Finding Great Book Cover Ideas

I have designed all the covers for my books. For me, it’s the treat of the whole publishing process. I love playing with images, text and light to find something that attracts my eye.

Although many will say, Don’t judge a book by its cover, it’s a fact that many people do just that. I know I do.

I’m more likely to buy a book if its cover appeals to me, and I will pass on a book if the cover hits a wrong nerve or is unattractive. Trashy fantasy novels with half-clad women never go into my cart. It doesn’t matter who the author is or how many people brag up the story.

I’ve been asked many times where I find the ideas for my covers. My answer is everywhere.

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Farewell But Not Goodbye

Milk-SpiritYou died on a warm, windless, sunny winter’s day, a day boxed between a blizzard and the promise of thirty centimetres more in snow. A black bird sang a solitary song on a birch branch nearby. Three crows watched atop one of the great evergreens lining the garden. The donkey peeked around its shelter, looking forlornly towards your bed. The occasional rooster call echoed across the frozen ground, and the cloudless sky swathed the earth in a bright blue canopy.

If there was a peaceful day to die, this day, a breath away from spring, was a good day. The sun shined down on you, making your coat warm and cosy as you lay in the hay. Your barn mate walked around you, checking you or perhaps saying goodbye, one more time. No more would you both ram heads together in play, in challenge or in silliness.

Huge mounds of snow surrounded us, cradled us as we waited, for it did seem we simply waited: waited for the last breath, the last heartbeat, the last goodbye song by the bird, feathers glistening in the morning sun.

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Self-publishing Books for Children post

I have not yet self-published a children’s picture book, but I probably will in the future, so I’m going to tuck this post away for that day.

My first book, The River Dragon (Harpercollins), was published in 1990, and I’ve been involved in the industry since then. In the last 20 months, I’ve made the switch from traditional publishing to an independent publishing company, with 20 titles available. As I say in this article, the first 18 months were devoted to production, distribution and accounting. The next 18 months will continue those activities, but focus more on marketing.

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Book and Soap Sale Event

Today (Saturday March 14) I will be selling books at the Crafter’s Train Vendors Market taking place at Sackville Lions Club, 101 Old Beaverbank Rd, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

I will have for sale copies of the following books:

Diane Lynn McGyver

  • Shadows in the Stone
  • Fowl Summer Nights
  • Pockets of Wildflowers
  • Nova Scotia-Life Near Water

Sheila McDougall

  • City of Light and Shadow

Sam Lynn Smith

  • Boys Ride, Too

Also for sale will be my homemade Moonshire Goat Milk Soap. The varieties available are

  • Coconut Creamy
  • Safflower Supreme
  • Luscious Lavender
  • Citronella Bug Off
  • Gardener’s Delight
  • Oatmeal and Honey
  • Lemon Poppy Seed

The event runs from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Hope to see you there.

Will Google find you after April 21st?

New FlashThe Internet world is always changing, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the not so good. As users we are forced to take the good with the bad if we still want to play the game.

If you’re like me, you use Google a lot. It is my go-to search engine. It has been for years.

Using Google to check my own sites to see if they appear in search results is something I’ve also been doing for years. After all, we all want to be found on the Internet so people can read our blog posts.

On April 21st the ability to be found in Google search engines on mobile devices might be hampered if you’re not mobile friendly. If your website doesn’t properly fit in the apps of telephones, tablets and other small, mobile devices people use to search the Net on the go, then you have two choices:

1) fall into a black hole, never to be found by a random search

2) tweak your site to fit to make it mobile friendly.

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When to Capitalize Names That are Not Names

EditingI’m in the midst of editing a short story for another writer. One of the items I’m highlighting for correction is names that are not really names. About seven years ago, I was in the same situation except I was the one creating the error.

Back then I had Goggle and a few great writing friends to guide me, so it was fairly painless. Here are the general guidelines I follow (which in some style guides/writing circles may be different).

  1. Of course, all proper names are capitalized:

Betty and Jim flew to Mars for their anniversary.

