Fun Friday: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Steps to a Great Book Cover

CoverModel CollageWith more and more authors turning to Indie publishing, there’s so many things an author has to do herself. Cover designing is one of them. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make a great book cover, and how indie author Lora Young tackled the process for her debut novel, Malicious Mischief.

  1. Book a great cover model, or just ask a friend to help out. When author Lora Young asked her friend Kinsey Parker to model for her cover, I bet she never dreamed the pictures would turn out this great.
  2. Rent or borrow some historical costumes. Yes, finally a reason to dress up! Since it’s so hard to find great historical photos, sometimes you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and DIY.
  3. Book a great photographer. Luckily for Lora, her daughter Rebekah Young is a fabulous photographer. I think the railroad track pic is my fav!
  4. Find the perfect location. Need railroad tracks? Go find some. Want a historical building as the backdrop? Find one in your area. Some people are stingy about permission, so always ask if it’s private property. But if it’s a public place and you’re taking the pic, it’s usually fair game.
  5. Hire a fabulous cover designer. Lora found another indie author who is also a great cover designer, Lynette Bonner. Find the right graphic designer for your book genre, or you can try to DIY this, too. Lynnette has a great video tutorial on YouTube you could check out, Indie Cover Design with Photoshop CS6

Those are just a few tips from a (maybe) future book cover designer. You can always use stock photos for book covers, but you lose some originality. That’s why I love Lora’s idea of organizing her own photo shoot with family and friends. Now she’s got original cover models to add flair to the stock photos Lynnette used in her background. Totally brilliant!

Bonus Feature – The Crash at Crush

Here’s a clip about a publicity stunt that went horribly wrong on the MKT Railway, the setting for Lora Young’s Malicious Mischief. Not the best way to dispose of old trains. Though Mr. Crush was the first to try it, unfortunately he wasn’t the last.

Want to Read More about the MKT Railway?

Check out Lora Young’s debut historical romantic suspense/mystery for a story that’s just as dramatic, but not quite so tragic as the Crash at Crush.

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Malicious Mischief
Lora Young

Her most annoying trait is the one she needs the most.

Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads.

Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.

As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last.


Exploring Missouri’s Katy Trail with Author Lora Young

This week I’m honored to host indie author Lora Young as she shares the inspiration behind her debut historical novel, Malicious Mischief.  Her love for Missouri’s Katy Trail led Lora to write a suspensful mystery with a dash of romance centered around the old MKT railway. Lora and her husband Bill love to ride their bikes and have traversed every part of the Katy Trail. Here’s your chance to explore with them.

“Look, another turtle.” Bill slowed his recumbent and moved the turtle off the trail. Sunlight filtered through the canopy as the sound of bicycle tires on chat thrummed in their ears.

“It must be The Day of the Turtle.” Lora laughed at their recurring joke. Every time they rode the Katy Trail in central Missouri, a different species of wildlife came out to welcome them.

“Ready for a break?”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s ride to the next bench.”

They stopped by the bench, Lora reading the marker about the Native American petroglyphs on the bluff behind her. Part of her brain absorbed the information, while another part listened to the “heebie-jeebie” of the tufted titmouse in the tree above, the hum of insect noise, and the rustle of a rabbit as it scurried into the bushes.

Bill seemed fascinated by the fast-moving Missouri River as it rushed past the trail near Rocheport. Two people in a canoe waved as they floated downstream. Wildflowers bloomed purple and yellow between the former rail bed and the river. They reveled in the sights and sounds of summer in Missouri.

The Katy Trail State Park made the list of Best of Rural Missouri’s category for best trail in four out of five regions of rural Missouri. Named after the M-K-T Railway, the Katy Trail is one of 51 state parks in Missouri.

Part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy project, it once bore the weight of many of tons of steel as the trains flew past the bluffs and fields. After the last train finished its run on the Katy in 1986 the work began to join this rail bed to the growing number that were being transformed into hiking and biking trails.

Officially dedicated in 1996, the Katy has seen thousands of visitors of all ages and from all over the country and the world. The flat, wide surface makes it easy for young and old alike to negotiate the trail with few problems.

Like any state park, there are plenty of areas for picnicking, getting some exercise and just enjoying nature. The eastern half of the trail follows state highway 94, making the trailheads especially convenient. Most have running water, places to purchase food and drink and rest areas. All the trailheads have historic information as well as pictures of flora and fauna to watch for along the way.

