Tag Archive: research



     As usual I started experimenting with a basic quick sketch of what I had in mind. I knew right from the start that I wanted to incorporate the title into the image for this one, especially since it was our more traditional two word titles. Naturally I aimed for an actual door, knowing it would be fairly easy to incorporate the word “door” into the wood grain.

       From there I started testing out different color schemes for the wood grain itself. But then I started asking myself, how would a door that had been exposed to the elements for almost two centuries look? So I did some Googling, to find images to get a better idea of what such a door might look like. Here’s a few of the examples I found:

       So now I had a basis to build upon. Yet I also felt that whatever I created should have good strong colors that still gave that weathered yet somewhat foreboding feel. So I pulled out my soft pastels and started laying down some colors in order to start forming the palette I would use in the actual piece.  Of course I also incorporated lettering into the grain of the wood in order to help me build towards the full effect I was aiming for.

      Dark, sinister, ancient-looking yet eye-catching. Satisfied that this was what I want to aim for in the final rendition, I set about putting down the first layers for the actual cover.

       As things have progressed I added some stonework as well as ivy/vegetation to help add contrast as well as frame our sinister portal.  I also experimented with some photo-shopped lettering to get an idea of what the final product might look like on the actual book.

       And since the actual door was intended to open into a family crypt built into a hillside, I decided to get clever and incorporate the letters T. H. E. along with a date to represent the first of the Elliott family who passed through the door (still alive at the time) but never came out. In fact, his body was never found by those who came to investigate… mwahahahah.

       Um… sorry about that. I’m supposed to be talking about book covers not promoting the story.

       Anyway, using the initials this way I managed to get the words “The Door” clearly incorporated into the artwork, with room for our names. Though I may have to extend the bottom a bit more to keep within the restrictions about lettering getting too close to the edges.

       Clearly the above image is not nearly finished. The door itself still needs to be more weathered, and the vegetation needs to be made to look more sinister and eerie. Plus the door itself could use a hand and a lock, don’t you think? But you get the general idea from this and where it’s headed.

        So to clarify, if you set out to try and design your own book cover be prepared.  You’ll need to know the image requirements of whatever self-publishing company you’re using. Test the image out on prospective readers, get feedback. You may also need to do some or as much research as you did for your manuscript for accurate details to incorporate into the cover. And of course, make it eye-catching, intriguing, and alluring. Remember your cover is part of that first introduction to the reader. give them something that makes them want to pick up your book and start leafing through it. Because you may have one of the best stories in town, but if the package doesn’t promise what your story can deliver, it won’t even get a second glance.

       Until next time, take care and keep writing.


“Welcome to Pointer, West Virginia”

 For those who have never heard of this place, do not fret. It doesn’t exist.  I made it up to be the setting for “The Vampyre Blogs”.  A good setting is extremely important to any story.  Your story’s setting can shape your character’s personality depending on how long they’ve lived there.  For instance, if they’ve been there a short time there’s the getting to know the place and the people.  Certain action sequences may take place in particular areas.  The town’s history may come into play.  If they’ve lived there all their lives, they should know a lot of people, have a reputation (are they considered cool, friendly, or weird by the other people?  Etc., etc…)  Already you can see the importance of your setting and you should know the place at least in your own mind, so you can convey it to the readers.  I don’t care if it’s a real place here on Earth or another world.  You need to become familiar with where your story is taking place.

I’ve touched on settings for stories in the past, but “Pointer, West Virginia” is very different for me. You see, I’ve never been to West Virginia.  I do not have any personal knowledge of what the place is like.  I don’t know how people talk there, what kind of accents they have, etc.  

Creating a fictional place doesn’t have to be super complicated, but whatever setting you build has to be believable.  In my case, I like to blend a bit of reality into my settings.  When I created New Swindon in Connecticut, for my first book “The Bridge”, I was familiar with the area where I placed it.  My grandmother had lived in Salisbury Connecticut for years and I became familiar with some of the other nearby towns.  I blended the characteristics of several of them to create New Swindon to make it seem more real and authentic.  I would refer to certain landmarks, roads and the things that actually do exist in real life.  This allowed me to make my town more believable and real.  

