Behind the Cover

I’ve never been one for following rote advice or rules. Like Laith, one of the narrators of Mage and Source, “Emily does what Emily wants,” and in the case of my Tales of Blood & Light covers, Emily wanted to make them herself, so she did, against the advice of just about everybody, everywhere.

That said, I’ve learned a lot by going the independent route (as usual), and I certainly beefed up my Photoshop skills, which were a bit rusty after a stint many years ago as a photo doctor in a psych lab in college. (Side note: back then I was editing images of Breyer horses and yearbook pictures for a study on prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces, in case you were curious.)

I always enjoy learning by doing, and working on my own covers has allowed me to do that.

While my favorite cover thus far is Sterling’s–all the pieces just fit together so well to get a striking image–there is a big “darling” in the Mage and Source cover that I wanted to share because I love it so much.

Here’s the Mage and Source cover:

ms

Take special note of the interesting background colors and textures, the iridescent greens, blues, and violets. Those colors came from an image of a very specific thing. Can you guess what?

In the series thus far, each cover’s dominant color has represented the aetherlight color of the narrator. In Mage and Source, I have two narrators, and thus I needed to represent two colors on the cover, neither completely overpowering the other.

I am a relentless hunter of interesting public domain images, and I finally found one that I thought would serve as a good background image for Laith and Elena’s colors. It was this one:

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from the USGA Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab’s Flickr stream. Government science images make my nerdy heart happy.

This is an image of a bee’s wing. Specifically, it is the wing of a female Xylocopa carpenter bee from Thailand. It was so cool I had to use it on my cover!

The rest of the images were sourced from more mundane stock photograph sites. The bird of paradise flower image in the center represents a fictional night queen bloom.

You’ll have to read the book to see how the night queen bloom and the bee’s wings relate to the story!

You can pre-order Mage and Source here.

Add it on Goodreads here.

 

Seven Questions: Margaret Locke

I’m happy to welcome Margaret Locke to my blog for her third round of Seven Questions. Her latest book is The Demon Duke, a Regency romance with an unusual hero.

As a teen, Margaret pledged to write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion.

Now happily ensconced again in the clutches of her first crush (romance novels!), Margaret is never happier than when sharing her passion for a grand Happy Ever After. Because love matters.

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.

 Read on to learn more!

Anne2

1-Margaret, this is your fourth book. Wow! How has your book-writing process changed between Book 1 and Book 4?

I’d like to think I’ve gotten better. Each book has actually proven a quite difference experience:

A Man of Character I plotted out and wrote and re-wrote for four years before publishing it.

A Matter of Time I drafted as a NaNoWriMo project (my first!) in the middle of working on A Man of Character, but I took a year after the first book’s publication to tinker with the second.

I’d written a draft during my second NaNo of what I thought would be book three in the series (what evolved into The Demon Duke), only to realize a different story needed to come first. So, for the first time, I wrote, edited, re-edited, re-edited, and finished a novel, A Scandalous Matter, in six months. I don’t think that’s something I care to repeat – at least not while I still have kids at home!

For The Demon Duke, as I said, I had a draft, but I took more time to hone it, and ended up changing a fair amount, as my skills in writing (or at least my knowledge of better practices) had increased.

Now I find myself back at the drawing board, no complete drafts in my pocket – but I think I have a better sense now of what works and doesn’t work. Though they take time, character sketches, timelines, spreadsheets listing names and characteristics, and loose outlines work much better for me than winging it.

 

2-Which phase of the book process do you enjoy most and why?

 Definitely writing the initial draft. Everything feels new and fun, and I’m convinced I’m hilarious and this book is awesome and everything is perfect.

Until I re-read it. Until my editor reads it and sends me back revisions. The editing phase is not my favorite (read: nails on a chalkboard / chocolate-deprivation level dislike), BUT I’m learning to look forward to the final edits, as I’ve seen the story morph from “best EVER!” through “this totally sucks, who am I kidding?” to “maybe it’s not so bad after all.”

