Cover Art Sneak Peek

March 15, 2016

The cover art for my upcoming adventure novel has sat, mere brush strokes away from completion, for the majority of my writing process. It’s been displayed as my wallpaper, inspiring my prose as I’ve gone along, and now, at last, I’ve decided to share just one aspect of it with the world. A sneak peek, if you will, of my cover reveal to come.

Merona2

This image of my heroine, Merona Grant, has sat to the side of my writing sessions for some time, and what still surprises me about it, is the way it continues to reveal new aspects of her character each time I look at it. It no longer feels like a mere representation of her for me, but rather, a direct insight into her character, and her spirit.

Mount Writing

November 28, 2015

Mount Writing

Concept of Merona

July 27, 2015

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post this sketch of Merona, as it doesn’t seem to capture her personality the way I feel the first concept sketch did. But I still like it enough to share, and outfit-wise, it is a lot closer to my final design for the character. Plus it’s the first sketch of Merona with her dog that I did. He’s a lot bigger here than I plan on having him, and his face isn’t really at all how I picture him now. But that’s why it’s called a concept sketch. Right?

Merona2

One thing I noticed recently about my character and her design, was that before I had even written the first scene of my story, I had my initial sketch completed, and from that first image my lead was wearing her hat and hefty scarf, and was carrying rope, a rifle, and machete. I didn’t know how the story would go, or what she would need, but these few pieces of equipment and clothing just seemed a part of her character. And they looked useful enough to me, a survival non-expert.

As I wrote, I found my lead making her way around obstacles by utilizing these basic items in ways I hadn’t planned ahead for. Her hat, to me, looked cool, and seemed like nothing more than a guard against the elements, but in one instance it’s used as a makeshift bucket. Her stylish scarf was actually useful to filter bad air, or wrap up an injury. The rifle? Obviously for all those shootouts I never anticipated. The rope, which I had always seen as a lasso, became one of the most versatile items in her arsenal. And her machete? Well let’s just say, I thought she would use it to clear away pesky vines… not the other things she does with it.

In the end it was as if Merona herself had selected her attire and equipment, not me, because she knew exactly what kinds of things she typically ran into in her day to day job. It might have been easier for me, as the almighty writer, to just add to her arsenal to fit future situations, but I liked the way, with just a few items, she seemed to have things more or less covered. Naturally, I added a few things I pictured her carrying in her pockets that weren’t in my initial sketches; a lighter, dynamite, a rag to clean her gun. But I’m sure she would have figured things out even without my little additions.

She was one of those characters that seemed to know exactly who she was before I ever did. And to be honest, those are the characters I find myself most eager to write. The ones that seem to be alive before I’ve breathed life into them. The ones I feel like I’m uncovering, rather than creating.

Giving Things Character

July 11, 2015

You’ve met my lead, now meet the team. Giving no names (at least not yet) we have (from right to lift) the doctor, the pilot, the loyal dog, the adventuress, the financier, and the linguist.

The Team

When I was first formulating my story, I immediately began to craft its cast of characters. Because for me characters are one of, if not the most important thing in a story. They determine, with their personality and principles, how each scene of the story will play out, and they are what the reader will, hopefully, relate most to.

I started to craft them as both a team, making sure that their characteristics were compatible yet distinct from one another, but also (and more importantly) as individuals. One by one, I set about determining what they would sound like, look like, act like, and what they would bring to the team.

Character1

The Adventuress was not only my lead character, but also my team’s leader, and as such needed a strong personality to keep everyone in line. Though that’s not to say she needed to be a people person. She was a tough, blunt, no-nonsense woman of action, and though her team didn’t have to like her, they would have to listen to her. At least most of the time.

Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she had been forming in my head long before the story ever had, but I very naturally felt she would have a weariness about her that the other characters might not. She was the veteran of the team and all her thrill for discovery had long since vanished. Her life of adventure and treasure hunting had turned to a menial job of virtual tedium. And I felt it suited her nicely.

Character2

The Loyal Dog, for me, was a no-brainer. Of course my adventuress would have a scruffy mutt at her side. I mean, what story isn’t improved by a dog? He could warn the team of impending danger that only his keen ears could detect; he could distract the enemy to give his master the upper hand in a fight, but more importantly, he would bring out my surly protagonist’s softer side whenever she interacted with him.

Character3

The Pilot had been floating around in my mind almost as long as my adventuress had, and as a character he was very clear and straightforward. He was a Russian mountain of a man, had a mustache, was a pilot, and as a matter of principle he never, ever, crashed. He would be my leading lady’s old friend and second in command. And though the two could function as a well-oiled machine when needed, they would also contrast each other in many ways.

He would take great pride in his work, she would be in it for the money. He would never hit a woman, she would hit anyone who deserved it. He would be the strength, she would have the cunning. He would be her foil, and she would be his. They could stand side by side, with their differences and similarities, without detracting from the other’s strengths.

Character4

The Linguist was a character of many facets and skills, but mainly seemed to fill the role of peacemaker amid a team of conflicting personalities. She was there to make things run smoothly, when anyone would listen to her. She was clean, poised, and feminine, yet physically adept and logical. She served as a secondary foil, contrasting my pilot and filling the feminine side of things to highlight my lead’s rougher edges.

Character5

The Financier was originally a rich couple, who wished to find adventure in their declining years of life. But for the sake of conserving detail, and characters, they were merged into one, very excitable, aristocrat. Her unquenchable desire for excitement would fuel the adventure. She was, after all, funding the whole thing, so it only followed that she should be passionate about it. Plus there seemed to be little drawback to including an elderly lady thrill-seeker in the tale. On the contrary, it opened up a world of possibilities as a writer.

Character6

The Doctor was a necessity in that the team would suffer injury, and someone needed to patch them up. But her character needed to be more than that. She needed to be an individual, with a distinct personality that would play against the other members of the team. Looking over my other characters, I realized I lacked a voice of reason to point out all the over-the-top craziness that was going on and flat out say “This is insane!” and my physician seemed the perfect character to fill that role. She would be thin, bespectacled, and highly phobic of the world around her as a result of her extensive medical knowledge.

After fleshing out my team as individuals, I looked over them as a whole and realized something… there were four women and only one man. Instinctively I started looking over my characters to decide who would make the switch from female to male to even things out, but almost the moment I started to ponder the conundrum, I couldn’t help but think, “Why? Why can’t my cast be predominantly female?” That was, after all, how I pictured them as individual characters, and had the lopsidedness gone in the other direction, I doubt I would have batted an eyelash.

I think my kneejerk reaction came from a desire to NOT write some sort of feminist-statement book. Which predominant female stories inevitably seem to become. I don’t like stories that set out to make a point in spite of how clunky it might make the narrative. I wanted it to be a fun, lighthearted adventure book. Not a lecture on gender politics. But I decided that just because the cast was mostly women, didn’t mean it had to be a book for only women. They were a team of quirky characters, with differing perspectives, personalities, and a wide range of skills, who just happened to be female.

The story was set in the mid-30s, and so it seemed to require some simple reasoning for why the team was lopsided in an unconventional way for the time. But being that I already had an unconventional elderly adrenaline-junky financing the quest, I figured a small addition to her eccentricities of insisting on hiring all women, would be a simple and effective answer to the question. My team could remain as I had originally envisioned them, and my story could continue as planned.

A Glimpse of Adventure

June 15, 2015

You’ve met Merona Grant (and if you haven’t, you should), and though for the time being I’ve put my writing edits on her story on hold (so I can go back with fresh eyes later), I’ve been plugging away at sketching in some of the interior concept art for her upcoming adventure. And well… I thought I should give everyone a glimpse of just one of the pieces I’ve done so far.

Merona,Art1

Intrigued? Good.

I had contemplated talking all about this picture… who’s in it, where they are, and what chapter it will feature in within the novel. But then I thought, “Nah.” A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? I’ll just let it speak for itself. I mean, it seems pretty clear what it’s trying to say.

Meet Merona Grant

June 5, 2015

I’ve been working on a little story (which has slowly, and against my will, turned into a big story) for a while now, and I thought it was about time I introduced its heroine to the world.

Meet Merona Grant. Adventuress, and treasure hunter for hire, with a predisposition for receiving black eyes, and a rifle which she keeps cleaner than she keeps herself.

Merona1

This sketch is one of the first I ever did of my leading lady, and though her final design differs quite a bit from this one, this image was what stood as my main visual inspiration while writing the initial draft of my story.

So, who is Merona you ask? Oh, you didn’t? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. Merona is the adventuring heroine I’ve been waiting to read about since I was… let me think… like nine years old. She’s as straight shooting with her words, as she is with her gun, can handle herself in a scrape (even if she herself gets scraped up in the process), hates bathing as much as I did at nine, and lives a life sleeping under the stars alongside her scruffy companion, a mongrel-dog who sticks to her side like glue, but rarely listens to a word she says.

I have numerous rereads, edits, and concept art to complete before you will have a chance to get to know her as well as I do. But until that time comes, you can feel free to gaze at her picture (if you’re inclined to do that sort of thing) and try your best to see past the brim of her hat for hints of her unseen depths, and, as yet, unrevealed adventures.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with author Scott D. Southard on creating a cover for his new mystery/thriller Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare and I wanted to post the cover design and share a little about my process in creating it.

Honestly, I’m not terribly good at recalling how I create my art. It tends to sort of pop into my head and I rush to get it down on paper before some new idea crowds it out. I’m a bit of a scatterbrain that way, but here goes.

After emailing back and forth a little with Scott, I was sent a short excerpt of a scene he thought would work as a setting for the cover. The writing was so vivid and the descriptions so striking that an image came immediately to my mind of his cast of characters gazing up towards McGregor castle as one of its many fearsome gargoyles loomed into frame overhead. I had several other concepts for the cover, but this one seemed to affix itself in my mind the strongest, so I went with it.

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, rough cover

Originally I had intended to just whip up something quick. Something that would give him an idea of what I was thinking, so I would know if we were on the same page for the cover design, but the details in my head were so exact, that it didn’t seem to do justice to the idea to leave out all that richness.

Honestly, it was all I could do to restrain myself from very nearly finishing the whole thing! However, I didn’t even know if it was at all what he wanted for his book, so I focused my energy on the details that seemed to count the most. First I worked on the characters, the expressions on their faces and the design of their clothes. I wanted to capture them as best I could, so if I had got something wrong it would be instantly apparent and could be changed before the final cover was completed.

Next, I wanted to focus on the surrounding mood. The strong shadows, the mist creeping in around their feet, the harsh faces of the gargoyles as they almost seem to watch the group pass them by, and the dead and scraggly branches of the tree overhead, to add darkness to the background and help the title stand out. The cover quickly took shape, and was soon sent off for approval. Fortunately my efforts paid off and Scott loved it.

Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, Cover

Once I started working on the final details for the approved cover, the characters were mostly ready and only really required some cleaning up, finalizing of shading, and the addition of highlights. Even though the characters will be smallish on the cover, I still took the time to try and capture certain types of materials for the different fabrics of their clothing by slight variations in shading. An example can be seen in the pictures below of the rough fabrics of Mr. Blackberry’s coat and hat, in contrast with the silken shine of Anna’s green dress.

Fabric

The backdrop was probably adjusted the most, slightly enlarging the gargoyle behind them to tower overhead a little more ominously, and changing the curve of the stairs to allow the distant gargoyle to become more visible. The tree overhead was completely reimagined to give it a much more complex, almost tangled web-like appearance.

distant gargoyle

The gargoyle in the foreground remained very similar in structure to the original, but his shading and highlights were almost completely redone, to capture the texture of the rough stone he was hewn from. I must admit, I somewhat relished covering him with cracks, chips and scratches to really give the impression of stone weathered over the years.

If you want to read about the author’s perspective in this process, Scott Southard has written some very good posts that can be found here, here, and here. And if you would like to know more about his book, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, you can find a short description here.

I wanted to post another piece of art from my mystery novella The Pale Rose, and thought I would include the character descriptions featured at the start of the book. Incidentally, this illustration is for the last chapter, and features the lead detectives, Charles & Amelia Humble.

Ch22, In Conclusion

Cast of Characters

Amelia Humble: A devoted wife and mother with a scandalous proficiency for probing the criminal psyche; though no one would know it to look at her.

Charles E. Humble: He would have gladly admitted to his wife’s marked hand in shaping his career, had she not forbidden him from doing any such thing.

Montgomery Townsend: Unwavering in his devotion to the woman he loves; hiring a private detective was only the first step in his endeavor to find his wife.

Josephine Townsend: An effervescent woman with expensive taste and a love for things of beauty.

Gregory Richards: A close friend of Mr. Townsend, he appeared to care little for much of anything, least of all his tiresome wife.

Victoria Richards: A woman very practiced at forgetting unpleasant things, and speaking only of pleasant ones.

Rufus Barrymore: Born to money, he had little need to think, which was fortunate for him, as he had little ability to do so with any degree of success.

Oscar Barrymore: Life’s wicked jokes had hindered any grand plans for his future, souring both his perspective and mood.

Patricia Bartlett: A dear friend of the missing woman, her appearance was as agreeable as her manner was helpful.

Mrs. Attwood: She was unable to attend the party on the evening of the tragedy, though this hardly meant she could add nothing to the investigation.

Forbes: He maintained an appearance of rigid strictness, but inwardly seemed to hide something more.

Matilda Oliver: A young maid who kept to her work, and tried her best to stay out of trouble; though trouble had a way of finding her.

Miss Kippering: The highly suspicious cook, her unpleasant nature made it no wonder at all that she never married.

Vincent Welling: Mr. Townsend’s bungling assistant, who still held his employment to the great marvel of all who met him.

Inspector Cole: The inspector in charge of the case, his disproportionate arrogance seemed to be the beginning and end of his character.

My first mystery novella in the Housewife Detective Series is available for purchase from both Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com

So be sure to order your copy soon!

 

Amelia Humble had a secret.

She knew perfectly well that the criminal mind was something that proper ‘40s housewives, such as herself, just didn’t go poking about in. The trouble was she simply couldn’t resist. While the other ladies would sip their tea, nibble their biscuits, and gossip about scandalous trivialities in town; Amelia’s mind would drift to murder, mayhem, and mystery.

Her unsuitable interests were splendidly concealed by her husband Charles, who had the occupation of private detective, and a reputation for being one of the finest investigative minds in all England. Mind you, he hadn’t always carried such distinction, having little reputation for any particular shrewdness in his bachelor days; but it could not be denied that marriage had been the making of Charles Humble.

When a prominent socialite vanishes from her own cocktail party, leaving nothing behind save a solitary rose; Amelia isn’t about to pass up the prospect of wrapping her mind around such a promising conundrum. It’s not long, however, before the mystery of the missing woman leads to a demand for ransom money, and amidst contradicting statements the once solid facts are left unrecognizably twisted.

This illustration is featured in my first mystery novella The Pale Rose. I’ve always liked books that have interior illustrations, and being both a writer and an artist I was very excited to be able to include some as chapter headings in my mystery.

You can read the full first chapter “Following the Fireworks”.