Lucia Starkey

musing on art and creative process

    February 25, 2013

    When I tell people what I do, they understand the Art Director part of my job, or think they do, but it’s always harder to explain cover design, even though that is the most concrete aspect of the process. The fact is, if I do my job well, you won’t see my work, all you will see is the stunning artwork, or that the book looks like a “real” book, whatever that means.

    I recently picked up a little side project that I think illustrates very well what a cover designer is good for, and why, even if you are self publishing, it is worth hiring someone to do it right. In fact, this project was not from a self publisher, but from a specialty press, which has lots of experience putting out attractive e-book covers. When they decided to take some of their titles to the physical realm, they hit some snags, and I was brought on board.

    I was sent the following cover, which the printer had rejected, due to templating and color profile issues, and told that if I wanted to re-do the back cover design as well, to go for it:

    One of the templating issues had to do with the front cover title crossing out of a text safe zone, meaning that it would get cut off in the process of trimming and binding the book. The original files for this cover were long gone, so there was no good way to separate the title from the artwork, but there was an older, higher res file of the front that I could work my magic on to get it to fit into the template:

    Oh my. See how much had been done to the original colors, because someone didn’t understand the printer’s color profile requests? Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here. The thing that gets me  about this cover art is the misty greyness of the woods. So romantic. I decided to start from there with my re-design, give the whole book a neutral background for the warm skin and fur pop against.

    Since the font and tribal detail were locked in, I took those elements and carried them through into the spine and back cover (clone tool is my friend). By extending the edges of the front cover, I was able to get it all to rest nicely inside its template. Doing a careful conversion of the color profile kept the colors true for the final deliverable and voilà!

    Once wrapped around a book, this will is recognizable from each side, plus the spine will stand out from other books on a shelf, making sure it gets pulled out again and again.

    Thanks to Circlet Press for giving me permission to post this. If you are into queer paranormal romance, give Faewolf a try.

    August 30, 2012

    I have been given permission to announce that I have a story that will be appearing in Geek Love, a Kickstarter anthology about all things geeky, nerdy and sexy!

    You still have  time to order a copy of this anthology — the Kickstarter ends on September 27th. Because the project has already hit it’s funding request, if you order it, you will get it; and there are some great stretch goals, if we raise even more money.

    August 29, 2012

    Limitations are something that I’ve heard writers rail against, and sing the praises of. For me, they are a necessary part of the creative process.

    I love writing for themed anthologies because they have limitations built in, but even some of those aren’t constricting enough to get my creative juices going. So, I build my own walls. My favorite challenges are ones that are inspired by the submission call, when I see an angle on the theme and limiting myself to that angle is enough to get me going, but that doesn’t always happen.

    Sometimes I set writerly challenges; can I do this without mentioning the character’s name? Can I hit the word count exactly?How closely can I follow the form of a particular fairy tale?

    Other times, I take inspiration from a half formed story idea and give it a limitation that will help me pull it out of my brain and into the real world; I must include one line from [inspiration source]. I must find a name which means ____ and then write to the culture the name comes from.

    Silly, but it works for me.

    What works for you? Do limitations help or hinder? What was your favorite call for submissions?

    November 4, 2011

    I have a new job!

    I am super excited to announce that I will be working for Tyche Books as their Artistic Coordinator.  Tyche is a new genre press, dedicated to treating it’s writers and contributers fairly. Their first book will be an anthology of short stories, followed by a genre related non-fiction book called, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank. I am busily working on a look concept for the non-fiction releases, and I think they are going to be lovely, and fun for writers and fans of fantasy and science fiction to read, collect and own.

    While all this means I will have even less time to focus on my own painting, I am feeling really good about being in a position to work with amazing artists, who depend on their work to support themselves, to give them work and to help them get exposure. I hope that my own creative explorations give me a way to build better dialogue with those artists and put together beautiful books.

    September 2, 2011

    As long as I refer to myself as an accidental writer, I tell myself, I can miss submission deadlines, fail to be inspired by prompts, and not spiral into guilt about it all. Unfortunately, I’ve been hitting deadlines lately, finding ways to tweak prompts so I can find inspiration, and some days I feel more like a writer than a painter.

    Unfortunately, because that means the guilt and internal pressure which hounds so much of my existence is finding ways into my writing life. “I can’t believe I tried to get clever with that submission e-mail. Now the editors will hate me forever.” “Is my style becoming stagnant? It is, I know it is, if I don’t freshen it, my work will become less and less publishable.”

    At what point to I stop becoming an accidental writer, and just call myself a writer? If I get a few more stories published? If I manage to write the novel-expanded-from-short-story that one editor has asked for? Do I want to call myself a writer?

    I’m experimenting with continuing to call myself an artist, and throwing writing in to the list of media I use, when people ask.

    August 2, 2011

    As an adolescent, I taught myself to crochet. I basically made it up as I went, and that Christmas everyone got hats. I knew I couldn’t do any of the fancy stitches, but I thought I’d done pretty well when it came to figuring out a basic stitch. Little did I know, my basic stitch was one of the fancy ones.

    This summer, I finally sat down with someone and learned single and double stitches. Suddenly, lots of cross stitch patterns make sense. I don’t feel the need to do an intensive project with the technique (for that, check out Andrea Zittel’s single strand uniforms) but I feel competent now. I have one more tool in my arsenal of creation, and I can keep my baby’s feet warm.

    Booties made on DIY Maven’s pattern — Wolf ears improvised by me. :-)

    July 20, 2011

    It has been a long couple of weeks away from home. Traveling with a small baby isn’t so bad (though I feel bad having to put her in her car seat for extended stretches of driving) but being away from home is always a little tougher for me than I imagine it will be. I am in complete sympathy with dragons who must nest with their hoards at night; I take great comfort in being among my things, in the space I have displayed them.

    The retreat was lovely. I got many preliminary interviews for the possible documentary project. I found myself far more interested in the interview process than in getting a lovely image, which is interesting. Last time I was involved with filmmaking, it was very much a visual medium for me.

    After the retreat, I headed to Readercon, to meet up with other writers from Rigor Amortis and Broken Time Blues, and to get a feel for the world of writers and small press that I find myself bemusedly on the fringes of. I still feel like an accidental writer, and identify first as an artist, but I really love the people I met at Reader Con, and feel very much in harmony with them.

    July 2, 2011

    My relationship with filmmaking has been a distant one for several years. While I loved it intensely, I really disliked doing it for a living. Having to take projects that I wasn’t passionate about, and work with people who weren’t passionate about anything but money was disheartening. Add to that a body which rebelled (enough to put me in the hospital) at twenty hour work days; it just wasn’t a lifestyle I wanted to maintain.

    Recently, a friend approached me with a project idea that really resonated with where my art is. It is a documentary project on women’s wisdom, and I am interested enough to dust off my old skills and get behind a camera again.

    Fortuitously, I am on my way to a women’s retreat next weekend, which will provide the perfect setting for trying out interview questions, and getting a feel for the project. I am very excited.

    June 18, 2011

    Machine of Death is open to submissions for a sequel. Can’t get the crowd together for a Fiction Jam at the moment, due to life being crazy for all, but I did write a little piece.

    I can’t decide if it’s a bad thing or a good thing that my first beta reader pronounced my story “un-publishable”. He meant the content was possibly too grim, even for a book about death. I made some tweaks, but kept the central theme. I like that I pushed someone’s boundary, regardless of what happens with the story.

    As always, feels good to have written, but I do miss my Jammers. Writing can be a lonely art and getting people to beta read when they don’t have anything in the queue themselves can be hard.