Featured Image: The Anchor

One of my non-writing resolutions for 2014 is to showcase more of my art. I call myself an artist, (I even paid a boatload of money for a piece of paper certifying me as such) but all anyone’s ever seen from me is a single image.  So we’re going to change that. I realize this blog is primarily known for its writing/publishing advice. But you’ll bear with me if I slip in a few art-related posts, right? Especially if, like this one, they somehow pertain to my writing? I hope so, anyway, because here goes . . .

The Anchor

Image by Kisa Whipkey

Some of you may already be able to guess what this illustration is referencing, but for those who don’t know, let me explain. This is Nameless, from The Bardach.

The inception of the short story was pretty simple; it was written solely to explain how Amyli became Nameless, the lead Storyteller and anchor for the Nightwolf. What’s an anchor? It’s like a link, an access point. She’s essentially an empty vessel, strategically placed so that he can leave his realms and muck around in the human one. Wiped of her identity, Nameless’s mission is to travel around, imparting the messages the Nightwolf wants her to. Once human, she’s now a shifter, able to transform into the Nightwolf at whim.

There’s much more to their story, but that’s pretty much all you learn by reading the short version. This image was created around the time I was trying to figure out exactly what their relationship was. Originally, the Nightwolf didn’t have a companion, but after I realized that he was more than simply my logo (I’ve explained this in much more detail here), Nameless appeared. And once it became clear what her purpose was, The Bardach was born.

The sketch version doesn’t contain the wolf image. I’m actually more proud of that than this version, which was created in Adobe Illustrator after. But I couldn’t get it to translate well, so this version will have to do. Plus, you get to see one of my original interpretations of the bond between Nameless and the Nightwolf. Is this how it actually happens in the story? No. It isn’t. She fully transforms, because halfling werewolves are one of my pet peeves.  But this is meant to be a visual representation of their spirit bond, illustrating the fact that she has a wolf’s soul in place of her own.

If you’d like to learn more about Nameless or the Nightwolf, I suggest checking out their story. There’s an excerpt featured in my Published Works section, and there will be a new version releasing by the end of the year. Thanks for letting me share one of my images. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief interlude from our normally scheduled program. Next week, I’ll be back with something more standard. What? I’m not sure yet, so if anyone has a request, please let me know! 😉


Designing a Book Cover: The Big Reveal

Welcome to week 5 of Ashley Ruggirello’s guest post series and the big reveal of Unmoving’s official cover!

For those just joining us, meet Ashley, Creative Director and Founder of REUTS Publications, and owner of freelance design company, Cardboard Monet. Over the past weeks, she’s been sharing her design expertise, walking us through the process behind designing a book cover. From inception to finished product, she’s illustrated the collaborative steps authors and designers go through, using my nemesis WIP as the guinea pig. And I couldn’t be more happy with the final result. Elegant and sophisticated, like all of her brilliant designs, this cover perfectly embodies the soul of my story. But we’re not quite done!

Over the next couple of weeks, she’s going to give you the step-by-step breakdown of how she created this beautifully subtle piece of art. And at the end, I’ll reveal the exciting announcement I’ve been hiding. Some of you may think you’ve already guessed what it is, but I can guarantee you haven’t. So stick around, learn some of Ashley’s tricks and find out what I’m keeping up my sleeve. We’re almost there, I promise! 😉

Chapter 5: Cover Reveal & Tutorial


By Ashley Ruggirello

The time has come: the cover reveal for Unmoving. If you’ve followed along from Chapter 1, it’s been a long five weeks as we figured out a starting point, created mock-ups and then some more, until finally, we’re able to debut the final cover. 🙂 Kisa and I have actually been talking about this cover since last Spring, so it’s definitely been a long time coming! No point in delaying any further; it’s my pleasure to reveal Kisa’s cover:

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.10.39 PM
This final design has a nice mix of both original mock-ups. The black and white simplicity from the first version, and the filigree/zoomed out bench from the second.

Let us know what you think in the comments, or on Twitter @REUTSpub.

Requesting Usage Permission

Depending on where you collect your stock, you may or may not need to request permission to use the images. If your stock comes from a stock website library (e.g. IStockPhoto or Veer), you simply have to purchase the image usage rights — just make sure you purchase the image large enough, with a high enough resolution for your needs.

