Tag Archives: books

Now Available – Trail of Passion Audiobook

Feb 16, 2017

Hey guys, guess what? Trail of Passion is now available as an audiobook! Yes, you too can listen to the amazing Dawnya Clarine reading all about Lucy Haskell and Gideon Faraday’s journey out to Wyoming on the Oregon Trail!

Better still, I have a limited amount of free audiobook codes from Audible! So the first ten people who comment on this post with their email address will get to listen for free! Let me know if you’d like me to hide the comment with your address after you leave it, and I’ll take care of that for you. 😉

Lucy Haskell has a passion for danger and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it. The Oregon Trail is the perfect way for her to travel home to her father’s ranch in Wyoming, and to meet new friends and talk their ears off along the way. But Lucy’s talking and risk-taking masks a darker fear—that no one could possibly love or even like a woman as unconventional as her.

All that changes when Gideon Faraday stumbles into her life…

Dr. Gideon Faraday is a scientist: intelligent, handsome, reserved, soft-spoken… and a murderer. He’s heading west to atone for the lives he’s taken, and the last thing he wants is to make friends on the trail or to fall in love. But from the moment he sees bubbly, daring, beautiful, fearless Lucy, he’s smitten.

Gideon and Lucy can’t fight the passion that pulls them together—with scandalous consequences—but when a mysterious stranger joins their wagon train and Gideon’s life is in jeopardy, it will take all the daring Lucy possesses to keep Gideon alive.

Danger is just the beginning…

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Steam Level – Very Hot

Status Update – Lady Jane’s Salon

Feb 13, 2017

Hmm… My hair was a little out of control…

Yesterday, hard on the heels of kicking that stupid cold I had last week (and strangely, I feel 95% better today, all of a sudden) I had my first book reading at The Cat’s Meow in Manheim, PA for the Lady Jane’s Salon group! It was a blast. Here’s a brief rundown of what it’s like to do a public reading…

First off, I was really nervous about coughing through the whole thing and how my voice would hold out. Because, let’s face it, when I get around other authors and book-lovers, I like to talk. A lot! And in the best of times it wears on my throat to the point of causing me to lose my voice. So I headed out with cold medicine and powerful lozenges in my purse, and I stopped for a warm beverage on the way there. That warm beverage actually did a ton of good!

Lady Jane’s is co-hosted by my friend and fellow writer, Holly Bush, had invited me to read, and I stopped by her house first. It was a trip down memory lane too, because Holly lives right near the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds, and, I don’t know if you know this, but I spent two summers when I was super young running around the Ren Faire, pretending I was an Elizabethan peasant (’92 & ’93). So I know that area and that drive very well! Good times, good times. I should write about the Ren Faire someday.

I love having the chance to explain why I write the things I write!

Anyhow, Holly and I got started on the mega-talking right away, before we even made it down to The Cat’s Meow. Co-host Megan Hart was there already, and the talking continued. We had a great crowd of people, including one of my mom’s childhood friends, who lives in the area. I got to sign books and give stuff away, which I always love doing.

Okay, so then I had to get up and read. Ha! I don’t usually like listening to my own books, whether on the audiobooks that I have professionally done or reading them aloud myself. But I had the added “bonus” of trying hard not to cough the whole time I was reading. And the actor in me always thinks back on it later and wonders if I read too fast, if I read a passage that was interesting enough, or if anyone listening is going to care one tiny bit about the words coming out of my mouth. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Mostly, I love going to events like this one because I just love hanging out with readers and other writers and talking about books. How often do we writers get the chance to emerge from our writing caves to socialize with people? Not often! So I encourage everyone who has a book group near them and every writer who has a chance to go to something like this to jump on it. A good time was had by all!

Status Update – A New Book Begins

Jan 28, 2017

Coming in late February!

So yesterday I started writing the first chapter of the second book of my Nerds of Paradise series, Chaos Theory. I spent the whole first part of the week writing the outline. I have a long, complex outlining process based on Patti Larsen’s outlining method. It really works for me, even though it’s long an complex. But when it comes to writing that first chapter, I always feel like I struggle a little.