It was seven days before Jack realised he had a balloon stuck to his front door.

Together Gilbert, John, Grace and Billy hiked the mountain.

  1. Parents and grandparents names are capitalized if used in place of a name (Hint: it isn’t preceded by her or my):

In the morning, Mom let the chickens out to eat the bugs.

Sally wanted to give Dad a trip to Scotland for his birthday.

I went to the store with Grandpa to buy cranberries.

These names are NOT capitalized if NOT used in place of a name:

In the morning, my mom let the chickens out to eat the bugs.

Sally wanted to give her dad a trip to Scotland for his birthday.

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When Should You Give Up on Writing?

Castle clouds cropped02 5x5aIn the recent WritingWorld.com newspaper, the following question was posed by a reader named Sheila: At what point should an author give up writing?

After thinking about this a bit, I wrote the following post:

When should you give up on writing? I’ve asked myself that dozens of times in the past twenty years. In fact, I’ve asked that question more in the past five years than the first fifteen. There are so many writers out there, everyone struggling to be read.

Up until about eight years ago, I was consistently getting my nonfiction published in newspapers and magazines. It was fun and paid the bills. But it wasn’t exciting. Like Sheila, my passion was for fiction not nonfiction.

I slowly slipped out of nonfiction (though I still write a weekly genealogy column), and while I occasionally get an article published, I write what makes me happiest: fiction.

I went through the query phase and decided to self-publish. Like Sheila, all the work (blogs, social media, publishing) hasn’t generated a huge interest or a lot of money. Yet I’m satisfied with the experience. I am currently in a position that doesn’t force my writing to pay the bills, or I’d think differently about it.

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Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

NookPressAuthorSolutionsNook Press – Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform – launched a selection of author services last October including editing, cover design, and (limited) print-on-demand.

Immediate speculation surrounded who exactly was providing these services, with many – including Nate Hoffelder, Passive Guy, and myself – speculating it could be Author Solutions. However, there was no proof.

Until now.

A source at Penguin Random House has provided me with a document which shows that Author Solutions is secretly operating Nook Press Author Services. The following screenshot is taken from the agreement between Barnes & Noble and writers using the service.

NookPressAuthorServicesBloomingtonopt

You will see that the postal address highlighted above for physical submission of manuscripts is “Nook Press Author Services, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana.”

Author Solutions, Bloomington, Indiana. Image courtesy of Wikimedia, uploaded by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0 Author Solutions, Bloomington, IN. Image from Wikimedia, by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0

There’s something else located at that address: Author Solutions US headquarters in Bloomington…

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Nimoy was a Timeless Vulcan

Leonard_Nimoy_Mr._Spock_Star_TrekThere are individuals we ‘meet’ in our lifetime that we believe will always be there, like the sun behind the clouds. We think them invincible, immune to death, exempt from leaving this world even though we are led to believe they were not from here to begin with.

These heroes are timeless. They entertain us decade after decade, from one century to the next, across the universe and beyond. Their respect for life rubs off on us, and we take on some of their values because we believe them to be true.

We respect their logic even if at times we don’t fully understand it. We raise our hands in greetings—two groups of fingers splint in the middle, thumb thrust to the side—because we have been taught that this is the way things are done…in their culture. We silently delight in showing our knowledge and our ability to perform this simple gesture.

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Old Habits are Hard to Kill

The other day while driving home from picking up hay, I ran through the current scene I was writing in Healing Stones. I played it out in my mind as if a movie. The actors spoke their lines and I analysed each one. I got inside their heads and thought about how they were feeling, what they were smelling and what they were seeing. Did their equipment dig into them uncomfortably?

Then something disrupted the scene. The image of the story on the computer stuck there like a sore thumb. Had I done it again? Had I started this manuscript, which will most likely end up around 150,000 words, just as I would a genealogy column?

In other words, were there spaces between all the paragraphs? If I were only a fiction writer, the habit of creating an easier to manipulate document would become habit. But I switch from fiction to nonfiction weekly, so sometimes, I begin on the wrong foot…in the wrong format.

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Wild Horses of Milford

2014 07 5x5Horses are creatures born to run free.

Tail and mane flying in the wind, hooves beating the ground and muscles straining with the effort as they gallop through the fields of snow is a majestic sight. If only every horse could feel the freedom they crave.

But the harsh reality is horses in today’s world are more like caged animals, forced to do the bidding of their master. I see it all the time.

  • Horses locked in stalls day after day, taken out now and again for short rides.
  • Horses abused and scared forever, so they can perform at shows.
  • Horses forced to perform awkward, unnatural gaits for the pleasure of the rider.
  • Horses poorly fed by misguided owners.
  • Horses sold for meat because they were no longer manageable or wanted.

The list goes on…

For the past 18 years, I’ve watched horses at a nearby farm live their lives as close to natural as possible in this every-expanding population province. They have the freedom to roam the large property (about 20 acres) at will, and come and go to their shelter when it suits them. Often, regardless of the weather, they choose to graze in the open or find shelter in the stand of trees when storms blow through.2013 02

Lately, a group of concerned individuals have decided this natural state is not good for the horses. They work to have the horses removed, dispersing the herd to places far and wide. While it is true that a few horses were not in the best of shape and removed from the farm, the majority of the horses are far from ill.

It is true that horses have died. It is said they were all from the same line: mother, daughter, granddaughter. This would indicate a weakness in the line, one that nature took care of.

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My Library of Books for Writing Fantasy

5x5 fantasy bookA short time ago, Ernesto San Giacomo posted his 2015 Reading List. In the list was Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall.

I commented, saying I had several books about magic, herbs and stones to help me with writing my fantasy stories, but I hadn’t read that one. A list was requested, but I hadn’t gotten around to making it until tonight.

Some of these books are one-time reads, but others I keep on the shelf as references. I can’t remember all the properties of stones and herbs, and I can’t recall all the spells (though I make up a lot myself), so these are keepers for me.

Natural Magic – Spells, Enchantments & Self-development by Pamela J. Ball: This book provides insight to magic and how a sorceress might work her spells. Not every magic-user is the same, so you can take a little of this and a little of that to create a character. This book was okay, worth buying, but not my favourite.

The back cover states: Before there was formal religion there was magic, and to this day there are people who purport to perform ‘miracles’ with the aid of magical powers derived from nature or the spirit realm. These powers are still out there to be tapped into by us. All you need is the knowledge and know-how contained in Natural Magic.

This book reveals: How to become a natural magician, using knowledge gathered over thousands of years by magician and mystic alike. Techniques employing plants, trees, crystals and incense along with meditation, ritual, chanting and dreams. The tools to give expression to your creativity and beliefs. A wide range of methods to bring about positive changes in your life.

The Druid Magic Handbook – Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer: This book speaks of Life Force, the alphabet of magic, the elements, enchantment and Ogham writing. It gives a great history on the druids, which I thoroughly enjoyed and ‘connected’ with. I discovered many potential story lines by reading it.

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Keeping Score with your Credit

5x5 Credit ScoreWe finished our three-day business program today, the one that was postponed from last Saturday due to the weather. The big “wow, I didn’t know that!” moment came when we were talking about credit scores.

I don’t pay much attention to my credit score; it is what it is when you are working here and there, not holding a steady job since 1997 because of giving birth and taking care of kids. But today, I learned about something that may affect my score negatively without me realising: forgotten, unused credit cards.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one in the group who had a credit card, but never used it and thought nothing about it. My story is a simple one, one many others may have.

Once upon a time, I had a credit card. A few years later, I was offered another card from a different company. They were giving away a special gift just for signing up, so I did. Who doesn’t love a gift?

A few years afterwards, I got another card from a different company for the same reason: a gift. Like all creatures of habit, I used the credit card I always did to make purchases and only occasionally used the other two. My credit rating with these companies rose, and in turn, they raised my spending limits.

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Snow Day from Business Program

SnowmanWell, this was unexpected. A snow day. My plans were to complete a three-day business program today, but I received word before 7:00 am that due to hazardous road conditions, it was postponed until next Saturday.

