Sunday, November 24, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 24, 2013

So you think you can NaNo? Well - clearly, I can't. I didn't write on Friday, and today I managed a whopping 376 words, making my total below par by approximately 1000 words. Currently I'm sitting at 39 006. There's a good chance I can catch up, but it might mean ignoring my family, my day job, and my hygiene. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

Image from

Saturday, November 23, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 23, 2013

I started the day out right, with 1 466 words, a little shy of the 1 667 goal, but I had other very important things to do. For instance, my good friend from high school, and business partner, is here for the weekend. She and her son deserve nothing but the best, so after writing, I whipped up a scrumptious breakfast of bacon and pancakes. Afterwards, we settled in for an afternoon of e-book formatting. Even the five boys lent a head, before disappearing to watch "Dr. Who".

All in all, a busy, but productive day. I would have liked to have made up for yesterday's nonexistent word count, but I know there's always tomorrow. At 38 630 words, I'm exactly where I need to be, which is better than past years, when I've scrambled to write 5000 everyday for the last week, just to "win" the prize. Of course, the prize is the knowledge that I can create a comprehensive, if messy, first draft of a novel that might one day find publication. 

As always - I remain optimistic. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 21, 2013

This morning, I took my car in for a repair and met a friend for breakfast. It's such a treat to take time to sit, and leisurely enjoy a meal with someone else. We talk to each other nearly every day via Facebook and texts, but it's not the same as real-life contact. Sometimes, I think we don't make enough time for in-person activities. Too much is accessible on the internet... webinars, twitter chats, FB chats, texts, even Skype puts the filter of a computer screen between two people.

I think I might be missing the olden days... you know, back when we had to pull the phone cord around the corner to gain some privacy because not only was it attached to the wall in the kitchen, it was the only phone in the house. My mom used to "have coffee" several times a week with friends, in a house, while the children entertained each other. There was no stylish Starbucks or trendy Tim Hortons to meet up at. And Sunday was a family day. We'd all pile into the car and head out to Grandma's house where she would serve roast beast, mashed potatoes and pie. Only, for us, Grandma lives too far away, and our boys have too many activities that fill up Sundays to participate in such folly. These days, we're lucky if we have supper together at all.

As I'm writing this, knowing I'm about to publish it on the internet, I keep thinking that, in some ways, we're even more disconnected than we were when technology wasn't a part of our everyday. It's like we've given ourselves permission to be too busy to connect in person. Instead of "I'll call you", it's "I'll text you". Instead of "let's have a coffee", it's "I'll send you a picture on Facebook. And when we do call, or we do meet in person - we always say "we need to do this more often".

We're right, we do. At the very least, I do.

My days are far more productive when I interact with people face-to-face. Today I took my car to be fixed, had breakfast with a friend, scrubbed two bathrooms, did several loads of laundry, supervised the cleaning of the rest of the house, dropped off some donations to a local organization, wrote 1 664 words, edited another 2 500, and did my standard marketing. I didn't feel stressed, I wasn't rushed, and I didn't run out of energy.

It's possible that the luxury of working from home in pajamas has created an illusion of a stress-free work environment. The truth is, it's easy to fall into bad habits, forget to take breaks, take showers, and even take time for kids. No matter what - the work is always there. I tell myself it's okay to work in the evenings, because I sent a detailed email to my mom, I texted my girlfriend, and I shared a few links with my kids on Facebook (they're teenagers - they're allowed to have accounts). My world can wait for me to unplug because I've connected with everyone on the interweb... sort of... in 140 characters or less.

So... I need to make myself a promise. One that I can actually keep. I promise to eat dinner with my family as often as possible; I promise that while out for lunch or breakfast, I won't answer or look at my cell phone, especially if the notification is from Facebook or Twitter; and I promise to remember that connecting virtually is convenient, but it's not, and never will be, a replacement for connecting in person.

Oh - and my NaNoWriMo word count total is 37 164.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 20, 2013

Today's NaNo attempt was a little less productive than usual. I only wrote 963 words, but I'm still ahead of the game with 35 500 words, so I'm not worried. Plus, my lack of productivity had nothing to do with motivation - I was just busy. After editing approximately 8000 words, connecting with a few book bloggers, running after kids, and fulfilling volunteer obligations, I simply ran out of time.

I know it's early... I'm not likely to turn into a pumpkin 9:15pm, but there's TV to watch, books to read for fun, and boys to tuck in. Plus - everyone deserves a break once in a while. So - tonight is my break - too bad I don't have a KitKat to enjoy it with.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No you think you can NaNo... Day 19, 2013

Today is all about best laid plans and all that jazz.

This morning, I woke up planning to go to the gym. Instead, I spent the morning waiting for the pediatrician's office to call back with an appointment for my 13-year-old hockey star... so we could confirm a mild concussion. Then, I planned to email book bloggers - which I did - peppered with short bursts of writing - which I didn't do.

Our normal Tuesday night dinner of pasta, before taking the 12-year old-to diving, turned into a spontaneous Subway supper since the doctor's appointment ended up conflicting with the dinner-cooking time slot.

At the pool, the intention was to focus on the writing I didn't accomplish during the day. This is what happens when a mom is focused on her son executing an inward one and half dive from the three metre board...

The periods go on for about ten pages. I'm a little embarrassed to say that it happened more than once.

The funny thing is, despite the topsy-turvy day, I still managed to surpass my NaNo goal. While at the pool, I thought I might have squeezed out about a thousand words, when in reality, I wrote 1 862. It was like I was having my own private NaNoWriMo write-in, and didn't even know it. Finishing the day with a grand total of 34 537, I actually feel like I accomplished something.

Monday, November 18, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 18, 2013

I've spent a few days whining, moaning, and generally lamenting the worth of my NaNo project, but it's possible I gave up hope too soon. After three writing sprints, I cranked out 2 244 words, bringing my NaNoWriMo total to 32 675 - not bad for a project that took a serious downward turn into pathetic.

All it needed was a dash of pizzazz, a pinch of weird, some character adjustments, and a reminder that some of the best pieces of art only exist because they started out as mistakes. I'm not say this book is a work of art - yet - I'm just saying that it's possible I might be able to salvage a few thousand or so words.

In other news, today was a usual busy Monday with editing (about 6000 words), marketing, running after kids, and meetings. I didn't find any cool cat pictures, or other bits of memorabilia to share, but I did find my confidence and determination to see this project to the end. And by the end - I mean the very end - which includes edits, and with any luck, publication.

image from

Sunday, November 17, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 17, 2013

Well - I don't like my novel anymore than I did yesterday, but I'm plodding along, trying to make it work to some degree. At the very least, I should be able to say that I tried to breathe life into the thing, even if I can't completely revive it. After writing 1 760 words today, the book currently boasts 30 431 unusable words.

In addition to the writing, we continued to sort out the basement... and I found cat pictures!

When my husband and I first started living together (back in the dark ages, before digital cameras), we had the most beautiful, albeit not terribly friendly, beast of a cat. His name was Tristam - named pretentiously after Tristam Shandy. Unfortunately, he inadvertently tried to kill my youngest boy, so he spent his senior years living with another family. Even though we had visitation rights, I don't think he ever forgave us.

I keep saying that when the allergic children move out, I'm getting a cat. Of course, that's only to ensure they don't try to move back in. We're going to call that "tough love".

Saturday, November 16, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 16, 2013

This morning, I wrote poolside. The only things missing were a tropical cocktail and the cabana boy to serve it. While my boy was diving, I racked up 1 779 words, and got to watch some pretty awesome skills too.

It's a good thing the words were done early, since the rest of the day was filled hockey, more hockey, and sorting through a couple of old bins in the basement. I found a few interesting items - one of which I was sure had been destroyed...

Thankfully - I don't know anyone who still has a machine to play this back, so it's all good.

My NaNo story is coming along nicely in word count -  28 671 words so far - but I'm beginning to think this will be one NaNo project that won't see publication. I know it's a rough first draft, and that editing will weed out the crap, but let's face it: not all novels are meant to be.

Friday, November 15, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 15, 2013

I almost didn't do the NaNo today. My writerly fingers refused to obey, my imagination went into lock-down, and my motivation hid under my pillow, enticing me to take a nap.

But then, I realized there's no such thing as writer's block. Not really. So I trudged my way through the horrid desolation of my mind, forced my fingers to take action, and bribed my imagination with stinky chips and chocolate.

Image from

I finished later than I wanted to, but I did write 1 879 words, which brings my current total to 26 892. In the end, part of what motivated me was knowing that what I didn't do today - I would have to do tomorrow.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 14, 2013

I'm officially over the halfway mark in my NaNo word count. Yay me! 1 984 words written today for a total of 25 013. That means I only have 24 987 words left to reach the 50 000. Of course, my novel will probably be closer to 70 000 when it's complete, but at least I'll have a solid start on it before the end of November.

The story is really starting to unfold, it's fun, a bit silly, and in some places... well - you'll just have to wait to read it once it's edited and published.

Image from rbgstock

Now... what will I do with the rest of my evening? I'm thinking a good book might be in order. One I didn't write.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 13, 2013

Another successful NaNo day to brag about on my blog!

