Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Ave Art!

Before I was making money at job-things, my holiday and birthday gifts to Victoria would always be art. This year, since we were budgeting all our savings for moving, we didn't really have much money to spend, so I worked on a portrait of Ave on and off between our packing and unpacking times.

So, in celebration of Monsters coming closer and closer to a tangible thing, here's the ever brilliant Avery.

I struggled with this a LOT. Before I'd sat down to paint her, I'd been painting character portraits from our other WIP like bam, bam, bam, two hours resulting in awesomeness, very close to the original vision I started with.

Ave, however, took one full do-over and about 10-12+ hours. Keeping track of time was tough since I had to use little pockets of time here and there, but she was quite the struggle to get just right.

Still, I have to remind myself that, as I paint more and do better, my critiquing eye expects more out of me. So these previous paintings I did, in my brain, are a whole lot better until I let time pass, keep painting new things, then come back to them. Then I can see that I certainly have made progress.

I used to be pretty proud of that black-and-white sketch. The two pictures were painted with similar methods, and Kali on the left was the first time in a looooong time that I had tried painting over a sketch without full line art. Ave on the right is the most recent painting I've completed.

Writing also works the same way sometimes, but also, sometimes, I look back at what I've written and get excited because, "Wow, this is still good????" So, I mean, both things are good things, as long as we keep doing the writing and doing the painting.

For now, Ave's printed out and framed, ready to go up on the wall.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


So, after nearly a month after our departure from California, we're finally starting to settle down in our new home across the country.

It's such a weird change too, weather-wise, because I'm so used to September being the hottest month of the year for California. Here in Pittsburgh, I've been staring wide-eyed out our windows at these autumn-like clouds with autumn-like rain and autumn-like winds giving me autumn-like chills I don't know what to do with myself.

But now that we're here with our own address, I was FINALLY able to order a proof of the redone FtSW's cover. If you didn't know, the original first two books' covers were done in lamination with a default Createspace spine. More recently, however, I went back through these covers and redid them with a MUCH better spine, plus the newly added matte cover option.

I love cradling the matte book covers to my face and making sweet cooing noises, yes I do.

On a separate, less embarrassing note, books two and three also tell you on the cover now which book comes next in the series. Book series that don't make their chronology obvious have always been a pet peeve of mine, but after working in a bookstore for most of a year, I developed a stink eye for them too.

An ugly, ugly stink eye.

But take a look at these spines. Look at them. Just look.

Sighs contentedly.

Anyway, also now that we've started settling in, Victoria and I have been able to sneak in some writing time. Book 4 of Marionettes is at about 95% completion. Yes, almost done. Just a few scenes are left, and then the end. It's definitely the biggest book of the series so far, and begins an arc I'm reeeeally excited about.

As mentioned before, book 1 of Monsters is currently with betas, and book 2 is already about a third of the way completed. It's totally wild.

(Victoria laughs at me whenever I say "wild", because I say it about everything. "That floor display is wild." "That cloud formation is wild." "That part of the wilderness is wild.")

So, up soon is going to be the cover and preview of book 1 of Monsters, aaaaas promised. I just want to do some slight final tweaking with the cover before I finally debut it because I'm never satisfied.

It's gonna be wild.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A New Fancy Update

So, some seriously exciting things have happened since the last post. As always, the overall quiet here just means that we’ve been busy-busy-busy, like hugely, and let me tell you all about these seriously exciting things!

Firstly, the first book of Monsters is finally in the hands of our betas. So, our original intended release date has been slapped in the face, but things are moving, and we’re feeling tentatively good about everything.

Secondly, and this is the true criminal behind our absence: we’re moving! And I don’t mean, you know, right down the street or around the corner. I don’t even mean within the same state.


We’re moving to Pittsburgh.

Wowowowow. But why Pittsburgh? Victoria is actually originally from the Pittsburgh area, and she moved down to California to be with—ehehehe—me. But! An opportunity opened up for a comfortable living situation in Pittsburgh, and so we’re seizing the heck out of it. That means we’ll be living in the actual setting of Marionettes and Monsters.

Freaken awesome.

(You know, until it’s winter, and we have polar vortexes, and I lose all my fingers and toes.)

So, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks pillaging our room, throwing clothes into bags to be donated, trashing things that need to be trashed, and otherwise condensing our belongings into a tiny, little car. That’s all we’re taking with us—whatever can fit.

Luckily, we’re also tiny, little people.

I never thought I’d say that.

