Two Things I Never Knew I’d Fall in Love With

I was thinking the other day about certain things I’ve done in the past year or two that are very “new” and different for me as a writer.

~Writing song lyrics for my musician sister
~Working with my artist sister-in-law on creating a new book cover

Both of these things were never really things I had thought about much before. Sure, I’d written poetry before, and I’d thought that eventually all my books would need covers… but neither of these was high on my list of “things I’d love to do.”

Well, these are now both on my list of “things I LOVE to do.”


Because writing music and creating a piece of art are both things that I have no talent for. I can’t write music. I can’t even make up convincing tunes for my 2 year old when she asks me to “sing the milk song” … a song that, as far as I know, doesn’t exist, so I have to make up on the fly music and lyrics for it. This is generally a huge hit with her, but I am intelligent enough to realize that is only because I am her Mommy.

And yet, it is really fun to be a part of both, even if only in small ways. I discovered a year or two ago, that one of the most amazing things in the world is to write a set of lyrics for my sister and then get that set of lyrics back from her on a CD in a beautiful melody, sung in her gorgeous voice, accompanied by various instruments.

What I write is just a poem. What she creates with those words is Music.

With the cover of my book. I gave Angelina a general description of the image I had in my head for the cover. “Guy standing with his back to us, holding a sword. Mountains. Clouds. A dragon somewhere.” (ok, I gave her a few more details than that… but not many).

What she painted for me was a masterpiece. An amazingly beautiful, intricately detailed image that looked like she had snipped it neatly out of my imagination and placed it on the canvas.

What I had in my head was just an image. What she created from that image was Art.

And although I’m certain I’m not the easiest person to work with (because, 1) we live 2700 miles apart, and 2) we’ve gotten into the teeny tiny nit-picky details of font color, and logo placement…) I hope she knows I am only nit-picky about THOSE details because I don’t want anything to detract from the painting behind the title.

~ jenelle

Meet the Team Tuesday: Derek

There would definitely be no writing done in this house if I did not have my husband on my team. Not only does he encourage me to keep writing, challenge me to write new things, and generally support all my dreams of someday being a well-known author… he also helps me with certain technical details in my stories that aren’t always my strong suit.
For example, in the midst of all this publishing craziness (recovering, rewriting, and republishing King’s Warrior), he has been creating a new world for me to write about. About 6 years ago, Derek started creating a map and a history for a new fantasy world called Aelon Ere. After much persuading on his part, I finally agreed to write a story for this world. I had hesitated to jump in and write the story, because I didn’t want to write it “wrong”… you know, since the world/history was his creation to begin with. But he finally convinced me that he had no interest in writing a story, he just enjoyed working on the technical details (the map, the history, and brainstorming with me about what the story should be about, etc).
Derek is my “idea guy” – on a vacation we took into the mountains of Tennessee, we spent most of the drive discussing/brainstorming about what story I should write in the world of Aelon Ere. During that conversation, the history of the world underwent some drastic changes, and the story I could write began to unfold. I have learned from him the importance of getting a fresh set of eyes (or a fresh brain) to work on a problem. He also helps me out with things like battle strategy, and sketching out vehicles/technology (if any exist in a particular world).
I know that I couldn’t write without my husband’s support. I am so thankful for his encouragement and his enthusiasm for what I do, and for how he challenges me to grow and become better at my craft.

~ jenelle

Meet the Team Tuesday: Angelina

Apparently I need to do a better job taking pictures of people by themselves, most of my pictures have multiple people in them.

Anyway, today’s meet the team post is about my cover artist! This gal is just so talented! I can’t wait to post pictures of the finished cover (coming soon!!!) I asked her if she would be willing to design a new cover for my books back around Christmas of 2010, and was so delighted when she said she’d be interested in that.

Over Christmas, I mentioned liking Alan Lee’s stuff he did for The Lord of the Rings, so she taught herself how to watercolor and painted me a superb cover for my book. (I really didn’t mean she had to use watercolor, as I have no understanding of/preference for art mediums, but that’s the sort of attention to detail she puts into her work). The time-consuming part lately has been adding the text and getting the colors/fonts to go well with the colors of the painting. Also, she sometimes forgets to put her name on the back (e.g. “cover art by…”) and I have to tell her that it’s important to me that she gets credit. :) Especially since I. Cannot. Draw. Really, just ask any of my former students, they’ll tell you something about how Mrs. Schmidt can’t even draw convincing stick figures. So the cover is DEFINITELY not something I could ever create for myself!

