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Monica Valentinelli

Notes on Designing THE QUEEN OF CROWS

Posted on July 6, 2010 by Monica Valentinelli

FlamesRising.com is pleased to present you with the design notes for THE QUEEN OF CROWS, which is available at DriveThruHorror.com. This unique e-book was designed by Monica Valentinelli. In addition to her work here at FlamesRising.com, Monica is also an author and game designer who specializes in the horror and dark fantasy genres.

For more information about this project, be sure to visit VioletWar.com or Monica’s blog located at www.mlvwrites.com.

I wish I could tell you that the story behind THE QUEEN OF CROWS is a long and sordid tale filled with heartache, sorrow and vengeance, but it’s not. The idea began with a spark of inspiration when I was redesigning www.violetwar.com. You see, I felt that the novel I had been working on was broken and needed to be revised as time allowed. However, I also felt that that wasn’t good enough for the readers who have become enamored with this setting. I wanted to offer something for people to buy to get a glimpse of this world and get a sample of my work, too.

Admittedly, I was a bit freaked out by my idea. One of the primary goals I have for the myths in my world, is to not be exclusive to one particular ethnic background or another. You will find elements of different world myths in my setting for a few reasons. One, unique cultures fascinate me and two, I would love it if my writing attracted people from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds. I hope I never end up as the type of writer who pens stereotypes or shallow remarks, even if it was unintentional. With THE QUEEN OF CROWS, I felt I had a secret that I wasn’t sure I wanted to share. The entire Violet War setting had evolved from a Native American character, who was created while I was catching up on my American history. The question I asked myself was: How do I present the story in a way that relates to my urban fantasy setting without angering people in real life?

I decided that the best approach was an honest one. The very first thing I did was to finish telling the story I wanted to tell. Then, I tapped into the talents of layout artist and editor, Shari Hill, and the supremely-talented illustrator Leanne Buckley. Together, we collaborated using a combination of online-and-offline tools to add some shape to the rest of the concept. Leanne helped me understand what I wanted Mahochepi to look like, and how her appearance fit into my story and the rest of the e-book. Shari worked with me on putting the pieces together and forced me to consider how I wanted all the different pieces to be presented to the reader. Did I want pull quotes? How did we want the images to appear? In the midst of these questions, I put together a table of contents that highlighted the process behind my writing in order to offer some new information for readers who had been following my progress in this world.

In addition to the design efforts of our team, we did encounter some technical challenges that we are still working through. You see, I come from the land of tabletop RPG e-books, where anything is possible in a PDF format. Neither myself nor Shari had any idea that the concept we put together would be difficult to translate to other e-book formats. That design aspect was a hard lesson to learn. If I had known how difficult it was to render quality images on an e-reader, like Leanne’s full-page/full-color character illustration, I probably would have started out with something less complex. Though, I’m not sure I would have been as happy with the results as I am now.

Between the quality of the images and the content, we worked very hard to justify the $4.99 price tag. That quality is something that’s extremely important to all of us, and that’s part of the reason why the e-book is currently only available at DriveThruHorror.com. There have been quite a few behind-the-scenes discussions about what’s next for this setting and what my plans are for VioletWar.com. People have been asking for the ability to have a print copy; I’m also getting ready to release a promotional trailer. Additionally, I’m writing journal entries on the site when I can, because I want to share with you the journey that I’m taking.

So far, the response to THE QUEEN OF CROWS e-book has been extraordinarily positive. Garnering several positive reviews, I’m thrilled that people have pointed out the unique design behind the product and the enjoyable reading experience that they had. You might have heard the saying, “Content is king!” In my mind, the reader wears the crown. For that, I am grateful for the positive response and am definitely looking ahead to what’s next.

For all these reasons and more, I hope you will consider either checking out THE QUEEN OF CROWS, or recommending it to someone you know.

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