Monday, February 2, 2015

What Went into That Cover?

I thought I'd share the design process for one of my latest and most complex book cover designs.



After Natalie D. Wilson and I had a great, informative chat on the phone, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on her book, Rohan's Choice (available in paperback and ebook).

We needed a vineyard setting...

...with a larger villa...

I also turned the sky pink and added a couple more trees.

Then we needed a big, buff, Rohan character looking off at the villa.

So I found a man who was already looking somewhat the way we needed...

Then I "turned him around" by darkening and blurring. Now he was a semi-buff silhouette that could be facing either toward or away from you. I painted a new hairdo for him, and bulked up his shoulders and arms.

The picture ended too soon, though, so I borrowed this guy's pants...

...and added a sword...

Then all I had to do was work with the title and other text. That was a piece of cake, comparatively.

I had so, so much fun with this cover! 

Want to see more? Check out my design portfolio here: and my gallery of premade covers here:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tompte -- a short history of "Thaw's" most important horse

Earlier this month, E. Kaiser Writes released a trio of new books entitled "Thaw." I haven't read them yet, but they sound interesting. She is here today to tell us about a Tompte, a very important horse in "Thaw."

P: Thanks for coming! I'm curious about this all-important horse. 

E: Okay! Well, you've picked a fun subject today!
 This is the back info on Tomtpe, the most important horse in the Thaw books. At least he knows that he is. You see, he is not just any horse, but a very special horse. He belongs to a prince of Demargen and that makes him a royal horse. Or a royal's horse, if you want to be picky.
 Tompte thinks there's not much difference between the two.

P: He sounds like quite the character all ready; tell me more! 

E: Okay, so the quintessential Prince Charming's horse is of course white. Always white. 
 The war leader's horse is black, and also the bad guys horse.
   A lot of time the girl's horse is a yellow or beige color...
  But the prince's horse is always a white/gray.

 (For those of you less into horses than some, "gray" is a color pattern that actually isn't gray all the time. In fact a horse that is a "gray" is invariably born dark, (whether that is black, brown or chestnut) and then as they grow their hair "grays out". Different graying-genes have different time-spans; some family lines start going white as young as two years old, while others go slower and so retain some color late in life. These slow-gray-ers make for the gorgeous dapple-grays and steel-grays that will hold that phase of the pattern for several years.
 In the end, though, they all end up white. 
 Like a snowy haired old man or woman, "white" horses are rarely born white. They are grays.

  Some slow graying genes can actually hold onto the mane and tail color for a long time, and it is the last to go. On others it goes white right away. The gray gene is probably one of the most baffling and untrackable horse colors for equine geneticists to figure out... and they haven't gotten it coded yet.
 So it remains in the realm of "horse sense" and those still in the business of buying and selling horses rely on their own experience and the long history of horse-trading stories when dealing with grays.
   How long will they hold their color? Will they be dappled? Or that worst of all fates; flea-bitten? 
 A fleabitten gray is generally a horse that was born chestnut, and even though its hide goes white, specks of if stays red. This is considered among the least attractive of grays, and not at all prized.
  There is a stack of horse trading lore dealing specifically with grays, how some unscrupulous traders can "color" dapples onto a white horse to make it look prettier and fetch a higher price, or to make it look younger for the same purpose. 
 But that is not our subject today.)

P: Amazing! I had no idea there was such a science to gray and white horses. 

As we were saying, the Prince's horse must be white, and although at first I thought I might break the mold and give our prince a different colored horse, Tompte soon shook his head decidedly and insisted that he was white. And all white, having grayed quickly and thoroughly, so that although he is still in his prime, (what Tompte considers to be his prime, at any rate; around eight or so) he is pristine-ly white, as befits a prince of Demargen's royal house.

 Because you see Demargen has a reputation to uphold. With twelve dashing, gallant princes ahead of him, all Hess's brothers have set the bar high in military exploits. For though the known world has not had a war in almost a thousand years, the art of war has been kept alive with jousts and robust competitions, which Hess's older brothers loved dearly and did very well in. 
  The reputation goes back further than that, though, for old King Leopold in his day, was a force to be reckoned with on the field as well. 
  And so Demargen must keep up its chin and shine its buttons, because even though long ago it lost it's claim to the then empty Noran throne on a battlefield, it is not to be trifled with now. Or ever.

P: I'll be sure not to mess with Demargen!

E: So Demargen cadets train harder than any other kingdom's cadets. Demargen officers salute snappier, and with more meaning, than any other kingdom's officers. And Demargen princes are drilled in the school of honor and ability, turning out thirteen perfectly polished princes to unleash upon the world; which receives them in various ways, but is invariably impressed with their military precision. 

 And Tompte is a part of that, of which he is duly aware.
  And though his boy may attend the Noran coronation on his own, he is not alone. For he has a prince's horse, who knows his duty.

