Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cover design input

I just turned in my "art sheet," which is a form Luna gives us for input on our cover design. Yes, publishers that want authors' opinions on covers actually exist. There are some pretty hideous covers out there, so giving me a chance to avoid Smart Bitch snarkage is pretty damn cool.

Anyway, I'll post a short sample of what I told them, which will give you a bit of a preview of what the book (now tentatively titled The Eyes of Crow) is about. I've emboldenated their questions, and also invented the word "emboldenate*." My responses are in block quotes.

Defining theme of your work, in a sentence or two:

Gulp! Uh...gee, I never thought of it that way. Theeeeeeme, huh? Let's see. Um...'It's great to have magic'? No, that's too obvious. Er...'Crows are cool'? Nah, too debatable.

Hang on, let me break out the old Theme-o-Nator:

Overcoming the fear of pain in order to be whole, not shutting oneself off to love because of its attendant sorrow.

An underlying theme of the series as a whole is the symbiosis among the natural, human, and spirit worlds.

(yeah, that's it)

Story synopsis:

Well, I can't post the whole thing, or you won't want to read it, since you'll already know the ending. Here are the first few paragraphs:

In a world where animals are revered and everyone possesses magic based on their Guardian Spirit, a young woman named Rhia discovers she has the rare Aspect of Crow, which deals with death and the links between the human and Spirit worlds. Crow men and women assist the dying in their passage to the Other Side, providing comfort to them and their loved ones.

People in her world fully inhabit their powers after a terrifying but enlightening rite of passage called the Bestowing. As they mature and become parents and eventually grandparents, their powers increase.

Centuries ago, a small group of people—known as “the Descendants”—splintered off and moved south to establish a more “advanced” civilization. In doing so, they lost their connection with nature—the source of all magic—and replaced it with a pantheon of human gods.

In her first phase, Rhia can determine if and when a sick or injured being will die. Troubled by the darkness of this power, she refuses to leave her pastoral home of Asermos for the Bestowing and her subsequent training in the distant forest village of Kalindos.

Then things start to happen which I can't tell you about. Sorry. Hey, only another 426 days 'til release!

Cover concepts: images and/or scene descriptions that evoke the tone/style/topic of the book:

Here’s a piece I have on my wall, which is exactly how I picture Rhia (except for that little thingy on top of her head. I don’t know what that is. Also, it’s a raven, not a crow, on her shoulder.) Of course, it’s copyrighted, but it gives you an idea of what she looks like and the kind of mood I think the cover should evoke—one of mystery and enchantment with a touch of foreboding.

The British cover to Charles de Lint’s Someplace to be Flying sort of shows what I’m after in terms of showing a shadowy image of the heroine along with a crow element, but mine would obviously be less contemporary-looking.

Luna covers most similar in tone: Shadow of Myth and Elphame’s Choice. Both feature aspects of the natural world and show the woman in that context.

Dominant cover colors: Dark greens, violets, blues, and of course black.

Suggest dark pine forest setting.

I then described a scene that could be depicted.

Character descriptions, including clothes and props:

Rhia, 18, has dark auburn hair and blue eyes. She’s what nice people would call petite, and what mean people would call puny or scrawny. She suffered from a childhood illness that made her less physically strong than most people. She’s perhaps not conventionally beautiful but has a certain appeal. I think of Anna Paquin (who played Rogue in X-Men)—a sort of vulnerable, awkward beauty.

Clothingwise, her people are utilitarian. No jewelry other than a crow feather fetish hanging by a leather cord around her neck. If she’s pictured in the forest, she’d be wearing trousers, and her blouse would probably be dark green or brown or gray. Clothes would tie rather than button. The only color she wouldn’t wear is black. At one point she wears a beautiful dark violet gown, long-sleeved, with a capelet that hangs behind her shoulders to about mid- to lower back. The neckline comes to her collarbone. No consistent props.

Coranna is 52, with long silver hair and a young-looking face. Think Kate Blanchett as Galadriel in Lord of the Rings, but with silver instead of blonde hair. She is elegant, graceful and somewhat emotionally distant. For the most part she wears the muted blues, greens and grays of the pine forest in which she lives, though she brings a radiance even to these plain clothes. At one point she wears a white ceremonial gown, with crow feathers lining the seam of the sleeves. No consistent props.

Marek is Rhia’s lover, a Wolf, but he’s invisible at night, which is probably when any depicted scene would be set. I strongly prefer that he not be portrayed on the cover. We could evoke him using a wolf element.
I'm really strange in that I don't like to see men depicted on book covers, even in the most oblique way. They always look awkward to me. I should ruminate on that issue in another post.
Possible specific concept: Close up of Rhia’s face, with a background of pine forest, with a crow feather and perhaps a wolf element included as well. The cover would be mostly dark, as if the brightness were turned down, except for a narrow band of light in the middle where her eyes are, so that her eyes are highlighted. The expression in her eyes would be key. Vulnerable yet strong.
I don't know if that makes any sense at all, and for all I know the art/marketing people will laugh at me. In the end, they know much better what sells a book and what doesn't. My taste in covers runs toward minimalism. As a reader I prefer to fill in the blanks with my imagination. But I know I'm in the minority.

For another Luna art sheet example, along with the final results (sans hamster, apparently), visit Robin D. Owens's blog.

When I get my cover and permission to post it here, I will. Like, that very second.

*which sounds vaguely Strong Bad-ian.


My gut positive reaction is to Someplace to Be Flying's cover. I like the mysteriousness of it. From what I've read so far, it fits. I think bright colors undermine the theme of the book. But I'll have a better idea when I finiish reading it, sometime this weekend. BTW love it so far.


Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 8/31/2005 9:08 PM

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