One of the most common ways to travel the Katy Trail is by bicycle. A few avid cyclists make the 237.6 mile journey, from Clinton to St. Charles, in a single day. Most do not. Others take 6-8 days to ride end-to-end at a more leisurely pace. They either camp along the way or stay in the many wonderful and hospitable bed and breakfasts.

A popular way to accomplish the end-to-end run is to take day-trip-sized bites out of the trail. With the Katy’s flat trail it isn’t difficult to chew through 10-30 miles a day. Several stops on the Not-To-Be-Missed list include:

  • Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast in Rocheport – a schoolhouse turned B&B that retains its charm and grade-school décor. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the garden area relaxing, and the breakfast is amazing.
  • Iron Horse Hotel and Restaurant in Blackwater – This hotel is not on the Katy Trail, but close enough and fun enough to warrant a place on the list. This is a hotel turned doctor’s office turned hotel. It has a number of comfortable rooms named after rail lines of the past. The restaurant on the lower level of the hotel serves, among other delightful items, the most incredible sweet potato chips.
  • Trailside Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport –Located at the trailhead, they serve burgers and fries as well as other items including an extensive breakfast menu. Right next door bicycles of all kinds are available for rent, from recumbents to tandems.
  • Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale – Katfish Katy’s is a campground with a camp store that is right on the trail. Be sure to stop here for a cold soda or ice cream.
  • Central Dairy in Jefferson City – Ice cream is always a favorite on a hot summer day, especially after a long ride on the Katy Trail. The prices at the Central Dairy shop can’t be beat; neither can the smooth, rich coolness of their delicious ice cream.
  • Katy Bike Rental in Defiance – Bike repair and accessories as well as rentals are available here. They also have a selection of ice cream and other treats.

The Katy Trail offers a destination that encompasses everything a good vacation needs: outdoor activities, shopping, good food, and relaxation. As an added bonus, it displays Missouri in all her glory.

Read more about the historical MKT Railway in Lora Young’s novel, Malicious Mischief.

Only $3.99 on Amazon

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Her most annoying trait is the one she needs the most.

Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads.

Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.

As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last.

Lora Young

What started out as a secret pastime morphed into a desire to see her creations published. So she studied the writing craft, joined American Chrisitan Fiction Writers (ACFW), went to conferences, entered contests, and sent proposals. And got rejections.The reasons for those rejections were encouraging though. Every one of them said the editor liked the story and liked her writing, but the book market was tight and the publishing house was re-structuring or cutting their fiction line entirely.

So Lora decided to publish independently. Scared but determined, she produced her first indie pubbed book—a devotional entitled. Abiding: 30 Steps Closer. When she’s not writing, Lora enjoys reading, hiking, and ballroom dancing. Most of all she delights in drinking chai tea lattes, and spending time with friends and family.

For more on Lora Young, her books, and her blog visit



Guest Blog With YA Author K. Dawn Byrd

Today it’s my pleasure to have a special guest interview on my blog. K. Dawn Byrd’s latest young adult book Mistaken Identity was released by Desert Breeze Publishing in June 2011.

In Mistaken Identity Eden Morgan makes a list of six goals to accomplish in order to have the best summer ever. Getting a boyfriend, which is perhaps the most important goal, becomes complicated when she and her best friend, Lexi, fall for the same guy. Since Lexi is popular, gorgeous, and always gets her guy, Eden thinks she doesn’t have a chance.

Channing Johnson is everything Eden’s ever dreamed of and she can’t believe he just moved in next door. When he starts showing interest in her, she’s overjoyed…until she sees him out on a date with Lexi. He says Lexi talked him into it to repay her for tutoring him. Lexi says they’re in love.

Eden doesn’t know who to believe and is forced to choose between her best friend and the guy of her dreams. Nothing is as it seems and no matter who she chooses, someone will get hurt.

Tell us about your current book and where you got the idea for the story.

Mistaken Identity is a young adult romance. The idea for the story came to me while I was watching teens interact at church. I wondered what would happen if a gorgeous party girl and a sweet  Christian both fell in love with the same guy? Who would he choose?

Who is your favorite character in that story and why?

