Archive for July, 2011

Dear Mr. Potter – a letter from me

Posted July 20, 2011 By Jennifer

Dear Mr. Potter,

Yes, it’s a little strange that you should be the receiver of this letter, and letters like it, considering you’re not a living being. However, we (all of us who are writing such letters) are more than willing to suspend disbelief and embrace the strange from time to time, aren’t we?

For my part, I want to thank you for being a little spark of brilliance that would not fade from Jo’s amazingly creative mind. I want to thank you for sharing your friendships and fears with me and my friends. I want to thank you for not being the perfect, flawless hero. Instead you were the boy who did his best, every day, to accomplish something incredible and important, despite his imperfections.

Your story also created a path for so many others to tell fascinating, inspiring stories. Stories of bravery and a little bit of luck. Stories about the importance of friendship and family. And stories about doing what’s right, even when it’s not easy. The feats of wizards and witches, faeries and elves, the basic battle of good vs. evil… these are all timeless tales. But somehow you shared your story in such a way that it became new again. The lovely, lovely thing is that it will remain new, even for those of us who’ve been on the journey with you, as we share it with others.

Because of the Harry Potter series, I have things in my life that are real, and invaluable. I have The HPA, and the knowledge of all that can be accomplished through the sheer determination of people with love in their hearts. I have wizard rock, and the chance to dance around my house singing about nargles and teenage werewolves when I need to step away from the crazy of the “real world” for a while. I have my Hogwarts house tie.

I’ve also got some amazing, amazing people in my life who, like me, grew with you and your story, and who found common ground in the experience. Some I knew from the start, and some I met at conventions or online. People who are now very dear friends, who make my life so much better because of the things we’ve shared, and the way we support and encourage each other.

I can’t say that your story “changed” my life, I was already in my mid 20′s when your adventures began, but I can say that it enriched it. It gave me something that was at the same time very familiar and comforting, and completely extraordinary. Your story stretched my imagination. I can say, without a doubt, that I am better for knowing you.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Potter. Thank you for being that spark of brilliance in Jo’s mind, and for becoming a spark to cherish and share in my life.

Jennifer M. ~ 37 ~ Gryffindor

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It’s here… the day Harry Potter fans have been waiting for, and dreading, for the last decade or so. Tonight, thousands of us will gather to watch the final, breath-taking showdown between Harry and Voldemort. It marks an end to a media franchise that has made, and broken, records in both the literary and movie worlds. However, there are many of us who are feeling it in an entirely different way.

We have Wizard Rock, we have Leaky Con, we have Finding Hogwarts, we have Harry, A History, we have The Harry Potter Alliance, and we have Dear Mr. Potter. We have these things, and so many others like them, because Harry Potter brought together readers, and turned them into friends. I was in my early 20’s when I started reading Harry Potter. It was a fun, quick read for the first few books. Great characters, interesting adventures, and a world that I would have loved to be a part of. The books, as Harry got older, got progressively more intense, and more meaningful. They were still filled with amazing characters, and their adventures were still fascinating, but there was also a “bigger than the story on the page” feeling about them. Even though the books were all about wizards and magic in the traditional sense, there were basic “muggle” aspects to the story. Things like true, unwavering friendships and doing what’s right, even when it’s not easy. Things like helping those who aren’t in a position to help themselves and valuing the amazing things that make us all different and unique. There is a community of incredible people who’ve grown up with Harry. Whether you started reading when you were 11, or 20 something (like me), the fandom welcomes you in, turns up The Remus Lupins, passes you a butterbeer, and it feels like home.

Dear Mr. Potter is a collection of letters, anecdotes and pictures from people who’ve shared the journey with Harry and his friends. It’s funny, and touching, and heartbreaking, and heartwarming. It’s a goodbye to some parts of the phenomenon, and a renewed pledge to the things that will live on long after the big screen is finished with the story. It’s a thank you to those who, whether they began as words on a page, or were responsible for bringing those words to life, changed us for the better. (Click the cover picture below for a very cool sneak peek into the book.)