Except... I'm annoyed with the folks at NaNoWriMo. I started a thread to promote Morning Rain Publishing, but they pulled it.

Why would they do such a thing?

I have been an active NaNo participant for the past four years. I spend countless hours promoting the organization, and often encourage others to join. Before starting the thread, I read the rules, and was careful to place it in the appropriate forum section. Unfortunately, I'm not a forum frequenter. So, because I didn't comment or participate in another thread before starting one of my own,  I'm not allowed to join the Thread Creator Club. All I wanted to do was promote a small Canadian publisher who wants to help NaNo participants achieve their dreams, at no cost whatsoever.

I must be evil. 

I'm irked enough that I want to quit NaNo. I need to be convinced that promoting them is worth my time and energy.

In other news, I also got a lovely manicure today. It's fitting, because the design works with the whole Pinup Girl / Burlesque Dancer theme I have going on in my current project.

Image compliments of Spa Elegant Nails

Today's word count amounted to 1788, making the total to date 23 029

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 12, 2013

There is nothing exciting to report today. I got up, I worked, I edited, I wrote, and I did not make dinner. Well - I tried to make dinner, but it helps if you put the food in the oven... so we ate leftovers. That's the highlight of an otherwise uneventful day. 

I typed up 1 731 words, for a total of 21 241. A rather acceptable writing day. 

Oh - one awkward thing did happen today, after I drafted the first half of this blog. While watching an episode of Supernatural (Season 5, episode 6 - I Believe the Children are Our Future), I had to explain to my 13-year-old why Dean had hairy palms. It was funny, but then, all of a sudden, not so much.

Image from    

Monday, November 11, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 11, 2013

I'm still battling the plague. It's probably nothing more serious than a lingering cough, but it's interfering with my mojo. This morning I expected to hit the gym after three weeks of inactivity... instead, my body decided to cough up a lung, a pair of socks and a screwdriver - who knew there was so much stuff in there?

After driving my son to school and picking up some much-needed groceries, I headed home to start my writing and editing day. Waiting for me, in my email, was a reminder that I still had a school volunteer newsletter to complete - today - so it could go home with the kids in their report cards.

That done, I settled in to write my first 500 words of the day. I have discovered that if I break the writing into bite-sized bits, it doesn't feel so intimidating. Following the NaNo sprint, I edited 3000 words of a terrific epic fantasy novel, took care of some marketing, and then settled in to write another 500 words.

Those 500 words easily morphed into 1200 as one of my characters transformed into a beautiful black woman with attitude (she had previously been a blue-eyed blond). After that surprise, my characters launched into a weird and wonderful discussion - stemming from the presence of a fluffy white bunny - on monster erotica. There are a whole lot of fun times ahead in this book!

By suppertime, I had written 1738 words, which makes my NaNo total 19 510.

Image from

Sunday, November 10, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 10, 2013

For a moment, I thought today was going to be a repeat of yesterday, minus the basement clean-out. Somehow, I managed to write my character into the kind of lingering depression that made me want to throw her out the window, just to shut her up. I'm writing a sequel to Money, Masks & Madness - the book is supposed to be all stuff and fluff, but I somewhere along the line I managed to take a wrong turn.

Lucky for me, and my MC, the day was broken up by a Remembrance Day parade and service, followed by a kid's hockey game. The break did us both a world of good, and I managed to introduce a plausible distraction, complete with a tiny romantic interlude...

Today's word count totaled 1722 words (not quite making up for yesterday's slump), and left me sitting pretty at 17 772 words. I'm not ahead, but I'm not behind, so it's all good.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 9, 2013

Saturdays are for cleaning house, running after kids, and staying in pajamas as long as possible. They should also be for writing, but the writing groove didn't happen for me today. I did, however, manage to clean out a storage room in the basement that was beginning to look a lot like an episode of hoarders.

That was pretty much my day. Emptying bins, sorting through bits of my life that had been tucked away, and resenting that I had left it for so long. There were plenty of opportunities for writing breaks, but instead I chose to indulge in mindless rounds of "Candy Crush", and internet surfing.

I wrote a measly 1018 words, bringing my total to 16050. I know I'm still on target for completing the 50 000 words by November 30th, and I know that it's okay to have a less productive writing day, but I'm still a tiny bit disappointed.

I also wrote my character into a corner... and now I need to find a way to dig her out of her melancholy, before she ends up throwing herself off a bridge.