Now mind you, it’s not because I don’t know what I want to write. The beauty of my outlining process is that I know exactly what I need to write every day when I sit down in front of the computer. What hangs me up is that I know so much information before I start that it’s all crowding into the front of my brain. I know all the issues and back story that the characters have, and I’m always all-too aware of the need to make sure I say everything that needs to be said.

And then there’s the fact that I usually discover so much more about the characters as I go on. It doesn’t matter how much I’ve planned a book out in advance, once those characters hit the ground and start interacting, I learn things about them. For instance, the hero of Chaos Theory, Will Darling, is super straight-laced, due to growing up in a military family with a father who saw him more as a way to vicariously achieve his dreams than as a son. Wow! That’s some meaty stuff! But I know there’s something else in there that I’ll uncover as I go along and plunge his careful world into the chaos of Melody Clutterbuck!

Grumpy old man

But it isn’t all bad. I love what I do. And I have fabulous assistants to help me do it. Lately, as my new baby (new as of mid-December) Justine has fully adjusted to being in a new environment with a strange new human mommy and a grumpy old man feline roommate. Torpedo still isn’t over the death of his sister, Butterfly (December 1st), and this weird new kitten has WAY too much energy for him, so if he’s just not feeling it, he’ll swat at her or chase her. But when he isn’t in a mood to care, they coexist quite nicely.

Cute, bubbly baby

These days, when I sit down on my couch with my laptop to write, it’s one on one side and the other on the other. I’d love to get a pic of all of us together, but they sit just too far apart for that kind of a selfie to work. But it creates a very peaceful, fuzzy writing environment. And yes, I get yelled at—by Torpedo—when I get up to do something else. But I talk right back to him, so it’s all good!

 

Covers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Jan 04, 2016
image courtesy of goXunuReviews via flickr commons

image courtesy of goXunuReviews via flickr commons

Okay, covers. It’s about time we had a little talk. Study after study has shown that the most important things to sell a book (particularly if you’re an Indie author) are your blurb (which we talked about here) and your cover. So many times, if a book isn’t selling well, there’s a good chance your cover just isn’t hacking it. And there are several reasons for this. So here we go.

If I could only say one thing to people about choosing the best cover for your book (a book you’ve worked too long and hard on to send it out into the world dressed badly) it’s this:

DO NOT EVER DESIGN YOUR OWN COVER

I can’t say that loud or frequently enough. (I know not everyone agrees with that, but I’m pretty passionate about it) Even if you think you’re a fantastic designer and are super capable when it comes to working with Photoshop or other graphic design programs. Just don’t do it. Just like you shouldn’t edit your own work because you’re too close to it to have a non-partial eye, you shouldn’t design your own covers because you aren’t going to be able to see the flaws in your work. Don’t go out that door with broccoli in your teeth!

Second, not all cover designers are equal. I know you love you sister’s daughter’s boyfriend’s brother who is really good with computers, but just because he knows how to cut and paste does not mean he has a designer’s eye or that he knows what images draw readers to certain genres of books. Book covers have their own language, their own symbolism, and it’s constantly changing. You need someone with an artistic eye, but also someone who knows what’s trending, knows how to blend light and shadow, and knows how to create vibrant, original images that pop and draw a reader’s eye. Talent does not come as an accessory to graphic design programs, and a designer who is talented at designing stationary, for example, may not be talented when it comes to book covers.

So let’s take a look at some things you should watch out for in cover design world.

mating with raptorFirst and foremost, readers are savvy these days. Unless you’re writing something deliberately tongue-in-cheek or trashy (like Mating with the Raptor), readers will click right past any covers that look Photoshopped. What does that mean? Anything that looks like the designer took a background and started randomly pasting stickers on it looks bad, Bad, BAD. You can tell one of these amateur covers a mile away because the light levels don’t match. Look for shadows that are going in the wrong direction, images that are disproportionate in size to other elements of the cover, figures or pieces of the image that appear to have more or less light on them. For example, in this delightful cover, the girl has a relatively bright, warm light illuminating her, but it doesn’t match the darker, shadowy light of the background. Same goes for the dino, which is in a cooler light. I used this example cover because I don’t think the designer cares how realistic and smooth it looks, but flip through Amazon for a while, and you’ll find covers where the designer just didn’t know what they were doing.

