Friday, August 30, 2013

The Day I Met Aaron Ashmore- Guest Post

Today's guest blogger is Tiarna Lehmann, a 19 year-old Australian whose enthusiasm for the actors she loves reminds me a little of myself. 

I don't know if I followed Tiarna first on Twitter, or if it was the reverse, but I do know that I started reading her posts the same week that I got the "My Brother's Keeper" DVD, starring Aaron Ashmore in the mail. Steve Byers, whose interview with me you can read here, also has a significant role in the movie. I'd bought it in my quest to watch as much of Steve Byers' non-scary stuff as possible.  Not to mention I'd thoroughly enjoyed watching Aaron in previous roles, including Jimmy on "Smallville."

Steve saw my tweet about getting ready to watch it and informed me via Twitter that his role wasn't as a very nice guy in the film. He also joked about having to wear spandex in the film, but said that at least Aaron Ashmore did too, and being a jokester, he was teasing Aaron about it.  Somewhere amidst the banter, Tiarna or I saw the other's comments and started Tweeting.  I informed her that as a big fan of Aaron's she absolutely had to watch the film, since Aaron is in almost every frame of it since he plays both lead roles as twins.

I'd noticed the photo of her with stars of "Warehouse 13" on her Twitter page and asked her about it.  She was so enthusiastic about meeting Aaron Ashmore and Eddie McClintock, that I asked her to write a piece about what it was like meeting them. 

This is part 1 of 2, and in it, she talks about several performers she's passionate about, and about Aaron Ashmore.  I asked about Eddie and she assured me she'd address what it was like meeting him in a second part to her guest blog post at a later date.

Since I haven't met Tiarna, I asked her a few questions of my own to get an idea of the perspective from which she wrote her post.  She's a pretty interesting person herself.  Here's what she had to say:

Christina Williams:  Your twitter name is @InspiringCamels which is pretty unusual.  Would you be willing to share the story behind that?
 
Tiarna Lehmann: Well, the full name is 'inspiringcamelsofmilwaukee'. Now, anyone who knows me would know I'm a massive fan of the band, Hanson. There is a silly story behind it:
 
     Interviewer: "Who is the most inspiring person you've ever met?"
     Taylor: "I don't know about person, but I did meet an inspiring camel once."
 
Now, I wanted a place name and I remembered they have a song called "Man From Milwaukee", so BAM! 'inspiringcamelsofmilwaukee' was created.

Aaron actually asked me to explain it to him! :)
 
CW: Are you friends with, or just a fan of the  two guys you talk about at the beginning of the post? 
 
TL: No, I don't personally know them, I'm just a massive fan of them. After seeing them in the Les Miserables film, and realising they've both been in the West End stage production of it, among many other productions, I just fell in love with them and their beautiful voices. But I have received a fair amount of tweets from them both! They're both Irishmen, living in London and not very many people in Australia know of them.
 
CW: Other than Warehouse 13 and Animorphs that you watched as a kid, are there other scifi shows you're wild about?
 
TL: Weirdly enough, there's not very many other sci-fi shows I can get into. I have a massive mix of genres of I'm into. At the moment, it's the crime genre (The Following, Breakout Kings and Graceland)

CW: I've noticed that you have quite a few photos of you in costume on your Twitter page.  Are you an actress?  Professional or community theater?
 
TL: I wouldn't really consider myself an actress. I danced for 11 years in a local dance club, did all five school productions while I was in high school, plus two class drama productions, the most memorable was a play called "Juvie", by Jerome McDonough. 

"Set in a juvenile detention center, Juvie depicts the life of kids that are scared, lonely and locked up. Some are drug offenders, some have killed and some are just misfits...Although the set never changes, the 'juvies' venture out of their cells to tell why and how they were caught. The barren cell and lack of props are effective and in keeping with each character's desolation" ~ San Jose Spartan Daily

But this year, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be a part of the Riverland Musical Society's production of "Anything Goes", where I was a chorus member and what I like to call "Screaming Fangirl Number 1". Suits me, don't you think?
 
