Book Covers

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of us have verbal creativity. Some of us have visual creativity. Some of us are blessed enough to have both.

My creativity is strictly verbal. I realized I was going to have to provide my own book cover when self-publishing and I wanted to run away screaming. Literally, I nearly failed seventh grade art class. My brother, on the other hand, is incredibly creative when it comes to the visual arts. He basically spent grade school doing ridiculously awesome art projects, and he was good at it.

So, the first step for the photo-editing inept was finding images I could use for my novella that weren’t too specific but still relevant. I found some images with blood, a rose covered in blood, some guns, and a picture of a hand taking a picture with a nice camera.

My brother, who hasn’t actually read my novella but is young enough to be able to take my plot description and pick out the least-disturbing pictures chose the rose and the camera, so we made up a cover using Paint.NET, which Smashwords recommended. I have to say, if you’re a photo-editing idiot, it’s actually not to difficult to figure out! With about an hour of fiddling, we came up with a decent first draft. I’ve sent it off to my editor and her friend, who is more artistically inclined than myself by far, to get some input for my second draft.

It’s starting to come together nicely! Now I just need $35 dollars for copyright…. Any volunteers?

How many of you have tried making your own cover? Any recommended software or general tips for those of us making our way in this unfamiliar artistic endeavor?




Day Job

As my mother is so keen to point out, until one is an established writer, one needs a day job.

Like Natalie, I looked at the world of publishing for a while. I think it’s something I would be good at, finding excellent works, maybe doing some editing, promoting books for the public. It seemed very much like something that suited me, until I looked into it more. In the US, publishing jobs that are really worth chasing after are on the coasts, mostly in New York, Boston, or LA. None of those are places I want to live at all, even if I didn’t have to live in the city proper. I want to live in a small town in the middle of the country somewhere. I needed a job that would be able to be done anywhere.

So I’ve been looking into PR/Communications work. It seems to suit me more, still selling things, still interacting with the public, and maybe even getting to do writing. I’ve looked into summer internships in the field and am putting together one right now, actually, dealing with a number of possible projects.

The thing about PR, if you have any interest in it, is that it can be done for any company or group, anywhere in the world. I could live wherever I want and deal in any sector of the economy. It’s one of the few fields still growing and changing, and it’s one of the most flexible career paths you can imagine. If you think it might be something you could do well, I’d say look into it!

Just thought I’d put that out there for young people like myself struggling to find a day job!



Where I’m At

Novella: Waiting on help from my brothers on getting a cover ready. Things have been pretty busy around here lately, so artwork has been thus pushed aside.

Novel: Waiting ever so patiently for Natalie to go through my work and cover it with red ink (or red-colored text, as it were). She’s on a family vacation atm, so it’s taking longer than it normally would, but I can live with that.

Collaboration novel: That’s right, E. M. and I are getting our collaboration work adapted to a more publishable context and format now! I’d say within six months or so we’ll be working on our query letter and sending it off to agents. It’s super-exciting to think about how far this project has come since the fall, how fast things have gotten accomplished, and how nice it is that in all the time we’ve been working together we’re still not sick of each other! On the contrary, we keep saying how much we love working together and how we want to do more of it!

Camp NaNo: So, obviously, I’ve already finished my June novel, but E. M. and I are both writing in August. I’ve got my novel all worked out in my brain, but this time I’ve not written a word. (Okay, so I’ve written about a hundred words, but that doesn’t count. It’s a poem I’ve adapted for the novel. Doesn’t count at all.) E. M. and I have decided to race to 50k words, see who’s more on the ball. What does the winner get? I have absolutely no idea, so probably nothing, but the bragging rights will be epic, if nothing else.

I hope everyone’s enjoying their lovely summers and I hope you’re all having a great time with whatever projects are going on in your lives. Speaking of, what projects ARE you working on? I’d love it if you could leave a comment about what you’re up to this summer, whether it’s a writing project, a home improvement project, or a mission to save the world from the apocalypse. Whatever it is, I’m dying to know how it’s going!



Father’s Day

My dad doesn’t get what I do.

Those are words I think most artists of some kind can say, unless their father practiced their art. And really, what parent doesn’t want their child to go on and get a financially stable career? For every success story you hear about writers, you read about six more who are just trying to make ends meet.

My dad doesn’t read much. His work takes a lot out of him and he likes to watch sports to unwind. He read the Harry Potter books, to my surprise, but that’s the only thing he’s ever read on his own account as far as anyone can think of. So the likelihood of my dad sitting down and reading one of my books is really, really low.

That being said, he doesn’t get why I sit at my computer for hours every day, why my bed is literally covered with books and papers with just a tiny space for me to sleep, and why my notebooks are taking over the living room. He just doesn’t get it.

But he loves me anyway. That’s why we celebrate father’s day. They may not get what we do, but they support what we do, in their way, and that counts for something.



Writing A Personal Bio

No matter what path of writing you will take, you will have to write about yourself, whether it’s the bio paragraph about your life as a writer for your query letter or what I’m working on right now: An “About the Author” section to put at the end of an e-book for all your lovely readers.

It can be surprisingly hard to talk about yourself and your accomplishments. I’m going to use this opportunity to test out a few paragraphs and prove how different they can be, and that there are literally no rules when it comes to “About the Author” (because there are rules for query letters, sadly).

Bio 1: Charlotte Blackwood aka Mistress of Dark Emotion is a fearsome new voice in the published writing world.  When she is not writing so epically that it breaks her readers’ heartstrings, she likes re-reading Harry Potter, going over Hunger Games strategies, drafting marriage proposals to David Thewlis and Alan Rickman, and generally being awesome whilst eating fudge. This is her first novella. (NOTE: This is actually written by Natalie Cannon, my friend and lovely editor. It’s in our attempts to come up with my actual bio).

