REVIEWING 2018

 

Every year brings a mix of high and low points. Hopefully, you have experienced positive outcomes in both your personal and professional lives. I’m delighted to say that that has been true for me in several ways. On the personal front, my husband John was declared free of cancer. This September was especially memorable. I was able to visit friends as well as readers of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries in a visit to the city of my youth, Portland, Oregon—after an absence of more than twenty years.

MERGING OF PAST AND FUTURE
When I used to travel from Honolulu to Portland, I often planned a gathering of friends, which allowed us to catch up on one another’s lives. This was not possible on my last trip. However, each day I was able to see people who mean a great deal to me. The first evening, I saw had supper with Jerry Lesch, one of my favorite directors at the Portland Civic Theatre. We briefly met with my editor, Viki Gillespie, who was delivering marketing materials that I had shipped in advance. Although he was not aware of it, he had met Viki many years earlier during my performance in the play A Shot in the Dark, which Jerry directed. Later, her daughter had taken drama classes with him in high school.

The following morning, Viki took me on a tour of the city. I found that the trees had grown phenomenally and the city seemed much hillier than when I lived there. Later, I enjoyed dinner with my former Highland Dancing teacher, Bonnie McKenzie and her husband Colin, a renowned bagpiper and composer of classical piebroct music. My next event was passing out Hawaiian candy at my 50th high school class reunion. The following week, I gave public addresses at my high school and a combined meeting of book clubs of the American Association of University Women. What a wonderful visit to the past, while gliding more firmly into my public life as an author!

Continue reading REVIEWING 2018

SUCCESSFUL COVER ART

The award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive

Successful cover art is the product of teamwork. In November 2018, Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery] won several awards. Notably, it won Second Place for Published Fiction in the 2018 Arizona Literary Excellence Contest. This was due in large part to the superb editing of Viki Gillespie, who has helped to refine each of the books in the series. Like Prospect for Murder, MOMD also won First Place for Cover Art Design in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, where it was also a Finalist in the Cozy Mystery Category.

 Let’s examine how the winning cover art for this series has been achieved.

 TEAMWORK
Regardless of what you do in life, one of the major keys to your success is teamwork. Even when you are the primary producer of a product, you will be relying on the merchandise, talents, and skills of others. If you are an artist, you utilize a variety of products to create your art, and usually employ a framer to present your finished work to the world. Authors, whether self-published or working with a publisher, are likewise dependent on the output of others to finalize their creations. First, capturing their thoughts depends on a variety of manual and electronic tools. Succinct editing services are also required. Then there is the issue of layout, fortunately provided to me (along with overall publishing skills) by Geoff Habiger of Artemesia Publishing. Of course, he cannot complete his work without the final art designs brought to fruition by fine and graphic artist Yasamine June.

MY APPROACH TO ARTISTIC PROJECTS
While I possess some skill as a design consultant and can produce certain graphic art elements for marketing materials and my websites, I lack the tactile skills to produce truly refined artistic images. So where do I begin art projects? First there is the overall concept, generally driven by text I have already composed. For a book cover, the first consideration is determining the images that will evoke the essence of the story I need to highlight.

Fortunately, when I began writing the series, I composed timelines, chapter synopses, and descriptions of settings and characters. Even a cursory review of these elements reveals a list of those that may be appropriate to a book cover and supportive marketing materials. While some authors create new art for each of their works, I chose to present certain images with consistency including Miss Una, Natalie’s silent but fleet-footed feline companion and images like palm trees and ocean waters reflecting Hawai`i. In addition, I have conceived a recurring gold frame based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry. I also utilize pagination folio art that I designed, and a gold hibiscus flower that Yasamine has refined. At the point that I have a list of elements that might be good for book jacket art, I begin roughing out a tentative layout in a graphic art software program.

ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT
As I examine my list of suitable artistic elements, I manually draw a few pictures that fit the requisite portrait layout of a book cover—knowing that the final product can easily be converted to a square layout for an audio book. So where did the award-winning cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive begin?

First of all, Natalie’s life has shifted from a high rise in Waikīkī to a cottage in the beach community of Lanikai on the windward side of the island of O`ahu. Next was consideration of the fact that the murder in this story occurs at night. What does this add up to? A nighttime beach scene which includes the Mokulua islets, the moon, a palm tree, footprints in the sand, and Miss Una. Additionally, although I will not be completing the design, I try to allow space for the insertion of Titling in my signature Peignot font so that there will be no overlapping of images and text. Here is the initial layout I sent to Yasamine.

How did Yasamine’s magic polish this concept?

Since this is the second book in the NS mysteries, I had been through the publishing process for the series once. Additionally, I was able to draw on my experience as art director for the well-received multi-author anthology, Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry of the High Desert. For that project, I featured a picture I shot of the desert at sunset from my back lānai.

Whatever your artistic needs may be, I urge you to be involved in the process, even if you are unable to finalize the images yourself. The input you provide to a professional artist will ensure a product that reflects your own work and the goals you may be setting for future projects…Here’s a look at the before and after images for the forthcoming Murders of Conveyance, being released in early 2019!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson,
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

MEA CULPA

What do you regret about your past or present work? Your book series is doing well!  This truly is an accomplishment to cherish!  What must you do to ensure your writing career continues on an upward trajectory?  Regardless of whether you have a publisher or self-publish, there are problems that can arise during the complex process of production. Some we must live with and bypass with minimal discomfort; others we can actually take steps to remedy…

Publishing Errors

I’ve previously discussed issues an author faces in publishing a series—regardless of genre.  Fortunately, the process of publication is seldom the responsibility of a single person.  Of course, as the author, the quality of the final product reflects on you—for it is you who will be facing the public.

As a reader, as well as an author, I have not heard of a book that arrives in a reader’s lap without flaws of one type or another.  They may be barely perceptible, and actually may be a matter of choice rather than outright error.

Whose Fault?

In truth, no matter how much effort [and sometimes treasure] you invest in maintaining the quality of your work, unexpected flaws can emerge.  They can arise from both overt errors, as well as from actions you failed to take.  Most of my errors come from copying and pasting text and repeating favorite words.  Unless one closely and repeatedly reads the edited text, words may end up out of sequence, or can be wholly missing.

Discovering Flaws

The process of finding errors can be simple or complicated.  In writing a series, you probably have a written or mental list of flaws you’re prone to make.  As I prepare for the publication of Murders of Conveyance and work to complete Yen for Murder, I’ve found that the following errors appear frequently:

~  Repeated words and phrases
My favorites, myriad and R & R.

~  Overuse of prepositional phrases
Mine frequent the beginning of sentences. 

~  Complicated action
I’ve found scenes in which a character would need three hands to accomplish what I’ve described.  I’ve also struggled to explain how hidden compartments are accessed…

~  Character flaws
Misspellings of names, and their pronunciation in audio books can easily occur, and did in the audio edition of Prospect for Murder.  Titles of officials and their organizations can be misstated or may change over time.  Evidently my love of British police procedurals produced my mixing of the word detective with the ranks of police officers.  In actuality, most police forces in the U.S. [including Hawai`i], do not do that.  A sergeant with the Honolulu Police Department who becomes a detective is simply referred to as detective, with higher ranking officers being referred to by their rank.

Major Errors

You might think that writing fiction means that few errors unrelated to grammar will materialize.  But issues of consistency still need to be addressed.  My own inconsistencies have included changing the floor on which protagonist Natalie has a condo and the color of the truck of her boyfriend and detecting partner Keoni.  While regretting even these minor mistakes, at least they do not interfere with the reader’s ability to follow the story.  I’m not sure the same can be said for the two lines of crossed-through text in Murder on Mokulua Drive.

One thing that cannot be ignored or casually dismissed is the erroneous reporting of a historical fact.  I was particularly embarrassed to discover that in copying and pasting text in the Glossary of Prospect for Murder, I mistakenly dropped a sentence relating to Hawaiian Princess Ka`iulani into the description of Queen Kapi`olani. This is an obvious mistake to readers who are familiar with the lineage of Hawaiian royals and a serious detraction from my desire to share Hawaiian history with a global readership.

Making Corrections

Having determined the cause of a problem, you face correcting it.  This can be fairly easy with the publication of a digital book, and other on-line pieces…That is, if you are capable of altering the text within the template that generated it. If you cannot do so yourself, you may have to return to the typographical artist who originally laid out the book. If you are not able to reconnect with them, you will have to find a new source of help.  Fortunately, my publisher is working to correct the MOMD Ebook error regarding Queen Kapi`olani.

Matters are more complex in correcting flaws in printed editions. Unfortunately, the error regarding the Queen can only be corrected when further batches of the books are printed.  I wish I could send out errata labels to everyone who has a copy of the book…The one thing I have done is to publish a message of Mea Culpa on Facebook!

Avoiding Repetition of the Crime

Once you’ve pinpointed the sources of flaws, you can seek appropriate ways to dodge their recurrence. This challenge is exacerbated in the production of a series.  To keep my projects separate but harmonious, I’ve prepared and continually update detailed reference notes listing aspects of appearance, voice, attire, movement and behavior. I also have spreadsheets that pinpoint chapter elements [such as when Natalie has which vision] and the family trees of major characters.

I’m glad that most of my readers enjoy references to daily life in the Hawaiian Islands—especially food.  There are, however, some who would prefer little discussion of food, beverages, relationships, history and cats.  At this point, I don’t foresee removing these elements from my tales—nor would I detract from plot lines by inserting actual recipes.  However, recipes  that reflect Natalie’s life, local restaurants and menu items one might expect at an Island gathering, do appear on my author website.  This has necessitated my keeping records of the food and beverages I write about for review during the writing of each book.

Variations…Not Errors

As a series unfolds, it is to be expected that improvements in writing style and changes in book layout may occur.  This doesn’t mean that earlier editions of books are necessarily flawed.  Happily, my publisher opted to offer embossing on the vibrant cover of Murder on Mokulua Drive.  And, as I like reference material to be readily accessible, we are enlarging the font that introduces Glossary sections.  Similarly, we are inserting spaces before and after the hyphens between author birth and death dates in chapter aphorisms.

Fortunately, while outright flaws need to be addressed, developments in an author’s style of writing and the presentation of their work can be things of beauty!

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries [including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

BOOK SERIES ADVENTURES

This blog first appeared on https://HometownReads.com,  which I highly recommend to both readers and authors seeking to learn more about the art and business of publishing books! You can click on https://HometownAuthors.com to view a variety of articles from member authors…

The Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery Series

How are you enjoying your adventures in book publishing? You may have experienced both lows and highs if you have managed to publish a book series!  It’s a true accomplishment, regardless of whether you planned it or not.  But while you were promised great things would emerge at this point in your writing career, you are facing more than a few challenges.  Allow me to tell you about issues I’ve confronted during the publications of Murder on Mokulua Drive, the second Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery

Elemental Consistency
Beyond avoiding copyright violation in the chapter-opening quotes I use, I guard against repetition.  During pre-publication review of Murder on Mokulua Drive, I discovered I’d reused a quote from Prospect for Murder.  My records of aphorisms now indicate when and where a quote is used.

Character and locale Parity
Initially, I had a male protagonist.  Whoops…my writers’ salon found that “voice” more appropriate to a woman.
Names, their spellings, descriptions, and pronunciation must all be checked.  Imagine my chagrin in realizing I’d changed a name’s pronunciation mid-way through PFM’s audio edition!
While my protagonist thinks in whole words, she speaks with contractions.  I now begin each book by reviewing my chart of persons, places, and their characteristics. 

Plurality
Promotional text highlighting aspects of a single book must encompass each title in a series.  Having multiple titles often means having different editions.  For PFM, I had hardcover, softcover, Ebook, and physical and digital audio editions. MOMD is currently available in only hardcover and Ebook. Softcover and audio references (like “Audible.com”) are omitted when describing the second book.    

Presenting Yourself
If you have a publisher or literary agent, they may have guidelines for presenting yourself personally, online, and in traditional and social media. If you’ve never been in the public eye, you may be grateful for suggestions about wardrobe, hair, accessories, and makeup [yes, men sometimes require makeup].

What you say and how you relate it will shift depending on the media or venue.  I’m not suggesting you become a shape-shifting chameleon, but envisioning each audience helps you see yourself as they will.

Marketing Yourself
Regardless of who directs your marketing, examine media kit samples to see what you should prepare.  This will include bios, photos, sample media releases, and relatable stories, covering:
~  Background [family, education, career]
~  Daily Life [home, work, writing locale, pets, hobbies]
~  Writing Methodology [research, writing, editing]
~  Influential People [affecting your work and life]
~  Author Experiences
~  Changes in Your Writing

Describing Yourself
Were you initially described as a debut author? That’s no longer relevant.  What other life changes will impact your self-description.  Are you in a new professional position?  Where do you live, or travel for research, sales, and presentations?   

Elastic Promotional Text
Periodically (and in varying length), you’ll need to restructure text for:
~  Media releases about books, awards, appearances
~  Bios for ads, event programs, introductions
~  Submission of your work for reviews and contests
~  Website discussions of your life and authorship
~  Social media posts, comments, and event announcements

Welcoming Images
Gather images to stimulate the interest of colleagues, readers, listeners, and the general public including:
~  You and your surroundings
~  Events in which you participate
~  Images attracting your interest
~  Organizational and community involvement
~  Images relevant to characters, scenery, and activity in your writing

Designing Inviting Websites and Blogs
Working alone or with a web master, there are many aspects to consider.  First, you may have a website from before becoming an author. Some elements may be recyclable.  With bios, book synopses, and pertinent images available, much of your material is ready for upload.  You just need to weave it all together to appropriately reveal you and your work.  Consider:
~  Styles appealing to your target market [realism, art deco, country kitch…]
~  Colors [you like and wear; those describing your work]
~  Shapes reflecting your style and work [linear or curved]
~  Textures, natural or man-made [wood, silk, metal, stone, plastic]

Final thoughts?  Well, there’s nothing final about the process of writing…or of marketing your work.  As with your compositions, keeping electronic and hardcopy samples of your promotional material, will help you shape attractive representations of your unfolding life’s work! 

Wishing you the best,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.