Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Cover Story: Insights of the Illustrator’s Process

Today’s guest blog post is by Laura Young, the illustrator of the Raven’s Wing book cover. Continue reading to learn more about the process of developing a cover and the collaboration between author and artist.


The old saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover” and yet, we tend to do just that. First impressions count, and a cover tries to convey, in the space of under a second, what sort of experience the book aspires to provide. Is it adventurous? Humorous? Intellectual?

As an illustrator, it’s my job to make an image that not only draws in the potential reader’s eye, but serves as a sort of visual shorthand; a singular hieroglyph that represents the story as a whole.

When Shawna approached me via email, she had a fairly good idea of what she wanted in a cover. She needed it to match the tone of the previous book in the series she was working on, and provided a brief description of how she envisioned it: “A wing sweeping down, with a vague silhouette of the Portland skyline below.”

We wrote back and forth a few times, and then I sent over a page of small “thumbnails” or initial sketches. This is the first stage of the process, when I’m just trying to get a feel for what she wanted using a wide variety of ideas within the stated perimeters.


Even though it was a bit different from her initial idea, once she saw it laid out visually Shawna decided to go with the last image that I’d drawn, stating that she’d perhaps like the raven to be even more prominent. Now having a more concrete theme to go on, I began creating variations of it:


After seeing these, Shawna noted she wanted a little more of Portland, and have a descending, rather than ascending, raven. She explained that things were not very hopeful for her protagonist, and the ascending motif looked, “just a little too hopeful.” She also mentioned that while she preferred a dramatic, dark tone, she didn’t want it to look like a horror cover, either.

In the next round, I worked to address some questions about the raven’s anatomy. It’s sometimes difficult to do this with simple sketches that are only an inch wide, so I “zoomed in” on an area that we were discussing for clarification.


Shawna narrowed down her final choice and gave me the official go-ahead. I began to work on penciling the overall design. Because the pencil drawing was rather light, I darkened the digital scan considerably before sending it over.


Once we ironed out a couple of minor revisions to the drawing, I got out the India ink and (rather appropriately) a crow quill nib for the dip pen. No turning back now!


After inking for a couple of days, I spent several hours adding atmosphere to the background digitally on my MacBook using various layered textures and brushes, using the latest edition of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). After some searching, I found the exact font from her previous cover, downloaded it, and tried to match it as closely as possible in size and color.

A few more tweaks, a few more emails, and we finally had a cover that pleased us both. Hopefully, it will serve as an appropriate passageway into Shawna’s finely-crafted world.


Laura is available for commissions. Check out her work or contact her at her website, Laura G. Young.


A Photo Tour of Portland and the Ravensblood Haunts

(Photos and text by Jocelyn S Mackie, who is helping me out today since I’m dealing with book launch madness.  If you like her work, check out her website.)

As launch day for Raven’s Wing approaches, it is only appropriate to make the scenery come to life for the Ravensblood readers. Each of these establishments makes an appearance in the series, or at least inspires an imaginary venue.

Portland, Oregon was incorporated in 1851. While it went through many development phases that nearly destroyed its original architecture, it maintains much of its history while creating a colorful present day image. This made Portland almost a perfect back-drop for a society where magic and mundane lived among one another. Many of its unique elements provided inspiration as the journey of Cass, Zack, and even Raven arose into these novels. Portland may not just be scenery—it can be a character on its own!

With that, time to begin with a spread of the Hawthorne District, where Ana lives and Cass maintains her flat in the first book.

Hawthorne District


Portland's Magic: Flowers bloom in December.

Portland’s Magic: Flowers bloom in December.


The Hawthorne District is known for being eclectic and walker-friendly. Just park your car as soon as you are able—you won’t need it here.

Just Another Day on Hawthorne

Hawthorne District Street View



Every walk presents good details.


If you are looking for a shop, restaurant, pub, or move theatre that is better than ordinary, this is the area in Portland you must visit. It shows its character in many ways, as seen by this photo spread.

 Easter Egg House

2 Dusky Victorian


Devil in the Details


4 Beauty Aging



Just Another Modest Abode

A simple modern residence for an extraordinary mage and healer: Likely candidate for Ana’s home.

Two specific places figure prominently. The Oasis Café serves great pizza and really exists. You may remember it as the restaurant Chuckie and Cass pick up take-out in Raven’s Wing.

Oasis Ambience


The Barley Mill Pub is also located in the Hawthorne District and a colorful meeting place for Cass, Chuckie, and Johnny. Jerry Garcia aficionados will appreciate its tributes.

It really does contain a barley mill.


14 Acceptable Barley Mill Photo

The Barley Mill

Barley Mill Sign small

The Sign


While you drink, Jerry will smile down at you. Who knows if he misses his own good times from his time on Earth.


10 Jerry Smiles Down At You




The Drinking Dead


13 Wall of Jerry


There is a little something for everyone in the Barley Mill’s unique decor–just in case you are not that into Jerry Garcia.

Just the Statue Mate

Don't Break the Stained Glass

















The Hawthorne District is also home to the oldest planned development in the west, Ladd’s Addition. This home in Ladd’s Addition resembles the Ravenscroft Manor, which is actually located in Nob Hill. However, the Ravenscroft Manor has half again the footprint of this house and features slightly larger grounds.

The Regal One


Nob Hill Neighborhood

Green Man


Nob Hill is the polished upscale twin to the Hawthorne District. Also pedestrian-centered, it features top-of-the line shops and caters to the normally high-income Pearl District clientele. We start with this spread of photos featuring the buildings and homes within walking distance of Ravenscroft Manor.

Dusk proves to be the perfect accessory for these modern castles.
Modern Castle

Clothed in Dusk















But in the daylight, you can enjoy the details.

william temple house


Nob Hill can be a colorful place. This is the wall of the ladies’ room of the Blue Moon Pub, near the fictional Josiah’s Books, briefly mentioned in Raven’s Wing. Blue Moon has not made an appearance yet but it may receive its spotlight in the third book.

Fancy Wall


Finally, no photo tour of Portland would be complete without Powell’s Books, a giant bookstore on Burnside. While not located in Nob Hill, it is an easy trolley ride from that neighborhood. Cass and Raven consider it the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.

22 Powells Sign


24 Pondering Powells













23 Powells Cashier Wall


Raven’s Wing To Take Flight Soon!

The Raven’s Wing book launch is planned in Portland on January 24, 2015 at Max’s Fanno Creek Brew Pub in Tigard, Oregon. Check out the event page for details. Hope to see you there!