Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Deep Ellum TX

The covers for Deep Ellum Pawn, Deep Ellum Blues, and a portrait of G. S. Norwood and her dog Kata, by Chaz Kemp.

Why I Admire G. S. Norwood

Please indulge me while I explain why I admire G. S. Norwood. Her new story releases today. Deep Ellum Blues provides a marvelous addition to her growing “Deep Ellum” stories collection. Read our post on The Weird Blog, and consider buying her stories!

Full disclosure: if you’re new to “Artdog Adventures” you may not know that G. is my sister. She and I co-founded the fledgling small press Weird Sisters Publising LLC.

The cover for “Deep Ellum Blues”
Deep Ellum Blues cover art © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

Making Deep Ellum Blues happen

The ebook goes live via Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited today. I recognize that some of my readers resist buying anything from Amazon. Yeah, I get it. However, KU (via both page-reads and sales) offers better ways to maximize income from short fiction such as G.’s individual “Deep Ellum” stories.

Never fear. Once the fourth planned “Deep Ellum” story releases, we mean to collect all of them into one combined volume, and publish that collection “wide.” Both ebook and a print version, available everywhere. And, since G. has a BFA in theater and is a masterful dramatic reader, excellent audio options await in the future.

Others also Admire G. S. Norwood

Other authors also offer an appreciation of G. S. Norwood. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough read the two finished “Deep Ellum” novelettes and told us they’re “some of the best stories I’ve ever read!”

Author Bradley Denton (whose musical alter ego is “Bland Lemon Denton”) wrote in more depth. He said, “G.S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Blues takes the classic notion of “a deal with the Devil” and joyfully twists it sideways into a story that celebrates integrity, dedication, and artistry.

“The Blues have long been said to have more than a passing acquaintance with demonic power, and the tale of Mudcat Randall (and the immortal Miss Eddy’s concern for his fate) stems from that tradition. But Deep Ellum Blues reaches beyond the old stories to reveal that the true power of the Blues is rooted not in darkness and damnation, but in redemption and light.

“And along the way, it pays tribute to all the great artists whose songs have always, in truth, made the same point. Somewhere, Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker are smiling.”

The frustrating years

I take special joy in helping G. bring her stories to new and expanding audiences. That’s because I admire G. S. Norwood’s writing. Only her critique partners knew what a great writer she is until last November. We published Deep Ellum Pawn, the first of the “Deep Ellum” stories, around her birthday.

Like me, she spent a goodly chunk of the 1980s and 1990s balancing other work, writing when she could, and attempting to get traditionally published. Her supportive writer-husband Warren C. Norwood began making more money in the late ’90s. At his urging, she quit to give writing a full-time try. She finished several novels, but none of them sold.

I loved her books, and many editors did, too–but one thing or another always held them back. They would be hard to market. Her romances didn’t quite fit the formula they were looking for (at the time, romance novels dominated much of the market).

I always figured they didn’t sell because romance was the wrong niche. But what did I know? Her writing career seemed to end when Warren died. It was devastating, wrenching, and it forced her to find full-time work again.

The cover for Deep Ellum Pawn
Deep Ellum Pawn cover art © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.

A new opportunity

More than a decade later, we’re selling her stories in a different way. She wrote the first draft of Deep Ellum Pawn in 2017. Then as far as I know she put it in a drawer and didn’t look at it again till after I fumbled and bumbled What’s Bred in the Bone into print.

In between her demanding concert and behind-the-scenes schedule with The Dallas Winds (she’s Head of Concert Operations), she refined it into something we could publish. We really lucked out finding Chaz Kemp to do her covers.

That first story didn’t exactly turn into a bestseller. But there’s something awesome about being a published author. Especially with a story people out there in the world actually like and buy. Yes, indeed. Time to take another stab at a writing career!

A growing body of work

She definitely couldn’t yet give up her day job! But she’s been working on a delightful first-in-an-intended-series mystery novel (working title: “Sunshine and Ray”). She paused it to write Deep Ellum Blues, and then developed concepts for two more “Deep Ellum” stories.

Covid-19 lockdown put a serious crimp in the concert schedule. But it’s given G. more time to write. To my delight, she recently dusted off one of those “not-to-formula” romances and gave it an overhaul. I just got a polished new update of the last novel she finished before Warren’s death in 2005.

What’s next?

The novel, Wrong Way Riley, tells the story of a young woman determined to live her own life, despite intense pressure to be something she’s not. This book is no longer trying to be a romance novel (although the main character does enjoy one steamy romance), and it’s all the stronger for it.

If you’ve read G.’s “Deep Ellum” stories, you’ve noticed a strong music theme. Riley stays true to that trend. It’s deeply steeped in Texas folk music (we might get more setlists).

The covers for Deep Ellum Pawn, Deep Ellum Blues, and a portrait of G. S. Norwood and her dog Kata, by Chaz Kemp.
All artwork is © by Chaz Kemp. Be courteous. Re-post or reblog with an attribution and link back to this post and Chaz Kemp.

More will admire G. S. Norwood in the future

All of this means the fun and the discovery has only just begun. Much as I admire G. S. Norwood I could only offer a glimpse of what she has in store next.

She finished several other “failed romances” back in the 1990s. Those wonderful stories–and the “Route 66 novel” she hasn’t yet finished–deserve to be updated and read and loved.

My little sister has a powerful voice. I can’t wait to help her reveal it.

Collaborative vision: Creating a cover for Deep Ellum Blues

Creating the cover for Deep Ellum Blues called for collaborative vision. G.S. Norwood’s latest novelette is set for release on Amazon September 30, 2020.

To visually represent it, we needed a cover with something old, something new, and something recognizably magical. In pursuit of that, G., cover artist Chaz Kemp, and I blended ideas from three different creative viewpoints.

The cover for “Deep Ellum Blues” depicts a pivotal moment in the story, featuring Miz Eddy, Nick, and between them Mudcat, who is playing his guitar. The novelette by G. S. Norwood should be available from Weird Sisters Publishing on Amazon, starting September 30, 2020.
From Weird Sisters Publishing LLC: Cover art for Deep Ellum Blues © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

The cover of a book has to do a lot of things all at once, and it has to do them at a very small size. Amazon sure isn’t making its thumbnails any bigger than it has to, as you may have noticed. I’ve written other “how we made this cover” posts for Deep Ellum Pawn and The Other Side of Fear.

The cover must catch a prospective reader’s eye. Telegraph the genre. Offer a glimpse of a hint of the story that makes our ideal reader curious, and ideally it makes them want to click to find out more. And when it’s part of a series, it also has share identifying characteristics that make it look like it belongs in that series.

I’ll take these out of order, but here’s how we tried to satisfy each one.

A glimpse of a hint of the story

Stories are why we read fiction. If the cover offers an effective tease about the story within, most readers will want to know more. The difficulty lies in the tease. A cover that gives the whole story away is no fun. A cover that’s merely puzzling can be a turn-off. So we have to strike a balance.

At Weird Sisters, we respect artists’ vision. Rather than hand an artist a short description of what we think should be on the cover, we prefer that the artist read the story first (we’re even willing to pay extra for the time this takes). Artists, especially those who’ve designed covers in the past, often come up with great, graphically striking ideas that we haven’t even thought of.

Even if the first idea doesn’t quite nail it—and they almost never do—it offers a place to start. It’s all part of developing a collaborative vision.

For this project, we worked again with the talented Colorado artist Chaz Kemp. He created the cover for the first story, Deep Ellum Pawn. He already knows and has developed a portrayal for Miz Eddy, the main character. And we greatly value his willingness to work with our ideas as well as his own.

Chaz’s first idea had a white background, and portrayed the character Mudcat with his guitar, while an ethereal-looking Miz Eddy looked on.
Artwork © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

Chaz’s first suggestion focused on a pivotal moment in the story. I wasn’t sure it quite expressed what we wanted it to, and G. worried that it gave away too much (should I have included a spoiler alert?). But we both agreed he’d hit on an excellent moment to dramatize.

Portraying Miz Eddy and the others

Chaz already had developed a strong character image for Miz Eddy Weekes on the first cover. She’s a strong, no-nonsense character with a blend of ethnic roots. Her strength came through clearly on the first cover, but in the scene we wanted to target she’d be facing an adversary, the recurring character we met in Deep Ellum Pawn as Nick.

The portrayal of Miz Eddy went through eight different changes before we settled on a version we liked. Sometimes a collaborative vision takes a while. Here’s a lineup of all eight.
Artwork © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

We went through a sequence of ideas to develop a body position and facial expression that we all agreed worked best for the scene.

We followed similar procedures with the other characters. Nick and Mudcat have specific traits that a good character portrayal can communicate. In Mudcat’s case, he also had to have one special, very specific guitar, which is clearly identified in the story.

A passionate music lover wrote this story, and it shows. People of any musical understanding can enjoy it, but it’s got a lot of cool “inside stuff” for other music lovers. Especially those who love the Blues. With good reference material from G., Chaz gave us the exact-right guitar. For those who know the Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum, TX, and its history, the background offers yet more authenticity.

Eye-catching, genre-specific, and series-consistent

For the first releases of the Deep Ellum novelettes, we’re publishing in Kindle Unlimited. They’re short enough to belong in Kindle’s “90-minute Science Fiction and Fantasy” category, but a paperback turned out to be impractical for something as small as a novelette (when the fourth one’s done, we’ll publish an omnibus edition to multiple platforms, as both ebook and paperback).

But that means the cover has to be eye-catching, even in a postage-stamp size. And it needs to be understandable, even in black and white—since some ebook readers don’t do color. We started out early, testing for “readability” in black and white. The way to achieve that is by using contrast.

Artwork © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

Our primary source of contrast is also an element that conveys “magic.” So is the difference in scale between Miz Eddy, Nick, and Mudcat. This story is technically urban fantasy or occult fantasy by category. We needed to make the magic an easy-to-see element.

Finally, to make it clear this is part of a series, Chaz used the same type font, angle, and positions for the title and the author’s name on both covers. We also used the same kind of frame element around the edges.

From Weird Sisters Publishing LLC, cover art for Deep Ellum Pawn © 2019 by Chaz Kemp. Cover art for Deep Ellum Blues © 2020 by Chaz Kemp.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this description of how G., Chaz, and I developed our collaborative vision for the cover of Deep Ellum Blues. I’ve written other “how we made this cover” posts for Deep Ellum Pawn and The Other Side of Fear, if you’d also like to see them.

IMAGE CREDITS

All of the artwork in this post is by Chaz Kemp. The cover and working images for Deep Ellum Blues are all ©2020 by Chaz Kemp. The cover of Deep Ellum Pawn is ©2019 by Chaz Kemp. All rights reserved, but it’s fair use if these images are used as commentary, and this post, Chaz Kemp, and Weird Sisters Publishing are identified and credited. Don’t forget to add hyperlinks to the sources included.

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