And getting the print copy in the mail is one of the best feelings there is, hands-down. It all feels real then.

 

3-Novels are a tough form, time-consuming and sometimes underappreciated in the world. What keeps you motivated?

Guilt and fear. What, that’s not a good answer? Okay, the characters bugging me in my head, the readers asking for more stories, the pleasure of that first draft – and guilt and fear.

Guilt, because if I’m not working on a book, I’m often wasting vast amounts of time on things like Facebook and Two Dots (okay, yeah, I admit – I do that even when I am working on a book!).

Fear, because what would I do if I didn’t do this? As someone with almost a PhD (I did everything but finish the dissertation) in medieval history from twenty years ago, what marketable skills do I have now?

But also love.

Because love matters. Love stories matter. And I truly do love writing them. Yes, it’s hard work. I still have a lot to learn, still have great ways in which to improve. But when my own eyes well up, my own giggles escape, my own heart aches at a scene I’ve written? When readers tell me they love my books? When I realize I get to do something I love as my job? That’s what truly keeps me going.

That, and chocolate.

 

4-Do your book ideas arrive in your head in a particular way? As images, as opening scenes or sentences, as characters, as conflicts? Tell us a little about idea generation, brainstorming, and how you come up with a story? Once you have an idea, what are the next steps?

 It varies. For A Man of Character, it was the opening question, What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?, that launched the whole thing. From that question, I mused on what kind of men someone would fantasize about at different points in their life, etc., and sketched out a story.

I think characters come to mind first, and then I imagine what might befall them, or who might suit them best. For example, Amara, the heroine from A Scandalous Matter, evolved as a reaction of sorts against my first two heroines. Both Cat from A Man of Character and Eliza from A Matter of Time were rather circumspect in their sexual attitudes and behaviors. I decided I needed a female character more driven by physical pleasure, and along came Amara.

For The Demon Duke, I knew what his affliction would be, and I knew who his physical inspiration was (Ian Somerhalder of Vampire Diaries fame). From there, I brainstormed on how his struggles might shape his life—and his reaction to love.

I’ve sketched story ideas out in great detail and I’ve done a more pantser approach where I make up everything as I go along. I’ve learned I do best when I let ideas percolate in my head and then eventually write them all down and plot things out. I do tend to have different ideas about different books pop into my head at any given time, though. I guess those characters don’t always care that I’d like to proceed in clear, linear fashion, thank you very much!

 

5-You have been recruited as an experimental space traveller. You are allowed to bring only what you can carry in a small backpack. What do you pack?

 May I bring along Hermione’s Bag of Holding? In which I could stuff, you know, a T.A.R.D.I.S.? No? Well, then, I suppose I’d want a camera with a massive amount of storage, water, pain meds, chocolate, a Kindle, battery chargers, a pen, paper, and a cat.

 

6-It turns out that your experimental space ship has malfunctioned, and instead of traveling through space, you’re traveling through time. What era/year will be your desired destination? And why?

I knew you were going to do that to me! I certainly would like to visit Regency England, to see if it was anything at all like the society we read about in novels (both Austen and modern romances), but tops on my list would be ancient Rome. I’d really love to see it in its heyday. I’d also want to visit Charlemagne’s court, and that of Otto the Great, and go back to learn who built Stonehenge and why, and zip off to Renaissance Italy, and maybe colonial America.

But I think I’d want to be like Scrooge – just popping in and out, invisible. Because a) I wouldn’t want to mess up history, and b) I’m really fond of air conditioning, and I’d eventually run out of chocolate.

 

7-Tell us a bit about your next book (or books)?

 Next up is The Legendary Duke, the second in my Put Up Your Dukes Regency series, based loosely on the Arthurian legend of Gawain and the Green Knight. It’s been years – since grad school days – that I’ve studied Arthurian lore, so I’m really looking forward to that, especially since the third book in the series, The Once and Future Duke, also has Arthurian connections, as you might have guessed from the title.

