All posts by jadesmith09

Speculative and horror fiction author. Graphic artist and creative consultant who is beginning a career freelancing while steadily working at her day job. She writes under the pen names K.T. Louis and Jade Smith. She lives near Springfield, MO.

Dragon’s Rook–the Evolution of a Book Cover

My friend and fellow author Keanan Brand is nearing the publication of his new fantasy novel, Dragon’s Rook. In June, I saw this post on his Adventures In Fiction blog: “Wanted: Cover Artist.”

When Keanan asked me if I’d draw the cover art for his book, I accepted the job and felt honored to be chosen for the work.  As a child the public library was my playground of choice and I suspect that deep down it has always been my dream to be a cover artist!

But there was a problem. I was trying to break into the design world via my Bamboo tablet (a graduation gift). I’d already faced the challenge of learning to draw on a flat surface while looking at the laptop screen to see where my stylus was pointing. How I wished I had a tablet with a screen as I struggled to get my hand-eye coordination right! For an artist used to drawing on paper, it was certainly my first hurdle to overcome.

Practice improved my skills, and I felt ready to try a larger project.

The Original Vision:

Keanan’s vision for the cover of Dragon’s Rook was a detailed drawing–

“Art involving a dragon eye, a massive claw gripping a pile of rubble, one wing wrapping the side and bottom of a crumbling stone tower, and maybe shadowy shapes in the dark distance. A cover that will still look good as a thumbnail image.”

My Vision:

Though I searched online for images to inspire the work, I felt drawn to the idea of a circle in the middle of the book cover. A single dragon eye, like the picture Keanan had posted on his blog. We talked about it, and Keanan liked the idea. It almost seemed to pay homage to a hardbound book he recalled from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Eye of Sauron. The eye of the Dragon King.

We decided that a castle tower would be reflected in the pupil.

A simple and thought-provoking image, telling a tale, inviting the reader to open the book. Or in this case to purchase it for their e-reader, since Dragon’s Rook will be published electronically first.

Evolving Images:

My initial offering was a rather menacing eye, but still not detailed enough to catch the reader’s attention as a thumbnail image. You can see this below.

dragon eye example

I also had a few hiccups along the way, including one image that looked a little bit like an olive. “Dragon’s Cook?”

dragon_eye_greengold

Finally the image began to look more like something we both felt was getting close to the vision.dragon_eye_greengold.sumo5

I wanted to add smoke and fire, but felt it would complicate the image too much. Keanan suggested creating a white for the eye rather than using the yellow background for the iris. I also wanted to add wrinkles to indicate the creature’s age.

I decided to build up the scales with the bevel effect with the Bamboo oil and dry brush tools. The scales reminded me of cobblestones. The bevel effect made them pop with an almost 3D-style!

The details faded as the viewer got further from the center of the eye. Like a tornado, the swirling scales pulled a sharper focus toward what the dragon was viewing.

The Final Image in Progress:

dragon_eye_greengold.sumo7

We felt that our vision for the cover was simple, intriguing, and menacing!

Future Plans:

We plan to use a very similar style for the  Dragon’s Bane cover. This is the next book in the series, and it will feature the eye of a different dragon character, with a sword instead of a castle tower in the iris of the eye. This image is not shown at full size, but should give a good idea of our design plans for the book.

Feedback on this design is greatly appreciated as we finalize the project!

-Suzan Troutt, artist and author, art copyright 2014-

Dragon’s Rook–the Evolution of a Book Cover

My friend and fellow author Keanan Brand is nearing the publication of his new fantasy novel, Dragon’s Rook. In June, I saw this post on his Adventures In Fiction blog: “Wanted: Cover Artist.”

When Keanan asked me if I’d draw the cover art for his book, I accepted the job and felt honored to be chosen for the work.  As a child the public library was my playground of choice and I suspect that deep down it has always been my dream to be a cover artist!

But there was a problem. I was trying to break into the design world via my Bamboo tablet (a graduation gift). I’d already faced the challenge of learning to draw on a flat surface while looking at the laptop screen to see where my stylus was pointing. How I wished I had a tablet with a screen as I struggled to get my hand-eye coordination right! For an artist used to drawing on paper, it was certainly my first hurdle to overcome.

