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Monday, October 22, 2012

Word and Image, Finding a Cover Artist

You can relax now. After several weeks of pissing and moaning and looking at hundreds (okay, dozens) of websites and covers in bookstores and the local library, I've found my cover artist, Todd Hebertson. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd just asked the good folks at in the first place. When I emailed them looking for the AWOL Dustin Ashe, they told me others were also looking for him and he'd apparently disappeared. Again. I couldn't wait for him to show up and asked for suggestions. Indira suggested two possibles, one of whom was Todd Hebertson.

So I looked at his website and his work was professional, but the images not quite what I was looking for. More weeks, more banal covers, more pissing and moaning. Finally I decided to check Todd out. There's a lot to be said for professional. He emailed me back within the day. He didn't ask for clips or the ms of the book, just a synopsis and technical specs. Not a good sign, I thought. How can he come up with images that fit the book if he's not read even parts of it?

He didn't. The first proof came in a day or two. I loved the layering, the layout and the font and he'd somewhere found a photo of the Krause Music Store in Ravenswood (where the book opens) taken before the huge tree grew up that blocks photos now. But the cover looked like a romance novel: Seraphy had a page boy, wore a suburban car coat, looked like she was on her way to teach kindergarden, and the cover was in shades of orange. Arghh. Try again, I said.

If I'd been thinking, I'd have realized Todd couldn't read my mind and it was not his fault I didn't manage to tell him what sort of image I had in mind (I was used to Dustin, who reads the clips and presto! a brilliant, perfect image appears. If he ever gets to it). I thought about exactly  what image I wanted. Make the figure smaller, I said, and in silhouette, and get rid of the orange. Blue or green or gray are okay.  I sent a slew of photos of Louis Sullivan's work I'd taken in Ravenswood to give him the idea. And a page of the coded WWII journal that leads Seraphy to the killer (I had fun writing that using a toothpick and instant coffee on watercolor paper).

The second proof was better, but now it was a nasty greeny-yellow I hated and Seraphy was still too big, wearing leggings and her shoulders slumped--not a housewife, but a sad sorority girl. Okay, I said, kill the shrieky green, think Williamsburg blues and greens, make the figure smaller. Look at photos of Adam Lambert and Lisbet Salander (The Swedish version,w/Rapace, not the American one) and make her edgy, not ordinary. Todd was now answering emails in one word. I figured he was about ready to see me off to Devil's Island.

A couple days later I got the third proof. Wow. Perfect colors, Nice dark, mysterious Seraphy silhouette, great architecture in the background, nice overlay of the journal page. I loved it! I was so excited I spent the last two days finishing proofing my manuscript so I can send it off to for formatting tomorrow, along w/ the new cover.

All this has me thinking about word and image. If the artist hasn't read the book (and that would take far more time than usually feasible), how do we tell another person, who has totally different life experiences and visual referents, what we want our cover (illustration, whatever) to look like? What words will mean the same thing to him as they do to us? Todd is of a different generation from me and lives in Utah, while I am in central Illinois, so different cultures. Somehow we did it and he created a cover that expresses the love of architecture and mystery I wanted, and better, the multilayered story. Good on you, Todd Hebertson!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Almost Done. Again. Finding a Cover Designer. Arghh.

Once again I see I've neglected to write for over a month. Sorry about that, but you see, I don't like to write if I don't think I have anything to say. Or maybe it's that I'm just slothful and thinking of something seems too difficult.

Anyhow, I'm here now. September was a strange month, starting out so hot I had the AC on constantly and ending cold enough to turn on the heat. At least the drought ended and with the first rain, my garden revived, both the grass and the flowers returned. A few of the spring flowers are even blooming again.

And I finally finished what was to be a proofreading of my second novel, Along the Ravenswood. Proofreading turned into a rewrite and took far longer than I planned. I can't spend more than 3-4 hours at a time working on the book or I get dozy and start skipping through and missing errors, so I spent afternoons on Something Completely Different--tuckpointinng and limewashing the basement of the old house I own next door.

Here's an old photo from three years ago--the porch and the small balcony now have new railings, or restored old ones. Much better. The lilies have grown into a goodly green fence/hedge.

It's a huge old place 45' x 45', divided now into four apartments, two up and two down, with a central hall. The brick foundation's a hundred years old and there were  places I could have stuck my finger in between the bricks, if I didn't mind the spiders, which I did. WhenI bought the house in 2000, the basement was a black hole, wet, moldy, filled with junk and dripping with spider webs. Since then I've had over four dump truck loads of stuff taken out of it, the foundation exterior tuckpointed, the floor paved (yes, it had a dirt floor!) and all the gas and water lines replaced. Now the basement has a large central room with a 9 foot ceiling and 3 rooms on each side that open into it. All these brick-walled rooms were dark and spidery. I put off doing anything about that for over 10 years.
Rewriting and proofing were driving me insane to the point where even working on the basement seemed attractive. I wasn't interested in cutesy panelling and carpet.I like real basements--a painted concrete floor and white limewashed walls that create a clean, dry, bright work and storage space. So that's where I've been. 18 bags of mortar mix and 9 bags of hydrolized lime and I'm nearly done, as done as I think basements should be. I've only one small room left to tuckpoint yet, then a final coat of limewash. I'll leave the whole thing to dry out and paint the floor (pale gray, what else?). It should be done about the time Ravenswood goes live on Kindle.   

Today and the rest of this week I'm doing one more (THE LAST) read-through of Ravenswood, writing the blurb, getting all that forematter and endmatter and so on written and sending it off to Hitch at for formatting.

I'm also making up my mind on a cover artist. Dustin Ashe seems to have fallen into a black hole, so I've been looking at hundreds of covers. Almost none of which I liked--too many feel alike, some are too cute, many too trite, some too slick, etc. Some designers don't even ask about the book. Some offer stock covers from which to choose. Arghh! Is there no one who thinks he or she should read the book, or parts therof, and design a cover with some relation to that book? Such a radical thought! I finally have someone in mind (suggested by the folks at, but I'll decide by the end of the week. Arghh.