If you prefer to go the route REUTS takes, supporting smaller photographers and interacting with them directly, you always have to request permission, unless otherwise stated. When reaching out to an artist for permission to use their image, you should give a little background on you, and how the image is going to be used:

I’m the Creative Director for an indie publishing company, (LINK), and am interested in using your image (LINK) in one of our new publication’s cover art. We are planning on using it electronically and in print, with credit given inside the book pages.

This is a good jump-off point because you’ve introduced yourself, and explained exactly what your intentions with their image are. Since REUTS always provides credit to the artist (whether they require it or not), I make sure to include it in my initial message. Next, we typically move into what their compensation request might be:

If you’d be willing/interested, please let me know what form of compensation you’d need.

This allows the artist to set their rates/requests, and opens up the conversation to negotiate. Always remember to show your appreciation within an email, not only for their hard work in creating stock, but for taking the time to answer your questions. Give them an opportunity to respond with questions of their own, and make sure you’re easily accessible if they need to contact you off-site (I always like to provide my email address).

Since each situation is different, we can’t provide a thorough walk-through past this initial point of communication, but at least you’ve now begun the conversation, and potential negotiations.

And, like I said, just to be safe, REUTS always includes credit within the printed or digital book:



The Basic Design Elements



Step-By-Step Tutorial for the Unmoving Book Cover

Create a new Photoshop document with the dimensions 5.5″ x 8.5″ and a resolution of 200:

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.20.32 PM

You’ll notice this art board size does not have a built-in bleed. Because Kisa needed this cover primarily for online purposes, I figured when the time comes for this to be used as a print cover, I’d be able to easily adjust the image to fit the additional bleed. Given the nature of the background image, it won’t be hard to extend off the edge.

Import Your Main Image

Drag and drop, or CTRL+C/CTRL+P the bench background image into your art board:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.42.37 PM
You’ve probably noticed that this raw image looks much different than the one in the final. That means we have some work to do…
Create a New Layer Adjustment – Hue/Saturation
From the top menu bar, navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation…
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From the window that opens (mine does so in the right sidebar above my “Layers” tab), set the “Saturation” option all the way to “-100”, which essentially turns your canvas black and white:
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Then, in your “Layers” tab, set this new adjustment layer to “Soft Light”:
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Your art board should now look like:
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There isn’t much of a difference, but colors are more accentuated, and almost have a shine to them.
Create a New Layer Adjustment – Curves
Again, from the top menu bar, navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves…
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From the window that opens, create a new point, and set the Output as “128” and the Input as “153”:
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Your art board should now look a little bit darker:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.53.25 PM

Generate Some Stripes

Head over to the aforementioned Stripe Generator to create a free stripe texture. You have quite a few options here, feel free to play around with them for any future projects. This is intended for web design use (it’ll actually generate a seamless, tile-able image you can assign to website elements), but I’ve found it a good resource for print design, too.

Change the options to:

Stripe size: 1
Spacing: 10
Stripe Color (s): Black (or #000000)
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There’s a window to the left of these options that will refresh to show your new stripe based on these selected options:
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Click the “Open Fullscreen Preview” link at the top to fill your browser window with this striped texture, which you’ll screen grab and pull into your Photoshop art board:
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(Of course make sure you scroll down so that “Click to Close” is no longer visible before you take your screen shot. The above is meant to show what you’ll see.)

When you pull it into your Photoshop file, feel free to scale and resize to fit the entire window, then set it to “Overlay” and Opacity “38”:
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And you should see:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.05.46 PM
Create a New Layer Adjustment – Color Balance
Again, from the top menu bar, navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance…
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.02.52 PM
From the window that opens, create a new point. In the “Midtones” option, set Cyan/Red to “+12” and Yellow/Blue to “+9”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.04.24 PM
Change “Midtones” to “Shadows” and then set Cyan/Red to “-21” and Yellow/Blue to “-5”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.05.15 PM
“Color Balance” changes the strength of certain colors within the image. You should now be seeing:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.06.52 PM
And there you have it! The base to the Unmoving cover, and a good stopping point until next week’s post when we’ll add the fonts and filigree. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions regarding this process. Photoshop has a steep learning curve, but that’s why I’m here. Let me help you!

Designing a Book Cover: The Mock-Ups

Welcome to week 3 of Ashley Ruggirello’s guest post series. For those of you who’ve been following along, feel free to jump down to the chapter header. You’ve read all this intro stuff before.

For those just joining us, I’ve teamed up with Ashley, Creative Director and Founder of REUTS Publications, to bring you a series about cover design. (And by “teamed up”, I really mean asked permission to syndicate her work. ;) ) I know nothing about cover design, so why not defer to an expert like Ashley? Because that’s what she is. Not only is she the creative genius behind all of REUTS, she’s also the owner of freelance design company, Cardboard Monet. I’ve had the privilege of watching her talent in action, so I’m extremely thrilled that one of her brilliant designs will be featured on my work.

That’s right, not only will she being giving you inspired insight into the design process, she’s using my nemesis WIP, Unmoving, as the example cover. No, that doesn’t mean I finally managed to finish the darn thing. But after this, I’m certainly feeling inspired to!  So stick around. At the end of the series, I’ll reveal the big announcement I’ve had up my sleeve. If you’re a fan of my work, you definitely won’t want to miss it!

Alright, Ashley. You’re up!

Chapter 3: Mocking Up the Mock-Ups


By Ashley Ruggirello

I’m going to preface this week’s post by saying the inspiration fairy is an interesting critter who sometimes decides to hide away at the most inopportune times. In the case of this week’s post, I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to get it done in time. Even with a couple different ideas swimming around my head, I still couldn’t get all the other elements to line up: images, styles, fonts, etc. That’s the thing with design, it’s never really reliable. Who knows when inspiration will strike, and when a design will actually come together.

Thankfully, I was able to request a little bit of Kisa’s aid before I restarted my designs. Browsing GoodReads.com, Kisa wrangled together a handful (or two) of already published cover art she felt (in one way or another) captured the Unmoving vibe. I don’t think these mock-ups would have come to be in time had it not been for her hasty help.

Last week, I mentioned discussing how to acquire permission to use stock from artists/photographers, however I’m going to hold off on that until Kisa has finalized a direction, and I know officially what images will be in use. So, without any further ado, this week’s post:

Mock-Up #1

In addition to using Kisa’s cover selections, I happened to stumble upon my own, which triggered a (small) bout of inspiration.


Teeth, by Hannah Moskowitz


The grayscale, the slight use of color, the simplicity; this helped with my direction. Given the stock photo collection we gathered, maybe this is a direction I can pursue, I thought. (I think to myself a lot. Sometimes I think it keeps me sane.) I coupled the Teeth book cover with two Kisa provided as additional inspiration:
Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 7.59.10 PM

When the World Was Flat, by Ingrid Jonach


Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 7.59.41 PM

Thin Space, by Jody Casella


I knew upon seeing these two in addition to Teeth, that I could come up with something. And thus began mock-up number one–
Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 8.04.06 PM
A simple, grayscale park bench blurred in the background, with Karma’s necklace dangling off the page to the right (I’m a huge fan of making things extend off the page). Clean and crisp. At this point, I’m hoping Kisa likes something about it. As with any critique, honesty is the best policy. Never feel as if you’re hurting your designer’s feelings by not liking something.

(Please Note: Kisa’s feedback will be incorporated into next week’s post, as we continue to refine a direction, or completely scrap both options. Each new iteration will be coupled with the feedback.)

Mock-Up #2



Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler



Shadows, by Robin McKinley

Which led me to the second mock-up:
Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 10.06.27 PM
More fantasy, more colors, more movement. More of a full bench as the focal point, along with a light orb texture to tie in the fantasy elements of Kisa’s story. The filigree is meant to look blurred/in motion to add to the suspense/distress in the story.

So, there you have it: the first two initial mock-ups. They’ve been sent to Kisa, and will be modified based on her feedback. (Who knows, if she hates them both, we’ll have to evolve one of the other ideas backstroking in my mind into a cover.) Once a direction is determined, I’ll go through the step-by-step process I actually took to create the final cover.

In the meantime, what do you think? How well did I translate Kisa’s info-dump from last week into these two designs? Let us know in the comments!