Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Being a Writer (and Zombies)

Yesterday a friend of mine emailed. She's as editor but has recently been trying to find representation for a children's book, with the goal of publication. Now, I know very little about writing kids books, so I haven't been a whole lot of help. But in her email last night, she said something I know well: "I'm so frustrated! How do you writers do it?"

My answer: "With much frustration. Over many years."

I've been working to get my books published for half my life now. Half. Over half, technically, by a little. I sent out my first queries when I was 15 years old. And though I didn't keep querying constantly for the next 10 years until I sold something, I did go back to trying that at least once a year. Especially after I got married.

There was one time when I'd just finished a manuscript, and my husband of about a year said, "Now no more writing until you try to get this one published." High on the feeling of being finished and convinced the story was brilliant, I said, "No problem!"

Problem. LOL. I'm a writer. Not someone who likes to write, someone who has to write. And within a week, I had this other brilliant idea that I couldn't not work on. I would sneak into our den to write, LOL. For the first day or two, when David walked in, I'd flip to the internet, all like, "What, me? No, I'm not writing..."

That obviously didn't last long, and we had a good laugh about it. I could appreciate that he wanted to push me outside my comfort zone, away from "being a writer" and into "trying to be a published writer." That was important. It mattered to me. But not as much--never as much--as just writing. Having him beside me, reminding me to try again, and again, and again to get my books into the world has been invaluable. No doubt otherwise, I'd just have the collection of books in my computer and nowhere else.

But it's always been about the writing.

Also last night, I took my daughter to ballet, and the grandmother of one of her friends asked, "Are you working on a book right now?"

I had the pleasure of answering, "I just finished one on Monday!" (Did I mention I finished A Soft Breath of Wind on Monday??? Woot!) And then added, "Right now I'm editing someone else's book. Then my next deadline is July. Yay for deadlines!"

At this point, another mom across the room heard the conversation and piped in with, "Hey, wait. What? You've written a book? Like, a book? A real one?"

LOL. I love these moments in the life. The ones where I get to be a writer. Where I don't celebrate my novel completion by vacuuming my kitchen or finally answering the plaintive "Mooooooooooooom! Where's my bear!" cry that's been distracting me for five minutes. Where I don't have to get up at 5:30 to have that time with my computer. Where I'm not balancing a stack of home school books or WhiteFire books or dealing with inventory or taxes or royalty reports. Where it's just me and someone who doesn't know me well and that lovely truth.

Yes. I'm a writer. I've written 28 books. Some of them are even good, LOL. I have nine either out now or due out within the year. More in the works. I am a writer.

I fished a bookmark out of my purse and ran it over to this other mom, who said, "Oo, you even have fancy bookmarks! This is so cool!"

It was. It was a cool moment. As a writer, I don't get a whole lot of those, so I soak them in when they come along. Most of my days are spent with my kids and their schooling. Or helping David run WhiteFire. But I love those moments when I'm just a writer.

Not everyone likes my books, and over the years, I've gotten to be okay with that. They're not sky-rocketing bestsellers, and I'm okay with that too. I've never won an award, and I don't need to. I'm a writer.

Writing a book is hard work. Getting a book published can be mind-numbing--and yes, frustrating. Getting bad reviews can bring you down, and seeing royalty reports can get depressing. But I've realized several times lately that for me, all that stuff is second. If I never made a dime off it, I'd still write. If I never sold another book, I'd still write.

It's part of who I am.

Now where, you wonder, do the zombies come in? Right now. ;-)

David and I like to watch The Walking Dead, which might surprise some of you. =) I'm not exactly a lover of zombie stories. But what I am is a lover of well-drawn characters, and this series has some of the best. And I especially love how this zombie apocalypse they're dealing with helps define who they are at the core.

Rick is a hero. A sheriff's deputy before the world falls apart, a leader. That's a role that gets better hewn in the midst of strife, and when he falters at it, when he loses that for a while, he loses himself. He's just an echo.

