Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sign of the Green Dragon Tour - guest post by C. Lee McKenzie

I'm happy to welcome the wonderful C. Lee McKenzie to my blog and celebrating her upcoming release, Sign of the Green Dragon. Here's Lee talking about the Chinese zodiac sign of the Dragon.

What’s It Like To Be A Dragon?

Darned hard work is my answer to that question.

If you’re a Dragon, you go out of your way to help others, but seldom ask for help yourself. You like the swash and the buckle way of doing things, and you take a lot of risks because you’re one passionate and enthusiastic creature. Sometimes these risks pay off big. Sometimes not. This is why I say it’s hard work; you’re often exhausted, yet many times unfulfilled.

You must find a tough partner to put up with your independent streak and sometimes bad temper. Your best choices in partners will be Monkey and Rat, and that partner is sure to appreciate how lucky you are. The Dragon is the luckiest animal in the zodiac.

You need a job that gives you a chance to be creative. Maybe an actor or a revolutionary or a political leader would suit your personality.

Here are some noted Dragon Children:

Bruce Lee was Dragon Child.

Joan of Arc—but look what happened there!

Vladimir Putin—Wowzer! You’ve got some spunky company.

Find out if you’re a Dragon. Here are some of the years:







Blurb: A crumbling map from 1859, found clutched in the bony grip of the long dead, sends three young boys on a dangerous adventure where an unsolved murder, a modern crime, some lost ancestors and ancient Chinese dragons reveal the true meaning of treasure.
Buy links:

Author bio: I love to write for young readers. Sign of the Green Dragon is my third Middle Grade novel. Alligators Overhead and the sequel, The Great Time Lock Disaster were my first two. I’m proud to be a hybrid author with three Indie books out along with four traditionally published young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative and Sudden Secrets. It’s fun to know both sides of this writing business. 

When I’m not writing I’m thinking about it or scratching my head over how all of this started. 

Media Links:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 4)

It takes a lot of science and a bit of madness to create great book covers. You can catch up to where we are with part 1, part 2, and part 3. And where are we? Oh yes, image shopping.

We have our backgrounds. Now onto the unsmiling protagonist, because it's against the law to smile on urban fantasy covers.

I spent several hours looking at images of models for the heroines of my Totem series. I'm going to guess over twenty hours, maybe closer to thirty. Crazy, I know, but that's the perfectionist in me.

Did I find images of women that I thought looked exactly as the characters do in my head? No. And that's okay. Readers are going to imagine the characters differently too.

Note: some books have the protagonist with her back to the audience or her head chopped off at the top of the cover. The reason for this is not to give readers a preconceived notion of what the character looks like. If this is your strategy, go for it. (It'll make image shopping much easier!) I know people who prefer that. For me, I like to see faces.

My requirements when shopping for images of models:
- it must be a full body picture or three-fourths. (You can chop it down later if need be.)
- the model must be standing against a plain background or one you can easily extract her from. (My Photoshop skills are average. When I'm cutting a model from her image to place on the cover's background, I want as little interference from other objects in the picture as possible.)
- it must be in color with good lighting. (You can do all the special effects later.)

My requirement specifically for my Totem heroines:
- they must be clothed. And the clothes must be appropriate for that character.
- they must be pale blonde and have little to no makeup. (Very difficult to find. Tip: type "natural" in the image search bar to find models with no makeup.)
- they must be strong without looking mean. Without smiling, of course.

Easy, right? Yeah, I know. It's like trying to find lost pirate treasure.

Totem #1 - Ametta Dorn
Ametta is the youngest sister and the one who gives me the most grief when I'm writing her. She's young, hip, artistic, and opinionated. She loves women's fashion and has impeccable taste while I do not.

Her general physical characteristics: short in height, short blonde hair, tasteful makeup, modern fashion, about twenty-five years old. (Tip: it's fairly easy to change a model's eye color in Photoshop.)
Her main personality characteristics: determination, confidence, a little sass.

What do you think? Can you see Ametta as a famous interior designer?

Totem #2 - Kinley Dorn
Kinley is my favorite. Yes, she's a geek! But an image of her was the most difficult to find. I could not find any picture of a blonde with glasses that suited me. And I really wanted glasses on her. Sure, she only needs them for reading, but how often do we see women with glasses on urban fantasy covers? I can't name one. I had to give it up, though, and focus on other aspects of her.

Her general physical characteristics: tall, willowy, long pale blonde hair, no makeup, mid to late twenties.
Her main personality characteristics: compassion, strength, a bit of timidity.

