Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cover Art & the Author

For many years, when I wrote romance novels, I would be bemused by a certain question that came from readers and non-readers alike. After "Where do you get your ideas?" the next most asked question any writer gets, would be, "Do you do the cover art yourself?", or some variation of that.

I actually haven't heard that for a while, and assumed that the internet had made readers and other folks more savvy. But then I read this in a recent Amazon review of A Deadly Grind:

"My first turn off on the book is the cover, the dog's head is completely out of proportion to the body and when you read the story, you find out that the dog has a missing front leg due to an accident when still a puppy. Yet, the cover shows both front paws. Was this an error by a newbie writer? I do not think so since Victoria Hamilton is a pseudonym for Donna Lea Simpson, a romance writer that is now branching into the cozy market."
I'm not quite sure where to start with this, and I'm trying to figure out what exactly the reader/reviewer is saying. I'm okay with the reviewer not liking the book - everyone's tastes are different, after all - but the remarks on the cover are unfortunate for a number of reasons.

So, I thought I would just run through the book cover design process, from concept to finished product, from the author's point of view.

I write the book (Insert Barry Manilow singing "I write the songs, I write the songs...") and give it to my editor. At some point down the line, my editor will ask me for some concept ideas for the cover, for the artist to work from. In the case of A Deadly Grind I described the summer porch on the back of Jaymie's home, the boxes of items she had purchased at the estate auction, and sent along photos of my own Hoosier-style cabinet, as well as photos of Yorkie-Poos.

Should I have made a point of saying in the reference material that Hoppy is three-legged? Not sure about that. Maybe. Whenever publishers have asked for my input on covers, I've gone overboard, sometimes spending days writing scene blurbs and gathering reference materials. In one memorable instance I did all that - days worth of work! - and the stuff was ignored comepletely and a random generic cover designed.  *Note - this was NOT with Berkley, but another publisher.

When I got the cover illustration for A Deadly Grind, I was very pleased... loved the Hoosier cabinet and the grinder and Hoppy, big head and all. I think the head size was meant to be cutesy, and I don't mind it a bit. But it was a four-legged Hoppy. I emailed my agent, and pointed that out. Do you want to say something to them? my agent asked me. I pondered it for a few days, then decided that in the grand scheme of things, depicting Hoppy with two front paws rather than one did not matter to the book. I didn't mention it to my editor.

Why did I decide that? Well, I liked the cover. I didn't think the extra paw was damaging to the book itself and didn't think it would matter to readers. I was new at Berkley Prime Crime and sooo thrilled to be launching my mystery writing career, so I suppose I didn't want to rock the roat. I know how much time and effort goes into the artwork, and to ask them to redo it based on one small objection... I just didn't have the heart to do it.

So, ultimately, I suppose the reviewer is both right and wrong... in a sense it IS my responsibility. However, it is NOT the mistake of a newbie writer, but rather the decision of a seasoned one, and a decision with which I'm completely at peace. Hoppy rules!!

I think next week I'm going to post a few of my old romance covers, with my first throughts and impressions on seeing some of them!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gluten Free Goes Vintage

A couple of weeks ago I got a charming email from a reader claiming I was reading her mind! She lives in Michigan, writes a food blog based on vintage recipes and collects vintage kitchen stuff... in short, her similarities to my heroine, Jaymie Leighton in A Deadly Grind, are truly startling!

But the basis of her reworking of vintage recipes is a little different; she creates gluten free recipes from vintage recipes!!

So Holly and I have partnered to offer one of my autographed books to a commentor on her blog, Gluten Free Goes Vintage. Check it out, read about the fun she had at the Feast of the Strawberry Moon festival, and drool over her lovely Hoosier-style cabinet and comment for a chance to win!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

50 Shades of Cake

Lately I've been seeing a lot of mention of 'food p o r n', (I'm separating the letters of the word because I don't want to wind up with trouble, or weird stuff... LOL!) and I never quite got what that phrase meant. Then on Thursday, I went to the thrift store; I got the cutest teacup with a little mystery attached, which I have to investigate and I'll talk about later. But I also perused the books, and besides getting Mary Daheim's Hocus Croakus and another 'Company's Coming' cookbook, I found a book called Luscious Afternoon Teas by Rosemary Wadey.

OMG. This book has the most gorgeous cakes and pastries... here are some of the names of the cakes... Chocolate and Hazlenut Caramel, Orange Caraque Gateau, Gateau Japonais, Lemon Praline Ring... and the photos!! Beautifully photographed, gorgeous flowers, and the plates and cutlery are divine...

I was salivating, and not just for the food.

And suddenly it hit me... I understood food p o r n. The recipes are difficult, too much so for my limited baking abilities, but I can look, right? So just like that other kind of p o r n, which describes activities and positions you might not actually try, flipping through the book was still fun.

You get my drift. The book will stay on my shelf, even though I'll never try one of the recipes. But I will look it over and sigh.

Oh MY! Will you look at that!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Teapot Collectibles

As anyone might guess from my recent change in my Facebook profile pic, I do love tea, everything about it, the taste, the vessels and the brewing paraphernalia. So recently, when I went to a gigantic epic garage sale, I was thrilled to find a few 'tea' items. I'd like to share so photos of my finds!

Here is a cutesy 'tea tray'... and I can't say that without remembering from Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll's version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
I collect miniature tea items, too... I just love tiny teacups and teapots, and children's sets. I suppose I coveted one when I was a kid, because my tea drinking started early, when it was a treat that made me feel like an adult. Of course, my tea was mostly milk, but it was served in a china teacup!!

At the sale I found this gorgeous tiny teapot... I cried out loud - yelped, actually - and the woman in front of me dived to the left as I lunged for it. She joked that she didn't suppose she had better get in my way, and I laughed... never get in the way of a dedicated collector!

But the prize of my day was this sweet Otagiri figural teapot... and it was only .75! Not a chip or a scratch on it.

I don't have a place for it, and I still can't figure out where it's going, but it sits on my kitchen table right now.

I also got a beautiful silverplate teastrainer that I forgot to photograph... I'll have to do it and upload that too!!

So there you have some of my adorable finds... total bill? About 2 dollars.