The Atheling Cover Reveal

The Atheling cover
The Atheling by Melody Daggerhart

The cover for The Atheling is done. 🙂  So, is the manuscript! (I think that deserves a double smiley, but I’ll spare readers too many emoticons per paragraph.)

Final word count was beyond my goal, so I’m very proud of myself for bringing a 190K+ script down to around 166K. I don’t have a final word count yet because I am still working on front and back matter, but that gives you an idea that it’s still a pretty hefty volume, though not as monstrous as it could have been.

Currently working on stuck on the blurb. (sigh) Why is something that’s only 200 words or less more difficult to write than something that is 166K+. And after that I have to format everything for uploading. But the end of the tunnel is in sight!

A few comments on the cover art … Some people are of the opinion that you should never put the faces of the characters on the book because it destroys the reader’s imagination of what those characters look like. Or, on a more practical level, if the artist doing the cover has never read the book, he might get the description wrong.

I am the author, so I know how my characters look. And I’m of the opinion that since I am the author, I am in charge of what the characters look like. 🙂

Whether to describe characters in detail or leave them open to interpretation is one of those conditions some people like to set rules for, but there is no such rule because creative writing is an art. Some people prefer details; others prefer to supply the details themselves. They’re both fine. Books that provide details are like completed water-colour paintings. Books that leave elements open to interpretation are more like abstract art or colouring books. Nothing wrong with colouring books. 🙂 But no one in their right mind would tell an artist to paint only half the picture and let the viewers imagine the rest. It is the artist who chooses whether to give the audience the opportunity to fill in the rest of the picture, or finish the entire painting exactly like she wants it done.

Do my characters look exactly like my cover art? No. My art style is pretty set when it comes to portraits, and it’s not a realistic one. In fact, my inspiration for drawing hair started way back in about 5th grade when I got my hands on the Revolver album by the Beatles. 🙂 I have a thing for long hair, and I remember trying to copy that hair many times. Art is based on interpretation, even with the basic elements in place. So, I love fan art. I love seeing how different interpretations turn out, even with the same basic elements.

Revolver by the Beatles: one of my early album art inspirations for hair textures and profile studies.

So, if funky art is good enough for the Beatles, it’s good enough for me. Creative arts and writing are supposed to be fun. Have fun with design.



The Art of Dialog Tags

How do we know that literature is an art form? By the way people proffer rules that don’t really exist — by the fact that opinions are often mistaken for rules and dished out as such. I was organizing my bookmarks today and came across an article I’d saved declaring there are only two correct dialog tags: “said” and “asked”. That’s it. Period.

This is not the first time I’ve seen authors and editors claim this as a rule for the English language or creative writing, but the diatribe that followed explaining why these are the only two acceptable dialog tags made me shake my head … which is probably why I bookmarked it to comment on later.

If you’re writing for a newspaper, or some other non-fiction source, certainly expressive language needs to be toned down or left out completely. But I honestly don’t think any of the novels I own stick to this rule. In fact, when I did a search for “dialog tag images”, dozens of word lists popped up on creative writing and English education sites.

I am in the “only ‘said’ is boring” camp if it comes to a vote. I prefer expression and variation to dialog. I believe how something is spoken can mean a world of difference in how something is interpreted by the reader, so if I want the reader to know exactly what I’m seeing or hearing in my head, I will convey it more precisely.

“You’re horrible,” she said.
“You’re horrible,” she cried.

The two examples above give me vastly different pictures. Sure, I could stick “… she said, crying,” onto the first one, but that adds an extra word. And why use two words when one will do? (I just spent an extra month cutting over 25,000 words from my manuscript, so, yes, it matters.) Also, look at the difference in tone. The first one strikes me as being a calm, almost flat, emotionless statement. The second lends itself more to being interpreted as the speaker being an emotional mess. Things like that matter, too, because if the difference isn’t precise, I could mistake something very sincere for something very snarky. (Kinda like the Internet without emoticons, amIright?) 😉

There is more to knowing when to do dialog tags and when it’s best to leave them out. But that’s another topic for another blog. The point here is that there is no official rule. This is not the dividing line between professional work and amateur work that many said-only proponents make it out to be. Like many other things in the publishing industry, it’s up to the author and publisher to determine the end product. In fact, if there is one hard-and-fast rule in English publications, it’s that the final decision comes down to the author and publisher.

What we can all agree on, I think, is that action mistaken for dialog tags is a no-no. I once read some advice that said if you can’t do it with words, it’s not a dialog tag; it’s action.

So, I can say, shout, cry, scream, whisper, speak, and continue words. I can even sing words. And I can greet with, tell with, and boast with words. But it makes less sense to walk, laugh, sit, grin, or do some other form of physical action by using words. I can walk at the same time that I’m using words, but I can’t use words to walk. I can grin and use words, but I can’t use words to grin. I can, however, use words to cry, sing, greet, or tell someone something. That, imo, is a better guideline.

That’s what it boils down to in literature, as with all arts — opinions.