Friday, January 31, 2014

The Sum of Me is You

It has always been a bit of a thistle-point with me that I do not play an instrument. Everyone else in my family does. Even Grace, at seven years old, can manage more one-finger tunes on the piano than I. But, like Elizabeth Bennet, I have always considered that my fault because "I would not take the trouble to practice." I sing, yes, but that is hardly the same as being able to sit down to an instrument and bring forth emotion from the keys or strings or mouth-piece. Sometimes, when I've run out of words and my heart is fair to bursting with some sorrow or concern or longing, I will run my fingers over the keys of our piano like a lisping scholar trying to fathom a Latin text, and feel hopelessly illiterate. I know a good bit of music theory from early lessons and my father has started again a music theory class for my sisters and I. I balked when the proposal came up and laughingly told Mama I have no time. When pressed as to why I was so against the idea of an hour's class a few evenings a week I told her:
"I have no room in my life for being bad at things!"
As soon as I said it, I had one of those odd, blue-moon sensations of having unintentionally said something profound. I laughed it off as a joke, but when I reviewed this comment (after the first session of theory-class) I had to acknowledge that I partly meant what I said. See, I don't like being bad at things. I am accustomed to being good at what I'm good at, trying new things, and abandoning them if I don't show prompt aptitude; this variety of pride is my downfall. A person can't live a full life if they must be good at everything. To have no room for being bad at that not the same as refusing adventure? I think of the example of those people one comes across at dinner-parties now and then. At the first few moments of conversation, one thinks one has finally discovered a new and interesting acquaintance: the person is well-informed and passionate about the subject on which you are conversing and all seems bright and beautiful. Then one begins to realize that the subject is the only subject on which the other person seems capable of speaking and the slow, entrapping sensation of having met a bore creeps down one's spine. When I realized this tendency of mine to not do a thing because I wasn't immediately good at it, I knew I needed to break this habit and quickly. If the world ran by the standards to which I was holding myself, think how dull it would be:

People without fine voices would never sing.
Children would never draw pictures because they weren't real artists.
Learning an instrument would be illegal unless you were a protege and knew instinctively.
You could only ever learn the one language to which you were raised.
Poor gardeners would not be permitted to try growing seeds.
Only the true athletes would be allowed to jog or play sports.
Dancing could be done only by professionals.

And on and on the dull, drab world would go. What a place! What a hell. In fact, if you made room in your life only for the things at which you were perfect, you would be left shriveled and dead. We are imperfect in our very natures, which is why we need Christ's perfection to redeem us. If the sum of me is my talents, my achievements, my merits, I am nothing. What I need to focus on instead is who I am in God's eyes. I want to be able to say with a joyful, buoyant spirit: "The sum of me is You." This it the only identity that will last, and with this identity comes freedom. Freedom to struggle, to be broken, to fail because we have accepted at last that we are strugglers, broken, and failing mortals. Freedom to create imperfect offerings with right hearts. Christ has seen all our mess and He still chooses us, loving us in our imperfections because "in our weakness He is made strong."  I'm called to rejoice in my weaknesses, knowing they glorify my King.

Creativity is a gift of worship. Creating anything is an act of praise. God knows I can't make a single thing perfect by His standard of perfection. All that is required of me is to do my best. If my best attempt at drawing is a clumsily-sketched hand, so be it. If my best attempt at music is a fumbled rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," so be it. I'll never be perfect and to deceive myself by thinking I will is madness. No one is perfect. No book I will ever write, no song I will ever sing, no landscape I will ever paint will be perfect...but if I try and dare and do, they can't help but be beautiful.
"To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality."
-John Ruskin

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"You and rabbits--extraordinary!"

I was watching Miss Potter again last night. We've spoken of it before: of the fact that every time I watch this film, I come away inspired, invigorated, and ever so slightly depressed that I don't own an estate in the Lake District. I don't exactly know why I love the movie so much unless it is just the fact that it This is probably the reason; every friend that has watched it has asked/messaged/texted me and said, "Hey, Rachel, have you seen Miss Potter? It reminds me so much of you."

I grew up on Beatrix Potter's little books and now that I'm quite grown, I have purchased a huge, beautiful hard-bound copy of the complete set. My sister owns a book full of the letters Beatrix sent to children all around the world which inspired me to start drawing picture-letters for the little folk in my own life. I intend to name one of my daughters Beatrix, if my husband is amicable to the idea.... (Ha. ha. ha. ha.) All told, the stories, film, and letters of and about Beatrix Potter fill me with a nostalgic, lovely contentment that makes me want to take out my watercolors and start again with the lovely old rhythm of art, words, and story.

I was talking once with one of my friends, Wyatt Fairlead, about the film. (He was one who told me I must see this film if I hadn't already)

"It always makes me want to paint amazing pictures and publish a book," I said.
"It always makes me want to own land in the Lake District," he followed.

That was a jolly plan and it has grown since to a plot that he will somehow fall into an inheritance (or win a lottery) and buy at least one farm up there. Matthew (my cousin) and Amy (Wyatt's sister and Matthew's girl) and I will then come visit and I will have all the joy of a Lake District farm without any of the expense.

It is a very good plan.

Among many of the other joys of the film, (LIKE THE SCENERY? OH LOR') the soundtrack is paramount. It is the essential "writing music" for me....just turn that soundtrack up on Spotify and dig my mental claws into my story and there we go. I need to employ the music in the background while writing Anon, Sir, Anon -- just the right feel for the story. When watching the movie last night, I was excited (and a bit astonished) to realize that my Lair is quite a lot like Beatrix's room...and I have always envied/loved/adored/wanted her painting room. That was quite a lovely lovely realization and now I love my messy wall more than ever.

There is one scene toward the start of Beatrix's career when she has just published The Tale of Peter Rabbit and is sitting with Norman Warne (her publisher) over tea. She is saddened that their relationship must needs come to an end because the business of publication is through and they have succeeded...then Norman leans across the table saying:

"Your book has made my life so full...I was hoping there would be more stories...?"
Beatrix looks a bit taken aback. "Y..yes."
Norman: "Then I look forward to doing it again and again..."
Beatrix: "And again!"

And that is exactly how this whole publication of Fly Away Home feels. I just want to keep writing, keep making stories, keep dreaming about that farm in the Lake District I will never ever might someday own...and keep chasing after dreams like Beatrix Potter. I never hope to be able to walk into my bank and ask them if I could perhaps afford a small country house of my own and be told I'm quite a wealthy woman and have enough for several estates, but it is a pleasant thought all the same.

Oh dear. I independently published. No charming, humorous, lovable publishing men for me....