Hershel was a vet, a farmer, and a man of faith. Though the world turns upside down, those skills helped the entire group keep going...but especially that last. If there's no medical emergency, no land to tend, he still needs the faith. The faith still keeps them going. And though that, too, falters for a while, it becomes clear that if he loses it, he won't be Hershel anymore.

Glen--Glen was a delivery boy before the apocalypse. That's not who he was, that was just what he did. When everything fell apart, he had to discover who he really was. And he turned out to be a capable, fearless, smart dude. The kind everyone wants on their team.

The people who just had "jobs" in the "real world"...they get redefined. But the people who were doing what they loved, what made them who they are, that always shapes them through the strife.

Me...if an EMP wiped out all technology and publishing as I know it ground to a halt, I'd still write. On paper (gasp!) if I had to, but I'd still write. If the world descended into anarchy and we were all on the run for our lives, I'd still write. Maybe just in my head, and my books might just been campfire story time, but I'd still write. It's how I cope. It's how I process. It's how I deal.

It's not the only thing I am. It's not the only thing that defines me. It's not the only thing that I would always, always be no matter my circumstances. But it's linked to all those other things. It's part of them, as they're part of it.

And it's fun to think of. If life as you knew it ground to a halt...if you were stripped of job or house or circumstances...who would you be?


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Cover Creation ~ Macy by April McGowan


Last week, I was at it again. Though so very close to finishing a manuscript, I had a headache and a few other distractions that shattered my writing-concentration, so I turned to a cover that I probably should have had done a month ago. ;-) This is for Macy, by April McGowan, releasing from WhiteFire in June.

When April and I first started talking about this book and cover possibilities, I was excited to learn that her heroine was young, beautiful, and a redhead. See, I'd had this model saved to my Shutterstock lightbox for months, and I was just desperate to find a book that needed her for the cover, LOL. Her photos capture such mood, and she's got such an expressive face.

Screenshot of Shutterstock
I sent the link for her to April, saying, "Hey, could she possibly work for Macy? Maybe? Possibly?" To which April gave a resounding "YES!"

So it was a matter of choosing the perfect pose. I tried several, with several different accenting photos, and decided on this one.
We liked how isolated Macy looks in this, and the moodiness of it. In the beginning of the book, Macy feels very much alone and, as April put it, "everything is about Macy." The book also involves a journey, plus a lot of literal roads--young Macy is married to a much-older truck driver. So I wanted to incorporate a road somehow. I at first fell for this dramatic black and white road picture.
But it was no longer available by the time I got around to finalizing the cover, which worked out well in the end. =) Since the book is set in Oregon, I instead searched for Oregon roads, and we decided on this one.
Now, this is a contemporary, so in a lot of ways it's an easier cover to design. No photoshopping historical outfits onto models, not a lot of texture. But I still had my work cut out for me. For starters, Macy has bright red hair. So my first step was to change the hair color of the model in the photo.

For those of you interested in the detailed how-to, here's how I do that. Red is an easy color to change to, especially when the original picture has blonde (or in this case red-blonde) hair already. I copied the Macy figure and pasted her right on top of herself, in a separate layer. That's the layer I fiddled with. I changed the color balance toward red, darkened it a bit, played with the contrast and brightness until it looked natural. Then I erased from that layer all the parts I wanted to come through from the bottom layer--skin and coat and background.

This is where the work came in, making all those peeks of background through her hair come through without looking abrupt. It's not hard, just takes a lot of time. Here's the result.
But I didn't like those long curls at the bottom. I'm sure they look great in person, LOL, but it was kind of in the way for me, so I gave her a digital haircut. ;-)
So if I were to slap my two pictures together willy-nilly, they look like this.
Doesn't exactly look like a book cover, right? LOL. My first step was to add a fade-out to both layers.
This helped, but they still don't exactly blend well. So I started fooling with the colorization of the road layer. I added lighting effects to both layers to add some extra mood. I inserted a lens flare on the model layer, right below her, kinda add a vanishing point for the two pictures.

Then, in a stroke of brilliance, LOL, I deleted that bright blue sky.

