Failure IS an option – by Kathrese McKee

Kathrese McKee is no stranger to the Scriblerians. Not only is she a great writer friend of mine, but we got to hang out with her at Realm Makers last year (the best conference for science fiction/ fantasy writers of faith). She also signed our slam book last year. Feel free to stop by that post to see the original cover of Mardan’s Mark and her high school picture. Two things she probably wishes weren’t still on the internet. 😉 

Now, please enjoy this wonderful post by a gifted writer.


During the Apollo 13 movie, Gene Kranz, the flight director played by Ed Harris, has this line: “Failure is not an option.” Then, he stalks out of the room, and his engineers scramble to find solutions. Man, I love that movie. And I loved that line.

In real life, Gene Kranz didn’t actually say that. He wishes he did, but he didn’t. In fact, he liked the quote so much, that he used it as the title for his memoir. I can appreciate the must-do philosophy in the context of the Apollo 13 emergency, but I disagree with it in the context of creative endeavors.

Failure is an option. I would argue that it’s the only option. How many authors write their tour de force on the first draft of their debut novel? How many painters create their masterpiece the first time they hold a paintbrush? How many screenwriters, sculptors, inventors, filmmakers, or dancers achieve the pinnacle of success before they have failed many times?

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas EdisonThomas Edison

Creative professionals must fine-tune their work, throwing out the pieces that don’t measure up and trying new ideas. That’s what happened to me on my debut novel, Mardan’s Mark. Actually, I think the writing is okay, but the cover is another story. If you want to learn more about the book or the original cover, you can see a post from a year ago on this website, “Swashbuckling Adventure, Anyone?”

There is no failure. Only feedback. ~Robert Allen

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my cover choice. Tim Akers, one of the Scriblerians asked, “So tell me, if this was written for boys, why is there a woman’s face on the cover?” Ah, Tim, why’d you have to bring that up? Yeah, I wrote it for both genders.
Floryie, another reviewer, wrote this: “I loved the look of the book cover. But I couldn’t relate to the ‘character’ on the cover. She looks too old to represent any of the female characters.” Srilani does look too old, and Aldan really does need to be on the cover. Okay, okay, you talked me into it.

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford

So the hunt for a different cover designer began, not because the first designer was bad, but because the cover needed a fresh set of eyes. I hope that you agree it was worth the effort.

2016-264 HANDOVER Ebook Kathrese McKee, Mardan's Mark

Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Enough about me, let’s talk about you. Are you in a slump? Do you have doubts? Those feelings are natural. Everyone experiences them. But our job as creative individuals is to push through those doldrums and accept failure as part of the process. The only ones who fail are those who quit trying. Put fear aside. Change something and try again.

C.S. LewisFailures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. ~C. S. Lewis

When you look back at where you’ve been, the mileposts are likely to be those points where something went wrong and you had to make a decision to keep going in spite of adversity. Think of moments when you learned a life lesson through failure. Think of those events that changed you, broke you, and molded you. Ultimately, those failures made you who you are. Fail forward toward success.

What past failure set you up for success afterward?

Kathrese headshotTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for anyone who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. In Mardan’s Mark: A princess must rescue the heir from behind enemy lines before war breaks out. The stakes rise when she accepts help from a pirate’s slave. Join the Crew to read the first five chapters for free.

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A Closer Look at Book Covers

Everyone knows our emotions and views are manipulated by books, media, movies etc. But did you know that artists also manipulate you? Yup, it’s a fact that we (I’m also an artist) shamelessly manipulate our viewer’s thoughts and lead the viewer around our work by use of color, composition and focal point

To illustrate this point (ha ha! I kill myself sometimes…) I will show you book covers and describe some artistic principles used in composing them. These principles have been used as far back as cave art. Why? They are actually the result of studying natural human – or cave men – instincts and preferences in art. And publishers and cover artists know that they literally have seconds to make that good first impression.

So get ready for a lightening-quick course in art composition 101!

First and foremost is something called the Golden Mean, (or golden ratio, golden section, Phi, 1.618… its been around for so long it has many names in many languages). Essentially, Golden Mean is an “aesthetically pleasing proportion within a piece of artwork or architecture.” (Yes, ancient and modern architecture use the same ratio) Objects in artwork and architecture are placed according to the ratio of 2/5 to 3/5. Take a look at this cover.

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               The word Divergent is placed approximately 2/5 from the top, and the centre of the orange circle is placed approximately 2/5 from the bottom. Likewise, the top of the word Divergent to the bottom of the name Veronica Roth is 2/5 from the bottom. Nothing is central, it’s either 2/5 or 3/5 from the top or the bottom. Take a look at the oval on the bottom right, the left edge of it is 2/5 from the left edge of the book. Again, look at this cover…

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                The top of the fence is 3/5 from the bottom (or 2/5 from the top), the back of the guy is 2/5 (or the ratio 1.618 ) from the left side of the book. But you say, with a triumphant tone, that the ‘M’ in ‘My’ is very central, vertically. Yes, I would have to have agreed, however, there is so much that is not central that your eye is satisfied. The Golden Mean exists in nature, that’s why we are comfortable with it. (measure from the tip of your fingers to your wrist. It’s 2/5 of the distance to your elbow.)  Go on, look elsewhere, you will find the same ratio in flowers, animals, even snail shells. The cool thing about the Golden Mean is that we instinctively use it in decorating, gardening, anything creative.

                Now, for the use of colour. We all know what complimentary colours are: red and green, orange and blue, yellow and purple, etc. And if you again look at the top cover of Divergent, you will see orange and a muted blue-grey colour. This is great for impact. As long as one of the two complimentary colours is muted it is pleasing. However if both are the same intensity, the two colours will actually fight each other, and the picture will almost seem to vibrate.

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                The above cover is bright and catchy, however if the orange was red, the effect might be more disturbing, but the use orange and green is safe, albeit still bright and fun for kids. (Also notice the use of the Golden Mein in the placement of the eyes, being 2/5 from the top).

                Okay, one more fun thing to note, which you can also use in decorating, gardening, etc. And that is the use of uneven numbers of focal points. Usually 3 or 5. Never even, it’s just not pleasing for some reason. The above cover has three focal points, the fish, the title and the yellow triangle. The Divergent cover also has three focal points, the orange circle, the title, and the black oval on the bottom right.

                So here is your homework. Can you spot the Golden Mein, the use of complimentary colours and uneven number of focal points in the following covers?

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              Plus, take a closer look at your hand. Can you spot the ratio of the Golden Mean?  Hands up, anyone who has discovered it!