Personal Development by @AngelaStevens13

Lately, I have been focusing on personal development in my art work, expanding my skills, and really trying to extend myself. I invested heavily in some amazing tutorials and the payoff has been phenomenal. I am now exploring much more complicated scenes and am finally coming to grips with digital painting and overpainting, which I have been wanting to learn for years. Here is my first ‘painted from scratch’ effort.

Ladybug Angela Stevens
It’s no Rembrandt, but I’m loving it! And the added bonus is that my personal development quest is keeping me sane during a major writing slump. 

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

The lack of motivation and inspiration for my writing started as a niggle, manifesting as fewer words per day, then missed writing days, which turned into missed writing weeks, and now sadly, missed writing months! I no longer wake up, grab my laptop, and start writing before I have had my first cup of tea. It’s frustrating and I’m not sure how to make it come back. I started to beat myself up over it, and even made myself sit at the computer and stare at the screen for hours on end. ‘I don’t believe in writer’s block; this is a discipline thing,’ I said to my apathetic self, but shaming didn’t help either. 

So, I tried distraction in the form of digital art tutorials. If I couldn’t be creative in one way, then perhaps I could in another. What do they say, every cloud has a silver lining? Or was it more about, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Either way, I shifted my mindset. ‘I can’t write’ became ‘I am taking a break to work on personal development.’ 

It still sucked that I was not putting pen to paper, but I was being kinder to myself, and it convinced my internal demons that I wasn’t wasting time.

Just When I Wasn’t Looking

A few weeks ago, I was looking at the book covers on a fantasy series of mine that has been out a while. It is under my Sadie Collins pen name, and book 1, The Wolf You Feed, was the second book I ever wrote. I have always wanted to have more illustrative covers for this series, so as part of my writing procrastination personal development, I decided to finally tackle this and create new art work for the books. The plan was to let my imagination run wild and create a scene out of each book.

Here is the one I created for the first book. It depicts Tore, the central character, meeting with his father, the old school, austere, Lycan clan leader.

Personal Development Angela Stevens
Boy did I have fun! I spent way too much time on these, but in my defense, there are 6 books in total in the series, and then two boxed sets, so almost two weeks building each of the core scenes wasn’t so bad. They look so pretty, and I’ve finally uploaded them to Amazon! 

Vargr Clan Series

A Glimmer of Hope

While creating these scenes, I remembered that a couple of years ago, I’d started a seventh book for the series. Deadlines for other books, and a heavier emphasis on my romance stories, meant the book was pushed aside and forgotten. Curiosity got the better of me and I dug it out of my files. Maybe there was enough there for a short story that I could put on my website.

I was surprised to find that I had 50 thousand words. Hmm, not a short story then. Honestly, I was astounded that I had put the thing away with so much of it written. Before I knew it, the day had passed and I’d read through the whole lot. Then something happened… I began typing. A couple of days later, I had written a new chapter. It was like pulling teeth, slow and painful, and I really didn’t want to do it, but it was a chapter. A few days after that there were several more chapters. 

I’m proud to say, I finished the story… all 82 thousand words of it.

It was not plain sailing; in fact, it was quite the struggle. I really had to push myself to get there, and I can’t say I enjoyed the process. There was a lot of deleting, a fair bit of soul searching, and more than once, I stared at the blank page for hours on end before giving up for the day. But I did finish, and I am now knee-deep in the editing process. 

My writing slump isn’t over yet, far from it. I still can’t get myself to start something new, but I have finished drafting this book, and I have set myself a deadline to get it published. The pre-order goes live Sept 1st, so I have to get all the editing done. It is a glimmer of hope, and I am calling that a win–albeit a tiny one.
  

Blood Ties Angela Stevens

Learned A New Skill

This last book is called Blood Ties, and the opening scene involves my skinwalker warriors hunting an escaped mishipeshu, a mythical creature that is part panther with dragon scales on its back. It has a serpent-like tail and a mane of black feathers, oh… and horns. A kind of Heinz 57 type creature. Needless to say, Deposit Photos was decidedly lacking in photographs of such animals. Okay, no problem.  I could create my own fantastical creature. I am tickled pink how well it turned out. Below is the mishipeshu that appears on book 7’s cover.