Oh, and somewhere in there, I want to write book four in the Magic of Love series. Because Sophie Mattersley needs her story told.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Emily!

Learn more about Margaret on her website: http://margaretlocke.com

Get The Demon Duke now on Amazon or at other outlets:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

The-Demon-Duke-Kindle

Behind every good man is a great secret.

Banished to Yorkshire as a boy for faults his father failed to beat out of him, Damon Blackbourne has no use for English society and had vowed never to return to his family’s estate at Thorne Hill, much less London. However, when his father and brother die in a freak carriage accident, it falls on Damon to take up the mantle of the Malford dukedom, and to introduce his sisters to London Society–his worst nightmare come to life.

He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The beautiful debutante stirs him body and soul with her deep chocolate eyes and hesitant smiles. Until she stumbles across his dark secret.

Bookish Grace much prefers solitude and reading to social just-about-anything. Her family may be pressuring her to take on the London Season to find herself a husband, but she has other ideas. Such as writing a novel of her own. But she has no idea how to deal with the Duke of Malford.

Will she betray him to the world? Or will she be his saving Grace?

Seven Questions: Allison K. García

I recently had the pleasure of formatting Allison K. García’s first novel, Vivir El Dream, a story of life in America for Mexican immigrants and their families. It gave me a chance to practice my rusty Spanish as I checked endnotes that translated the Spanish material in the book into English.

Allison is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, she has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians from Mexico as they attempt to make a life in the United States.

Allison K. Garcia

Welcome, Allison!

1-Pitch your book in three sentences or less.

The fates of an undocumented college student and her mother intertwine with a suicidal businessman’s. As circumstances worsen, will their faith carry them through or will their fears drag them down?

 

2-Is your book indie-published or traditionally published? Tell us a little about that journey.

Indie published. Well, this has been a five-year journey for me! I wrote this book during 2012 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, November) and had been hoping to get it published traditionally in the Christian market. I bumped up against a lot of barriers, mostly because there is not a lot of diverse Christian fiction on the market right now and because this might be one of the first English-language Latino Christian fiction books. Long story short, it’s a new genre, so a lot of Christian agents weren’t sure how to market it (not to mention the fact that it deals with undocumented Christians, which is a hot topic). The secular market doesn’t like dealing with Christian fiction, so I wasn’t able to go that route either. So, after much praying and consulting with other writerly friends, I decided to go the indie route. I felt called to write this book, and I feel the world needs to see it, especially with everything going on right now. Then came the whirlwind of indie publishing, which I am still in the midst of figuring out. Thankfully, I have plenty of friends who indie publish, so they have been awesome at answering my many, many questions during the journey.

3-What are your favorite genres/books to read, and do you think this affects your writing? How?

Well, I love reading diverse books, I find myself drawn to them. And I’m a sucker for classics like the Brontës, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, etc. I love stories about people and their lives and struggles. I love epic fiction, as well. As long as it has a good story with interesting characters, you’ve got me!

4-What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Two come to mind. I love going to my American Christian Fiction Writers conferences and spending time with my local chapter, because they often remind me why I’m writing Christian fiction and get my head back in the right spot.

Also I had a Creative Writing teacher in high school, Ms. Whiting. She said, “Allison, you write, “And then she slowly walked over to the door, step by step, raised her hand to the knob, and twisted her hand to the right, allowing the door to creak open.’ Sometimes you just need to say, ‘She opened the door.’” That has stuck with me.

5-How do you fit your writing into a busy life?

I write and edit in the mornings before my toddler wakes up. I’m up at 5 and he usually is up between 7-8am, so I have a solid 2-3 hrs to write.

6-What is your favorite book that you would categorize as similar to Vivir El Dream?

I would like to say Like Water for Chocolate because of its Mexican culture, how it talks a lot about cooking and has humor and a bit of romance, but also deals with some tough issues.

7-What’s your secret superpower?

The ability to catch a falling toddler in a single bound! Just kidding…sort of…one of my hidden talents is cooking from scratch. My proudest example was making lasagna from scratch…like for real. I made the mozzarella and ricotta cheese, I made the noodles from flour, egg, etc. and I made the marinara from my homegrown tomatoes and herbs from my garden. I felt pretty Italian in that moment! I channeled my Italian ancestors for sure!

So many thanks to Allison for appearing for Seven Questions on my blog.

You can get Vivir El Dream on Amazon here.

Vivir el Dream Kindle cover

Vivir El Dream

Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?

 

 

Goals: May 2017

Somehow May crept up on me very quickly. The sun is finally shining in California, which should help me get up earlier and get more writing done.

Last month’s goals were:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting. I got about halfway through this, as a sudden adventure in Twitter pitching forced me to shift gears to do a revision on The Eighth Octave instead. I finished the EO revision, so I’ll count this as a CHECK!
  2. FINISH draft of musical magic co-write. Not only did Tamara and I finish it– we did a massive revision AND submitted a pitch. CHECK! 
  3. ODDS & ENDS (this includes working on some editing and formatting projects for others, mainly). Odds & Ends turned into a bigger category with a couple unexpected formatting jobs. I’m getting them done. CHECK!

Goals for May are:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting FINISH
  2. RE-READ The Eighth Octave Draft
  3. FINISH various formatting jobs

The Infernal Clock

My flash fiction buddies have been up to their old shenanigans, and after a random episode of tweeting brilliance, David Shakes came up with another cool flash fiction book concept, The Infernal Clock, a horror story for each hour of the day.

My hour, assigned late in the game, was 2 a.m. I have played around with horror as an exercise over the years, but I admit, I find it one of the hardest genres as a writer. My story, Karen’s Babies, was one of many stories I have written in my life to which I didn’t want to attach my name. But, I took a deep breath and did it anyway, as an exercise in detaching from my creations. Just because I wrote something dark and twisted, it doesn’t mean I am dark and twisted.

Right?

I had the privilege of working with David Shakes and Steph Ellis, the curators of this volume, to produce the final product in e-book and print form. The incomparable Tamara Rogers made the cover.

get e-book here

get print book here

INfernal Clock Kindle Cover

 

 

Goals : April : 2017

It’s time to review and post goals for another month. I was smart last month and kept my goals simple:

  1. FINISH  Mage & Source  revision. CHECK–I did this and sent to Tamara Shoemaker for line edits. That’s a relief.
  2. START musical magic co-write. CHECK–this is going very well. Tamara and I have nearly created a very rough draft for the entire book. We estimate 2-4 more chapters, plus an epilogue.
  3. READ through newly revised River Running and send to beta readers. CHECK–this one is off with a beta reader right now.

I’m going to keep it simple for April, too:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting.
  2. FINISH draft of musical magic co-write.
  3. ODDS & ENDS (this includes working on some editing and formatting projects for others, mainly).

Deleted Scene : More Hinge Backstory

This little snippet was originally in The Gantean, a piece of information about the magic of the Gantean Hinge. Ultimately, I found a way to “show” rather than “tell” this information, but, like a lot of writing about magic systems, I had to write out the theory of it before I could even attempt to integrate it more naturally into the story.

Leila was the narrator telling this info, though it could have been the Cedna, too:

“Because of this Hinge, all other magic was possible, for in its opening, the Ancestors had made the Layers permeable, so that we could walk from one to the next. The Gantean People were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole world, for all the nations who used magic. The Hinge, high on the ice plateaus of Gante, was the source of all magic.

Every Gantean knew about the Hinge. Such knowledge made us Iksraqtaq. It was a secret funneled into us, never spoken, but lived and felt and inhaled from our very first breath. If we were a stern and somber people, it was because of this great responsibility we guarded. We kept the Hinge open by feeding it the dead, their flesh and spirit and blood, to appease its endless hunger.”