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.


Naming My Characters in SubTerra, Part 2

The results are in! Thanks to everyone who voted on my character names. I ended up changing one character’s name because of your votes. SubTerra thanks you! Here’s the newly minted names and their nerded-out meanings.

Letha MangaAlethea Teca Zarin – “Letha”

You guys were more divided on my heroine’s name than I was, so I deviated from my original plan. Since each name was 1 vote apart, I made the executive decision to use the winning last name only. Don’t hate me!

Jelena Zarin was the 1 vote winner–a much cooler sounding last name than Ewart. But Ewart  actually means “river enclosure” a  tidbit I planned to use in the series. Lucky for you, plans change. So what does Letha’s full name mean? Here’s the breakdown:

Alethea = Light, perfect for a underground world
Teca = Reaper, summer,  or harvest …
Zarin = Made of gold

Jenna MangaAurelia JennaBeth Zarin – “Aurie”

Surprised? I was all set to name Letha’s sister JennaBeth, but you guys changed my mind. Now I love it! I think Aurie works better with Alethea. Thanks for making me see the light. When the original middle name I had in mind, Chela, got zero votes, I combined the top two choices into one name. Now what does it mean?

Aurelia = The golden one
JennaBeth = Spiritual gift
Zarin  = Made of gold

Hmm…does that seem redundant to you? At first, maybe. But when you meet Aurie, the bubbly blonde girl who wants to fit in and needs to learn common sense, you’ll agree that a double-dose of gold is quite fitting.

Dar PicDarshana Tiarni Moses – “Dar”

Dar was the landslide winner, so no surprise here. I added the second-place winner just for fun as her middle name.

Darshana = Seeing
Tiarni = Generous one
Moses = Deliver + that cool guy from the Bible

I debated over nicknames for Dar, from “Darci” to “Shana” but they all sounded too normal and girly. That’s not Dar. She’s a tomboy and intriguingly different in a way that makes you think about your own life. So Dar Moses was the perfect fit.

What about the rest of the names? I plan to use the rejects Chela and Kaja for other character names, maybe even bad girl names. That still leaves the alternate main character names Jelena and Camistrina. I’ll have to scratch Jelena because the nickname Lena is too close to Letha. Wouldn’t that be confusing? As far as Cami or Camistrina goes, I don’t even like the name anymore, even though I made it up myself. But if that’s your favorite, please make your case. I could always be convinced otherwise.

I’ve got tons more characters, places, and SubTerra jargon words to come up with. Not sure if I should clog up my blog with more polls, though. I’ll leave that up to you.

Want to see more polls about SubTerra? Let me know! if Not, I’ll have to name everything myself… 🙂



Naming My Characters In Subterra

Courtesy GLady via Pixababy

Courtesy GLady via Pixababy

I’m working on a new dystopian book set in the underground world of Subterra. (Not sure if that’s the title yet.) It’s a system of underground catacombs playing fallout shelter for a new kind of society. It will have its own levels of upper, middle, & lower class citizens with room for promotion and demotion. There will also be some interesting synthetic fashion trends, thriving nightlife since it’s always night there, and a totally revamped political system. (As if there’s anything new under the sun.)

So exciting! Except, I need your help naming some of my characters.  Check out the polls below to tell me what you think.

Letha MangaMain Character – Heroine Name

16-17, oldest sister, working for advancement up the level system of Subterra

Jenna Manga

Major Character – Heroine’s Sister’s Name

14-15, younger sister, trying to fit in and ride her sister’s coattails

Dar PicMajor Character – Best Friend

16-17, exotic newcomer, unique and little rebellious


If you have other ideas please do tell! I’m all ears, digitally at least. 🙂

What’s Your Writing Process? The Blog Tour

I’ve been invited to share about my writing process. Thanks to LeAnn Campbell, a fellow OakTara author, for including me in this relay blog tour. Check out LeAnn’s writing process, or one of her children’s mystery novels at OakTara.

