I just designed a book cover, for a friend, that I am absolutely in love with. Now, I am going to tell you how I did it!
Yes, I am sharing trade secrets here, shhh, don't tell anyone! Oh wait, this is a blog - on second though - tell everyone! We bloggers love our traffic! ;)
Okay, so it all starts with an idea.
PATRIA: "I have this idea for an amazing story *edit the details here, because you guys just have to check the book out for yourselves when it releases* do you think you can come up with something for the cover?"
So, Patria sends me a link to these images:
Okay, along with these images she tells me I like the blue thingy in the middle as the "firefly glowing mermaid thingy" those are my words, not hers... hers were probably more sophisticated, but I am too lazy to go look them up! So, I say, okay gimme 5 minutes and I am going to send you an idea to look over and you can tell me what you are thinking - about how they are combined. So, literally 5 minutes later I send her a few selections of basically the same image with different lighting going on...one easy-peasy look at a sample possibility. It looked like this:
This is really easy, we're talking a little lighting on the girl with the top light being white and the undertone light being a bluish hue. Then the words have some lighting effects, all of it on a basic black background. Simple enough for a sample. So, my dear friend says something like, "cool, except my character isn't blond. Can you do something about her hair? And I don't like the black background. Can you do something different with that?"
Why, yes, I can.
So, I am going to describe what I did first then show you the finished project. First, I found a really cool water background image to use. For those who don't know, when I say I found an image to use... I am talking stock photos. The rights to use them are purchased! Photo manipulation is a lovely art, but the original artists/photographers deserve their just due too!
So, first thing's first. I burned blondie's hair! Using the burn tool in Photoshop. Her stick straight blond tresses became a beautiful mix of browns and reds. If you have never used the burn tool before, I suggest trying it out! Photoshop (and similar programs such as Gimp) have an UNDO button for a reason! :D Experiment away!
Then, I dropped my new brunette/redhead onto the background. When I dropped her in, an interesting thing happened. Her nose came right up to those bubbles on the left. However, when she was sized down to a proportionate level, the bubbles were above her head. SO... that lead to my next step. I had to go back to the plain image of the watery background and crop out a section of bubbles. Then, because the water is different colors in certain places I had to erase everything except the outlines of the bubbles. Then I drug that image onto the background and positioned it just so... now, it looked like the girl had bubbles coming from her. :)
My next problem, HAIR. I had a great color change, but no one's hair sticks straight down when they are submerged in the water. So I had to make that hair seem to float a little. Also, one of Patria's requests was to make her look a little more cartoony than realistic. Basically a soft touch on everything. So, I used the blur tool in Photoshop. I blurred out every bit of her hair, then I flared it at the ends to give it that wispy under-water look. For the top of her head, I actually cut out the top of her head from the original picture, and attached it to what was already there, to give me the part and the "other side" of her hair that was doing a little floaty thing at the top. :) OH - and I added some lighting to her face to make it glow a little. And voila, this is where we are...
Now, to tackle the glowy thing that Patria wanted. At this point, my teenage daughter came home from school and is looking at what I am doing. She is wildly fascinated by the hair! I earned cool points for that, but then she's like, "so, why is there a glowing water-sperm on the book cover" OH, NO! Now, all I see when I look at this thing is a glowing water sperm. SIGH So, after about 30 minutes worth of a headache trying to find a way to work this in... I start browsing for other ideas. I think a mermaid tale would be really cool. I am lazy though, did I mention that? While I can draw (somewhat decently) I just prefer the instant gratification of photo manipulation. So, I head back to Dreamstime.com and look for mermaid tales. I came away with this image:
Okay, it's obviously a computer created character image, and I don't like the mermaid herself at all. But what I do like is her tail! And her tail is going to look really cool with the same soft touch elements I used on Blondie's hair! So I crop out just the tail from right below her hand, then I flip it and drop it into the image I already have. It gets re-sized and positioned. Then, it gets that soft touch from the blur tool.
And now, I am almost ready to see the finished image. One thing is lacking... the title and author name. Obviously the very pretty lighting effect I used at first on the black background will not work the same on blue water. So, I go with the color of the light that is filtering through the water. And here is the finished project:
So, I send it to Patria for approval and she responds with this, "Omg you are a freaking genius!!!!!!!"Yeah, that made my day!So, then she asked how I did that to her hair, and I thought it would be cool to share with everyone. :)By the way, you can find out more about Patria's upcoming book (series) from her website: http://patriadunn.moonlitdreams.org/smitten.htmlHappy Reading!
As I stated in my blog My Life With Autism, we had a hard road to get to a diagnosis. Times they are a changing though, and people are getting better about recognizing the symptoms. I now live in a community with many options for early diagnosed Autism. Of course, as I mentioned before, they seem to stop caring after your child hits those tumultuous pre-teen/teen years. I am hoping to change that, but for now, back to our story...My son was hospitalized for a week to stabilize him with new medications, meds that he would be starting for the first time. If I could fast forward and see how long this process really takes, I would have laughed at the doctors who think a week in a hospital will do the trick! My son was put on Risperdal. I freaked out a little bit, at first, when I read that it was commonly used to treat Schizophrenia. It is also commonly used to treat other disorders, including some of the more unsightly symptoms of Autism. When my son came home, he was new and improved! I told him to do something and he actually smiled and did it. No fights. No tantrums. He just did it, and then he had the nerve to ask "is there anything else?" I'm thinking Stepford Wives, or in this case children, maybe Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I don't know what's gone on here, but there seems to be some sort of magic involved. My son just did something after being told, while smiling, and then asked if he could do anything else? Wow! Talk about miracles!Before I tell you how short lived this miracle was, I need to tell you how my son responded to it. I have always worried that psychiatric medicines would make him not himself. I had experience with my step-daughter's mom overdosing her on ADHD meds and she was a zombie on them. She literally would sit around my house as a child and all but drool on herself. Her mom didn't think anything was wrong with that, since it kept her kid quiet, but I was very disturbed by the effects. So, here I am faced with giving my son meds, and worried about him becoming something other than himself. I sat him down and had a real conversation with him. I remember writing about it on my Facebook at the time, because I felt it was the first real conversation I was able to have with him. I asked how the medicine made him feel, and aside from hungry, he said he liked taking it, because it gave him that little something that made him stop and gave him time to think about what he was doing before he did it. In technical terms the medicine works to stop impulsive behaviors, such as yelling no, running away, even screaming. He was able to take a step back and tell us, "I need to go cool off before we talk." YAY! That was our miracle. The first of many tiny ones. The medicine worked, my son wasn't a zombie, life was good... almost.One of the perks of the medicine was being able to see my son's sense of humor. He has an amazing grasp of things and is super funny. It is a trait that was lost in the misery of his disability. Seeing him laugh regularly at age 11 was amazing. Even more amazing, was that he was starting to grasp human emotion and concepts such as empathy. My first real hug from my son came around the same time. There were awkward hugs too, at inappropriate times. There were hugs that lasted too long, or squeezed to tight, or just felt weird. But - they were hugs - initiated by my son. That was the second tiny miracle. I am a huge fan of random hugs with my kids, and now I get them back from him as well. I won't go into the details of my family's inner turmoil at this time, only to say that it was explosive, emotional, and life changing. I felt as though we were finally making great strides in my son's progress only to have them hampered by other things that were going on. My husband and I split up and having nowhere else to go at the time, I moved to South Carolina with my family. Change is not easy on children, especially children within the Autism Spectrum. While my son had been in somewhat of a decline due to the heated emotions in our home before the separation, he went into a tailspin with our move. The defiance was back, with a vengeance, the moods were worse than ever, and to top it all off he couldn't stay focused on school work long enough to write his name on the paper, let alone attempt actual work. Part of this was an ongoing problem with ADD/ADHD, which his doctors still had not started him on meds for. The other part was because the Risperdal actually causes ADHD symptoms as a side affect. This is where you pull your hair out as a parent. What do you do? Are the side effects worth the benefits of the drug? Sometimes I thought yes, other times I thought NO WAY!Along with the Risperdal, which he was now taking 2 times a day, he was given Clonidine (which is a heart medication for adults). In children, Clonidine (small doses) helps with moods. And so it did. I was also told to give him 2,000mg of fish oil pills a day. Studies have shown that increased Omega 3s found in fish oil pills help improve symptoms for people suffering from issues like my son was. I encourage everyone to read about Omega 3s because they are a "super food." They help with your metabolism, heart, cholesterol, inflammatory diseases, the frontal lobe, memory, focus, & moods. This is a SMALL list! It expands exponentially. Anyway, so he takes those three pills every day. It's not enough because, after a while his moods were uncontrollable again. He would cry at the drop of a hat. He was failing nearly all his classes, including science - which was always one of his best subjects. My son was melting down time and again. These melt downs effect our entire family. He will cry, scream, flail about, and it's all someone else's fault. Our family was being beaten down by one boy's tantrums. Day in and day out. It's exhausting. I can't leave