Friday, December 27, 2013

What Goes Around Comes Around ?

Christmas comes around every year as do most holidays and Holy days. Many put their Christmas trees curbside before the New Year ushers in, but Twelfth Night is actually the close of the Christmas season. Originally an Elizabethan festival, the name Twelfth Night is also a reference to the 12th night after Christmas, called the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany. After Shakespear's play, Twelfth Night, adaptations eventually appeared in the twentieth century on stage, in radio, and in film. So yes, it continues to come around.
My French-Canadian grandparents celebrated Little Christmas every year on January sixth, The Feast of Epiphany. It also holds special meaning for me as my fourth child, a son, was born on that day. In keeping with the Epiphany feast I will be serving a Tourtier (meat Pie) on twelfth night. So, yes, customs do go around and come around.

Will trends in writing do the same? I have my doubts, but themes do keep reappearing in fiction: coming of age, redemption, healing, etc. to name a few, and authors do put a different spin on these themes.
I recently read Stella Bain , a new novel by Anita Shreve; an author I admire.The novel is the story of an American woman who is injured in Northern France during World War 1. She has lost her memory and doesn't know what has brought her to this foreign war. Eventually she reconstructs her life with the help of a British surgeon. To quote the fly leaf of the book,"Together they begin to unlock a disturbing history - of deception and thwarted love, violence and betrayal." The story line takes you from France to England to the US and back again.The author's omniscient point of view goes along fairly smoothly without author intrusion through the first half of the book, but interest wasn't  sparked for me  until  letters reveal the protagonist's life with her children in New Hampshire and a court trial begins. Then it became exciting , but I found the transitions at times a little choppy and confusing. The ending was a short summation that was disappointing. I was surprised about this book because so many of Anita Shreve's novels were enjoyable for their plots, style and memorable characters. I'm revealing  my reaction to her novel out of wonder if author's works lose their luster or do they continue to spin glorious stories with age old themes?

Caroline Gordon, a prominent literary figure in the nineteenth century, wrote a memorable quote: "A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way."  That is certainly something we all strive for,isn't it? Both readers and writers.

Another author I can mention does not  fit the title of what goes around comes around, but, Norman Maclean began writing fiction after he retired from the University of Chicago. At age 73 his novel,
 A River Runs Through was published. I like his quote: "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it." Coincidentally my writing life began after I retired from the State University of New York and my first novel was published  in my twilight years also. Kindred Spirits are not so scarce as I used to think!

In a few more days the New Year will begin. I wish all readers and writers a year filled with happiness, success and joy and I close with another quote by William Arthur Ward.
 "The pessimist complains about the wind;the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Finding Perfect Holiday Presents by Jacqueline Seewald