CW:  I think "Screaming Fangirl Number 1" suits her perfectly, and like I said, she reminds me of myself.  That's just about the same part I had in a high school production of "Bye Bye Birdie" quite some time ago. 

 
CW:  Following we have what Tiarna wrote about the day she met Aaron Ashmore...as well as her take on a couple of other performers she loves.

The Day I Met Aaron Ashmore
By Tiarna Lehmann

It’s no secret to those who know me who my favourite actors are, whether it be the West End stage actors Fra Fee who played Jean Prouvaire, as well as first covers Marius and Enjolras in Les Miserables as well as Coufeyrac in the highly successful  2012 film, as well as roles in the stage versions of Dirty Dancing and Fame or Killian Donnelly, who was second cover Javert and Enjolras, later moved to principal Enjolras, plus third cover Jean Valjean in Les Mis as well as Combferre in the film. He was also Raoul in Phantom Of The Opera and Tony in the West End’s Billy Elliot: The Musical, finishing earlier this year and is soon to be starring as Deco in Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, both of these actors, both Irish, are fantastic, trained singers and some of their works can be found on YouTube.
Fra Fee-- photo from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fra_Fee


 Killian Donnelly- Photo from a web link no longer up

Fra Fee – The X-Mas Factor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFChtk_Vwfs (a silly parody video showing Fra’s comic talents)
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Fra Fee - Live on BBC Radio Ulster)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcLh70fS6ns
Killian Donnelly – I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Live on “Saturday Night With Miriam”)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z38a4BCPHag
Killian Donnelly – Bring Him Home
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxb-LImjGJ8
I’ve also had two Twitter interactions with Killian and three from Fra :)
Okay, enough about these two amazing stage actors-slash-singers, you’re probably interested in my experiences meeting Aaron Ashmore, the equally as amazing older half of the gorgeous Ashmore twins, aren’t you?
Yep.

Well, okay.

So, backstory cut short, I’ve been a fan of Shawn since I was four years old and Animorphs was airing and, well, like many people, I didn’t realise he was a twin. Terrible person, aren’t I? I’m sorry.

Anyway, I decided to check some of his works and I stumbled upon Warehouse 13 which I fell in love with instantly. I also checked many of his other films and shows, including those crazy Servitude shenanigans including being thrown into a dumpster with a licence plate reading “STD MFN”, Playing a set of rivalling twins by himself in My Brother’s Keeper and one of Veronica’s bad-boy boyfriends, Troy Vandergraff in a few episodes of Veronica Mars as well as playing another bad-boy, Matt “Hutch” Hutchinson in The Skulls II. All of these were awesome but of course it was his portrayal of Steve Jinks in Warehouse 13 that I enjoyed most.
I remember seeing a tweet from Eddie McClintock announcing that he’ll be going to Oz Comic-Con, so I checked out the website, not only he was going to be in Australia, but he was going to be in Adelaide – just a two-hour drive from where I live, and Aaron was going to be there too!
The two-month wait was painful.
It was the morning of the 16th of March, 2013. My best friend, Lizzie (a fellow nerd) and I had travelled to Adelaide the night before (my first time driving through Adelaide – you’re welcome). Trust me, when you’re on public transport at Comic-Con time, you can tell who is an attendee, usually because they’re in costume. Lizzie and I didn’t bother dressing up, mainly because we ran out of time before we could organise anything.
The day was going off to a interesting start. After purchasing my tokens at around 9:30am, after a HUUGGGEEEE wait, I went and lined up at the second photo booth which is where I believed Eddie McClintock would be and the volunteer up the front asked the group, “Who’s here for the Warehouse 13 double photo?” I put my hand straight up and they let me straight through, even though I was at the back of the line of about 20 or more people.
I will admit, my heart was beating rapidly and I was a little nervous, and I was running through the things I’d say to them in my head. A few weeks earlier, I woke up to an Instagram notification saying that Aaron was following me, even though I hadn’t asked him, even though I’d asked Shawn’s wife Dana to as we’d been having many a conversation on Twitter. That was pretty exciting. I walked through the curtain and there Eddie and Aaron were, being them smiley selves. I walked up to Aaron and gave him a hug and introduced myself and then said, “So, you probably recognise me as InspiringCamelsOfMilwaukee on Instagram.” He knew what I was talking about J
I went and hugged Eddie, and he actually mispronounced by name as ‘Tiana’, rather than ‘Tiarna’, but I really couldn’t bring myself to correct him. After Eddie hugged me, I turned around and Aaron had his arms out, looking for another hug. I FELT LOVED!