Guess I'll settle for a thick, roguish Willie Heelis when I go off to visit Wyatt Fairlead's farm. :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Well this is a horrific nothing from one end to the next."

Farnham wished his niece wasn’t there so they could get on with the facts of the case and Breen wouldn’t have yet another chance to call him an amateur. But the doctor, his oldest friend and volunteer nuisance, was intent on having the whole, long tale.
-Anon, Sir, Anon
In the interviews I have done on several blogs around the block, people have expressed surprise, amusement, and even "Wow...that's a good idea..." that I write in a variety of genres. What I love about bouncing about from one to the next is that I get a better sense of who I am as a writer: my strengths are more definite because they remain strengths through children's fiction, fantasy, and murder mysteries, and my weaknesses can't hide because I am always applying them to the next genre and seeing them wreak havoc which then has to be edited. Also, the sensation of getting to move on to a new genre is as addicting as jumping from an African desert to the steppes of Russia in one bound.

I am getting to do quite a few things differently in Anon, Sir, Anon. One of these things is the chance to finally write a fabulous friendship between two male characters. I have this thing about strong brother-friends that has made me want to write them for some time. Think Sam and Frodo, Merry and Pippin,  Jed and Matt Eckert in Red Dawn, Mole and Ratty in The Wind and the Willows, or Marcus and Esca from The Eagle of the Ninth...pretty much any two guys who have been through reams of life together and are still strong friends in the end. War movies do this to me all the time. I think this friendship tie is the thing that makes so many people like horse-and-boy or dog-and-boy stories...but I find it more fascinating when it is between two humans. With the friendship having humans on each side, both have their own lives, identities, and dreams...and when they can manage to stick together out of sheer will-power (i.e. not bound, as a man and woman are, in a marriage covenant), it's pretty amazing. Girl friendships are wonderful and sister-bonds are great but more than this, I love to read about manly pairs. I hate the term "Bro-mance", but there is something to be said for the concept of two guys who genuinely love each other in a Jonathon-and-David way that is so appealing. Quite unlooked-for, I get to play with this concept in Anon, Sir, Anon:

“‘I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last,’” Farnham said, not bothering to answer the unspoken question. It appeared to Genevieve that her uncle stared rather hard at his friend as if encouraging him to find some extra meaning in the words.
“Oh Lud.” Dr. Breen pushed his chair away from the table and crossed his legs, resting rough boots on the white tablecloth. He stretched his arms behind his head and grinned in an amiable way. “I know this one. I know I know this one.”

Doctor Breen and Mr. Orville Farnham have been friends since antiquity. When Vivi arrives at Whistlecreig, she is immediately swept into a bachelor-world that has been going on forever; a world with its own customs, phraseology, games, and traditions. There's a butler (Allen), there is Dr. Breen, (a seasoned, charming Scotsman), and there is Sir Toby Belch, the bloodhound. (Anecdotally, all the men refer to the hound as "Belch," which Vivi finds vulgar.) It is a great pleasure to write them and to find that I couldn't tell the story without Breen's help.

Breen put up a hand. “Didn’t mean to sound so rough, I’m sorry. But I am curious. I’ve been trying to get Farnham to have an indoor companion all these years--even a bird would do!--he’s always refused flat-down and now  he’s gone and got himself a...a woman!”
          “A niece, Breen. A niece!” Farnham hissed, glancing around as if he feared some slight on his reputation would leak out of the house and into the papers. “And she’s not company, she’s...” He looked her over. “Well, she’s medicine.”
Farnham is a confirmed bachelor with a sensitive soul; really, he's almost more of a woman than Vivi when it comes down to taking offense and needing his space. He's not at all easy to get along with, though he is generally painstakingly polite. Breen steps in where Farnham fails and plays chivalric country doctor with ease. He is my favorite man in the book so far, probably because he knows how to make tea:
     It was a pleasant thing to see an active man making tea; his manner was not at all coaxing as a woman’s would be: he commanded the accoutrements to do his bidding and biscuit and sugar-cube bent to his will, finding homes in a Bakelite ashtray and an overturned turtle shell. He spooned tea-leaves into the bobber and plunked it in a pock-marked, ceramic pot into which he poured the contents of the steaming kettle. A can of sardines was ripped open with the compunction of a polar-bear scenting a seal and from some obscure cabinet in the corner, Dr. Breen produced half a fruit-cake.
I quite love him. Also, he is the one who manages to smooth Vivi's feathers and make himself pleasant when the manliness of Whistlecreig and its inhabitants wear upon the nerves. Breen is, I imagine, the sort who. while being essentially masculine, is a thorough gentleman. He has the charm of an Irishman with the wits of a Scot and the placidness of a Brit.
 . Farnham had never been quite sure why Breen was such a universal favorite--probably something to do with his hair. People liked men with hair.
There is rather a funny reason Farnham is a detective at all, and Breen was in on it. Breen is Farnham's personal doctor as well as oldest friend. They went to University together and now live two and a half miles apart. Breen makes his home and practice at a suite of apartments above Mrs. Froggle's staircase that they have somehow dubbed "The Quagmire" (no one has told me why), and it is his particular pleasure to host people there in the evening. For all this cozy posing, under the urbane bedside manner, Dr. Breen is a man with a deep sense of loyalty and compassion...quite the perfect alka-seltzer to Farnham's caustic temperament. He doesn't excuse his friend's more bitter nature, but he does make allowances for poor health (the bang ulcers) and sees into his loneliness with quick and silent insight. In addition, Breen is the bridge between Farnham and the police because Farnham has no authority as an amateur and his friend, by virtue of being the village doctor, is given the special privilege of getting to attend all the murder scenes. Farnham probably uses the friendship sometimes, but there is an old, unspoken bond between the two that makes sitting about for an hour of silence with a pipe rather a common and pleasant affair. They don't have to talk. They are as close (closer, perhaps) than two brothers and entirely at ease alternately insulting and building-up the other's reputation. I just really really love this man.
“She’ll not be used to our ways. Dead bodies are part of my trade and you stagger down stage-murders thrice a week but Vivi...she’s not used to it. Be kind, blast you. Be kind.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Callie Craves Glitz and Grammar..."

I feel like a need a t-shirt that reads:

"I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because orange jumpsuits aren't quite my style."

Really, though. I am starting to feel like I've been gifted with a personal puppy-dog of an editor who trails me around and makes helpful suggestions to my work. More on this further in the post. Aren't you curious? ;)

An essential point in the process for any writer, whether you are going independent or traditional with your publishing, is the process of Revision & Self-Editing. Many times you can get ultra-dedicated beta readers to help you with the editing process, and many suggest that you actually hire a professional editor. I have not done that yet (I don't have it in my budget to hire for things I can do myself by taking care.) but I think it would be amazing to be able to! Here, I shall take out my little soapbox and stand on it and flap my fingers like a flight attendant, asking you to check on the right for my friend Rachelle Rea, and on the left for my friend Amber Stokes who are both available to meet all your editing needs! Aren't I such a good chum? Anyway, I have benefited first-hand from Rachelle's expertise and know Amber to be a thorough, precise person so  I can vouch for their goodness as editors. But when it comes to do-it-yourself editing/revision, I thought I'd tell you some of my favorite books/tools to use:
First up is James Scott Bell's Revision & Self-Editing. (Appropriately named, yes?) I realize I have mentioned this book at least once (if not 999 times), but anything this marked-up and spine-cracked is obviously worth mentioning again. I am anxious to read Mr. Bell's Plot & Structure someday, but this book is perfect for the writer who wants to have their hands on a book that covers the bases of Dialog, Setting, Pacing, Characterization, Tension, Points of View, and all the other major categories in telling a good story. This book assumes you have a working knowledge of writing and the writing-system so it really is best for revision/self-editing (nawwwww.) but as such I can't think of a better book to recommend. I like being able to flip open to a familiar section in a familiar book and be able to read again exactly the same section I read three months ago; to me, owning a book like this is way more helpful than just Googling my issues.

When I was visiting my older brother in Purcellville this year, I had the chance to hang out at the Patrick Henry College coffee-shop several mornings. Directly across the great hall from the coffee-shop is a little bookstore. I rambled in once or twice, feeling quite horrible that I didn't really have money for all the things I was looking at and wishing I wasn't the only patron in the store, but finally I purchased Eats, Shoots, & Leaves by Lynn Truss, having heard much about it. While I didn't find it to be quite as much The Elements of Style as I expected, it was probably better for being deeper. The book is humorous, dedicated, and has the distinct honor of introducing me to the eloquent semi-colon: a mark to which I now owe much debt. If you want a better handle on the various punctuation marks and their proper and improper uses, this book is a great one!

Quite recently (i.e. last week) Grammarly was brought to my attention and no sooner had a begun a free trial, than I realized that this is a pretty awesome program. See, it's like having a personal secretary. It's like having an English teacher sitting there suggesting changes to your manuscript with complete instructions on what went wrong and how to fix it. According to Wikipedia:
Grammarly is a writing-enhancement platform developed by Grammarly, Inc., and launched in 2009. Grammarly's proofreading and plagiarism-detection capabilities check for a writer's adherence to more than 250 grammar rules
See? It's pretty awesome and exceptionally clever and fast. I am not quite certain if the free version allows you this privilege (I am using my free trial of the real-deal), but you can plug in a whole chapter of your novel and it will search it for mistakes, categorize your mistakes, walk you through them, and suggest changes. In addition to all this, you can also adjust the settings so it will edit your text as a general, business, academic, technical, creative, or casual project. (And the specifics of your critique will adjust to suit!) You should definitely check out Grammarly; the rates are quite reasonable and a year's subscription to the program will probably cost you no more than a one-time editor...which means you can use it on more than one novel, if you're fast! :D Of course, Grammarly suggests you hire a real proof-reader, as an electronic set of eyes will often miss things a human would see. Quite sensible. The site gives you a free week trial so go sign up and try it out. So far it is pretty awesome. They have free tools too (i.e. you can plug in a sentence and it will tell you if it is grammatically correct or not.) so it's worth checking out. 

Well, I have oodles to do. Only 18 days till Fly Away Home is available for purchase! <3 I shall leave you all to play with Grammarly and try to get a grade of 100 out of 100 on your first try. (It's a little addicting.) Toodles and happy writing to you all!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Answering the Inquisition

Hello peoples!
    I will get around the answering all the questions in half a mo, but I wanted to let you know that in exactly one week from today, Anne Elisabeth Stengl will release the winners list for the Five Glass Slippers collection. Eeeeeesh. I honestly have no expectation to win: there were so many entries and so many excellent entries. February 1 shall tell us. If I don't place, I am going to have a lark expanding The Windy Side of Care into a novel/novella! So either way, I am quite content. Now, on to the question-answering! You guys asked some good ones.

Do you have problem with magic like Lord of the Rings?
Short answer: no. I like good and evil to be portrayed in a biblical manner, and I feel that The Lord of the Rings (and the Chronicles of Narnia and so on) do that. I have not read any of the Harry Potter series, but I have heard the lines between good and evil are a little blurred so I would be less interested in that. But then again, I haven't investigated for myself so I am not making an official statement in that manner. I don't have problems with fairy-tale magic either, or fantasy realms provided good is still good and evil still evil.

Do you like Disney?
YES. By Disney I assume you mean the classics? I'm not a fan of the Teen Disney or Toon Disney or what-have-you. I love the classic animated films and the new princess films (Tangled, Frozen!) and I like some of the older live-action stuff like The Swiss Family Robinson and Toby Tyler. But and incredibly stout "yes" to the classics. My sisters and I once amused a young man by singing the entire soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast on the way to see Frozen

Absolute favoritest forever and ever books (excluding Christian fiction romance)?
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis.
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
An Old-Fashioned Girl by L.M. Alcott
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
All of Beatrix Potter's little books. 

What are your convictions about staying at home?
Home is a good place to be in many situations. If my parents weren't supportive of me staying home, I would not be able to be a writer because I'd have to work full time to support myself. That being said, I believe each person needs to consult the Lord's plans for them on this. Staying home is the right thing in some cases. In others, it isn't. Easy as that. I am not against young women having jobs, nor do I scorn those who have moved out of the house before marriage. Some of my best friends have followed God's plan for their lives and He has led them out of their homes and into rich fulfillment, just as other friends have stayed put and reaped the same benefits. 

Favorite music? 
Broadway show-tunes, Colbie Callait, Andrew Peterson, Michael Buble, (swing in general?) Ella Fitzgerald, Kate Rusby, Disney music, Josh Groban

Movies, t.v. shows?
TV shows: Psych, White Collar, Sherlock, Masterchef Jr., I Love Lucy, Monk, Sue Thomas F.B. Eye.
Movies: The LOTR trilogy, Amazing Grace, Emma 2009, National Treasure, Captain America, The Avengers, North & South, the old Pride & Prejudice , Letters to Juliet, The Young Victoria, Miss Potter, My Favorite Wife, Roman Holiday, Charade, Peter Pan, Frozen, and many many more. 