Practice improved my skills, and I felt ready to try a larger project.

The Original Vision:

Keanan’s vision for the cover of Dragon’s Rook was a detailed drawing–

“Art involving a dragon eye, a massive claw gripping a pile of rubble, one wing wrapping the side and bottom of a crumbling stone tower, and maybe shadowy shapes in the dark distance. A cover that will still look good as a thumbnail image.”

My Vision:

Though I searched online for images to inspire the work, I felt drawn to the idea of a circle in the middle of the book cover. A single dragon eye, like the picture Keanan had posted on his blog. We talked about it, and Keanan liked the idea. It almost seemed to pay homage to a hardbound book he recalled from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Eye of Sauron. The eye of the Dragon King.

We decided that a castle tower would be reflected in the pupil.

A simple and thought-provoking image, telling a tale, inviting the reader to open the book. Or in this case to purchase it for their e-reader, since Dragon’s Rook will be published electronically first.

Evolving Images:

My initial offering was a rather menacing eye, but still not detailed enough to catch the reader’s attention as a thumbnail image. You can see this below.

dragon eye example

I also had a few hiccups along the way, including one image that looked a little bit like an olive. “Dragon’s Cook?”

dragon_eye_greengoldFinally the image began to look more like something we both felt was getting close to the vision.dragon_eye_greengold.sumo5

I wanted to add smoke and fire, but felt it would complicate the image too much. Keanan suggested creating a white for the eye rather than using the yellow background for the iris. I also wanted to add wrinkles to indicate the creature’s age.

I decided to build up the scales with the bevel effect with the Bamboo oil and dry brush tools. The scales reminded me of cobblestones. The bevel effect made them pop with an almost 3D-style!

The details faded as the viewer got further from the center of the eye. Like a tornado, the swirling scales pulled a sharper focus toward what the dragon was viewing.

The Final Image in Progress:

dragon_eye_greengold.sumo7

We felt that our vision for the cover was simple, intriguing, and menacing!

Future Plans:

We plan to use a very similar style for the  Dragon’s Bane cover. This is the next book in the series, and it will feature the eye of a different dragon character, with a sword instead of a castle tower in the iris of the eye. This image is not shown at full size, but should give a good idea of our design plans for the book.

Feedback on this design is greatly appreciated as we finalize the project!

-Suzan Troutt, artist and author, art copyright 2014-

Write What You Want To!

poet The old advice, “write what you know” has long been due for an overhaul, in my opinion. Some people treat it as poison advice to the writer. This is what they think:

What do most of us actually know? The daily office routine, traffic laws, relationships. All the mundane things that are in anyone’s life. Boring, right?

But these trivial qualities are the very things that keep us reading bestselling novels. I was never more aware of this than when I was reading through the Pendergast series by Preston and Child. A certain character had struggled against a rival  in another business(while having hair-raising adventures along the way) and I went to bat for him in my mind. Each of his victories against the man and his bosses made me believe in the character even more.

Then–spoiler–the character died. I was angry that this happened, because I believed in him.

Because I knew the struggles he went through. I’d been through similar ones myself.

As Countee Cullen says in his poem, “Any Human to Another,” we are never alone in our experience:

Let no man be so proud

And confident,

To think he is allowed

A little tent

Pitched in a meadow

Of sun and shadow

All his little own.–C.Cullen

So, write what you know. All your joys and sorrows, but put it into your fictional world.

Speak to your reader of the things that are human and universal.

My new proposal for the old advice: change it to–“When you write what you know, you can write what you want to.”

 

 

3 Stages of the Writer’s Inner Journey

A novelist friend of mine once worried about his book. But not in the “I-hope-it-sells” kind of way. His concern was far more personal. He’d written a character that several readers found “creepy.” He mused aloud, “What does that say about me?”

I’ll tell you what it says.

He’s good at creating believable villains. But this is not a reflection of a dark personal character.

We create fictional characters that spring from our subconscious, and as such, they are mirrors of us. You’re actually sharing more with the world than Facebook or Instagram ever could, when you write for the public.

The reward in this risk is that you get to discover yourself through the writing journey.

The Three Stages of a writer’s inner journey:

1.) Creating villains.