Christina Williams:  Thanks Tiarna. Can't wait to read more when you send me part 2 of your fan encounter :)  For evidence of my being a "crazy fangirl" you can read post about wanting to adopt actor Steve Byers.
 
 
 


 

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Illustrating Your Books--The Invisible Dragon's Take


Author Peter Maxian, of the Invisible Dragon books, has written several illustrated stories.  What makes these so unusual is that many of his books are more along the genre beautifully depicted, almost poetic, daydreams for adults.  These all have very dream-like photos to accompany them.  I asked Peter how he got the idea of illustrating these with modified photos. 

Below is what Peter has to share on the subject.  Some of this information originally appeared on the "books" page of his website.  The photo shown is from his author page on Amazon.
 
How did you come up with the idea of using modified photos to illustrate your books?

I wrote 15 stories about Ryn, the son of some friends of mine. Everyone who read those stories said they would make a perfect children's illustrated book. I asked a few artists to do illustrations, but no-one came up with anything satisfactory. So I created digital illustrations myself for the stories I wanted to publish.

Creating pictures that portray an invisible dragon is not easy.

How does an artist paint the invisible?
I have asked artists here in Vienna where I live, but no-one could do it. 

So how did I paint the invisible? 

I created the illustrations by listening to my heart, and daydreaming of the invisible dragon.

Like magic, I re-created the "magical realism" landscape of the stories by enhancing photographs, and the dragon is a lighting effect. While working at a computer, the right effects all came together to tell the dragon's story in pictures. 

One theme of the invisible dragon stories is that we can "see" the invisible in our heart and our dreams. (The same theme is in "The Little Prince" by Antoine de St Exupery.)

I could "see" the invisible dragon, and he appeared in illustrations on my computer...

Christina's Note:  I should also mention that Peter is the author of the Christina BraveStar book, based on me, which, I think is quite cool and highly entertaining.  I told Peter that his writing a book about me makes me feel like a movie star, and I'm relatively sure that's partly where the name "BraveStar" comes from. (Photo is from the Peter's website, www.thedragonadventures.com and is a modified photo of me on top of the French Alps. This photo appears on the cover of the previously mentioned book.) For more information, check out the book :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Steve Byers of "Alphas"-- A Fascinating Interview

If you follow me on Twitter, read my blog, or know me personally you already know that I love to watch Steve Byers act.  I first watched him as John on Syfy's "Alphas" and have since watched everything he's been in that I can get my hands on.  Well, everything but the really scary stuff because non-scifi horror gives me nightmares. And if you haven't seen star him yet in the science fiction/horror film, "Static," (also known as "Glitch") you should be sure to check it out next time it airs.

Anyway, Steve's a blast to watch on screen and it didn't take me long to discover he's also an unbelievably funny and nice guy. (Photo at right is taken from his IMDB page.)
I've read a lot of interviews of Steve, but being a naturally curious person, I still had more questions.  A lot more in fact.  He's generous enough to have taken the time to let me interview him.  Below you'll see what he has to say to questions that I hope he hasn't been asked a lot, if ever, in previous interviews.


Christina Williams:  If you could have any fantasy/mythological creature as a pet, what would it be and why?
Steve Byers:  Dragon because...well Dragons.
CW:  Is it correct that “Game of Thrones” is your favorite television show, and if so, what is it that you love about it?
SB:  Did I mention the Dragons?
CW:  What are your hobbies?
SB:  I wish I could say grooming my Dragons but alas no. If I ever have free time (usually once kids are asleep) I like to spend it on my Playstation 3. Escapism.
CW:  I'm sensing a trend here... Who are your all-time favorite actress and actor, alive or deceased, and would you please elaborate?
SB:  Gary Oldman. The guy is like a chameleon. A talented and human looking chameleon.
CW:  What is your dream vehicle?
SB:  Okay, I'm beating a dead horse here but would a Dragon be okay? Worst case, I hate traffic so maybe a helicopter?
CW:  Would you tell us about your pets?
SB:  Used to have two cats. They both passed this past year. Taking a break from pets for awhile..
CW:  I'm sorry to hear about your cats.  Losing pets is hard.  If I could make a pet dragon appear, I'd certainly send you one for Christmas.  My oldest kid is very literal and for the longest time, since the dragon books are located in the mythology section of the library and are therefore classified as "non-fiction," he was convinced that dragons existed here and now and that if he looked hard enough in the forest around here he'd find one.  If he does, I'll be sure to let you know.
On a different note, where is your ideal locale to film a movie, and have you ever filmed there before?
SB:  I love shooting in Toronto as it's where most of my family is. Going home at the end of the end of the day makes the job more "normal". Don't get me wrong...I've never shot in a tropical location and I think Daddy likey.
CW:  I’ve read before that you love beer and burgers.  What’s your favorite kind of beer?
SB:  I like trying new craft beers. I'm not a stout fan though. I like a Rolling Rock or Sleeman Cream Ale.
CW:  Do you have a favorite ethic food and what is it?
SB:  Love authentic Mexican food. All of it. Gimme some.
CW:  You’ve said before that you love to play video games and that “Skyrim” is your current favorite.  What do you like about it?
SB:  Oh, I don't know...ummm Dragons? I love that it does not restrict you on how you play the game. Not a linear storyline. I hate rules. 
CW:  I’ve found you to be a very funny guy on Twitter, yet you generally play serious roles. Is this intentional? Do you have plans to do comedy in the future?
SB:  Comedy is a very specific art and I'm just a wise-ass.  If I ever have the opportunity to play a another comedic part and it seems right, for sure! 
CW:  If you had access to the Tardis, Dr. Who’s time-traveling spaceship, when and where would you go? 
SB:  I'd probably go back to last week when I forgot to pay my phone bill. 
CW:  Is it hard for you to sit back and relax when you watch television or movies without analyzing what’s going on since you work in the industry?
SB:  Like most people in our business (I think), it's hard to ignore glaringly bad elements of a production but if something is great, I love to get lost in it.
CW:  What’s your all-time favorite movie?
SB:  "Seven," "The Fifth Element," "Blade Runner," "True Romance."
CW:  What is the strangest, weirdest, most uncomfortable, funniest, or most memorable costume you’ve worn?
SB:  By far... Heracles in "Immortals". Most valuable (especially for it's size) and uncomfortable wardrobe I've worn. 
(CW Commentary: Later on, I asked Steve which guy he was in this picture.  His reply, "Back left. In the skirt.)

CW: I’ve read that some actors shy away from watching their own shows. Do you enjoy watching programs you’ve been in and seeing how the final product turned out, or do you prefer not to watch yourself on screen?
SB:  NO. Sadly, no.
CW:  You’ve been married 12 years. How do you balance family life with filming schedules, which I would imagine cause long absences from home?
SB:  My wife does it all. Rock solid.
CW:  Does your wife have a favorite show she’s enjoyed watching you in?
SB:  "LA Complex"... she likes that genre.
CW:  Do you have kids?
SB:  Yup 2.
CW:  When you read bedtime stories to your kids, do you get into doing all kinds of crazy voices and stuff to make the characters come alive?  I have this vision of you as the ultimate story book reader :)
SB:  Sometimes.... depends on the energy stores. I also hate to work 'em up before sleeping....it happens pretty easily.
CW:  What’s your favorite book you’ve read to you kids recently?
SB:  "Lucky Duck"
CW:  Back in 2002 you were in Slap Shot 2in which you portrayed a hockey team member.  You’ve mentioned before that you did your own skating in the film.  Did you play hockey growing up?
SB:  I'm Canadian... so Yes. Loved it.
CW:  You and Nina Dobrev were great on screen together inMy Daughter’s Secret.” What’s Nina like to work with, and has there been any talk of casting you on “The Vampire Diaries?”  I, for one, would love to see how you look with a set of fangs :)
SB:  Thanks. We had a lot of fun. There have been a few roles that I've been considered for on the show. Ultimately, it hasn't worked out thus far. We'll see ;) 
CW:  InFalcon Beachyou played a very sweet wake boarder. You’ve mentioned to me before that some of the filming where you were so cheerfully jumping wakes behind the boat was done while it was snowing outside and you were, essentially, freezing.  Would you elaborate on what it’s like to work in such adverse conditions? Personally, I can’t imagine how you could even hold onto the rope if it was that cold much less look like you’re having fun doing so.

SB: It was certainly tough to work up the courage to get in the water on those days. They were very kind though and had a portable hot tub for us to jump in after those scenes. A couple people actually went to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia on that set. Scary stuff. That "acting like I was having fun" was just the acting part.

CW:  I loved watching you as John on Syfy’sAlphas.” Do you have a favorite episode? (Note: "Alpha's" cast photo at right taken from summerglauwiki.com)

SB:  Loved running around with guns. Still a kid at heart.
CW:  Rachel, played by Azita Ghanizada, was your love interest in “Alphas.” What’s Azita like to work with?

SB:  Azita is great. She was very kind and wanted to make sure I felt at home coming into a show on it's second season.
CW:  Did anything particularly funny happen on the set of Alphas?”

SB:  Not one thing in particular stands out but there were certainly lot's of laughs. Warren and I had a lot fun and were comrades in stupid jokes and buffoonery. 
CW:  You’ve recently completed filming “Christmas Star,”  a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie which you star in. Is it a drama or comedy, and would you tell us a little about the movie?

SB:  It's a sweet film about a family struggling with the loss of a parent and the need to continue living life. A flame from his past sparks up and helps the family learn that life and love can go on. 
CW:  What kind of character do you play in “Christmas Star?”

SB:  I play a Dad who is Basketball coach and a little disconnected with the real world. He's a little dorky... so there's a whole lotta "me" in this guy.

CW:  Was there anything particularly memorable or unusual that happened on set while filming “Christmas Star?”

SB:  It's always tricky to shoot winter movies in the summer. It is kinda surreal when they have the snow machines running in the middle of the night and everyone is in winter clothing and it's about 80 degrees out. Shannon and I had a great time all the same.
CW:  It seems like, since at least from an audience perspective, Hallmark movies don’t look like they rely much on special effects to make them good, that they would be more rewarding to work on from an actor’s perspective than a film which uses a lot of blue or green screens and CGI. Is that a correct assumption?

SB:  Just different really. I love it all. 
CW:  Do you know when “Christmas Star” is set to air?  

SB:  Not yet. I imagine around American Thanksgiving.         

CW:  Any news on future films and television series fans can look forward to seeing you in?

SB:  There are a few irons in the fire right now but I don't want to give too much away until it's signed and sealed but stay tuned ;)
CW:  Are there any particular roles you’d like to play future?

SB: I love the fantasy and sci-fi genres so anything in that realm I'm game. Also would love to do an epic Western. Spaghetti or otherwise ;)

Thank you for all the support and my best wishes to you and all who might read this. 