I would be curious to know whether you view yourself as an introvert or an extrovert. 
And introverted extrovert, meaning that I am out-going and love to be around people and am not terribly shy, but I do have a shy side that comes out when I am tired and wishes me to take a moment to collect myself alone.

I'd like to know if a typical week sees you more at home or more away. 
Lately, at home. I do go through spurts of working with GenJ/traveling that will keep me away, but since I don't have my own car and my job is authoress, I don't spend much of my week away from home.

Are you the big-spender type or the extremely thrifty (I think I already know the answer)?
Medium. I am thrifty but I don't have a problem spending money on something I know I need/have been wanting for some time. This means I will get the best deal I can (and wait till it is on sale or I have a coupon or whatever) but I am not afraid to lay out the money when it comes to it. This is all hypothetical, you realize: entirely dependent on if I have any money to lay out. 

Do you have/work in a garden?
In the spring/summer, yes. Two years ago we about killed ourselves with a produce/flower stand at a farmer's market which required farming two acres of land pretty much all day every day in the heat of summer and spending Tuesdays and Fridays prepping for spending Wednesday and Saturday at the market. *flop*
Last year we were blessed to have it easy with a garden just to supply our family's needs.

Do you have any other animal friends besides your cat?
Friends? I like wild creatures of every sort. I like our dog (Churchill Sherlock Lewis) on occasion. I like our cousin's cat, Bilbo, who sort of camps out over here sometimes. I don't like our goats.

Are you a competitive person?
No. I'm too nice.

Do you find yourself to be more soft-spoken or loud and bold?
Enthusiastic (and therefore a bit loud sometimes) but not brassy and flamboyant. 

 Do you prefer dogs or cats (or rabbits)?

Sociable cats are easier to hold, but well-behaved dogs are cute. And if it was a nice rabbit, I could love one, I suppose. 

Your favorite quote from The Princess Bride?
Now you guys know my guilty un-homeschooler secret: I hate this movie. I can't understand why everyone freaks out like it is the greatest thing ever. And the weirdest thing is, I am the extreme minority. But I know I have a good sense of humor. The only thing I can figure is that I don't find slapstick/on-the-nose humor funny. I'm a fan of British wit of the dry, cutting, clever sort. THAT being ranted over, my favorite quote:

"Truly, you have dizzying intellect."

Fuzzy socks or bunny slippers?

I am a barefoot or high-heels kinda girl. Flip-flops too. So...fuzzy socks?

What is your favorite black and white movie?
Roman Holiday

Does your wardrobe have a tendency to whisk children to Narnia?
Unfortunately, I have no wardrobe. My closet is shelf-less and therefore currently looks like Armegeddon and my dresser is rather Un-Narnian. But if I HAD a wardrobe, I think it would be amicable to the idea.

If you had to choose between never reading a non-fiction book again (not including the Bible) or never reading a classic again, which would you choose? (I'm cruel, I know.)
Hmmmm. Sadly enough, I would choose never reading a classic again. See, my knowledge would grow so much slower via the literary route than the facts route, and truth is so often stranger than fiction. What I would do is read every history book I could find and learn languages and research things and then write classics for other people to read. OOOH. Good plot. An author cursed never to be able to read fiction, but always longing to write it....

If you found a Gregory Peck look-alike, what would your reaction be?
Oh, you mean besides following him around the place taking furtive pictures while pretending to take selfies? If I actually met him, I would try to be charming and hoped I stuck around in his mind a little, and then I would come home and virtually cast myself on my best friend's bed and wail the whole story to her, and she would comfort me with Tom Hiddleston pins and assurances that he is probably a jerk in real life, so don't feel too bad he didn't notice you. Whiccccch will probably make me doubly upset because Tom Hiddleston wouldn't notice me either. ;)

Can you fake a British accent?
Rather. Several styles with a bit of thought.

When did your love for the 40s and 50s begin?
Hmmm...probably when I first started noticing that I actually liked the clothes in the history books and then I started loving retro fashion and then started watching old movies and listening to swing music and...yeah. :)

How many siblings do you have?

Eight. :)

Could you introduce them to us?
Daniel: 23 years old, works with Generation Joshua, in a serious relationship with one of my best friends; we are very close. Think...Sophie Scholl and her brother. Or, for a more cheerful take, a better-fated brother-sister pair.

Sarah: 19. My roommate and the mathematical-brained child. She is more extroverted than I, but quieter. Good at debate. Plays piano and has a good man-voice for all the Broadway man roles.
Leah: 16. Currently has a tap-dancing mania, plays piano, crazy upper-body strength, likes to be around her family, good at drawing.
Anna: 14. The diva. She has a dream to tour like Jackie Evancho and to eventually be on Broadway. She has a beautiful voice and modern fashion-sense. She likes stripes and polka-dots.
Benjamin: 12. My history-loving buddy. Witty, sports-lover, handy for butchering  deer and stocking the woodstove.
Abigail: 9. Mini-me when I was her age, only she has the tendency to get a grown-woman's emotions as a nine-year old. A little Mama, very dependable. Likes to read.
Grace: 6. The crazy one. Take Eloise by Kay Thompson (books or movies) and that is Grace. She makes the craziest faces and can impersonate Gene Kelly with an umbrella scary-well. She loves glamorous, almost tacky outfits (Lena Lamont, Lilly St. Regis?) and is a little drama queen.
Levi: 2. A spoiled little boy who everyday grows to look more and more like Simpian Grenadine which is just a little scary, considering I started Cottleston Pie when he was an infant. He is a little, dimpled charmer who loves to pray and is going to (by his own admission) "be masterchef when I grow up."
Do you like living in the South?
Yes. :) I am not a raving-tearing southerner, but I am so proud to be a Virginian. Virginia has a way of wooing and winning hearts. People who come from other states to go to college or work here never want to leave. She's my girl.

Which Austen character are you most like?

Lizzy Bennet mixed with Fanny Price 

Favorite thing to order at Starbucks?
Raspberry Dark Mocha or a Java Chip Frappuccino or a Salted Caramel Mocha. I am not brave enough to make them up.

Has Peter Pan ever forgot his shadow at your home? (It happened to Wendy once, but in my case, he lost his footsteps.)

He visits quite often, actually, and tugs Churchill's ears which is why Churchill will randomly leap up from a dead sleep and go careening at a bawl to the front door. But I have never quite seen him. 

What's your favorite season of the year?
Autumn. The time of the gypsy-winds. 

Do you like classical music? If so, what composers/eras?
Oh dear. I'm afraid I'm a bit ignorant in this respect. I love classical music but I couldn't tell you what era/composers. Maybe you can tell me? I like the light, fairylike stuff, and Aaron Copeland is nice too, and sometimes I like a big, rousing symphony sound. I just turn on WHRO and listen to whatever is on...