Bio 2: Charlotte Blackwood is a college student, a life-long reader of tragedy, and one of the crazy people who laughs at the end of Oedipus Rex. In her spare time she re-reads Anna Karenina, enjoys a variety of crime shows, and thinks about what she would do if she found a dead body in a variety of situations. This is her first novella.

Bio 3: Charlotte Blackwood is a life-long Tolkien aficionado, a Wheel of Time junkie, and a girl who wishes she had the hand-eye coordination for archery. When she’s not writing, she is catching up on the world of all things film related, looking up medieval naming practices, and saving her pennies for a comic book subscription. This is her first novella.

A few words of wisdom: if you care about ANYONE in the world reading something in your bio, don’t put it there, because anyone in the world could read it. Literally. Also, if you write a bio that sets you up as the ultimate fantasy author but your book is a modern murder mystery, you need to rethink your bio. Make them want to read your book, and remind them about why you’re qualified to write it. It’s okay to be silly, but if you’re a completely serious writer you might not want to include comedy. I have a hard time taking myself too seriously, so I’m probably going to use some sort of meshing of the first two bios, and although I like the third one and everything written in all three are totally true, it doesn’t suit my novella, which is a modern thriller.

Just relax, think about what you would tell a pen-pal in a first letter, or thing’s you’d say to someone you’ve just met over lunch. Describe yourself, describe what you do and even why, but it doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be scary, and when you read it aloud to friends and family they should say, “Yup, that’s you!”



Foods I Eat To Reward Myself

When I’m writing, I drink galleons of tea, naturally, to keep myself more or less hydrated, since if I don’t make tea I forget to drink anything at all and I get severely dehydrated. The other thing I often forget to do when writing, however, is eat. (Just ask Natalie Cannon, who lived with me for, like, a month, and we had to remind each other that meals existed when we weren’t reading the Hunger Games, which was a super appetite booster).

So when I’m taking breaks and reminding myself to eat, I have limited time, resources, and taste. Here are a few things I do to keep my brain and body fueled:

S’mores: Graham cracker, nutella, and marshmallow cream. It’s a lot quicker and safer than trying to cool marshmallows in the microwave, and it’s truly even taster while being worlds healthier.

Cheese Sandwiches: Cheese is probably one of mankind’s best inventions, and so’s Miracle Whip. Sometimes I literally just put Miracle Whip on a piece of bread and eat that as a snack, but when I need something more substantial, I put Miracle Whip on bread, sprinkle garlic powder over both pieces (don’t forget to brush your teeth afterword or use gum or something, especially if you don’t live by yourself…), put a generous layer of cheddar cheese slices on one piece, and then pile on lettuce, sometimes sprinkle on some diced onion of we have any. It’s pretty much my favorite food ever.

Graham Crackers and Frosting: I’m hypoglycemic, which happens to run in my family, so sometimes when I forget to eat my blood sugar needs a boost. Peanut butter toast is also good, if you like that, but I’ve been rather anti-toast lately, so if you’ve got frosting lying around (My family has almost ALL our birthdays in the summer, so we’ve got lots of leftovers), spread some on a graham cracker. The frosting gives you a quick boost and the graham cracker has more complex carbs to stick with you until your next real meal. Personally, I put as much frosting as I can convince myself isn’t a terrible idea since it’s my favorite food, but my mother puts on a thin layer, and that’s really all you need. So no matter how big your sweet tooth, there’s a ratio that works for you! I thought my family were the only ones to do this until A.B. started doing it at one of our movie watching nights and I realized in that moment how crazy alike we were. I recommend it to everyone. It’s tasty and serves a great purpose!

Carrot Sticks and/or Pickles: As you probably noticed, I’ve got a serious sweet tooth, but I can’t just eat sweet snacks every time I get a snack. Especially with the amount of sugar I put in my tea when I have it sweet…. I’d gain fifty pounds by the end of the summer at that rate. So when I need a snack and I’ve already had a graham cracker treat that day, I help myself to some veggies from the fridge, usually a few carrot sticks or a pickle. The best part of these, especially the carrot sticks, is you can really eat as many of them as you want, so if it’s a while until your next meal and a handful isn’t going to cut it, you can prop up a bag of carrot sticks by your work station and just eat ’em like you’re at the theater eating popcorn. I’m actually not a fan of carrots, taste-wise, but carrot sticks are just so convenient that I manage to overlook it. And they’re healthy!

Hope this sparks a few snack ideas for you workaholics out there who think about food as infrequently as I do!



Inspiration is Overrated

As I said in my last post, it’s important to keep writing, even when you don’t want to write or you have no inspiration.

In fact, it turns out to be incredibly important to work without inspiration, through writer’s block and everything. One of my cabin mates at Camp NaNoWriMo said a few days ago that “Writing through writer’s block is like Superman looking through lead, it’s just not going to happen.”

Ironically, I sent out something about the overrated quality of inspiration, as did one of the NaNo people, who sent the second-week newsletter about the overrated quality of inspiration.

Writer’s Block is one thing, but lack of inspiration is commonly mistaken for writer’s block, which is why it’s important to keep writing. Waiting around for inspiration will leave you feel discouraged and lead to lack of work produced. As the newsletter said, “showing up” are two of the most important words in any discipline, and in writing that means writing, even if you have no idea where your work is headed. It will guide you, even if you don’t realize it, and the inspiration will show up even if you don’t notice.

Yes, there is really such a thing as writer’s block, and my recommendations in my blog post about getting the juices flowing applies in that case, changing direction, but keep writing. That’s the only way to beat writer’s block, lack of inspiration, or anything else that might come in the way of writing. Just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing…..