Posts Tagged: Too RIch for a Bride

Mollie Kathleen Gortner: A Cripple Creek Woman

Mollie Kathleen Gortner GoldMineTours.com

The fascinating women of the 1800s were not dissimilar to you and I, even though their circumstances varied greatly and required extra doses of pluck. They loved and lost. They laughed and cried. They tried and failed. Many tried again and were victorious. Relationships and community mattered to them. Faith played an important role in their strength and resiliency.

Mollie Kathleen Gortner was one of those women in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Mollie Kathleen Gortner

Mollie Kathleen Gortner

In the spring of 1891, Mollie Kathleen’s son Perry left their home in Colorado Springs as a surveyor to map mining claims in Cripple Creek. All he talked about was the gold there. Wanting to see for herself what the fuss was all about, Mollie Kathleen loaded the family wagon with supplies and joined other wagons headed to Cripple Creek. She set up housekeeping in the log and canvas tent Perry had recently completed.

One day that September, Perry returned home from surveying with stories about seeing a huge herd of elk. Again, Mollie Kathleen decided to go out and see for herself. But she never made it up high enough to see the elk. When Mollie Kathleen stopped to rest, she looked downward and noticed an interesting rock formation winking at her. Pure gold laced in quartz. Having seen several prospectors in the area, Mollie Kathleen forced herself to remain calm and hid the ore sample in her clothing.

Consequently, Mrs. Mollie Kathleen Gortner became the first woman in the Cripple Creek District to discover gold and strike a claim in her own name.

MollyMine

Although Mollie Kathleen staked the claim and owned the mine, it was her son Perry who kept an office out at the Mollie Kathleen Mine. As soon as Mollie Kathleen would set foot on the mine site, the miners would scramble up out of the tunnels. Turns out they were a superstitious lot who refused to be caught in a one-thousand-foot vertical shaft with a woman on the grounds.

In each of the four Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek novels, readers meet at least one real-life woman from Cripple Creek history. I introduced Mary Claver Coleman, the Reverend Mother of the Sisters of Mercy, in Two Brides Too Many. In Too Rich for a Bride, business entrepreneur Mollie O’Bryan helped add layers to Ida Sinclair’s journey. Doctor Susan Anderson, known as Doc Susie, came alongside our cast of fictional characters in The Bride Wore Blue. Mollie Kathleen Gortner is the primary real-life woman in Twice a Bride. Like the women in the previous stories, Mollie Kathleen’s portrayal in the story is a fictionalization.

I begin with fact—what I can learn about the woman from research. Then starting with what I know about “her story,” I figure out where her experience might intersect with my main characters in their story.

As a secondary character in Twice a Bride, Mollie Kathleen Gortner plays a pivotal role in Trenton Van Der Veer’s adjustment as a businessman in the Cripple Creek Mining District. Mollie Kathleen also serves as an inspiration to newcomer Willow Raines Peterson, a widow in search of a fresh start.

Mollie Kathleen Mine, Cripple Creek, Colorado

Mollie Kathleen Mine, Cripple Creek, Colorado

Fun Fact: The Mollie Kathleen Mine on the outskirt of Cripple Creek, Colorado is open to the public and offers underground tours into the 1,000 foot vertical mine shaft. See what life was like for the Old West hard rock miner. A fun and educational summer stop for families. For more information on the mine and the tour season, go to: http://www.goldminetours.com/goldminetours.com/Home.html.

Have you visited a mine? Gone into an underground mine? Which one?

© 2012 Mona Hodgson, Author and Speaker

All four Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek novels are also available for your eReader?

Research, Cookbooks, and Christmas Plum Pudding

PlumPudding[1]

Research can be many things: Fascinating, engaging, time-consuming, surprising, delightful. Even yummy.

If you’ve been reading The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek novels, you know Miss Hattie attends First Congregational Church in Cripple Creek, Colorado. In Two Brides Too Many, the Sinclair sisters began attending the church. By the end of Too Rich for a Bride, Ida’s husband Tucker Raines served as the church’s new pastor.

Photo Credit: Zarbo Delicatessen & Cafe

Photo Credit: Zarbo Delicatessen & Cafe

As part of my research for a series, I like to visit museums in my setting.

In those museums, I peruse any local books offered in the gift shop.