Now we're getting somewhere! But I was in the mood for mood by this point. I decided to play around with a faded-out color layer overtop the whole picture. I tried a few different hues, but it had to be blue.
I loved how this looked in the clouds, and the way it filled in the sky, but obviously I don't want her to be blue. So I applied a layer mask and used my gradient fade out to create a circle where the blue is gone.
That's what I was going for! All that was left to do was add the words. In searching through fonts, I decided to go with the expressive, signature-looking style of Before the Rain.

Then I thought it would be fun to put the M behind the model, but let the Y come over her. To do this, I had to rasterize the layer and then manually delete some of the M. I also plopped on April's name, in the same font we used for her previous cover. And added "a novel" in that lens flare. And there we have it!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Word of the Week - Hourglass

Image by Martin Olsson
For some reason, I had this image of an hourglass being really, truly ancient. Like Ancient Egyptian kind of ancient. I'm not sure where that idea came from...probably some movie, LOL. Or maybe just the idea of the sands of time obviously being linked to those desert places...

As it turns out, hourglasses are pretty darn old, but nowhere near ancient. The word--and the device--originated round about 1510. And so, you'd think that an hourglass shape would have come not long after, right? It's pretty distinctive. And applies so well to the female form, that surely someone made the connection early on. Right?

Wrong. According to etymonline.com, no one thought to call a woman's figure hourglass until 1897, after corsets had been exaggerating those shapes for half a century. Here's one of the first written mentions of it:

Men condemn corsets in the abstract, and are sometimes brave enough to insist that the women of their households shall be emancipated from them; and yet their eyes have been so generally educated to the approval of the small waist, and the hourglass figure, that they often hinder women who seek a hygienic style of dress. [Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, "The Story of My Life," 1898] 

And since the sands are flowing and I have a book to finish writing today (woot!), I say farewell!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . The Wisdom of Daniel

You know one of the things I'm really enjoying about my current Bible-in-a-Year reading? I'm doing it in my Chronological Bible. So I'm not reading it in the traditional order, but rather according to the timeline. I'm reading Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and a few others all at once. And it's so interesting!
Fresco of Daniel in the Lion's Den by Agostino Scilla
Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto

Daniel begins in the first wave of captive-removal from Israel. There are several of these, which I didn't realize. But if my memory and understanding are correct, while Jeremiah was still preaching impending doom to Judah, Daniel and Ezekiel had already been in Babylon for many years. Daniel was involved, of course, in court life. Ezekiel was a priest--one who had been taken so very far away from the temple at which he should have been serving.

So while Daniel and his friends are earning the respect of Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel is trying to help his fellow exiles understand this new kind of Judaism they will have to learn, to survive as children of the Most High in a foreign land. And here's the part I love.

At one point in the book of Ezekiel, he uses a phrase I never noticed before: "wiser than Daniel." He's speaking against the king of Tyre here, and God is observing how puffed up said king has become. The tone is without question sarcastic as the prophet proclaims, "Oh, you're wiser than Daniel! You understand everything! No secrets can be kept from you, nosiree, you know so much that you've gained all the riches of the world. You think you're so big-time, Mr. Big Shot King..."

Oh, how I love this. That Daniel's wisdom was so well-known, so wide-spread that he had become a standard. Saying "wiser than Daniel" is like someone today saying, "He's richer than Bill Gates" or "faster than a super-computer." Daniel was so wise that even a foreign king would know of him. And would know that he was being mocked--because no one was wiser than Daniel.

In other parts of Ezekiel, he includes Daniel in the list of God's most righteous followers. When speaking of coming doom, he says, "Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in that city, God wouldn't spare the city for their sakes, He would only save them." Another time he reiterates the same phrase: Noah, Daniel, and Job. The most faithful men in Jewish history. The ones who did not doubt.

