Cover Reveal: The Adventure of Creation

I’m thrilled to be part of the big cover reveal for The Adventure of Creation, a Think Sideways anthology presented by Holly Lisle. I’m honored to have my short story, Restoration, included in this collection. Here’s what the editors of the anthology have to say about it:

In May, the moderators of Holly’s Forum (that’s us), approached her with the idea of an anthology. With the 5th anniversary of “How to Think Sideways” drawing nearer, it seemed a good idea to match the release date with the anniversary. Holly agreed to the idea and even added a monetary prize for the top stories. After a very, very difficult selection process, we settled on thirty-five stories. It’s a pity that we couldn’t take them all. The scores were so close, we had lengthy discussions and finally went five stories over the 30 story limit we had planned.

With the stories selected and in Holly’s hands to pick a winner, we are proudly presenting to you:

The Adventure of Creation

The Think Sideways Anthology #1 presented by Holly Lisle


The Adventure of Creation cover

35 marvelous short stories by gifted new writers

 Follow a girl to the Below-World to slay the Sharkshadow, or help a timid girl to overcome the destructive criticism of her art teacher. Witness a solitary drone on Mars or a naive homunculus struggle to become human. Sew with a mother who lost her daughter in a quilt, defeat super-villains in a bank robbery with an unlikely superhero, or join a great mage in the fire.

In thirty-five imaginative stories, emerging authors present the diversity of their creativity. Each author found a different angle for the unifying theme: The Adventure of Creation. Witness the talent nurtured by writing teacher Holly Lisle. For the 5th anniversary of her first big writing course, How to Think Sideways, this anthology features the best of her talented students in a great variety of genres.

The eBook and print book will be released on the 24th of July. Help us spread the word. If the anthology is successful, we might do another one next year.

book cover monday: middle grade covers

It’s been AGES since we last had a book cover post. Time to rectify that with some super-cute and stunning covers of middle grade novels. This is a post I’ve wanted to do for a while!

Let’s get to it!

Tuesdays at the Castle

The cheerful yellows and the spunky, bookish heroine of this cover never fail to make me smile. I really like the blue title font against the golden spiraling staircase, and the use of symmetry, height and light in this illustration.


A much more ominous color, though the illustration style gives away the genre. Love the way the title is incorporated into the tree and the way it pops out from the dark background.

The Time Travelers

I love the movement, the way the children are floating down, and the color contrast between the golds at the top and the blues/greys at the top. There’s a mystery in this cover that pulls me in.

The One & Only Ivan

Aww! Cute baby elephant! Spotlight effect! Bold title treatment, set off by decorative swirls. An eye-catching cover.

The Kneebone Boy

Deliciously creepy cover!


Do you have any favorite middle grade covers to share?


Check out my other book cover posts:

friday this and that

Are you a NaNoWriMo winner planning to self-publish for the first time? My fabulous and generous cover artist, Ravven, is giving away a FULL publishing package to one deserving writer–complete with editing, proofreading, formatting, cover art, website graphics, and marketing help.

(And yes, yours truly is one of the volunteer beta readers!)

Go here to find out the details.


The cover for FableCroft Publishing’s One Small Step is here!

One Small Step

This anthology contains the short story “Sand and Seawater”, co-written by Joanne Anderton and me.

Our tagline–brought to you by Jo–is Dolls are creepy, read this story!

(Better tagline coming soon…)

Aussie peeps, you can pre-order a copy here (you lucky things, you!)


Links from around the web:

You Don’t Do Much Else Interesting and 25 Other Reasons Why No One Likes Your Art

More Insights on Sharpening Your Creative Mind

IndieReCon (posts, videos, chat replays)

Out, All of You! On fighting for your own voice

cover artist: Ravven

Today I’m thrilled to have Ravven, the cover artist behind Rainbird and Mourning Cloak, on my blog, answering questions about her work and process. I first saw her art on DeviantArt, and fell in love with its gorgeous colors, details, and textures:










Welcome, Ravven!

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic journey? How did you get into book cover design?

I’ve always drawn and painted, but never expected to make a career out of it. In the spirit of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face I resisted art classes, as I wanted to be a writer and not the artist that everyone assumed I would be. As a consequence my drawing skills are quite subpar, which is a shame. Learn the basics of your craft, kids – then you can do the fun stuff!