Friday, November 8, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 8, 2013

Today was easy enough. I did some line edits, wrote some letters to book bloggers, and worked on my NaNo project. The sick boy is getting better - I'll miss the morning movie, and bowl of Hickory Sticks he discreetly places at my elbow while he munches on something yummy himself. It's a good thing he hasn't been dealing with a stomach bug.

My evening was a little bit different. I spent it at a NaNoWriMo Write In. Since I haven't been to one before, I had no idea what to expect. We were to bring little stuffed animals so people could identify us as NaNo participants. I couldn't decide which one to bring.

So I brought both...

The good thing about the write in was that I wrote... I wrote an extra 1000 words. The awkward thing - well, I didn't meet any other writers. Everyone there seemed to be studying physics.

Today's word count total was 2 582, which brings my NaNo total to 15 032.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 7, 2013

This NaNo thing really isn't so bad. I cranked out 2032 words throughout the day, plus managed to do some laundry (when boys are complaining about laundry - you know there's a problem!), edited about 5000 words, prepared some snail mail, and was only marginally distracted by my (still sick) boy watching Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides.

Today is the end of the first week of NaNo and I'm sitting pretty at 12 450 words. I'm hoping that when it comes time to edit, they will be 12 450 usable words.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 6, 2013

I thought today would be the day I'd fall behind in word count. With one boy home sick, another one celebrating a birthday, a new water heater being installed, groceries to buy, and 7000 words to edit, I was pretty sure NaNo time wouldn't happen.

I was wrong. So very wrong.

Not only did I meet my word count goal for today, I exceeded it.

The target was 1667 words. I achieved 1852, which means I crossed over the 10K mark, and am sitting comfortably at 10 418. I'd say, today was a pretty good NaNo day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 5, 2013

Today I managed 1609 words for a grand total of 8566... not bad for day five, not bad at all.

I also managed to edit a few thousand words, write a few letters, and sneak in snuggles with my youngest, who now has the plague. We thought it had waved good-bye and left the house for good, but it turns out it snuck back in for hugs and kisses.

All in all, a rather boring, but productive day with nothing too exciting to report. The best distraction all day was watching bits of Men in Black. My favourite line? "Elvis isn't dead, he just went home."

And here is a random picture of my dog - because she's gorgeous and there are too many cat pictures on the internet.

Monday, November 4, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 4, 2013

I'm on target because I'm awesome like that!

Of course, I have "word wars" and "writing sprints" with Jaclyn Aurore to thank for today's success.

Distractions included, but weren't limited to:

  • the refrigerator repair guy stopped in for a visit
  • not one, but two boys missed their buses today, and 
  • a short visit from a good friend. 

And then, there was this in the mail:

Hercules is a budgie... How he managed to send mail without using a carrier a pigeon is beyond me.

So - today's word count came to 1, 894, for a grand total of 6, 957 to date.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 3, 2013

Today's NaNo distractions started with the raking of leaves and the shoveling of acorns in the backyard. The weather was too enchanting to spend the entire day inside at a computer, so family time and yard work took priority. 

When the work was done, my boys decided a little Animal Planet was in order, so they watched a documentary on Giant Squids while I worked away at my project, guilt-free. It was all going well until the show turned to the subject of squid sex. My twelve-year-old had a question, or two, or three...

When sex ed was done for the day, it was time to pack in the writing and head out to a volunteer meeting. Upon my return, there was dinner to cook, dishes to do and more words to write. 

By eight o'clock I managed to produce 2019 words for a grand total of 5063 words - putting me back on track for tomorrow. Yay me!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 2, 2013

Today is Saturday. I was up early to take a boy to write a high school entrance exam. While out, I ran some errands, and then returned home to fit some writing in.

Albolene distracted me.

All I did was search Google for the name of a good stage makeup remover. Who knew it could also be used to melt away fat? You just slap it on the problem areas (tummy, butt, thighs), encase yourself in plastic wrap, do your exercises, and presto... the pounds dissolve. It must be true. I saw it on YouTube.

This fascinating research was interrupted by a PeeWee hockey game (my boy's team won 3:2 - yay), followed by a quick nap (I think I might be battling the plague - more on that another day), and then a delicious supper made by my hubby (because I was busy napping).

Today's goal was 1600 words... I managed 1382. This gives me a grand total of 3044. It's still early, but I promised my boys we'd watch a movie as a family, and that means no computers, no notebooks, and no cell phones.

Friday, November 1, 2013

So you think you can NaNo... Day 1, 2013

Like many writers, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo. I don't have grand aspirations to actually complete a full-length novel, but I do hope to have at least 50 000 usable words by the end of the month.

Did I achieve my word count goal of 1600 words? - Of course I did.
Did I do it before noon. No - I did it the hour before midnight.

Instead, I spent the day looking for distractions.