I can't quite explain why this is so much fun to me, but it really is. I love getting context for one story from another. I love when the firsthand account we get from one source is solidified by someone totally different. Maybe it's the history-lover in me, who knows. But this made my already-great respect for Daniel grow even more. Here was a guy taken from his land and then separated from the other captives. He was pulled from among the Jewish exiles and put in the king's palace. He thrived--not as someone who adjusted to his circumstances and took on the ways of his captors, but as someone who outdid all the Babylonian in their own arts by remaining true to his God.

And God made him wiser than any other man on earth at the time. God made his fame go out among the nations. Yet still Daniel led a humble, selfless life. He says to kings, "Keep your riches for yourself, but I will give you the answers you seek." He does not want power. He does not want glory. He wants only the Lord.

And that's why he was hailed as the wisest. That's why we still remember him today. And though we can't all aspire to such greatness that everyone the world over will know our names, we can still emulate his standard. We can keep out eyes on the Lord and seek to find the way to flourish in His truth. We can be in the world, surrounded by those who do not understand us, and excel because of the understanding He gives us. And we can always know, always trust that He who got us this far will see us through.

And if He doesn't, as Daniel's three friends proclaim in the face of the fiery furnace, then we'll praise Him anyway. Because it's better to die glorifying Him than to live without Him.

I know very well I'll never be wiser than Daniel. But I'd sure like to be his student.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Remember When . . . Nero Fiddled?

One of the most interesting aspects of my current biblical fiction is its position on the historical timeline. Not that anything particularly riveting happened in known history in the months during my story. But that's kinda the thing. Big things had happened a few years before.

And really big things were coming.

Nero
Now, we all know me. One of my greatest loves in fiction is explaining historical facts through my characters, or at least having my characters interact with that fact. In A Stray Drop of Blood, my pivot obviously focuses on the crucifixion. I wrote those scenes with my Bible always open and lots of website visits to check historical facts. And at the end of the book, when Menelaus finally makes his way to the villa, I had to toss in a few other historical references. Just for fun. I state that the expulsion of the Jews from the city of Rome was largely because of Abigail angering the emperor.

Oh yes, great fun. Except that now I'm writing the sequel, LOL. So now I have to actually deal with all those things I threw in just for fun. And I also have to look at the current emperor.

Nero.

Shudder. Nero is so infamous. So known for all his evils. In fact he did a lot of good for Rome too, but no one remembers that quite so well. I had never learned before that, in the aftermath of the great fires that swept through Rome, he was out in the rubble looking for survivors, right beside the common citizens. All I knew was that old saying that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." That some historians actually accused him of having the fire set so that he could build his new palace. We know for a fact he blamed the fire on the Christians.

But why? To blame the great fire on the Christians (this is about ten years or so after A Soft Breath of Wind will end), he must have already hated them. But, again...why?

Mwa ha ha ha. Insert Roseanna rubbing her hands together. I get to do my favorite thing. I get to explain the hatred of an emperor, of an empire, through my characters!

I toyed for a while with different ways, considering bringing Nero himself into my story in a critical role I already had planned out. But the more I thought about that, the more I decided it was too much. So I kept reading about him. And I hit on something else. One of the most important things Nero did in his early reign was oust all the old advisers and counselors, the ones loyal to his mother (whom he killed, by the way), and bring in young advisers of his own generation. Nero was young when he took the throne. In my story, he'd be in his twenties. He was handsome, with that rare golden hair you don't often associate with Romans (much like two of my characters). He had a thing for prostitutes and enjoyed a good party. He was young, with the passions of youth. With friends now serving beside him, taking on important government functions.

I can totally work with that. ;-)

I'm not going to give away exactly how, of course, LOL, but I'm really enjoying this part. I've twice now had Nero pass by on the streets, on his way to a harlot's bed. (Stray Drop readers will perk up at this section of the book, with a certain name dropped.) And one of those friends of his (a fictional one) will take on that role I already had planned out. And then, when the climax of the story comes, Nero's fury will be ignited.

And the readers will all know that this, then, is why the Christians later pay.

Oh yes. Such fun. I love writing historicals. =)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Word of the Week - A Few Trivializations

Now this is fantastic!
C&E Dragon by David Revoy


One thing I often flag when I'm editing and have to think about when I'm writing are those words that we use today in a rather un-amazing sense. Words that have come to mean an ambivalent "okay" or "nice." Words that used to mean a whole lot more.

The first one is fantastic. This is a word we commandeered to mean anything great or amazing. But it began with a very specific sense of "that belonging to the world of fantasy; imaginary." It wasn't until 1938 that it was trivialized to mean "wonderful, marvelous."

Next is fine. Fine has become a meaningless answer to the question "How are you?" We all reply "Fine." It's therefore taken on a "Meh" connotation. Sure, we still use it in a more pointed sense when talking about a fine point on the tip of our marker, but in general? I think if you ask most kids what the word means, they'd say it's a synonym with "okay." So-so. All right.

But of course, when we think about it, we realize that fine actually means "unblemished, of superior quality." Hence why in England it became an expression of unmitigated approval. Which we then took and overused until it ceased to mean much of anything, LOL. So next time someone asks you how you are, only say "fine" if you mean it. ;-)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . A New Faith

The Vision of Ezekiel by Francisco Collantes, 1630
In my year-long read-through of the chronological Bible, I've been covering the Babylonian exile. Interesting in many ways to me, given that I've already written one book set not so long after that (Jewel of Persia) and I have a few other ideas that tie in with it. But this week I've been reading Ezekiel, and one of the historical notes got me thinking.

The commentators introduced this section of Ezekiel by saying how this period of time became a huge shift for the Jewish faith. Up until the exile, Israel and Judah--long since fractured--identified their religion by their place in the world. The knew when God was angry because the tides would turn against them. They knew when He was pleased because they flourished. Yahweh set them apart from the other nations. His promises kept a Davidic king on the throne without fail. As long as Israel or Judah were a nation, then they were the beloved of God.

But suddenly that nation was nothing but crumbled stone. They were destroyed. Ripped to shreds. No Davidic prince sat on the throne. Their God, it seemed, had forsaken them. The other nations would mock them. Would revile their God and say He was nothing but another of the pantheon, weak and worthless. And if He was weak and worthless, then they were even less. They were exiles. They could do nothing but sit by the waters of Babylon and weep.

Yet in this destruction came a hope that redefined them. A hope that took faith from a cultural level to a personal one. Prophets like Ezekiel led the way in helping Israel redefine itself. He spoke of hope. He spoke of trusting in God to preserve them even amid the heathen nations. He spoke of a future Israel that would be united, and of a people stronger than ever.

I love watching this change unfold. I love seeing how faith had to go from a set of rules more often forgotten than obeyed to a belief to be written on the heart.

And as I read these sections the last few days, I felt that resonate. I look around me today and I see a world that has forgotten what the point of morality is. We've forgotten why we should keep sex sacred. Why we should put God first. Why we should not speak His name in vain. Why we should honor our parents.

That's where Israel was, in a lot of ways. Rereading the Old Testament has shown me how often the Law and the Prophets were utterly forsaken. Forgotten. How many times they had to be rediscovered in some hole in a temple wall for even a semblance of obedience to be restored. How a king or prophet would try to get the people to follow His ways again...for a while...until it got too hard and they gave up.

Because it's easier to live how the rest of the world lives. It's so, so much easier. It's more fun. 

Until destruction comes, and God calls us to accounts. Then He finally gets our attention. But how many times did He call Israel to repentance before it came to that? Frankly, I lost count. He gave them so long. Hundreds of years. He would hold back His wrath when they made a small effort, perhaps sparing them for the sake of a few. For the sake of His covenant with David.

But the people...the people just wouldn't learn. Because it's more fun to sleep around, and really, what's the point of abstinence? Why in the world should they release their Israelite slaves every seventh year? Keep the Passover---pssh. Maybe when it was convenient. So what if the next thing they knew they were under a siege so bad that time and again it's reported that women were eating their own children? Surely it was worth it. Surely.

Where are we now? How many times has the Lord already called us to accounts, called for repentance? How many times have we ignored Him, because it's easier to live however we want?