The where and how of holiday shopping plagues most of us. Nothing can quite compare with the yearly ritual of holiday shopping, which theoretically begins on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. However, in actuality it begins much earlier, of late right after Halloween. In fact, the way things are going, pretty soon the stores will start putting up tinsel on the 4th of July.
The frenetic pace of shopping madness increases unabated throughout December. The shopping itself takes on such dimensions that with many people the material supercedes the spiritual aspect of the holidays.
But before the shopping can even begin, there is the business of finding parking at The Mall. Holiday shoppers know when they are nearing this location because traffic becomes as thick as an ant colony, and jockeying for position starts in earnest. Inevitably, a type "A" personality loses patience and aggressively pulls out on the shoulder of the road, speeds ahead, then forces his/her way into the regular stream of traffic. This individual manages to gain perhaps four or five car lengths to ultimately beat the traffic light, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes and come to an abrupt halt. A cacophony of horns proceeds to announce the general agitation.
     Arriving at the mall, one is treated to a breathtaking sight—an unending sea of automobiles. There is quite literally not a parking spot to spare. And so begins the art of cruising for a space. This can be compared to the choreography of a ballet. Automobiles pirouette and arabesque around the lot.
     Inevitably, there is a car waiting in each aisle for someone to pull out. Often there are two vehicles set to swoop down like vultures. The poor driver who must pull out of the spot has a serious dilemma: which way to go? One or the other of the waiting drivers must be disappointed, only to drive off angrily, perhaps offering the middle finger salute. Definitely not showing proper holiday spirit! (More like the gunfight at Okay Corral)
     Drivers keep cruising, ready to dive like kamikaze pilots when they find a likely target--barely avoiding fender benders--a holiday miracle in itself. No matter how many spaces exist, there are never enough.
     Another technique involves following those who are leaving. Sometimes these shoppers are merely putting away their packages and return to the Mall for further exploration. Then there is the individual, fully aware someone is waiting for his/her parking spot, who decides this is a good time to sit and light up a cigarette, fiddle with the car radio, or begin a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life with someone they've conjured on a cell phone.
     Most amazing of all are those who decide to grab the closest parking spot. I'm talking here about nabbing the spaces set aside for the handicapped. These artists fall into several categories. First are those who have no physical impediment whatsoever but park illegally because they don't want to continue cruising. We have no trouble spotting them as they run out when the police start ticketing. The second category: those who somehow obtained handicapped stickers yet can move like gazelles, either had some impediment but are over it and kept their stickers, or obtained them illegally in the first place. There seem to be a growing number of these talented artists who we may refer to as prima donnas.
     With so many people claiming the right to place handicapped stickers in their automobiles, I am waiting for the time when non-handicapped signs will be issued instead.
     After managing to obtain a parking spot and reaching the Promised Land of the Mall, we are greeted by a chorus of Hallelujah from the sound system. Unfortunately, by this time, we are almost too weary to shop.
     When Christmas and Chanukah come and all the gifts are finally handed out, matters are not in the least resolved, as a good portion of those gifts will end up being returned soon after. (The heaviest shopping day of the entire year is December 26th) So just when we think our holiday shopping is finally done, it's only just begun!
Then there's the matter of re-gifting. That's the most bizarre ritual of all. This refers to presents that don't come with any clue as to where they were purchased. Even Sherlock Holmes would scratch his head in perplexity.
 These are gifts that no one in their right mind would want to keep: purple plaid socks, perfume that would make a skunk turn up its tail in disgust. Well, you get the picture! So what does one do with such odious presents? Naturally, we save them and give them to those who have given us their re-gifts. You know you've gone full cycle when one of your re-gifts is gifted back to you.
So how do we avoid mall madness? More people than ever are turning to online shopping. I would like to suggest that e-books are excellent gifts to give. You don’t have to run around. You can make your selections in comfort. And you don’t have to spend your life savings. There’s a perfect book for everyone, whether nonfiction: perhaps a cookbook, a book on home repairs, or fiction such as romance, mystery, or thriller. Naturally I’m going to recommend my newly published prize-winning historical romance novel THE CHEVALIER available in all e-book formats:

My e-book of romantic short stories BEYOND THE BO TREE:
and my co-authored family mystery novel THE THIRD EYE:
All are e-books, inexpensively priced and easy to order.
And for those who prefer paperback novels, I’d like to suggest my mysteries from Harlequin Worldwide reprinted this year:
There is a book for every taste available for ordering online. What are your feelings regarding holiday shopping? Do you give books as gifts? Do you consider books good gifts? Thoughts and comments most welcome! Let’s exchange opinions.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What is the Writer's Life?

When I meet someone new and they ask me what I do my usual answer is that I am a project manager for a global company by day and an author by night. Unfortunately, by the time I get to the part about being an author, half of them have quit listening. The ones who catch that get stars in their eyes and say, "Oh, that must be wonderful." As if I'm a superhero, complete with cape and fire breathing pen.

I don't want to appear rude, but I have to ask, "What do you think a writer's life is like?" Evidently, it's a very romanticized profession. Some people think we spend a few hours writing and reading, and all the things that normal people do, like cleaning, cooking, paying bills - is done by the shoemaker's elves. Or paid services, like those authors that have made a mint.

The truth is we still have "lives," just like everyone else. Not many authors have made a mint, and out of the hundreds of thousands of authors, only a small percentage are making big bucks. The rest of us, if we're lucky, make enough to pay for our reading habits. And most of us have the dreaded "day job" to pay the living bills.