My heroine, Eden, is my favorite character because she’s just like you and me. She’s not perfect, but she’s still trying to live right. She has insecurities just like us and she’s not afraid to admit when she’s wrong.

What is the underlying spiritual message of your book? Tell us how you wove that into the story.

The underlying spiritual message is that we should ask God’s guidance about everything, especially matters of the heart and friendship. Sometimes, it’s okay to step away from a friendship when you’re hurt badly and can no longer trust the person who was your BFF.

What kind of feedback have you’ve received from this book?

I’ve had several teenage girls email me and state that certain characters reminded them of someone they know. They mention Lexi more than the other characters. She’s my gorgeous party girl who is devious and does whatever it takes to get her guy! Because of reader response, Shattered Identity, will release in April. It’s Lexi’s story.

What are the strategies for marketing this book that you and your publisher have found successful?
Marketing is hard, but a necessary evil. I’ve been on dozens of blogs and tweet often about the book.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Don’t write for fame or money because those things may never come. Write because you love it. I write for the simple joy of placing words on the page and that’s how it should be.

K. Dawn Byrd has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. Her mother once said that she ‘never knew she was on the place’ as a child because she was always off somewhere reading quietly in a corner. She’s a book collector and had over 2,000 titles at last count and even though she loves print books, she’s fallen head over heels for ebooks, downloading several at a time into her Blackberry to read on the go.

When not reading, she enjoys spending time with her husband of 14 years, walking her dogs beside a gorgeous lake near her home, and plotting the next story waiting to be told. Writing everything she’s plotted will take decades, leading her well into retirement. her retirement dream is to live on a golf course near Myrtle Beach and write novels while her husband plays golf.

K. Dawn Byrd’s next book, a contemporary romance titled This Time for Keeps releases this month.

Want more info about the author? Check out these links.



Crime Fictionista Nike Chillemi and Her Debut Novel

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist who killed her employer and mentor? To do so Erica must decide if she can trust Lorne,  the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley, especially when some say he’s the murderer. Burning Hearts is a mixture of arson,murder, action, and romance in equal measure, with a touch of humor by Nike Chillemi from Desert Breeze Publishing.

1. Where did the idea for Burning Hearts come from?

My stories are character driven. With Burning Hearts, I had a feisty young woman in mind as my heroine and a hero who’s a loner, but lives by a code of honor. I worked on their characterization, perhaps a bit like an actor would. I know how they take their coffee, what colors you’d find in their closets.  I could see Erica and Lorne vividly and I had to write their story.

2. Are there any personal touches or anecdotes in the story?

Erica Brogna, my heroine, is a bit like me. She wants to be a dress designer and I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in the bridal industry. She’s independent and stubborn and it gets her into trouble. I’m independent and stubborn but it never got me into any trouble at all. Yeah, right. Something I didn’t realize until the book was in edits is that Erica’s mother is very similar to my Czechoslovakian grandmother. Mrs B. excels in the kitchen and has a great sense of humor. So did my grandmother.  I recall my grandmother swatting my dad with a kitchen towel. He’d laugh and hug her.

3. How did you decide on Desert Breeze as your publisher? Tell us about them.

First of all, Desert Breeze Publishing and Gail Delaney, its editor in chief, are wonderful. There’s no better place to be for a newbie writer. They have a tremendous support system in place and they put tremendous effort into promoting all the Desert Breeze titles. I submitted to them because other Desert Breeze authors I knew recommended them highly. I have not been disappointed.

4. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. How did Burning Hearts find its way to publication?

I’ve always been a reader. As a child, I loved the possibilities beyond my own life I found in novels. My first book, about horses, was written in Crayola. Then, as a teen, I penned requisite poems filled with angst. For years and years there was something niggling at the back of my mind that I’d write fiction. About five years ago, that nudging got more persistent. I began to conceptualize myself as a writer, began to sense a possible calling in that area. That’s when I began writing seriously for publication. Once I got the idea for Burning Hearts and could visualize Erica and Lorne, my main characters, the story grew organically. I’m the leader of an ACFW critique group. Although Burning Hearts didn’t get written in the critique group, it certainly got polished there  into something marketable.