Many things affect our personal life, and there are generally two kinds of people we remember from our past: the really good people and the really bad ones. My theory about villains is that they are not reflections of “us” but rather reflections of our fears. Echoes of school bullies or adulthood enemies. These villains are the opposite of us most of the time… but there are some weaknesses they have that we share. I believe that Dickens’ Scrooge was really his fear of childhood poverty returning: an old man who would hoard so much money that he wouldn’t even light and heat his own home in order to save more.

Know your villain, know your fear.

2.) Creating heroes and anti-heroes.

Then there are the heroes. Or in the case with films like Star Wars, there’s the antihero Han Solo running around and doing un-heroic smuggling ventures while saving the day! Antiheroes are more popular than heroes in quite a lot of fiction: who wants to be perfect anymore? But heroes are perhaps closer reflections of us than the villains. They are our best intentions given voice. Often they will do the things we can’t bring ourselves to do in the real world: speak up for the helpless, defy social conventions, or simply state the truth in front of a crowd. Go, heroes!

Know your hero, know your aspirations.

*some people may say, “What about the villain who is the antihero?” Then you got some ‘splainin’ to do. Or perhaps this is your way of working out your biggest problems.

3.) Creating worlds.

Worlds directly reflect on their creators. Consider C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra. A planet where Adam and Eve have not yet fallen, a strange and unique place where redemption is possible and everlasting life assured. Or how about the worlds of The Hobbit? A writer has complete control over the worlds he or she makes, choosing the fictional government, social classes, and even what sort of universal laws (magic or not) are in place. And thus writers take on great responsibility to their audience—to create realistic, well-structured worlds.

Know your worlds, know your creativity.

Copyright S. Troutt/J. Smith 2014

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Hardy Jones–Village Mystery Man

clock
Clock at Ray House, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, Springfield MO. photo c. 2013 Suzan Troutt

The following story is from Joyce Booze’s blog, Out of Church Tales. In this short glimpse of life in 1930s Oklahoma, travel back in time to when life was very different–

by Joyce Wells Booze

Time and Place: Late 1930s, Nuyaka, OK

From my birth in 1933 until I had completed second grade, my family lived much of the time in or around Nuyaka, OK, a small oil-boom community in Okmulgee County.  Exceptions were one year in CA (1934-35),   about 20 months in Arkansas (late fall of 1936 to summer of 1938) and 8 months in Truskett, (also known as Hog Shooter) OK (1941).  Each time we returned “home” to Nukaya.

From the ages of 5 to 8,  I became very familiar with Nuyaka’s residents. On most days, I walked the paths (no sidewalks) to one of the stores, to church or school, and on other errands, such as going to the local grist mill for cornmeal. I also walked past the modest home of Hardy Jones. I don’t remember his ever speaking to me nor I to him, but I do remember how curious the local residents were about Mr. Jones.

He didn’t work, although he seemed to be in good health and not too old – perhaps in his 50s. No one knew his source of income, but he had enough money for his needs and even a few luxuries…this in a time when hard-working people were struggling to make enough to buy food. Hardy lived alone, and so far as I know had no relatives or family visitors. In nice weather, he usually sat on his porch reading the newspaper and smoking a pipe.

That newspaper was the source of much village speculation. Mr. Jones had the Kansas City STAR mailed to him! No one else I knew bought or read a newspaper. Money was too scarce to spend on unnecessary items!  To get the STAR by mail must have cost at least a dollar a month (I’m still trying to find out the exact cost.)

Some local residents wondered aloud if he had robbed a bank and read the STAR to see if the police were on his trail. Remember, these were Bonnie-and-Clyde days, and bank robberies were a much discussed topic. Others thought perhaps he owned land where oil was found and didn’t want to share his fortune with anyone. (A similar incident had happened to a local family.)  Another suspicion was that he had left a wife and children somewhere and was hiding from them.

My dad occasionally talked to Mr. Jones. I remember one time Dad telling my mom that Mr. Jones thought another war was brewing in Europe. This was troubling news to my parents who still remembered WW 1 (1914-1918) which had been called “the war to end all wars.”  Most Americans did not want to think of another war.