Can you draw?
At times. I am none too good, but passing-fair.

Have you seen Cranford?

Aren't you the dark horse? Yes. Most quotable movie EVER even though half of everyone dies in each episode. Some people hate it. I quote it. Haven't seen it in ages though because friends borrowed it and never returned it. *woops*

Do you play any musical instruments?

It is my great sadness that I do not. I sing rather well (in a non-professional, tune-carrying way) but I have not made time for studying any music. I do know a bit of music-theory and all that, but every time I sit down to teach myself piano I get depressed and give it up as a bad job. See? Like Lizzy Bennet:
"But I consider that my own fault because I would not take the trouble to practice.
Thanks for all the questions, everyone. This was rather fun. :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

In Which I am Cold and Curious

Oh my stars.
It is really cold in here. My nails are painted with Essie "Wicked" and I'm wearing an owl necklace and my hair is warm on my neck and around my face and I'm curling my toes under my feet because it's just that cold.

Not like you cared. I just thought I'd tell someone.

My Lair is a beautiful Lair.

This wall seriously keeps growing

My Lair is a messy Lair.

But I feel like it could host penguins, it's so cold this morning. We've been having snow. Not a lot of snow but more snow than we got last year (which was none). We've also been having fires in the woodstove. I always feel like you've got to have the touch of the faerie-folk in your fingers to be able to make a fire; I can't make one very well. I am good at resurrecting coals, but I generally just gape at the grey ashes of fire-undone and wish for a blaze. Imagination helps not at all in these scenarios. Anyway, we heat our house with wood and my Lair doesn't get any of that heat and that's why it's so chilly in here. It does make for a good exercise room, though, being quite chilly and unheated.

Being cold or tired always leads to funny thoughts, it seems. The other night I was tired and making cinnamon rolls and it's my maxim always to scrub the sugar and cinnamon into the dough by hand and it just felt so good under my palm that I just stood there scrubbing and getting sleepier by the moment until Mom came into the kitchen and laughed at me.

It is always funny to me to think of what you guys think of me. What I mean by that is, I wonder if I am anything at all (as a person) like the Rachel Heffington you occasionally view in your mind. That being said, (and me being a proponent of getting to know people as people, not just as their career choices) do you have any questions for me personally? We always have gobs of fun doing the little Questions About Our Books, we authors, but what about Question About Us? We don't usually answer those. I mean, I know how it goes. One of my writing-blog acquaintances (Rebecca Williams) whom I actually met in real life (entirely by chance) is probably walking around like:
"Yes. Rachel Heffington. She's the one who almost plowed into me at the PHC coffee shop, right? Yeah...she has a cat named Nickleby, right? And she's plump. Or wait. Skinny. Or...I don't know. And didn't she say she was an introvert? Or and extrovert? Oh who cares."
Well. If you do have questions about Me, why don't you leave them in a comment below and I'll do my level-best to answer you tomorrow or the next day. It gives me laugh to think I'm probably quite different in real life than what you think. :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

{Ciao} How to Write Accents

When I started writing, I was rather pleased with myself if I managed enough creativity to give a character an accent, let alone actually make his accent believable. But now that I've written several novels and read many more, I am beginning to get a grasp of what a believable accent "sounds" like on the page. There are several things to think about when you decide to give a character an accent:

  • Their culture
  • Their education
  • Their grasp of the English language
  • Their personality


Taking a look at culture will help you decide what words to use; if you are giving your character a ghetto accent, obviously there will be certain terms you will use that a Southern, small-town white character wouldn't use. If you neglect the vocabulary aspect, though, a Southern small-towner and an inner-city street kid are going to sound pretty much the same one paper:
"I ain't gonna tell you what I was doing last night. Ain't none of your business."
That sentence right there could be applied to either character which means that you probably aren't paying close enough attention to the culture from which they come. Not that every sentence in every conversation has to be laden with cultural references, but if you are thinking that throwing "ain't" into a sentence will make your reader identify with a kid from the Bronx, you're probably not working hard enough. Look for words you can throw in that the Southern small-towner wouldn't recognize if you yelled it in his face. (I'm not talking about cuss-words here.) Look for works you can tweak to change the "accent" of the phrase. Let's take the ghetto case:
"I ain't goin'a tell you what I's doing last night! Ain't none a' your business, fool."
Of course you can go way over-board with this and start sounding like Mark Twain and I am not trying to pick on the African-American culture; I grew up in semi-ghetto areas and was surrounded by black, Filipino, and Hispanic friends. Culture is just as important when you're writing a Brit or an Irishman or a South African or an Asian or even a New Yorker. Pay attention. British people have pet-phrases that they use often, like preceding everything with "sorry," because they have a national fear of coming across as blatantly impolite. (What I love about Brits is that they can be passive-aggressive that way. Cracks me up.)


This is a simple category: ask yourself about your character's education and what kind of words they would use. Many people (I'm thinking Lena Lamont from Singing in the Rain) who might be successful but are not well-educated will stick with slang and oft-repeated phrases. ("Whaddya think I am? Dumb or sumthin'?" "Whaddya think you'll do? Fire me or sumthin'?") People who have a good education usually speak with more care...they use words most people don't think of, even if they aren't large words. Because of the breadth of their knowledge, they have more words at their beck; decide on how educated/uneducated your character is and go from there. A well-educated character in an unlikely place is quite effective, like Aibileene in The Help. She is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters and was self-educated, yet you could hear how smart she was even as she spoke inside her culture. In my novel, Anon, Sir, Anon, Dr. Breen, an old friend of Farnham's, is a well-educated man, yet his speech is a little rough by virtue of not being frequently subjected to Society & Women. He's full of gallantry and good-humor and is undoubtedly clever, but his word-choice would make a polished man twitch:

“My darling girl, are you tired of being roughed around like a heifer tugged to market?” Breen asked.
“I have heard it put in more eloquent words, but yes.”
“Hitherto you have been subjected to only the most uncouth bits of Whistlecreig: the fog, the mist, the damp, the cold, the bodies lying prostrate in fallow fields...shall we entertain her, Farnham?”

And it works because you can tell he's a country doctor who has a native sense of gentility but he's probably left his half-pound university words twenty-five years behind him.