 In my second soon-to-be-released book, “The Ship”, I used an actual setting from real life that I was very familiar with.  However, I also took steps to make sure only my characters were fictional and that they blended right in with their real-life setting.  I had the knowledge of Santa Cruz and Seacliff to make this happen smoothly and very believable.  (Remember the old saying:  write what you know about).

So why am I using West Virginia, a place I’ve never been too, as the location for my third novel?  History!  West Virginia is steeped in it, especially when it comes to the Civil War, which is the time-frame my main character Nathaniel lived in.  So how did I approach this situation to so

So what did I do?  Simple, it was time for a little research on the internet and here is some of what I learned:

-West Virginia was created as a direct result of the Civil War.  Most of Virginia sided with the south during that turbulent time, except for the section now known as West Virginia.  They were not inclined to enforce slavery or returning runaway slaves, and decided to break off from the rest of Virginia.  There was a lot of tension when this happened, and there were a number of famous battles that took place within the newly formed state.

So right there I had a rich source of background to play with for my new novel.  However, I still had a number of obstacles to overcome for the story.  Where in West Virginia should I place my fictional town?  I checked over some county maps and saw where towns and cities were located and took notes.  I wanted an area that didn’t already have an actual town, so I could refer to the real places as being nearby.  Plus I wanted a location that was near the disputed Virginia/West Virginia border.  There were some hostilities there, and I had planned for my town’s history to include a bunch of raiders (southern sympathizers) who crossed the border and nearly wiped out Pointer’s population in one terrible “Night Of Fire”.  Could such a thing have happened?  Absolutely, because I checked up on atrocities that took place during the Civil War.  Both the North and South committed atrocities, some extremely barbaric.  So right there, I had foundation to create such a background history for the town.

I also, checked to find out what are the more prominent religions in the area, so I could populate the the town with a churches and denominations.  Plus I researched, what kinds of agriculture and commercial businesses are most prominent and where they are located in West Virginia.

 Now I know a lot of this sounds complicated and detailed, but I simply made a few notes to myself.  The object was to be able to make ‘general references’ to real aspects of the area, to make my fictional town blend in and seem more real.  That’s all.  I won’t be dedicating entire chapters to detailed descriptions, mostly it will be comments and points of reference made by the characters.  I even found where a community college is located in the county where I am placing my town, so one of the secondary characters can be an instructor there.
 

I know a lot of my readers may have never stepped foot in West Virginia, but there will also be some how do live there and I want them to feel like I treated their state fairly.  I try to make the settings enjoyable and fun to think about.  Who knows, some people may even want to visit them one day to see what it’s like for themselves.  It depends on the picture you paint, so to speak.

A few of your might be asking, how much time did I spend on researching the area?  Well, I’d say I spent a total of maybe 10-12 hours over a several day period to get my vision for “Pointer”.  I checked Google for images so I can describe buildings and streets, I checked maps for counties, I looked up the state’s governing body and typical law enforcement agencies, as well as the average population of towns so I could populate mine with the right number of civil servants and local government.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I checked out some of the state’s history.  Again I didn’t go into great detail, but simply made notes I could refer back to in order to make the town fit in and seem real.  Even the name of my fictional town comes from actual state history.  In May 1788 Fort Donally was attacked early in the morning hours by a group of indians led by Cornstalk.  The fort housed soldiers, wives and children.  One of the defenders who helped keep the gates blockaded and fired through a hole in the gate, was a slave named Dick Pointer.  For his courage and loyalty during the fight, he was given his freedom AND a piece of land with a cabin that people built just for him.  A rare honor at the time.  Upon his death in 1827 he was buried with military honors in Lewisburg West Virginia.

For my story, I’m going to have it that one of the children who saw him in action that day helped found my fictional town and named it after his hero.  A town named for a former slave would understandably be targeted by the raiders in my story and make it more believable.
So there you have it.  Here’s another one of my methods for making a believable fictional setting.  What are some of yours?  Please share in the comments below or give us links to a blog where you may have discussed your style of doing things.
I hope this entry has helped some of you.  And as always, take care and keep writing.
%d bloggers like this: