On Twitter yesterday, NK Jemisin said:
My immediate reaction was, “OMG, yes!” This is what I’ve been wanting. Permission to stop struggling to accomplish things every day. Permission to let go and not worry and not feel sad and scared. Permission to just kill monsters. Or build farms or take care of gardens or whatever non-real simulation thing I want to do. Permission to wander around Pandaria, my favorite land in World of Warcraft, if that is what I want to do.
Writing has been impossible lately. My imagination is broken. I have no stories left. NaNoWriMo starts in two days and first I was planning to finish one of the multiple novels I have underway. But they’re all stuck for a reason: I don’t know what happens next in them. Then I thought I’d start something new and fresh — it’s always easier to begin something than it is to persist through a murky middle. But I don’t have any ideas. Nothing fun is happening in my daydreams.
Next I thought maybe I’d just write fanfiction of my own books — scenes and short stories with characters I already know, no worrying about plot, just character and dialogue and moments in time. I even for a brief moment had Maggie and Max in my head, with Maggie getting annoyed at Max in December 2019, when he provides her with blueprints of a diner renovation that would improve all the little annoyances in her kitchen. How can she shut down for the three months it would take to get that work done? she demands, but he grimaces and suggests she schedule it for the spring. Yay, an idea! But that’s all it was, an idea of that one moment and it didn’t lead me to anything else.
The usual writing advice is just to persist. Keep thinking about it, keep sitting down at the computer, keep opening up the file and staring at the blank page. But I fill my blank pages with endless ruminations about my failures as a parent, what it means to have been so wrong about a relationship. To believe it was one thing — love and affection and appreciation of one another, a firm belief in the other person’s value and worth as a human being, the very definition of family — only to discover that all that appreciation was a one-way street. That while I thought my son was fantastic and interesting, he thought I was condescending and annoying and not even worth reaching out to when the world was burning down. When I called him from the desert, sick and scared and crying, and he didn’t call me back… well.
Can I tell you how much these ruminations do NOT serve me? They don’t serve me. I’m trying very hard — very, very, very hard — to stay out of that black hole, which means that I delete those words and close that file and move on to other things.
I am tempted, of course, to do that very thing right now. (In fact, I did, for about an hour.) Writing words and sharing them, even in the form of a blog that only a few people read, means accepting that other people will judge those words and, of course, the person behind them. Are you going to think I’m a bad mother? Are you going to think I’m over-sensitive? Do I need to care? A helpful friend this summer told me I was co-dependent for hurting so much and I should get help. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to imagine how that felt. Fortunately for my state of mind, around the same time the Best Sister-in-Law Ever (married to the Best Brother Ever) sent me the Best Email Ever. So you, oh, reader, can feel free to judge me for my over-sensitivity and my wallowing; I can pretty much guarantee that your judgement won’t be as harsh as my own anyway.
What does all this have to do with cover design? Well, I was eager to accept the internet’s granted permission to play video games. I truly was! Yay, video games! I actually started downloading WoW again, so I could go take care of my farm in Pandaria. But back in August, shortly after I posted my Daughter of Flame cover, I decided that my graphic design education needed a focus. My daily drawings (never actually daily) were entertaining but it didn’t feel like they were getting me anywhere, and I don’t have nearly enough book projects to keep me learning design via my own stories. So I made up a project, or rather, a series of them. I found a random title generator on the internet, generated a bunch of titles, and started making covers to go with those titles.
This is that project to date:
And this bring us to today. Am I going to create a cover today? Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just going to play video games, the internet having given me permission to grieve for my son and my country and our world in whatever way gets me through the day.
But I am also going to pat myself on the back and acknowledge the shine I deserve for having created this portfolio of mostly lousy, sometimes great work in the past two months. I am halfway through my list of titles: I don’t want to stop now. Despite the temptation of video games and escapes from reality, I’m looking forward to what I’ll be able to do and how much I’ll know by the time I reach the end of my list. (Although I’m willing to bet the very last one will be either Gnome of Time, Nymphs And Foes, or the aforementioned Dogs and Goblins, none of which strike me as particularly good titles. I guess that’s the peril of a random title generator.)
Meanwhile, I’ve actually started another cover design project, which is maybe going to turn into something I share with other people some day? I got tired of re-inventing the wheel typographically. I like playing with fonts but I also wanted to create some cheat sheets for myself of fonts that look good together, specifically for book covers as opposed to web sites, and that are also genre-appropriate for given genres. The last two covers in my list are actually part of those genre tests. I’ve got multiple versions of Crown’s Power using all kinds of different fonts, most of which I rejected, while Chasing Destiny was my Roboto test. I used Roboto for the title (with some playing around with tracking and leading) and then tried out approximately nine or ten other fonts for the author name and tag line before settling on versions of Roboto.
My notes say:
Roboto – Available on Google fonts. Roboto was designed for Android and is sort of a mix of styles; a rounded san serif that feels straightforward and simple. Per Wikipedia, Google was aiming for “modern, yet approachable” and initial reviews were mixed. But it’s everywhere and has the kind of clean lines that could easily work on a science-fiction or modern tech cover. (It might also work on contemporary romance if it was a geeky romance.) Because it’s used on interfaces (Android, Switch), it feels familiar. I’d say it’s not a noticeable font, but possibly a good choice for a cover where you want the art to stand out more than the type treatment.
Pair with Lato, Josephin Sans, Rubik, or stick to a different weight of Roboto.
Note: this is NOT Roboto Slab, which is a serif font and which doesn’t work for me. It looks more typewriter than tech. One source suggested pairing Roboto and Roboto Slab, but while that might work for a web page, it doesn’t work at all for a book cover, IMO. The Slab would be better for blocks of text, rather than display.
See Chasing Destiny cover for Roboto example.
I’m going to try to do one font a day from a fairly lengthy list of fonts I generated by reading all the articles on “best fonts for book cover design” on the first couple pages of Google’s search results. I’m hoping to end up with five to seven sets per genre — enough that I have plenty of flexibility and choice but not so much that I feel consistently overwhelmed by the thousands of font combinations that are available. It doesn’t feel like information I should share on my blog — admit it, even if you’ve read this far, you skimmed that block of italicized text, didn’t you? — but maybe I’ll make a new blog for indie author cover design tips. Or maybe I’ll turn it into a tiny ebook or something. Or maybe I’ll just have it as a useful tool for my own future fun in cover design.
Meanwhile, if you need permission to make it through the next few weeks/months by playing video games all day, you hereby have my permission. And NK Jemisin’s permission and her therapist’s permission, too. Go forth and conquer Azeroth! Or Animal Crossing or wherever your gaming takes you. But please vote first. (Um, for Biden-Harris. If you’re planning on voting for this guy, you might be codependent and should consider seeking help.)