that guyI could find you a ton of examples of covers that look Photoshopped. You know what I mean. Also look out for lines that are too sharp around elements of the design, or that are too fuzzy because they’ve been blended with a particular tool. Anything that looks like stickers should send you running for the hills. Also, this guy on the right. Bless his heart, I don’t know who he is, but I’m not gonna lie—when I see him on a cover, I automatically pass on the book. Dude is everywhere!

warriors womanAnother problem I’ve seen in some covers these days is that they look dated. Ah yes, remember the good old Fabio-style cover? It’s just not the thing right now. These sorts of clinch photos with tons of wind and clothes about to fall off were all the rage a few years ago, but not so much now. Take a look online at the bestselling romance covers today (for example, if that’s your genre). We’re in the era of the heroine with the big skirt that takes up half the cover right now. There’s also variation in covers depending on the level of sweetness that the story entails. If you’re writing a Christian romance, for example, you don’t want this Fabio-style cover. It doesn’t send the right message. (All right, I’ll admit that my latest book cover for His Perfect Bride has shades of this era, but note the key differences: my cover isn’t an illustration, and the heroine is fully dressed, in spite of the hero’s shirtless good hair day.)

Okay, so what looks good on a cover? And how do you get a truly stellar cover design, especially for historical books, when there’s an extremely limited amount of historical stock photography out there?

MF_SavingGrace_2_smallWell, great book covers have all the design elements in harmony with each other. Truly stellar designers know how to put color and light and background ambiance to work for them. This cover of mine from Saving Grace, by designer Kalen O’Donnell was nominated for a cover design award last year. Frankly, that book sucked (well, it didn’t suck, but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, which is why I stopped writing sci-fi), but man, based on that cover, you’d give the blurb a look, wouldn’t you? The color, the light levels, the visual impact are all stunning. And that started with a very simple stock photo.

EdenTheDangerousBride_smallAs for the problem of there not being enough original images out there, well, one of the reasons I hire the immensely talented Erin Dameron-Hill to do my covers is because she’s so good that she can dissect images and create new models from various parts! This truly awesome cover, she tells me, is actually three different images combined to make an original image. And as you can clearly see, the foreground blends with the background, the color scheme matches the rest of the novels in the series (peek over to the right), and there is no sticker-ness anywhere.

At the end of the day, “good” and “bad” is subjective, but only up to a point. There are standards, and if you’re in this business to win it, you’ll want to find the highest quality designs that you can. The good news is that covers aren’t super expensive these days. You can get good ones for under $100! And so, I leave you with a pretty amazing list of cover designers, shared with me by author Christine Miller:

LIST OF RECOMMENDED COVER DESIGNERS

99-DESIGNS http://99designs.com/book-cover-design

ALCHEMY BOOK COVERS http://www.alchemybookcovers.com/

AM DESIGN STUDIOS http://amdesignstudios.net/sample-page/

ART BY KARRI http://artbykarri.com

AUTHOR MARKETING CLUB http://authormarketingclub.com/members/pre-made-book-covers/