I have to say, honestly, that I haven’t finished reading the whole book. I’ve skimmed through a lot of it, read some amazing letters, and laughed at some fantastic pictures. I’ve cried and cried, and loved every minute of it. But I’ve only got so many boxes of tissues in my house, and I can’t buy more until I get paid tomorrow. The submissions for the book came from the Dear Mr. Potter blogsite, asking for letters from fans about their experiences. Editor Lily Zalon and her staff of volunteers selected and compiled posts and created a book. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Dear Mr. Potter will be donated to The Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit organization involved in using the themes found in the Harry Potter books to do good works in the “muggle” world. Almost 3,000 copies of the book were pre-ordered before it’s July 1st release. J K Rowland and many members of the film cast have received copies (including Dan, Rupert, Evanna, and others). Jo and Rupert even signed copies to be used in giveaways and raffles at events.

Most of the letters included are from average readers like you and me, saying things like…

“To me, the real magic is the way you’ve opened my mind.” – Lauren C.

“When Harry got his letter from Hogwarts, I wondered what it’d be like to get a letter of my own someday. When Harry had his first kiss, it wasn’t long until I had mine. When Harry was learning to apparate, I was learning to drive. As I followed Harry on his journey, I was living my own.” – Ashley A.

“These aren’t characters to me, they’re friends. The scenes and settings are the places I see when I close my eyes. The stories are my daydreams. And the author is my hero.” – Rebekah P.

“The last two years have revolved around my health. I was diagnosed with kidney failure shortly before Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out. … The Harry Potter books have given me a goal. They have given me a reason to fight for something when all else seemed hopeless, and something to look forward to when recovery seemed slow, but successful. Thank you, Mr. Potter. I don’t think I can properly express how grateful I am that I had you to turn to during the dark times, as well as the good.” – J.D.S.

but here are a few sentiments from names you might recognize…

“You’ve given me gifts, Mr. Potter, so real and lasting that I can’t even really think of you as a fictional character anymore. Like so many other fans, I will carry you with me throughout my life — thinking of you not as a made-up character, but as an uncommonly generous friend.” – John Green (author)

“[To Luna,] Meeting them [other actors on set] ultimately lowered all the barriers I’d built between me and my dreams and made me realise that, with hard work and dedication, I could be just as capable of accomplishing things my heroes have done, and similarly, Harry potter fans are easily capable of doing what I’ve done. … At the end of this, all I really want to say is: Thank you for bringing me to this place where I finally feel I can fit in for standing out.” – Evanna Lynch (actress)

Back in May, when I first heard about Dear Mr. Potter, I asked editor Lily Zalon a few questions about the creation of the book.

Obviously you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, but what specifically prompted you to start this project?

A variety of things. First, of course, I had the idea. Nothing really prompted it but it came to me and I ran with it. It evolved a lot between then and now, I really never expected it to get this big. A lot of the reason I decided to actually do it had to do with personal stuff; I’ve always been a massive Harry Potter fan but I’ve never been really involved in the fandom, and I felt like I really needed that community last year when I started it. I’m glad I did, it’s incredible group of people to be part of.

How did you end up partnered with the Harry Potter Alliance? Or was that something you wanted to do from the beginning?

There were a lot of mostly unsuccessful communication attempts between me and the HPA, we actually only got really involved together when I e-mailed Andrew Slack himself. I always wanted to work with them. They’ve been incredible, I’m so amazed by what they do and I’m really glad to be able to work with them so closely. It’s hugely beneficial to the project to have a relationship with them rather than just give them the book’s proceeds — it’s because of Andrew we got Evanna Lynch, Melissa Anelli, and John Green to contribute.

I understand that Dear Mr. Potter isn’t affiliated with J K Rowling, or WB, but does Jo at least know about the project? Has she commented at all that you know of?

