Author Guest Post: Kelly Riad

Kelly Riad has joined us today in honor of The Queen of Arethane, the latest volume in her fantasy romance featuring Elves.

5235025About The Author:

 

Author of the Young Adult novels Always Me, Return to Arèthane and Prince of Arèthane.


Connect with the author:  
Website| Goodreads

 

guestpost

Book Covers 101

By Kelly Riad

We were all taught at a very young age to never judge a book by its cover.  It’s a good lesson if not hopelessly optimistic, one that strives for a world of fairness and acceptance.  It’s a lesson we could all remind ourselves of, from time to time.

As authors and readers though, we take that lesson and rip it up like an agent’s rejection letter.  Because we, of the minds that enjoy far away worlds and mysterious people, like pretty and shiny things.  We want to be captivated from the very first encounter.  We are of the new world of writers that are fishing in a vast ocean with others just like us, hoping for that reader who will take our bait.

So what makes a good book cover and how do we go about creating one for ourselves?

Yeah, I don’t know if I can really answer that first question.  A good book cover is subjective.  Who knows what will really strike the reader—a pair of eyes floating above a dark city skyline or a T-Rex silhouetted against a white backdrop?  See, subjective.  But a bad one is not, is it?  We all know the bad ones and we all tend to agree on them.  Those are the covers that look like they were created in MS Paint or even Word, itself, using WordArt and Clip Art.  Those are the covers that scream to readers, “Amateur!!”

If you’re a bit artsy and clever and have about three-thousand dollars at your disposal then you can purchase Photoshop and create your own covers.  I was able to afford their free 30-day trial and had a lot of fun for the few days I had left of my trial after spending the first three weeks watching countless “How-to” videos on YouTube.  It was a good idea, in theory.

Or you can hire a cover artist.  This process for me was a bit of a journey.  Already I was new to the self-publishing world, relying solely on Smashwords and Kindle forums to show me the way.  I had an idea in mind of what I wanted and that was professional.  I wanted something colorful and jazzy and original, but I wanted it to look like an expert had created it.   And so I began trolling blogs and writers’ groups for any recommendation.  I found a list of cover artists on Kindle’s writer forum and began the task of visiting each one’s site and browsing their galleries.  Some were really good.  Some were really bad.  The really good ones wanted a lot of money for their work and I had even considered paying it, contacting a few artists located in countries far away from Texas.

Then I stumbled on the artist I have now.  She was still from a country far away from Texas, but her gallery drew me in.  She had a blog and judging by the books she liked, I could tell our tastes were similar.  She was relatively new to the business, so her prices were affordable (downright criminally so compared to other artists of lesser value.)

And so we embarked on the journey to create my first cover.  She was patient with me, she let me reply, “Can you add some of those curly things?”  Or “Can you do the text in that sort of 3D kind of way?”  I did mention she was patient with me?  But the most important point aside from her being good was that she was willing to work with me.  It wasn’t a matter of, “$50 for every change you make.”

The outcome was the below cover.

unnamed

This is a YA paranormal story that taps into history and self-discovery in a sometimes macabre way and I felt she captured that quite well in the cover.

As I wrote more books and evolved as a writer, so did my cover artist.  She continued to work with me, allowing me the freedom of giving my input and it became a partnership.  Her business was growing, as were her skills in cover development and now, with what has arguably become my favorite (and most recent) cover, I’m completely reliant on her and don’t know what I would do without her.

unnamed (1)

I know that I probably “got lucky” in finding my artist and it may not be so easy for everyone.  But I think as long as you remember that you have the control, that you make the choice, and that you look for someone who will become a partner and not just some faceless service provider on the other end of an email, then you will enjoy success in your covers.

So dear reader and writer, what is it that you look for in a cover?  And what will you do to make the next one the cover we all judge as the book we’ll buy?

 

About The Book:

 


unnamed (1)The Queen of Arethane 
by Kelly Riad

It all ends here.

War has come to Arèthane. The land is divided. Jabari’s armies are on the move. The Royal Family is tortured by long-hidden secrets. And with Jarrad gone, Emily must learn how to cope on her own.

Can Queen Karawyn keep her country and her people from falling into the clutches of the evil wizard? Will Dafne solve the mystery of her birth? As Emily faces new struggles and old foes, once again the fa
te of Arèthane rests in her small hands.

And just like it began…

It all ends with a Door.

Find the book Online:

Book Excerpt

PROLOGUE: THE VOTES

 

Long ago¼

 

The gathering began at sunup.