AVALON GRAPHICS http://www.avalongraphics.org/books.html

BEYOND DESIGN http://www.tamianwood.com

THE BOOK COVER DESIGNER http://thebookcoverdesigner.com/shop/?vendor=jesrdesign

BOOK COVERS GALORE http://bookcoversgalore.com/

BOOK COVERS MARKET http://bookcoversmarket.com

BOOKS DESIGN http://www.books-design.com/

BOOKFLY DESIGN http://www.bookflydesign.com/

BOOK GRAPHICS http://bookgraphics.net/

CANDESCENT PRESS http://www.candescentpress.com/coverdesign.php

CAROL’S COVER DESIGN http://carolcoversdesign.com/

CHARISMA KNIGHT http://designsbycharisma.yolasite.com/book-covers.php

CHIP KIDD http://www.chipkidd.com/gallery.html

COVERS BY ALDELM JOHN FERRIOLS http://www.coroflot.com/Maggs/Book-Covers

THE COVER COUNTS http://thecovercounts.com/

CREATION WARRIOR http://www.creationwarrior.net/

CREATIV INDIE COVERS http://bookcovers.creativindie.com

CUSTOM INDIE COVERS http://www.customindiecovers.com/

DAFEENAH JAMEEL http://dafeenah.deviantart.com/gallery/

DAMONZA http://damonza.com

THE DARK RAYNE http://www.thedarkrayne.com/book-covers/

DIGITAL DONNA http://digitaldonna.com

EBOOK COVER DESIGNS http://www.ebook-coverdesigns.com

EBOOK INDIE COVERS http://ebookindiecovers.com

EBOOK SERVICES https://ebookcovers4u.wordpress.com/cat…/covers-weve-made/

EL DESIGNS http://www.eldesigns.net/index.html

ESTRELLA COVER ART http://estrellacoverart.com/

EXTENDED IMAGERY http://www.extendedimagery.com

FANTASIA FROG DESIGNS http://fantasiafrogdesigns.wordpress.com/premade-bookcovers/

FICTION BOOK COVER http://fictionbookcover.com/

FLIP CITY AUTHOR SERVICES http://flipcitybooks.com

FOR THE MUSE DESIGN (Pre-Mades) http://www.forthemusedesign.com/pre-made-covers.html

FOSTER COVERS http://www.fostercovers.com

FOSTERING SUCCESS http://www.fostering-success.com/autho…/ebook-cover-design

GO ON WRITE http://www.goonwrite.com

GRAPHICZ X DESIGNS http://graphiczxdesigns.zenfolio.com

HARPER DESIGN http://louharper.com/Design.html

HUMBLE NATIONS http://humblenations.com

I DREW DESIGN (FIVERR) https://www.fiverr.com/idrewdesign

INDIE AUTHOR SERVICES http://www.indieauthorservices.com/pre-made-book-covers.html

JAMES LEDGER CONCEPTS http://www.jamesledgerconcepts.com

JANET HOLMES http://www.seejanetwork.com/

JH ILLUSTRATION https://jhillustration.wordpress.com

JOE SIMMONS ILLUSTRATION http://www.jsimmonsillustration.com

KATIE W. STEWART http://www.katiewstewart.com/cover-designs.html

KILLER COVERS http://killercovers.com/#ebook

***THE KILLION GROUP http://thekilliongroupinc.com

KIT FOSTER DESIGN http://www.kitfosterdesign.com/Home.aspx

LEAH KAYE SUTTLE http://www.leahsuttle.com

LFD DESIGNS http://mycoverart.com/

LITTERA DESIGNS http://www.litteradesigns.com

LLPIX PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN http://www.llpix.com