the house without having at least him with me at all times, because no one else can handle him. I have become a prisoner to my son. Imagine no nights out. Imagine never having that stress relief of being able to sit back and enjoy a movie with friends, a dinner, coffee... It's not easy and his dad would not take him to give me a break either. So, I've been stuck for the better part of a year with no time off from this nightmare. He's been stuck with me too, and we pretty much resent one another from time to time. I'm being honest here. Yes, it is possible to resent your child. It is possible to hate the lot you've been given, to curse the gods (whichever ones you pray too - if any), to throw in the towel in your own mind over and over. It is possible - I have done it. And then I start all over again the next day. I can't tell you the number of times I have packed my bags and headed out on my own, abandoning my responsibilities in order for one peaceful night! I do this in my head, of course. These are my daydreams - sometimes! Then I get right back up and keep living the same responsibility laden life I have.So, after tearful conversations with my son's therapist he was placed on Depakote, along with everything else, for his mood disorder (bipolar is now among his rather lengthy list of things that he has been labeled with.) Three months. That is how long we tried the Depakote. Three months in which we saw ZERO positive effects from it. By then, my son was in 7th grade. He scraped by and passed out of 6th grade somehow. I actually argued the fact that he should be moving on, but he managed to pass, not by much, everything except math. So, off to 7th grade and within the first 3 weeks of school this year, I was receiving calls from the school. We needed a conference because not only was my son not doing ANY work, he was sleeping through the first half of the day. That was the Depakote at work. That stuff had to go. And it did. It was replaced by Vyvanse for my son's ADHD.WOW! Vyvanse - an amazing little pill! An expensive little pill, but well worth it. My son is not a zombie - which was my biggest fear about ADD/ADHD meds. My son is wide awake, alert, and attentive. Within 2 days of him taking Vyvanse I was getting calls from his teachers. "Whatever you have changed, keep doing it!" "He's wide awake in class now!" "He's doing his work!" "He's making "A" grades!" The best part was my son coming home, actually talking about class. He still doesn't do his homework at home, because he claims he needs more help than I can give him - of that, I have little doubt. My son's grades last year were like this: science - 69; math - 50-60s; ELA - 60-70s. This year he has a high B in almost all his classes. I'm talking 90-91, with exception of ELA which is in the 80s. Writing is his severe learning disability, so that is to be expected. And still, 80s are a huge accomplishment because it's the highest his grade has ever been in that class - EVER! That is an amazing turnaround. On top of those grades comes the most important thing. My son has his confidence back.Things are not perfect! They will never be perfect. We are still trying to find a way to deal with the mood swings and tantrums that come with them. I don't know if new medicines will be needed, and I hope not because he takes enough of them. But I will tell you this, there was a HUGE difference in my son when the medicines were added. The worst side effect to date has been the increased appetite, and even that has balanced out. My son is not a zombie, because he has a parent and a medical professional who monitor to make sure he isn't taking too much medication. He has a great sense of humor, and is becoming an amazing student - finally! Without the medicine the potential to do well was just not there. Well, let me rephrase - the potential was there, but it was locked up and blocked from him. I don't think medicine is for everyone, but I do know that fear of the unknown is what holds a lot of parents and children back from going that route. Medicine for these conditions has advanced dramatically from the days of the zombie-children! My son praises his medicine. He came to me with a huge smile on his face when he held that first progress report of the year! I CRIED, because the words out of his mouth were priceless. "Look mom, I'm really smart like the other kids!" I had to tell him, "you've always been smart like the other kids, it was just hidden away for a while." On the darker days, I look to those fabulous moments of triumph. I remember that first hug from my son because he knew I was sad and that it would make me feel better. I remember the look on his face when he brought me that progress report, and I know that there is hope! Whether it is achieved through medical, therapeutic, and/or other ways - there is always hope of something better for your child, no matter what difficulties they have to overcome. I try to remember those things in our darker moments and it is not always easy. Our lives will never be described as easy! One day, maybe there is hope for easier, and that is what keeps me going. So, here's my word to the wise for those of you who have read these blogs and don't have to deal with this. When you see that frazzled looking person out at the grocery store, or that kid who won't stop screaming, give them a smile instead of your disdain. That small thing in their day, can make the difference between packing those bags and throwing in the towel and making it through another day! I have been that person in the store going, "my child would never behave like that in public." I ate my words when my son came along. You never know what hand you will be dealt, so count your blessings, be thankful, and smile instead! :) We all have our bad days, but even our worst days may not compare to someone else's!
I talk about my life with autism now and again. Sometimes it's just to get things off my chest, other times it's to help with awareness. Right now, it's because I've had a particularly rough week. So, here I am ready to pour my heart and soul out to people, in an effort to make them understand what this life is like.
I have four biological children, two boys and two girls, or as my grandmother would call it, a millionaire's family. (Too bad I didn't think of earning the millions first!) Anyway, my oldest son has always been the difficult one to deal with. I can take the other three together on their worst days and it wouldn't equal my son on a mediocre day. I don't mean to say this to compare my children for good or bad, it just is. I knew things were wrong with my son very early on. For the past few years I have explained to doctors that he had delays since he was 3 or 4 years old, but in looking back at his medical records - you can see where I was questioning the doctors about serious delays or behaviors before he was even a year old. I just know that things started getting really bad by around age 4. And sadly, I couldn't get medical professionals to believe me or take me seriously. My son, at 4 years old, would throw horrible screaming fits, and threaten to kill himself. As a parent, hearing that from such a small child, it was like having nothing I had ever experienced. It was literally as if someone cut me open and ripped my insides out. I started questioning everything. I called the doctor, again they didn't believe me. I would have to hold my son down to keep him from hurting himself when he got into his tantrums. He would claw himself, try to bang his head against things. I was there alone, with two other children. My husband was out to sea at the time with the Navy. When it got to be too much I would call my mother to come help me. She was astounded by my son's behavior, too.
There's another side to my son, though. He can be a bright shinning person when he wants to be. He charms the pants off of all the adults he meets. This is what made it difficult for me to get those medical professionals to believe me. It wasn't until my son started school and had a regular teacher throughout the year that I finally had someone else recognize that things weren't right. My son's teacher asked me one day about his behaviors at home. We sat and talked, and I explained to her everything that we had been going through for years. I explained how the doctors just sort of brushed me off because he was always good for them. This one woman - I owe her so much - she started the ball rolling on testing.
My son was in second grade by the time this happened. So much time had passed, where he could have gotten help. Where I could have gotten help in understanding how to better deal with him. I don't know whether to say luckily or unluckily here - but in any case - I had been working with my son on small things like eye contact, and other people's feelings. One of the "signs/symptoms" of Autism/Aspergers is not being able to make proper eye contact. Well, every time my son would talk to me or I needed to talk to him, I would have to grab his face and make him look at me. I did this for years, until we got to the point where I could just tell him "look at me" and he would. Yes, years. It takes years to train behaviors that come natural to people without this disability. Anyway, I say luckily, because I was inadvertently doing something that doctors would later train us to do anyway. And unluckily, because it made his diagnosis that much harder. It took a lot of explaining to doctors, that yes, we have had to train him to do that. Eventually, the public school system was to thank for my son's diagnosis. Although, it would still be a few more years before my son received any therapy or treatments. Why? The military doctors who we were shuffled through did nothing. I am normally one to praise military doctors, but in the case of my son, they let us down. While living in Key West, I don't think my son ever saw the same doctor twice. Try having to explain over and over again what the problem is, only to have different people tell you each time, oh, well, have you tried this? YES, as a matter of fact, I have! Doctor #4 asked me to try that, and Doctor #3 before him, and #2 before that. I felt as though I was beating my head against a brick wall. And sometimes, I think that may have been more effective.
Anyway, by the time he was in 4th grade and we had moved back to North Carolina, I again had a teacher approach me about my son's issues. He pushed the school to do more testing. They called in people from the TEACCH facility in Greenville, NC. They did a comprehensive analysis and changed my son's diagnosis from one of Aspergers to high functioning Autism plus learning disabilities in writing and math. What did the change from Aspergers to High Functioning Autism mean? Not a whole lot. They are basically the same thing. It all falls under the Autism Spectrum Umbrella (which is quite large). I also had an appointment made with a local therapist to do another round of private testing. When that was done, I was told he had PDD/NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified), also under the spectrum umbrella. Along with PDD/NOS was a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (by now, my son was trying to run away every time we told him no about something and he was refusing to do anything we told him), mood disorder (possibly bi-polar), and learning disabilities, again in writing and math. The day of our last testing session my son got violent with my oldest daughter, going so far as grabbing a steak knife off the kitchen counter and threatening her with it. I had to wrestle the knife out of his hand, drag him to the car, and take him to the therapist. She wasn't concerned about this behavior. She simply finished up her testing, told us he would need to start some medicines for his behaviors, but that we needed to see a different doctor for that, and told us to have a good day. Are you a little freaked out by that? I know I was.
At that point, I didn't know what to do. I took my son to his school and sat down and cried to his guidance counselor about what was going on. She gave me some options, and told me that if it had been my younger daughter that he threatened, she would have called social services to have him removed from the home, but because it was my older daughter, she could take care of herself. Disturbing? You betcha! So, since we couldn't get anyone to help us we made the tough decision of sending my son to live with his grandparents until we could get him in to yet another doctor to try to get something done, medication, therapy, etc.
His living with my parents lasted all of a month and he was throwing tantrums, running away, and everything he had been doing with us. So, I went to pick him back up and brought him home. I took him straight to the pediatrician, explained what had been going on, AGAIN, and begged her to help us. Finally, we had a doctor who would listen. She got him set to be hospitalized for evaluation so medications could be started.
After a week he came home, on new medicine, and he was a different boy - for a while.
The second part of this blog will be posted tomorrow... find out which medicines helped, which didn't, and where we are with treatment today...
*A note - for the record - I am sharing my family's experience, because I hope that it at least has the potential to help someone else. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to giving these kids a decent chance at a semi-normal life. My son is locked out of a lot of treatment options now because of his age. This too, has to stop! Kids don't stop having Autism or other issues because they grow older - in fact - those issues can be compounded by age, hormones, etc. It is my hope that one day, things will change. I know they have already gotten so much better for the younger kids, but the system seems to be forgetting the older ones still! In the state of South Carolina a parent can get help with special therapy for their kids (play therapy/occupational therapies - help is needed because many insurances won't cover these things, despite the fact that they are essential), unfortunately there is an early age cutoff for this help. My question is why?
If you should ever happen upon me and notice that far off look in my eye, you should know that I am in my own little world. When I don't answer you, it's not because I am being rude (at least not intentionally) or that I am deaf, or blind, or anything else. The truth of the matter is, most days, when I do wonder out in public, my mind is somewhere else. The world around me is a giant playground, a coloring book, and it's just waiting for me to make it brighter. I can look at the quirky lady in the line ahead of me at the grocery store and I suddenly see before me a fairy princess who has been abandoned by her people because her left ear is slightly smaller than her right and fairies simply can not abide by that heinous imperfection. I don't mean to stare, but a brilliant little story has jut begun to take shape in my head and I can't seem to snap out of the image quickly enough.
I've had parents try to wave at me or even speak to me while I wait for the kids at the school. I don't mean to ignore them either. Usually I have my ipod in, listening to music. I do this to help me focus, because otherwise those same parents would soon find themselves as characters in stories that just pop into my head.
I'm not like that all the time. I have quiet moments in my head too. If I am ignoring you during a quiet moment, you have my apologies, I was actually probably reveling in the fact that pink and purple elephants weren't carting Princess Migrania to her own knew home after they nearly wiped out all the Fabrician people. Her elephants eat men, of course, so ... damn! So much for quiet moments. See how easily I can be pulled into my own imagination?
I'm actually not that bad, but I can seriously make a story up on a dime just because I am bored, and generally when I am left to my own devices that is exactly what I am up to. If you see me just standing around with that far away glimmer in my eyes, start checking the bushes for unicorns or faeries. On second thought, you may want to duck and cover before some creeply crawly creature sinks its fangs into you. Chances are, I am conjuring them up from my imagination to put down in my computer the minute I can get back to it.
This is the strangeness of me. Welcome to the life of a fantasy writer! Now, back away slowly, and hope you never see me in line at the local Walmart! :D