5. What advice do you have for writers seeking publication for their first book?

Burning Hearts wasn’t my first manuscript. And to be honest, I would never tell a newbie writer they’re going to get their first book published. I wrote a really bad first story that will nevermore see the light of day, though I keep it around for laughs. While I was writing that one, I was also taking the Harlequin free online writing course offered at that time. My recommendation to new authors is that they take any free or affordable writing courses or workshops that are available. I’d also enter writing contests. Judges give wonderful feedback, though sometimes the writer needs a thick skin to read judges’ comments and not feel ill. It took a combination of getting rejections for the first story with a few valuable comments and taking that writing course for me to realize there was a huge difference between writing an “A” college paper and writing fiction. I started getting that there was a craft to writing fiction. So, I started on Burning Hearts and spent about two years on it from the first notes about plot until I submitted it to Desert Breeze Publishing.

6. What are your future book plans?

I’m working on GOODBYE NOEL, the second novel in the Sanctuary Point series, set on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY. It’s set at Christmas and is kind of in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition–the body is found under the Christmas tree. Of course, I seek to shake my main characters up as much as possible, putting obstacle after obstacle and threat after threat into their paths. In my research for GOODBYE NOEL, I found it fascinating how in the 1940s Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were simply part of the warp and woof of American lives. I tried to convey the ease and joy Americans had about these holidays at that time.

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. BURNING HEARTS is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, published by Desert Breeze.

Check out Nike Chillemi’s Blog:

Ebook Giveaway and Interview with Author Carrie Turansky

Contemporary inspirational romance author Carrie Turansky shares about creating her first ebook, and why she decided to self-publish after going with traditional publishers for all of her other novels. All you have to do is leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

Q: The setting of Surrendered Hearts, Tipton, VT, was beautifully described in the book. How did you research the setting details? Where did you get the idea of the story?

A: Surrendered Hearts is set in the same fictional town as my first novel, Along Came Love. I read an article in Real Simple magazine about a young woman living in Ripton, Vermont, and that inspired me to set my novel in a similar small Vermont town. My husband and I took a trip to Vermont and we loved the quiet natural beauty there. My background and degree is in fine art, so descriptions and settings are very important to me.

Q: Tell us how you developed the characters. Where did you get the idea for the heroine’s back-story? How about the head naturalist hero?

A: I spend quite a bit of time creating my characters before I start to plot the book. I read an article in our local paper about a gas pipeline explosion and the fires and destruction that followed, and I wondered what would happen to someone who lost everything in an accident like that. I did research on burn injuries through the Phoenix Society who helps burn victims recover and offers them support. That helped me understand the problems my heroine would face. The hero was a secondary character in the first novel, so I had some chacteristics already set for him. We homeschooled our kids when they were younger, and we often visited nature centers. I did some research online about people who work in nature centers and what types of degrees and preparation they do for that job. I love nature, and so it was fun to incorporate some of that love into the story.

Q: Why did you decide to publish Surrendered Hearts as an ebook? What are the pluses and minuses you experienced in the process?

A: I wrote Surrendered Hearts four years ago, but it did not find a publishing home. I loved the story and decided I wanted to make it available to my readers who enjoyed my other books. Several had written to me asking what happened to the characters in Along Came Love.  When I heard that some published authors were trying this new route of publishing their out of print books and some new books as ebooks, I decided to give it a try. I published through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords who distributes to B & N, Sony, Apple, etc. It has been a wonderful experience, and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from readers who’ve enjoyed the book. The reviews have been very good, too, so that’s encouraging. My hope is that women who question whether they can ever be considered beautiful will read this book and see that, yes, God loves them, and they have their own special beauty.

Q: From your traditional publishing and epublishing background, what advice do you have for authors looking for a home for their books?

A: I would encourage authors to take the time needed to grow and improve their writing before they submit to an agent, editor, or decide to self-publish. I wrote five complete novels before the first one was published. I think of those novels as equivalent to going to college to learn to write. Join critique groups, take classes, enter contests, attend conferences, and join American Christian Fiction Writers or other writers’ organization, but most of all, keep writing. This will help you gain the knowledge needed and give you the networking opportunities that may help you. Read, write, encourage and help others, and keep going!

