Graphic Design., Inspiration., Projects., Ramblings., REUTS., Writing.

Some New Things…

June 28, 2016

Since the blog has been experiencing some radio silence lately, I figured I might update you with what’s going on in Ashley land, and what to expect in the future (read: it’s a lot).

Cover Art Tutorial

After all the interest I received from my previous cover art tutorial for REUTS Publications, I’m excited to revive it and offer a new cover art tutorial based on a dear friend’s manuscript. You can expect weekly (or bi-weekly, let’s be real… my summer is p-a-c-k-e-d) posts, from start to finish documenting how a cover design goes from an idea to an advertisement on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf. I’m super excited, so don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list (form below in the footer) to follow along!

From Dill to Dracula

Did I mention I’m busy? From Dill to Dracula is the source for a lot of my daily efforts. Honestly, it started as a joke. I tweeted about how Romanian recipes tend to be unhealthy, and how I should try to create a cookbook of interpreting Romanian recipes with a healthy twist. Playing off this joke-of-a-concept, I tweeted the hypothetical name of my cookbook:

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 7.31.14 PM

And then… I fell in love.

I secured the domain name and got to work. From Dill to Dracula has transformed a bit. I dub it A Romanian Food and Folklore Blog where I’m planning on sharing both my family’s Romanian recipes, as well as different cultural tidbits you might not be aware of. There’s already a recipe posted, with a few in queue awaiting release. For the first few months, I’m going to try and be ambitious, posting every week. Then, once there are enough posts in the blog, I’ll be cutting that down to every other week.

If you’re interested in following along, please be sure to sign up for my mailing list. It’s different from the one I use for Eventide & Barley, so you’ll need to make sure you’re signed up for both 😉

A New Writing Project

That’s right. I started writing another book. Except, this time, I already have 15k words written, and (almost) a full plot ready for execution! I can’t explain much about said book, other than the tentative title’s acronym ends up being OTSaON. Any ideas? It’s my first true attempt at Young Adult. Not New Adult. Not Adult. Straight-up Young Adult. And, you know how I feel about Happily Ever Afters, but I’m happy to say OTSaON features a happily ever after… for most everyone 😉

Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Writing.

An Argument Against Designing for Thumbnail

May 5, 2016

I’ve worked with many publishers and independent authors on their book covers, and there’s a common request made amongst them: to make sure the title is legible in thumbnail view. I push back at the start, but if the client is adamant I’ll concede and create what they’re looking for. But, whole-heartedly, I stand by my belief:

You shouldn’t design your cover for thumbnail view.

That’s not to say it isn’t important, but I’m also arguing that it doesn’t make or break your book sales, either. The logic behind making sure things are legible at thumbnail view has blossomed from the rise of online sales, where in the sea that is an search result, you’re but one minnow, striving to catch the attention of a reader. But there’s one thing some people might forget: You don’t have just a cover to go off of, on any of these sites. They’re always coupled with the title, author, price, etc… in text form beside the image because that’s what helps facilitate a sale.

And so, again, I argue: You shouldn’t design your cover for thumbnail view.

But, still, a lot of people don’t believe me and insist the title is blown up, unobstructed, etc… so that people can read what it says in thumbnail view, even though that might not look best for the design. What you should be designing for is the actual cover—what it’ll look like in print or eReader format. This is never a thumbnail size. People don’t really care about the thumbnail, but an attractive cover at full size can and will help sell your book. People judge books by their covers, not their thumbnail.

Don’t believe me? You be the judge. Check out the covers below from a few of the Big 5 publishers. Does it look like thumbnail view has dictated what their full cover looks like? (You can click on the cover to visit its Amazon page.)

Seven-Brief-Lessons-design-Coralie-Bickford-Smith i-am-sorry1  Written-in-the-Blood-design-by-Alex-Merto Dont-Lets-Go-To-The-Dogs-Tonight-design-Justine-Anweiler Witches-of-America-design-Rachel-Willey  Only-Street-in-Paris-design-by-StrickWilliams  Safekeeping-design-StrickWilliams  Racism-design-by-Daniel-Gray   why-information-grows-design-richard-green

What my argument comes down to is a book cover can be compelling without the need to read every letter. Pigeon-holing your designer to make a cover that can be read at thumbnail view might cause you to miss out on a truly spectacular design.


Inspiration., Writing.

A Pantser Finds An Outline.

April 13, 2016

There’s no denying it—I’m a pantser. Always have been. Always will be.

Wait a minute. I might not be a pantser after all! For years, the traditional method of outlining a plot, whether it be on a screen or by hand, always discouraged me away from my writing. Each plot bunny would have so much energy and enthusiasm at the start, only to wither away as each chapter outline made it seem further from anything I’d be able to write.

Well, friends, things are about to change.

A wild plot appears!

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Welcome to Note App, a site that hasn’t paid me a penny to endorse it, but that I’ve grown to love. Above was the beginning structure to the outline for my WIP Oupia {A Temporary Title}This interface gives you a cloud equivalent to Scrivener’s cork board, at no cost to you (there’s a free version that should suffice).

And look at all the colors! I’ve broken my outline into multiple different sections:

Yellow stickies = Overview of information, so I have the characters going across the top, a key explaining all my colors beneath that, and the big yellow sticky is the premature query I wrote, helping me better define this story.

Green stickies = Full chapters.

Blue stickies = Scenes that need a home. Many of these are elaborated on and eventually become green stickies!

Pink stickies = Plot directions, where I define certain inner workings of my setting, since it’s sci-fi, after all.

Purple stickies = Questions that may or may not go against the established plot, and need to be revisited.

And, you know what? I’ve been having a blast outlining this story. Instead of blooming discouragement, there’s excitement at seeing all the pieces I do have figured out, which encourage me to figure even more out.

So, for those of you looking for a cloud-based non-traditional way to outline, I absolutely recommend Note App, from personal experience. I have a newfound inspiration to go through all my beginning WIPs and try to outline them, and I imagine I’ll walk away with writing a lot quicker first drafts, too.

What do you think? Have a non-traditional method of outlining/plotting your story you’d like to share?
I’d love to hear it!


Graphic Design.

What The Stock? Edition 41116

April 11, 2016

I’m bringing it back! I had to. Some of the stock images I found while perusing for book covers were just too good (or too bad) to pass up. So, I hope you enjoy the revived What The Stock:



There are so many things going on here. Cupid? Check. Cheesy Wedding Singer? Check. Gun? Absolutely. Overacted feud? You betcha. I . . . I have so many words, and so few at the same time. What sort of company or advertisement would require such an image? Maybe a twisted anti-Valentine’s Day / anti-Wedding Singer ad? I mean, you’re pretty limited by that pink background, so I’m definitely thinking this has ties to Valentine’s Day. But, in the end, I guess we’ll never know.


*Chuckle Snort*
Enough said.



I typically wouldn’t have a problem with something like this, but the lack of head really limits the use of this picture. I hate when photographers auto-crop stock for you. If someone really needed a head-less, par-nude man, you can keep the head on and let the designer crop it themselves.


I have very few words for this one other than: punk, meaty, contemplative woman.


Have an image you think deserves a feature in my What The Stock? post?
Contact me by email, or post the image URL in a comment below :)

Tweet About This:

  • What were they thinking? WHAT THE STOCK? by @amruggs #mondayblogs
  • This is the stock they don’t want you to see. WHAT THE STOCK? by #coverartist @amruggs #mondayblogs

What To Do When You Find Yourself in an Unexpected HEA?

April 9, 2016

That’s the predicament I found myself in this morning. After altering a small stylistic element to my story, I gained a small bout of inspiration and continued writing an out-of-the-blue scene. A little background: I define my story as a literary/scientific take on vampires, with only hints of romance, so that’s definitely not the focus. Yes, there’s sexual tension, and yes, there’s the beginnings of what could be a romantic relationship, but I never truly dive into it. At least not in this book. Or so I thought.

That’s where my predicament comes into play.

As I was writing, I stumbled upon what might be a Happily Ever After ending to my story, something I never anticipated. I’m not a Happily Ever After kinda gal. I prefer more of the realistic take, that HEAs happen, but might not be as common as you think. And I clearly define vampires as being solo creatures, where it’s rare that they actually pair off. Que predicament.

That’s the purpose of this blog post (besides rambling like crazy). I’m hoping to reach out to authors and editor friends, alike, to get an opinion. If a story doesn’t have a lot of super sweet romantic moments in it, is it out of place to add one in at the end? Or is the contrast refreshing, and a good change of pace? On the reverse side, is it okay to have a seemingly HEA now, only to completely (maybe) destroy it in book two?

Ah, the predicament.

As a reader, do you prefer HEAs? Are you okay with faux/temporary HEAs? Lemme know! I could sure use a new perspective :)


REUTS., Writing.

LakeFly Literary Conference

April 8, 2016

Guys, I’m doing it. I’ve decided to break out of my introverted, anxiety-ridden shell and take a step towards interacting with people—real live people—by taking book pitches at the local LakeFly Literary Conference. The conference runs May 13 and 14th, however, I’ll be most active (taking pitches and helping REUTS Editorial Director Kisa Whipkey at our book selling REUTS books) on Saturday, so if you’re in the area, stop by to say hello! learn a little more about your craft, and pick up some awesome indie books.

Interested in pitching to me? I’m most interested in New Adult titles (though YA with a more mature feel can make the pass, too), within the following genres: paranormal, fantasy/sci-fi, humor, magic realism. REUTS Publishes all genres within the YA/NA range, but you’re more likely to hit a home run with me if you pitch within the above :)

Will I see you there? (I hope so!)



Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Random., Web Design.

Why Covers Tend to Look the Same

April 5, 2016

I’m a designer across multiple platforms, so I spend a lot of time in different states of creativity. Every time of art has groups of similarities, whether it be pop music featuring a familiar beat, or portfolio websites all featuring parallax scrolling, and everything in between. Since my main focus is book production, I thought I’d take a look at book covers, and why so frequently we see similarities—and sometimes even blatant copies—within the same genres.

We’re all familiar with the old adage “never judge a book by its cover.” But, guess what, we all do it, and not just with books. The entire advertising industry is built upon your first impression, and it being positive enough for you to part with your hard-earned dollars. Same goes for publishing. Recognition is important. If, from across the room, you can determine a book’s key genre, and even it’s intended audience age, the cover artist and publisher have succeeded in their duties. Why? Because a glance can be as quick as a few seconds, sometimes even shorter, and you’ve already been able to analyze and categorize their book—whether it’s up your alley, or not. That’s more powerful and explains a lot more than even a title or tagline (the second elements a reader sees when perusing for a new book).

Same goes for publishing. Recognition is important.

This explains why the YA dystopian genres feature cracks, and concrete, and decrepit cities. Why most contemporary romances are light, bright and sunny, often featuring two or more people. I’ve seen it far too often, virtually the same cover for two different books within the same genre. Or—gasp—two different books using the same stock photography. It happens more than you think!

Sure, there are books that break the mold and are able to stand out from the rest, but they also have to work harder. I’m guilty of it, too. But that’s not always a bad thing. There’s another saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right?


Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Ramblings., Random., REUTS., Web Design., Writing.

Why #ILoveTwitter.

March 26, 2016

Twitter recently celebrated a milestone anniversary and, with it, started trending the #ILoveTwitter hashtag. Fitting, really. Now, I’ve only been on Twitter—consistently—for about three years, but I did partake in the hashtaggy goodness because I truly felt obligated. Why? Well, let’s rewind a little bit.

Not many of my IRL friends know I’m on Twitter. It’s actually a social media service that’s more looked down upon than embraced. And, quite frankly, I felt the same way they do about Twitter before I found myself swept up in the community. So, yes, at one point I all but scoffed at the thought of using Twitter, and believed the people who did use it [as frequently as I do, now] were self-absorbed narcissists that only talked about what they had for dinner, or what they were wearing. Hey! Look! I did both of those in one tweet.


As you can see, things have changed. I don’t view Twitter as the sewage of the internet, though you can find those dark alleys, spewing hate and violence, as you might be able to find anywhere online. Instead, Twitter has taken up shop in a very special place in my heart: the writing community. I know I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, and I’m hoping to make the transition from writer to published author very soon, and, before Twitter, I felt disconnected from a community I so desperately wanted to be a part of. Sure, starting your own publishing company helps, but I really have Twitter to thank for introducing me to other awesome writers, contests and activities to help me hone my writing skill, and exploding my “To Be Read” list beyond anything I can conceivably finish within my lifetime.

That’s why #ILoveTwitter.

I feel like I finally belong in the little niche of the world where I can combine my love for words with my love for design. I feel like I can lament about writer’s block troubles and participate in writing sprints to pull me out of those dark moments. I feel like I have made genuine connections with friends I have never, and may never meet. And, when we do, it’s as if we’ve been best friends our entire life.

#ILoveTwitter. And I’m no longer ashamed to say so because it has enhanced my life in ways I wouldn’t have been able to fathom if I hadn’t fully immersed myself in that community.


Cardboard Monet, Cover Reveal., Graphic Design.

COVER REVEAL // Without Benefits by Nicole Tone

March 18, 2016
Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 2.15.45 PM

I was fortunate enough to read an early version of Without Benefits as an introduction to the Woman’s Fiction genre. Never having read within that genre before, and starting with Nicole’s has created a fan out of me! Without Benefits is a can’t-put-it-down, heart-wrenching tale of romance, independence and friendship. I’m so excited for my good friend, Nicole, and her story comes out in a little less than three months from now!

