Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG- Interview With Retta Stephenson

This is the Insecure Writer's Support Group post with our host Alex J. Cavanaugh. Unfortunately, I'm not able to display our badge. There seems to be a foul up with my computer.

Our co-hosts for this month are:

Tamara Narayan   
Eva E. Solar  
Shannon Lawrence  

I'd like to introduce an amazing artist who has shown me how important art is to the writing world. Retta Stephenson not only has done some of my book covers, she's also established her own site HERE. Here is me interview with her.

Questions For Retta
  1. Where did you grow up and how did this influence your art?
    I’m a Southern California girl, now transplanted to Oregon! When I was growing up, my family moved every year or two from the time I can remember and I know that had a huge impact on me.
    By the time I started to make new friends at the new place, we’d up and move again. I only really had one best friend in grade school; ditto for jr and senior high school. So I spent a lot of time in my room, drawing and painting.
    Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, allowing me quiet time needed to go inward and “see” things to draw. Back then, in the Dark Ages, we didn’t have tv’s and computers in our rooms. ;-)
  1. What brought you into the world of cover design?
    I was dragged kicking and screaming…. no no,  just kidding. Actually, My-Sister-the-Writer finished a book, and needed a cover! Oh, her name is… Karen Elizabeth Brown. Her book (still available HERE) is called Medieval Muse.
    I had a blast researching the different elements of the design for the cover art. Her writing is so descriptive, that I was able to “see” just the kind of cover I wanted to make. The challenge with art is to be able to translate the inner vision outward! But it was a lot of fun to do.
  1. Do you have a certain time of day you like to work? And do you like music, TV or silence while you work?
    I work when it’s quiet! When the pup and kitties and The Husband won’t bug me. I totally can’t “go elsewhere” in my imagination with others around and interrupting me, jerking me back to reality. So yes, I tend to end up painting in the middle of the night too often.
    If I am in the creating phase, it’s instrumental music ONLY. No words. Something about mixing left and right brain hemisperes, I’m told. Later on, I can listen to my favorite music or even a tv show that I can listen to more than watch. Though I must say, many times it all disappears and I’m not even hearing it anymore, cuz I’m “inside” the image I’m working on. Then I look up and realize 2 hours just went by!
  1. Pen and ink? Acrylic or oil? Are your book covers done by hand or digitally?
    Usually they start with many hand draw thumbnail sketches in pencil or black ink on scratch paper, done after reading the material from the author. They are rough, and I’m usually the only one that sees anything in them but chicken scratches.
    I’ll settle on one, try out a few color schemes, then run it by the author for approval. If it’s a go, then it’s my usual process: pencil, acrylics, scan it into computer, finish in Photoshop, in that order. I check with the author for any final adjustments, and voila! ha ha, makes it sound so easy.
  1. How much time do you spend on a book cover?
    Depends. I’m not a fast painter to start with, but sometimes it goes smoothly and I “see” it right from the start. So maybe a week.
    Other times… like pulling teeth. Yet invariably, towards the end when I’m convinced I’m a total fraud and how dare I think I could ever do this…. it comes together and I end up being surprised and loving it!
How do you create your basic idea for a book cover? 
  1. Basic rule of thumb: if I can’t “see” it first, I can’t paint it.
    So first thing is to get alone and quiet and get lost in the story. Or if I don’t have a finished story, read what the author gave me. Sometimes I ask specific questions once I get the seed of an idea, and the answers from the author can flesh it out.
    But let me warn you… it’s chancy putting in too much time before the story is finished. These authors have fertile imaginations, and have been known to change their minds! Then it’s EEK time, and I scramble to change my cover concept. Note to self: be patient, let the author finish first! ;-)
    7.  Are certain colors more important than others in creating a book cover?
    Color psychology, meaning of colors, science of color… oh my, there are SO many books on that topic! I’ve studied color for so long that it’s sort of intuitive for me now.
    But I will say, there are plenty of statistics that claim  warm colors combined with sparks of complementary color make a book cover that tends to attract people. So they say!
    While not discounting the experts, personally, I’d rather match the cover art to the needs of The Story. If The Story needs green, then let’s make it an exciting green!
    8.  When you read a synopsis, or part of a book, do you draw pictures while you’re reading (like an author takes notes)?
    Not usually pictures, since that takes too long and take me out of the story. But I do jot down notes, even if a word or two, to remind me of the image I saw in my minds eye. Since I don’t know yet which idea I’ll use, I save them all until the  concept is finalized.
    9.  Besides book covers, what other wonderful projects do you have in the works? Would you care to share a few with us?
    Right now I’m in the creation stage of a new series. Still making notes, drawing thumbnails to try out compositions, and bought some still life props.
    Let’s just say it involves flowers, a brass candle holder, an hourglass, many little animal figurines, and a human skull. No, nothing dark and foreboding. Rather, a time honored tradition in the art world: Vanitas still lifes. Mine will be full of color and hope and light. My candle will still be lit, my flowers alive, and my colors bright!
    10.  Some artists have favorite subjects to work with. Do you have any favorite subjects you like to paint?
    That changes often, I think. The one constant, though, is color and meaning. It has to mean something to me. To be worth exchanging my time, my LIFE, doing it. It can be serious, or light and fun. But ultimately, I would hope it adds something to someone elses life, too.
    It would be like writing a book that no one read, if no one saw the finished art. We create, and send it out into the world to be a blessing to others. And that’s my passion and my purpose.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dragon Knight Chronicles Book Spotlight: Introducing Louise Findlay