Carrie Turansky is the award-winning author of eight inspirational romance novels and novellas. She has been a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, The ACFW Genesis, and ACFW Carol Award and winner of the WRW Crystal Globe Award. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2000.Her latest releases are Christmas Mail-Order Brides, Seeking His Love, and Surrendered Hearts. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, Scott, who is a pastor, author, speaker and counselor. They have five young adult children. Carrie and her family spent a year in Kenya as missionaries, giving them a passion for what God is doing around the world. Carrie leads women’s ministry at her church, and when she is not writing she enjoys gardening, reading, flower arranging, and cooking for friends and Family. You may contact her through her website:

Deadline for Giveaway: This giveaway ended on Monday, June 13. Congratulations to the winner, Lisa Ledford! 🙂

Insights Into Writing and Publishing with Author Tom Blubaugh

YA author Tom Blubaugh shares the story behind his first novel, and how he got it published. Night of the Cossack follows teenager Nathan Hertzfield’s life-or-death adventures through Russia and Europe during the early 1900’s.

Q:  How did you come up with the idea for your YA historical novel?

A: Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. The older I grew the more I noticed their absence. I tried to find out about them, but there was very little information. One day I found that my maternal grandfather was a Russian Cossack soldier. I took this fact and started creating my grandfather for myself.

Q: Why did you decide to go with Bound by Faith Publishers? Tell us a bit about them.

A: Actually, they came to me. I knew the owners, Dennis & Polly Vance, from church. I had helped Dennis with a website and he came to me for help with his publishing site. I showed him my website, which contains the first chapter of the manuscript I was working on, just to give him some ideas. He and Polly read that chapter and wanted to read the rest. They asked me if they could publish it. Not your usual publishing story.

Q: You’ve used three different publishing methods–a bigger house, an up-and-coming house, and self publishing. Can you tell us about your experiences with each and how they differ?

A: The self publishing was in regard to a ministry I had at the time—a seminar of developing a bus ministry back in the mid-seventies. I used it as a tool of my ministry and didn’t mass produce for marketing. I didn’t even keep a copy of it for myself, but my publisher found it on a couple of months ago and I grabbed it. That title was Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry.

I am a member of some online writing groups. One day I received an email telling me Barbour Publishing was looking for male writers to write devotions based on nature and the outdoors. I sent them a sample devotional and they contracted me, flat rate, to write twenty for their publication The Great Adventure. I believe there were fourteen other writers. This did not involve anything other than writing.

The Night of the Cossack is my first foray into fiction writing. This experience is totally different and I am learning a lot. It’s interesting knowing the publishers personally because we talk over everything, brainstorm, and work together. Dennis supports me by attending speaking engagements and book signings. Recently we participated in a Career Day at a local elementary school. He presented the publishing side and I presented insights into an author’s world.

The downside is there’s no distributor, so it is a lot like being self published. It’s hard work getting my books in stores. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. It has given me great insight into what is involved in publishing. Dennis has almost as hard a time getting the book into stores as writers do getting an editor to read a manuscript. We trust the Lord to open the doors.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Work hard at building a marketing platform from the beginning. Don’t wait until your manuscript is done. Get active on Facebook, Twitter and get your name out there. Don’t think, “If I get published.” Instead think, “When I get published.”

Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer. He has written nonfiction most of his adult life.  He is also a member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild and speakers bureau. He resides with his wife Barbara in Southwest Missouri where he is currently writing fiction. Tom and Barbara have six children and fourteen grandchildren. In addition to writing, Tom loves macro photography. He was president of Jericho Commission, Inc and still serves as a board member. Tom believes that retirement is about continuing to fulfill God’s purpose. And yes, he is currently working on a sequel to Night of the Cossack.

Tom’s website:

Tom’s Blogs:  Tom’s Blog and check out Tom at Blogspot.

For the print version of Night of the Cossack  go to Bound by Faith Publishers. For the ebook version, visit or Barnes &

Meet Local ACFW Authors

ACFW authors Lorna Seilstand and Judy Miller will be signing books at the Topeka LifeWay Christian bookstore on Saturday May 14, 2011 from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. If you’re in the area stop in and say, “Hi.” The address is 2121 SW Fairlawn Plaza Dr.

Lorna’s first book in the Lake Manawa Summers series from Revell released in September of 2010. The second book in the series, A Great Catch, released this month. Check out for more details about her books and her May giveaway.

Judy has authored or co-authored more than thirty books since she began writing in 1996. Her love of history and her desire to point readers to the love and grace of Jesus are reflected in all of her books. Her latest book A Bond Never Broken is available in bookstores and online. Check out for more details.