We did have a small bump recently (and by “small”, I mean “huge”, because we didn’t expect a driver in a parking lot to slam into the side of our car, and that’s been a Scion-sized wrench in our plans), but all systems are still go and we’re planning to be on our way the week of the 17th (in two weeks *breathes heavily*).

On our road trip, we plan to take pictures too, so we may just update the blog with our adventures, whatever they end up being.

Okay, and thirdly, in the interim of Victoria working and completing her revisions of Monsters, we ended up starting a new project. Already we’re about 90k words in, a couple hundred pages. The extra fun thing about this story is that it’s a New Adult Paranormal Romance. Or maybe it’s a New Adult Urban Fantasy.

Whatever the case, it’s a steamy, psychological urban fantasy set in Los Angeles. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I’ve already done a ton of concept art for it and penned an early draft of a synopsis. It’s looking pretty darn sweet so far, and Victoria and I are both vibrating from excitement with this one. We might even seek traditional trade publication??

It’s been so long since I’ve had to send out queries to literary agents.

Like, four years?

Like four years.

(Shhh four years is a long time ok it’s like 1/7th of my life.)

Okay, I think that’sssssss it. Yeah. The next couple weeks are going to be a stressful mess, what with how we tried to cram all the work hours we could into a small amount of time, and also all the pre-moving preparations we have to make (on top of the car repairs, which we’ll be praying to every god in every pantheon to be fixed in time for our departure).

As usual, more updates to come. Until then, stay awesome-possum.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Two Poster Art!

So, after months of working on these two on and off, in-between writing and working, finally I've decided to divorce myself from this tumultuous relationship. Er, in short, I'm counting these as done enough. I found myself starting to obsess, so I knew it was time. Time to move on. Time to meet new people.

Eheheheheh, seriously though! I was driving myself crazy and repainting over and over again. But, I did learn a ton while painting these four kids. I mean, a LOT. Part of the reason why it took so long to finish these two posters was because I was learning so much -- I could see all kinds of flaws and things that I could do better.

In the end, it just came to a point where, if I tried to improve upon what I had, I'd have to start almost all over. That's totally counter-productive.

But, just looking back at book 1's poster, which I finished a year ago this month, crazily enough, I can see all kinds of improvement, and that makes me feel all floaty.

When I first started these two posters, I did preliminary sketches for both of them, but I finished the obvious two characters first:

Let me just say that, wow, I learned a lot about both skin color and hair in this painting. Darker skin reflects light and color differently, and this required an incredible amount of learning and repainting. I even took a long break, painted some other things, then came back and retooled a LOT. And I'm glad I did, because it made a total difference.

Also, hair? Forget it. I suck at hair. It's my own fault for spending so much time learning face and skin while giving no attention or practice to hair beyond basic squiggle marks.

I threw together a finished look at the end, which is why there's a ton of things still wrong or could have used a bit more touching up, but gosh. I was probably going to step on all ten of my toes if I kept going.

So, I started and spent forever on the second poster:

To me, personally, I can see a huge difference in skill level between this poster and the first one. It's almost embarrassing. Eeeeeee.

But, here I learned more about sculpting different faces, and then even more about HAIR. I tried so many different ways of painting the hair that again, totally embarrassed. Hair is so tough!!!! I studied techniques from other artists and ended up wanting to shave both of these guys by the end.

I'm glad I didn't.

I can't imagine either of them really pulling it off.

You can get a closer look with the detail shots I put up on the Tumblog (which is also another way you can see such a difference in skill level between the first and second painting ahahaha sob). I'll make a post with process shots of the second poster since I totally obliterated the pre-painting levels of the first one later, because that had an extra step than book one's poster.

I have an idea what I'd like to do for the third books, but for now, a much needed break.

And by "break", I mean working on something else about the series.

It never ends.

More to come soon!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Status Update!

Hello, friends!

So, I realize it’s been a while since the last update. Like I mentioned before, we’ve been working a lot. Constantly. Since I have two non-writing jobs now, with Victoria at full time, and seriously none of our few days off matching up, it’s been tough squeezing in writing time.

Or any time.

Ugh. It’s been so aggravating.

So, the first book of Monsters of Myth, Ave’s series, Bleed Cinders and Venom is intended to be out by the end of spring. We’ve been doing a lot of work with the first draft to make it the most awesome of possums, but that also means it’s been taking a lot of time.

A lot of what we have to do we have to do together. So, we catch a few hours here and there around our work schedules. We still want to have a late spring debut, with the latest being an early summer debut.

