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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!

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 12.52.23 PM

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!



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., 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.


Video Games, Writing.

ICYMI Edition #013116

February 1, 2016


It’s been a slow week, because, well… other things happened. Nevertheless, here’s what you missed on the video game blogs!

That VideoGame Blog // REVIEW / Oxenfree (PC)
If Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn, Thatgamecompany’s Journey and Christopher Smith’s mind-bending psychological horror flick Triangle had a love child, it would be Night School Studio’s recently released Oxenfree.
{Read more at}


Video Games, Writing.

ICYMI Edition #012416

January 24, 2016


I’m making sure this one gets out on time this week. If you’re just now following along, on top of all the work I do reading and writing for REUTS Publications, offering freelance book production services at Cardboard Monet, or just working on my own work in progress pieces as an author, I’m also a video game blogger (it’s true, we exist) for two exciting sites feature below. Each week I’m wrangling together the articles posted within that week, so you can enjoy them if you missed them.


That VideoGame Blog // WAR DRAGONS: All Things Burn released today!
It is, after all, Appreciate a Dragon Day, and mobile game pioneer, Pocket Gems, knows just how to celebrate: by transforming their PvP mobile game War Dragons (Android, iOS) into a full-fledge novel.
{Read more at}

That VideoGame Blog // REVIEW Crashlands (PC/Mobile)

I picked up Crashlands, from developer Butterscotch Shenanigans, for two reasons: cool, comic book feel, and the prospect of crafting a “stem cell baby” as teased in the trailer.

{Read more at}


Playing Catch-up., Video Games, Writing.

ICYMI: Debut Blogging in Full Force

January 18, 2016

**I meant to do this on Sunday, but then Far Cry 4 happened, which I thought was both understandable and fitting 😉**

A new addition to my blog will be the weekly round up in the form of In Case You Missed It (ICYMI). Since I’ll be blogging on two sites outside of Eventide & Barley, I want to be sure you can still find my articles and follow along with all my bloggy happenings.


A gamer’s dream come true: the hottest new video games for a fraction of the price.
{Read more at}

That VideoGame Blog // Review / Until Dawn (PS4)
B-movie horror? Check. Choose your own adventure? Check. PlayStation exclusive? Check.
{Read more at}

That VideoGame Blog // Two decades of Pokémon: have you caught ’em all?
Happy birthday Pokémon! Or should we say happy early birthday.
{Read more at}

That VideoGame Blog // Create your own Yarny from EA’s Unravel
Be careful not to unravel yourself. Though you it might accidentally happen when Unravel is released.
{Read more at}


Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Web Design., Writing.

Drumroll Please // And The Winner Is…

December 1, 2015

Well, it’s been a long month and a half, and I’m so overwhelmed by the interest generated by my Author/Book Branding Giveaway. It’s exciting to be able to offer one lucky fan (and friend) the opportunity to completely re-vamp their aesthetic, much like I have recently done with my site, Cardboard Monet. If you’ve forgotten what that includes, there should be a blog post below with all the information, or you can just click here.

But, more importantly, this entire giveaway was meant to be a big thank you to everyone out there who has supported me throughout this journey. So, here’s to you: thank you, from the bottom of my heart <3

Sorry, I don’t mean to be stalling. I know why you’re here, and that’s to see who the winner is. Here goes:

Congratulations to the winner, Vivien R.!

Vivien, you’ll be hearing from me within the week about your package, timeline and next steps.

A bit bummed you didn’t win? Don’t worry! In the new year I have something special up my sleeve—a fantastic offer to anyone interested in book cover art. So corral your friends together, and mentally prepare for the awesomeness (seriously, it’ll be a deal you can’t pass up).