Posts Tagged ‘website’

Summer Update

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So I’ve been very quiet lately over here, mostly because there’s not all that much to report. I turned in The Bone Flower Queen to my editor last month and am waiting on his edit letter, and I also finally finished up Fugitives of Fate and took the plunge, submitting it to two different publishers. This time I’m not bothering with trying to get an agent; I did attempt to do so last year, but there wasn’t any interest whatsoever in my first round of queries. There are a few digital-first romance publishers that I think would be open to my unusual setting, but they don’t pay high advances–if any at all–so it seems a waste of time to try to convince an agent to take me on at this point. Regardless of how it turns out with these publishers, this book will eventually be published, even if I decide to go it alone by self publishing; the book is good, but will likely be held back by the fact that it’s not your usual historical romance setting. I have no intention of letting it languish unpublished.

On the writing front, I’m current between projects while I wait to hear back from my editor on my synopsis of the final book of The Bone Flower Trilogy. I’ve been keeping busy in the meantime with reading and critiquing friends’ novels; I had two to do this month, and I’ve started on the second and hope to have it done in a few days. I’m also giving thought to my next alternate history romance novel. I may end up outlining that one after I finishing critiquing. I’m looking forward to getting back to some actual writing soon.

In case you haven’t been here to the website in a while, I’ve made some updates that might interest fans. I’ve posted a copy of my Big Idea essay–in which I talk about the core idea behind The Bone Flower Trilogy–and I’ve added a 50-question quiz to test your knowledge of The Bone Flower Throne. Most exciting though, I’ve added a page for The Bone Flower Queen, which includes an excerpt for readers, and you can browse the book’s Pinterest page. I’m looking into making a reader’s guide for BFT, but haven’t made a whole lot of progress on it at this point.

Artists, if you’ve been inspired to make art from The Bone Flower Throne (or any of my works, really), I’d love to see it! You can contact me via the contact page here, or you can drop me a note over on Facebook (though be aware that I might not see your message for a while since Facebook likes to drop stuff into the Other inbox and I often don’t look at that for weeks on end).

There Goes My Beautiful Website

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So, last week my website broke and after consultation with my host, we figured out that my beautiful customized theme was the culprit. Very sad, since it was so lovely with its custom artwork, but the parent theme is no longer being supported by its maker and with a book launch coming up in October and trying to secure a new agent and get working on the sequel to The Bone Flower Throne (not to mention a vacation coming up), I just don’t have the time to relearn php and css to fix the theme myself (and who knows what dumb stuff I did when I modified the original theme anyway). I’m officially declaring the death of my lovely theme. Sniff!

But, I have hired the good folks at Clockpunk Studios to build me a new website with better functionality than the old one, and I’m excited to see what they make for me. In the meantime, the website shall languish with the ultra bland Twenty Twelve theme, but at least all the pages are working again.

Working with Artists

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I recently read an interesting blog post by Jim Hines talking about the process of the cover art design for his novel Snow Queen, and I was struck by how similar it seemed to be to the process I went through to get my website art, so I thought a post about that might be of interest to readers.

I started thinking about trying to get some cool website art when I saw the art my friend Juliette Wade got for her site. Since I’d started having a website, I’d relied mostly on creative commons artwork and photography to decorate it and make it look pretty, but I was never quite satisfied with it. After asking Juliette how much she’s spent for her artwork, I spent some time browsing artist over at Deviant Art (which was where she’d found her artist). I did find quite a few artists that I thought probably could have produced beautiful artwork, but I was stymied by the fact that many of them were overseas and some of them had no English on their DA pages. Some of the artists I seriously considered though were Mauricio Herrera, Carolina Eade, Terese Nielsen, and Rudolph Herczog.

But what I was really looking for though was artwork that reminded me of the illustration that Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon had done for my Realms of Fantasy story. Eventually I got the crazy idea that maybe they would be interested in doing it, so I sent Zelda an email. I didn’t think they’d actually have the time to take on the project, for they looked very busy with client work on their website, posting up new illustrations almost every other day, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. Besides, I’d exchanged some emails with Zelda a year earlier when I was getting a print of my story’s illustration and so knew I’d at least get a polite note back.

So I was actually quite surprised when Zelda wrote back to tell me that they could take on the project. We exchanged a couple emails discussing pricing and what exactly I was looking for, and though I won’t go into detail about this part, I do want to give a suggestion to anyone looking to commission art, particularly from professional artists: ask them up front how much they would charge for what you have in mind. It’s embarrassing to drastically underbid something. Instead, tell them your idea and get their pricing, and if it’s too much, ask them what they can do for you in the price point you’re looking to spend. And be realistic about what an artist’s time and effort is worth. Also, avoid commissioning from artists that insist on paying the full amount upfront. You should get final say on the final product before you completely pay for it (I commissioned a sculpture from an artist that I paid in full upfront and I ended up not getting to see the final product before she shipped it to me. I was all right with what she’d done, but I could have been out of luck if the artwork hadn’t been up to my satisfaction. Paying half up front and the rest on delivery protects both artist and client.)