As Victoria and I have been working on book 1 of Monsters, I’ve also been working on book 4 of Marionettes, Open the Path to Fire, which I’m about a little under halfway through, and things are coming together sweetly. Once BCV is finished, I’ll be able to chug ahead full speed. Hahchachachacha.

We’ve also been talking about the end of OPF a lot.

Like, a lot.

The two books do two different things that hit us right in the feels, and I just can’t wait to actually finish writing the second half of OPF, oh my blob.

I also can’t wait to finish and share the covers. They’re looking pretty snazzy. BCV is very much almost finished – I just have to do a few more things. These two covers are also the first covers actually designed to be full wrap-around covers, and I can’t wait to see what they look liiiiike.

Speaking of which, the proof of book 3’s paperback finally arrived (after waiting nine full days for it, geez). I’m so floored by how awesome it looks. Take a look:

Alrightalrightalrightalright. It’s friggin gorgeous, and I love to caress it gently with the first book and the novella. Now that I've finished fixing any formatting errors, it should be available very soon.

Tweaking the second book’s cover is my next project, that way we can have a lovely matte matching set. Maybe we’ll stick them altogether on the dresser. With bookends. Yeaaaah, that’d look rad and so official-like.

Anyway, these slow months are pretty slow, but we’re still hard at work. Even during the times I can’t write because Victoria’s at work, I’m still working on the next set of promo posters (and painting hair is the bane of my existence – why is it so hard??).

Although, at the end of this month, we’ll be returning to PA, and I’ll be taking the camera to grab photos for new covers, which is so exciting I could do a pee dance. I’ve gained a lot of new insight with how to use images for covers, which’ll help me with my perspective and composition. It’ll also be spring, so I wonder if anything will be in full bloom.

Though, sending me to take pictures when things are in bloom is dangerous – I’ll have five thousand pictures of flowers and zero pictures for covers. Oops.

So, that’s it for now. As we get closer to a more realized release date for book 1 of Monsters, we’ll definitely be posting more details, including snippets, the synopsis, and, of course, the shiny new cover.

Until then, stay awesome!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Let's Talk About Interlude (and ramble)

So, the brief break hasn't been a result of lacking activity or a general state of doing-nothingness. Nope, far from it. Victoria and I have been writing up a storm on a separate, yet...related, project -- something that we're keeping hush-hush at least for now. Once we move along with Marionettes and Monsters, we may decide to coyly put it out there. It's been an incredible project so far with crazy challenges and a lot of awesome things we've never tackled before.

But, shh, I never said anything about that.

Between scenes and whenever I had a break, I worked on formatting the Interlude paperback. At about 100 pages, it's not as much of a monster as the other books. Formatting those things makes me question everything I used to think was holy.

But whenever we get the first proof in the mail, heck, all that tedious work is so worth it. The Interlude paperback is freaking gorgeous, I can't even believe it. All the colors just made me want to eat it.

Er. Hypothetically, of course. It's a bit too fibrous for my diet.

So, I tweaked with a few things, making sure everything was perfect. Now that it is, the paperback's available through Createspace and Amazon! You can, of course, still get the ebook.

But what is Interlude even about, exactly? What's it's purpose in the series? What's it supposed to do?

(Some spoilers ahead, so make sure you've read at least up two book 2, Fracture the Spider's Web before you continue on!)

Interlude formed in our heads as just a little ha-ha, things we talk about when it sounds like we're gossiping over real people in public. But, this particular part of the story became an interesting piece of the overall puzzle. We had the chance to explore some things that we don't get to in the Marionette's books, and the whole arc of Interlude affected a few particular characters in a way that we didn't expect.

It starts off as a neat little field trip, but then evolves into something deeper, something that moves the characters and reveals them in ways that foreshadows the events in book three, Taste a Thousand Deaths. Not only that, but a Little Something in particular comes back later on.

Is it a critical Little Something necessary to proceed onward without confusion? No. But it's sort of like reading a book, then seeing the movie, and knowing the moment an exact reference is made back to the book, something that might inspire you to elbow your friend over and over and over like, "DID YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE?" To which your friend says, "You need to stop."

What I love most about the Marionettes and Monsters series, unquestionably, is the cast of characters. Each and every one is so beautifully flawed. They make bad decisions, mess up, break down, fall apart, and sometimes come together, whether with another character's help, or on their own. It's probably some fatal flaw how much Victoria and I love these dumb kids.

But, really, the part we hate the most is how we can't explore every single character as much as we want to in the stories.