Mishipeshu Angela Stevens

So the moral of the story? Personal development is not writing procrastination; it is exercising my creativity, and it’s well worth the investment. It might not have rid me of my writer’s block, but I am one step closer to finding my way back. I’m just hoping the second step comes soon.

How I Accidentally Became A Book Cover Designer by @AngelaStevens13

An accidental book cover designer? Why, yes. Some would say I have a track record of accidentally doing things. I accidentally became an author because I was confined to barracks during a huge house renovation. Then, I accidentally became a props and costume designer – amazing what you can do when you need 40 costumes for a school play. I am also an accidental cat lady, baker, and accidental installer of vinyl planking–but none of those earn me money. So, when I accidentally became a book cover designer, it was on-brand.

Actually, way back when I was heading off to college, I would have loved to go into this career, the trouble is, it hadn’t been invented yet–least not in the format in which I now do it. I also wasn’t very artistic, or creative, and book covers generally weren’t something I even noticed had been designed.

When I started writing, I had no idea about the author industry, nor the skills I’d needed to get my books on a shelf for people to read. If I had, I probably would have quit before I started. Bizarrely, my first hurdle was not writing the book, it was how to make a pretty cover. Even back then, when I was just writing for Wattpad, cover design was pretty essential.

Because I had no idea where to get one, I made one…in Power Point.

Oh No She Didn't

It was truly awful. Beyond awful. So awful, I cannot possibly show it to you. My second attempt was a billion times better, but just a stock image with a title thrown on top. In my head, I had good ideas, but sadly no skills to execute them. The cover for my Vargr Clan fantasy series had me stumped so I called in reinforcements. My daughter put it together (She’s the one with the Art degree). It turned out great, and realizing her mistake, she decided to teach me a few Photoshop skills to avoid having to make more covers for me.

Photoshop was a challenge. I took two steps forward, and five back. A graphic designer would have turned in their grave at my work arounds, but despite the crazy way I butchered the craft, the end results weren’t too horrendous.

The Accidental Book Cover Designer

As writing production stepped up, so did my need for covers. I trolled the markets, studying the trends in my genre to get ideas and accidentally, stumbled into one pretty important aspect cover designing; genres had expectations, color schemes, and typesetting conventions. Then, I became obsessed with fonts, and developed an unhealthily large collection of them. Apparently, that is a prerequisite, too.

Book Cover Designer

Somehow, my covers ended up pretty decent, and a couple of author friends who started out at the same time as me, asked if I could make them covers, too. We swapped skills, they beta read for me, or taught me how to set up a website–things like that, and in exchange I made them a cover.

Then one day, I accidentally became a cover designer when someone I didn’t know, asked how much I charged to make covers.

ME: What? People will pay me for this?

ME: “Huh, does $20 sound ok?”

What to Charge?

Of course, I had no idea what to charge, but I had fun doing the cover and they were very happy. After that, I had a brilliant idea. If I could sell a handful of covers a year, for say, $50 each, it would offset my editing costs!

So, I did. The accidental cover designer was born! And I finally learned how to price my covers properly.

After I discovered an awesome FB group where you could sell covers, I decided to get serious. I invest in some Photoshop courses. I was particularly jealous of designers in there who did amazing fantasy covers. They created magic, and worlds, and glorious painted hair. So, for the last year and a half, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of courses, and cried a whole bunch of frustrated tears.

I’m no longer an accidental cover designer. The business is now fully fledged. I even have a website! Last year, I made almost as much from designing than from selling my books–despite having the best book selling year I ever had!

Cover design may not have been what I went to school for, and it certainly wasn’t part of my teaching career. Maybe it was a midlife crisis, or latent superpower, but either way, I now call myself an author and cover designer.

Steam Punk

I made this piece of artwork this week. I even learned how to make a time-lapse of the layers just so I could show the process to you. This piece won’t become a cover, it is part of my personal art, focusing on building worlds from scratch.

 

You can find examples and premade cover designs by me at Catspyjamasdesign.com

You can check out my books at https://www.amazon.com/Angela-Stevens/e/B00KHTERZI