Writing is an art. And you've all heard the stories about "starving artists," right? Many of us would be starving if we didn't have some type of income to supplement to our writing paychecks, which are sparse. Although novelists "might" get an advance, the truth is we do a lot of waiting.  Most advances are small so you can't live on it. Your book won't come out for 18 months, and you won't see royalties until you've earned back your advance, so it could be more months before you ever see another "paycheck." Everyone get's a piece of the pie: the agent, the publisher, the distributor, the bookstore, and we might get 10% of the cover price - that's $2.50 on a $25.00 book, folks. Not a lot.

While we're waiting on the novel to come out, we're furiously writing a new manuscript, that may or may not be picked up by the current novel's publisher. If we're working another job full-time, our writing time is relegated to nights and weekends. And we've got to eat (feed your family), stay healthy with exercise, not to mention cleaning and maintaining your home. If we're lucky, we have family to help out, like a hubby who picks up groceries on his way home from work. Or kids who can run the vacuum and a dust rag around to get the big chunks. That is if we are lucky. Add a little reading time to stimulate the muse, time with the family and writing time is smaller and smaller.

Authors: "I don't know about you, but I've tried getting up before the sun (5:30 AM) and writing for a bit before anyone else is up. It was fun at first. An adventure. I got tons of writing done because I was fresh from sleep or the edge of a dream, BUT...I also found myself running out of gas about 8:30 PM. What I gained on one end of the day I lost on the other. We all have a finite amount of time and energy."

Am I complaining? A little, maybe. That won't stop me from finding time to write and read and muse about interesting characters. It's what we author's do. Our lives revolve around story telling, so... I hope those people who aren't writers will understand that what we do isn't always easy. Blank pages can be intimidating. Deadlines can be stressful. Money can be in short supply.

Then why do we do it? "Because we're writers and it is our life."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Zellie's Story (The Back of the Backstory) by Susan Oleksiw

I recently finished writing a novella that all but wrote itself. It was a great feeling, and I loved the story that emerged. It didn’t begin this way. The story began as a short mystery with an ending that was vividly clear to me. I knew who the main character was and how the story would evolve. But as I began writing, the character revealed quirks and surprises that I found interesting and sometimes endearing. Everything she said or did hinted at a deeper backstory. I gave an extra paragraph here and there, and before I realized it the original idea had transformed into something I didn’t expect.

At this point I could do one of two things—I could delete the supposedly extraneous material and get back onto the mystery track, or I could follow along the new developments and see where they went. I chose the latter. I finished the story, writing page after page even when I wasn’t sure where this was going to end, and then realized I had reached the moment of decision. As a poet once said to me, Something happens, people change, mysteries remain. The story found its ending.

Discovering a complex story as you write is a wonderful experience, but it is one that seems to happen less and less frequently to writers. Perhaps it’s because we write with a focus on publication, or a marketable story idea or an outline, or because we feel there are so few publishing options left for non-genre work.

I began with one genre in mind and ended up somewhere else. I don’t want to call it literary fiction because it is first and only a story about a woman whose life in the backwoods is upended unexpectedly. I think of it as just a good story.

If I hadn’t been able and willing to give the time to the story of Zellie’s life, regardless of the question of being able to find a publisher for it, the story might never have been written. I suppose what I’m really saying is that writers are more and more slotted into certain genres, and we can move from one genre to another, but those have to be specific genres—mystery, romance, science fiction, paranormal, historical. We are also expected to write more or less according to a single format that stresses plot, action, surface speed rather than depth. The freedom to write the story that comes, one that doesn’t fit into any specific genre, seems to have been lost. The options for self-publishing may seem to give us more opportunities to publish, but they are really the opportunities to publish more of the same, not something different.

The freedom to experiment and explore, to write something interesting even if it has no specific category, is decreasing, and this is too bad. This is where the best discoveries are made—about characters, story lines, insights into the way people behave—and where, I think, the individual has the greatest opportunity to grow as a writer.

I set aside my current mystery novel project to finish Zellie’s story, and I’m glad I did. If you’re curious about Zellie, you can find her life at the link below. If you’ve also set aside a more commercially viable project to explore another idea, I’d like to hear about it.