CW: Thanks for letting me interview you and for making me laugh so much!   :)
You can follow Steve on Twitter @TheSteveByers and look at his IMDB page.  To avoid any confusion based on my blog address and Twitter name, I should clarify that while I write paranormal/fantasy books, and I'd love to see Steve star in one, were it ever to become a movie, I'm (unfortunately) not associated with the writing of the "Immortals" movie Steve is in.  I chose my Twitter handle based on what was available that was related to the genre I write, and what sounded cool :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to Design a Book Cover- Part 2 of 2

This post is a continuation of yesterday's guest post by Rachel Taylor, a professional photographer and owner of R. Taylor Concepts.  I have a few additional questions for Rachel regarding book cover design and she was gracious enough to answer them.
 
Christina Williams: What kind of lighting advice would you give an amateur when they are shooting their own book cover photos and don't have access to an elaborate lighting system?
 
Rachel Taylor: If shooting a person or people, I would suggest using a large white poster board (foam version is nice as it's sturdier) to bounce light onto the subject(s).  This technique can be used indoors and out and will ultimately add more life to your subject's eyes by creating a catch light.

Another option would be shooting in a room full of white or light walls (this works for objects as well), remembering that color reflects (e.g. green walls adds a green hue to the skin/object which may or may not be desirable).  If shooting outdoors with the ultimate goal of a softly lit portrait or scene, choose late evening or very early morning to shoot your subjects when the sun's light projects most softly.  Overcast days create the perfect soft box free of charge.  Should you desire harsher, bolder, more dramatic lighting, use the midday sun of lunchtime as your strobe.  Adjust your subject(s) accordingly to create the shadows you desire upon the face or scene in general.  I also suggest turning off your camera's flash (this will work best when there is plenty of light overall).

CW: What are your thoughts on the amount of objects shown on a book cover?
RT: Speaking strictly in visual terms; the fewer the objects, the more solid and simple the background and the starker the contrast between those two elements, the more visible be your results in my opinion.

CW: For ebook covers, what special attention needs to be taken since they are initially shown often as a 1" thumbnail photo or smaller?

RT: With ebook covers, I would use the aforementioned ratio of fewer objects, bolder contrast in lighting and in color as well as a simple background if it were my cover.

CW: You've mentioned to me before that certain colors make others stand out well.  Any advice you'd like to give?


RT: High contrast begets eye catching results (think black & white).  Lighter colors attract while darker colors recede.  Using complementary color schemes creates visually appealing effects (e.g. yellow & blue).  If subtlety is your goal, colors closer in tone and/or in monochromatic mixtures will do the trick.
 
Example: monochromatic blues… still bold, still high contrast with a nice pop of white to attract & catch the eye
 

 Example: bold complementary colors… reds/ blues / yellows
 

Example: Although not a book cover, this is a great example of the same complementary colors of red, blue & yellow in softer tints.  Less noticeable in a line up overall. Taken from http://www.seasonsforallathome.com/

 

CW: Thanks so much Rachel for taking time to share your expertise with us.  It's greatly appreciated.

Note: Photos are not examples of Rachel's work but are shown as examples of the concepts about which she is speaking.


Rachel is a freelance photographer based in south Missouri in the Lake of the Ozarks.  In addition to her experience as a successful free-lance photographer, she's worked with top designers in the silk floral retail and wholesale industry and has done a wide range of commercial work, including, but not limited to, photography for Evergreen Home Décor.  If you are in need of professional photography services, you can contact Rachel at pureskylight@gmail.com

Monday, August 12, 2013

Creating the Perfect Book Cover Image- A Photographer's Viewpoint Part 1 of 2

 
Today we have a special guest post from professional photographer, and my own book cover advisor, Rachel Taylor of R. Taylor Concepts. 

Rachel is a freelance photographer based in south Missouri in the Lake of the Ozarks.  In addition to her experience as a successful free-lance photographer, she's worked with top designers in the silk floral retail and wholesale industry and has done a wide range of commercial work, including, but not limited to, photography for Evergreen Home Décor.  If you are in need of professional photography services, you can contact Rachel at pureskylight@gmail.com


The first consideration when selecting a photograph for the cover of my book would be content relevance.  What scene, what item, what kind of person, etc… will most quickly help the viewer connect with the title and / or theme of my book; keeping in mind that should I choose to photograph a person, releases will be necessary.

Once I've decided upon the object(s) to be photographed, my next thought would be how will I light it?  Do I want my photo to overpower my text and grab the viewers attention via emotion or do I simply need it to visually break up the space of my cover?  If the former, I would choose bold, highly contrasted lighting (think studio strobes or mid day sun for the non-photographer) to create a distinct separation of the object from its background.  If using a photograph to break up space rather than to add immediate impact, I would elect a softer approach, using natural light.

Two examples of high contrast lighting-- bold images that catch a viewer's eye:

 

Two examples of more naturally, softer lit images.  These images tend to pull the viewer into the text and title:



After lighting is determined, composition of the item(s) would be next in my thought process.  Is it just one item or object that I need to shoot or is it more of a scene, thought or interaction?

If one object, a solid background will be best to again, separate the item from the background and make it stand out.  When composing the object, I would consider text placement within my cover design.  Placing the item directly in the center of my frame obviously creates balance but is somewhat boring.  This may be to my benefit depending upon final intent.  If not, off-setting the item, either in my shot or within ultimate cover design placement, can create negative space for text placement as well as increase viewer eye moment, pushing or pulling them into a direction that benefits me.

When composing a scene or people, my background choice would depend upon my ultimate intention.  A solid background will act similarly with people as it does with objects: it will separate them and assist in helping them stand out.  A busy background can add mood (think city scape) but will also add some distraction.


Examples of center-weighted images. Once your eye locks in on the object, you're seemingly finished viewing  to  some extent.
 



Examples of off-center images using negative space.  Eyes are drawn to the negative space, moving more continuously.



 




In summary, here are some bits of info to consider when choosing to add a photograph to your cover:


Subject Matter:
* fewer objects, less distraction
* people = release forms & more overhead

Example of a cover with fewer objects. Objects are boldly lit, advancing them while the darker, red background further pushes the sword forward while creating intensity and emotion in its wake.



An example of a very busy cover. Multiple objects and backgrounds can add distraction, ultimately forcing the viewer to the title if properly placed.



Lighting: (see examples near the beginning of this post)
*high contrast lighting is more bold, catching more attention than softly lit objects


Composition: (see examples near the beginning of this post)
* center weighted photographs typically exude balance and neutrality
* negative space created when objects are placed to the left/right of or above/below center can add visual stimulation and movement as well as space for text


Line:
*using [leading] lines within either the object itself or within the background can direct viewers to areas of interest within the cover

Example of leading lines in cover photographs:


 


 

Background:
* solid backgrounds create separation ultimately pushing the object photographed forward and closer to the viewer
* textured / patterned backgrounds add distraction as well as a sense of place

Example of a nice, solid background. This is so simple, yet uses many leading elements. It pulls me in. Solid background, negative space and the direction of the model adds a nice leading line while the red color evokes intensity and emotion.




Example of an object against a busy background. Distracting but does lead viewer towards the title if the object is used as more of a filler of space.
 


Color:
*brighter colors equate with more energy (e.g. red heightens emotion, adding mental energy or subtracting it depending upon how you look at it)
*darker shades are typically more relaxing and recede into the background
*complementary colors provide the eyes visual harmony (e.g. red/ blue / yellow or green / purple / orange)

Example of use of complementary colors:
 



Example of darker, more subdued tones.
 
 

 

Note from Christina Williams

Book covers shown are examples of the concepts Ms. Taylor is explaining, not examples of her work, which is equally impressive.

Thanks so much Rachel for your expert insight into book cover design and for taking time to write this article.  It's greatly appreciated.

 

Rabbits & Tattoos--Daily Humor

First, let me explain that if you take rabbits to shows, they have to be tattooed. That being said, I'll get on with the story.

Last night I was, as is normal, looking at the bank account activity online.  I saw a PayPal charge I didn't expect, so I asked my husband about it.