I wrote book reviews, edited minutes from a meeting, uploaded family pictures to Facebook, cleaned the kitchen, and researched some interesting topics. One of which was how to remove pasties.

Every NaNo day brings something new. Today, it was all about Goo Gone, apparently, it's good stuff.

Tah-tah for now, my friends. I'll check back in tomorrow with more titillating bits about NaNo.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Where did summer go?

Every year, as September rolls around and the children start back to school, I think: "where did summer go?"

Canadians have a bad habit of believing summer has ended the day after Labour Day. Suddenly, it's apple-picking time, the kids are off to school, and we start to see leaves dressing in Autumn colours. We begin planning for Thanksgiving, Hallowe'en, and Christmas; it doesn't help that the stores are already stocking both Hallowe'en and Christmas decorations before August. Nor does it help that we allow ourselves to get carried up in the momentum of planning for those celebrations.

But . . .

Summer isn't over until the Autumnal Equinox - which falls on September 22nd this year. By my count, there are at least a couple more weeks of "summer" left. The nights are getting cooler, but the days are still warm and sunshiny. A few leaves are turning, but at the same time, I have flowers that are just starting to bloom.

Why wish the season away before it's come to its end? There's still plenty of time for backyard parties, sipping frosty drinks by the pool, and trips to the beach. These days, it seems we're too quick to jump into the next season while whining about the current one slipping away.

I love summer. I plan to celebrate it up to and including September 21st. Autumn will arrive in its own time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mid-summer giveaway - "Reflections" FREE on Kindle

When I realized my KDP Select contract was coming to an end, and I hadn't used all the free promotional days, I figured I may as well string them together and put them out there. So - here it is, the great, mid-summer freebie you've been waiting for.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You asked; I answered.

Over the past six weeks, I’ve done a number of book signings. From trade shows to bookstores, it’s been a fun and exciting time. Along the way, I’ve been asked a few questions, so I thought I’d answer them here.

Question: As an independently published writer, how do you get your books in Chapters?
Short Answer: I picked up the phone and asked.
Long Answer: Each Chapters store operates differently. They all have the ability to stock books on consignment, but how they distribute those SKUs and handle author appearances is up to them. Polite phone calls, brief emails, and making a personal connection with the Events Manager all worked in my favour.

Question:  How long does it take to write a book?
Short Answer: About a month and a half.
Long Answer: It might only take 45 days to write a book, but it takes about a year (and sometimes more) to reach publication. The editing process is what slows things down. I rely heavily on beta readers, my editor, and other writers for feedback.

Question: How long have you been writing?
Short Answer: Since I was old enough to pick up a pencil and loose leaf.
Long Answer: As a teenager I wrote wonderful works full of angst and heartache. As an adult, I needed a job to pay the bills so I worked first as a proposal/technical writer and then as a copy writer. Four years ago, I started writing fiction again and it has become something of an addiction.

Question: How many books have you written?
Short Answer: Three.
Long Answer: Actually, I’ve written several books. Most of them are tucked away in a box, stored on a floppy disk, or have been used to start backyard fires. They make excellent fuel for roasting marshmallows and hanging out with my boys. At this time, only five books are worth sharing. Three are published (Remember Newvember, Reflections, Money, and Masks & Madness), one is with Beta Readers (Liminal Lights), and one is at the beginnings of the editing phase (Shadow Shifts). Currently, I’m writing the third book in the Liminal Trilogy (Seminal Souls) and doing some research for a sequel to "Money, Masks & Madness".

Question: Are your books about you.
Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: Honestly, I think every writer puts a bit of herself into each book she writes. A little piece of my soul is threaded through the text, linking the words back to the essence of me. The stories might not be about my life, but there are elements of my personality, character, morals, and beliefs embedded in them. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fame, Fortune and the “F” Word

Recently, a friend told me I have “a fear of fame”. At the time, I laughed and tucked his comment away into the dark crevices of my mind. Why would he think I’m afraid? Doesn’t every writer dream of fame and fortune? Isn’t that the ultimate goal? We can kid ourselves by insisting we write for personal enjoyment, that we strive towards lofty literary goals – but in all seriousness, what’s the point if there isn’t an extensive readership?  Self-gratification only takes you so far.

Unfortunately, my friend might have been right.