Author Name
Louise Findlay

Author Bio.
Louise Findlay writes fantasy (generally short stories) and inspirational poetry. She enjoys reading and writing about mythological creatures such as angels and demons but has a soft spot for vampires. Louise is currently in the midst of writing a vampire novella about two vampire clans whose deputy’s clash in a big way, entitled A Spy in the Sagax Vampires.
She generally writes ebooks but she’s apart of a few anthologies which are in print and plans to release a print version of a collection of poetry at Christmas time this year.

Author’s Website URL/Blog

Author’s Social Media & Additional Links

List your previously published works
Vicious Vines
This is the last straw. Humans have trampled over nature for the last time. Watch the plants fight back in the form of a human at one with nature. Will nature succeed in eradicating the humans or will an unexpected foe turn up in an effort to survive?

The Rogue’s Odyssey
Heroes with an edge are always fascinating and when the metier is poetic, the romance tends to rise exponentially because, after all, everyone loves a rascal who’s only a heartbeat away from being on the wrong side of the tracks, but who somehow always battles on to win the day, whether that’s fleeing from dastardly henchmen, or fighting a terrifying dragon.

The Magic Christmas Dragon & Other Poetry Tales
There was a dragon that hated Christmas because Santa never gave him any presents. Every year he tries to ruin it for everyone in Wintaru. Read the tales about fairies, elves and goblins who try and thwart this dastardly dragon.

The Author’s Nightmare Story: Regina’s Curse
(A Once Upon A Time Fanfiction Piece)
Operation Mongoose 4x21 4x22 AU. For Regina the cruellest thing was to have had hope in the past and then have it ripped away from you. Regina's worst nightmare is her Mother and the Author has enacted her worst possible nightmare. Can Regina protect Henry from the Queen of Hearts? Does Emma have magic in this alternate Enchanted Forest? Who will become the new Dark One?