(And here let me give credit for the cover design to Kathleen Valentine.) 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Should Readers and Writers Be Thankful for E-Books? By Jacqueline Seewald

According to Bowker’s last publishing report, the number of self-published book titles available in the marketplace went up 59% between 2011 and 2012.  These are staggering figures. The report looked at U.S. ISBN data to identify that there were more than 391,000 books self-published in 2012!  Of these, E-books made up approximately 40 percent of the ISBNs.

Does it surprise anyone that so many e-books are flooding the market, often being offered for free on Amazon among other places? Even for the e-books which are not given away for free, prices have dropped dramatically. Is this a good thing for readers?  I was using a treadmill recently in our building’s gym on a rainy day. The woman next to me was reading on a Kindle as she walked.

“How do you like your Kindle?” I asked.

She smiled. “I love it. I get to read so many more books than I ever did before. And lots of them are free. It’s wonderful.”

I think that says it for many readers. Some of the features are great for readers. For instance, e-book readers are lightweight and compact. Yet they hold many titles. Also you can adjust the font size. This is a blessing for those of us who prefer large print which is easier on the eyes.

But what about writers? Is this good for them? Here’s one positive. Many writers have had books and short stories published in the past. Too soon these titles have gone out of print. This is one way to make backlist titles available to the public for long periods of time. By self-publishing an e-book, a writer can keep work available to readers indefinitely.

A second positive for writers: many would remain unpublished but for the advent of e-books. Publishers will only invest in books they believe will make money. A majority of books will earn out very little, especially if the author is unknown. By self-publishing an e-book, a frustrated writer has the opportunity to get his/her work out in the marketplace and hopefully read by the public.

For those who believe in democracy, this is indeed a democratic revolution. The internet has provided a forum for writers of all kinds. It has opened the floodgates of self-expression. Of course, it is also a bit overwhelming. Certainly, not every e-book will go viral—nor should it. But at least hopeful writers will get the exposure they so crave.

The negative factors are quite obvious as well. First, with such a flood of e-books on the market, quality writers may be ignored. Secondly, as to reviews, they often come from friends and relatives and are not necessarily meaningful. Third, many readers simply ignore unknown names and look only at the work of famous writers and celebrities when they buy books. The attitude is that they may download a free book when it’s offered, but won’t buy subsequent books as the author is hoping. This leads to much disappointment among wannabe authors. It may be coming to a point where there are many more books than readers. And of course, if there are no gatekeepers, anything and everything can be published with little regard to quality. Readers are still much more willing to pay for “brand” name authors. E-publishing appears to be something of a mixed blessing.

For me as a writer, I don’t know what the future will hold. My co-authored Five Star/Gale family mystery THE THIRD EYE, initially out in hardcover in September, is now offered by the publisher as an ebook on Kindle for $3. Will the novel now draw a wider readership?

My short story collection, BEYOND THE BO TREE, was published as an ebook on Amazon this summer. Do such collections draw readers?

I won a writing contest sponsored by Australian publisher, Eside Media. There was a generous cash prize as well as publication which occurred yesterday. This will be my first novel published initially as an e-book in all platforms. THE CHEVALIER is a sensual historical romance set in the Georgian period.  I hope it draws many romance readers.

 What are your thoughts? Does the e-book revolution thrill you as a reader and/or as an author?

Monday, November 18, 2013

One thing in life you can count on...things CHANGE.

Sounds like a paradox to me.'s true.

You can always count on life changing, and not always in a good way. But isn't that what makes the best stories? A change or challenge to the character that turns their world around? It happens to us every day, so everyone can relate, right? At least anyone who has felt something similar.

What kinds of change do you enjoy? A change of scenery is one of my favorites. That's why I like to read different genre's. I love to explore other cultures. And traveling to new places is awesome! The changing of the leaves in autumn, the pristine blanket of the first snow, the colors of spring flowers and leaves popping from the trees, and the clear blue sky of summer.