The Cripple Creek District Museum is one of my favorite hangouts when I’m in Cripple Creek.

Imagine my delight when I came across a red book titled:

Church History Cook Book
First Congregational Church
Cripple Creek, Colo.

The small, thin cook booklet actually lists the names and addresses of the cooks offering the recipes. But there’s more—the year(s) of the cook’s residence in Cripple Creek. The First Congregational Church of Cripple Creek existed for twenty years, spanning the late 1890’s, the time in which the Sinclair Sisters series is set. And now I have a collection of recipes used by women in that time and place. One of the reasons I enjoy researching a time period and setting, its culture and its people.

Since it is December and Christmas is upon us, I thought it would be fun to share three Christmas Plum Pudding recipes from the First Congregational Church cookbook published by the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Christmas pudding is a pudding that was traditionally served on Christmas Day (December 25). It originated in medieval England, and was best know as plum pudding in our Victorian era. Many families had a recipe handed down generation to generation. The early English Christmas pudding was boiled in a pudding cloth, and often presented as a rounded mound of pudding. Victorian tradition involved putting the batter into a basin and steaming it.

Christmas Plum Pudding

One cup currants
1 cup suet, chopped fine
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup sugar
1 cup seeded raisins
1 cup sour milk
1 level teaspoon soda
½ cup candied citron, sliced
1 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt.

Roll fruit in flour and add flour enough to make a stiff batter. Steam or boil four hours. Serve with a sauce.

Mrs. Philbrick, 1899

Christmas Plum Pudding

3 cups bread crumbs
2 ½ cups suet
2 cups sugar
1 lb raisins
3 cups currants
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmegs
1 teaspoon soda
3 cups buttermilk
Flour to thicken quite stiff
Boil four hours.

Dr. B. Murray, 1895

Christmas Plum Pudding

1 cup beef suit, chopped
2 cups bread crumbs
½ cup citron
1 cup English walnuts
1 cup seeded raisins
1 cup currants
1 pint of flour
4 eggs, well beaten
1 heaping cup sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 level teaspoon soda, dissolved in a little warm water

Mix fruit with some of the flour. Put eggs, sugar and salt into the milk and spices, add fruit bread crumbs and suet, then add soda and the rest of the flour. Mix thoroughly. Steam four hours.

Mrs. T. P. Connor, 1895

We’ll want a sauce to go with our pudding.  Favorites include cream, hard sauce, brandy butter, and golden sauce. I’ll share Miss Ella’s recipe for the latter.

Golden Sauce

½ cup butter and 1 cup sugar beaten to a cream. Add 3 egg yolks beaten light, then add the bell beaten whites. Lemon extract to taste. Place in a double boiler, stir till it thickens. Serve hot.  Miss Ella Hummer, 1894-1909

 

Have you ever eaten or made Plum Pudding?

What Family recipe are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

 

© 2012 Mona Hodgson, Author and Speaker

Endorsements for Sinclair Sisters Novels

sinclair-sisters-group[1]

The folks who write the enticing blurbs about a story for a book cover or a front page receive ARC’s (Advance Reader Copies) from a publisher to read ahead of a book’s release.

What a blessing it was to have so many well-respected authors read The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series and offer endorsements! Gargantuan Thank You’s to each one of the authors listed below for reading the stories. And, of course, I’m thrilled they enjoyed the books!

The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series (Waterbrook Press)

The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series (Waterbrook Press)

“Spunky sisters, mail-order brides, a mining town full of men…but where are the right ones! I was captivated from the first page!” ~Lauraine Snelling, author of The Red River Series and Daughters of Blessing

“A beautiful tale! Intriguing. Inviting. Inspiring.” ~Cindy Woodsmall, best-selling author of When the Soul Mends, The Bridge of Peace, and The Scent of Cherry Blossoms

“Mona Hodgson has done it again. With deft storytelling and characters that leap off the page, Too Rich for a Bride is a book I won’t soon forget.” ~Kathleen Y’Barbo, author of The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper and Anna Finch and the Hired Gun

Two Brides Too Many is one good book! Mona Hodgson sweeps the reader away with Sinclair sisters Nell and Kat an dnestles them in the majesty of Colorado, where a cast of characters eagerly await, to create a home. Hodgson leaves a tasty trail of breadcrumbs ready to lead us into the next story. Two more sisters…I can’t wait!” ~Allison Pittman, author of The Bridegrooms and Lilies in Moonlight

“Strong characters play out an intricately crafted story across a rich tapestry of setting. Not your usual mail-order bride story, and I loved the twists and turns. A real page-turner.” ~Lena Nelson Dooley, award-winning author of Wild Prairie Roses and Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico

“This is a story that lets us stand on the cusp of a great societal shift–the entrance of women into the business world…. Cripple Creek’s cast of colorful characters plays host to a new romance, as well as pulling back the curtain on a local family tragedy. This sequel revisits the characters we’ve already come to love and creates a complementary depth to an entertaining new tale.” ~Allison Pittman, author of Stealing Home and The Bridegrooms

“I love recommending this series when readers ask me who I read and what books I can rave about.” ~Lauraine Snelling, best-selling author of Valley of Dreams and the Blessing series

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOUR WHO WON A SINCLAIR SISTERS OF CRIPPLE CREEK NOVEL–Susan M, Linda M, GodBLessAmerica2, and Jasmine A!

 

  • Do you read book endorsements? Do endorsements influence you to purchase a book?

Make That 8 Sinclair Sisters Gift Ideas

fudge[1]

Can’t believe I’d forgotten #8 when I first made this list!

We all know books make great gifts. What makes an even better present? A themed gift package centered around a book. Since I’ve heard from a few folks who are gifting my Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek books this Christmas, I decided to add to the fun and put together seven gift package ideas that would compliment the series.

  1. A Checkers Game, a Sinclair Sisters favorite. I used a checkers tournament to first introduce the four Sinclair sisters in Two Brides Too Many.
  2. A Family Bible–like the one the Sinclair Family has, with pages for Family Records. Or simply a Bible that you can personalize for your sister, mom, daughter, or aunt. The Family Bible played a key role in Vivian Sinclair’s story in The Bride Wore Blue.
  3. First Congregational Church Cook Book with recipes from Cripple Creek folks at the time of the Sinclair Sisters series. Also, the First Congregational Church was Miss Hattie’s home church in Cripple Creek and where Tucker Raines from Too Rich for a Bride pastored.
  4. A camera (even just a good disposable one) in honor of Trenton Van Der Ver, the hero photographer in Twice a Bride.
  5. A journal, giving a nod to Kat Sinclair, who by the end of Two Brides Too Many has her first job as a “real” writer.
  6. A tin or box of tea. Peppermint was a Sinclair Sisters favorite, featured in Too RIch for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and in Twice a Bride. Camomille tea scented the parlor in Two Brides Too Many. Ginger tea was served in The Bride Wore Blue.
  7. Photo Credit: McFadden's Fabulous Fudge

    Photo Credit: McFadden’s Fabulous Fudge

    A copy of Harper’s Bazar, the magazine Kat Sinclair Cutshaw was writing for in Too Rich for a Bride. I had fun finding my copies of the magazine in antique stores and thrift shops.

  8. Fudge. Pecan fudge was a big deal in Cripple Creek in Twice a Bride.

You can purchase or order any of the four Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek novels from your favorite bookseller, but here are some links, for your convenience.

Amazon.com

Christianbook.com

What have you paired with a book in a gift package? Which book? What gift?

© 2012 Mona Hodgson, Author and Speaker

Bob’s Corner: Mining with a Steam Shovel

Bob Glen Eyrie

Howdy, and welcome back to Bob’s Corner!

Today, I thought we’d talk about another type of ore removal. Since a gold mine is normally thought of as a below-the-surface operation, we tend to think of mineshafts, elevators, and total darkness.

In reality, Cripple Creek District gold is just as likely to be found in surface material. Or, at least material that is easily collected at or near the surface. In Cripple Creek, the famous Molly Kathleen Mine, still in operation as a tourist attraction, began with a lump of Quartz found on the surface.

A lady named (are you ready for this?) Molly Kathleen Gortner went in search of the herd of elk her son had talked about. Stopping to rest, she looked at her feet and saw the rock. She knew enough about mining that if you found a piece of quartz that had shiny veins of gold running through it, you pick it up and stake a claim. She did, and soon became the richest woman in town.