Here’s a snapshot of my writing desk:

My Writing Desk

My Writing Desk

It’s got all the essentials–my writing notebook, marketing plan, brainstorming timer, random post-its, Jane Austen the action figure, the writer’s prayer, and my scene notecards.

Time to answer a few questions about my writing process.

What am I working on?

While trying to build a marketing plan from the ground up, I’m currently working on my new novel, Crossing Nexis, the sequel to my debut The Nexis Secret. Nexis will be a four-book series, but for some reason the sequel was the hardest to wrap my brain around. So many sequels miss the mark, disappoint readers, or are just plain bad. Yikes! That’s a lot of pressure for a writer, especially with books like Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) to set the bar super high.

Lucky for me, I have great friends who are willing to slog through beaucoup details to help me develop my story. My psych-major friend helped me make my bad guy more lovable, maybe even an option for my heroine. The love triangle will rev up and not because the hero breaks up with the heroine. I’ve had to make some hard choices in plotting my sequel, but trust me–the book is much better.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Tricky question, because there’s not a lot of Christian YA angel books. The main differences about The Nexis Secret are the concepts, Bible conspiracy and the idea of the Seer, aka one girl who sees the unseen world of angels.

I tried to be relevant to the current market, so this book could crossover onto mainstream shelves. That’s where the differences are clearer, angels in my book don’t fall in love with humans. Though there is an element of Bible conspiracy, I keep the angel parts true to the Bible to show the difference between light and dark. The Nexis Secret is meant to be a clean read and an option for current readers of popular YA literature.

Why do I write what I do?

I discovered the power of words at a very young age. That’s why I want to foster that love of reading in teens, a time when I needed direction the most. I write for teens who want an alternative to the stuff they deal with everyday at school, and who are curious about God. Fiction is a great avenue to explore questions about religion, which is another reason I keep it clean. Sometimes I feel like I never grew up, which only fuels my passion for writing for young adults.

How does my writing process work?

Someone asked me this recently and I couldn’t give them an answer. After mulling it over, I discovered my writing process is very organic in the idea stage, but much more thought-out in its execution.

In the idea stage I literally gather ideas in my mind and hold them there until a solid idea forms. I write down tons of trigger phrases on post-its, but I don’t use them much. I just wait for the idea to solidify, until that last piece falls into place. That’s when the Eureka! moment hits and the idea comes out fully-formed.

Once the idea is fully realized the execution starts with scenes. I write scene ideas on note cards to get an idea of the progression and start working in Scrivener. If I get stuck I brainstorm for 5-10 minutes, usually on the emotion I want to convey. I’ve started emotion brainstorming at the beginning of each writing session, a technique I used for my writing lunch breaks when I worked in corporate America. It helps you focus so much faster.

Obviously there’s more to it, but that’s just how I get started. My first drafts are kind of like skeletons, depicting the bare action and dialog just so I know where everything goes. It usually takes me a second draft to fill in all the gorgeous details like setting, emotion, and imagery. Not to say things aren’t mixed and matched along the way, but I try not to edit myself too much until the third and fourth drafts. Once I turn my editor brain on I’m a stickler for details. It crushes the creative process, but somehow hones my word choice to make me seem more creative. Such a wonderful dichotomy. 🙂

I’ve found a few writing books to be the most helpful, which I’ll list at the end of the post. I’ve mostly taken bits and pieces to create my own process, which is what most writers I’ve met do. That’s why I try to learn as much as I can from books, writing seminars, and other writers. You never know what awesome tip you’ll pick up that will totally enhance your entire process. That’s why I love getting together with other writers.

Passing the Baton

Now it’s time to pass the baton to my writing friend, Holly Michael, author of an upcoming devotional book with her NFL son Jake Byrne, recent ACFW Genesis Semi-Finalist in the contemporary fiction category, and blogger at Writing Straight.