I mentioned in the other cover reveal earlier this week that I’ve been focusing on custom photography in my book cover projects. Without Benefits is my next venture into this arena, and what you see below is a 100% custom shoot that I’m super proud of, and I’m so glad Nicole let me experiment like this:

Emma will always be a New Yorker at heart, even though she has a perfect life in Seattle. She has a prestigious job fundraising for the Seattle Symphony, a handsome boyfriend who adores her, and a Belltown apartment with views of the Sound. It should be more than enough to keep her pain from not playing the piano, and her 9/11 nightmares, away.

But when her old college crush, Owen, comes back into her life, it’s more than just spending time with him that’s causing cracks in her picture-perfect life. As she steps back on stage, and back into the spotlight, her connection with Owen and his world, dredges up old memories that Emma worked hard to forget.

Emma’s past comes back to haunt her, forcing her to face the truth about more than just her fears of returning back to New York. As her once perfect life begins to burn down, Emma is forced to figure out what she really wants: her fundraiser and cocktail party-filled life with her boyfriend, or forging a new future with the one thing, and one person, she’s ever loved–even if it means returning to New York.

Without Benefits is a beautiful and moving exploration of modern relationships and family written in the vein of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Renee Carlino.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 8.43.05 PM

Pre-order your copy today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Nicole Tone is a freelance editor, MFA student, traveller, pet collector, binge-watcher, and a self-proclaimed coffee snob. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband, three cats, and two very large dogs, but spends as much of her time in Seattle as possible.

Facebook //Twitter  //Goodreads  //Pinterest


Ramblings., Random.

My experience going viral (on a small scale).

March 17, 2016

Mid-January, I made a small tweet I didn’t really think about. It was of a quote I once heard, likely from a professor I can’t remember, but the words stuck with me for the years to follow. I had to butcher it significantly to fit the Twitter character count, but the gist of it comes down to:

Never make fun of someone for mispronouncing a word because it means they learned the pronunciation through reading.

It rang true on so many levels, and I think that’s why it resonated with so many people:

1. Reading is good! You can learn a lot from just picking up a book.
2. Making fun of someone is bad, regardless the capacity.
3. English is hard!

Since January 22th, when I made that tweet, I’ve gone on a rollercoaster of new experiences, including small scale Twitter and Facebook virality, something I never thought would happen, and especially not from a tweet poorly structured and quickly composed. But, I guess that’s how going viral works–you can’t predict it or force it.

At first, I was happy to see all the “hearts” and retweets on Twitter. A couple hundred were cool, vaulting this tweet into my most successful tweet category (previously, it was a response tweet to @JaredLeto, which he retweeted, and gained approximately 40-60 “hearts” and further retweets). But I was proud my most successful tweet was done so on my own, and not because of a celebrity’s fame.

But, then weird things started to happen. About two months later, I woke up one morning with approximately eight new Facebook friend requests, along with some message requests. I wasn’t sure if it was related to the tweet, until I saw the same people following me on Instagram and Twitter, with a connection to that tweet in particular. Friend requests are harmless, but the messages were what really made me uncomfortable. Things like “Hi princess, how are you?” all the way to I love you.” My stomach twisted into knots.

Now, it might seem like I’m exaggerating. This is hardly “going viral” and only a few people broke the barrier to communicate with me, but did so in a very unacceptable way. And that’s what it comes down to; unsolicited messages of a personal nature has crossed the line, especially when I feel somewhat blindsided by the sudden popularity of a two-month-old tweet.

Since then, I’ve been dodging Facebook requests and messages, and filtering who I allow to follow me on Instagram. I never thought I’d be so uncomfortable about something like keeping my images public. But I don’t want the actions of a few to ruin the relationship with an online community I’m a part of. That’s why my Twitter is still public, my Instagram is still public, and I haven’t felt compelled enough to delete the original tweet. I’ve seen so much dialogue brought to light because of my tweet, and I don’t want that to stop. It’s important, on so many levels, to discuss the importance of reading and the reminder that bullying is bad, regardless the situation.

A lot of good has come from this one tweet, especially when a friend tagged me in this picture posted on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 9.47.52 AM

The individual who shared a screenshot of my tweet is blogger Fabulous Chase, and yes, there are over 6,000 shares on Facebook. Of my tweet. That’s on top of the over 6,000 retweets and 6,500 “hearts” on Twitter. The screenshot has also been shared on Instagram, with less interaction, but still. I’ve experience some of the downfall of going viral (on a very small scale), but even better, I’ve created a dialogue about reading and bullying, and hopefully helped people along the way.

I don’t know what exactly the point of this post was. Part sharing a quote that means so much to me, to a different audience. Part recognizing there are very boundaries that can be crossed, even in a digital setting (especially in a digital setting). In the end, hopefully more people can take away something from this, whether it be inspiring and educational, or a lesson that people behind a computer screen are just that: people.

What do you think? About the quote, about “going viral, and about interacting with people you don’t necessarily know? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!