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Images for Tales from the Annexe

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 2

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1, with images for stories from the Herbert West Series, may be found here.

The first two speculative fiction stories in Tales from the Annexe predate my acquaintance with Canva, so I did not have images for them when I began putting this post together. I decided to do something about that, and I am pleased with the results.

Image for Welcome to the Witch House story
As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, earnest Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.
Image for The Deliverer of Delusions story
Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City lunatic asylum.
Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.
Image for The Colour of Magic story
Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.
Image for A Howling in the Woods story
When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck–and into those woods.
Image for The Glamour story
Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a party.
Image for The Blue Rose story
Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend, Luna of the City Guard, undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
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Images for Tales from the Annexe

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1

Somewhere in the process of becoming an indie author, I discovered I enjoy messing around with images. I’m not talking about the photos of my garden I post on the blog. I hardly ever do any post-processing on those.

But ever since I found out about Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool, I’ve been creating images to represent my writings. Often, I complete one or more long before I finish writing the novel or story to which they belong. The image-designing process must use different parts of the brain than whatever it is that transforms ideas into words.

When I published four of the stories in Tales from the Annexe as separate ebooks in 2016, I made cover images for them, and I designed the cover image for the collection years before I needed it. More recently, while writing the the new stories that completed the set, I created an image for each of them as well. I didn’t need cover images for these stories, but I did need regular breaks from writing them.

My first idea was to include all these images in the book, but I didn’t want to swell the ebook’s file size to the point it incurred a hefty delivery fee. Moreover, not all e-readers display images in colour. I decided to feature them here on my blog instead.

Below are the images for the first seven stories, which are by-products, off-cuts, spinoffs, or supplements (I haven’t found a congenial word for this concept) to the four novels of my Herbert West Series.

They appear in “chronological” order, i.e., the first three happen during the time period covered by the first novel. The fourth, fifth, and sixth happen between Books 3 and 4 of the series. The last story of this group takes place decades later, following She Who Comes Forth, the novel that’s a kind of sequel to the series.

ebook cover image for The Nexus
A 101-year-old professor reminisces about his most memorable–and dangerous–student.
Image for Fox and Glove story
To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn seeks the help of a dead man.
As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?
A climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt leads to an encounter with bandits and supernatural entities.
One of the Fourteen ebook cover image
A chance meeting in a pub brings reformed necromancer Francis Dexter to a perilous realm between life and death.
Image for The Night Journey of F.D. story
Determined to confess one of his worst crimes, Dr. Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.
Image for The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey story
A dying newspaperwoman struggles to figure out what happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
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Original photo for 2010 FofM cover image and 2020 fun version plus 2014 final

Cover Image Whimsy

Not long ago, I wrote a post about whether or not to write a new and different version of my first novel, The Friendship of Mortals. I decided not to do that, but while writing the book’s tenth anniversary post, I had a look at the original cover image I created when I published the book in 2010.

The original ebook cover image, 2010

That image was replaced with a professionally designed one in 2014, but I thought I would see what I could do with the original using Canva, which I discovered a few years ago. The free version offers way more capabilities than MS Paint, which is what I used for the 2010 cover image.

I started with a modified version of the original photograph. My idea (back in 2010) was to make it look like an old, damaged photo. With MS Paint, I gave it a sepia shade and added a rusty paperclip mark, a creased corner and a few suspicious stains. I also executed a handwritten annotation — not easy to do using a touchpad mouse!

In the end, I didn’t use the modified photo for the first cover image, but I thought it might be a starting point for a new one. With Canva, I added a texture background and the text for title, author and series, aiming for a style similar to what the professional designer achieved with superior tools and skills.

Alternate cover image for The Friendship of Mortals, created on a whim
Whimsical revision, 2020

One thing I like about this image is that it includes the four colours of alchemy — black, white, yellow, and red. The story includes references to alchemy, where it also serves as a symbol.

I have no intention to replace the current glowing purple cover image for The Friendship of Mortals, but I am rather pleased with my revision of the original. And creating it was fun, which would not be the case with a rewrite of the novel itself.

Still the official image

The original photo and all three cover images are shown in the post header. If you have any thoughts about them, or cover image design in general, please add a comment!

She Who Comes Forth book spine

Cover Image Answer

I’m grateful for all the responses to my post asking which of two cover images for my novel, She Who Comes Forth, was preferred by readers. Thank you to all who commented, expressed a preference, and explained why they liked one of the images (or both!)

Yes, two people noted things they liked about both images and said they couldn’t decide between them. Fourteen expressed a preference for image #2, the close-up of a woman’s face with hieroglyphs and the title in a sans-serif font. (The font is called “Glacial Indifference,” by the way.) People who preferred this image said it was mysterious, intriguing, sophisticated, and professional.

But seventeen people preferred image #1, which is the original cover image for this novel. Some comments said it represented Egypt better than #2. Other details mentioned were the warm colours, the figure that appears to be “coming forth,” and the mysterious quality of the silhouette.

So, #1 it will be. After considering one comment, I made some subtle changes to make the figure less blob-like ambiguous. One was to remove the face. Did anyone notice the face? It was barely visible, intended to be a sort of hidden surprise. I decided that wasn’t a good idea and removed it. I also increased the opacity of the silhouette to 100%.

All this reminded me of how I allowed myself to be distracted from writing She Who Comes Forth while it was a work in progress. I would fire up Canva and create yet another image. I must have made more than a dozen in all.

At first, I was determined to include a cello. After all, the main character’s cello is a character in her own right. She has a name and plays (ha, ha!) a significant part in the plot. I looked at hundreds of pictures of women with cellos. Somehow, I couldn’t make any of them work, except for two gorgeous photos. Using them, I made two beautiful cover images, but I had no luck contacting the copyright owners. Those creations remain in my private files, never to be published.

But here is one version that shows a cello player. Note the emerald ring! I put it together from three different shapes, and I’m quite pleased with it. Overall, though, this image implies the book is mainly about music, and it isn’t.

SWCF cover image cello player
Fonts: Great Vibes, Cinzel, Sacramento

At some point, I must have gotten a bit desperate, because I also created this little whimsy…

SWCF cover image whimsical version
Fonts: Tenor Sans, Princess Sofia

Yeah, I know. This one was never in the running, but it’s sort of cute.

Then I decided to go for a stripped-down look focussing on the title. Quite a few recently published bestsellers feature titles against backgrounds that play second cello fiddle to the fonts.

SWCF cover stripped-down version
Fonts: Great Vibes, Norwester, Sacramento

In the end, I settled on the combination of female silhouette and a couple of the great pillars of the Karnak Temple in Luxor (which also appears in the story). And that image (with a few adjustments) will continue to be the one to represent this book.

SWCF 2019
Font: Libre Baskerville, upper case, lower case, and italicized

Some people commented on the fonts. The sans-serif font in #2 was thought too modern or to suggest science fiction. Someone else said the mixture of upper and lower case, italics and colours in #1 is visually confusing. An earlier version of this image (which you can sort of see in the photo of the paperback at the head of the post) sported no fewer than three different fonts for the title. This mashup was pretty much lambasted on the Book Designer’s Monthly Ebook Cover Design Awards site, so I changed to a single font, but in a number of cases and colours. I think the background images are sufficiently strong and simple to withstand the variety.

Thanks again for all the nice and helpful things you said about my designs!

All images by Audrey Driscoll, created with Canva. Some include elements from Pixabay.


Here is a recent review of She Who Comes Forth by Lorinda J. Taylor (from Amazon and Goodreads).

A uniquely compelling story, employing the mythology of ancient Egypt December 11, 2019
This book grabs you at the beginning and keeps you reading, because it’s not a book with any clues – I found it impossible to guess what might happen in the end. Just like France Leighton and her talking cello, this book is something special. I particularly liked the conjunction of the Egyptian mystique and the minutiae of everyday modern life. France may accomplish wonders, but that doesn’t keep her from feeling pain, getting sick, and having doubts and second thoughts. She’s both human and hero.
If you’re fascinated with ancient Egypt and its grotesque and alien mythology, you’ll love this piece. I’ve never gotten hooked on Egyptian mythology, probably because I’m basically a rationalist with a scientific bent. Greek mythology has always appealed more to me, because its flawed gods are extrapolated from humanity, based on what we experience every day. That may be why western civilization developed from Greek culture, and the Egyptians faded into the fabric of history and became only a subject for esoteric study. I can understand how people can believe Egypt was influenced by extraterrestrials, because they had such strange concepts of the nature of the spiritual world and what was needed to ensure eternal life.
This book has feminist undercurrents – it’s the goddesses who have the real power – and there is also a subtext involving a condemnation of our scientific/technological civilization. Science becomes a tool of the gods to destroy more than it will ever create.
I must say a few words about what a fine writer this author is, especially in her descriptive talents. She really makes you feel and smell Egypt in the 1960s, even though she states in an afterword that she has never been there. I’ll close with a few examples:
“The sweet smell of cedar wood mingled with whiffs of turpentine, lamp oil, and ancient stone.”
“The shape of his lips as they formed words fascinated me, like watching a time-lapse film of a flower opening, or a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.”
And, finally, something to make you chuckle: “Below us lay a field of temple ruins; the Colossi of Memnon looked small and ridiculous, like constipated stone trolls on matching stone toilets.”
I heartily recommend this book as a uniquely compelling story. I would also suggest reading the author’s Herbert West series first, since She Who Comes Forth refers often to prior events and characters.

You can find out more about She Who Comes Forth, including purchase links, by clicking on the image in the sidebar or right here.

A Book Series Infographic

A while ago, I read a couple of posts about creating infographics to promote books or enhance blogs. Being a keen user of Canva for the past couple of years, I suspected they had templates for that. They do — lots of them, including many free ones.

Here’s an infographic for my book series I whipped up using one of the Canva templates. I changed the background and text colours, and, of course, the text and pictures. It really was quick and easy.

Give it a try: www.canva.com

The Herbert West Series

 

 

Covers Revealed!

Here are cover images for three short fiction pieces related to the Herbert West Series. I designed these images myself, using Canva, which has been dubbed “The easiest to use design program in the world.” Not having used any other such programs (unless you count Microsoft Paint), I can’t verify that, but I was able to produce what I consider usable images with Canva, after a short and not too steep learning curve.

Each image is followed by its book description, and then my comments on how I put it together, for what they’re worth. Keep in mind that these are simple images to accompany brief, simple stories, and I’m a total amateur when it comes to design.

The Nexus corrected

Herbert West Series supplement 1

Supplement 1. The Nexus

Nearing the end of his long life, Miskatonic University professor Augustus Quarrington retraces the path to his entanglement with one of his most interesting – and dangerous – students: Herbert West.

The narrator is an alchemist as well as a professor, and Miskatonic U is famous for weird goings-on, so the alchemical symbol for sulfur is a good motif for this image. The moody blue background and twisty shape in purple say “supernatural,” and the intricate gold frame hints at complications. The line of green diamonds complements the other colours and finishes the image. The gold line with circle ends is an ornament I find visually pleasing. Rotating line elements to a vertical position makes them usable in ways other than the obvious.

 

from-the-annexe

Herbert West Series supplement 2

Supplement 2. From the Annexe

Miskatonic University librarian Charles Milburn was Herbert West’s assistant and closest friend. He has already revealed much about their association in The Friendship of Mortals. But not everything. This is the part he left out.

This is an addendum to The Friendship of Mortals, the first novel of the Herbert West Series. It explores an aspect of the relationship between the two main characters that was hinted at but not developed in that book. The relationship is, of course, a romantic one. Romantic but not terribly happy. Thus the same moody blue background and purple twisty shape, overlaid with a caduceus (to represent Herbert West as a physician) and a misty pink transparency of a rose (a photo of a rose in my garden). I added the drops of blood (free from Canva) to counteract the pink sweetness and hint at troubles. Another line, this time of pink triangles, provides the finishing touch.

 

1

Herbert West Series supplement 3

Supplement 3. A Visit to Luxor

Reformed necromancer Francis Dexter (formerly known as Herbert West) and his servant Andre Boudreau visit Luxor, Egypt in the year 1935. A climb up el-Qurn, the sacred mountain behind the Valley of the Kings, leads to an encounter with bandits, and with one who “was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh.”

In this case, the background is weathered stone (rather than blue-tinted concrete) to represent Egyptian antiquities, with an excerpt from the Papyrus of Ani (from Wikimedia Commons) and a cobra shape (from Pixabay), because the story contains references to cobras. The lines of blue squares and the gold and blue twisty shapes say “ancient Egypt.” The line of green triangles (pyramids) at the bottom is another gesture to “Egypt” (although there are no pyramids at Luxor). The reversed green triangles at the top fill up some empty space and enclose the whole thing.

This was the first story for which I did a Canva design, so I ended up with multiple versions as I learned how to put elements together, move them around, etc. Once I worked up images for the other two stories, I decided I wanted the three to have a “family resemblance,” created by the twisty background shapes, the fonts for title, author and subtitle/series and the use of horizontal lines of geometric shapes. Here are two of the early versions of the image for this story.

3

OK, the snake is a rattler, not a cobra, and the columns (hinting at Karnak) are actually a bar graph dressed up with different lines and fragments from the Papyrus of Ani. I added the pyramid shape as a unifying element that says “Egypt” if not “Luxor.”

2

This one features a photo (from Wikimedia Commons) of el-Qurn, the pyramid-shaped peak behind the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, with an image of a carved pharaoh (from Canva’s image database) embedded. Then there’s a transparent overlay of another photo, actually of a railway station interior (free from Canva), to add texture and that radiating effect, and a transparent pyramid shape as well. The “rising sun” thing at the bottom fills up space and adds yellow to balance the title colour. I was quite pleased with this assemblage, but abandoned it in favour of the one with the “series look.”

Fonts

I regularly peruse the Monthly e-Book Cover Design Awards at the Book Designer website. From the comments on submitted cover images, I gather that fonts are a weak spot in DIY cover designs. So I’m a bit uneasy about my font choices for these images. I selected from the ones available on Canva, rather than looking more widely. I settled on a font called “Sunday” for the titles, “Sacramento” for the subtitles and series statements, and something called “IM Fell English Small Caps” for the author name. There are probably better choices (“Sacramento” isn’t the most legible, especially in smaller and thumbnail-sized images), but I found these visually pleasing.

Oh yes…

In case you’re wondering, all three stories are available as pre-orders on Amazon, for an October 1st release date.

Finding Your Inner Designer With Canva

Cover images are one of the weak spots of self-published ebooks. Indie authors are encouraged to obtain professionally designed covers to make their books look professionally published. The trouble is, good designs aren’t cheap. You can settle for cheaper images that may look cheap. Or you can buy graphic design software and learn how to use it. Or you can experiment with Canva.

I tried Canva when I decided to publish three short fiction pieces related to my main book series. I did not think they warranted the cost of professionally designed covers. Basic Canva is free, so I decided to see what I could do with it. Good, fast, cheap — pick two.

The basic tools are quite easy to use. There is a database of photos, images, shapes, lines and text aids, as well as a catalogue of pre-configured layouts you can modify. I didn’t bother with those; I had my own ideas about what elements I wanted in my images, so I stuck with assembling them myself.

So, keeping in mind that I am the rankest of amateurs, here is how you can design an ebook cover image with Canva.

  1. Think simple and abstract. Don’t try to reproduce a scene or paste together a whole lot of images representing your characters or plot elements. Boil it down to a single image, colour palette and layout.
  2. Select a background. Backgrounds provide colour and texture. Texture is a subtle but crucial element that makes the difference between amateurish and polished effects. Canva has a huge repertoire of background images, ranging from stormy skies to lemon slices or coffee beans to grungy paper, rusty metal or concrete wall closeups. The neat thing is you can change your background at any time, but the other elements and colours you use have to play well with the background, so it’s best to settle on one early in the process.
  3. Practice working with layered images. Learn which ones allow changes to colours and degree of transparency and apply them before or after the ones you can’t modify that way, depending on the effects you want to achieve. Using transparency and layering is another key factor in designing effective images. Be aware that the more interrelated layers you pile up, the messier things get if you want to make changes. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as messy as working with real paint, glue, etc.
  4. Don’t underestimate the Lines and Shapes (in the Elements section). They can be used to create quite complex, textured effects by rotating, layering and using transparency. And most of them are free.
  5. Text is best added after the pictorial elements are complete. It’s not usually a good idea to apply layers over text (unless you’re doing it to create an effect). If you decide to remove a layer or two from under text and replace them with something new, the something new will overlay your title.
  6. There is a wealth of free images (especially the Lines and Shapes), but the better backgrounds cost $1 for each use. Note: you pay for the non-free elements only when you are finished with an image and want to download it. The Canva watermark is removed at that point. You have 24 hours to make any changes to that image; if you make a change after that, you have to pay for the non-free elements again when you download the altered image.
  7. You can find images and effects by plugging words into a search box. Each element is tagged, some with dozens of terms, so you never know what a search will retrieve. Example: search on “blob” to find amorphous shapes that can be used for texturing and splatter/scribble effects. Each element has a little “i” you can click on to find out what it is and what keywords have been applied to it.
  8. You can upload your own photos or images you obtain elsewhere and use them in your designs. The usual copyright considerations apply, of course. The image elements you pay for are licensed to you by Canva.
  9. The Help function is pretty helpful.
  10. You can take mini-courses focussing on different aspects of designing with Canva. Have I done that? Only the first couple, but it’s good to know they’re there.

I designed the featured image for this post in a couple of hours, using a $1 background, a “line” which is actually a very useful twisty shape, a “blob,” a fancy circular shape, and two text fonts. Total cost: $1. (The Mercury symbol in the middle is a public domain image from Wikimedia Commons that I added to my uploads on Canva).

In the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a “cover reveal” of the images I designed for the three stories I plan to publish in October.

A final word of warning — learning how to use Canva and fiddling around with it can eat up hours. And not because it’s hard or frustrating, but just because there are so many things to fiddle with, and it’s fun.