No, we haven’t gotten any comments from Jo, although we have sent the manuscript to her agency so there’s a small chance she’s heard about it in passing. We have every intention of sending her a finished copy of the book, I would absolutely die if she said anything about it. **Since this, we’ve confirmed that she does INDEED know about the book, and signed a few copies to use as prizes at LeakyCon, a Harry Potter convention being held in Orlando this week.**

What did you hope to accomplish with the creation of this book? Was it something personal for you, or did you have a bigger picture in mind for it?

These things rarely start out with a bigger picture, that has to evolve. It was never personal, exactly, it was just a cool idea I had that meant a lot to me and that I hoped could mean a lot to other people. I have people telling me all the time now that Dear Mr. Potter has really inspired or helped them, and I had no way of knowing that’d happen, but it’s the best feeling ever.

What was the submission process like? How did you decide what letters to include? I noticed that there’s a tumblr page for additional letters, is there any chance for a volume 2?

I actually started the project as a Tumblr blog. We posted everything and my staff (about twenty people) and I went through for weeks and picked the best stuff. The letters in the book were the ones that truly stood out to us, that we thought would evoke emotion from our readers. All the letters we got were incredible but some were laugh-out-loud funny, or heartbreaking, or inspiring above most of the others. Those are the ones that ended up in the book. And I’m not saying no to a volume 2, but I really wouldn’t count on it — I’m exhausted.

People have the chance to donate and help cover the cost of printing the book. How is that coming along? How close are you to having production costs covered?

Our printing costs are offset at 1,400 copies sold and our graphic designer at another 400. Unfortunately we didn’t raise much with donations, but we’re at around 1,000 copies now and have yet to do our big PR push. It was a concern for a while, the idea that we might not manage to offset the costs, but we’re very close and aren’t worried anymore. **As I said above, the presale orders were close to 3000 by the release date. So costs were covered, and the donation amount to The HPA is growing!**

How many books do you anticipate printing? Is there a chance that you’ll sell out, or will it be a continuous process?

We’re printing 5,000 books, and come July, there’s a definite possibility that we’ll sell out. We’ve sold 1,000 copies with barely any PR, we’re still going strong, and to be honest, people aren’t sad about the “end of the era” yet. As soon as people start mourning the end of Potter, Dear Mr. Potter will look a lot more appealing. So yes, there’s definitely a chance we’ll sell out. Whether or not we’ll reprint after that depends entirely on the demand.

Dear Mr. Potter is essentially a goodbye to the story and the characters. Do you have plans to stay active in the Harry Potter fandom? Are you involved in any other projects for this, or any other fandom?

I really hope to! It’s been incredible to be involved with the fandom. I work very closely with the Wizarding Life networks (WL mag, WrockBox, Magic is Might, PotterCon) and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so. I’m actually hoping the HPA will hire me once Dear Mr. Potter wraps. I really want to keep working with them.

Next week, I’ll post part 2 of this feature, including my interview with HPA founder, Andrew Slack. I’ll also be posting my own Dear Mr. Potter letter and my thoughts on the final movie. And for the record… although I’m sure you all could guess… my rating of Dear Mr. Potter…

So… what would YOU say to Harry Potter? Or Ron, or Hermione, or Luna, or Neville, or Hagrid, or Dumbledore, or Jo? If you’d like to win a copy of Dear Mr. Potter: Stories of Love, Loss, and Magic, share YOUR Dear Mr. Potter letter in the comments below. It can be as long or as short as you feel is appropriate. I’ll randomly choose a winner on August 14th. If you’d like a second entry to win, submit your letter on the Dear Mr. Potter site, then post the link in the comments as confirmation. Please include your first name and email address on each comment so I can reach you if you win.

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Going UnderCOVER With Artist Tony Mauro

Posted July 6, 2011 By Jennifer

As readers, we rely on authors to create a story that will keep us interested, keep us engaged, and keep us coming back for more. But no matter how awesome the story may be, we won’t get to the first page if we don’t pick the book up off the shelf (or click on the link, for those of you so inclined). The “make or break” moment, when the book either catches the attention of the reader or not, falls on the shoulders of cover artists.