I really just cannot wait to show you the new cover. The original cover was awesome, but there’s something about knowing that this cover was hand-painted specifically for my book that is just priceless. And the best part of all this is, Angelina is my sister-in-law! :) So not only do I love her because she’s talented and willing to design my cover-art, but I also love her because she’s my sister! Having a supportive family is by far one of the most important aspects of my writing process.

~ jenelle

Featured Artist Friday: Meg Self

Today’s Featured Artist is Megan Self. She has a business called “Paint by Letters” and the link there will take you to her facebook page. She is super talented, and I am happy to call her my friend. She did a set of letters for my daughter’s room, and they are simply precious, I’ve included pictures of them at the end of this post.

1. When and why did you start painting?  I have always been artsy and decided on a whim freshman year of college to try painting.  I took one art class in high school, but other than that I’m self taught.  I learned early on that painting people and animals were beyond my talent level, so I started painting natural landscapes.
2.  What is your favorite medium for creating art?  I’ve dabbled in it all, from drawing to clay to photography, but painting is probably my favorite medium.
3.  Is your family artistic?  All the artistic talent must be in my family’s left hands.  The left-handed people are artistic, the righties, not so much.  My sister Jill first taught me to draw people in profile when I was in junior high.  My aunt Carol has done lots of painting.  My mom can do everything and always encouraged my artistic side.
4.  Which famous artists do you admire?  I try to appreciate all art, but I love realism the most.  Sure, that red dot and green drips may represent “The Inhumanity of Society,” but all I see is a red dot and green drips.
5.  What are your fondest art-related memories?  As a child, my parents encouraged me, so their walls and refrigerator door were my first “galleries.”  
In my ninth grade art class, we had to create an editorial cartoon for a News & Observer contest, and I won first prize for the state.  It was about the new graduated driver’s license laws, well, new at the time.
I painted wooden letters for my niece-to-be, Addison, and gave them to my sister at her baby shower.  Two people approached me that day to paint letters for them, which is what first made me think I could sell my artwork.
6.  Who are your favorite artists?  Wow, I’m not sure I have a favorite artist.  I appreciate that Pablo Picasso never grew stagnant with his art.  He didn’t say, “Hey, I like painting women with their mouths where their eyes should be.  I guess I’ll do this for the rest of my life.”  He sculpted, painted, sketched — he did it all.
7. Do you display your art?  When I began painting landscapes, I gave them away to my family members.  Many of them still have my canvases displayed.  Now that I paint letters for children’s rooms, my art is displayed all over, even in Jenelle’s house!
8.  What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?  Keep experimenting until you find something you love.  I tried a little bit of everything until I found my niche painting letters for rooms.
9. How often and for how long do you practice?  Being a full-time teacher and painter on the side, I don’t really have time to practice.  I experiment and push myself with every project that I create.
10.  What inspires you to paint?  It’s a great creative outlet for me.  When I go long periods without creating, I feel antsy, like the art wants to escape from me and I need find some way to let it out!  I find lots of inspiration from my clients’ ideas and opinions, as well as room themes.  I have the desire to create, and they give me some specifics to help reel me back in.
11. Describe your process for completing a work of art.  When someone asks me to paint letters for them, I sketch out the letters and decide on a color scheme and patterns for each letter.  During the summers, I try to work on the letters in large chunks of time, often finishing in one day.  During the school year, my projects are a bit more disjointed, working on them when I can find an hour or two.  Though I sketch and plan before starting, my plans often change as I’m working.  
12. What is the best part about art?  For the most part, my clientele are ordering letters for a newborn.  This means that I’m creating something for one of the greatest joys in someone’s life.  Often, it’s the first thing in the nursery with the baby’s name on it.  They’re so excited, so happy, and I like to think I had a part in that.
13.  What is the hardest thing about art?  Because I am self-taught, sometimes I have to compromise my artistic vision to accommodate for my level of artistic talent.  The product still looks good, but in my head, I can see what it could have been.  That’s tough.
For Leiana’s letters, I asked Megan to do a “characters from Leiana’s favorite books and movies” theme. I knew basically what she would be painting, but I had no idea how beautiful they were going to be!

~ jenelle