What kinds of change aren't enjoyable? Oh, man - that's quite a can of worms. Health changes. Job disruptions. Family deaths. A change of fortune. Those things then affect other things in our lives, like the snowball that rolls down a snowy slope picking up more snow and getting larger and larger
and smacks into whatever is at the bottom of the hill. Like one of us, for example. Splat! We're knocked flat. We're cold. We're wet. We're buried with the wind knocked out of us. (Okay, so I got a little carried away there...sorry.)

What's my point? Hum. Good question. Most people are creatures of habit. We like to find a "comfort zone" and only change it when we have to or when we can control the outcome (like a vacation). We get used to doing things a certain way and don't like it when something changes, like when the computer breaks and we have to...write with a pen. (OMG) Temporary life changer, folks! The key here is "temporary." A life that doesn't vary much from day to day, week to week, or year to year is BORING. We need a bit of variety fairly often if we're going to be happy. Try a new recipe or restaurant. Try a new road to work. Try to learn something new. Try to write something different. Try a new author you've never read before. Try, try, try. I sound like my grandmother, who was very wise and that pleases me very much.

There's a whole lot in the world we don't know or understand. Explore. Investigate. Don't be afraid to change. Most of all...enjoy the journey!

B.D. Tharp
Wichita, KS

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Common Themes in Literature by Jacqueline Seewald

Whether authors of fiction write short stories, plays or novels, theme is an essential component, just like characterization, plot and setting. The theme of a book is a universal idea or message that stretches throughout a work. Themes are often sociological or cultural in nature.

Some themes reoccur often. For instance, I just finished reading a thriller novel in which the theme was conspiracy theory, common in suspense genre. Fiction writers often pull their themes from nonfiction and then write faction. Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer are two very popular suspense authors who do this. Shakespeare used the underlying theme in his plays that appearances are deceiving. This works particularly well in the theatre.

Good fiction writing needs a cohesive theme to hold the work together. The lesson is generally about life or humanity and is preferably implied rather than stated outright. The show-not-tell rule works well with theme.

In YA lit, the theme is often coming-of-age. However, there may be more than one theme, especially in a novel. One way to convey theme is through recurring use of symbolism. Hawthorne and Hemingway were both particularly talented in that regard. My forthcoming YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER which will be published by Astraea Press uses symbolism as well.

Romances concentrate on the theme of finding love everlasting. This is true of my short story collection BEYOND THE BO TREE offered on Amazon Kindle:

However, even with romance fiction there are often secondary themes. My soon be published prize-winning historical romance THE CHEVALIER is very much connected with themes of war and politics.

 Mysteries are about finding solutions and discovering the truth about puzzling situations such as solving murders and imposing order where there was chaos. For instance, my romantic suspense spy thriller DEATH LEGACY, both romance and mystery, explores whether a CIA agent was an enemy mole or a murder victim. 

There are often socially significant secondary themes in crime fiction. For example, in my co-authored novel THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY

we deal with the theme of bullying. Jim who is short for his age is bullied by an older boy. He learns how to cope with the situation. His search for a murderer also interconnects with the theme of bullying. This is a theme that has increased awareness in our modern society where young people have tragically ended up committing suicide owing to cyber bullying. Even successful pro football players are not immune to this kind of abuse.
All types of writing need an underlying idea which serves as a fundamental component. Writing without a theme is like sailing in a rudderless ship. It will eventually flounder and sink.

What themes interest you in particular as a reader or a writer? What themes appear to be especially important?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Just How Crazy Is the Marketplace Today? by Susan Oleksiw

I was casting around for an idea for my monthly contribution to Author Expressions when I thought I’d settled on something timely—the topic of whether or not writers should give away their work. An article in the New York Times by Tim Kreider on just this issue had sparked a lot of debate on various lists. The topic appealed to me because when a friend, Ann Perrott, and I founded The Larcom Review I insisted that we pay every contributor, even if it was only a nominal amount.

Those who write well enough to be published deserve to be treated as professionals; they should be paid. Ann agreed, and we paid every contributor (writer, poet, interviewer, reviewer, photographer, artist) a modest $25 plus one contributor’s complimentary copy. The amount is pathetic but it’s better than nothing.