I pray He holds off His wrath. I pray the faithful's prayers are enough for now. I pray enough are turning to Him. And yet I look at the rebirth of Israel, at the giant leap faith took because of that exile. And I know that no matter what may come, He'll use it. He'll use it for His glory. He'll use it to show the nations He is God.

He'll use it to bring His people to new levels of faith in Him.

I know in my heart this will still hold true today. Not just for nations where Christians face persecution, but in individual lives. No matter the siege we're under. No matter the destruction we face. Maybe sometimes it's a result of our decisions, maybe sometimes we're caught in the world's crossfire. But no matter what, He's there. He's there in the exile. He's there in the battle. He's there on journey, when we sit by the waters of Babylon and weep.

And He has something new waiting for us even then. We might feel like the dry bones Ezekiel saw in the wilderness. But He is the God who breathes new life into us.

Breathe on me, Lord. That is my constant prayer, whether I'm sitting by the waters or soaring through the clouds. Breathe on me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remember When . . . I Designed A Soft Breath of Wind

I designed this cover quite a while ago, but hey. Why not do the step-by-step for my own book, right? =)

I'd had the idea for A Soft Breath of Wind for years. As in, years. Even before I rewrote and re-released A Stray Drop of Blood. The idea for the story came to me all at once, in an idea-swirling two days that saw it go from germ to full-fledged in my mind. I frantically wrote it all down in a few pages of notes, knowing it wasn't the time to write it yet back then in 2007. But as I sat in a class at my very first writers conference, the teacher asked, "If you could only write one more book--if you knew you only had one more year to live--what book would it be?" My answer: this one.

Still, six years passed. Many other books came to me and were written down. This one was always there, waiting, but the time wasn't right yet. After a Skype chat with a bookclub in July of 2013, though, I knew that time had come. So to inspire myself, I opened up Photoshop and got to work on the visuals.

My inspiration was a photo I had discovered some months earlier in my various searches through iStock and Shutterstock. I always save compelling images to a lightbox, either the one called "Random" or the one called "Historical." =)
Loved, loved, loved this the moment I saw it. The photographer's description is that she's a Spartan queen. Sparta-loving me highly approved...though I didn't have another book with Spartans in my plan. ;-) When I considered images for this sequel, though, this one came to mind. So I looked at the model. And I thought, "Is she too pretty to be Zipporah?"

Well, yes, probably. But this is a book cover. If you're going to err any direction, err toward too-pretty, right?

There are quite a few images in this photographic series, but I chose this one because of the wind. I knew I wanted the wind to represent the Holy Spirit in this book, so having it on the cover would be awesome. But I didn't want her bare leg showing. I got to work with my copy and paste and clone stamp tool to cover that up.

And while the hair blowing in the wind looks great, it's also really tricky to get right when I'm taking out the background. I spent hours with a teensy-tiny eraser, going in between each strand to make it look right.

I didn't save this image separately, so have to show you the layer from the final version, which also has lighting effects put in. You can't actually see the super-dark part on the final cover, but the shadowing as she goes down is just what I was looking for.
You'll notice I actually deleted some of her hair. There was one piece "catching" that flying curl that bugged me, and it didn't look right as I was deleting the background, so it went bye-bye. But I did keep a few key wisps, and that main flying curl. Love it. =)

But I still had to work on her pretty factor. See, Zipporah is scarred. The first scar she receives in the very first chapter. It runs from her left temple down to her chin, along the side of her face. She could easily cover it with her hair, but more often than not she doesn't. And as I looked at this model's oh-so-lovely face, I realized that it works perfectly with the way she's squinting into the sun, doesn't it?
Now, how did I make that scar? Actually, I just found an image of someone with a nasty scar, copied the scar, adjusted it's size, and faded it. This layer is at at 54% opacity, so that it looks like an old, healed-up and fading mark.