In terms of technical knowledge, my years as a web designer helped me greatly. I also worked in the art department of a large Los Angeles portrait studio where I was allowed to shoot on weekends – since my work is mainly digital paint with a Wacom tablet on top of photos, being able to light and shoot my own stock was wonderful. Since we moved to England I’m lacking a studio to shoot in, but it’s on my list. Working in digital marketing and web design teaches simplicity of concept, and how to lead the eye for greatest impact. Since I came from a largely untrained traditional art background, that was invaluable to me as a designer.

2. What are some of the influences on your art?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. There are artists that I love, such as Dave McKean and John Jude Palencar, but they’re so far beyond my art that it’s like looking up at the stars. :) I keep files of covers that I really like, which I have here. I like lush covers with good use of shadow and light, very dramatic.

Angel of Fire

3. People do judge a book by its cover. What are some common cover design mistakes you see?

I always pick books by their covers. There is a fantasy writer whom I absolutely love (no names) who recently came out with a new book that had a horrible, cheap-looking cover. I normally buy all of his books in hardcover and I just… can’t… buy this one.

My number one cover design mistakes would have to be not having a professional cover done. I know that sounds really self-serving, but it makes me cry when people are trying so hard to publicise their book and the cover is horrible – everything is stacked against them from the start. Other mistakes would be not having the text pop and be clear even at small sizes, and having a cliché cover. Styles in cover art go in and out, and if you’ve seen something too often (pretty girls in big dresses, drowning girls, Big Face covers) it becomes boring.

4. What’s the best part about your job? The worst?

The best part is the collaboration between myself as artist and the author in bringing their vision to life on a cover – it’s such an exciting experience and I feel as proud as a parent when I see my covers out in the world. I love it! Collaboration can actually be the best AND the worst, depending on how much freedom is involved. The best covers come from an open collaboration, trading ideas, throwing out what doesn’t work and having the freedom to experiment with wild-ass ideas. The flip side to that is when the author has an
extremely literal idea of what the cover needs to look like, especially when they wish to exactly re-create a scene from the book. Literal covers quite often end up being so constrained that the end result is lifeless and muddy. I think a cover image should reflect the theme of a book, and how it feels, while still being true to the characters and world.


5. When I first worked with you on the cover for Rainbird, I had a hard time picking stock images because I didn’t know what’s easy to do and what’s not when it comes to photomanipulation. Can you talk about the limitations of photomanipulation?

There is an amazing amount that can actually be done with photomanipulation on covers as long as you can paint – that is the most important thing. On Rainbird, for example, the original model was wearing a short denim jacket and denim cutoffs. Pants were added, which thank goodness were mostly in shadow, and then two versions were created, one with bare arms and one with a duster. Both were painted (the duster used some of the detail from the original jacket). You can change or replace hair entirely, change the color of hair and eyes and skin, and add clothing – but generally it all has to be painted to blend it and fit cloth to bent arms, etc.

6. What’s the most challenging cover you’ve worked on?

One of the most challenging covers was a science fiction cover for Kala Wade Media – since I don’t do 3D work or paint things from scratch, coming up with the open space ship bay behind the characters was tough. Another challenging cover was one of the Westerns I worked on, simply because it was impossible to find the right stock. Just try doing a search for “handsome cowboy” or “young ranch hand” or whatever and see what you get…lots and lots of musclebound guys wearing cowboy hats and not much else. :)

Born in Flames

7. What are three of your favorite covers (not your own)? What makes them stand out?

Seed by Rob Ziegler, for it’s use of stunning image-as-typography. I can’t do this kind of work, but I admire those who can.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano – a “pretty girl in a dress” cover that transcends all the others. One of my all-time favourites.

The Drowning City by Amanda Downum. Deep shadows, bright highlights, extreme drama in the way that the character is almost silhouetted. Lovely.

8. Is there a genre or sub-genre that you haven’t done a cover in and wish that you could?

I’d like to do more horror and suspense. I love those scary, even gory, covers and haven’t had the chance to do many of these.

Reaper's Novice

Thanks for stopping by, Ravven!

Check out Ravven’s website, or her Pinterest board for more of her lovely covers.

mourning cloak: cover reveal and giveaway


Mourning Cloak

(Isn’t she stunning?)

Kato Vorsok is a man deserted by his god. A failed hero living in exile, he wants nothing to do with his old life.

Until the night he encounters a wounded mourning cloak—a demon that can walk through walls, dissolve into mist, and spear a man’s heart with a fingernail.

She calls him by name. She knows his past. She needs his help.

 And she is his key to redemption.

Mourning Cloak is a science fantasy novella.