If I could photoshop glasses on Kinley and make it look good, I totally would. (I'm also covering her midriff to make her wearing a tank top.)

Totem #3 - Saskia Dorn
Saskia is the eldest sister and she kicks butt. She's what you might imagine a stereotypical urban fantasy heroine to be but with a twist.

Her general physical characteristics: tall, lean muscles, long pale blonde hair, no makeup, early thirties.
Her main personality characteristics: ferocity, grit, willfulness.

I wish she was wearing black, but the expression is perfect.

Next time: the rest of the cover elements!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 3)

Welcome back! I'm happy my rambling hasn't scared you off yet. It's been a few weeks since my last book covers post. Click on part one and part two if you need to remind yourself where we are.

Today we're talking about image shopping. You should have your notes on the basic elements you need for your book cover. You're not forming images of finished covers in your mind yet, are you? Don't do it. Not at this point.

I posted five image shopping tips in May. Before you decide where you're going to get your images from, do your research. Make sure the price is the best and the images can be used for commercial use. Usually they're unlimited for electronic use and limited to 100,000 copies for print books. (The latter I don't worry about. If I ever get to the point where I'm selling over 100,000 print copies, I will be able to afford to buy the rights to the print images!)

When purchasing the images, buy the biggest size with the highest resolution. Make certain the images are clear and in color. If you want blurry effects, black & white, or color washes, you can do those yourself later. They are simple to do in most programs.

Backgrounds: There are tons of cityscapes, castles, mansions, forests, and galaxies to choose from. If you have a real location, find an image that has a well known landmark so the reader will be able to pick it out. Otherwise, don't go searching for an image that is exactly what you're imagining in your head. Remember, we want to create a mood and portray the general characteristics of the setting. Is it mysterious you want? Or foreboding? Dynamic? Serene? Magical?

I was searching for a bit of mystery and larger than life awe. (If that makes sense!) I had a subscription to a stock image site, so I bought a few possibilities for each cover. If you can only afford to download one image for your background, you can get a sample of it and try it out with the other cover pieces before you purchase it. I highly recommend that you do.

For the background, you're walking along the edge of needing a scene that fades into the backdrop and yet very clearly captures the atmosphere. An experienced cover artist will know what they're looking for, but if you're like me, it will be a lot of trial and error.

A reminder of my basic elements for my backgrounds: late summer forest, base of a mountain, and tiny Native village.

Here are the backgrounds of the first three Totem books:

Oh yes. I'm taking you step by step with me! You get to see all my bare elements... and wow, that just sounded dirty.

Anyway, dark with a bit of mystery and awe. Book #1 was the first image I came across and I loved it. For book #2, that image is the tenth candidate. I settled on the fourth image I tried for Book #3.

Tip: you might find an image with something you like in it, but you don't like all of it. You can use part of an image. I've done that with almost every element I used for my covers. This is why you download the largest image. So when you chop it up, the pieces are still a good size.

Since these posts are turning out much longer than I expected, I'm going to continue on with image shopping next time. It will be about the most difficult part: the unsmiling protagonist.

What do those background images make you feel?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

#IWSG for July 2016

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is the brilliant idea of Alex J. Cavanaugh. The purpose of the group is to share doubts and insecurities and to encourage one another. Please visit the other participants and share your support. A kind word goes a long way.

This month's awesome co-hosts are: Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott!

The IWSG has a new fun feature. Every month, they'll have a question for people to answer. Here is the first one: What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

My answer: Must I pick one? Every positive word someone has said about my writing is priceless. If I'm to pick one, a person once told me one of my stories made her cry. Knowing that I could hook a reader and make her feel that much is awesome.

My IWSG post:
Whether you're on summer break or having a long weekend, I hope you find time to go on vacation this year. Writing is hard work. The muse loves to relax, and she'll come back eager and refreshed.

You don't even need to go anywhere to have a vacation. Just take a break from writing and relax. Go on a hike, read, garden, paint, surf. Whatever you love to do but don't usually get the time to do it.

It will make you a better writer because you'll be rested, happy, and excited to get back into your stories.


Yeah, I know. Mine doesn't either. But getting away from the computer/office/notebook does work wonders for inspiration.

Have you been or are you going on vacation this year? 

Friday, July 1, 2016

You. I. Us. Tour - guest post by Annalisa Crawford

You. I. Us. is a collection of vignettes, small scenes which hint at the story beneath.

Annalisa has taken that idea to another level, because she asked 15 bloggers to ask her one question each, creating small insights into her life and writing.

What is one element that every good short story needs and why? 