MARIYA KRUSHEVA http://mishka19.deviantart.com/gallery/33572981?offset=0

MELCHELLE DESIGNS http://melchelledesigns.com

NESS GRAPHICA http://www.nessgraphica.com/

NINJA MEL DESIGNS http://www.ninjameldesigns.com/portfolio/

PHAT PUPPY ART http://phatpuppyart.com

PERMED EBOOK COVER SHOP http://www.premadeebookcovershop.com/

Q42 GRAPHIC DESIGN http://www.q42graphicdesign.com

REBECCA SWIFT ARTWORK http://www.rebeccaswiftartwork.com

ROBIN LUDWIG DESIGN http://gobookcoverdesign.com/pages/book_cover_design.html

ROCKING BOOK COVERS http://www.rockingbookcovers.com

RROXX (FIVERR) https://www.fiverr.com/…/create-awesome-professional…

SARAH JANELEHOUX http://sarah-janelehoux.com/coverart.htm

SCARLETT RUGERS BOOK DESIGN AGENCY http://booksat.scarlettrugers.com

SCRIBBLELEAF http://www.scribbleleaf.com

SELF PUB BOOK COVERS http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/

SHAYNE HELLERMAN http://shaynehellerman.deviantart.com/gallery/

STREETLIGHT GRAPHICS http://streetlightgraphics.com

STEFAN LINDBLAD http://www.canvas.nu/illustration-bokomslag-eng.htm

SWEET ’N SPICY DESIGNS http://jayceedelorenzo.com/sweetnspicy/

TUGBOAT DESIGN http://www.tugboatdesign.net

YOCLA DESIGNS http://yocladesigns.com/

WALKING STICK BOOKS http://www.walkingstickbooks.com/…/Ser…/Cover-Design.cfm

WICKED SMART DESIGNS http://www.wickedsmartdesigns.com

WINTER HEART DESIGN http://winterheart.com/category/covers

WORD SUGAR DESIGNS http://www.wordsugardesigns.com/

 

There you go. So now you can’t tell me you can’t find a good cover designer. 😉

Release Day! His Perfect Bride/Corva: The Perfect Bride

Dec 27, 2015

Okay, technically Release Day is tomorrow, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. *leans in and whispers* The books are already live on all retailers. That’s right, His Perfect Bride (spicy version) and Corva: The Perfect Bride (sweet version) are up and running…and available for just 99 cents until Friday only! So grab a copy while the price is low! The Brides of Paradise Ranch are here! But right now, you can get started reading…

HisPerfectBride_Corva_2Covers

As the train whistle blew, its shrill sound competing with the squeal of brakes that signaled their final approach to the station in Haskell, Wyoming, Corva Collier clutched her paint box to her chest. This was it. Her heart raced at a thousand beats per minute as she took one final look out the window.

For days, she’d seen nothing but vast, empty space out the train window—first endless stretches of grassland and then wide plains with towering mountains all around. The expansive vistas filled with greens and browns, greys and purples that she’d only ever imagined when she mixed her paints, had captivated her. Every bend in the tracks had shown her a new picture, begged her to open her paints, lay out a canvas and translate the beauty into a captured moment. Of course, it was impossible to paint on a moving train packed with passengers, but it was not impossible to dream.

At last, after darkness and terror that she thought would never end, it was possible to dream.

Another sharp whistle shook her out of her thoughts. The open landscape—dotted here and there with herds of cattle or smaller groups of horses—gave way to a sudden and cheery town. The train lurched to a stop in front of a wooden platform. The wood was still a verdant light brown, suggesting the platform was new.

Corva smiled, telling her shoulders to unbunch. The West was new, Wyoming was new, and Haskell was newer still. Mrs. Breashears had explained this quaint town that had popped up on the whim of rancher Howard Haskell and his family, explained the dire need they had for women to marry the ranch hands and businessmen who had rushed to claim their corner of the booming enterprise. The prospect of settling somewhere far away from Nashville, far away from the nightmare of Atlanta as well, was all the incentive Corva needed. The sweet letter she’d received from Mr. Franklin Haskell, personally inviting her to come to Paradise Ranch to be his bride, was merely icing on the cake of her escape from a life that had felt like death itself.

As soon as the man who sat across the aisle from her stood and walked to the front of the car, Corva dipped into the pocket of her coat and took out a small, round mirror. She checked her hair, turned this way and that to study her face. The bruises that had constantly marred her complexion for most of her life had been gone for a year, but in her heart she expected to see them pop up again at any moment. That didn’t mean she liked what she saw, though. She was nothing but a short, ugly, useless—

No. Those were Uncle Stanley’s words, not hers. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and reminded herself that her uncle was in the past, and his temper was nothing but a few faded scars to her now. As those scars healed, her work—the work of believing in herself—had begun. Believing in herself was so much harder than she’d thought it would be.

“Miss, are you getting off here?” the conductor asked from the front of the car.

Corva cleared her throat. “Yes.” Her voice was no more than a wisp. She stood, slipping the mirror back into her pocket and tightening her grip around the handle of her paint box. She moved to the aisle and twisted and reached for her carpetbag in the rack above the seat.

“I can help you with that.” The conductor strode forward to fetch her bag. It was new and possibly the prettiest thing she owned, aside from the potential in her paints. Mrs. Breashears had purchased it especially for this journey.