One of the most respected and recognizable cover artists in the UF and paranormal genres these days is Tony Mauro. You may have spotted a few of his more recent creations…


The cover of a book has to give an immediate snapshot of the feel and direction of the book. It has to be something that will not only attract your attention, but make you want to know more. The “more” is where the story comes in. Tony manages to pull it off in all his creations.

I’ve always been fascinated with fantasy art (my all time favorites are Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo, and Amy Brown), and I’ve come to really appreciate the artistry and skill required to create beautiful, effective book covers. Tony was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his inspiration and process.

How many projects do you generally have going at once? Do you have clients lined up, or do you have days or weeks with no deadlines?

I’m usually booked out for at least a month. I usually have 3 or 4 projects going on at one time. I’ll try and get all of the photoshoots out of the way at once and then break up the next couple weeks to actually create the artwork. I usually get 3 weeks to a month from my client to create a cover, so if I have 4 books to do in the next month I’ll block out 1 week for each piece so I can focus on one project at a time.

There are times of the year where I can go a week or 2 without a project but I’m usually so busy all year round that I welcome the breaks. You’ve got to learn to enjoy the down time when it’s there and not stress that the phone isn’t going to ring again.

Have you ever been working on a project and realized that you’re not getting the feel you want and have to redesign?

Sure, it happens. Sometimes you can have an image in your head and it just simply doesn’t come together when you try and build it on the computer.  There can be any number of reasons for this but the more time you spend fighting a design the less likely it will come together. It’s been my experience that the best designs usually come together pretty quick and just feel right through the whole process.

What kind of research do you do into the story of a book before you start a cover design? Do you read the whole book, or just get a summary?

The best case scenario is always to be able to read the entire book before starting a new project. I’ll have a notebook next to me while I’m reading and I’ll jot down little details about the characters or places that I think are relevant enough to be included on the cover. There can also be a moment in the story that hits you when you read it as a “cover moment”. Unfortunately I don’t always have the time to read the entire book so I will get a detailed synopsis or summary from the publisher that is usually enough to get you into the book enough to get a feel for the setting or character.

Can you show us a progression? Sketch concept – original photos – original compilation before artwork – stages of artwork – finished product.

I don’t have any full on progressions to show you because I’d need to save off jpegs as I’m building to show the progress but I can show you some before and afters to give you an idea of what I’m starting with.





Who are some of your favorite artists? (in any field or genre)

I have many favorites for many different reasons but the biggest influences for me are Norman Rockwell, JC Lyndecker, Brom and Boris Vallejo to name a few. I visited the Norman Rockwell museum a few years ago and was completely inspired by his ability to tell a story with such a simple image. The small details in his paintings are what tell the story and its incredible when you really take note of it. There are so many incredible artists out there. I’m constantly coming across new people that just blow me away with how they execute a concept.

Have you ever seen a cover or poster and said “I wish I had done that”? Can you tell us which one? What did you love about it?

I can’t think of anything off hand that I wish I did but I can tell you I’m usually drawn to the simple more iconic solutions. I’ve always liked clean, simple design. Less is more. For example from a design standpoint the Twilight series of book covers are really beautifully done.  I know how difficult it is to get a design that simple pushed through the approval process. More often than not the best pieces or the ones you are most proud of anyway end up on the cutting room floor.

Can you tell us about any of the projects you’re working on now?

I have several projects going on right now but unfortunately I can’t really talk about them. I try to stay very tight lipped about what’s on the drawing board because I work with several different publishers that are technically in competition with each other and I would never jeopardize those relationships by revealing a book that they have coming out before they are ready to do so. This is a left over reflex from working in the movie industry where everything in development was very secretive and all of the artists often had to sign confidentiality agreements holding them personally liable for any info or images that may get leaked to the public or the other studios as a result of their own negligence. I will send a jpeg to the models of the final product so that they can see it but I also remind them not to post the image online anywhere until the publisher releases the image.