"Oh, that's for the tattooer," he said.  "For the rabbits."

Now, I knew my husband had been having some difficulty tattooing our rabbits as we've not shown them in the past, and he hasn't been doing this long. He'd mentioned that not all of the tattoos were turning out as well as he needed them to. Still...a tattooer?  Wasn't that a bit extreme?

I wanted to ask my husband where he took the rabbits.  I mean, we have several tattoo places in town.  Did the guy think he was crazy when he came in carrying rabbits?  It was all I could do not to bust out laughing at the image in my head. I wanted to ask my husband about the reaction when he walked in the tattoo parlor with the furballs, but since I was certain I couldn't do so without laughing, and I wanted to be supportive of my husband and his rabbit-raising efforts, I kept my mouth shut.  Still, I wondered...

Anyway some time went by and eventually, it came out that my husband has spent the money on a new tattooer, as in the gizmo that he uses to tattoo the rabbits himself, and not a person who is a tattoo artist at a tattoo place.  His gizmo wasn't working right, so he bought a new one.

This is the point at which I said, "What?  You mean you didn't take them to a tattoo place?"  LOL

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Part 2- Finding Inspiration for Writing

I love writing novels, but like just about anyone may, I get stuck.  Sometimes I just get to a point where I'm not sure what to do with the story from there.  What then?  Sometimes I speak with a trusted friend, in my case, usually my husband, and just talking about what point of my plot has me stuck takes care of the problem.  Other times I turn to research.

Research?  You may be asking yourself.  But you write fiction.  Yes, I do write fiction, but I've also found that research really, really helps me integrate my plot, characters, and location so that the story flows well.

For example, in my first novel, Shawna, the 16 year-old heroine, meets Camulos, an ancient Celtic war god when she travels to Belgium. Initially, I was going to write about her meeting a Greek or Roman war god (in my books they're not the same person.) When researching, I learned that in the Arlon region in southern Belgium, the Belgae tribe had historically worshiped the Celtic god Camulos.  In fact the modern-day symbol of the region of Arlon is the wild boar, the same as the symbol of Camulos.  This discovery impacted the development of my character and storyline and allowed me to closely tie my characters and plot to the locale.

There are many more such examples I could give, and perhaps will in future blog posts as I write more about finding inspiration.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Finding Inspiration for Writing

Inspiration for writing can be found everywhere.  For me, when it comes to my blog, frequently it's an event with my kids, a television show, movie I saw, or comment from the Twitter feed that leads me to the topic for the day.  I start with one thought and just keep going. I'm a novelist, so I'm verbose by nature.

"That's fine," you say. "But what about books?" 

That's a bit harder.  For my first novel, Destined Love is Immortal, I set out to create the type of hero I'd want to meet, and he couldn't be human.  I love science fiction and paranormal stuff, so my novel reflects that.  Vampire and werewolves are all the rage these days, and as much as I enjoy reading about them and watching them on screen, I wanted my hero to have twist, so I chose a war god.  I started with mythology, but shaped and molded the character, changing things here and there, to suit the needs of my story, and Camulos was the result.

The heroine was another matter.  The story is written in first person from her perspective, so while I've had a few comments about how insecure she was, I don't think that's really that unusual.  The only difference is that the reader is in her head, so the reader knows all of her fears and concerns to their full extent. There is, in fact, a great deal of myself at age sixteen in her character.  I was every bit that insecure and uncertain of myself.  What's significant about her, though is that she grows throughout the story.  I think this is important t keep in mind when writing. Characters need to be able to grow and change as a result of their experiences, and I believe Shawna, my heroine, does just that.

As far as supporting characters go, I tried to give them little quirks to make them memorable. I read somewhere that you want people to love or hate your characters, but you don't want them to be indifferent to them.  I really don't remember who said or wrote something to that effect, but I know that to me it sounded like good advice, so I took it. 

Of course, there's much more I could say on the subject, and I will, but just not today.  Check back and I'll continue with writing about "finding inspiration" soon.