“Thank you.” All Corva could offer the kind conductor was a smile, but that seemed to be payment enough. He smiled in return—the way Corva imagined her long-departed father would have smiled at her—and preceded her up the aisle to the door, bag in hand.

As she stepped down onto the platform in Haskell, Corva held her breath. Behind the scent of coal smoke and metal that was the train, she caught a whiff of freshly sawed wood, animal, and beyond that, something cleaner, purer. Men and women in every kind of dress from tailored suits to worn aprons, bustled against the backdrop of a town burgeoning with new life and the fresh colors of whitewash and painted shutters. Her gaze drifted to the mountains in the distance, their caps still snowy, even though it was late spring.

“Now, who’s here to meet you, Miss Collier?” the conductor asked. “It would be irresponsible for me to turn a sweet thing like you off on your own.”

Corva blushed and lowered her head, blinking rapidly. Sweet? Her? No one had ever called her sweet or taken any sort of interest in her at all. She opened her mouth to answer.

“Corva Collier? Miss Corva Collier?”

Corva and the conductor both turned to find a pair of grey-haired ladies in fine dresses with astounding bustles marching toward them.

“Yes, you must be Corva,” the one on the right—slightly older than the other but as vibrant as a young girl—said. “Margaret Breashears said you were a painter.” She nodded to the box Corva carried.

“Is that what that is?” the younger of the two said. She looked as full of life as a woman half her age. The word “trouble” popped to Corva’s mind as she studied the two of them together.

“Yes,” the first one said. “It’s a paint box.”

“Oh, how lovely.”

“I’m Virginia Piedmont.” The first woman thrust out her hand for Corva to shake.

“And I’m Josephine Evans.” The second one followed suit.

It was then that Corva realized her mouth still hung open from the comment she’d been about to make to the conductor. She snapped it shut, blushing furiously, shifted her paint box to her left hand, then shook hands with both women, adding a quiet, “How do you do?” in her soft, Georgia accent.

“Well, now that you’re here,” Virginia said, beaming with satisfaction. She nodded to the carpetbag that the amused conductor still carried. “Is that all you brought with you?”

“Oh, no.” Corva’s heart leapt back to her throat as she glanced from the women to the train, and then pleadingly at the conductor.

The good man sensed her thoughts enough to say, “I’ll fetch your crates, Miss Collier. Don’t you worry.”

“Crates?” Josephine asked as she reached to take the carpetbag from the conductor. “What crates?”

“You’ll see.” The conductor gave her a saucy wink, then hurried along to the last train car.

“I brought a few paintings with me,” Corva explained. “I…I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” Josephine laughed. “Why would I mind? That sounds delightful.”

“It’s really up to Franklin to mind,” Virginia said.

“You’re…you’re his aunt, aren’t you?” Corva asked. “At least, he mentioned an Aunt Virginia who was helping bring me here in his letter.”

“Yes, dear.” Virginia beamed. “That’s me. It was nice of Franklin to remember me.”

Josephine sucked in a breath and nodded, as if remembering something herself. Then the two women turned in unison to look behind them.

Corva looked as well, and pressed a hand to her stomach. There, standing just beyond the edge of the platform on the board sidewalk that stretched away down the town’s main street, stood a man in a suit. Corva felt her cheeks go pink and her skin tingle with excitement and apprehension. The man was startlingly handsome, with dark hair and eyes so blue she could see them across the distance. He was clean-shaven and well-groomed, and the suit he wore was finely made and tailored to fit him perfectly. But what drew her attention were the iron braces on his legs—like twin cages—and the ivory-topped cane that he leaned against.

Franklin Haskell. Her groom.

There you go! Ready to read more? You can start reading the sweet version (nothing inappropriate), Corva: The Perfect Bride exclusively at Amazon by clicking here.

For the spicy version (scenes! It has scenes!) His Perfect Bride, click here to be taken to Amazon, click right here to be taken to iBooks, and click on this link to go to Barnes & Noble to read on your Nook.

I hope you all enjoy this fabulous new series!