl with fire?

For more on Krystal Wade, please visit her website.


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Ugh

Well, after an awesome birthday celebration with my bud, Shea MacLeod, I’m home sick this week with something nasty that settled in my chest. Cough, hack, wheeze. No fun.

 The good news is that I’m not letting that stop me from working on my latest Whispers book with Heather Marie Adkins. I’ve also got a bonus short ghost story, The Smell of Death, releasing this Friday with my good friends at Curiosity Quills Press. Please stop by there this week and check it out. I’ll post a link when it’s up. If you like Krysta’s Curse, you’ll like The Smell of Death, about a young girl with powers much like Krysta’s.

And speaking of Krysta, here’s a scene from my next Whispers novel, Visions of the Witch. Without giving away too many spoilers, AJ was just in a car accident and Krysta is in the hospital waiting room.

“Do you want to play with me?”

She couldn’t have been older than five. She was adorable. Pudgy hands and cheeks, big brown eyes, dark, curly hair. She actually looked a lot like me when I was little. I tried to imagine her with olive skin like mine, but this child’s skin was deathly pale with a slight blue tint. Her tattered dress dripped with what looked like water. She had a large gash on her temple.

I stifled a sob before plastering on a smile. “I’d love to, but if I played with you, people would think I was crazy.”

I quickly scanned the few people in the hospital waiting room. A middle-aged couple was gawking at me. An elderly woman had moved to the far side of the room while she glared at me from beneath her lashes. They probably thought I’d escaped from the mental ward. The only person in the room who knew I wasn’t crazy was Sophie, but my BFF was snoring on the bench next to me.

I sighed while rolling my eyes. “They probably already think I’m crazy.” After all, to an outsider it must have looked like I was talking to myself.

“That’s okay.” The little girl shrugged. “There are other kids here.”

“I know.” I nodded, as again, I fought to hold back the tears. “I’ve seen them.”

Gawd, how I hated hospitals. Hated them. I’d never seen more dead people in all my life.

The little girl scrunched her brows. “How do you see us?”

“I’ve been curse—gifted with the power to see spirits.”  I tilted my chin and tried my best to sound upbeat. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about ghosts, they don’t respond well when the living cry, scream or faint when they see them.

Her eyes brightened with an unnatural glow. “My brother is here, too. Do you want to meet him?

“Sure,” I said, but then I spied AJ’s mom, Mrs. Dawson, out of the corner of my eye.

She was walking briskly toward me while waving me over. Her eyes were puffy and red, just like they’d been the past five days, but thankfully, this time she was actually smiling.

I leaned over and shook Sophie.

She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What is it?” Sophie mumbled. “Is AJ okay?”

Mrs. Dawson had turned and was walking back down the hallway.

A jolt of excitement shot through my spine. “I think so,” I said. Then I turned toward the little girl. “I’ve got to go and see another friend. I’ll catch you later, okay?”

She smiled and waved goodbye.

As I watched the child’s reflection disappear, I thought of AJ and how, for five long days I’d been expecting to see AJ’s ghost visiting me in the waiting room instead.

I looked over at Sophie who was still untangling herself from her blankets. She had turned the hospital waiting room into her own personal bedroom, preferring to sleep there rather than to stay awake and listen to all of the depressing thoughts of the hospital patients and their families.

This was such a horrible place. The last place people like Sophie and I needed to be camping out.

Hot tears slipped over the rims of my eyelids and down my face. My nose dripped, and I had nothing to wipe it but an old napkin I had to dig out of my purse. I flipped open my little cosmetic mirror and stole a quick glance at my reflection while Sophie put on her socks and shoes. My eyeliner was smeared. My skin was blotchy. My hair looked like an electrified mop. Before AJ’s accident, I’d never been caught dead in public without my makeup looking perfect.

But almost losing your best friend puts life into clearer perspective.

At the moment the only thing I cared about was if AJ was going to live.


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Some folks have asked me why I host a column where I basically promote my competition. First off, I know that as an artist, I can learn a lot from other artists by admiring their covers. Second, I think artists, like authors, should support one another. Third, I don’t see other artists as competition, especially as my primary focus has to be writing and I am not taking on new cover clients.

When I put the call out on Kindleboards, author Melanie Ray recommended Karri for a Confessions interview. I was absolutely stunned by Karri’s portfolio. I love Karri’s composition and her warm and vivid tones. I could tell that she has a photography background just by looking at her covers. My favorite cover would have to be Primal. Look at the warm tones on the woman’s skin in contrast to the gruesome hand. Each of her covers is unique and has a at least one element that ‘pops’, which is crucial for getting readers to take notice. Look at the rose in LA Caveman or the unique composition in Coke with a Twist. So without further ado, please welcome Karri, and don’t forget to leave comments. Artists, like authors, LOVE when we praise their work.  