//Grasp of the English Language//

It is fun to talk with foreign people and hear the way they construct their sentences. In fact, you can even hazard a guess from which country a person hails by how they structure their English. Other languages are much more sensible about things and I love to hear people (like my Romanian friends) speak because they often take the structure of their language and apply it to English words. I remember our dear, crazy Romanian friend, Cristi asking a group of strangers something in Romanian after we were trying to teach him "Ubbi-Dubbi" and when we inquired what it was he said, "I asked if they could speak birth-language." (Baby-talk) Another time when he swore he wouldn't make us laugh in the middle of church, our team-leader rolled her eyes and said, "Fat chance!" The look on Cristi's face was priceless and he said, "What are you calling me?!"

Still one more excellent (and funny) example of this is Gru from Despicable Me, who is a Russian:
"I have pins and needles that I am sitting on."
He takes a classic American phrase: "I'm sitting on pins and needles" and by saying it with a foreign construction, makes you hear the Russian accent, even on this blog. This is what you want to look and listen for while watching movies/speaking to foreign people. Also, if you know a second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) language, consult it and see if you can lend a bit of exotic flavor to your dialog by reconstructing things! 


This is a good consideration for any character, but especially useful when you are writing a foreign character. Shy people will probably act like they can't speak English for some time but you will see them listening (and comprehending) and if you press hard and tactfully enough, they will suddenly out with rather flawless (if oddly precise) English. They will use short, mincing words and carefully chosen ones, as they will probably have translated a whole conversation in their heads and weighed all the words they know to carefully choose the right ones so as not to embarrass themselves.
Outgoing characters will probably zip through a conversation at a rapid rate (depending on which country they come from. Italians are good at stream-talking), sprinkling foreign phrases/words where they don't remember the English and assuming you will catch on to what they are saying via their facial expressions and context. Think about what personality-type your character has and whether they will be the precise, excellent type or the good-natured, chattering foreign national. Both are fun to talk to and paying heed to which your character is will help the reader understand the cultural accents you give to them.

What about you? Do you have any tips for writing accents that I have missed?

Also, I am being interviewed a However Improbable today! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dear Hopeful One: a letter

Dear Hopeful One:
     Yes, you, with your eyes shining and the buds of a thousand stories in your lapel, showing you what you are championing for. You are at that stage wherein writing seems like a world apart from a world; a world that is all your own only so long as it is in your head, but a world to which you will invite an excited public someday.
     You read this blog and other blogs of writers who are published or about to be so, and maybe you're just a little bit jealous. Maybe you wish it was you being featured on other blogs, your book with a Goodreads page and a promise of Amazon in a month or so.
     But dear hopeful one, enjoy your innocence. Enjoy the thrill of stepping into the realm of the written word. Enjoy writing for the pure joy of writing, unencumbered by deadlines and emails and interview queries. There are things you hold right now that I no longer have:
     You have likely never opened a document to find all your careful formatting had been absorbed into the hole of the Never-Never and must be re-done with the painstaking precision you have already spent hours upon.
     You don't have to keep a planner full of all the little things you forget about, like contacting review websites and other bloggers, and arranging guest-posts and interviews and giveaways and then re-contacting all those people to let them know the schedule/details/information.
     Formatting probably means a glorious nothing to you.
    Sitting at the desk till your neck is stiff and your back hurts is entirely optional for you at this point and if you don't much feel like writing, you can always doddle off and pick up the next tantalizing book that's been wanting to be read.
   I realize that for all the hard work and unforeseen difficulties in my stage, I hold something precious too: I have my book in hard copy in my hands and there are few things quite so exciting as your first novel. I'm not trying to tell you it isn't as exciting as it looks; it is. But just because I have printed my novel is no grounds for thinking there aren't difficulties in my writing life.
   Don't despise your youth, Hopeful One. Enjoy the simplicity of being unknown because (as I'm learning) even the littlest bit of being known is enough to change one's perspective on whether writing is a joy or a business arrangement. I intend never to let writing become all business, but dear Hopeful One, you don't need to make that choice yet. Hold onto the joy of word-play and rejoice in anonymity. There are plenty of years in which to print your books, plenty of stories to tell, plenty of areas in which to grow.
   Take your time, Hopeful One, because every stage has a special beauty.

             Ever Yours,
                       Rachel Heffington

Monday, January 20, 2014

Eloquence I will lend you

It isn't often that Sarah reads things I haven't read, but when she does, she often picks good ones. Recently, Sarah was away nannying for two weeks and came home with Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, insisting I read it. (For those of you new to the blog, Sarah is one of my multitudinous younger sisters who is the sensible one in our room.) There were reasons  I wanted to read this book (once I heard about it), not the least of which is that one of our friends and Sarah insisted that we get together for a day of baking and reading the play (Cyrano is a play) and that I be assigned the part of Roxane. Now, when people assertively assign you parts, you begin to want to know what this character is like, that they think you have to play her.
Cyrano De Bergerac is, in its essence, a play about love and friendship. It is a comic tragedy (I was laughing aloud and didn't see the tragedy coming so it kind of stunned me) and figures a terribly witty and hilarious man with a terrible nose who thinks no woman can ever love him. He is in love with his beautiful cousin, Roxane, but knows that she will not think of him since he is so ugly. When Roxane confides in Cyrano that she is in love with his fellow-soldier, Christian De Neuvelitte, Cyrano hides his own love and helps Christian (a comely, but stupid youth) to win Roxane's heart by teaching him clever things to say to the lady.
"Eloquence I will lend you!....And you, to me, shall lend all-conquering physical charm...and between us we will compose a hero of romance!...Roxane shall not have disallusions! Tell me, shall we win her heart, we two as one? will you submit to feel, transmitted from my leather doublet into your doublet stitched with silk, the soul I wish to share?"
At a simple level, Cyrano is a good laugh and an improbable love triangle. There are many scenes that had me laughing aloud, as when Cyrano dares people to comment on his nose and beats them up when they do, or denounces them in a torrent of scathing wit; there are many wonderful side-characters like Raganeau, the pastry-cook-poet-turned-jack-of-all-trades and Le Bret, Cyrano's faithful companion.
But on a deeper level, I was impressed with the noble values portrayed through Cyrano's choices. When (SPOILER) Christian dies in battle, having told Cyrano that he wants Roxane to know the truth and choose between her two lovers, Cyrano will not take advantage of the situation and ask Roxane to marry him. Roxane is a new widow and, believing that the soul she loves belongs to the man that died, is in deep mourning. If I was the guy who was still very much in possession of the soul Roxane loved, I would have mourned dumb little Chris for a few months and then had out with it in Roxane's hearing, telling her the truth--especially since Christian had asked Cyrano to do just that.