Hi Christine, great question, and one that I’ve re-answered several times—I’ve gone through strong central character, hook, killer first line… But actually I think that a good short needs a story. I’ve read a few—not many, thankfully—which are anecdotes or over-long jokes with punchlines. A short story should be crafted with the same care as a novel, because the reader deserves the same satisfaction that a novel provides.

Sometimes, writers think short stories are an easy option, or a stepping stone to novel writing. It can be a stepping-stone, but it’s definitely not easy.

The short length means that every word counts, there’s no room for deviation or tangents, and the ending has to make perfect sense—especially if it’s a twist ending that you’re attempting, all the elements should be in place so you’re not tricking the reader (similar to Chekhov’s gun, if it’s used in the third act, you need to show it in the first—I always think of it in the reverse to how he’s quoted). 

Because it’s so short, the reader only started reading the story a few minutes ago—they haven’t had time to forget that plot point you fudged and hoped no one would notice.

In You. I. Us., Annalisa Crawford captures everyday people during  poignant defining moments in their lives: An artist puts his heart into his latest sketch, an elderly couple endures scrutiny by a fellow diner, an ex-student attempts to make amends with a girl she bullied at school, a teenager holds vigil at his friend’s hospital bedside, long distance lovers promise complete devotion, a broken-hearted widow stares into the sea from the edge of a cliff where her husband died, a grieving son contacts the only person he can rely on in a moment of crisis, a group of middle-aged friends inspire each other to live remarkable lives.

Day after day, we make the same choices. But after reading You. I. Us., you’ll ask yourself, “What if we didn’t?”

Buy the book:

About the author
Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat. Annalisa writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories. She has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years, and is the author of Cat & The Dreamer and Our Beautiful Child.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 2)

Welcome to part two of the mad science of book covers, class! If you need to review what we talked about in part one, or borrow a few notes, please feel free to do so.

Now that you know the basic elements of your genre's book covers, it's time to take the next step and come up with a general concept for your own.

Do you have an image in your head of what you want the cover to look like? If yes, forget about it. Don't go into this with an idealized version in your head. You'll never be satisfied. Trust me, I know.

The basic elements I need for my urban fantasy covers are: mood creating background, silhouetted villain, unsmiling protagonist, and something to tie all covers together for the series. Possibly the shifter's animal.

I left out the villain. Why? It was just too much. Go as simple as possible. You want to hook a reader with your cover and capture their attention so they read the blurb. If the cover is too busy, they'll just be confused.

Background: my Totem series takes place in Alaska. Thankfully there isn't a lack of beautiful and mystical images of the northernmost state. But you need to be more specific than just a general area. Where does the most intense scene(s) of your story take place? Or, if you don't want to give that bit away, where does the majority of the story take place?

Totem book #1 - late summer forest.
Totem book #2 - base of a mountain.
Totem book #3 - tiny Native village.

Unsmiling protagonist: Do you have detailed descriptions of your protagonists? Good. Keep the notes stash them away, and make a very generalized profile about them. If you're very lucky, you'll find an image of a model that looks exactly how you imagined your character, but that's unlikely, and it's okay.

One of the things I learned from the marvelous cover artist who designed the cover to Of Blood and Sorrow was that covers aren't exact representations of the story inside. Readers are going to picture the characters in their heads totally different than you and from each other. What the model on the cover needs to do is portray certain characteristics like strength, sass, or vulnerability.

Write down the main characteristics of your character. If you aren't going to use a person on your cover, the place, animal, or object you do use should portray certain aspects that represent your story. Make these clear.

Something to tie all covers in a series together: You can do this in several ways. The same character on all covers, the same background with different characters on each cover, a theme like the four elements or pet loving ogres, different color washes for the same cover, etc.

As you've done your research, you will have seen how other authors in your genre tie the book covers in their series together. What do you like best? What would work with your series best?

For me, I created a partial frost border that will be the same on all of the covers along with a Totem logo which will contain the book number.

The final extra bit. The shifter animal: The Totem series features three sisters who are polar bear shifters. I considered putting a bear in the background on each cover, but it felt like too many bears. Instead, I went with totem animals since in each book, the heroes are seeking a different one.

These are all just pieces at the moment. Again, don't get an idea in your head of how it's going to look. You must collect each element first. How they fit together or don't fit together may surprise you.