Challenging a Demon—Idiot Number 73,854
By: Louise Findlay

Eventually the prattling mortal came.
"I am Liamus Titus, scourge of Valeria and the Dark Lands. I am sworn to defeat you, you foul beast," spat Liamus.
This would make idiot number 73,854. This was getting old, fast. I might have to go look for a real challenge someday.
I stepped forward menacingly. "Fool! For sixteen thousand years I have slain mortal men. I have annihilated empires, burned continents, and plucked the mightiest of kings from their thrones! If I could be killed, it would have been done already."
"With the might of the holy sword, Briusburn, I will defeat you," the idiot yelled, brandishing his sword.
What is it with heroes and their idiotic war cries? Insignificant mortal.
"Really. Just keep telling yourself that," I replied.
"Perhaps you did not hear me, demon scum," Liamus sneered, dragging the sword behind him. The blade flashed and sparkled in his heavy grip. With every step forward, the young man's eyes grew darker. "I hold Briusburn!"
I took my sword out of its scabbard and parried his first attack.
God he was so slow. Mortals always were compared to the speed I possessed. I parried all of his strikes with ease and looked on absent-mindedly as he tried to come up with creative ways to attack me.
"Seriously. Did you fail Sword Fighting 101?” I asked with disdain.
"Fiend! I happened to get an A+ from Voriay Du Lac's School of the Sword," he replied.
"Voriay, how is he? I spared his life once. Now he was a warrior! Name calling's not going to do much to me you know," I said smoothly.  I was a demon; I'd been called every name under the sun.
"Voriay is dead. I killed him," he told me.

The Dragon Tempest offers a collection of short stories in a variety of fantasy genres, including dark, light, adventure, and epic. Creatures from all worlds abound: dragons, angels, centaurs, witches, gods and goddesses, and those lurking below the water’s surface. Whether you’re moved by tales of battle and bloodshed, suspense, humor, or enlightenment, The Dragon Tempest will leave you craving more from each author. Such a diversity of great fantasy tales to enjoy will leave no room for disappointment. 


Allison D. Reid
KJ Hawkins
D.B. Mauldin
Joshua Robertson

1st Place Winners
Christine King
Katie Roxberry
Winter Bayne
Jane Dougherty
Wilson F. Engel, III

2nd Place Winners
Christine Haggerty
Randall Lemon
Deborah Jean Anderson
J. Abram Barneck
Louise Findlay

3rd Place Winners
Samuel Milner
Karen Brown

Ebook Buy Links:

Paperback Buy Link:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

5 Tips to Writing Your Author Bio...

I'd like to share an excellent article that was in Karen Cioffi's newsletter The Writing World:
5 Tips to Writing Your Author Bio

By D. Jean Quarles

Writing your first novel is an endeavor that takes perseverance, but writing your author’s bio can cause the most loquacious of authors to freeze. What should you include? What can be left out? And most important of all, what do your readers want to know and that will encourage them to buy your book?

Here are 5 tips to writing your author’s bio.

1. Write your bio in the third person. While writing your novel you probably struggled here and there with the invisible critic that seems to be ever close. That critic rears up again when the time comes to write your bio, which is why it’s best to write your bio in the third person. This will create some distance and you may find it easier to talk yourself up.

2. Figure out what facts are relevant to your story. Where you were born or raised is probably only important if you are writing about that particular area. Telling about your previous or current career will also only be important if it ties somehow to what you have written. Degrees and education should be dealt with in a similar fashion. If they lend you credibility for your writing mention them, if not, leave that information out.

3. Always be sure to mention any awards, contests, or achievements related to your writing you have acquired. No matter how insignificant you may feel they are, they will show you are serious about your craft.

4. Are your characters quirky? Is that what brings them to life, if so use that same quirkiness when writing your bio. If you have a sense of humor that comes through your writing, find a way to share something humorous.

5. Your bio should be accompanied by your author’s photo. Give your photo some careful thought. For many of your readers, your photo will come to represent your brand. Do you want to be perceived as knowledgeable? Thoughtful? Funny? Brave? You may want to consider hiring a professional photographer and discussing the impression you wish your photo to give to your readers before you sit for your picture.

You will need two or three bios: a short one for queries and such, a longer one for your book cover, and sometimes just a one or two liner.  Read the bios of other authors before you begin and see what stands out to you about each. Which ones compel you to check out their work? Then write several versions and share them with other authors who can also help give you feedback. And remember, just like a resume, your bio should be updated regularly.

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and the co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with co-author, Austine Etcheverry.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website:

You can also follower her at or find her on Facebook.

Article reprinted from The Writing World newsletter. Want more must-know writing and marketing information along with updates on free webinars right in your inbox? Get access to The Writing World ( today.