But I also wanted to show a scar she gets in the course of the book. This one is cross-shaped and on the opposite side of her face. So I took the same scar image, duplicated and moved the two parts around into a cross, and left it at 100% opacity so it's bright and new.
There we go. I actually love how she looks with the scars (terrible thing to say, I know, LOL. I would never wish them on the model!), so it was time to move on to the background.

I searched iStock for Roman countryside or Roman villa or something like that and came up with this one. It's of the Italian countryside, and I really liked the hazy look. Plus, the buildings in the back have an old-world feel. Perfect.
I adjusted the color a bit toward the pink/orange range, blurred the entire image to make it look out of focus, and added the same lighting effects I used on Zipporah.
So adding her in overtop...

Now, this is a sequel, so I wanted it to have the same elements as the cover of A Stray Drop of Blood. That includes a texture layer over the entire cover and flourishes sprouting out behind the cover model. I stared at Stray Drop's cover REALLY closely to dissect the fun elements Tekeme put in. He used a distressed leather texture and a nice subtle flourish.
I wanted something new for this one, so I went with a parchment texture. I loved how it added a softness to it, a kind of glow.
 Then I put in some flourishes. Similar style to the ones used in Stray Drop, but not identical.
Then it was time for the border. Again, not identical to Stray Drop's, but the same feel.
Okay, so now we're looking at the main front cover. The only thing left to add is the words. Again, I wanted some consistency with Stray Drop, so I knew I'd use the same fonts, and the same box thingy around my name at the bottom. I adjusted the color so it was purple instead of deep red.
But we're still missing a very key element, right? The title, LOL. I actually struggled with this even as I designed the cover. My original title was Who Quickens the Dead. Which is, um, not good, LOL. Thematically it worked--in that God gives life to the lifeless. But it doesn't exactly sound good. So I decided I wanted something that speaks to wind. I toyed with a few ideas.

The Wind of the Spirit. Okay, but not quite what I was wanting. Especially because I'd seen other books with the same title, LOL, and I like to be original. For a while I liked The Whisper in the Whirlwind. But I had Whispers from the Shadows coming out, and two Whisper titles in different series seemed like a bad idea. So I decided to keep the same rhythm as A Stray Drop of Blood. And my mind settled on A Soft Breath of Wind. So I went with it. =)

Ah yes. There we go. Just one tiny thing missing. On the cover of Stray Drop, there's the blood drop behind the title, which I loved. I wanted a similar element here, but I'm working with wind instead of blood. Sheesh, how was I supposed to do that?? Well, I did a search for wind vectors at www.all-free-downloads.com and came up with this.
Fading that out to 30% opacity, I plugged it in behind my title and had my front cover!
But of course, the back cover of Stray Drop was just as beautiful as the front, and I wanted that to be true of this one also.
So I used my background image again, my parchment texture to get that layer under the words (using one of the funky erasers to get a torn-looking edge), and for the image on the back, I headed to Wikimedia Commons. There I found an image of a man in ancient garb reading a scroll. I also found a picture there of an ancient villa portico. I put the two together, blurred and faded them, and otherwise carried over the same elements from the front cover--the border, the purple shade of the box for the author area. I created some back cover copy, and ended up with this.
I haven't yet put in my About the Author, but you get the idea. =)

And there we have it! My full cover for A Soft Breath of Wind, which I'm hoping to finish up in the next couple weeks. I'm getting excited!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Word of the Week - Colors

We have so many beautiful color names, that all describe beautiful shades--which surely existed forever, right? Maybe...but the words sure didn't! So today, a few quick lessons on when some of those shade names joined the English language. =)
Indian Pigments (image by Dan Brady)

Cerulean is for the blue-green family, and dates from the 1660s. So we historical writers will want to use that one instead of...

Teal - not used for a color until 1923! Before that, "teal" just meant a small duck, whose head is said color. We took the color name from the duck name, not the other way around.

Fuchsia, which I can NEVER spell without the help of a dictionary, was the name of a plant in the 1700s, but didn't get applied to the reddish-purple color in general until 1923.