Publicizing my work scares the crap out of me. There. I said it. I hate advertising my books, I hate showing off my accomplishments, and I hate asking for reviews. Not because I don’t think my writing is good enough, but because I am afraid of rejection. Writing is personal – a little piece of my soul is weaved through every book I write, so in essence, when someone criticizes or rejects my work, I take it as a personal assault, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Fear is a powerful thing. It’s what prevents me from querying agents, spending money on marketing, and tackling the kind of writing that digs deep into the psyche. Fear paralyzes, it dissembles, and it makes writing difficult.
It also innervates the brain, helps produce astounding work, and propels us forward. This is when the adrenaline kicks in, your brain slips into overdrive, your emotions go into lockdown, and you’re forced to make an instinctual decision. Fight or flight. Go big or stay home. Use it or lose it.

Just do it.

I have a love-hate relationship with this sly, sneaky thing called fear. For now, I’m going to fold it up, stick in my back pocket and sit on it. It could very well be the kick in the ass I need to get things done. This is one F-word I plan to use to my advantage.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Lumen by Joseph Eastwood

This book is for anyone who loves fantasy. Joseph Eastwood’s imagination draws the reader into an alternate reality where magic exists, perils abound, and characters come to life on the page. Daniel is a complex character, both strong and weak, dealing with his changing body, maturing emotions, and new powers he must embrace. Born in the Lowerlands and educated in the Upperlands, Daniel's begins to experience privileges he wasn't meant to have. However, with his privileges comes unexpected danger as he finds himself fighting to stay where he doesn’t belong.

While the story is intriguing and the characters are believable, this book does have its faults. First, it needs a solid line edit to correct small issues such as typos, missing words and awkward sentences (nothing too worrisome, but still all too common in independently published books). Second, there are a few inconsistencies in both the plot and the characterization. I had difficulty figuring out if Daniel was from the lower part of the Middlelands (as suggested at the beginning of the book), or if he was actually from the hated Lowerlands. Technically, Daniel isn’t allowed to leave the island or he could die, and yet he is permitted to go without consequence. Reuban both supports and hates Daniel – which is realistic enough, but he falters between giving the boy privileges and protecting him and setting him up for failure. Not to mention, Reuban breaks character and risks his school, students, and own life in calling for a Luminary without ever  giving the reader a good reason why. There are times when secondary characters know things they shouldn’t. For example, Daniel’s mother doesn’t know what he is, and yet she does when he arrives at her house with Mia at the end of the book.

As the book progresses towards its end, revealing Daniel’s true form, it feels a bit rushed. So much time is given at the beginning, creating realistic characters and a unique world that I wish a little more time had been taken to reach its conclusion. The ending culminates in numerous inconsistencies, leaving many questions (which obviously lead into the second book), and making me feel as though the entire thing was rushed to completion. Again, without giving away too much information, I can’t understand why Reuban waited to carry out his plan for Daniel instead of acting the moment he knew his true form. I also find it hard to believe that only one teacher champions the youth – but not until his life was in imminent danger, and immediately following a scene in which the teacher didn’t care if Daniel lived or died. 

Why would Daniel stay in a place where he obviously wasn’t wanted? Especially if he could leave at anytime without consequence. It didn’t seem to me like he was getting anything out of being there, other than numerous beatings. I also think the character of Jac could have been better defined. His role is important, and the author has the ability to delve into that character’s mind, as he often does, so why not expand on his role in the book earlier to help clarify events and perhaps clear up some of the inconsistencies?

Despite the issues above, could be a good book. With a bit of polish and more attention to detail, this series should meet with success in the YA fantasy market. 

Joseph Eastwood can be found on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and on his blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Copy, right? Wrong. Cover Yourself (geddit!!??) by Russell Cruse

I have a thing about copyright.  So many new writers ignore it at their peril.

The covers of both my published books comprise nothing but images created by my own fair hand. If anyone's interested, this is how I did it. 

This is the cover as it now appears (click to enlarge if need be) but since I possess only limited charm and modest funds, It was unlikely that I would be able to persuade someone to stand on the side of a mountain in the middle of the night whilst, a mile away, another willing volunteer skis away, leaving neat tracks in the pristine slopes. So how was it done? Well, the first thing to do was to raid my holiday snaps.

I took this photograph (1) about four years ago on the slopes of Diavolezza in Switzerland.  Since this is
(1) Mountain ridge on Diavolezza
where part of the novel is set, I thought it apposite.  I snapped it just as a party of cross-country skiers had crested a high ridge. You will notice a distinct lack of a) the moon and b) a figure.  The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that it appears to have been taken in daylight.  Well done.

(2) Colorized
The first thing to do was to colorize it on PhotoShop(Copyright Adobe Systems 1989-2011) (2)
This is embarrassingly easy and creates instant night scenes.

Then I fished out another photo I'd taken high on the Julier Pass, again in Switzerland, of the full moon.

(3) Fiddling with the moon (Original on left)
This required rather more jiggery pokery to get the effect I wanted.(3) I had to enhance the moon enormously, cut it out and then insert it in a suitable place on my master sheet.(4) It still needed a bit more finessing since the altered moon had too much of an unreal appearance.  I settled for somewhere between the two.

(4) Moonrise on the mountain.
The next thing it needed was a figure.  In the story, the hero, David Benedict searches the mountains for his lost love (yes, I know: it's very moving) and so I needed a picture of him.  The main problem in getting him to pose for me was that he is merely a figment of my fevered imagination.  So I needed a stand-in. Again, my holiday snaps were enlisted. 

(5) Skier gets into shot
I found a shot of a frozen lake in Silvaplana, south-west of St. Moritz which had been spoiled (not the lake, the picture) by a skier gliding into shot at just the wrong time. (5)  Of such serendipitous strands are our little lives fashioned.  

(6) Skier gets plopped onto mountainside
With a bit of help from PhotoShop (Copyright, Adobe Systems 1989 - 2011) I was able to make a passable David Benedict, whom I then inserted into the picture.  I added a suitable shadow and there it was. (6)
All that was then needed was to crop the picture to a suitable paperback aspect ratio, add the text and that was it.

Now whether or not it's a good cover is debatable.  I happen to like it but that doesn't make it good.  I was told by someone in the business that it was too individual - ie:  in order to have impact, your cover should look as much like the cover of a book with a similar story as possible. 
I'm certain they are right.  If I was to do it again, I might aim for an Ian Rankin/Val McDermid kind of feel, although "Head Count" is a more humourous work than that of either of those two authors.  I need to get my hands on a couple of good, darkly comic whodunnits and see what their publishers come up with.  

More of Russel Cruse's work can be found on his blog, Authonomy and Amazon

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Cover Tutorial by Sam Dogra

A cover can make or break a book, regardless of the old saying, and it really is important to invest the time and effort into getting/ creating a brilliant cover (not just a 'good' cover). Here I hope to cover (no pun intended) step by step how I made the book cover for my book, The Binding. I don’t claim to be an expert, but hopefully through sharing my methods you might pick up something useful.

This tutorial is meant for ebook covers. Paperback books for POD are slightly more tricky, and I'll cover some of the differences at the end.

I used a combination of Photoshop CS2 and Elements 9.0 (mostly due to brush compatibility issues), and my Wacom Bamboo Graphics Tablet (not required).

WARNING: This tutorial requires a very strong grasp of Adobe Photoshop. If you're unfamiliar with the software, I strongly suggest you find a professional to do the cover for you. All of the techniques I've used were gleaned from free online tutorials and personal experimentation. However I have been using Photoshop for years for my own artwork, so while these skills can be taught, don't expect to learn them overnight!

1. First off, we need ideas. What do you want the front cover to look like? A good place to start are with similar genre books already published, to get a 'flavour' of what covers are in vogue right now. Think about a cover that catches your eye- why does it interest you? Is it the image, the colours, the font? An easy way to do this is use Google images and see all the covers lined together and see which one grabs your interest.

 2. Right, now you've established what kind of cover you'll like, time to find some images. Deviantart and Google are good resources to use, as well as your own photographs. BUT, the most important thing- and I really cannot stress this enough- is make sure you have permission to use the stock photos you find. You'll want something that's free for commercial use, as you're using it for a book. If you're unsure, ask the photo's owner. If that's not possible, then opt for the safe side and just don't use it, no matter how 'perfect' it is. You can pay for stock image use, too. This can be the most time consuming part of cover design but it's very important.

3. Open a new file in Photoshop (I'm using Elements here). Try to set a relatively high resolution- you can shrink the finished version later to the right dimensions without sacrificing quality that way. For my book, I used 200ppi and 31cm x 45cm.

4. As Binding's opening scene begins in a dark forest, I went for this lovely picture of a night woodland (image credit: Use the Transform option to resize accordingly. I was happy with the light and shadows, but if it's not right, use Levels (Ctrl + L) to adjust.

5. Next I needed a necklace. I made this myself using an emerald earring and a silver chain that I have at home. I took a photograph on a dark background, then removed the background. To do this, just use the Magic Wand tool, and set the tolerance fairly lowish, then select the areas you want to remove. Holding Shift allows you to select mutliple areas. Finally, use a hard edge brush to erase the edges and make it tidy. I then duplicated this over to the cover file as a new layer, and resized it.