Today thousands of writers blog for free (like me, right here), put their novels and short stories on line for free (I haven’t done that), and contribute stories and articles to anthologies for no money at all (I haven’t done that either) and no free copy. It is so much the norm now that fewer and fewer people are arguing that writers should never write for free. It is argued that this is unrealistic—there are simply too many writers willing to fill the screens with their ideas and beautifully wrought sentences, hoping someone will offer them a paying gig.

This isn’t just a problem for midlist writers like me and most other mystery writers. It’s common knowledge that the writers who made Huffington Post worth purchasing were paid nothing for their contributions. They got nothing from the sale of the online newspaper. That doesn’t make anyone feel any better, but it does remind us just how widespread this problem is—writers should write for free and be glad of the opportunity to have their work disseminated. The marketplace for writing is out of whack.

So, how out of whack is the marketplace today?

While I was searching for a book by Mavis Gallant I decided to take a vanity detour and check out my own list, to see if the new covers were now on the Amazon site. They were. I scrolled down to admire them, and noticed that various issues of The Larcom Review were mixed in with the book titles. And then I took a better look.

I’m used to seeing paperbacks at $0.01, with the total cost being the shipping plus a few pennies. But I was not ready for the price I saw on one issue of The Larcom Review. The spring/summer 2001 issue was priced at $2,350.70. (Seventy cents?) The cover price is $10.

I remember that issue. In fact, I had just given a copy of it to a friend as a hostess gift when she invited me to dinner. The issue contains 61 works in prose or poetry and 15 artworks, including photographs, line drawings, and prints. The issue includes an interview with Andre Dubus III by Rae Francoeur, a poem by Erika Funkhauser, one by Rhina P. Espaillat, two prints by John Martin, and a cover photo by Robin Paris, among other items. Is all this worth $2,350.70?

I’ve emailed the bookseller to find out what is so special about this issue that he’s charging over $2,000. After all, I still have several copies in storage I’d be glad to sell. I have't heard anything from him yet, but I'll let you know if I do.

And now you can see how out of whack the publishing business is right now. I’ve forgotten my topic and where I was going with it. The ludicrous amount of money being offered for one issue of The Larcom Review has completely thrown my brain off kilter. What more do you need to know?

To purchase copies of The Larcom Review at a normal price, email me. To read Tim Kreider’s article, click on the link below.

Susan Oleksiw is the author of the Mellingham/Joe Silva series and the Anita Ray series. Her books can be found on Amazon, Nook Press, and Smashwords. For more information, go to

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cover Artist/Author Interview

When Book Three of The Maine Shore Chronicles, my Five Star hard cover trilogy, needed a new cover for eBook publication, I decided to ask cover artist, Patty Henderson to design it as a Boxed Set for the series. You can see the tiny covers she had already designed for the first two books on spines of the boxed set.
I was so comfortable in the working process of these covers I decided to let other authors know about this talented woman via: 
An Interview with Cover Designer / Author Patty Henderson
  by  Mary F. Schoenecker 

Question: Did your career start as an author or a book cover artist? 

I have often been asked how I got to be an author and a book cover artist as well.  I began to write in the 1960’s. I loved comic books and decided I would do a “treatment” for DCComics for a new comic book hero. I wrote the entire back story and a new comic book featuring my new superhero. I even did an amateurish drawing to go with it. I remember it being a supernatural type hero that used a pendant for his power focus. Needless to say, I did not become a successful comic book artist or writer. 

Question: Other than comic books, what inspired your writing?

I discovered Edgar Allen Poe. The love for Poe’s work led me to write short stories in the supernatural mystery vein. My short stories were published in fanzines of the 70’s. Life intervened and I stopped writing until I could no longer contain my inspiration to write a novel. 

Question: When did you write your first novel and was it a similar genre theme?

In 1995 I wrote my first vampire novel, but my bigger success came with the Brenda Strange Supernatural Mystery series. The first book, THE BURNING OF HER SIN was published in 2002 by Barclay Books. That was quickly followed by the second, third and fourth books in the series, TANGLED AND DARK, THE MISSING PAGE and XIMORA. 

Question: How can readers get your books?