And don't think you can instead use magenta! Magenta was so-called in honor of a battle in a town called Magenta in Italy in 1860, where a rich dye was discovered soon after the fighting ended.

Turquoise - again, the stone has been known and named a goodly while--since the 1560s. But it wasn't used to describe the color until 1853.

Lavender has the same story. The plant has been a word since the 1300s, but apparently people didn't use it for the color until 1840.

Aubergine is an eggplant--the original word for it. The deep purple color we associate with eggplant was also first called aubergine (the first veggie called "eggplant" was apparently a white variety, oddly...). But keeping in this pattern, it wasn't actually applied to the word until 1895.

Okay, that should do us for today. ;-) Have a colorful one!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . the Sabbath

A Wet Sunday Morning  by Edmund Blair Leighton

I am a Sabbath keeper.

I don't talk about it much online because, well, it doesn't come up a whole lot. But it's something I make sure those I work with know, since they're unlikely to have their questions answered by me on Saturday, but will find me hard at work on Sundays. Today, though, I want to talk about it.

Last Saturday, my dad (pastor at my Seventh Day Baptist church), preached on the Sabbath. He doesn't do this often, but it's a topic we've discussed quite a bit in church for obvious reasons, and I was curious what else he could find to say about it. His message really intrigued me. And made me want to proclaim that yes, I keep the Sabbath.

He read from Exodus, but not the part I expected. Before, we've focused our attention on the verse in the Ten Commandments. This time, he read from a later section of Moses's tenure on Mt. Sinai, in chapter 31.


Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you.

I've read Exodus quite a few times, but I'd never noticed that before. And I loved the context Dad gave it. Back in that day, the sun was the center of worship in nearly all major religions. The chief god of most pantheons is represented by the sun. So from the dawn of time, more or less, there was a day named after it, the first day of the week. That was the day when most people in the ancient world worshiped.

God wanted something different for His people. He wanted them to be set apart. So worshiping instead on the last day of the week was an outward sign. It was a clear statement that they belonged to the living God. The God who is not represented by the sun, but who created it. That's pretty cool, right? The Jewish day of worship is a testament, and a covenant. It's a sign not just for man, but between man and God. It's His people saying, "Yes, Lord, here I am to worship!"

I've heard a lot of reasoning for why Christians worship on Sunday, and most of it comes down to tradition. In the first church, most of the believers were still Jewish, and they would still go to the temple on the Sabbath. They would therefore gather with the Christians the following day. Okay. I'm totally cool with that. But as with many of our holidays, it became the "official" day of worship when Constantine made it the official Roman religion. He wanted it to palatable to his people, so he said they shouldn't change their day of worship.

Now, I'm the first to say that our day or worship is by no means a matter of salvation. That starts and ends with belief in Christ. I totally understand that we live in a society that really doesn't care anymore about religious days, and we could lose our jobs sometimes if we insisted on a particular day off. I understand that for most people, the thought of changing from Sunday to Saturday just doesn't make sense in their heads. Isn't Sunday the Lord's day? The day Jesus rose from the dead?

Yes, it's the day He rose from the dead. But the disciples still called Saturday "the Lord's day." But didn't He free us from those laws and rules?

He freed us from the judgment of them, yes. And redefined the ceremonial laws. But the order to keep the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. I'm not sure why Christianity has decided to toss number 4 out the window but insist that the other 9 must be followed out of loving obedience. We don't think murdering or adultery is right...so why do we forget the one the we were told to remember? It's not a ceremonial law, it's a moral one.

And as I sat in church last Saturday, I realized why it's a moral one. Because it marks us as God's. That's something I wouldn't trade for the world.

Now, I know this post is unlikely to change anything for anyone, LOL. Most Christians will still go to church on Sunday, and that's totally fine. Again, it's not a matter of salvation. I certainly don't judge anyone for following centuries-long tradition. But I just wanted to publicly claim my covenant with God. I am choosing, now as I first did ten years ago, to remember the Sabbath. I am choosing to keep it holy. Because He is the God who sanctifies me, and this is the day He set aside.

I am a Sabbath keeper.