6. The colour of the gem is green, and I want it red. You can select the gem using the select tool and then use Hue/ Saturation (Ctrl + U) to 'colorize' it, but it looks pretty fake that way. A better way is to open Hue/ Saturation (Ctrl + U) and tweak the individual colours (select the box that says 'Master' and alter the hues etc for each colour channel). In this case I made the green/ blue hues red and orange. This just makes it look more natural. Again, just tweak the colours around and set whatever you're happy with. I used Levels to make the chain a bit brighter, too.

7. So I have the 'icon' image, which looks okay, but it's not very exciting, is it?  To add some flare, I downloaded a brush set for lighting effects ( to make a 'streak' in a white colour on a new layer above the image. On its own, it's a bit too bright, so I toned the Opacity to 60% and switched the layer mode to 'Overlay'.

8. It's still not there, yet! The final touch for this part was to add some brush effects. Again, I downloaded a brush set from here (, this one showing smoky patterns. In a pale blue colour, I made some strokes so it looks like the gemstone is smoking on a new layer above the gem layer.

Again, it's a bit stuck-on without adding some effects, so make a Layer Style (either by right clicking on the layer in CS2 or going to Layer> Layer Style in Elements). This brings up a box like this:

I want the smoke to glow, so I've added an Outer Glow in a slightly darker blue shade. You can play with the settings, adding a drop shadow or changing opacity of the glow, to get a wide range of effects. Don't overdo it though!

9. So, that's the necklace done, but book covers need titles! So the next step is to find a good font. Again, like with the stock images, make sure you have permission to use the font for commercial use. The font I've used is called Hawaiian Lover, and I've altered it manually (using a hard edged Eraser) to remove the bubbling. I choose a calligraphic type font as I think it fits the style of the book. Try to avoid the default fonts as they can be very plain, but at the same time don't get a gaudy one either that's hard to read. It's useful to have a friend feedback to you about the cover but constructively. I argued endlessly about font with my friend, but it was worth it as eventually I found one that both to our liking.

10. Plain text is kinda boring on its own, so this needs some layer effects. Open up Layer Styles again and play around. I went for a Drop Shadow and Bevel to make it look more three-dimensional.

11. I did the same for the remaining text (Chronicles of Azaria, Book One, and my author name), although I used different fonts. Be careful using multiple fonts- it can make the cover look terrible! But I would say use a different font for the author name from the title. My author name is Bookman Old Style, and the series title is Fondamento. I used the same Layer Style for all of them to give it some consistency.

12. To make the book series title stand out, I used another brush set ( and used the swirlies brush, and then used Layer Styles to add a glow effect.

13. Almost done! Lastly, I wanted to frame the cover a bit better. Once again, your friend the brush set (link) comes in handy. I made corner edges with the brush (under Brush settings you can change the direction of the brush, or you can rotate the painted image via Transform), and applied a Drop Shadow and Bevel Layer Style.

14. Save this image, then save it as another PSD file. Now it's time to resize to the right dimensions- Amazon etc will usually specify this. If you want to keep the Layers separate, use the 'Link' option so that everything can be resized without merging the layers. All you need to do now is adjust the cavas size (Image > Resize > Canvas Size), put in the dimensions, and press OK. It will tell you that the canvas dimensions don't meet the image ones, but just allow this. Now, using Transform (Ctrl + T), resize the image so it fits into the new canvas size. Once that's done, you can save this image as a JPG/ PNG, and voila! Your ebook cover is all ready to go. Do be mindful of the file size however- using Photoshop's 'Save for Web' feature can compress files more without sacrificing quality too much, so don't be afraid to use it.

15. Paperback covers are a bit trickier to master as you'll need to make an image for the spine and back cover as well. Createspace etc have accurate templates that you can use to get the dimensions right. This will depend on things like page number, paper thickness etc, so don't attempt this stage until you have the formatting of the paperback book completed. Then all you need to do is generate a template, and open it in Photoshop. This is mine:

All I did was flip the forest image over, and use it for the both the spine and back cover. Using the same text and Layer Styles, I wrote out the title again for the spine, and used the same Layer Styles for the blurb as well (although I used a different font). I've also left a space for the ISBN number.

I used a similar process for books 2 and 3, but also used Layer Gradients to make sure the colours were more balanced. The icon image for book 2 is actually made from a brush set for feathers.

And that's it! Overall it took me around 1-2 hours to make one cover (although most of that was spent trying to get decent photos of my necklace!). The other covers were easier as all the styles were already done, so I simply had to alter the text.

It's also a good idea to acknowledge your sources, so I have an acknowledgements page in my book citing the links to the stock images and brushes I used.

All cover images are copyright Sam Dogra and may not be reproduced without permission.

Sam Dogra can be followed on her blog, Goodreads, and for a sneak peak at her current projects, Authonomy