To Tell or Not to Tell

Last weekend our Mantle Rock team met to discuss several book proposals that had been submitted for publication. Most were from authors who had never been published as that is our target group. Among the proposals, we had a historical suspense novel and several romantic suspense novels. At the end of the day, we decided to return them all to the authors with some comments for improvements. The theme that ran through all the books was “too much telling, not enough action.”

Telling is a common mistake beginning authors make. They are so excited to introduce the new character that they feel inclined to do a massive dump of their character’s back history. Sometimes, it takes the shape of a prologue. Sometimes, it becomes endless paragraphs of thoughts or memories. Either one is most unnatural and sometimes, boring.

Let’s take a cue from our day to day life. I’m a church secretary by day so I’ll use an example that has been happening over the last few weeks.

A new couple has started coming to church. I introduced myself at our mid-week fellowship meal. They are Jeff and Karen Smith. I told them I was the church secretary and would be glad to help them if they needed questions answered or pointed to the right person. That ended our first encounter. I knew nothing but their name and that they were visitors. And that was enough.

The next day, I inquired from one of our ministers if he had met Jeff and Karen Smith. He told me he had and that they were from a community near the church and were church shopping.

A few days later, Jeff showed up at the church building and pressure washed our parking lot. Another coworker told me he was a handyman by trade and enjoyed helping out where he could.

Now stop and think. You probably have a pretty good mental picture of what Jeff looks like. But in reality, I have told you very little about him. In fact, I know very little about this couple. As time goes on, I suspect I will learn more, but for now, that’s fine. Our actual relationships are usually built from these small beginnings. We may know casual information but the deep back history comes much later in our relationship. We may go years without learning a couple lost a child in a house fire or that their divorce was scandalous. Those things drip out over time. That is how we should treat our back history in a novel. Only tell what is necessary, when it is necessary.

Speaking of what is necessary, did you notice what I did not tell you. I didn’t tell you his age, skin color, hair color or what kind of clothes he was wearing. In this little short story, those details aren’t important. Jeff is just a handyman. He wears handyman clothing. That’s all you need to know. But I’ll throw you a bone. “Jeff wears a baseball cap that covers his receding hairline. He takes it off periodically to wipe his forehead while he pressure washes.”

But, Diane, my main character needs to be fully developed so you’ll understand why things happen or mean so much to them. Yes, and no. If you started your novel with an action scene (and you should have), that action will carry the storyline for a while. Then the backstory can be dripped in as we get to know the character. No one enjoys meeting someone who drops a load of problems at their first encounter. So why do we as authors think readers would enjoy it when our character drops all their life history at our feet in one dump?

Don’t forget about anticipation. Cue song from the recesses of my memory. “An-tic-i-pa-a-tion, it’s making me wait.” Thank you, Carly Simon. Sometimes, anticipation can fuel the tension your character brings. “Jeff’s grooming was a little superior to that of your average handyman. Just the fact that he knew how to properly wear a belt with his pants made him two steps above average. Perhaps handyman was not his first occupational choice.” Now the story has turned on a different angle. Could the nice helpful man have a darker more sinister past? Don’t tell me now, let it simmer and build.

Hopefully, this little rant will be meaningful for some of you. LOL. It’s really not a rant, just an observation from our weekend meeting. It’s meant to be read with love and care, so please don’t interpret it any other way.

Now, back to designing covers, which is really what I do best. 🙂

Why Choose a Cover Designer?

Several people have asked over the years, “Why should I hire a cover designer when I can do it myself?” It’s a great question and I think it deserves a great answer. I only wish I new what that answer was.

Just like an author hones their craft of writing, I continually update and improve my design skills. I keep up with the latest software. I spend hours in tutorials learning how to better achieve the design effects I want to implement. I study my craft, just like an author studies their craft.

Just like there are acceptable practices in writing, things like italics for silent prayers, scene changes when your POV changes, etc., there are acceptable practices in cover design. And if you are going to create your own cover, you need to know them. Like, never, ever, ever outline text. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, GREAT, because really you should never have to see it. But if you do know what I’m talking about, please understand, that is equivalent to changing POV in the same paragraph three times. Just don’t go there. Don’t think that any ole photo will work, because it doesn’t. If the photo doesn’t grab your attention right off the bat, it may not be your best choice. Are there ways to take an average photo and make it great? Maybe. But it takes skillful manipulation and a knowledge of what software can do. In addition, you need to consider composition, contrast and typography. All things that make a huge difference in the overall finished product.

What will a good designer give you then? My goal is to give you a finished cover that says, “This book is worth your time investment to read it.” I want your cover to look professional and well-planned. I want you to be proud to sign each and every copy because the cover reflects your writing to it’s best potential. It is not my goal to impress my style or vision on your cover. It’s rather the opposite. I want to bring your vision to life. I may steer you toward better practices, just like an editor may help your story move along. But still, I want the cover to reflect you and your story.

 

Book Cover For Faith’s Journey

Faiths-JourneyAs most of you know, I’m always running a little behind. It seems like every week lately has involved finishing up a book cover and getting the book formatted and ready for publication. That’s such an exciting time for both me and the author because now their book has life. It has a face now and the bones have been settled into place.

I loved working with Heather Greer and her cover came together so nicely. One of the locations in her book was a state park in Illinois and that became the backdrop for her cover. Her main character Faith, dressed in casual fall attire, became the focal point of this very simple but gorgeous cover. Here’s a teaser from this contemporary romance.

Katie McGowan left her parents and their faith behind years ago. However, when faced with a devastating betrayal, Katie is ready to go back to Carbondale, Illinois to help her elderly parents despite their tempestuous relationship. Drained by the constant friction, Katie finds emotional support and encouragement in Austin. His practical, simple faith speaks to Katie, and she finds herself yearning for a new connection to God. As their friendship grows, so does the attraction between Katie and Austin.

Before her fledgling faith and thoughts of romance have a chance to take root, Katie’s cheating fiancé returns, remorseful and promising change. Can her tentative faith strengthen their past love? And if her heart breaks again, will Katie’s journey to faith end before it has really begun?

Faith’s Journey was published by Mantle Rock Publishing and is available on Amazon.

Vintage Style Pendant Necklaces

I’ve fallen in love with these gorgeous Vintage Style Pendant Necklaces. I’ve made several for myself, friends and my authors.

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This is my Chickadee on a Pine Branch print. And for my author’s I put their books on a burlap backdrop for their own unique wearable promotion piece.

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Check out my Etsy store for other examples of my artwork pendants or get details on creating your own piece of wearable art by submitting your unique image.

Good and Perfect Gifts

I love reading posts from my author’s (because if I create their cover, they are my author) about the reception of their first book. It’s always special to see the you on their face and hear it ringing from their words. Congratulations to Heather and thank you for letting me be a part of this process!

By the Book

Tonight I celebrated twenty-one years of marriage to my husband, Andy. Last year, on our twentieth anniversary, he got me a new wedding ring. I hadn’t been able to wear my original one in years, and this new ring was the perfect gift for that milestone anniversary. Tonight’s celebration wasn’t nearly as elaborate, but considering our busy lives, just being able to go to dinner with him and spend some time window shopping made it special.

That’s not to say I didn’t get an anniversary surprise this year. It just didn’t come from Andy. Tonight, as we pulled into our driveway, I noticed four packages waiting for me. Knowing what they held, I couldn’t contain my excitement. As soon as we carried the four boxes inside, we picked one back up and headed to my parents’ house. I wanted them to join Andy and me as I opened the first…

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Reflecting in Mindful Meditation

When the Lord blesses you with an awesome daughter, sometimes you just reblog her words instead of your own. Well, technically I guess they are partly mine since I hope I have made a lasting impression on her.
Share your calm thoughts or places with me. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Always Speaks Her Mind

Sweet friends, I’m not done sharing my story from this summer but for now I am trying to make it through my last two weeks of school. (Sherry I know you’re just eager to hear more of my story 😉 )

I am working on a project for my Engagements class, a Lipscomb general credit class, about Creativity in Work, Wonder, and Worship. For the project, I wrote out a mindful meditation and reflecting while in that calm state. I invite you all to read this and meditate over the words I’ve written. It may be just something that I needed to preach to myself more than anything but I hope it is beneficial to you all as well. Grace and peace be with you always.

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Try to still your mind. Picture yourself in front of a calm lake, whether it’s a lake you’ve visited, a lake you’ve fantasized about…

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BCR – Callum’s Compass

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The cover for Callum’s Compass by Sara Foust has been finished for a while, but I’m just now getting around to releasing it for you to see. The story is set in East Tennessee at Norris Lake, a beautiful clear lake that I have visited many times. Most of my visits were to a Boy Scout camp located on it’s banks but that didn’t detract from the natural beauty the area exudes. This was a fun cover to create, blending the compass and the beautiful lake setting together. The outdoor settings lended well to a rustic, campy font usage that tells the reader where the story is set.

Sara’s crafted a lovely story and here’s a preview of it’s contents.

KAT WILLIAMS’S brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

RYAN JENKINS’S fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past, then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her … without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels … and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Callum’s Compass is available for pre-order on Amazon. You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website, www.saralfoust.com.

Tragic News

In between all the news yesterday about Trump and the NFL players standing or not standing you may have seen a blip on the news about a shooting in a Tennessee church. One dead, seven injured. It may be being reported as a possible civil rights attack. At any rate, it has been tragic. And it has hit close to our family.

The minister of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ was Joey Spann. Coach Spann, as we all know him, was Savannah’s eighth grade Bible teacher at Goodpasture. She loved his class and I appreciated the fact that he taught with heart. He was more than just a teacher, he was a mentor and friend. I remember most fondly Savannah sharing with me his cartoons of the Bible lessons they were studying. She would come home saying, “Mom, you’ve got see what Coach Spann gave us today.”

I think the greatest compliment anyone can be given is that they touched the life of a child in the name of Christ. I saw that from Coach Spann over and over again.

Today, I lift his name and his whole family in prayer. Coach Spann was critically injured during the church shooting. Following surgery yesterday he remains in stable but critical condition. His wife was also injured. Prayers for all the other victims as well.

Prayers for peace.

Now and forever.

Bible Journaling Jeremiah 29:11

IMG_1383A few weeks ago, an Etsy customer asked me to create four Bible Journaling bookmarks for her use in her church’s children’s ministry. I was glad to be able to help a fellow kid’s ministry worker. She needed them rather quickly so I created the artwork but have not colored and journaled them all just yet. This is the first one I have completed and has the verse from Jeremiah 29:11. I added it to my Bible using color pencils for a quick and easy process.

Prismacolor pencils in the following colors: Rose 743 1/2, Peacock Green 907, Light Green 738 1/2, Blue Violet 933, Crimson Lake 295, Sienna Brown 746. I also used a light blue and a golden yellow that no longer have their names or numbers visible. Yes, some of these have been in my stash for quite a while.

After printing out my template, I traced the design into my journaling Bible. I didn’t use any “techniques” other than blending some of the lighter and darker colors together. Sometimes, it’s nice to just relax with a few colors and not stress about the latest techniques.

If you are interested in the template, it is available here in my Etsy Store! Many blessings!