Once we’d settled on the scope of the project, Zelda then had me send her detailed descriptions of the characters and a few well-chosen paragraphs from the novel. For the character descriptions, I didn’t go very much into physical characteristics but rather talked about their personalities and background, but for a couple characters I did lay out some stuff that I didn’t want to see done with them; like with Topiltzin, I wanted him to have darker complexion, to avoid the whole Quetzalcoatl as bearded-white-guy interpretation of the myths. I also wanted go with strictly human portrayals of Mayahuel and Topiltzin while I wanted animal characteristics integrated into Smoking Mirror and Mextli. I also really wanted to avoid over-sexualizing Mayahuel, since every piece of art I’ve seen of her has her partially naked, if not fully. I wanted sensuality, not porn, and I passed over considering some really good artists I saw on Deviant Art because their women were ultra-sexualized. I also provided Zelda with some scans of Aztec clothing, which they made really good use of, and I specified that I’d really like a pyramid in the header. I had an image in my head of what I wanted all of this to look like, but decided not give too many specific directions to try to get it to match that. I have some art background, but I haven’t drawn or painted in 15 years now, so I didn’t want to get in their way very much. They’re professional artists and everything I’ve seen of their work shows that they know what they’re doing. And one of the reasons I chose them was that they seem to “get” my work.

sketch_123010With everything turned in, we settled on a deadline of December 31st for completion. (Make sure you do this. Don’t leave the completion date open-ended, for then you might be waiting way too long for your piece. I didn’t set a deadline for the sculpture and so the artist just forgot about it until I poked her about four months later to ask for a status report on it. Yeah, this is the same person who I’d already paid in full….) Kurt and Zelda started some sketching right away (I assume this was the very first sketch they made right after taking the job) but it wasn’t until a couple months later that I received the initial sketch for approval:

I loved it immediately and was really amazed by how well they captured all the characters. I’m not kidding when I say it looked to me like they’d plucked them directly from my brain and drew them on paper; they all look exactly how I picture them. I had some doubts about the lack of pupils in Mextli’s eyes, but decided at that point to let that slide, to see how they’d deal with that in the final painting.

About a week later, Zelda sent me the finish painting for my approval. There was a ton to love about it, but there was also a major color issue. I hemmed and hawed about this for a couple hours, wondering if I should mention it or just accept it as is, because it would be a significant change requiring repainting of three of the characters. And I’m naturally a non-confrontational person, so approaching people to talk about problems is sometimes difficult for me. I think too my previous experience with the sculptor made me hesitate. I’d asked for a change on the piece after seeing the initial pictures and though she agreed to do it, she didn’t send me any follow up pictures to make sure she’d done it right. There was a whole attitude of “I’m done with you now” to the whole thing. But eventually I put on my big-girl panties and decided I had to ask Kurt and Zelda for the change because I just couldn’t live with the flaw. I also took that opportunity to ask them to add pupils to Mextli’s eyes because he just looked vacant without them.

entire illustrationKurt and Zelda were very professional about doing the changes, asking for extra time to get them done and sending follow up scans once they’d finished, and this time everything was spot-on. The final piece has a bit more on it than what you see on the blog.

I put the seal of approval on this one without hesitation and I’m immensely happy with what I got.

And so that’s pretty much it. It was an interesting learning experience for me. If you’re looking to commission some artwork, some tips to consider:

  • Make sure you’re not paying in full upfront, and make sure you get to sign off on the final project before you pay the balance.
  • Set a deadline for delivery, but be reasonably flexible as it approaches.
  • Be specific about things you do and don’t want to see in the art, but also give the artists room to breathe.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for changes.
  • Professionals will keep you informed of progress and delays.

Revamped Website Revealed!

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Back in August, I commissioned artists Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon to do some art work for my website and I couldn’t be happier with what they made for me. They did the original art for my Realms of Fantasy story “The Hearts of Men” and I so loved that piece that I just knew that they could make some fine quality art for the website. And indeed, it turned out beautiful. All of their work is exquisite and it’s really worth a trip over to their website to see what they’ve done for companies like RoF, TOR, Night Shade Books, and Pearson Education.

About the art work itself, the four characters are the major players in my Aztec fantasy novel The Gardens of Omeyocan (unpublished, but close to completion). The woman is Mayahuel, goddess of the maguey plant. Below her on that left side is Tezcatlipoca, or the Smoking Mirror, god of darkness and deceit. On the right hand side, at the top, is the legendary priest-king of the Toltec, Ce Acatl Topiltzin, who is also the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl, god of civilization. And below him is the war god Mextli–usually known as Huitzilopochtli. All of them are characters I write about quite a bit in my work, so they were all natural choices for the artwork.

Please do take a look around. The fiction section features fragments of the original sketches for the art work and they are just as lovely as the full-color versions.

Website is Complete!

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Finally, after about two weeks worth of work, and lots of stumbles and hair-pulling along the way, the website is now fully integrated into WordPress. Please do stop by and take a look around. I’ve expanded the fiction section to include notes on each story, and added more entries to the resources section. For back-end fun, try this link, or type a word into the search bar that you know won’t be on the site (I’ve tested and “porcupines” does not show up anywhere on the site 😀 ). The header features eight different images that rotate each time you refresh a page (sometimes anyway. The randomness sometimes means the same header appears 3 times in a row.).

Now that this is all done, I can finally go back to working on the novel. It feels like it’s been far too long since I have….

ETA: btw, the url is now