1. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: A Review

    As I Lay Dying by William #Faulkner: A Review #books #classics

    faulknerreview
    As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

    I am always looking for a good excuse to read at the classics, and Faulkner has been one of those writers that I have often seen quoted, but I’ve never read personally. My knowledge of him stopped at “his typewriter is famous.”

    So, when a book club I recently joined decided to read him in celebration of the club’s initiation, I got pretty excited. Much like when

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  2. This month, Illustrious says hello to the wildly talented Staci Hart, an author and graphic designer who is also a member of Fiction Writers Group, where I met her and fell in love with her quirky designs. Staci graciously agreed to be interviewed for Illustrious, and while the focus of this interview is her book cover design, authors should be aware she also can help with website creation, logos, and extra illustrations for those in need (self-published authors also get a discounted service!) Read on to find out more.

    All images © Staci Hart – Please respect the artist and credit her work if you share these images.

    -THE INTERVIEW-

    AH: Graphic artist, web designer, author! You have a very busy and creative life. What got you started in these fields?

    SH: I’ve been in graphic design for 11 years now, and it’s been amazing. I started out organically … I was sewing baby goods (clothes, diaper bags, bedding) and needed a website, so I built my own. I then had friends who were also starting their own businesses and needed help. Then they told two friends, and so on, and so on! As for writing, I’ve always been a reader, and I wrote a lot of bad poetry in my early 20’s. Coupled with my design experience and communication skills, it was almost too easy to write. I think in imagery, metaphors, and dialogue, which comes in handy. A friend prompted me by asking what I would write about, if I ever chose to, something I’d strangely never thought about before. Within a few days, I had the idea for my series, and within a week I was writing.

    AH:  Since you’re also an author, I’d love to hear more about your work. What have you written and what are you working on now?

    SH: My Good Gods series is based in Greek mythology, following Aphrodite in modern times as she competes with other gods to make a human couple fall in love while her opponent tries to keep them apart. It’s fun, fluffy contemporary romance with lots of laughs. I just published my third book in the series (what will be twelve books total), but I’m switching gears to start a steampunk series, which should hopefully release early 2015.

    AH: Regarding your website design services at Quirky Bird: what can you tell authors about the importance of their website’s appearance?

    SH: Having a website in 2014 is like having a business card. You have to have it, and the better it looks, the higher the likelihood that someone will remember you. Websites work in a similar fashion. The most important things for your website:

    a) Your brand should clearly represent your business in a way that when a user glances at it, they get the right feeling, the right mood that represents your business. It’s really a gut reaction.

    b) Your brand should be COHESIVE. It should represent a clear style and image. For instance, you wouldn’t mix punk rock and shabby chic. Oil and water.

    c) Your website should be USER FRIENDLY. Don’t be cute with your page names, and don’t be vague. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your website is or how much traffic you get if people can’t find what they’re looking for when they get there.

    AH: Can your themes be used on any host provider (like WordPress or Blogger), or does the website need to be self-hosted?

    SH: We generally custom code websites at QB, but I do offer a discounted service for writers and book bloggers. I piggyback the design/branding off of a template, which saves a ridiculous amount in terms of cost. That service is listed here: www.redpenkisses.com.

    AH: On to covers! I’ve heard that most of your client base have been YA or romance authors, but you’re looking to expand. What other genres are you interested in doing cover work for?

    SH: I can do covers for almost anything. I’m fairly new to the cover design world, but have so much graphic design experience that I can do just about any genre.

    AH: Your style has a fun, ultra-modern and chic look to it. I love how it makes covers pop. Is your style inspired by a certain designer or design period?

    SH: Not particularly. I love design, and like to think I have a keen eye for art and a unique perspective without being too far left. I particularly consider the feeling or emotion of the imagery on a symbolic and minute level. Also, every piece I design is inspired by the client, their story, their brand. It’s very much like being a design psychic therapist.

    AH: Let’s talk about your process. What can authors expect once you’ve both agreed on a commission?

    SH: The first thing we’ll do is sit down and look at other covers together (over phone/chat). We’ll talk about some of the scenes in the book, things that are meaningful, the characters and who they are, the tone of the book. From there, if it’s a photo cover, we’ll start looking through stocks until we’ve found one to play with. I’ll usually make mock ups of multiple stocks before they’re purchased so we can get a good, solid idea of what it will look like.

    AH: What is the base pricing range to get a half cover, or full wrap cover, from you?

    SH: Photo covers start at $150 and include a wrap and half cover.

    AH: Do you do the typography on your covers as well?

    SH: I do all of the design, but don’t do custom font creation. I’m a typography nut though! Fonts and display methods can make a huge difference in the feeling of a cover.

    AH: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

    SH: I love making friends, talking shop, and social media! Be sure to follow me:

    http://facebook.com/stacihartnovels
    http://twitter.com/imaquirkybird
    http://pinterest.com/imaquirkybird

    Thank you for taking the time to have an interview with me, Staci! Best of luck on your Good Gods series. I’ve already picked up the first book, and it looks really interesting!


    Illustrious is part of an ongoing interview series designed to connect indie and self-published authors with exceptional artists for their cover and illustration needs. If you are an illustrator (science fiction, fantasy, children’s book, comic) and would like to be considered for an interview, please feel free to contact Alex Hurst at info@alex-hurst.com. Alex Hurst also interviews graphic artists (for book covers), editors, agents, and small or indie presses.
    Illustrious: Staci Hart #graphicdesign #bookcovers #wordpress #design This month, Illustrious says hello to the wildly talented Staci Hart, an author and graphic designer who is also a member of…
     

  3. Popovers are a delicious and fast addition to any meal. They can be filled with jam, whipped cream, gravy or anything else that goes with bread!

    I love popovers. My first memory of them was at the Cliff House Restaurant in San Francisco, which serves them instead of your everyday-bread-basket. Though there are pans made specifically to create the perfect popover, I have found that they can be made in regular muffin tins, or even miniature muffin tins. They taste delicious all the same. The recipe I love using is Lynn Bonnett’s Perfect Popover Recipe which can be found here. (Lynn has requested no one post her recipe anywhere else.) One change I usually make to the recipe is to brush the pan with butter before putting it in the oven to preheat, as the butter gives the popovers a delicious crispiness. Keep in mind that if you do decide to bake these popovers in a mini-pan, you need to cut the bake time in half! Timing and heat are extremely important when making popovers. Check out Lynn Bonnett’s Tips & Tricks on her website if your popovers aren’t getting the ‘pop’ they need!

    Popovers made by me using this recipe:

    Cooking: Popovers (Yorkshire Pudding) Super simple #recipe! Popovers are a delicious and fast addition to any meal. They can be filled with jam, whipped cream, gravy or anything else that goes with bread!
     

  4. Heavenly Bodies: A Review

    Heavenly Bodies: A Review

    heavenlybodies

    Heavenly Bodies by Paul KoudounarisHeavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs
    Paul Koudounaris

    My Review: 5 of 5 stars

    From the publisher, Thames & Hudson:

    “In 1578 a labyrinth of underground burials was discovered in Rome that contained the remains of thousands of individuals assumed to be early Christian martyrs. The bones were disinterred and sent to many Catholic churches and religious houses in…

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  5. Sign of Chaos: A Review

    Sign of Chaos by Roger #Zelazny: A #BookReview

    SIGNOFCHAOS

    51ZWFJSNFZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sign of Chaos by Roger Zelazny
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    The Sign of Chaos, the third book in the Cycle of Merlin, and the eighth of ten on the Book of Amber, begins with Merle trapped in a Wonderland Bar with Luke (Rinaldo), the Cheshire Cat, Humpty Dumpty, and a very pissed off Fire Angel from Chaos. Discovering his predicament to be the result of a drugs Luke has been exposed to, Merle conjures…

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  6. Blood of Amber: A Review

    Blood of Amber by Roger Zelazny: A Review

    bloodofamber

    bloodofamberBlood of Amber by Roger Zelazny
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    It is the second book in the Cycle of Merlin, and in typical Amber fashion, the intrigue is stacking up. Merle begins the story trapped in a crystal cave by his friend Luke (relationships being complicated in Amber, and who is one day your friend may the next have a vendetta against you).

    Throughout the book, other curiosities are revealed,…

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  7. Yuzen Dyeing (友禅)

    #Yuzen Dyeing - River Rinsing #友禅 - Kimono Process in #Kyoto, #Japan

    Tanabata 2014 Kamo River 134 - Version 2

    The atmospheric pressure in the air drops as I ride my bicycle down the narrow road hugging the tracks of the Eizan Railway, and not for the first time, it really hits home that I am living in Japan.

    There is something in the air here that is different from the United States, something primal, locked in a time capsule of abundant culture. The tracks are rust red, curving like a river through the…

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  8.  
  9. Merry-go-Round by Alex Hurst

    Two posts in one day? Madness! Except today, Illustrious’s schedule coincided with my newest short story release over at Out of Print.

     

  10. This month, Illustriousintroduces the insanely talented and highly diverse artist and illustrator, Lisa Falzon. From etchings to large illustrations bursting with emotion and delightful, quirky expression, Lisa’s artwork brings pages to life with fun splashes of vibrant color and composition. Lisa has worked on children’s books, articles, book covers, and a variety of other projects, including more tactile art, such as fashion accessories and bound books on her Etsy shop Meluseena (definitely check that one out).

    All images © Lisa Falzon – Please respect the artist and credit her work if you share these images.

    -THE INTERVIEW-

    AH: Your artwork reminds me of of Lane Smith, and his artwork in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, as well as Math Curse. Who has inspired you as an artist?

    LF: I get told my art reminds people of all sorts of artists who also like me paint in the ‘lowbrow’ style that puts art in the limbo between realism and traditional illustration. I think the collective style will be viewed as a movement by future art critics, the way German expressionism is. Most often people will be only familiar with one artist in the genre, say for instance recently while looking for a studio-mate a potential one said to me ‘But this is Ray Caesar!’ of my work. I don’t think my art resembles his that much but can see if he is the only one such you are exposed to you would think so. I think undisputedly we are all artists that kind of congealed into ourselves in the noughties, probably more than a little influenced by Mark Ryden who I feel spearheaded this ‘look’ and made a nook in the art scene for art that looked like it was meant for children but isn’t, then went our own ways. I am very influenced by old masters. I love their literal figurativeness. I always look to old masters for technique. But I am also inspired by the flat-scene primitivism of say, Thomas McKnight whom I also love. It’s no single well. Artists who create art very different to mine inspire me a LOT. I love game art for example, and wood cuts.

    AH: While your work initially impressed me as a storybook style, I quickly recognized that your art is for all ages, many of your pieces having a decidedly darker nature or tone set. What are your favorite subjects or themes to draw?
    LF: I think I feel most content when I’m expressing an idea that is either very relevant to me at the time of drawing, or a subject that has moved me deeply. I know you’re going to see a moon nibbling a mountain and think ‘aww come on how is that a relevant subject’ but you see what I want to express sometimes is an idea like ‘a tenderness and humanized expression of the world we live in, via nature’. I like to draw art that communicates a feeling strongly. I want to try and reach across the artwork and connect with people. For me art only achieves anything when it achieves connection. Sometimes the themes may be sadder or ‘darker’ (although I don’t like to use that word) because the feeling I want to express is sadder, it’s just that simple – it’s about telling stories and hitting a note. There’s comfort to be found in sadness mutually expressed. I think the viewer of my sadder works may feel a connection there too, and find solace. I’ve had people tell me certain paintings of mine have helped them through rough times and I think I couldn’t feel more honoured about anything, ever.
    AH: Where are you located? Have you always lived there?
    LF: I’m a nomad! I am Maltese, so from Malta. I’ve lived in Ireland the past seven years and now I live between the rural green of the Irish countryside and the edgy metropolis of Berlin. I’m back and forth because I need both in my life more than I need a homestead. That’s me all over.. a hill-walker in a city, a city slicker in the muddy countryside.. :)
    AH: How would you say the pieces that you selected for this interview reflect you, as an artist?
    LF: I picked the pieces I feel other people would call my signature pieces that I would also agree. I picked pieces that have that human/nature connection, and that bit of awe, and are tender too, but maybe a touch sad for no reason you can exactly pinpoint except that life is beautiful and wonderful but also always sad.
    AH: If someone wanted to contact you for a commission, how can they reach you, and what should they expect once a commission has been agreed on?
    LF: I’m not taking on commissions from private individuals at the moment but if someone has a REALLY cool concept they should try to tempt me via email lisa@lisa-falzon.com.
    AH: Are you self-taught? If not, where did you study art, and what was the most important thing you got out of the program?

    LF: I am self-taught entirely. I grew up in Malta where there was no art school to go to. So I just studied sciences. I have a Bachelor’s degree in a subject I never intended to pursue as a career – I just went to uni because it was free and expected of me, but funnily enough since the age of 16, I had already started selling my art and landing illustration jobs. I always was good at that and knew that would be my true work. I am very relieved I was not sent to an art school abroad.

    I think any art school you have to pay for, unless you are independently wealthy, is absolute rubbish. I think it just delays the inevitable (i.e. that any kind of progress you make in the art world will rely ZILCH on your degree and only on your own steam, and that as you won’t be taught actual technique you’re just faffing about for 4 years).

    I know a heap of people who went to art school and all it did was saddle them with debt they needed to get into jobs they disliked to get rid of. They weren’t given any practical info whatsoever as to how to make a carreer out of art. Unless you’re a grant paper-pusher type and don’t have your own gumption to make your own name and push for work and become a brand, you’re screwed because you’re now 24 have a debt and a mountain of disillusionment.

    I have some strong ideas about what academia is in this day and age, and I think the next generation may abandon things like art school altogether. There is absolutely nothing in art that you cannot teach yourself, for the price of an internet connection.

    AH: I noticed in your gallery that you’ve made handmade notebooks before! They’re absolutely gorgeous. Was it hard to do? Would you do it again?

    LF: The notebooks you mention I had made for my illustration brand Meluseena

    I love to collaborate with other artists to create products for Meluseena, which is to me a business and my main livelihood. I collaborated with artist Chiara Torre in Italy. I am hoping to collaborate with her again and get some new notebooks into the store. I’ve become smarter in how I create products – I have a clock maker in Cyprus making clocks for me, for example, and I allow them to drop-ship for me with my own branding. It means I have all the time in the world to draw and not faff about with packages. I learned a lot of how to streamline my work-life by reading Tim Ferris and Seth Godin. I am as much a lover of brands and marketing as I am of art – brands and marketing are also about telling stories.

    AH: On the topic of other media you tackle, I saw that you have a collection of “wearable” art. Is this a project people can purchase from? What other mediums besides painting do you work in?

    LF: For my band Meluseena, I produce a variety of products: Prints, clocks, wearable art/ jewelry, stationery and pocket mirrors. I am a designer so to speak, and these are all things that I’ve designed, to contain my art and illustration. They may be purchased from my Etsy store www.Meluseena.etsy.com


    I have also designed products for lots of publishing houses. My favoruite to date has been a fairytale bunting set I created for La La Land in Australia. I love working for them actually, they have the best ideas. Keep your eyes peeled for a Christmas card set I just made for them, they’re going to be awesome! :)

    Thank you for such a wonderful interview, Lisa! It was fascinating to learn about your technique and thoughts on art. It still blows me away that you are entirely self-taught! That’s absolutely amazing.

    Tune in again in a month for the next installment of Illustrious.


    Illustrious is part of an ongoing interview series designed to connect indie and self-published authors with exceptional artists for their cover and illustration needs. If you are an illustrator (science fiction, fantasy, children’s book, comic) and would like to be considered for an interview, please feel free to contact Alex Hurst at info@alex-hurst.com. Alex Hurst also interviews graphic artists (for book covers), editors, agents, and small or indie presses.
    Illustrious: Lisa Falzon This month, Illustrious introduces the insanely talented and highly diverse artist and illustrator, Lisa Falzon. From etchings to large illustrations bursting with emotion and delightful, quirky expression, Lisa’s artwork brings pages to life with fun splashes of vibrant color and composition.