Today we were going to delve into marketing. I was looking forward to it more than the ‘business side’ of business. The business side of business is often the side many like to forget about, ignore and put off until they absolutely have to deal with it.

You know what I mean: bookkeeping, accounting and taxes.

I’ve learned a lot in the past two days about all three of these items. I am still far from being an expert, but I have a better grasp of keeping track of my financial responsibilities. This will not only help me in my new soap-making adventure, but with my writing, publishing and personal finances.

I would recommend anyone going into self-publishing to take one of these programs. Sometimes they are offered for free through your employment centre. Other times you can find them listed in night course programs (We call them continuing education in Nova Scotia). Local business organisations may offer them. I was told local commerce groups hosts similar workshops periodically. In fact I’m signing up for a marketing workshop hosted by our local group.

Although you might find one for free, more than likely you’ll need to pay a small fee to attend. Sixty bucks, however, is a great investment in your self-publishing company if it’s going to save you money and headaches, and get more sales.

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Year End Review

animation_candle_flameMy year in 2014 doesn’t quite feel like twelve months long. Somewhere amongst the full moons, I missed seven of them because of working mega hours outside the home and away from the homestead.

So, while I could offer up the excuse of not enough time, I’ll just note the things I did accomplish during the year.

Writing Projects I Hoped to Complete

*Stories that are started, but not finished

**Stories that are not started (except perhaps a chapter or outline)

*Fowl Summer Nights: Humourous Novella: COMPLETED/PUBLISHED

Completed Writing Projects I Hope to Edit

Scattered Stones: Traditional Fantasy Novel: WORK IN PROGRESS

Stories I Hope to Publish

Fowl Summer Nights: Humourous Novella

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The Story behind NORAD and Santa

I was lucky enough to grow up when there were no computers, cell phones or cable television. I know many won’t think that’s lucky, but looking back, I feel I was very fortunate. What we did have were two English channels that showed great Christmas specials on Christmas Eve and a radio that tracked Santa’s every move.

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Fowl Summer Nights by Diane Lynn McGyver

See what happens when empty nest syndrome and retirement are taken to their “Nth degree.” The exchanges between the main character and her neighbors make this work into a light-hearted romp. Diane spins a great humorous tale filled with comic believability laced and with a healthy dose of outlandish circumstances.

FSN

Despite the humorous, I think McGyver is also giving us a lesson about aging, family, and society in general without a heavy hand.

…to read more, visit San Giacomo’s Corner blog.

Happy Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice Happy

Potential High School Drop-out

When I was in grade nine, my English teacher Mr. Nauffts assigned an oral presentation. I can’t remember the topic, and I can’t recall any formal oral presentations before this time. I do however remember reading sections of a story while seated in my desk, and the joy of answering questions and even going up to the board to show off my math skills.

Formal oral presentations were a new thing though. If we did have them, I know I would have bowed out (aka stayed home ‘sick’). This particular one in grade nine however was the first one I remember vividly because of what transpired on the day I was to give the talk.

When my name was called, I walked over to Mr. Nauffts and gave him the written assignment. He said that I now had to present it. I told him I wouldn’t. I didn’t say in a snarky way; I simply stated I did not do oral presentations. What I didn’t tell him was that I hated them, that they made me feel too paranoid and self-conscious. I’d rather jab a pencil in my hand then stand up in front of my classmates and talk on a subject.

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Supporting Your Author Friend

Originally posted on Laura Best:

This post could have been written by my family and friends. It’s all about how to support your authorly friends out there, and since my friends and family have been awesome enough to support me through the publication of two books I wanted to let others in on their tips for supporting an author friend. (I bet most of them didn’t even know they had such tips!) Through the years my friends and family have come up with some ingenious ways to put the word about my books “out there.” I thought I would share these with everyone else out there who would like to know ways to support a certain author but are a bit uncertain about how to do that. Believe me there are plenty of ways, and my friends have done a super, stupendous job.

1. Buy the book-– A lot of my friends bought the…

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