With Interlude, however, we had a chance to take a few of those kids and explore their perspectives. I mean, really explore their perspectives, from first person point of view. We get to hear their voices unfiltered and understand how those weird cogs tick, and it creates an interesting dynamic compared to the decisions they make in TaTD.

Here's one of my favorite pieces from Interlude, a scene from Jason's perspective as he speaks to Elliot:

I rubbed the side of my face as trees swiveled and leaves scattered. “Why’re you taking me to something that was blessed? I’m supposed to have allergies to that, you know.”
“To gauge how well the land was blessed. It won’t be sacred ground. You might just get some hives.” He smirked at me. “But it’s mostly just a formality. If what we’re after simply tore through the holy protection, I don’t think any sort of exorcism or curse would make a difference.”
Oh, sure. Use me as the test subject.
His mouth held the slight quirk as he looked out to the trees. “What do you think?”
What did I think?
I didn’t know much about the superhuman and supernatural world. I’d done my own research on various species and subspecies so I could dissect and avoid bias from facts, but this didn’t really match up with anything that I’d heard of before.
Ripping open animals and eating them raw? Pilfering mechanics and working in the night? I didn’t know what the heck it could be.
Ave and Elliot had a lot more experience in this field. They knew the weird better than I did.
“I don’t know,” I finally said. “It’s just odd to me that it specifically chose oil country to haunt, you know what I mean? And if it’s pulling apart machines and stealing only pieces, then it’s pretty intelligent. Even if the local pastor came out and tossed holy water onto some trees, it’d be smart enough to dance its way past. And if it’s eating things like deer, then it’s bigger, or at least got a big appetite.”
Elliot hooked his hands into the pockets of his coat and nodded. “What would you have us do next?”
My head swung so I could look at him with whatever my face read. “What—me? Why me? I’m not the captain, Ave is.”
“And if you were captain, what would your next move be?” His pale eyes narrowed on me over the rims of his glasses.

What develops between this little piece of the cast is something that causes me incoherent noises of the super embarrassing kind.

Plus, the place they go to is freaken creepy. I'm not too big on horror, but there's definitely a reason why we made the ebook version of the novella available for Halloween.

So, there's a bit about Interlude and why we love the heck out of it. Also, on top of all that stuff I talked about, there's, well...some hints about the Monsters series in there, too. More on the first book of Monsters (plus the cover) soon.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Movie Tie-In Covers Can Be Cool Too

I mean, kind of. Recent history hasn't really proven that for me, but now that I've been working in a bookstore, I've been working very close to covers. For me, this's awesome, because I make all of our series covers (and I'm so very excited about the next books' covers, I could float away). I get the chance to just glance over the elements of about a million covers and analyze what and why and how and--yeah.

Before working, and even up until recently, I was of the conclusion that movie covers suck. Seriously. The most recent example I'd had before working was Beautiful Creatures.

Okay, so I do admit to picking up this cover just because of the typography and mood -- which totally signifies how important typography alone is. The cover IS the typography, and the title could have meant anything, so I did pick it up just because of that and how dark it looked. I like me some dark fantasy.

And then, the movie cover.

Mmmmmph. Lots of mmmmph-ing. It's soooo busy, so "LOOK THIS IS A MOVIE." The awesome typography totally gets overwhelmed and just adds to the busyness of the whole thing and mmmmph. It's very basic, to say the least.

I totally understand that movie tie-in covers are supposed to attract an untapped part of the potential reader audience, and they're supposed to be commercial with a wide appeal and all that, but. But, but, but. Why? Why so obvious?

I'm a fan of subtly, and when I started working, I got to see the movie-tie in of City of Bones come out. Actually, I really like the movie tie-in, but I'm in total coverlust for the whole freaken Mortal Instruments series covers. They're gorgeous. I picked up the first book just because I wanted to own those covers.

I'm also a total loser for shiny things. If there's a sparkly element to a cover, I'll pick it up. And if Createspace ever offers some sort of shiny cover option, I'll cry metallic tears. (And, honestly, the Marionettes covers are so meant for sparkly covers.)

The movie tie-in is based on the movie poster, which is totally brilliant and came out about the time Dance in Shadow and Whisper did so unfortunately they look painfully similar, so I wasn't surprised that they used the poster.

It's got the same shiny design, and it's also the same size, so what actually happened was that customers got confused and simply went with the original design, since it matches the rest of the series. It seemed to me that this cover was more for the already-fans, to buy it and add it to the collection, as opposed to generating a new fanbase.

Of course, I don't know the complete psychology of things.

I still really like this cover, though. It didn't go the obvious route of slapping the whole cast onto the cover under the title.

I like when covers feature an element or a particular feel that makes a book stand out. It's all well and good slapping a pretty girl face on a cover and throwing in some effects, but it's the same formula over and over again. I mean, let's take Vampire Academy.

Wowowow, the original first cover. I have this cover. I've had this cover a real long time, and talk about basic. Pretty Angelina Jolie face photoshopped with a mysterious silhouette of a castley school, photoshopped with a mysterious wrought iron gate.

Sighs for days.

I don't even want to get into the fact that Rose is supposed to have darker skin and look half Turkish because that's another post entirely.

Eventually, as Vampire Academy picked up a larger fanbase, the creative team tried to reinvent the covers.

Pretty sure this tells us even less about the actual story. At least it looks a little less like a photoshopped mess, I guess?

I'm really trying here.

Anyway, once the first book movie deal went through, the covers were reinvented yet again.


I'm. I mean. Well.

Let's just fast-forward to the movie tie-in edition.

I picked this up in the store for the first time, and if you've seen it, you know the pink is foil. That means shiny.

Well. I do like shiny, and. Y'know.

For me, totally scrapping the original cover design and borrowing the movie poster was the best thing to ever happen to the VA covers. Also, NOT making the cover bright green like the poster = extra points. Then, on top of that, making it shiny?

There are a ton of things I hated about the outfits. I'm totally for teens expressing their sexuality, but sexualizing teens is a bit of a different story. But, honestly, my biggest complaint is that Rose's outfit is hardly practical for combat. Short skirts ride up like crazy, and they're definitely not made for roundhouse kicks.

I know. Semantics.

But, in the end, I actually really like this cover. There's the box set of the first three, and it's taken all my will power not to tear through the plastic wrap just to see what they did to the other two.

But, let's not forget:

The original Hunger Games covers? Well, I didn't pick up the books because I thought the covers were exquisite. I didn't care for the Hunger Games first cover when I first saw it, and didn't care for Catching Fire, either. I only picked it up based off someone else's recommendation.

And then I was totally, wholly glad I did. But, the cover was not a seller. I'm a visual person, so at least one thing on the cover has to be visually appealing for me to give a cracker. THG and CF were not those covers.

When the movie tie-in came out for THG, I wasn't impressed, but I wasn't unimpressed. The CF tie-in?

Less impressed.

I really loved the debut character posters of THG, buuuut personally not so enthralled by CF's. The first posters were a fantastic show of resistance, holding back, and finding a single element to play up for an awesomely dark atmosphere.

This was...not that. Lots of textures laid over each other. Basic composition. Commercial as all heck. As a creative person, totally bored.

(Plus, the movie tie-ins aren't shiny. Ehehehe.)

But, on a separate note, there's the box set of the trilogy, the only way currently to get Mockingjay in paperback. Here's the CF cover for that:

I think it might at least be shiny.

But it does have a recognizable brand, and that's an important thing to have and capitalize on.

Recently, I was assigned the task of setting up the Divergent movie promo -- which I was super, duper, freaken excited about. The most exciting part? I got to open the box and see the movie tie-in covers for the first time.

Holy crap.

The Divergent cover didn't leave an impression on me in the beginning, either. It's a combination of design elements that tells me little about the story. Again, I only picked it up based off a recommendation from the same person.

The familiar original cover that went to shiny-shiny paperback during the winter time. That was a bonus.

When I opened the strict-on-sale box of new Divergent covers, though, I found this:

I'm in love. What an awesome show of restraint. And while looking for this cover online, I found the rest of the promo character posters -- they're absolutely gorgeous. All of them put a spotlight on the characters' tattoos and let that do the talking. It's so brilliant, I'm freaking out. I'd put up all those character posters just because they're stunning.

Oh, and the bonus?

The back cover has a little special treat.

The creative team totally knows who their audience is.

So, now that I have some mixed hope for the future of movie tie-ins, I wonder most what they're going to do with The Fault in Our Stars.

This is such an iconic cover for teen fiction -- what the heck are they going to do to honor both the original cover and also make it more commercial? The movie tie-in comes out April 8, so I guess we'll be finding out next month. Can't wait to alert all the TFiOS fans at work, either.

(And then there's The Giver, The Maze Runner, Mockingjay, Fallen, If I many covers to look forward to. I guess we'll see!)

I'm also really looking forward to debuting the next covers in the Marionettes series, and also the first cover of Monsters. Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh.