Category Archives: Writing – Ambrosia Sequence

Cover Design – Hope’s Daughter

Recently I’ve been working on the cover for Outlanders – sometimes it helps to get me focused knowing that side of things is already done – and it got me thinking about how different ideas actually make the final cut. In the current process, very helpfully, I’ve got some lovely friends (real world and ‘book world’) who I get feedback from and can ask lots of ridiculous questions, about the smallest details – hopefully they don’t get too bored!

I’m obviously not going to sneak-peek Outlanders just yet – but I thought you might like to see some of the ‘early thoughts’ I went through before finally selecting the final cover for Hope’s Daughter and why…

In the beginning…

Text wise – I preferred the plain, minimal typesets – to me they felt futuristic, perhaps because they’re less like traditional fonts you’d get from a type-writer, more like the keys on your laptop or used on websites. Something like Nocturnes in the Moonlight had the right kind of feeling for me: 

Deciding on what to do with the main cover image was much tougher. Because of the space setting, originally I looked to include that, and with it being Cassie’s story, thought that she should make an appearance too. With that as a rough brief, the first cover I got back was this:

And – after the excitement of seeing the email in my inbox – I was sorely disappointed. I didn’t like the girl, the text, the over-exposed light (so you couldn’t actually see the starry backdrop). To me, this cover just said nothing about the book. It also made me realise that someone who didn’t know the story wasn’t going to make great creative leaps to generate the perfect cover: they needed much better guidance.

So…the brief changed…

I really liked the idea of hinting at the issues that would come out in the book, without making it obvious, I wanted to find something something simple, but striking and found that this guided us towards a single image. I also wanted people to make up their own mind on Cassie – I know how she looks in my head, but personally I’m not always a fan of the covers that give you a full picture of the character – if it’s not what I imagined, it can take away some of the pleasure of reading the book (if that makes sense?) It’s a little like the films not living up to the book because of how you picture some elements – I get the same thing with covers.

So I started looking at ideas for covers with less detail in them, I leaned towards covers like The Host – with the generic face and not too much detail on the character, but with the point of interest being drawn to the eye.

  

As the setting is post-apocolyptic something around the reflection of the semi-dead earth going back onto an eye seemed like it would work – Cassie is so drawn to the idea of Earth and what it would be like now or could have been like, having her eye focused on this fitted for me. When I was looking around for inspiration I came across the image of the ‘rainbow eye’ and I really liked the mix of colour and black and white. In many ways, Cassie, Balik and the others are living a half-life for much of the book, only seeing part of what is happening around them and so having the small part of Cassie’s face we see being black and white was a nod towards that. Her life only becomes full – coloured in – as she begins to awaken to the reality of her world.

The final element – plain white cover – wasn’t me, it just happened, and when I saw it, I felt it worked. In my head, much of Cassie’s physical world is plastic and white – and as I only wanted to hint at the difficulties to come – the white on the cover felt clean and pristine and blank. Sound familiar?

So there you how the cover came to be: the black and white element stayed, and the reflection of the Earth stayed (although as Cassie’s hopeful of something better, and also living in what is reported to be a perfect world, the image itself changed); the ‘less is more’ character image also stayed, so that Cassie can be who you want her to be.

I’m sure you’ll have guessed that The Rainbow Maker’s Tale is a straight reflection of the Hope’s Daughter cover: you’re going to see the same story and time line from Balik’s point of view…and it’s coming soon!

It’s all go, go, go! :)

Although I’ve recently been spending most of my time working on finishing RMT, there’s been work for Outlanders on as well. Today the first version of the Outlanders cover has been completed 🙂 After struggling with ideas for how to do this for a while – I’ll post some of the ‘might have been’ versions here on the blog on the day the actual cover reveal happens – I really think this is the one! Woo hoo!! I’m just waiting on feedback from a trusty bunch of writer, reader and arty friends and we’ll take it from there…

Also, the first version of the original music for the Outlanders book trailer has come through recently. The melody sounds great and so it’s back with the very talented singer/musician that I’m working with on this, for them to layer in more vocals and instruments.

Right! That’s enough excitement for now – I must get back to the laptop and finish this editing 🙂

Tick tock, tick tock

The cogs in my brain are busily turning as I try to get to the end of the editing / proof-reading process with Balik’s story, before sending it away to the lovely people who’ve offered fresh eyes on the book, before I push out ARCs and then final official release. Unfortunately, my self-imposed deadline of ‘summer 2012’ has slipped a little – mainly due to a very busy period in my non-writing, working-life – the chaotic period has hopefully now drawn to a close, giving me the final concentrated time I need to put the finishing touches to Balik’s tale and move on to Outlanders, which has been hovering in the background for a good while now.

I’ve really enjoyed being in Balik’s head since April time, when I began ‘serious’ work on my old drafts of RMT. Even though the story is somewhat familiar to Cassie’s in Hope’s Daughter, it has been important to fill in the gaps of who he is and how he came to be the person that Cassie meets. When I began writing The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, I didn’t really know everything about Balik and so this has been a learning experience for me too. He’s a tough little cookie – but still a yummy cookie 🙂

I hope you’re looking forward to seeing more of Balik before the story continues in Outlanders, there’s a lot that Cassie didn’t know…she’s not the only one who can keep secrets.

Just Writing…To Stalk or Not to Stalk…?

Hello. I’m Balik, and I think I might be a stalker.

I know it sounds a bit melodramatic, but I think I must be. Not the crazed, knife-wielding, want-to-kill-her kind. It’s more the can’t-stop-looking-at-her, changing-my-life-to-match-hers, accidentally-quoting-poetry, type. But I don’t think that makes it better: stalking is stalking after all.

To be honest, I was fine until I spoke to Cassie. I lived unhappily enough in my little box; doing as I was told, thinking what I was supposed to, waiting for my chance to get out. I shouldn’t have talked to her after the exams – that was my first mistake. When we’d never spoken I could pretend that Cassie was just like everyone else, perhaps a little prettier, more intelligent, but she was certainly one of them. But now I was stuck.

Going on the early rotation at the Clinic hasn’t helped me at all. I’d promised myself it would be a few days – a week at the most – and then I’d get back to work on my plans to get out of the Family Quarter. I think I knew I was lying to myself even as I was making these arrangements in my head…But once we got here and Cassie began working with Joel I’ve found it impossible to leave. It’s stupid really – although I’m almost certain she doesn’t like him as anything more than a friend, I can’t stay away from her just in case I’m wrong. It’s nearly two weeks on from my initial decision to join Cassie on her placement at The Clinic and I’m still only managing to see her for a short while at lunch and sometimes at either end of the day if I’m lucky enough to get the timings right. Yes, I think I’m definitely a stalker.

So here I am. Sitting in the sixth floor labs trying to ignore the incessant babbling of my placement partner, Olivia, and daydreaming about the beautiful girl with the clever green eyes, who I’m not absolutely sure I can trust. Perhaps there’s only one way to find out the truth about Cassie and maybe myself? If I could get her alone somewhere, away from prying eyes, it might give me the chance I so desperately need.

Oh dear – if that doesn’t make me sound like a stalker I don’t know what would.

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Balik appears in Hope’s Daughter , available now.

(And no – he’s not a stalker – well, not much! But you’ll get to see his side of the story this summer when The Rainbow Maker’s Tale is released.)

Thinking about Cassie…

I’ve recently read a review of Hope’s Daughter on Goodreads (view it here) and it got me thinking – in a good way – don’t worry I’m not about to begin a rant about reviews and readers! Instead I was thinking that it’s really interesting to see how readers view your characters once you’ve created them, bundled them into a book and then sent them off into the world. The lady who reviewed Hope’s Daughter wasn’t really sure of what to make of Cassie at the beginning of the book and I’d agree with that – Cassie is rather confused and has plenty of self-doubt to contend with early on 🙂 who doesn’t at that age?

What I found most interesting was that the reviewer found Cassie more interesting once she got onto her placement and began to interact with Balik. I’m not sure whether I intentionally wrote it to work in this way – it’s hard when you’re inside one character’s head and not another to work these things out sometimes – but I knew that Cassie hid a lot of things from herself and those around her until she saw how open and honest you could be, even on the space station, if you were a person more like Balik. As you read from Cassie’s point of view in Hope’s Daughter it’s not surprising that you see her the way she sees herself – she’s almost uninterested and dismissive of herself early in the book. When you see her later on, especially when she’s with Balik, the reader gets a new filter to look at Cassie through – even though she might miss some of the compliments in their conversations, the reader obviously doesn’t and you get to see not only a different side to Cassie, but I think perhaps the real person there, who she’s kept hidden for a long while.

Cassie turned out to be much stronger in Hope’s Daughter than I think she was going to be originally, which was a pleasant surprise for me. And actually, she’s done the same thing in Outlanders as I work through the plans for that and the next book – I think she’s going to behave in a particular way and start writing the scenes that way, only to discover that once again she’s stronger than I gave her credit for 🙂 But you’ll have to wait to see what happens to know what I’m talking about here!

On a different note, this is all interesting for me because at the moment I’m camped out in Balik’s head as I’m working mainly on The Rainbow Maker’s Tale for release in late spring/early summer. It’s funny because after reading the reviewer’s thoughts on Hope’s Daughter, I realised I have a reversed situation happening inRMT and I’m writing through it now. Balik is certainly very interesting early on – highly suspicious and digging around in places he shouldn’t – but he’s a very lonely character because he isolates himself. One of the nicest things about writing from his side of things is seeing the changes in him that Cassie brings about. He might make her more interesting and confident – at the moment I’m seeing a lot of her making him live and be a little more human…

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PS – I should say ‘thank you’ to Erin the reviewer who sparked the idea for this post in my mind as you’ve helped me get over a little writer’s block I’d been having with Balik recently 🙂

Taking Stock

Things have been pretty hectic recently and I’ve been working on lots of things, just not in one particular area…

I’ve been doing promotional work for Hope’s Daughter still, with a couple of interviews and guest posts to come out soon. There was also the ‘polishing up’ of Taking Flight , the missing moment from the end of HD which I released this week as a free treat for readers to celebrate reaching 750 likes on the Facebook page.

For Rainbow Maker’s Tale I’ve been getting on with the writing whenever I can, as well as working with designer on ideas for the cover art. You tube trailer is already out there: http://youtu.be/-JpJLvh9jYg

Outlanders – looks like it will be towards the end of 2012 for this to be ready given my current workload, however, the sneak peek is out there now and I’m working with a very talented singer on music  for the trailer and so I’m excited for that.

Finally – I’ve got the outlines of books 4&5 which will complete the Ambrosia Sequence

So…that’s the plan – I’ve just got to get on with it now! 🙂

Once Upon a Time… (January 2012)

http://cusick-jones.com/blog.php?post=13 1/21/2012 11:17:42 AM

Guest post for Just Another Book Nerd blog – 18th January 2012


Once Upon a Time…

…there was a boy named Balik and a girl named Cassie and they lived on board the Space Station Hope. But where did they come from?

People will always look for autobiographical elements to someone’s writing, perhaps in the belief that you can only “write what you know”. I’m sure for every writer there are elements of them in each book they write – it might simply be a single phrase you use or a description of how you feel about something, which you then put in the mouth of one of your characters. But I think writers must appear in their own books somewhere.

I can tell you honestly that I am not Cassie, but we have similarities… I don’t like silence when you’re with people: I’m definitely a nervous waffler; but with people I’m comfortable with and care about, I’ll happily be quiet. We both have sarcastic tendencies and similar taste in guys J We like the same school subjects and she probably got her mildly argumentative streak from me. But I don’t live on a space station (surprise, surprise), or rock climb in my spare time (I am clumsy to a point that would make Bella Swan appear graceful and coordinated), and my medical expertise is limited to a basic first aid qualification.

Balik is – unfortunately – not someone I’ve met personally. But some of his strongest personality traits are familiar. The “have to know how it works” thing is another little piece of me – not necessarily in the practical sense as my lack of co-ordination inhibits me there J – but I love learning about new things. His strength and protective nature, putting someone else before himself, is something I have seen in loved ones close to me and is perhaps the most desirable quality anyone could possess. Who wouldn’t want the warrior with a heart on their side?

So where did the rest of the story come from?

Before I began Hope’s Daughter I was stuck in a rut with another novel I’d been working on (I probably hadn’t done any real writing in six months or so) and knew that I wanted to start something new, just to get myself going again. I had also been through a bit of a sci-fi phase in my reading (lots of Philip K Dick and HG Wells among others) and so I decided to do a very short piece for myself in this genre, just to see what it was like. At first it was just the Married Quarter, Balik and Cassie – but once I was writing it the story kept growing: I would drive to work listening to music and would see scenes pulling themselves together in my head, like a mini-montage and the outline of a deeper story began to come together.

I’m not a sci-fi specialist by any stretch of the imagination and so when I started building the world Cassie lives in, although I knew what it looked like, I had to refer to other people’s versions of space stations and outer space colonies to understand where technology we have now, might genuinely take us in the not too distant future. Although some of this detail was edited out of Hope’s Daughter, some things remain like the body scanners (which are real today) and waste recycling systems – naturally The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, which is Balik’s story shows much more of these things J You know how he is!

Similarly – and quite scarily – Cassie’s answer to the exam question posed at the beginning of the novel is based entirely on newspaper articles I have read. Often I would grab a copy of the free paper on my way into work and each day there are odd little science snippets alongside the more prominent articles on which celebrity is doing what or bizarre news stories. These tiny, single sentence items usually reference research being done or scientific predictions being made, which if they prove accurate could well affect the whole world…and they are hidden in a small text box alongside a page of celebrity fluff, which says a lot about what people think of as important. I cut out and kept the one that first made me think about this:

Metro – August 5, 2009

GLOBAL WARMING WILL SEE ‘BILLIONS AT WAR’

Billions of people will go to war as they are forced to leave areas made uninhabitable by global warming, climate change expert Lord Stern has warned. Much of the world’s population will be put into ‘severe conflict’ unless temperature rises are tackled, he added.

Billions of people…Billions… That’s the whole world isn’t it? As dystopian views of the future go (zombies, global plagues, giant monsters from outer space) for me, this is the one I could actually imagine happening. I could imagine us sleepwalking into a devastating situation like this, brought about mainly through a lack of interest and co-ordination. Today’s science fiction being tomorrow’s science fact…? A terrifying thought.

There was obviously more to the creation of Hope’s Daughter, most of which I can’t share because of the spoilers! But it is surprising, even to me, when I go back to my notes and research from the beginning and see how a single idea became an entire book. It is interesting to see what changed – a lot – and what remains from the original concept.

Facebook (January 2012)

http://cusick-jones.com/blog.php?post=11 1/10/2012 3:45:24 PM

 

The writing is going well – in that I mean I’m writing a lot, not that it’s necessarily good stuff! 🙂 But it is happening, which is the main thing. I’m focused on Outlanders as that is where my mind keeps taking me at the moment and I’m keen to see what happens – things are already changing, she’s a wily lass that Cassie and sometimes she needs to remind me that I’m not really in control of what she does. (That sounds a little crazy…oh dear).

On the non-writing side of things – the first reviews are starting to come in and I’ve been very happy 😀 (posted on the new interviews and reviews page of the website) and the book is out with approx. another dozen reviewers, so will hopefully see more feedback in the next few weeks. There are also some guest posts and interviews lined up for Jan-Feb, which I’m looking forward to.

This week I’ve launched my personal author page on facebook to compliment the book pages – I’m also going to have to admit defeat on Twitter – I don’t get it and think I probably talk too much to fit it in to such a small space.

So – facebook – the author page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Cusick-Jones/214124072009513

What better way to launch my author page than a giveaway? Who doesn’t like free things 🙂

So… if you’d like to win a copy of Hope’s Daughter for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle, wander over to my facebook author page and post a message on the wall – at the end of the month five people will be selected at random and receive a copy of the book. Plus – if we can make it to 250 ‘likes’ by the end of the month, we’ll double the prize to ten copies.
Mel x