Writing and Publishing

Mammoth: Cover Concepts

Can we talk covers for a moment? I’m still not over the darling cover art Turner Publishing came up with for Mammoth:

MammothCover3D002

I have ALL THE APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE for creative director Madeline Cothren and artist Jo Walker because this design still makes me fall in love every time I see it. Mammoth is about hard, unyielding things — fossils, the reception women receive in male-dominated fields, the kind of raw ambition that can result in reckless decisions — but it’s also a soft, sweet, optimistic story about discovery and vulnerability and love. Somehow, this cover captures both sides of the narrative.

I mean, come on — a heart made out of half-buried mammoth bones? It couldn’t be more perfect. I SWOON.

However, Mammoth almost looked completely different.

Several years ago, when I was unagented, I considered self-publishing Mammoth. I held off because I couldn’t come up with a cover concept I liked, so I never got as far as commissioning an artist/designer to create anything for me. I knew I didn’t want a photograph of a model meant to look like Natalie (the book’s main character, plus-size fashion blogger, and resident paleontology geek). I liked the idea of representing Natalie without actually depicting her, so in early 2016 I played around with this mock-up in Photoshop:

MammothCoverMockup2016-2

Totally different! A pair of dig site tools and some random bits of dirt scatter over a skull image from one of Natalie’s sketchbooks. (She usually sketches fashion ideas, but I can totally imagine her drawing a fossil here and there.) The title’s scribbled with Natalie’s signature lipstick. There are retro-inspired polka-dots and a black/white/red color scheme Aunt Judy would adore. There’s a bit of a skull-and-crossbones theme representing how Natalie occasionally goes rogue when a paleo discovery’s at stake. But overall . . . It’s harsh. This design is like Natalie early in the book, when she’s strong and flawless on the outside, but there’s no hint of the evolution she undergoes during her time at the dig site. The story’s softness is missing. I never moved forward with this concept, obviously, and I’m glad I didn’t. (Especially since I made such a mess of the brush bristles in Photoshop! I’m definitely an amateur when it comes to design.)

It wasn’t a total loss, though. I’ve gotten to recycle a few of its elements in swag designs. My skull sketch is on bookmarks, info cards, buttons…

MammothBlogSkullSwag

Mammoth had to wait a few more years for a perfect cover, but it has one now. ❤

(If you like its final cover design, why not add Mammoth on Goodreads?)

Geekery

Dozing Dragon

When I wasn’t reviewing MAMMOTH copy edits or coordinating hurricane repairs last week, I was geeking out over photos of a 110-million-year-old nodosaur currently on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada.

BlogNodosaur001NG
(National Geographic)

It looks like it could wake up and lumber off. ❤

Found in 2011, the nodosaur is so well preserved that you can still see its armored plates and the outlines of its scales. National Geographic did a great write-up of the discovery and its significance.

And if you’re like me, and your immediate reaction is OMG CAN I PET THE GOOD PUPPER?!, the Royal Tyrrell Museum has you covered. The exhibit includes a touchable replica of the nodosaur’s head cast from a 3D-printed copy:

BlogNodosaurRoyalTyrrell
(Royal Tyrrell Museum)

And now I need to go to Canada to pet a nodosaur. Adding that trip to the bucket list.

Writing and Publishing

MAMMOTH is being published!

Okay, so where were we? I took a little break to deal with Hurricane Irma cleanup (almost five months later, we’re still working on getting our roof replaced) and other life stuff. I’m still processing a lot of anxiety-related stuff (hurricanes and anxiety disorders are a fantastic combination), I’m catching up on a ton of reading, I finished a new rough draft during NaNoWriMo last November, and last week I helped one of my best friends move from Georgia to south Florida.

IMG_7240I’ve also been sitting on some super-exciting news, and now that the announcements have run in Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace, I can finally share: my next novel, MAMMOTH, will be published in fall 2018 by Turner Publishing!

This book is so dear to my heart, and I’m so ridiculously anxious (in a GOOD way) to launch it out there into the world. MAMMOTH is a body-positive, science-geeky story about being true to yourself and letting your talents and ambitions shine.

IMG_7092Most of the book is set at an Ice Age dig site; to get the paleontology angle as accurate as possible, I trained at the Waco Mammoth National Monument and learned to dig and prospect for fossils. I also interviewed paleontologists, toured a bone lab, practiced screen picking, and spent a particularly spectacular morning hanging out with a pair of elephants at Cameron Park Zoo. (Thank you FOREVER to my bestie Dava Butler, who works at Waco Mammoth, for making all that possible!)

IMG_7276I wrote MAMMOTH in 2014. As I explained in an earlier post, my agent at the time didn’t connect strongly enough with it, and we parted ways in 2015. Finding new representation took some time, but Eric Smith of P.S. Literary was worth the wait. He began pitching MAMMOTH in May 2017, and after a few other close calls, we accepted an offer from Turner in December. You can read Eric’s post about MAMMOTH’S deal here.

I’m so jazzed to work with Turner, and so excited to share updates as MAMMOTH’S publication date approaches. Watch this space, my vintage velociraptors (as MAMMOTH’S Natalie would say) — there’s so much more to come. ❤

Geekery

Okay, Who Brought the Dog?

Back in May I was 100% jazzed by the news that paleontologists named a newly-discovered ankylosaur species Zuul after the terror dog from the original Ghostbusters movie. A paleo spin on my favorite franchise? YES, HAVE SOME.

Here’s an artist’s rendering of the newly-named pupper (image courtesy Royal Ontario Museum):

ZuulDino001

And here’s Zuul itself in Terror Dog form (image courtesy Columbia Pictures):

TerrorDog001

I can see the resemblance.

The dino’s full name is Zuul crurivastator. The species name is Latin for “destroyer of shins,” a nod to the animal’s clubbed tail. This Zuul was a herbivore, but at its size (as heavy as a rhino and as long as a pickup truck), it would probably do even more damage to Louis Tully’s apartment than the fictional keymaster version.

Next can we have a Slimersaurus Rex?

Reading

The Enormous Egg

I’ve been sorting through a lot of long-buried possessions, and I recently came across this book about a boy who finds and hatches a mysterious egg (SPOILER ALERT IT’S A DINOSAUR EGG YEEAAAHHHH!!!):

The Enormous Egg
That chicken is not having any of this.

I was six or seven when I got this. I remember being intimidated because although it looked like other chapter books, the print inside was so much smaller than I was used to — but I loved dinosaurs, so I jumped in. Years before I read Jurassic Park, I encountered my very first fictional paleontologist, Dr. Ziemer:

Dr. Ziemer

The Enormous Egg was originally published in the 1950s, and some elements of the story haven’t aged that well, but I’m still fond of it as a product of its time, and I still adore the illustrations. And I still want an Uncle Beazley of my own:

Baby Beazley
COME ON THO HOW ADORABLE IS THAT AND CAN IT BE LITTERBOX TRAINED

I’m not someone who normally has a lot of maternal instincts, but show me a teeny baby triceratops and suddenly I’m all:

TarzanMother

Of course, large dinosaurs don’t make particularly good pets.

Big Beazley
THAT SIDE-EYE. THAT SQUISH.

So, I mean… I guess that dream’s ruined. Still, as a kid, I always hoped I’d stumble across a mysterious egg, just like Nate did.

(Okay, I admit it. To this day, I still kind of wish that could happen.)