Have you ever done a collaboration with another artist? If so, how did that process work? If not, is that something you would ever consider?

I haven’t ever done a collaboration before and I think most artists would tell you the same thing. It would have to be a really unique situation to get involved in something like that. I do all of my own photography so that is really the only place where I could see collaborating with someone. If there was a photographer that was really doing something unique and I wanted to start with one of their photos as my base to build off of then I could see doing something like that.

On the other hand I collaborate with an art director, editor and publisher  on each and every project. We discuss camera angles, colors, textures as well as marketing strategy and where this book will land in the market place. So while the art itself is entirely up to me the elements and over all feel of the piece is always a collaboration.

How do you decide on the models for your designs? Do you generally work with the same models over and over?

At the beginning of a project I usually get a detailed description of the main character to be depicted on the cover from the publisher/author. At that point I’ll start looking for a model that fits that description and that I feel can pull off the attitude that is necessary for that character. I do use the same models over and over simply because they’re very good at what they do and a good model can become any character they need to.

I’m sure you’ve noticed a lot of covers crop off the face of the models so I can get away with using the same models for different books because you won’t see their face on the book anyway. The reason for the cropping is we like to let the reader draw their own conclusion of what the main character looks like. I think when most people read a book they have someone in mind that they think the main character looks like. That is a huge part of the experience and you don’t to spoil the picture that readers imagination has created.

What kind of relationship do you generally have with the authors of books you create covers for?

You may be surprised to hear that I actually have very limited interaction with the authors themselves through the process. My main contact and more importantly the person responsible for hiring is me is the art director at the publishing house. I’ll often get an email from the author after the cover is complete letting me know that they were happy with the cover and to say thank you. That’s always really nice to hear because I know for myself I’m always hoping that I’m seeing the setting or the character the same way that the author is.

Many writers regret that they don’t have enough time to read once they become professional authors. Do you have time to create for yourself, just for fun? Or does all your available time go to your paid work?

I’ve always been a firm believer in always making time for personal work. As an artist you are always at risk of burning out on what you’re doing. I think having those side projects that are just for you, no client, no product to sell just art for arts sake are huge in keeping yourself from burning out. It’s funny that the answer to not burning out from work is by doing more work. For me that’s my fantasy art. I do it mainly on evenings and weekends and like I said earlier it’s the one time that I truly get to do what I want to do. I have a publisher that I put out a calendar with every year of my fantasy art. I’m on my 6th year of the calendar and it’s been a lot of fun because whenever something pops into my head or maybe even a book cover piece that didn’t get chosen for whatever reason comes along I can make it into a calendar piece and get it out there.

What a fantastic little peek into the world of a fantasy cover artist! Thank you, so much, to Tony for taking the time to chat about how he does things. You can see more of Tony’s artwork (book covers, posters, and fantasy art), and order prints HERE. And you can find him on Facebook HERE. If you have any questions about the anything above, or anything related to the craft at all, Tony will be stopping by a few times throughout the day to check for comments and questions. Ask away!!

So… here’s my question to all of you… what’s your favorite book cover lately?? Share a link in the comments below (or a small image), along with your name and email address, for a chance to win a Tony Mauro print of your choice!!! Winner will be announced tomorrow.

**** contest is over… Congratulations to Lisa! ****

Thank you all for entering!

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Author: Yasmine Galenorn
Other Books In Series: Night Myst (#1, available), Night Seeker (#3, coming 2012)
Format: MMPB, audio, ebook
Pages: 336
Original Release Date: July 5, 2011
ISBN #: 978-0425242049
FTC Disclaimer: Recieved ARC from author for the purpose of an honest review.

Well, ladies and gentlemen… she’s done it again. Somehow Yasmine can write a story darker and more twisted than anything I *think* I’ll enjoy, but manages to glue me to my seat through the whole thing.