Next class will be about finding the right images.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cover Reveal for Love In The First Degree


Title: Love In The First Degree (a charity anthology raising money for the Innocence Project)


Authors: Sarah Elizabeth & Ashlee Bryan, Kyra Lennon, Kirsty-Anne Still, Clare Dugmore, Allana Walker, and Laura Morgan



Love In The First Degree is a collection of short stories written by seven authors who have
come together to help raise money for The Innocence Project. This anthology includes stories by Kyra Lennon, Sarah Elizabeth & Ashlee Bryan, Kirsty-Anne Still, Laura Morgan, Allana Walker, and Clare Dugmore.

Each story speaks of crime, passion, determination, and most importantly, intense romance that will leave you thinking about the characters long after you have finished turning the pages.

Being wrongfully accused of a crime could happen to anyone, anywhere, and The Innocence Project works hard to overturn wrongful convictions and help innocent people get back to their real lives where they rightfully belong. All proceeds from sales of Love In The First Degree will be donated to The Innocence Project.

Genre: Romance (Contemporary/Paranormal)
Release date: July 18th
Author: Sarah Elizabeth & Ashlee Bryan
Title: Forbidden Innocence
Let there be love, or let there be hate.
But, what if there is both?
She’s from the good side.
He’s from the bad side.
We both hate.
And we both love.
We are a sin.
But, in the end, it all comes down to being in the wrong place, at the right time.
Only she can protect my future.
Only he has the power to allow that to happen.
The end result is just the same.
One of us has the option to make the ultimate sacrifice.
But will she?
But will I?

Author: Kyra Lennon
Title: Reasonable Doubts
Darcy Ryan is a woman on a mission.
A mission to take down the corrupt cops who ensured her best friend, Matteo Torres, went to jail for a crime he didn’t commit – the murder of his wife, Rebecca.
Darcy is willing to do just about anything to prove his innocence, including getting up close and personal with the case’s lead detective, Finn Drake.
She knows she’s playing a dangerous game, but it gets more dangerous then she could have ever imagined when she discovers everything she thought she knew about Rebecca Torres was wrong, and Finn Drake isn’t the man she thought he was either.

Author: Clare Dugmore
Title: Seeking The Truth
Erin Reynolds has been on the West Midlands Police force for seven years. She’s seen some strange things in the line of duty, but nothing quite like this.
On her first day working as a detective Erin witnesses something that makes the whole department question her sanity, and leads to her being sent on a leave of absence.
Desperate to prove what she saw was real, Erin tracks down the only other witness, Arcane Specialist Morgan Jackson. The occult expert is as infuriating as he is charming.
When the killer leaves a disturbing message on her answer phone, Erin is forced to work with Morgan in order to catch the culprit and get her job reinstated.
The hunt takes them around the West Midlands, visiting a flirty priestess, a druid on the wrong side of the law and a sorcerer from Morgan’s past. As Erin learns more about the supernatural world, she also realizes there’s more to Morgan than just his sarcastic wit and arcane knowledge.
She's drawn to him almost as deeply as she is to the truth of what she saw. Her feelings for him are bought into sharp when Morgan gets on the wrong side of the murderer and it's up to Erin to rescue him, and stop the occult forces plaguing the area before the darkness takes over.

Author: Laura Morgan
Title: Ensnared
A hand outstretches amidst the chaos of a brutal attack, offering safety and protection—but only in the arms of a villainous gangster who certainly isn’t going to be good news. Take it and accept the consequences? Or refuse and risk losing it all in the aftermath?
That’s exactly what happens to Bree Locke the night she meets mobster Alexis Ramon.
What seems like a good idea at the time ends up being the turning point in her life, but how will things pan out, and will she be able to survive the consequences of her decision?
Because when you fall from the frying pan into the fire, you’re going to get burned…

Author: Kirsty-Anne Still
Title: Love Me Not
I love him. He loves me. Our love story was that easy. I stuck by that, making sure he knew I was his person, his rock when he was arrested for murder. A murder that I knew he didn’t commit. But here I am, breaking his heart, unravelling our love story. All to save him. I’d break his heart – and mine – a thousand times over if it clears his name.
*** I wasn’t raised to be a good man. I was loved to be one. She was the one constant when my world started falling apart. Until she wasn’t. I was no longer the man I had become. I was a murderer, a criminal, a broken man. She started to see me as the murdered I was branded, but mark my words, this doesn’t end here. When I’m a free man I’ll tear this world apart to get her back.

Author: Allana Walker
Title: Believe
What happens when the one guy you thought would protect you, doesn't? What happens when your
own family and friends turn against you in your time of need? What happens when all you want is someone to
believe you? What happens when the one person you least expect does? Find out how one girls life turns upside
down only to turn back with a few simple words... "I believe you."