Check out more writers’ stories with the #MyWritingProcess Twitter hashtag.


My Favorite Writing books:

–Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques That Ensure a Great First Draft
by Laura Whitcomb

  • Great tips for writing better drafts faster

–Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

  • Really hones your plot ideas to the bare essentials, then helps you flesh them out to create more tension

–Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin

  • Illustrates how to develop not only romance, but fully-formed characters, and points of view. A surprisingly great resource

Also Helpful:

–Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

–Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

Did you like this post?

Share, like, or leave me a comment about your own writing process.
I’d love to hear from you.

Need Some Encouragment? Me, too.

Throwing Mountains into the Sea with Holly Michaels

I’ve been so busy writing away on my new and improved story that I haven’t had time to stop and smell the roses, let alone blog about it. A fabulous agent has requested my material, and I’m working furiously on a great new idea.

But it’s a daunting task, made harder by some physical hardships I’ve been dealing with. So if you have a minute, say a quick prayer for me. If you need encouragement too, check out my blogging buddy’s post:

Throwing Mountains into the Sea.

The Versatile Blogger Award

versatileblogger11Last week I received the Versatile Blogger Award (VBA) from writer and prolific blogger, Holly Michael on her blog Writing Straight.

Here is the link to Holly Michael’s post: Another Award: The Versatile Blogger.

There’s a whole site dedicated to this award: Versatile Blogger Award (VBA)

What is it?

The VBA is a blogger award for quality blogs as deemed by the blogging community. Yep–you guessed it. It’s an award by bloggers for bloggers. And it’s an honor to receive this award that is spreading fast in the blogging community.

Thank you Holly Michael for the VBA nod. Since I was nominated by Holly Michael my site traffic and comments have gone up. No coincidence. It’s nice to know there are other bloggers out there who want to write and support each other.

And the Nominees are . . .

Below I’ve nominated some of my favorite blogs in no specific order. Most are writers, book reviewers, and versatile people with lots of interests. Check them out:

  1. Author and fellow CBC alum Jessica Patch:
  2. Inspirational Romance writer Christina Rich:
  3. Reflections on the River with Susan Mires: and a blog she collaborates on with other writes,
  4. Write-to-Publish staffer Tammy Eddington Shaw:
  5. Chapter president, writer and editor Sally Bradley:
  6. Darci Webster and her Siberian Husky Nora, who does most of the blogging 🙂 :
  7. The ever funny Katy McKenna: 
  8. Writer, homeschool circulum guru, and one year novel proponent for kids Dan Schwabauer: or his blog
  9. Journeys of love . . . inspired by Faith with writer Susan Holloway:
  10. A college student’s journey through the Middle East:
  11. Writer and book reviewer Caryn Caldwell:
  12. Historical writer Sandra Ardoin:
  13. Jalynn on homeschooling, books, and more:
  14. Jackie’s back porch with Jackie Layton:
  15. Where Light Pierces the Darkness with Ralene Burke:

The Rules

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to the VBA site.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Seven Things About Me

  1. I love purple, puppies, and dolphins. No surprise to anyone who knows me. 🙂
  2. The only foreign countries I’ve been to are Venezuela, Romania, and Mexico. All missions trips.
  3. In college I won Best Supporting Actress at the SPAM Awards. (Student Produced Amateur Movies.) Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I LOST that DVD of me lip-syncing to Etta James and Alicia Keyes.
  4. My favorite sport is baseball, because I actually know what’s going on. Thanks Dad!
  5. I had a friend in high school who thought I was the spitting image of the Star Wars diva Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher. Everyone else, including me, thought my friend was crazy.
  6. On my officle wall is a smiley face pic, a shiny pink star, and a dry erase board sponsored by The Office that I write funny sayings on. It’s got a picture of the original gang and a slogan, “Petty behavior. Zero productivity. All in a day’s work.”
  7. I just got a Kindle last week. What took me so long to join the e-reading gang? I’m THAT cheap. 🙂