January 30, 2017

January #InkRipples - 5 Star Books & Their Covers


The last Monday in January. It's been a long month! Is it because there were 5 Mondays? Because we got tons of snow, had a gymnasium collapse and missed lots of school while they shoveled rooftops? Perhaps its the vitriolic political climate that threatens to decimate our country. Idk. But I wasn't sure the month was going to end. Ever. But speaking of ending, there's a giveaway of King of Bad on Goodreads that ends on the 31st. Hop on over after you've devoured this post. Link is in my sidebar -->

All month long #InkRipples has been exploring all things book covers. I explored the making of a book cover by sharing different incarnations of my covers during the design process and sharing my collaboration experiences. Other Ripplers have shared new covers, talked about why certain covers attract their attention, etc. It's quite fun. Search #InkRipples on Twitter and find the plethora of book cover goodness. 

Today I'm wrapping up the month by becoming a reader. Well, I'm always a reader, but for the purpose of this post, I'm a Reader Not a Writer (One of my favorite blogs, btw's). I'm examining the covers of my 2016 5 star reads to give my personal opinion on if the cover matches the awesomeness of the story within.

This is a short story cross of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (sort of). The cover has a great fairy tale feel but the stark colors aren't my fave. I did not read the illustrated version of this book. My opinion of the cover might be different if I luxuriated in illustrations. Hmmm, I might have to check that out now that I think of it. 









I've spent a lot of time with this lovely young adult story by my critique partner, Beverly Stowe McClure. And because of that, I think it bears more weight that I also love the cover. When you spend a lot of time crafting a story, refining the characters, choosing the right words, a first look at the cover can be stressful. What if it just doesn't make the grade? But this cover caught my attention immediately. Made me suck in breath and say, "Oooo." I love purple covers. 






This talking head illustration did get my attention. Enough to read the blurb and decide to read this young adult book. Is it my favorite cover ever? No. But it did it's job. I really, really loved this book, so I'm glad this cover made me think, "Now what's that all about?"












I listened to this middle grade gem on audiobook. I tend to pick my audiobook more from title than cover - not really sure why, maybe because of the audio aspect of the book. So that means the cover didn't get my attention, but I admit that adorable expression doesn't lose my attention either. I do love that the cover sets the mood and mind set of the story. 


This wonderful middle grade orphan train novel (also by my critique partner, Beverly. Hey, what can I say? She's a great author) is well covered. The sunrise gives us a hopeful feeling, which we need throughout Leona's emotional journey. The only criticism I can offer is that Leona is a bit hard to see. Especially in thumbnail. I wish she had a bit of an outline to stand out more. But I really love the color scheme of this cover and the font of the title. 



I love everything about this entire upper middle grade series. This cover is fantastically creepy. Another great color scheme. I'm currently listening to The Creeping Shadow and love, love, love it and it's cover too. Stroud is a favorite author of mine and not because I'd be shelved next to him if Barnes and Noble would stock my middle grade books. (Grumbles in the general direction of B&N)


I can't say that either the cover or the title would have inspired me to read this young adult book. I picked it up after seeing it included on several 'favorites' posts by bloggers. The book is worthy of the favorites, even if the cover isn't. 


For the sake of saving space, let me just say this entire adult series (very adult, btw) was fantastic - all three books got 5 stars from me. Couldn't read fast enough. And I rarely read adult, so that's saying something. I guess. The covers? Yeah. Simple, simple, simple. Definitely not what drew me in (another blogger raved and I trust her opinion. She was right again.) I believe the books were published ages ago, if I remember correctly. With the trend of recovering, I'm surprised to still see these simple covers. These stories could most definitely have oiled, bare chested men on the covers. *fans self*


Oh yeah! I love this creepy middle grade cover so, so much. It has so many elements of the story (except the humor, there's a lot of that) in a simple picture. It really sets the mood, while making us ask, "What the heck is that coming through the door?" Great cover for a great story. 

I put off reading this because I didn't want the series to end. I didn't want to leave Gansey. I didn't want to leave Blue. I didn't want to leave the covers! Isn't this stunning? Stiefvater is one of my all time favorite young adult authors and she gets some of the most beautifully illustrated covers for her fine work. Well deserved.


That's the long list of my 2016 5 star reads. I had a good reading year! I don't usually love so many of the books I read. As you can see sometimes I can judge a book by it's cover and other times, I can't. If there was a sixth Monday in January (thank God there isn't!) I'd share the books with fantastic covers whose contents fall short. We've all read them. 

Do the covers of your 5 star reads stand up to the story inside? Share the titles and authors in the comments so I can check them out - and maybe add them to my tbr list. 

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

FEBRUARY #INKRIPPLES - GENRES







January 23, 2017

January #InkRipples - Book Covers, My Favorite Collaboration


January's #InkRipples topic is book covers. Throughout the month I’m exploring the making of a book cover. So far this month I’ve shared the progression of a couple covers as I worked with digital artists, I shared my experiences working with an illustrator, and the challenges of covering a series. Today I'm sharing my favorite cover collaboration to date.

The cover for Finding Thor was such a challenge in so many ways and my publisher and cover artist were SOOOO patient through the process.

Such a gorgeous cover. I want to write a book
I could use this cover for!
Finding Thor is a romantic suspense, which means there are two important aspects to the overall story that should be portrayed on the cover. 1) The reader needs to know that there is suspense and intrigue in the story. 2) They also need to know that the love story is an integral part of the story line. Though real life often twines suspense and drama throughout your love life, it isn't as easy to combine the two in an image as you might think.

The first image I received for the cover I really, really loved. The field and the lighting is beautiful, alluring even, the girl is taking control of her life. And lightning! I love lightning not the mention the color scheme of the title and my name. But unfortunately, it just didn't portray the story at all. First off, Finding Thor is set in my hometown of Bend, Oregon, and there isn't a field like that within a day's drive. Second it's just too serene. There is constant action and suspense and harrowing circumstances throughout the story. Not this peaceful moment of empowerment.

I took that photo! Elk Lake, Oregon.
I think I was in a canoe
So I sent the cover artist a picture I'd taken at one of Oregon's high lakes where I'd imagined the final scene of the book taking place. I said, "Maybe something more like this as the setting." The second mock up I received included my very own image, shot with my very own camera. Yeah, that was hard to decline. Look at how gorgeous that is! With the added beach, the pretty girl, the cover was beautiful - but again, it was too serene. I didn't want someone picking up the book thinking it was a sweet love story and then reading the torture with kitchen implements scene. Talk about misleading!

So, I was like, "IDK, maybe we can keep it simple. A heart shaped rope or something" - thinking she'd never have that kind of image. OH MY GAWD! She did. Plus she found a mountain lake in the most spectacular colors that were eye catching while also setting a more suspenseful mood. Ah!!! I love this cover. Maybe I love it so much because of all the work we all put into it, but of all my books this cover gets the most compliments. And you should see it IRL! It is so, so stunning in print.
Final cover - SO gorgeous
Get your hands on a copy of Finding Thor by visiting my website.

What drives you craziest on a misleading cover? Wrong character hair color? Unrelated setting? Misleading mood?

Be sure to visit again next week when I wrap up the book cover topic by becoming a reader and talk about my favorite book covers.

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

January 18, 2017

New Release - Fading Into the Shadows by Kelly Hashway

I'm excited to share Kelly Hashway's newest release:



When sixteen-year-old Ella Andrews’s best friend, Avery, goes missing, she’ll do anything to get him back—starting with punching the no-brain cop who couldn’t care less about the disappearance.

Ella’s convinced Avery’s been kidnapped, and she tries everything to find him—even following a strange shadow to another world where the constellations are real-life figures in the sky. But three star groups have fallen and are destroying the world.

The fallen constellations are not the only enemy. Melanie, the princess of Stellaris, is forcing Ella, Avery, and an army of other kids kidnapped from their world to fight the rogue constellations, even as the land is draining away their life. The longer they stay, the more they fade into substanceless shadows—a fate worse than death.


Buy Links: 



Happy reading!


January 16, 2017

January #InkRipples – More Book Covers


This month I’m exploring the making of a book cover. So far this month I’ve shared the progression of a couple covers as I worked with digital artists and I shared my experiences working with an illustrator. This week I want to share the experience of covering a series.

Even though I have The Weaver Tales series, it didn’t start as a series, so I didn’t go into it knowing the covers had to relate. Plus each of book in The Weaver Tales series is a standalone. When it came time to work on a cover for King of Bad, book 1 in my Super Villain Academy series, I knew that there would be more books with the same theme. But I still didn’t understand what it meant to make the covers look like a series. Not really.

I would love to say that I approached the cover of King of Bad knowing how the over all story arc would progress over the next two books. But I mostly didn’t. Instead, I approached King of Bad with my blinders on. Looking only at the single book and it’s single cover. The only suggestion I had was that I wanted his super power abilities of fire and ice represented somehow. When I got the resulting cover I was super happy! Isn't the ice beautiful?

Final Draft

Then I wrote the second book, Polar Opposites, and started working with a different cover artist. I worried that a different artist wouldn’t be able to mesh the covers. Turns out it was almost my fault that they didn’t mesh. I gave her all the wrong information. She sent me this great mock up of a boy looking out over a desert scene, an adobe building all but camouflaged in the sand. It was a great cover, but the boy looked too young even though he faced away from the camera and the scene just didn’t say super powers at all. I wish I had a copy to show you, but I must have deleted it. I regrouped, revisited the King of Bad cover and realized that I was over thinking it. We needed Jeff’s nemesis, Set on the cover of Polar Opposites and his super powers control weather. This remains my favorite cover to date. The back cover is pretty too.

Final Draft

1st Draft
I wish I could tell you how easy the cover of Super Bad was, but again I was over thinking it. Plus I had yet another new cover artist, so she didn’t have the previous experience to tell me I was over thinking it. I talked too much and too much was happening on the first draft. That was when I realized that I needed to KISS (keep it simple, Stupid) and I told her who should be on it and what super powers play a part in the epic final scene. We went through a few more drafts trying to find the right balance of powers before she struck a great balance. The feminist in me is happy to have a girl with powers on a cover!

Final Draft
I have plans to write another trilogy with these characters, but I think I’d go in a different direction with the covers. Though still keep it simple. Granted, the publisher could put a kibosh on my ideas, or I may not have a publisher at all, or, well, we’ll see if it ever comes together.

You can pick up any of the books in this series or a three book bundle. Visit my website for links, www.kaistrand.com.

What element grabs your attention on a cover? Fire? Lightning? Rain?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

January 9, 2017

January #InkRipples – Book Covers Continued


This month #InkRipples is talking about book covers and I’m exploring the making of a book cover. Last week I shared the progression of a couple covers as I worked with digital artists. This week I want to share the experience of working with an illustrator. Oh my gosh! So cool. (It’s all cool, actually, but whatever.)

My first published novel was The Weaver, published by Guardian Angel Publishing, a publisher of books for children from 0 – 12. The majority of the books they publish are picture books, which require heavy illustrating, but my book was a middle grade novel – no illustrations required. Or so I thought. The publisher paired me with illustrator K.C. Snider for my cover art, because we live close to each other.

K.C. invited me to her house to see her studio. Then we went to lunch and talked about my book and what I might want on the cover. Keep in mind this is my first book. I’ve never collaborated over a cover before. Never thought about what a cover should look like. Never expected to have input on the cover. And finally, was pretty star struck to be having lunch with an illustrator/established fine western artist.

K.C. had just been in St. Louis visiting the publisher and when she was there the publisher mentioned that I wanted a house on the cover of my book. Turns out, my publisher used to be in real estate and sold a house in St. Louis that she thought fit with the old-timey, village-y feel in my book. So they went and took some photos of the house and K.C. shared them with me over lunch. She said there should be something child-like on the cover as well. I mentioned there was a gnome-elf character in the story and shared his physical description with her. A few weeks (maybe) later I got a mock up of the cover.


This was the full art. Some would wrap around the back of the book. The publisher still had to add the title and my name. She tried a few different treatments with the lettering before we settled on the woven look. I'll be honest, I geeked out over each step. Here's the final:


A couple years later my standalone novel became a series with the impending publication of The Wishing Well. Suddenly we needed to collaborate on another cover. When K.C. asked me if I had a house in mind I said, “As a matter of fact…” There is a house in my town that I’ve always loved because of its old timey feel. I knocked on the front door one day and asked, “Can your house be on my next book cover?” The owners were thrilled.



Finally, it came time for the third book in the series, The Lumpy Duckling, to get a cover and I didn’t have a feel for that one, but all I had to do was look around my own home. I love houses. Cottages to be specific. I have Thomas Kincade plaques, paintings of quaint farm scenes, and miniatures all around my house. So, I took pictures of my favorites and K.C. combined elements of them to make an idyllic scene. The only change I suggested was to have an ugly duckling somewhere in the scene. K.C. was happy to add a duck family with their ugly duckling offspring (You have to get the print copy to see this little addition.)



For me personally, there are two really great aspects to working with an illustrator. 1) K.C. is a wonderful person and I respect the heck out of her talent. We’ve done many, many school visits and book signings together. I’m so happy to know her. 2) I own the original art to the first two covers. (Cripes! I really need to get the art to Lumpy!) It is really cool to have that hanging on my wall. I can’t even tell you how cool that is.

The Weaver Tales books are available in ebook and in print. You can find links to all major retailers on my website, www.kaistrand.com.

Do you have favorite illustrated cover art?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

January 2, 2017

January #InkRipples - Book Covers



Welcome to the New Year and a new year of #InkRipples. This month we are talking about book covers.

I have a thing for book covers. As a matter of fact, I have folders on my computer where I store the jpgs of each book I read. It makes me remarkably happy to open those folders and browse the images.

Have you ever wondered how the book covers come together? Each one happens a little differently, but some of the general rules are that the author gives the artist some basics about the book’s theme, the characters, the setting, any key item, etc. The artist designs a mock up and asks what the author thinks, the author says what they like and what they don’t like and the artist makes appropriate changes.

I know, you’re probably falling asleep by now. Such a clinical explanation. So guess what? Each Monday in January I’m going to share with you the progression of some of my very own covers. You’ll get the behind the scenes look at how the covers came together.

Today let’s start with two of my middle grade novels.

1st draft
Save the Lemmings With this novel I had a pretty clear view of what I thought should be on the cover. I expressed the desire to have a school girl surrounded by media. I was super excited with the first draft even though there were things that had to be changed, most expressly, Natalie’s hair color.

2nd draft
Notice how the images in the mock ups are fuzzy. It’s because the image hasn’t been purchased yet. Good thing, since we changed it a couple times.

3rd draft
You’ll notice the sweater changes and then goes back again. I might have been pretty obnoxious about the fact that Natalie is a priss and I wanted that to be evident from the get-go. Featherweight was great to work with on this cover and I love the final image.

Unfortunately this book never had great sales and the rights have already reverted to me. One day I’ll repackage the story and republish it. But for now I still have a few print copies available with this awesome cover. You can buy a signed copy direct from me.

Final Draft

Beware of the White
This book I had NO clue about the cover. So when asked what I envisioned I was like, “Uum…IDK. This is what Terra looks like. There is a scary bad guy who looks like ‘this.’ He is a death janitor.”

1st Draft
When I got the first draft I was like, “OOOOoooo.” But there were two things that struck me as not right. One I didn’t want another blue book cover. I had two other covers with blue or blue/green themes. And more importantly, I thought it gave the feeling that the story was scary. Which it isn’t. Though I LOVE the feet and arm sticking out of the janitor's cart. *Snort* Anyway, I shared a little more with the artist about the story, like how the underground city Terra protected is bright – all the colors of the rainbow - and peaceful. The poor artist could not find a good Terra, and finally asked me to look for one. I found a girl that was perfect looks-wise, but wore a hood in all the photos I found of her. The clever artist was able to remove the hood and use her. The new color scheme also made me super happy. It even ‘pops’ in thumbnail size. So after a couple minor changes, the final draft was very satisfying. This book is available in eBook.

Final Draft
So see how even though all the original drafts are great, an artist and author work together to try to best represent the story inside the cover?

Come on back next week and I’ll share more collaboration stories.

In the meantime, what tends to draw your eye when you are browsing books? People? Weapons? Serene settings?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.