Why do you design cover art? How did you first get started?

I have had my hands in digital art as a hobby for over 15 yrs, and have been selling my photography and fine art on the web for about the past 5. I remember when I started that, I was following an author online. She would post a chapter at time, and then finally got picked up by a small publisher. I believe this was before the self publishing took off. She was all excited and blogging about it. The book that was being published was my absolute favorite of hers, so I was excited for her too. Then she posted the cover. My first thought when I saw it was “man, I could do better” I kept my mouth shut because I knew she had a friend make it, and of course I bought the paperback version. But that started the little spark in the back of my brain. I’d like to make a book cover, just once.

Life happened, and a few years went by. I had been a stay at home mom for the past several years, including caring for my ill mother. Both of my children started school and my husband and I decided I needed a job; we need just a slight boost in income. I spent over a year off and trying to find a job and taking care of the family. I finally found one, it wasn’t much, but they were willing to work around my mother and kids, and at the last minute, it fell through. So in a moment of what felt like desperation, I started hitting the freelance websites looking for any small tidbit of work. I started noticing eBook and print book covers in other artist’s portfolios, which reignited that spark in the back of my brain. I want to make a book cover, just once, to say I did. I then discovered the job boards on Deviant Art. So I thought, what the heck, and posted a thread there offering a free eBook cover.

The first person to respond to me, introduced himself, said he wasn’t in the market for a cover right now, but asked if he could post a link to my offer on this mysterious message boards called the “Kindleboards.”

And so it began. I did a few free ones to start building up a portfolio, discovered I actually have a niche for it, and it’s grown from there. I don’t think I have ever properly thanked the man who brought me to the Kindleboards, you know who you are. Thank you! This has been a Godsend for me and my family! And I LOVE doing it!

What have you learned along the way?

I’ve learned communication and patience goes a long way. Just because the majority of my clients are authors, doesn’t mean they can describe exactly how they see their cover turning out. It might take a few tries, but we’ll get there.

What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?

What? I’m not allowed to make mistakes anymore! No one sent me that memo! To be honest, I’m still learning as I go.

List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

  • Typography. Is it readable? Does it suite the Genre?
  • Balance and Composition. Is the overall image balanced? Is it too cluttered? Too blank?
  • Professionalism. Does it look professional? Or does it look like you slapped a title over a stock image?
  • Originality. Will it stand out amongst the thousands of other covers in its genre? The story inside is an original creation of the author’s mind, does the cover match that same feel?
  • This one pertains to eBooks, since that’s mostly in what I deal with. THUMBNAIL. It’s got to look good in thumbnail size!

What are common mistakes that indie authors make when designing their own covers?

*Looks around making sure there are no indie authors with pitchforks ready to attack*

Using unedited stock art, I see that a lot. They find an image they like, then slap a title on it and call it good. Even if you don’t have a lot of editing skills or tools, tweak it at least a little bit to make it more your own.

What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?

That varies with the client, what they want done, communication back and forth, and what other work I have going. The longest it has ever taken me on one cover was 2 weeks, but that was under extenuating circumstances. Typically 1-2 days, up to a week, depending on revisions.

What software do you use to create covers? Where do you go for images?

Mostly I use Adobe Photoshop CS5. If I’m hand drawing the cover, I might use Illustrator or (coughs) WinPC Sign, but even with vector drawings I’ve become comfortable using Photoshop.

As for the images I use, that varies greatly. Sometimes I’m lucky, and the author sends me the images they want used. Either of their own or ones they purchased. I try to use free stock as much as possible, though that is not always possible. Deviantart.com is an excellent resource, as long as you make SURE of licensing and commercial use. I use Dreamstime.org, Wikimedia Commons, and several other places through out the web.

And a lot of the time, I take the pictures myself. I’ll let you in on a little secret.  There are covers with my hand, lingerie, legs, photo albums, knives, cupcakes, etc on them. Sometimes it’s just easier to take your own picture than search the web for the right angle!

Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?

Well for starters, I’d like to know what they see on their cover. I need a description of the characters if they want them on the cover, at least a summary of the story line and genre. Sometimes I’m told exactly what they want, other times, they have no clue and I wind up reading a portion or all of the story until I “see” the image.

If you suddenly lost your skilz, who would you hire to design your cover art?

Oh a tough one! If I suddenly lost my skills, I think I’d recommend Dara England.

If you’d like to see more of Karri’s AMAZING work, vist her website: http://www.artbykarri.com

If you’d like Karri to design your next cover, contact her here:  kklawiter@gmail.com