The Dragonling Cover Reveal

Dragonling cover
Cover for The Dragonling, written and illustrated by Melody Daggerhart, copyright 2016

Cover reveal time! ๐Ÿ˜€ I finished it early, so I’m sharing early. Why not.

I came down with bronchitis, been about two weeks now, but I’ve still been pushing myself to finish the 4th draft and started the cover art concepts. I finally took a “sick” day off from editing last week, but spent the whole day painting and further developing the cover, instead. So, I still worked some long hours, but it felt fresher because normally I only get an hour of art time in per day, if that much. Most of my days are spent editing. So, this felt like a sick day, even if it wasn’t. As a result, I finished much sooner than I thought I would.

Now I’m working on finishing up that 4th revision’s final touches. That means making sure the chapters are evenly distributed and formatted so that when they are compiled into one script, they are spaced properly. That also means looking over those last minute notes to double check things like spellings, names, duplicate mentions, and other such annoyances.

This book is going to be the biggest yet. I cannot stress enough this is the “epic” in epic fiction. But I will trim as much as possible in the final edit after I hear back from my beta readers.

Now to catch up on my final reading of the year!

 

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Multitasking When Writing a Series

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Image Source: copyright Melody Daggerhart 2016, cover of “Of Snow and Whiskers”, YA novel by Andrea Brokaw.

Ja-ja! The cover illustration for Andrea Brokaw’s upcoming novel Of Snow and Whiskers is done! The book will be coming out near the end of the year, so I was lucky to have lots of time to work on this commission. I will be looking forward to doing a review when it is released. ๐Ÿ™‚

Other than cover art, I’ve also been working fast and furiously on three books at once. THREE?! Yes, three. Why? My initial response is, “Because I’m an idiot.” No one in her right mind would do something like that. That’s like NaNoWriMo with a goal of 400K words in one month. And, yes, it is taking a toll. My work days start at 6 A.M. and often last until midnight without very many breaks … even working through meals and weekends. My mind is getting spongy. My eyes are burning. I’m dropping everything I put my hands on. So, I know I can’t keep up this pace for long. And it is for that reason that I will probably take a three-five day weekend over Halloween weekend. I can tell I need some time to just breathe and “be” before I give myself a heart attack.

But my second response to that question is just as simple: momentum. Every writer knows exactly what I’m talking about, right? If your progress has been slow moving on a project, but then suddenly that “A-ha!” moment hits and you clearly see the rest of the path before you, you can’t help but jump on that bike and fly with the wind in your hair. And you refuse to stop until you keel over exhausted. That’s where I’ve been for the past three weeks. But I doubt my body or mind can keep it going for four. At some point I have to rake leaves and do the budget, amIright? Heh …

So, here’s how I’m juggling three books at once, in case readers, or other writers, want to know.

Early morning hours, I open one of the books I’ve already written for this series. I’ve already finished Book 1: The Changeling. I’m currently about halfway through Book 2: The Fledgling. Since it’s been a few years past working on these projects, I can see them through relatively fresh eyes now. (Current bloodshot eyeballs and bags under the eyes being the exception.) I need to read for consistency, primarily, because the series needs to connect as one big story. Stuff I’m writing now circles back to book 1 … and so on. They’ve already been edited to death, so this only takes about one to two hours to do one chapter a day, making notes in my current project along the way. But if I run across an error that was missed in previous versions, or if I see a better way of wording something to tighten the writing and word count, I go ahead and make minor adjustments.

Every time I publish a new book in the series, I offer upgrades on past editions of previously published books. So these new edits will eventually replace the old digital offerings at Amazon and Smashwords. That’s the great thing about digital publications. You can always upgrade them without extra expense.

After a break to take care of myself, take care of my pets, and grab something to eat, I hit the writing desk again to work on my current project, Book 5: The Dragonling. This ends up taking the rest of the day until dinner because, though I am in the fourth draft, there is still a lot of large-scale editing going on. I try to make it through one chapter, same as with the “old” book notes and edits. I have to say I like it more and more as it begins to shine. Still no expected release date, but I’m halfway through the fourth draft now. It’s almost ready for beta readers.

During dinner, I sometimes watch an hour of Netflix, just to give my mind a change of pace. But then I go back to work and either finish the current chapter of work in The Dragonling, or pick up Book 6 (which has only a tentative working title). The original script I wrote for this series years ago had 5 books total. Because of the major changes I created for this version, there will be at least 6. (There will only be 7 books if 5 and 6 are too large for print editions and need to be broken up into smaller units.) ย Since this is the end of the series, I decided it was best if I worked on them together. It slows down production on 5 a little, but it also means 6 should be ready sooner than otherwise planned.

Book 6 is only in outline form right now. All of my unused notes have been dumped into 6’s folder. But I have also been doing research. And just recently I’ve drafted the first two scenes. So, I’m excited to see the next book taking shape, even though I haven’t finished the current one. Progress on book 6 looks very different from the other sets of work goals. It’s still mostly in the information gathering and organizing stage. So, if the clock strikes midnight before I complete a scene, so be it. For now, this book is not the one with the deadline. But you’d never know by the pace I’m working on it.

So, back to work for me! And Happy Halloween to all of you. ๐Ÿ™‚ Here’s to hoping we all have a safe and fun weekend of autumn festivities.

 

Cover Commissions

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“Rina” WIP Image Source: Melody Daggerhart 2016

I do my own cover illustrations for my books. Sometimes I do art commissions as part of my freelance business. Right now I’m working on a cover painting for Andy Brokaw’s newest book Of Snow and Whiskers, which will be out later this year. So, I thought I’d share a peek as a WIP.

Before studying English in college, I originally wanted to do cover art and spent one year as an art major. So, not only is doing book covers fun for my artistic side, it’s a bit of a “dream job” … next to publishing novels, of course. Creating and working with books will always be my first love.

I was also fortunate to be asked to beta read Of Snow and Whiskers, and I can truthfully say I’m excited about this publication. It’s a follow up to the novel Of Fur and Ice, a YA story about a school for shape-shifters in Alaska. This time the main character is Rina, a girl who changes into a snow leopard. I can’t say much more at this point, but I will also be reviewing the book when it comes out. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll just say that I love how certain elements from popular fantasy, paranormal, and myth ย were pulled together for this story. ๐Ÿ™‚

As for my own story, I have started the fourth draft of Dragonling, and am checking its consistency against ALL FOUR other books in the series! (*insert groan here*) Just kidding. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s a lot of work to make sure facts match over the entire course of the series, but it’s kinda fun to go back and re-read my earlier books and see how many elements I can connect back and forth across the span of the story. I primarily create stories I want to read, so I’m enjoying the work in spite of the fact that nitpicky editing can be rather mind-numbing work sometimes. Every time I offer a new book, I go back and check the old ones for the sake of consistency,ย minor “clean-up” edits that I notice post-publication, and add information about the newest book in the back matter links and such. Digital books update easily and freely, so always feel free to update your previous versions when I announce new versions are available.

When the fourth draft is finished, Dragonling will head to beta readers. And then I can begin work on that cover. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Atheling Cover Reveal

The Atheling cover
The Atheling by Melody Daggerhart

The cover for The Atheling is done. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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
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.

 

You Know You’ve Been Proofreading Too Much When …

Atheling WIP cover 15
Slowly, but surely …

This week I have been working some long hours, trying to revise a minimum of one chapter a day for The Atheling. I’m up to chapter 20 of the 4th revisions, and you can see progress on the cover painting above. The main thing I’ve worked on for the cover art was the ship … putting details on it before shrinking it down as a layer to shift around. I think I like this composition, but I keep shifting the ship still. I move it below the moon and then next to the moon, below the moon, then back next to the moon, etc. Maybe once I start refining the clouds and sky, I will be able to make up my mind. I might make it smaller, too. Hm …

Manuscript-wise, I’ve shifted a few things and added a few things. Like I needed to add more words to my count, right? Well, I’m still going to try to make a major change at the end, so hopefully I will cut off enough there that the few additions in the front won’t matter.

As a writer, you know you’ve been proofreading too much when you begin to question your own ability to work with grammar. You know how that is, right? Like when you repeat a word enough times, it starts to sound weird … Or when you spell something right and it looks wrong, so you change it only to find out you had it right the first time? It’s been that kind of week for me.

I finally broke and looked up the grammar rules for hyphenated colour words because I kept staring at them peculiarly. Is it “dark-green eyes” or “dark green eyes”? I knew “emerald-green eyes” or “blue-green eyes” would be correct because using two nouns as one modifier is always hyphenated. And I knew “eyes of emerald green” would not be hyphenated because they are not followed by a noun. But for some reason words like “dark”, “light”, and “pale” started making me doubt myself. Visions of diagramming modifiers in English classes came back to haunt me. Is “dark” modifying “green” or “eyes”? Since “dark” isn’t a noun it wouldn’t be hyphenated … right? But since “dark green” could be considered the name of the color maybe it was a compound noun … right? … Does “broccoli” have two “c’s” or two “l’s”? Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Arrrgh!

Here is a link I found useful at Daily Writing Tips by Mark Nichol, “How to Punctuate Descriptions of Colors.” Of course, after I read it, I KNEW I was right all along. “Dark-green eyes …” But no other writing job numbs the mind quite like proofreading. And when proofreading 180K words four times or more …ย sometimes it’s necessary to remind myself that I’m not terrible with grammar. And that tired minds are also responsible for putting the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry … or walking into a room and standing there for five minutes trying to remember what I was looking for before giving up and walking back out.

 

The Atheling’s Mock Cover In Progress

Ta-daaa~. ^_^ This week’s update starts with a cover reveal for The Atheling. Although, not really. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s still a work in progress because the painting is unfinished and the place holders in the layout needing cleaning. But since I am sharing step-by-step progress on this book, here’s today’s work.

Atheling Cover WIP
Still a work in progress, but it’s coming along.

I will continue working on the airship details and adding wings, but I’m not done with anything that you see here. I work in layers, refining details as I skip around with whatever I feel like working on. So, yes, I still have a long way to go, but I love how it looks so far in the series cover format. I had to share.

In other progress, I’m up to chapter 5 for the fourth revision, which includes the feedback from my beta readers. I’m mostly correcting the typos or places that need a little work according to that feedback, but I’m seeking more ways to cut word count and mentally calculating how to make the drastic changes toward the end that will shift several chapters into the next book.

Progress on book 5 has dropped to adding notes related to changes made in The Atheling.

Anyway, keeping this update short because *GASP* my dog is napping! (Ever try to type or paint with an attention-craved whippet/rat terrier sitting smack in the middle of your lap?) One of the hazards of working at home is that people tend to think you’re not doing anything important. Since they think you’re “free”, they often interrupt or make plans in spite of the fact that you’re trying to actually work … with, you know, deadlines and objectives and all that real work-world stuff that earns paychecks. Dogs are worse at recognizing work time than people.ย So, instead of having to pet the dog every five minutes, I might actually be able to get some more work done this afternoon! Shhhhh …

Nicholas sleeping :)
Omg! Nicholas is sleeping! Now to see if I can accomplish anything before he wakes.