The video shows a steam shovel (or bucket, depending on where you’re from) that was a tremendous improvement over backbreaking pick and shovel work of those early days in the 1890’s. It could be driven up to a hillside, and one person could move tons of material in no time. The equipment in the video is actually parked near the entrance to the Molly Kathleen Mine. From the looks of things, this steam shovel will still be there when you visit.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jQr4azp0qk&w=560&h=315]

 

The active mines in the area to this day have resorted to this Open Pit type of mining. There is no danger of cave-in or elevator malfunction. Modern techniques consist primarily of explosives to blast sections of rock, then mechanical shovels to load it into trucks that haul it to a crushing mill. It may take tons of ore to produce ounces of gold, but this keeps the expense down so the mine can actually be profitable.

What aspect of mining most fascinates you?

The Intersection of Reality and Character Experience

Sinclair-Sisters-Oct2nd

Intersection Sign

Many of my closest friends are liars.

Those friends may prefer the title storyteller extraordinaire. Tale-weavers. And whether the literary yarn they spin is set in an actual place or based upon real life events and historical characters, like me, they are authors of fiction.

As novelists, we have chosen to write fiction, not fact. But even so, is the story we weave truly and completely made up?

Not the best stories. All compelling fiction resonates with readers. Why?

The best stories are rich in truth.

Two Brides Too Many, Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and Twice a Bride

Two Brides Too Many, Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and Twice a Bride

In writing each of my historical novels, I try to create an honest story world, premise, and character journeys that provide a platform for emotional and spiritual truth that deepens the realness of my fiction. While I’m not telling my story in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek books, part of the authenticity comes at the points in which my life experiences—physical, spiritual, emotional, relational—intersect with my characters’ experiences.

Celebrating the completion of my debut series with the October release of Twice a Bride, I thought I’d offer you insight into a few of those intersections.

  • Like Ida, Kat, Nell, and Vivian Sinclair in Two Brides Too Many, Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and Twice a Bride, I am one of four sisters.
  • One of the sisters is a writer who, like me, began her career writing for a periodical.
  • I buried my father twenty-one years ago. Like me, one of my characters in Twice a Bride stands at a crossroads beside her father’s grave.
  • Our beloved Miss Hattie shares many of the amiable, mentoring characteristics of my dear friend and prayer partner, June Adams.
  • A character in Too Rich for a Bride was institutionalized with melancholia. Although the circumstances varied greatly, the grandmother my husband never knew was hospitalized with melancholia in the early 1900’s.
  • Like Deputy Carter Alwyn in The Bride Wore Blue, both my hubby and my father served in law enforcement and shared his compassionate and courageous stand for justice.
  • Before giving birth to my two daughters, I suffered two miscarriages. The circumstances and dynamics are not the same, but many of the emotions are, when one of the characters in Twice a Bride shares that experience.
  • Boney Hughes serves the series as a quirky sidekick and an unlikely mentor. Or is he a guardian angel? Mr. Boney shares many of my father’s Johnny-on-the-spot traits.
  • Like Willow in Twice a Bride, several of my family members have experienced a second chance for love and romance.

Even though my Cripple Creek tales weren’t formed in actual reality, my hope is that the setting and characters, action and themes, and my emotional investment as the writer, offer a tapestry of honesty that can make a work of fiction feel more real, at times, than life itself.

Thank you for joining me here. I so appreciate your interest in my historical fiction with WaterBrook Multnomah.

What do you enjoy most about reading fiction?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lKfEfKtofuI]

All four of the Sinclair Sisters novels are also available for eReaders?

Guest: Kelly Howard, Cover Artist for The Bride Wore Blue and Twice a Bride

Kelly

You’ve been raving about the covers for The Bride Wore Blue and Twice a Bride, and rightly so.

Do I have a fun surprise for you!

Kelly Howard
Senior Designer

Today’s guest isn’t an author. But as a Senior Designer at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Kelly Howard is a key member of my publishing team.

MONA: Kelly, thanks so much for joining us on Hindsight today. We’d like to hear about your journey as an artist. Who most influenced your pursuit of art?