Night Veil follows Cicely Waters and her small group of friends as they continue to struggle against the intrusion of Myst, the Queen of Winter and the ruler of the Indigo Court. As with any war, Cicely chooses allies, and indentifies her foes. Unfortunately, things are not black and white, and she comes to realize that some of those nearest to her have plans and agendas of their own.

The twists just keep coming in the story. Cicely’s history in New Forest becomes more clear, and her memories force her to change her perception of herself, and those she trusts. Her new understanding of things also stregthens other bonds, like those with her soulmate, Grieve. In her quest to save Grieve from Myst’s control, Cicely will make choices she never envisioned herself making, and will discover exactly who her true allies are.

Those of you who read my reviews know I’m usually wordier than this. And trust me, I’m DYING to chat with you all about this book, but I’m trying to be spoiler free here, and it’s SOOOO HARD!!! I love this series, I love these characters, and even though some of them make me cringe (um… CRAWL… ewww… heebie-jeebies), they also FORCE you to care about them. I found myself cheering for the small victories, almost in tears for the (very few) larger ones, and absolutely furious with those that betrayed their word.

If you’re looking for a book that will grab you by the collar and drag you along through the trenches in the battle of “mostly good” versus “unimaginable evil”, this is the one. This series is NOT your typical good guys fight the bad guys, the good guys win and all is better at the end kind of story (I like those, too). This is a story about people doing the best they can to protect those they love, making hard choices along the way, and living with the consequences. It’s not pretty, but it’s a fight worth fighting… a journey worth taking… and it’s a story worth reading.

CLICK HERE to check out the first chapter of Night Veil, and see Yasmine’s playlist.

If you’d like to win a copy of book 1 in the Indigo Court series, Night Myst, please leave a comment below with your first name, your email address, and the answer to the following question…

Put yourself in Cicely’s shoes for just a moment. She’s trying to save her friends, her town, and essentially the human world from the rise of Myst, the Winter Queen, and her army who have captured her soulmate Grieve. Cicely’s most powerful allies have warned her that she cannot save Grieve AND win the battle against Myst, that doing one, will jeopardize the other. If she goes after Grieve, she will put those near to her in peril, but if she focuses on the “big picture”, she’ll lose him to Myst’s control. What do YOU choose?? Do you risk your friends’ lives, and possibly the entire war, to rescue your love? Or do you put all your efforts into bringing down the Queen and hope there’s time to save him when it’s all said and done? It’s not as easy a choice as you might *want* to think it is.

One person who answers the question and leaves their info will be randomly chosen tomorrow to win a copy of Night Myst, and be introduced into Cicely’s world. I can’t wait to see your answers and hear your thoughts about both books! Feel free to leave questions or comments if you’ve already read Night Myst… and Good Luck!

**** contest has ended… Congratulations to Cathy!! ****

Thank you all for entering!

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.” – Albert Einstein

This 4th of July I hope we’re all able to recognize and celebrate the things in our lives that are great and inspiring. I hope you all take time to appreciate the the history that brought us to this point, and those who protect and defend us now.

One of the ways I’M celebrating… and the reason you’re all here… is by giving YOU the option of owning the fruits of someone’s labor in freedom. The winning commenter will be receiving their choice of book (up to $15) from the Book Depository. All you have to do to enter is tell me what book you want. That’s it!! (Subscribing to my blog is greatly appreciated, but never required for contest entry.) The comment below should include the name of the book you’d like as a prize, your first name, and your email address. I’ll be in touch with the winner (chosen at random) after the blog hop concludes on July 10th. (Open to anyone living anywhere the Book Depository ships.) I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone’s reading, and maybe finding a few new ideas for my TBR pile, lol.

And don’t forget to click on the pic below to check out all the other bloggers/authors participating in the hop… sooooo many cool places to visit and cool prizes to win!!

Good Luck, everyone… I hope you all have a safe, happy, memorable Independence Day!!

****contest is over and winner has been notified… will announce pending reply****

thank you to everyone who entered! see you next time!