Expected Publication: January 21st, 2013
Formats: ebook

Mourning Cloak on Goodreads


And, wait, there’s more! You can enter to win a grand prize of ALL 5 of my e-books, or one of 10 eARCS of Mourning Cloak.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Many thanks go out to Ravven, who created this awesome cover, to Kellie Sheridan for setting up the cover reveal on multiple blogs and organizing the giveaway, to my husband David for doing the e-book formatting, and to Jo Anderton and Robin Cornett for beta-reading.

under a blanket, thinking

1. This last week, I was over at A Digital Magician, blogging about what I learned about writing from video games.

2. On the writing front…*hollow laugh*

I’ve decided to step back from NaNo-lite, because I wasn’t getting anything else done. Not blogging. Not revising. Not getting to a dozen little business-y things that need my attention.

I’m still not getting any of those done, except for the revising. Which is fine, because I need Mourning Cloak to be in good shape by the end of this month. I’ll go back to Rafe after that’s done. In the meantime, he can enjoy a little rest because there’s a world of hurt coming his way (she laughs evilly).

Part of my lack of wordage is just… I’m scraping bottom. I’m out of blog ideas. I’m stretched thin among all these different writing projects. Plus, I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things recently and reading a lot and I just need time to process it all, before it comes out in blog posts and stories.

I feel struck dumb. I have nothing to say right now–at least not anything coherent that can be shared with others.

I know. And I’m writer. *spreads hands, shakes head*

3. Speaking of malevolent space dragons, here’s the trailer for Final Fantasy XIV (via Ravven). It’s an MMO so I won’t be playing it (er, watching David play it), but… dragons!


4. And speaking of Ravven, I don’t know if I ever linked to the post she did on the evolution of Rainbird‘s cover. It’s long, but it shows you just how much back and forth there was between us.

book cover art: strong females, no weapons

Several weeks ago, when I posted book covers that featured strong female characters, Kelly at Stacked Books asked a good question: Does a woman need to have a weapon in her hand in order to be considered strong?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: When I put together my earlier post, I focused on the genre I am most well-read in–fantasy–which has a disproportionately higher number of warrior women than (say) your cozy mysteries. Also, I wanted to post alternatives to covers of warrior babes where the emphasis is on the babe, not the warrior. The sword/gun/dagger in those women’s hands is not to display their strength, but their sexiness. Add skimpy clothing, come-hither looks, and poses that show off womanly assets, and the weapons become nothing more than accessories.

But, Kelly has a good point. Strength is not all about fighting prowess. So I went looking for covers that showed strong women without a weapon in their hands.


Joy. Optimism. Zest for life, hope for the future. That’s what I think of when I see this woman. She looks to have a strong spirit and a happy disposition.

Woman. No weapon. Pretty dress/robe. But she doesn’t look like someone who puts up with nonsense. The tilt of her head, the direction of her gaze, the hands on hips pose…yep, not a weakling this one. Sorry I couldn’t find a larger image.


 I like to see women in action, rather than just standing around looking pretty. So this spelunking-with-robotic-snakes(?!) scene works for me. Also, the woman on the cover is refreshingly different from the pretty waifs or sultry temptresses. She looks older and tougher.

I debated about this one, because the girl looks scary. But she also looks strong (and scary, don’t forget that) while wearing a typical YA fantasy white dress, so she gets points for overcoming the languishing waif girl stereotype. Plus, I love the red hair blending into the fire.

Another YA princess in a gorgeous dress, but she looks like she’s up for some fun. Or mischief. Or both. I like that stance, that sideways look out of the corner of her eyes.

This is not a comprehensive list, of course, but it’ll do for a start. I was very tempted to include this lovely cover for The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan, but I think the glowing ring in Moiraine’s hand probably counts as a (magical) weapon.

Any other covers you can think of that fit the strong woman, no weapons criteria?

book cover monday: strong females

The problematic portrayal of women on book covers has been rehashed on the Internet many times. Warrior women end up in skimpy clothing and contorted poses that would crack the spine of any normal person. In YA fiction, there is a disturbing trend of drowning or dead-looking girls in flowing dresses. Individually, many of these covers are striking or beautiful; taken together they depict women and girls *only* as sexual objects or as weak and helpless.

Those aren’t the covers I want to talk about today.

Instead, I want to focus on book covers that DO portray females as strong and dynamic and fully immersed in their stories (I dislike covers on which the female is putting on a come-hither look for the reader. Unless this fits the protagonist’s personality–and most often it doesn’t–I don’t want to see it).