Fourteen years pass (FOURTEEN) and Cyrano visits Roxane every Saturday without fail, where they spend the evening talking about good times. On one such evening, Roxane realizes that it was not Christian who wrote the eloquent farewell letter she wears about her neck, but Cyrano. She quizzes him and Cyrano is still unwilling to spill that Christian was a dummy. He like Christian, for all that, and sacrificed his own love and happiness to see his friend happy:

Roxane: "And he...for fourteen years, has played the part of the comical old friend who came to cheer me!"
Cyrano: "Roxane!"
R: "So it was you."
C: "No, no Roxane!"
R: "I ought to have divined it, if only by the way in which he speaks my name!"
C: "No, it was not I!"
R: "So it was you!"
C: "I swear to you..."
R: "Ah, I detect at last the whole generous imposture: the letters...were yours."
C: "No!"
R: "The tender fancy, the dear folly...yours!"

And on the scene goes with many more exclamation points and emphatic denials from Cyrano and the whole pivot of the book and the part that turns it, for me, from a funny farce to a touching play is this quote:

Roxane: "Ah, how many things within the hours have many have been born! Why, why have you been silent these longs years, when on this letter, in which he had no part, the tears were yours?"
Cyrano: (handing her the letter) "Because...the blood was his."

How much smoother and better life would go if more men (and women) had the character to give up a thing they desire so deeply because though the tears were theirs, the blood was his; this is the measure of a true man. There would be nothing easier than for Cyrano to have told Roxane the whole thing (while Christian was still alive); she would probably have chosen Cyrano and the play would have closed in a rosy pomp of the Gascony Cadets singing and rapiers flashing. But Cyrano waited because he knew he was the better man; he waited because he didn't want to be so weak as to take advantage of a widowed woman. He waited because he might have cried for love, but Christian died for it.
That is the kind of friendship we need more people to display. That is the kind of selfless love given to us by Jesus Christ. And to think, of all things, I was reminded of it in a book about a man with an "unfortunate profile."

And for the record, I did think I was a bit like Roxane:
Roxane: (throwing a folded tablecloth to Cyrano) "Unfold the cloth...hey, be nimble!"

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Winner of the Coziness Package Giveaway!

I was dumbfounded, gratified, and astonished to find out that the Fly Away Home Coziness PAckage Giveaway had 826 entries by the end. Yes, I know each of you could earn up to 29 entries but still. Thank you for participating and making this thing fly. :) That being said, it is time to announce the winner of the package and that winner is:

Theodora A.!

Theodora, if you could email me at to claim your prize and send me your address, that'd be lovely! (Otherwise, of course, I haven't the foggiest how to get your package  to you.) Thanks to all the new Twitter/blog followers: I can't wait to get to know you so much better. It is always a joy to "meet" new writing/reading friends. We have such larks around here. One a more random note, how long do you favor your mysteries? (page count? word count?) Not that I will pay any attention to conventions while writing Anon, Sir, Anon, but one can always keep a general length in mind. I like to keep apace of the general drift of things.

Well, I shall pop back round here after the week-end so have a good couple of days. I might possibly be at a bon-fire this evening. I shall have to check carefully for Watsons before toasting my marshmallow or I will never sleep tonight.
“Do not touch me,” she said. “If I turn up dead next your fingerprints would be on me and you’d be a suspect.”
-Anon, Sir, Anon

Friday, January 17, 2014

{Fly Away Home Cover Reveal} In Which The Cricket Interferes a Bit

Aren't we beautiful?

Dear Human People:
    We suppose you are what our Rachel refers to as "Bloggy Friends" when she's in a cosseting mood and "Writing Friends" when she's being practical. Whatever you call yourselves probably doesn't matter because we don't like you. (We are using the royal "we" because we are a Highness.) You take up Rachel's attention when quite obviously the matter at hand is us. We are only a little bit consoled because some of you are fond of this "Nickleby" in Fly Away Home. We don't like Fly Away Home; it takes our Rachel's attention too. Nickleby, however, is another matter. We like him mostly because he was based off of moi. Black cats are the best, we think, and that is all there is to the matter.
   Human People and dogs are such terrible creatures. Right now the dog (it has a name but we don't say it) is whistling in his crate--we do say whistling because that is the proper term for that heinous noise--and it is making it dreadfully hard to hear things.
  Our Rachel informed us today that she was sitting at a coffee-shop the other afternoon editing that wretched book of hers. We call it wretched but it really does look quite marvelous in person. We just don't tell her because it would swell her head. But to return to our story: she was sitting in the coffee-shop and another Human Person stood by watching her. It was not one of the Attractive Human Persons (like some he-person named Jack Hudson on the television) that makes our Rachel do that funny bouncing thing out of what we hate to notice is glee--it was a she-person. This she person decided to act like a cat and stick her nose into our Rachel's business.
  "Sorry to be nosy," she said.
  Our Rachel looked up.
   "I had to see what you are reading. It looks like (insert some author we don't care about). What is it?"
   Our Rachel blushed, she tells us, and said, "Actually I wrote it. It's the proof copy of my book I am independently publishing."
    "What's it about?"
    Here, our Rachel began to embarrass us by stumbling over her words and giving a perfectly idiotic description of her novel and thereby probably losing a customer. When she came home she was rather mortified. We tried to tell her to practice pitching her novel to customers but would she take our advice? HA.
   "Aren't you excited? Is it your first?" the she-person said.
    "It is and I am," our Rachel said, trying to scrape up a bit of dignity, as she afterward confided in us.
    "Are you a local author?" the she-person said.
    Rachel informs us that the lady grinned and tossed her head at an ancient couple to our Rachel's right. "Should we get her autograph now or wait a while?" she said to them, and all of them laughed.
   Rachel seemed to think that this was a very clever thing the woman said--at least, she seemed rather gratified. Why, I can't tell. I can't think why anyone would want our Rachel's autograph. It seems like exactly the sort of idiotic thing that will be happening around here come the publication of that wretched novel.
Le sigh.
What we think was the really notable part of our Rachel's hideously human afternoon  was the dear prince among old men she met in a wretched place called Walmart. No, he wasn't handsome and no, Walmart is not a classy place to meet other Humans, but diamonds in the rough can glimmer just as bright. Our Rachel was in the cat aisle getting litter for our box. She buys one of the huge tubs that weigh a mine and was having difficulty getting it off the shelf, as two were jammed on top of one another. This old gentleman comes up and offers to get it for her and our Rachel lets him because she likes to think she is helping chivalry not die when she lets men lift things for her. We do our part by (occasionally) letting men lift us. But that is a tale for another time.
The old gentleman spent the better part of several minutes working the anvil-like tubs off the shelf and finally got one out. When he had got it in his hands, he walked it over to our Rachel's cart and put it in for her, wishing her a good day. If that isn't good breeding, we don't know what is. We are thankful to the anonymous stranger for having insured we got a fresh litter-box. Rachel is a dear but she can be a bit negligent in that area when a writing fit seizes her...if she'd only notice, the "presents" we leave her would cease.
Well. It is now getting dark--just the knife-edge of a January evening--and Rachel will be coming back to the computer after making Alfredo Sauce. (We like this) We don't want our Rachel to know we are posting for her. She will find out during her cover-reveal party when the last day is taken up already. What? We are being helpful for once and she can just deal with it.
We have now written ourselves into a fine mood. We would like to acknowledge that our Rachel's book is probably better than we like to tell her. We would like to tell you that on Valentine's Day (which is a day to cuddle, after all) we would recommend you buy a copy. Nickleby, our friend, will be worth it.