One story that I remember about Hardy Jones caused much mirth in the village.  One Halloween night several young men on horseback (wanna-be cowboys) were out celebrating and playing jokes on unsuspecting residents.  Since Nuyaka had no sewer system, each house had an outside toilet. The pranksters rode down an alley that ran behind several of these outhouses. Being “cowboys,” they roped the outhouses as they rode and dragged them over. The story is that Hardy Jones was in his outhouse when it was roped and was tumbled about, yelling fiercely. I probably wouldn’t believe this story but one of my cousins was in the group of riders and vouched for its truth.

Our family left Nuyaka in the summer of 1942, and I never knew how the mystery of Hardy Jones turned out. Was he a bank robber? An oil-boom rich man? A run-away husband?  Whatever he was, speculations about him were a source of much entertainment in a small community where daily life was hard and any kind of excitement was welcome, even if it was fabricated.

I think Hardy Jones might have liked that!

–copyright 2014, J. Booze–

My writing process (by Suzan)

photo (19)Fellow writers and readers: grab a corner booth and sit down! My friend Keanan Brand, writer of epic fantasy, has challenged me to a reveal of my writing process. And I’ve accepted! My writing process is not a tidy one, it is “a poor thing, but mine own.” But if it gets the job done, it’s how I roll.

I’m using the Q and A framework posted by Keanan at Adventures in Fiction .

Q: What are you working on?

A: What I’m writing is a novel I never thought I would attempt. It’s a mystery thriller featuring a mentalist, a wager, and six people who are thrown into a situation filled with choices and a life-changing game. I don’t want to give away too much, that’s a very short summary.

I didn’t think I would write about mentalism or hypnosis, because my primary voice up to this point has been in horror and suspense fiction. However, once the idea was sparked, the book began to come alive.

I would also love to create a short comedy screenplay or novel about life in a retail setting.

Q: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

A: Tough question. Most thrillers tend to be all action, or a mix of action/cognition. My novel is more like the latter–it delves into the characters’ thoughts and motivations. And it mixes historical ideas with more modern ones: a nice dark blend of fact and fiction, interwoven into the plot. I’ve been told that not a lot of research has been done in some of the areas I want to explore in this book. So I’m searching out sources with care, and looking at similarities in research situations to draw ideas from.

Q: Why do you write what you do?

A: I’ve always been fascinated with the genres I mentioned above. But I wasn’t interested in magic or mentalism till last year. I saw a program which sparked my interest, even if I was sure I was looking at clever television production as well as true mentalist’s art. Actually, good film production IS like magic…but don’t let me get off the subject.

I write about people’s deepest thoughts and fears. I write about their hopes and dreams, and their journey. Because I have been through some of these things I write about, and have searched out the answers. Sometimes the question I asked was never answered. I write for the “inquiring brain” that enjoys adventure, questioning, and deep ideas.

Q: How does your writing process work?

A: For years, I was able to whip up short stories and articles at on a whim. Too bad I was not employed as a writer then! Today’s process–at least for the novel in progress–is a slower one.

I realized that I knew nothing about hypnotism when I began to write the first chapter of my novel. I blithely wrote down my impressions of a TV show I had seen. It looked so simple! Then I set off into the wilds of the Internet to find hypnotists to interview. I found, to my pleasant surprise, four interviewees who either performed stage mentalism or were hypnotherapists, and they went above and beyond to give me the best look at what this type of phenomenon really is. To my dismay, I had to re-write chapter one: all my “TV knowledge” was a sham.

Nothing beats talking to real people about their jobs. I’m extremely grateful to my interviewees!

After tallying up everyone’s views and experiences, I tried to use the basic ideas they held in common (and have probably favored some opinions over others).

So besides referring to my notebooks, I research in the directions I was pointed to. I write in chapter or half-chapter “chunks” and revise almost immediately. I write at least twice a week. As much as I’d like to hurry, I know that good work can’t be rushed. But I set deadlines for myself anyway!

I hope to independently publish my work in 2015 or 2016. I’m not sure if I will publish under this name or my real one. In any case, I’ll be sharing links to the work here.

Thanks for “sharing a booth” with me at this writer’s chat!

-post first published under Suzan’s pseudonym, Jade Smith