If you’ve been following Book Cover Monday for a while, you’ve seen my all-time favorite cover with a strong female protagonist before.

Notice that Vin is dressed appropriately, that she is fully engaged in the scene, she is in motion *and* she is dominating this fight. No resorting to cheap tricks like chainmail bikini or contorted poses or sultry glances to portray Vin as strong and attractive.

Natural pose and looks like she’s wearing the right kind of clothing for the period and her situation (I’m no expert on Elizabethan costume but it doesn’t jump out as horribly wrong to me). She’s guarded and alert, and again, her eyes are focused not on the reader but within her world. Oh, and she has a gun and she’s not afraid to use it. :)

Came across this one recently. A woman who knows how to take care of herself, dressed in sensible traveling clothes, *with* children. Female protagonists with children are so rare in fantasy that I danced a little in glee when I saw this cover. This woman totally has the baby-carrying thing down. Look at her eyes. Don’t mess with this mama.

Love the expectant stillness of the pose. All the swirling black cloth and the veiled eyes only heighten the mystery and danger of this protagonist.

*gasp* A girl on a YA cover who is NOT wearing a dress. Love how casually comfortable she is with that sharp shiny scythe.

Any other covers that you think portray strong women and girls? I’d especially love to see some that depict strength without weapons–hard to do, I know, in fantasy. Let me know in the comments!

I have the awesome-est people in my life

Like, for example, my sister-in-law, Robin Cornett, photographer and web designer, who makes me look good online.

Exhibit #1: This website. Robin customized the theme, found the header image, made the cute buttons on the right, hunted down with the fonts, and did a lot of plugin stuff on the backend, half of which I know nothing about. She pays attention to the little details, the things that make the site stand out.

Exhibit #2: Book covers. Like this one she put together for Wired (which, by the way, is now FREE on Smashwords. Enjoy!).

If you look closely (click the image to enlarge),  see if you can spot the cool touch she added to the texture of this cover. (Again, it’s all in the details.)

Exhibit 3: Headshots! I am terrible about pictures. I don’t take ‘em and I don’t have ‘em taken. But I’ve know for a really really REALLY long time that I should have a nice author picture. Robin to the rescue again. Here are the two choices she sent me. Which one do you like?

So, if you need a website redesign or a family photographer in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, you know who to go to, right? ;)

Thank you, Robin!

dear pinterest, let’s just be friends

Several weeks ago,  I posted about my passionate fling with Pinterest and my subsequent reconsideration of my relationship (addiction?) in the cold light of day. The last time you tuned in (to the soap opera), I had deleted all my boards save one and put some distance between myself and its oh-so-pretty site (“Stay away from him! He’s not good for you!”).

Why, yes, I can flog that relationship metaphor past death.

However, Pinterest does have some good things going for it. I love that it’s visually, not verbally, oriented. I adore, and am inspired by, pictures, but I work with words. Wordsmithing is wonderful and joyous, but it is also hard and frustrating. Pinning, though, is pure play, a relaxing hobby, like scrapbooking without the mess.

In the past weeks, I’ve developed a healthier relationship with Pinterest. I’ve set boundaries, in terms of time and content, on my pinning. I am cautious about what I pin and where it comes from. Here are some of my guidelines:

1. I pin images that have a “Share via Pinterest” button next to them. DeviantArt and Etsy are two big sites that have enabled pinning. Many retailers and photo sites also have Pin It buttons.

2. I pin pictures that are in the public domain or available under the creative commons license. NASA’s space photos and illustrations on Project Gutenberg are two examples.


A haunting illustration by Kay Nielsen for the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. From Project Gutenberg.


3. If I find I an image I really want to pin and I don’t see a yay-or-nay Pinterest policy on the site, I email the copyright holder for permission. Author and illustrator Susan Paradis graciously gave me permission to pin some of the gorgeous interior illustrations from her picture book, Snow Princess.

4. I don’t repin unless I can follow the internet trail back to the original copyright holder to check if it’s okay. I automatically mistrust images from Tumblr or those that have been uploaded by user (unless the user is clearly the copyright holder).

5. I feel safe pinning book covers as they are advertising materials (and if it’s wrong to post book cover images, then a lot of us who review or otherwise blog about books are in big trouble!).

It’s not a perfect system and there are a lot of lovely pictures I’ve passed up, but these guidelines let me enjoy Pinterest with a clear conscience.

So, come check out my Pinterest boards and show me yours. If you pin, link to your account in the comments. I love to admire other people’s boards!