Each major tribe stood represented by an elder or leader and a secondary council. The

council provided a resource of rational support considered invaluable by all elves except Malyr and the Svartalfa tribe, where protection and intimidation held more credence than guidance.

They all convened upon the Temple of the Ancients just south of Hemelstad.

Erected by the first elves after the Great Gathering when the god Frey took the moon

and the earth and created the light and dark elves, the temple was simply a large pavilion

made of twisty branches and vines. In its center a giant wisteria tree stood with flowers

ever showering down like a confetti canopy, small dots of color sprinkled across the grassy floor.

Benches formed a semicircle around it so no one would feel inferior to another. The

tumbling buds of pale purple acted as cover above as well as a curtain around them.

Standing behind his father, a young Aerath rested his hand on the hilt of his sword,

hoping he didn’t look as uneasy as he felt while shifting his weight to his other hip, his eyelids low over deceptively bored, grey eyes.

Apprehension filled the faces of the other elves and he knew his presence caused it. But their discomfort wasn’t the source of his.

That creeping discourse of impatience and anticipation—a foreign substance in his

veins—owed its source to the guest expected to join their meeting soon.

Waiting for her stirred his turmoil and kept him on edge.

Malyr and Aelrah occupied the bench in front of him, his father deadly still. Age-old

enemies watched them from across the space.

To Aerath, they were all enemies.

He had taken at least one loved-one from them at some point, acting out his father’s

orders with brutal precision and cold success.

By far the youngest among the group for now—he was hardly into his second phase,

still a gangly elfling—Aerath was yet the deadliest and had the reputation for it already.

The water elves, his own ancestors through his mother, sat across from them with cold disdain, represented by their leader, Neldor, and his second-in-command, Mourn. They

honored their race well with their piercing grey eyes and skin so pale it almost looked translucent.

Water elves had always been underestimated, their appearances making them seem

weak and vulnerable, but Aerath knew them to be a persistent and strong race, ones that

could take down a village in moments, much like the element from which they drew their power.

They had been the only group he hadn’t yet attacked, his father apparently still holding a soft spot for them due to Aerath’s mother being their kin.

But they made no eye contact with the dark elves and were known to align with the Liosalfa.

Allied to the Svartalfa were the mountain elves, rugged and hard. Their friendship had always been one of a shared necessity as they forged the weaponry used by all Svartalfa.

And yet Aerath had thinned their ranks when ordered as well—an alliance through dominance.

Joining the groups were forest elves, plains elves, wood elves and cave elves, each

individually ruled in their own right, but each looking for a political advantage from the meeting.

Aerath had always loathed politics.

Pandering for votes and alliances was not a method he employed.

Normally he would have argued with his father over having to attend the meeting. He

had argued over them before. Diplomacy was not a trait he or his brother shared with

their father—not that Malyr was ever diplomatic. But Aerath preferred to settle matters with the sharp edge of his sword; he’d been trained that way.

Only this time was different. He had another reason for attending and her arrival had just been announced.

The royal procession snaked through the group toward the only benches still vacant. Headed by members of the Royal Guard, their long, pale cloaks stirred up the fallen

flowers as they passed, swords gleaming in the morning light, their stony faces without expression.

Behind them came the wizard, Jabari, enfolded in a dark robe, his ever-present

spellbook resting in the crook of his arm. Light reflected off his spectacles, masking any hint of emotion or thought.

At his heels the king marched, his head high and regal, but on him the evidence lay of his struggles, his age.

Rumors among the dark elves and even the other non-elfish inhabitants of Arèthane

spread that the king had entered the Final Phase to become infinitely wise, but that

wisdom might have also driven him slightly mad. Many questioned his decisions of late, no more than the one that drew the crowd to the very meeting they attended.

But he passed Aerath without a sign of that madness now. Behind the king the air grew electric.

And then Aerath inhaled a sharp breath.

Hidden by her father’s height, Karawyn came into view as the group continued forward.

Aerath thought he felt his heart stop; never had another affected him the way she did.

Nerves burned through his body like a poison. At once, he felt more alive and near death; she always made him feel that way.

The young princess walked like a misplaced dream through the group of elves, her chin tilted slightly up, fearless and proud, the only elven among them.

The dark locks he had nervously ran through his trembling fingers just the night before were tied back in intricate braids, a few strands pulling free to dust lightly across her bare

shoulders and ivory skin.

Aerath closed his eyes, remembering how soft those shoulders had felt against his lips. Under the full moon the night before they had promised themselves to each other, he had promised to lay down his sword for her.

