Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Designing the Wind of the Spirit Cover

Cross posted on Publishing Dream.

We all know that creating a striking cover is one of the most effective tools for marketing a book. When I worked at Abingdon Press, getting approval for a book cover was one of the most important and stressful hurdles we faced. So when I began thinking about the cover for my own next project, Wind of the Spirit, I ran right into a question that stymied me for a while.

How do you illustrate a title like Wind of the Spirit?

Well, obviously the cover has to give an impression of what the book’s all about. It has to basically encapsulate the story’s theme and focus. How to do that with this particular book was the issue.

One thing I’ve heard from a number of readers and authors is that they prefer book covers that don’t include people. Trying to capture the characters in the book is iffy because everybody is going to have a different take on them. Especially the author, as I discovered while wrestling with Zondervan over the covers of my first two books. So I do agree it’s more effective to engage readers in the story by allowing them to visualize, and thus identify more closely with, the people they find on the pages of your book. It makes reading more interactive, and that draws the reader into the story.

The cover designs of my first 2 books in this series were essentially out of my control. Zondervan gave me some input, but at the end of the day, it was their marketing department that had the final say. Now, as a publisher I know marketing considerations are very important in the design of a cover. But big publishers put out a whole lot of books, and too often it’s the same old same old, the easy, hopefully safe bet, the publisher ends up going with. In my case, I was never happy with the covers on Daughter of Liberty and Native Son though admittedly some of my friends developed a passionate relationship with the model on Native Son. Okay, I’m teasing, but they did like him. A lot.

Now, however, I face making the right decisions myself since I’m the publisher. And that’s even more stressful than being stuck with a cover you don’t care for. What cover would have the best odds of selling this book?

Well . . . I came up with this crazy idea . . . Yeah, right. So what else is new? LOL! You knew that was coming.

I’m not going into all the details of what we’re planning at this point—once we have a final cover, I’ll post it, of course. But in doing extensive searches on istockphoto, I came up with these 2 images of the same scene in portrait and landscape orientation. They’re perfect for the front and back of a book cover. The first one even has black bars across the top and bottom where the title and author name can go. And the one in landscape orientation gives us enough of the scene to wrap around the spine and back cover. Of course, we’ll have to ghost that portion—put a screen on it—so we can run text legibly across it, and it will be just visible in the background.

The crazy tree that sticks up is going to be eliminated. And there will be a figure and some other detailing in the scene itself, but it will all be subtle and full of motion. Dineen Miller is working on the overall design, and she enlisted Frank Wu, who is doing the magic with the images. They think they can achieve the look I want, and I am totally excited at how this is developing!

Isn’t this scene amazing! Strangely enough, these photos were taken in Kenya, but I was so captivated by the powerful image of a gathering storm that I knew this scene gave just the right feel of foreboding and movement that I was looking for.

So what do you think? Will this make a fabulous cover or not?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Dreaded File Corruption Meltdown

I had almost finished my editing pass on Wind of the Spirit—only a couple of chapters to go. Lately I’ve been reading David McCullough’s 1776, which covers the period I’m writing about. And after running across several good details that would fit nicely into the narrative, last Tuesday evening I went back to the beginning of the manuscript to add those.

As I scrolled down through the file, I came across a section where the text had corrupted into a symbol that looked like y’s with a couple of dots above. That was followed by lots of page breaks with no text. ACK!! I scrolled down to where the text began again and saw that an entire section was missing. NOT what you want to have happen when your editor is waiting for your manuscript.

Worse, I quickly discovered there were two more places where the same thing had happened. And these were more important and complex scenes that I sure didn’t want to have to try to recreate from memory.

I immediately checked my flash drive. It had the same version of the file I was working on, including the corrupted sections. I raced to my laptop. It had Sunday evening’s version of the file . . . also with the corrupted sections. So I’d saved the file at least a couple of times since then, each time overwriting the file with the defective one. And I didn’t have a hard copy printout. After all, I had 2 backups, didn’t I?

I confess, at that point my brain paralyzed, and I started hyperventilating. LOL! Anyone who’s had something similar happen with an important document knows exactly how I felt. I immediately put out a request on my writers’ prayer loop. The prayers must have helped calm me down, because I suddenly remembered that my friend Lori—who is writing an even bigger and fatter historical than mine—and I have been exchanging chapters as we’re writing our respective projects. Talk about a brain freeze! Holding my breath, I e-mailed her to find out if perchance she had saved any of the chapters.

In the meantime, my husband reminded me that all three of our son-in-laws are computer experts and suggested I call the one who lives just down the road, who writes software. Well, duh! His suggestion was to google “corrupted Word file.” That brought up a number of suggestions as well as several free downloadable programs that promised to fix the file. Well . . . after a couple of anxious hours of fiddling with it, nothing worked!

Back to e-mail. Thankfully Lori had saved every chapter I sent her. Praise the Lord and good friends! I was able to reconstruct the file from the rough drafts of those sections, and evidently I hadn’t changed much because the original text looked fine to me the way it was. But at that point, I suspect any reasonable proximity would have looked good. After replacing the wrecked sections and rebuilding the file in open office, I saved it back to Word and sent it off to my editor. What a relief to have that project off my desk for the time being!

This volume ended up at 105,000+ words. That’s about 4,000 words more than Native Son. Daughter of Liberty, however, weighed in at 127,000+ so this is a mere novella by comparison. But I’m very pleased with how the story turned out. I think this may be the strongest book in the series so far.

It’s strange, but often as I reread manuscripts I wrote a few weeks or months earlier, they seem not to have come from me. I’m astonished at them. I know they passed through me, and I even remember the words. But they don’t seem like mine. It’s as though they belong to someone else. Did I really write that? I know I didn’t create it, in spite of all the work I did on it. I wonder if it’s that way for other writers. Do they feel like their stories are a gift that flowed through them but came from a mind other than theirs?

All I know is that the Lord touched me mightily as I was writing Wind of the Spirit. And I pray this story and the entire American Patriot Series will touch readers powerfully as well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Editing Book 3

The rough draft of Wind of the Spirit is finally finished! I’d celebrate if there weren’t so much left to do to turn this project into a physical book. When I hold that puppy in my hot little hands, I’ll really celebrate.

This has been a long time coming. It’s been a winding trail that led around many roadblocks and sidetracks. But as I always say, God has a plan, and that plan is going to be accomplished, no doubt about it!

To read the first couple of unedited chapters, go to my Web site and click on the link in the box about WOTS. I’ll put up the edited chapters as soon as we have a final version.

In the meantime I’m starting the next step—making my own editing pass before it goes to my editor. I know this sounds pretty much like cleaning your house before the housecleaning service arrives. But being an editor myself I like to turn in a clean manuscript. Even more important, I want to make sure I’m satisfied with my character and plot development, have smoothed out the language, and caught any factual or continuity errors. If I do a good job, it makes for less work when I receive the final edits.

I started a few days ago and so far have gotten through Chapter 5. Sigh. Obviously this is going to take a while. The trouble is, I’m constantly bombarded with Sheaf House and personal business as well as the need to do promotion for my latest release, One Holy Night. With this book I have a total of 101,500 + words to work through, which is long enough, but not really all that long as far as historicals are concerned. But then, my friend Lori Benton and I love those BFHs (big fat historicals). She’s writing a really BIG one!

I was hoping I could get WOTS to the editor by June 1. Well, I’ll be lucky to get it to her by July 1, which is cutting things close with her schedule as well as mine. It could be worse, though. Book 1, Daughter of Liberty, was over 139,000 words when I started, and it ended up at a bit over 127,500. Thankfully I don’t anticipate cutting much out of this one. Native Son was just a bit over 101,000 words too, which will make these two books the same length.

Of course, WOTS started out life as the last third of NS that got cut off because of the publisher’s word count restrictions. Too bad I didn’t find out about that until I’d turned in the manuscript! It was a bit of a shock to find out they’d decided all their novels had to be kept to 90,000 words. Yikes! I managed to wring a concession out of them that NS, being a historical, could be around 100,000. And after much agonizing, instead of gutting my story by cutting out all the secondary characters and plotlines and a considerable amount of the main storyline, I decided to lop off the last third of the book, write a new ending for NS and a new beginning for WOTS, and then flesh out what I had left.

All in all, I think that decision turned out quite well, especially since that publisher ended up canceling the series anyway. I would sure have been upset if I’d ripped NS to pieces for no good reason. Since I didn’t compromise the story, in this volume I’ve been able to give a fuller account of Carleton’s life among the Shawnee, Elizabeth’s relationship with Vander Groot and her involvement in the Battle of Brooklyn, and hers and Andrews’s journey into Ohio Territory to find White Eagle.

I originally intended to include the Battle of Trenton in this book, but with a major battle at the beginning and time running out on my deadline, I decided to end with the lead-up to Trenton. That should make for an exciting beginning to book 4, Crucible of War. The only caveat is if I keep this up, I may end up having to add another book to the series. And since everyone who’s following along knows they’re going to have to wait until the very end for the resolution of Elizabeth and Carleton’s relationship, that’s something nobody wants to happen—especially me since I’m the one who has to write the durned thing! LOL! I seem to be making a career of the American Revoluton. Happily it’s a crucial and fascinating era that is easily holding my interest.

Enough for now. I’m going to dive back into Chapter 6 this evening and see how far I can get. So far I’m quite pleased with how the story developed. I think this is going to be a truly exciting installment!

In upcoming posts I'll include some short excerpts from the text to whet your appetite. But in the next post I’m going to talk about something really exciting—the cover! How in the world do you illustrate Wind of the Spirit????

Stay tuned for some hints . . .