All my books are available as Kindle eBooks and trade paperbacks at and ePub eBooks at Barnes and Noble.

Question: Can you tell us how you got started with Cover Designing ?

I learned how to draw from my father. That eventually led to working fourteen years in a photographic studio where I honed my skills as a digital artist with Photoshop, learning to  create art using the computer. Once the studio closed shop and I found myself without a job, I made the decision to freelance on my own and began creating custom book covers for small publishers and independent authors. 

Question: Will you share a little about the creative  process of Cover Art and Design?

Creating book covers  isn’t just choosing a photograph or artwork from a royalty-free site and getting creative with it. As an artist I use the painting and blending and other tools in Photoshop, combined with artistic elements such as backgrounds and textures to create a cover that is like a digital painting. Sometimes I incorporate up to five or six images and/or textures to create one book cover. 

Question: Is their much interaction between the author and you the designer?

Yes. I feel blessed that I can work with authors  to help them create the vision they want for their books. As an author myself, I bring the added recognition of how important a book cover can be and how to help the author bring out the right imagery to create impact for their book via the right book cover. It is a win win for both author and artist, and much reward and satisfaction for me.
I’m always excited to meet new authors who need book covers and I invite you to check out my graphic art web site, Boulevard Photographica, the name of my graphic freelance work. I will work with any author and/or publisher in creating the book cover you have dreamed of. 

Author web site:





Monday, October 21, 2013

Keeping an open mind...

Gee, E.T. did it, why can't I?
One of the things I enjoy about writing and reading is the ability to suspend disbelief. If a story can do that for the reader successfully then the author has done a good job. The pictures that have been painted with their words must be vivid and "realistic." Ah, so you ask, what about fantasy or paranormal? Vampires? Werewolves? Aliens?

Good questions. Some readers don't like those genre's, but I challenge authors out there to write a really great story so that even the "non-fantasy" type reader will enjoy it. How? You build a world that seems absolutely realistic or so intriguing that the reader wants to visit it. You create characters that are 3-dimensional and interesting. You sprinkle in some tension that everyone or anyone can relate to - good vs evil; family dynamics; growing up; discovering self; survival - whatever it may be and make the reader see that even vampires want loving. Even evil characters had parents and maybe their home life was really bad, so they took the easy way to deal with life. The dark side, for those Star Wars folks out there. Doing what is right or good, isn't always the easy path, right?

I'm a very visual person with an active imagination, that's why I love stories, movies, plays - all forms of story telling. I want to "feel" what the characters feel, whether it's joy, sadness, confusion - I want to be a part of the story. That makes a good writer - as well as a good story - if the reader sees it and feels it with every page.

I read all types of genres and the ones I've truly love had the most vivid worlds and characters. Look at The Lord of the Rings. I mean, Hobbits - come on?! And Star Wars Jabba the Hut, what ugly slug is going to be head of the galactic mob? Did I love these characters that pushed the envelope of what is "real" and what is "fantasy"? Absolutely. It's what makes the stories so interesting - the melding of what is and what could be - here or in a galaxy far, far away.

Cowboys & Aliens
Have you ever read a Louis L'Amour western? Oh Man. He transports me back to the days of six guns and wild Indians. I love them. And there's always a reluctant hero, a fair damsel, and something bad that happens. Throw in some historical references and I'm hooked! Coupled with the fact that Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck will always be two of my favorite Sacketts, what's not to like?

Some of my favorite authors write about the south and make me smell Jasmine and Honeysuckle, and feel the humidity in the air. They make me want to visit Tybee or Sullivan's Island and take a tour of the low-country. Do you know who I'm talking about? Dorothea Benton Frank, C. Hope Clark, Fern Michaels, Pat Conroy - there's a bunch of them. Give them a try.

My point is that I recommend stepping out of your "comfort genre" and explore the possibilities. There are a plethora of authors out there who present their stories with flare and touch our hearts. Keep an open mind. Try new things. And if you find something you like, write a review for the next reader to find your new discovery. 

Oh, and writers - this applies to you as well. If you've always written mysteries but you have a burning desire to write a children's novel - go for it. And, enjoy the journey!