Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sneak Peek: Cover for Tredan’s Bane

I’m pleased to present the final cover for Tredan’s Bane.  This is by far the most detailed composition I’ve done to date for an Ebook cover.  I had the following high-level goals when I started the design:

1.  Use high-contrast text
2.  Merge at least two photos
3.  Must contain a magic book
4.  Show a scene from the story

Setting the Scene

My first task was to set the mood and pick a candidate scene from the story.  The first scene was a workbench, where a magician would create magical charms.  Second was a cobblestone street with an intricate fountain.  The third scene was the interior of a ghost amulet.

I searched through online photo sites, found, then discarded, pics of workbenches and rustic city streets.  Three “grunge” interiors caught my eye–perfect for the inside of a poorly made ghost amulet.

Book and Frame

After discovering many lovely images of magic books (most have smoke, glitter, or light rays), I selected a vector art magic book with blue streamers and twinkling white sparkles rising from its open pages.  I explain why the journal has blue magic in the story (I know, I’m being a tease!).

The gold-gilt frame was an easy discovery from the many online samples.  This selected picture frame was what I had pictured in my mind’s eye when I wrote the corresponding scene in Tredan’s Bane.

Composing the Interior

I used the photo editing software GIMP to create Tredan’s Bane cover.

My overall strategy for the interior scene was to start with the smallest elements, and worked my way outward.  I first joined the sparkling magic book and its surrounding picture frame.  I made it a transparent layer, then reduced its size to scale it on the rest of the interior scene.

I then selected a grunge background with a red leather chair, and cropped the picture to balance the floor, chair, and space for the framed picture.  I positioned the book on the wall, with an eye toward balancing the space between the chair and picture.

The first try had the picture on the left, and the chair on the right.  This wouldn’t work for what I had planned for the book title.  I flipped the picture to put the chair and framed book in their current locations.

To get the picture’s fade into a black background, I feathered the outer edges of the completed interior to black.

Assemble the Layout

It was time to assemble the cover’s components.  I created a new 500 by 700 pixel blank background, and filled it with black.  Added the completed interior as a layer, and adjusted its positioning within the background.  My goal was to leave the top third of the background for the book title text, and have the bottom quarter for the author’s name.

Time to add the words.  I used GIMP’s text tool for the top title, and experimented with the font and text color until it looked balanced, had high contrast, and filled the top third of the background.  I did the same for the author’s name in the bottom fourth of the background.

Final Magical Touch

Tredan’s magical journal is his bane.  To emphasize this, but still be subtle, I added a blur to the interior scene, except for the magic book inside of the picture frame.  Tredan’s journal is vivid, and it sparkles with Enchanter’s magical essence.

A Ghost From the Fields of Yalu

Charming and Housing Ghosts in Sye

Ghosts are frequent visitors to the Enchanters of Sye world in Tredan’s Bane and Wrath. Only Enchanters, Sciomancers, and people wearing Ghost Amulets can see and interact with Sye’s ghosts.

A ghost appears solid and wears similar clothes to when it was a live person, but empty eyes show it as a wandering spirit.  Ghosts have gaps in their memories, and it’s difficult for them to learn new tasks.  They have intellect instead of emotions, so an empath cannot sense their feelings in the usual way.  A Sciomancer can bewitch a ghost to tell secrets from its life, and also make it report the ghost’s conversations with others.

Close-up View of the Spells Inside a Ghost Amulet Containing Many Rooms

Close-up View of the Spells Inside a Ghost Amulet Containing Many Rooms

Ghost Amulets

Although the Church’s head magician, His Divine, banned the practice, a talented Sciomancer can call a specific ghost and compel it to stay inside a Ghost Amulet.  Constructing elaborate amulets is a popular magic craft with Magic Guild workers; avid amulet makers hold competitions to display their non-inhabited Ghost Amulets containing dozens of elaborate rooms.

Inhabited Ghost Amulets are dangerous.  An amulet keeper must not wear the occupied amulet near the heart, or the keeper risks madness induced by the resident ghost.

Better-made Ghost Charms have a Glamour Spell

Better-made Ghost Charms have a Glamour Spell

Ghost Charms

Most Sye residents do not have the native magical talent to see and converse with ghosts.  Church magicians, especially Priests and senior Sciomancers, construct charms to allow the wearer to interact with ghosts. The typical spells in a Ghost Charm include calling and banishing a ghost by name, plus the ability to see and talk with the ghost.  The better-made Ghost Charms have a Glamour Spell that will attract nearby ghosts to the charm’s wearer.

It's About Time in Fantasy Worlds

It’s About Time in Fantasy Worlds

Time. Full of mysterious magic. So lovely to write fantasy stories about its sensuous flow and how it is the ultimate conqueror. How it burns.

But a warning–be sure time tracks correctly in your fantasy story, or Gentle Reader will wonder why events are happening out-of-order.  They will drop out of your fantasy world.  They will no longer suspend disbelief.  Not what you want.

Be Timely During Editing

If you’re a writer who creates a plot outline before starting, that’s the place to add notations about time.  Assign days of the week, or perhaps general notations like “Day 1, Late Morning.”

Time Burns, Swims, and Flows in Fantasy Worlds

Time Burns, Swims, and Flows in Fantasy Worlds

If you’re an organic writer and don’t use a plot outline, you might go back through your first draft and add temporary notations directly into the text that you’ll take out later.  For example, when the story switches a scene, insert something like “< < Thursday, 7 p. m. > >.”  Mark it in a different color, like red text, to make it stand out.  When you’re satisfied time tracks correctly in the story, use Word’s text search function to find the notations and cut them (the pointy brackets makes the notations easy to find).  You could use a visual scan for the red text, too.

Keep a Timely Eye on the Clock and Calendar to Avoid Discombobulation

Keep a Timely Eye on the Clock and Calendar to Avoid Discombobulation

Avoid Discombobulation 

Within your story, give your Gentle Reader a set-up about place, characters, goals, and time, at the beginning of every scene change, character point-of-view change, or time change.  Don’t be overly coy or lengthy–two or three sentences is plenty.

Here is an example of a scene set-up from Tredan’s Bane (I’ve added the bracketed items for our discussion here):

[1] It was now late afternoon.  [2] Lanith sat at a desk in a guest room at Merchant Guild House.  A nearby window looked out over the fish market and marina complex on Seabright Street.  [3] She planned to look at the melted charm while she waited for Tredan’s return. – Lita Burke, Tredan’s Bane

Mission accomplished in three no-nonsense sentences.  At [1], we tell Gentle Reader the new time of day (late afternoon), at [2] we say who the point-of-view character is (Lanith) and where she’s at (the Merchant Guild House), and at [3] we give the POV character’s goal for the scene (look at the damaged magical charm).

Remember to keep an eye on the clock and calendar in your fantasy worlds, and let your Gentle Reader know when events are happening.

Church Enforcer Magicians in the Fantasy World of Sye in Tredan's Bane

Introducing the Fantasy World of Sye

With the release of my epic fantasy novel Tredan’s Bane scheduled for the end of this month, I’m beginning a series of blog posts about the fantasy world in Tredan’s Bane and Wrath, Prequel to Tredan’s Bane.  I wanted to introduce you to this rich fantasy world and its inhabitants.

Sye is the land where the Enchanters, Church magicians, and others (called ‘non-Maji’kers’) live.  The humans, and some sentient fantasy creatures, use magic (also called ‘essence’) as a commodity for personal and practical use to power mechanisms that would otherwise use physics or natural laws.  For example, Magic Guild workers keep up spells for the street fountains and waste disposal.  Many of Sye’s humans have some magical ability, and can master basic skills such as slight-of-hand, use charms, or levitate small objects.

The landscape of Sye consists of pre-industrial towns and cities, farms, fishing villages, and mountain communities.  Travel is by carriage or horseback.  Enchanters can travel great distances using essence-powered Transport Charms.

Sye is a separate place from the afterlife, called the Fields of Yalu (or the ‘city of the dead’).  Ghosts are regular visitors to Sye, and certain Church magicians (called Sciomancers) are experts in ghost-related spells and customs.  Enchanter GrandMasters control enough magical power to make travel to and from Sye and the Fields of Yalu possible, although the journey holds dangers for the living.

Wrath-Now Read First Chapter Free

For anyone who hasn’t picked up Wrath, Prequel to Tredan’s Bane yet, I’ve put Chapter 1 online, and you can read it for FREE!

Enjoy your first trip into the seaside town of Isor in the Enchanter’s land of Sye.  You will meet retired Enchanter Tredan, his wife Lanith, and get your first glimpse of their dragonette, Arnl’jhott.

Tredan opens a shipping box and finds–well, I’d better let you discover for yourself.