KELLY: I was born in Buena Park, California as the second child in a family of four children. When I was four years old, my parents became missionaries to Taiwan. I lived there for seven years. While I was in the seventh grade, my mother was diagnosed with cance. We stayed in California while she sought treatment. Unfortunately, she passed away in my fourteenth year.

I spent a lot of my life in transition. We moved a lot and my interests changed as often as my circumstances did. As a child, my creative talents were mostly apparent in music. As soon as I was big enough to hop up on a piano seat, I could just play. My mother, who also played, was key in setting me up with lessons and finding places for me to play. When she passed away, I lost the motivation to keep working at music.

MONA: You definitely have many life experiences that feed into your art.

KELLY: I took my first art class in high school. The teacher saw talent and encouraged me to continue. I focused on fine art and even won a scholarship to an art school in Georgia. However, the tuition was ten times the amount of the scholarship, and seemed far too steep for a career in Fine Art. At the time, Commercial Art seemed too boxed in and intimidating. Ironically, I decided to become a hairstylist instead.

MONA: Yay for perceptive art teachers! Somehow it’s encouraging to hear about the circuitous routes other people have taken on their personal journeys.

KELLY: After about eight years as a hairstylist, I’d had enough of standing on my feet for long hours, working for people who expected miracles (My scissors did not have magical properties), and not using my artistic abilities to their full potential.

In search of something different, I went to Pikes Peak Community College and took the assessment tests that determined what type of Career would be good for me. According to the results, I should either be a graphic designer or a lab technician. I am notoriously clumsy and not very detail oriented. Clearly, Design was the better choice.

MONA: Wow, graphic designer or a lab technician? Those seem like polar opposites.

What education and training experience brought you to your current position at WaterBrook Multnomah?

The Bride Wore Blue (Before)

KELLY: I did a year at Pikes Peak Community College then landed a job with a photographer working as his sales associate and photo retouch specialist.

When I had progressed as far as I could at the photography studio, I took a job with WaterBrook as the administrative assistant to the Production and Art departments in hopes that it might turn into a design position in the future. The job was not creative at first but it was a foot in the door.

MONA: You’ve worked at WaterBrook Multnomah for eight years. How did you adanve from Administrative Assistant to Senior Designer?

KELLY: Mark Ford, my supervisor on the Art side, recognized my interest and talent for design. He encouraged me to try all aspects of the cover design process. He taught me everything I know. After designing my first cover, I was hooked.

Mark was very honest with me and told me that if I ever wanted the official title of Designer, I would need a degree. So I went back to school. This time I went to Colorado Technical University and received an Associates degree in Visual Communications.

I worked for about three years for both departments at WaterBrook as an assistant, went to night school full-time, and took on almost a full load of design projects. I even did my internship at Waterbrook with Mark Ford overseeing the process. When I turned in my portfolio, the Director of the Visual Communications Department was so impressed that she kept it to show as an example. I was lucky. Not many students are able to find on the job training with actual published projects, and with someone willing to mentor.

In 2006, we acquired Multnomah. In that year, I was promoted to designer full time under Mark Ford.

MONA: What is the mental and artistic process for designing the book cover for a novel?

The Bride Wore Blue

KELLY: We work a lot as a team here. We often joke that our covers are designed by a committee. I think that we balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We brainstorm a lot before we start our own individual processes. In our team of three, I am the only female. Because, I have an inside track to the female mind, I often work on a lot of the women’s fiction.

I start each project differently. Sometimes listing ideas on paper, sketching, or just searching online for images. But perhaps uniquely, I work from a place of emotion rather than from a specific starting point. When I played piano as a kid, I never knew exactly what I was going to play or how it would sound. My fingers moved on the keyboard based on what I was feeling. I design very much the same way. I am never sure where the notes will go. I just start playing until it comes together in something recognizable as a melody.

MONA: Wow…loved that imageery. You’re an artist, and a poet!

Kelly, what mediums are used most in cover design for today’s marketplace?

KELLY: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Quark are the key programs we work with. I also often use a Wacom tablet so that I can draw with a pen rather than a mouse. This helps me create more illustrative looks. And of late, I have been doing my own photography.

MONA: What is your typical focus when thinking about the imagery for a cover?

Twice a Bride (Before)

KELLY: The setting, character, and theme all work together to create a mood, so I don’t always focus on just one aspect. I often have just a feeling in mind, and I start searching and playing around until I see the mood I am looking for. I sometimes find stock photos that inspire me or will work for a portion of the whole image. Other times I focus on the character and the mood I want her to portray. I often prefer to photograph a model myself because when I am looking through the lens, I often find what I am looking for. It can be hard for me to explain to someone else what that is.

MONA: Kelly, you designed the covers for The Bride Wore Blue and Twice a Bride. What can you tell us about the design process for The Bride Wore Blue and/or Twice a Bride?

Twice a Bride
The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series

KELLY: For these covers, I found great images already created. One from a photographer in London (The Bride Wore Blue) and the other was a stock photo (Twice a Bride).

Both images were not exactly right, so I did a lot of manipulation in Photoshop. I used my Wacom tablet and painted on top of the photos to blend and paint the entire images to give them an illustrative quality. I often combine several elements into one finished cover. Twice a Bride had at least four images that I collaged, and then painted. See the before pieces attached.

MONA: What advice do you have for aspiring graphic designers and book cover artists?

KELLY: Be passionate and always keep searching. When you seek, the doors will eventually open but you have to keep looking.

MONA: Kelly, we so appreciate the time you’ve taken to give us a glimpse into your world of book cover design. Regardless of how well-written a book might be, a weak cover can keep it on shelves or warehouses. The careful work you do is critical. Thank you!

In closing, do you have a Bible verse that especially inspires you as an artist?

KELLY: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

Things have never turned out as I planned, but every road I have been down has led me to a unique place where God has been able to use my talents. Each experience has taught me something new that I have been able to use on the next path.

Click here to read Chapter One Excerpt, The Bride Wore Blue!

Click here to read Chapter One Excerpt, Twice a Bride!

What intrigued you most in Kelly’s journey or in learning about the design process for book covers?

Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek RECIPES

Sinclair-Sisters-Oct2nd

I read fiction for a variety of reasons: compelling characters, fascinating settings, appealing hypotheses, historical information, a sense of community, spiritual nourishment, encouragement, distraction, insight, entertainment.

Oh, yes, and the food. My favorite stories often feature teatime or mealtime conversations. It’s no wonder then that my Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek novels include dialogue centered around a supper table or a tray of goodies in a parlor.

Two Brides Too Many, Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and Twice a Bride

Two Brides Too Many, Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and Twice a Bride

I thought it’d be fun to celebrate the completion of the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series with three recipes from two of our beloved Cripple Creek women: Miss Hattie, the proprietor of Miss Hattie’s Boardinghouse, and Nell Sinclair Archer.

Miss Hattie’s Lemon Scones

Nell Sinclair Archer’s Peanut Cabbage Salad

Miss Hattie’s Vanilla Pound Cake with Berry Sauce

As Julia Child would’ve said, “Bon Appétit!”

Which recipe would you choose to make first?

 

If you do make one of the Sinclair Sisters Recipes, please take pictures and post them on Facebook–your page and mine at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Mona

 

 

 

Guest: Mark D. Ford, Artist for Two Brides Too Many Book Cover

two_brides 40

How much does a book cover factor into your reading choice?

It’s the first draw, right? (Forgive the artsy pun.)

Mark D. Ford, Senior Art Director
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Today’s guest isn’t an author. But as the Senior Art Director at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Mark D. Ford is a key member of my publishing team.

MONA: Mark, thanks so much for joining us on Hindsight today. We’d like to hear about your journey as an artist. Who most influenced your pursuit of art?

MARK: I was most inspired to be an artist by my father, a career Air Force officer. Although he was an administrator, he had a creative side. I loved to watch him sketch familiar cartoons. He even created a family logo and crest with our own motto: “Never Tease a Weasel.” The six of us kids were the weasels. I was the number three child–the rebellious one. Following my father’s lead, I’d draw cartoons endlessly, my favorite being Bugs Bunny. I even created my own comics.

Ironically, when it came time to choose a college path, my father directed me away from Art, toward a more serious degree—Business Administration. It may have been more about where a football scholarship would take me. With six kids in the family, I  needed the financial help to get through college. After graduating, without a clue what I wanted to do, I chose the excitment of the Air Force, and became a navigator in B-52 bombers. Six years later, unhappy with my career path, I left the Air Force to give a career in Art a chance.

About that time, I came across an article in Newsweek magazine, I believe. One of those “Top Ten Careers of the Next Decade” kind of articles. I read a profile of a guy who designed book covers for a living. I knew immediately that was it, and I enrolled in a local college for a degree in Graphic Design.

MONA: What training and/or experience brought you to your current position at WaterBrook Multnomah?

Out take from Two Brides Too Many photoshoot.

MARK: I was raising a young family, so I knocked out a degree quickly and landed my first design job at a scale manufacturing company. The scales you see in the supermarkets that weigh your fruits and veggies. I designed the scale dials, packaging, catalogs, and advertising.

MONA: Whew! What a relief to hear you were the designer for veggie scales, and not the kind doctors make us step on.

So . . . what happened next?

MARK: As soon as I could, I left there and found my first publishing job with a magazine that served the Christian marketplace. For five years, as I grew in my skillset, I watched thousands of products being pitched and presented in our magazines every month. Again, I was drawn to books. When a new publisher, WaterBrook Press moved to town, I jumped for a shot at a Designer position.

MONA: How long have you been with WaterBrook Multnomah?

Another Out Take
A box helped even out the models’ heights

MARK: I took the job offer as Senior Designer. Nine months later I became the Senior Art Director, running the Art Department. That was twelve years and several hundred books ago. Since then, we acquired another publisher, Multnomah Books, and together produce 70-100 frontlist books a year.

MONA: What is your artistic process for designing the book cover for a novel?

MARK: I enjoy the great variety of books for which we get to design covers. I would approach a nonfiction, self-help book much differently than an historical fiction title. And within fiction, a romance novel presents different challenges than a suspense thriller or YA (young adult) fantasy title.

Having said that, I still will often go to a sketch book and scrawl out a few quick ideas. Often, so sketchy only I could interpret it. Other times, I’ll do a tighter sketch to figure out placement and balance of items. But the computer is a great tool, and just as often I’ll jump in and start pulling elements together, usually in Photoshop. In either case, it’s preceded by doing some research on the book’s content, storyline, characters, etc., and coming away with some solid directions to pursue.

At WaterBrook Multnomah, we have a concepting meeting early on to meet with folks from Editorial, Marketing, and Sales. That launches our creative process. In the meeting, we discuss how to direct the book’s cover design, considering things like target audience, demographics, competition, and of course, author input!

MONA: Great answer, Mark, especially that last bit.

What mediums are used most in cover design for today’s marketplace?

An early composite for Two Brides Too Many

MARK: Cover design is taking place these days primarily using layout programs like Adobe InDesign, importing imagery from Photoshop and Illustrator–you can get all three by purchasing Adobe Creative Suite. Photoshop is a great tool, and original and stock photography are brought into Photoshop for touch up and manipulation. Often, multiple images are combined to bring about an overall effect that often times has to be ultra-dramatic to compete on the bookshelves. I think I counted about a dozen images that went into a recent fiction cover image I created for Liz Curtis Higgs.

MONA: What is your typical focus when thinking about the imagery for a cover? Setting? Characters? Theme?

A second composite for Two Brides Too Many

MARK: We’ve got to be accurate with the story elements on the cover. I’ll watch my wife reading one of our novels while flipping back to the cover repeatedly, and she’ll let me know if it doesn’t match the story. I often like to leave more to the imagination, having more vague imagery on the cover. But, the trend lately in Christian fiction has been to be more literal, showing a full face character, capturing a setting, and even timeframe on the cover. So, we pay a lot of attention to that as we’re developing the scene.

MONA: Mark, you designed the cover for Two Brides Too Many and worked with Kelly Howard on the cover for Too Rich for a  Bride. You’ve been involved with a lot of book covers since then, but do you recall any specifics from the design process for Two Brides Too Many?

 MARK: Working on Two Brides Too Many was a lot of fun for me. It was great to feature the local history of Cripple Creek, Colorado, just over the hill from us.

I knew I wanted to capture the feel of an Old West mining town with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range behind it. The tricky part was capturing the two sisters in a dynamic way. With this title, it seemed obvious to have the sisters both wearing wedding dresses on the cover.

Book 1
The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series

I had found a couple of stock photo images of brides that I “photoshopped” together on the cover. I submitted this composite and got approval to go ahead with a photoshoot. We often have to do a “preview comp” so people can see what the finished product will look like before going through the expense of a photoshoot. We found a company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, that rents 18th and 19th century costumes, and had two antique wedding dresses shipped to us for the photoshoot. Then we needed models. Through a talent agency in Denver, we found two girls who fit our character descriptions. “Kat” ended up being quite tall compared to “Nell,” which we remedied by having Nell stand on a box for the back-to-back shot.

I was a little nervous about the rental dress fitting Kat, so I brought my wife’s wedding dress as a backup. Julie, my wife, had her great-grandmother’s dress (circa 1865) completely remodeled for our wedding in 1985. We brought it along to the shoot, just in case. Turned out to be a good idea because the rental didn’t fit at all. Julie is 5’ 0” and Kat is 5’ 10.” Somehow we Julie’s dress work! As you can see from the finished product, we captured the Sinclair sisters’ personalities and attitudes. Our models did a great job.

Side note: My intention was to leave a little more to the imagination by cropping both girls just below the nose, but because their expressions were so captivating, we decided to show their full faces.

MONA: Mark, the cover choices you and the team made were spot on. Our Sinclair Sisters fans are captivated by the cover’s historical warmth and the girls’ intriguing expressions, as am I.

I’m remembering a story about one of the models and the flowers staged for the shoot.

A fun Out Take from the end of the photoshoot

MARK: We try to have fun on the set and after we shot a second option, basically a close up shot of the dress with the model holding flowers, we tried some different ideas. In one shot, we had Nell tossing the bouquet toward the camera while we tried to capture the roses mid-flight. You can only do this for a few takes before the roses begin to disintegrate. So we had a little game of pitch, shoot, and catch. Took some great shots—which we didn’t use, but we did end up using one of those dress shots for the cover of Too Rich for a Bride.

MONA: Sounds like fun.

Book genres seem subject to cycles. For instance: Not all that long ago historical fiction was a hard-sell. Not it’s “hot.” Are there also cycles in cover design?

Book 2
The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series

MARK: In the twelve years I’ve been here at WaterBrook Multnomah, I have seen styles come and go. With the advent of Photoshop, it became much easier to composite images in a realistic and even hyper-realistic way. So, illustrated covers suddenly looked dated on fiction titles. I think we’ll start seeing that swing the other way soon. In Christian fiction, we’re seeing characters full face and large on the cover. I think that trend will shift in favor of more anonymous, vague characters presented on the cover.

Colors are an interesting challenge. Everybody wants a warm, inviting cover, but we can’t have a list of all orange and yellow covers. So we find ways of making blue and green feel warm.

 MONA: What advice do you have for aspiring Book Cover artists?

MARK: Take all kinds of design jobs. They all build your portfolio and experience. And they all have their unique design and creative challenges to solve. I think that’s why we design…we love the creative process.

MONA: Great counsel. Mark, we so appreciate the time you’ve taken to give us a glimpse into your world of book cover design. Regardless of how well-written a book might be, a weak cover can keep it on shelves or warehouses. The careful work you do is critical. Thank you!

In closing, Mark, do you have a Bible verse that especially inspires you as an artist?

MARK: I’m an outdoors person. I like to hike, bike, run, 4-wheel. I have two cars, both are convertibles. I’m inspired by God’s creation, and I experience it everyday living in Colorado.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19: 1

Click here to read Chapter One Excerpt,

Two Brides Too Many!

CONGRATULATIONS TO DIANA G, WHO WON A COPY OF TWO BRIDES TOO MANY IN THE MIDNIGHT DRAWING!

Which Sinclair Sister Are You Most Like?

sinclair-sisters-group[1]

In celebration of the completion of my debut series: The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek, I thought it’d be fun to hear which Sinclair Sister you identify with the most. So I created a poll. Two Brides Too Many features Kat and Nell Sinclair. Ida Sinclair stars in Too Rich for a BrideThe Bride Wore Blue shares Vivian Sinclair’s story. And Twice a Bride brings readers up to speed on the goings-on of all four Sinclair sisters.

Thanks for participating in the Sinclair Sisters poll!

[polldaddy poll=6469852]

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