Feeling his brother’s eyes upon him, Aerath slid a sideways glance Aelrah’s way, catching a look of knowing and warning. Aerath ignored it.

The air seemed to buzz as she passed him, his body static in her presence, but she

continued on without so much as a glance his way or a crack in her porcelain countenance.

From beneath a fallen lock of his hair, Aerath frowned, instant doubts and insecurities plaguing him.

They were both young, too young, and in a precarious position with what they were,

who their fathers were, so they’d had to keep their relationship secret. But that didn’t stop

Aerath from worrying over how easily she managed to pretend as if she had never met him. Had not spent the night before wrapped up tightly in his arms.

How smoothly her act played while he thrummed with excitement over just seeing her again.

His joy submitting to anger, he scowled and forced his gaze to not follow her.

She was trailed by her brother, Prince Tahlam, Protector of the Six Provinces, which

would become Seven should the meeting go well for the King.

The prince was barely old enough to attend the meeting, much less protect anything, but already looked the part with his confident indifference. Not that the prince had ever been one to show his emotions, unlike his sister.

They were the sorceress’ magical offspring.

The third royal elfling, thought to belong to Circe as well, but possessing no such gifts

had been reasoned as just a late bloomer.

Only Aerath and a select few knew the dark truth. Karawyn and Tahlam were said to

have expressed their power from the moment they drew first breath—a tell, in itself.

Karawyn and Tahlam were already renowned for being gifted, that reputation setting some of the meeting’s attendants on edge. The elves were wary of the elflings’ powers and the little control they wielded over them.

No matter how much the realm at large adored them, especially the charming young prince, they regarded the two as one does a brilliant lightning storm—with caution and care, a sight to admire from a great distance.

The king rested on an empty bench, his heirs sitting together on another beside him while the wizard took his usual place standing at the king’s right.

“We call this meeting to order,” King Aubrey’s deep, even voice resonated across the

wide space. “This morning we discuss and decide on the fate of the dwarves in the upland mountains. For a great time they have bent to our will and toiled for our designs yet have

no land to call their own. Their history has long been entangled in our own and we owe

them independence. You know where I stand on this, it is your turn to discuss and

determine. Gaylen,” he focused his stern gaze on the leader of the wood elves, “we will

begin with your address.”

As the wood elf chief stood and shared his opinions for the dwarf independence, Aerath lost interest quickly, instead watching the princess.

She listened intently to the speech, her brow creasing and easing with each statement,

her expression passive.

Aerath hoped to will her eyes to him with his mind—just a quick look his way to show she thought of him, too. He knew this to be a lost cause; his love loved this game.

She had spoken at length to him the night before about her father’s efforts in securing

the votes to grant the dwarves independence. It had been a bag of tricks, playing one faction against the other, making promises and deals.

Her green eyes had been wide and excited as she spoke of what had been done, how her

father had utilized unknown players to broker the deals and even held secret meetings himself.

Aerath’s father was against the emancipation; he valued the dwarves’ abilities with iron and metalwork, had felt that with freedom, they would be less inclined to make weapons and goods for the elves.

Though elf steel was the sharpest and strongest in the land, it took too long to make. Dwarf iron was strong enough and came in abundance and in less time.

Aerath didn’t care about the dwarves, but secretly hoped for his father’s defeat. His paternal love was lost long ago when his mother died and Aerath turned into an attack dog for his father. He often found himself at odds with Malyr even while the elder elf tugged his leash.

But Aerath also feared what repercussions there would be, should his father lose this vote.

While Aerath continued to focus on Karawyn, the elf tribe leaders made their case without his father sharing his piece.

Malyr’s thoughts on the matter were well known and he had other leaders to speak for him.

The head of the Svartalfa glared at the king, the light elf on occasion offering him a brief glance.

Their discourse ran deep, longer than many could remember, when they were both

young and at opposite ends of life. Their encounters had at times turned violent, action ending particular strife.

They had long outgrown such heated public exchanges. For now, though the talks turned tense at times, it never escalated beyond that.

Finally the moment arrived to take the vote with the king recapping the support and the

disputes, with Aerath’s beloved casting her narrowed-eye gaze around the group, either mentally assessing or silently threatening any opposition.

In her search she offered him the briefest of glances, her eyes meeting his for a quick, passing moment before moving on, but her cheeks betrayed her guise and colored a pale rose.

Renewed happiness blossomed in Aerath’s chest.

The only thing to tear his gaze from her was when the votes were tallied and Malyr

abruptly stood up, storming out of the meeting before it was dismissed.

Happy reading until next time!
Lucy