In the name of Our Own Royal Highness,
                     The Cricket

Thursday, January 16, 2014

{Fly Away Home Cover Reveal} A Glimpse at Cover Design by Rachel Rossano

Hey guys!

Today I'm presenting to you an awesome blog post by my cover-designer, Rachel Rossano! She was the hands the creation of Fly Away Home's gorgeous cover! After a wee bit of coaxing she agreed to write a post about cover design and what it entails--I figured those of us who are authors could use a reminder of all the work our "makeup artists" do to bring our precious books to life! What she came up with was an entertaining and enlightening tour through the process. May I present to you:

Cover Design: From Concept to Creation
by Rachel Rossano

Rachel Heffington invited me to come and chat with all of you about a favorite topic of mine, book covers.

Almost everyone knows the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover.” Everyone just as universally ignores its wise advice. Because of that many books go unread that could have been enjoyed and loved. I feel for those poor books and their authors who labored over each and every word within the cover. That's why I do what I do, design book covers.

A good book cover must do at least three things: accurately represent the story within, catch the reader's eye, and appear professional. There are myriads of other rules, but these three are right up at the top.

When I approach a new project, my first request of the author is: Tell me about your book. I want to know about the genre, characters, setting, and anything else that the author feels is important about their story.

Genre is important because it defines the approach I take to the cover. A romance cover usually has a couple on the front, unless the story is from one character's perspective or revolves heavily around one of the characters. A mystery requires tension and a totally different feel and visual goal than women's fiction or science fiction. The genre defines the general approach.

Characters are very important to me. As a writer and as a reader, my first interest is in the characters. They drive my plots and frequently are integral to my designs. I try to match the character the author describes to an image that we can use. Sometimes compromises have to be made, but usually good matches can be found. Thankfully eye color and hair color are tweak-able.

If there's a setting or scene that's crucial to the story, I try to get that on the cover. For Rachel Heffington's book, Fly Away Home, setting and time period were very important to the design. Set in 50s New York City, the setting needed to be clear in the images, the clothing, the coloring, and the font choices.

The process of creating a cover that catches the eye is a bit hard to explain. Placement of the elements, coloring, font choices, and other style choices all factor into the final product. In this day of electronic devices and purchasing ebooks on Amazon and iTunes, making sure a cover looks good in color, black and white, thumbnail size, and full print size becomes part of the job as well.

What makes a cover appear professional is another tough one to quantify. There are so many factors. The final cover should look finished, not slapped together. The individual parts should work together as a whole image, not jump out to the observer as pieces. Coloring and lighting also play a big role. Garishly colored typography or oddly stretched pictures rarely appear professional. Picking out what works and doesn't sometimes takes an experienced eye. As someone once pointed out to me about writing, in the end cover designing is very subjective.

Each designer has a different process and a different style. My designing projects usually follow four steps: discussion, designing, finalizing, and tweaking.

Rachel Heffington came to me with a clear idea of what she wanted in her cover design. This cut down on the discussion phase considerably. Based on her blurb, mock up, and our conversations about the styles of covers she liked on other books, I went hunting for images that might work for her main character and a few other elements that we might want to use. I emailed her links to a selection of possibilities. She chose the one she thought best captured Callie.

The next step, designing, is where I put together a mock of how I think the elements could go together using comp images, which are low quality resolution watermarked images from the royalty-free website. I don't purchase the images until the composition of the cover has been finalized. Creating a mock cover lets the author and I work through the layout designing aspects of the cover like where the title will go, where each image will be used. Edges remain raw and watermarks mar the pictures. Fonts (kind of lettering) are rarely finalized, and small details like the blurb and tagline will come later. Mocks aren't particularly pretty but they serve a purpose. Once we have a very clear overall picture of which images we need and their placement, we move to the finalizing stage.

Finalizing is when I purchase the images, put them together, finish edges, and work to make the cover feel like a single image. The font choices are selected. The blurb, bio, and tagline add another layer. After receiving approval from the author comes, I prepare the final cover files. Payment happens and the author gets the product.

I always hope the tweaking phase won't be necessary, but even if it is, I try to make it painless. Not every system is perfect and sometimes images need to be adjusted a millimeter here or there. With print covers sometimes colors need to be adjusted so the hard copy looks like it should. Just small things. We go through the process of proofing and checking until the the proof copy arrives at the author's door and it is perfect.

It is done! Finally ready for sharing with the world.

I know from publishing my own books, the feeling of holding the finished product in your hands is worth all the hard work.

(Examples of the many beautiful covers Rachel has created!)


Rachel Rossano is a happily married homeschooling mom of three kids. Mid the chaos, she thinks about characters, plots, and book cover ideas. The ideas percolate in her head until she can give them form during nap times and after the little ones go to bed. Beyond writing and book covers, she enjoys spending time with her husband, watching movies, teaching her kids, and reading good books. Above all, she seeks to glorify her Savior in all she does. You can visit her over on her blog at or check out her design website at

As a sort of add-on to Rachel's post, I have the tag questions ready for you! Just go ahead and fill out the questions on your blog and add your link to this post. Also, don't forget that filling out this tag gives you more entries in the Coziness Package Giveaway! All right:

1.) What is the most important thing about a cover?
2.) Are covers even that important?
3.) If you could choose one actor (living or dead) to play each of your leads, who would that list include?
4.) In what genres do you prefer to work?
5.) Which book on the shelf closest to you has the prettiest cover?
6.) If you could have any famous author judge your work, who would you choose and why?
7.) What is one thing you must have near you in order to write?
8.) If you are independently published, which cover designer did you choose?
9.) What is your worst writing habit?
10.) Do you have a favorite literary-inclined character from a book or movie?

There you go! Remember, the time is short in which to enter for a chance to win the awesome Coziness Package so get your entries in so you'll be in the running. :)