P: It sounds as if Tomte must have been fun to write.
E: This horse turned into quite the character as I was writing, he just sort of developed his own "voice" even though of course he can't speak. But looking back on it, I realize that the horse from my past that was channeling onto the page was just such a beastie... a half Welsh, half Percheron that was 13 hands tall, mostly white and as full of importance as a horse can get. 
 His name was "Buddy", which if he would have understood English he certainly would have objected to. He probably would have insisted on being named "Prince" or at the very least "Duke". 
 Perhaps "Charger" would have been a better name for him, since there was nothing that could stop him. 
 He rode and drove, and pulled a wagon as if he'd been born to it. (Which of course he partially had, on his Percheron half.) He had a hitchy little trot that just wouldn't give up, flicking his white feathered hooves with each step, he looked the part of a proud harness horse.
 He was just about six inches too short to be the sort of impressive he was aiming for! 
 But he was cute as a bug... with a deep, Percheron jaw and a nice Welsh muzzle... arched white neck with thick wavy white mane flowing over it. 

 But he was a good horse.  At eleven years old, I learned to ride on Buddy, and even though he had all the heart in the world, his pulling horse build wasn't designed for speediness. My brother would race away from us on his Arab mare, and Buddy and I would be left loping along in the dust. And then we'd run out of dust, for even that had settled by the time we came along. 
 But I was never worried with Buddy because he never bucked, didn't spook... he was so solid and confidant he never met a worry. And he always knew the way home, even if I didn't.

   He was so coordinated he could stand on an ice-slicked sloping path... and run in place to keep from falling down. Seriously, this was actually witnessed one winter... he just moved his feet so fast he didn't have time to slip, until he could edge himself off the icy patch.
 This degree of dexterity is referenced in Prince of Demargen when Hess asks Tompte to jump back over a wall onto the road toward him, and Tompte does so from a standstill. It takes great coordination for a horse to do that, not to mention great back muscles.

P: What skill--in both the real and fictional horses!
E: Buddy could gallop away fully hobbled; tie his front feet together and he'd simply left them both of the ground at once and hop off like that. Pretty soon he was literally galloping around doing that, so the decision was made to side hobble him. Most horses move their lateral feet in opposite directions and so tying left hind to left front effectively stops them from going too far.
 Not Buddy. He took maybe half a day, and then figured out how to "pace", moving both laterals forward at the same time.
   We liked to keep him in the yard where we lived at the time in the mountains, so he could eat the grass down. But he kept turning mobile on us, until we finally ended up tying his front feet and a hind foot.
  That kept him restricted... poor Buddy. Not even he could figure out how to lift all three feet of the ground at once. Though he did try for some time, just in case.

 His antics were so amusing and impressive, that we soon let him go completely, where he could charge about the place as he liked. He enjoyed this very much, and the sight of the little white horse grazing tranquilly along the creek-bed below the house was like something out of a fairy-tale. Then he'd get the notion to gallop up the trail to the barn, all rounded neck and floating mane and rat-a-tat-tat thundering hooves on the forest path. He seemed to enjoy showing off his freedom to the other horses in the pens.

  Buddy is a memory horse that will not be forgotten... and his indomitable spirit, good looks, physical prowess, and quirky character lives on in Tompte, (who is taller, like a riding horse should be.)
 But he too would make a white vision of loveliness grazing lush spring grass along a gurgling creek in a tiny mountain valley.

  And there the both shall ever live in our dreams.

P: What a beautiful picture! And what a great story of the inspiration for Tompte! Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to learning more about your new books. All the best!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Top 10 Reasons I've Been Missing

(Not in chronological order)
    Yep, that's right! Little Person #3 is due July 4th (unless that date ends up adjusted later) and we couldn't be more excited! It's going to be so fun to see if I'm on a roll with boys or if I'll get to have a little me. Either way, it's going to be awesome because babies are just--awesome!
    Sounds weird, I know. What sounds even weirder is that I'm going to say it's halfway arrived. I released the Kindle version of my 5th book (second in the Kitten Files series) on Black Friday. The print version is following shortly on its heels. Meet "The Case of the Missing Hero":

    The book cover design requests (and lots of promo design work, too) have been coming in steadily. It's great fun! See some of my latest...

    'Tis the season! Plus, my family of origin is moving out of state, so I'm trying to soak them up while I've still got 'em!
    'Nuff said. ;) He's a good, super fun kid, but very busy...
    You know who you are, yes I still remember you, no I haven't forgotten about you, no your writing doesn't stink. Yes, I've been busy, busy, busy. (See this post.)
    I'm serious. This could technically go under the pregnancy headline, but it's such a significant part of my day, I've given it its own section! I'm also nursing my 9-month-old, so it takes a lot of food to keep me going!
    I try not to "work" when he's home. Cuz he's my bestest friend.
    I know, this one's a real shocker for anyone who knows me well. If this were a socio-economic-political ranting blog, I can safely say there'd always be something for me to say. But it's not. And sometimes I just have writer's blog writer's block.
    I have read so many Kindle books lately. At a disgustingly fast pace. It's just something I do when my brain feels like a limp noodle and the rest of my body feels the same. I guess I could be blogging. Of course, there's no guarantee anything I said would make much sense...

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Book Was Already on My Birthday List...

...but now that I've seen the cover, I know I really have to have it!

Huzzah for Jennifer Freitag's upcoming release, Plenilune! I'm a big fan of her debut novel The Shadow Things (great for later high-school, adult readers), and I'm anticipating great things from this new release coming October 20th!

Please tell me you've heard of her! If not, here's a bit about the talented gal...
JENNIFER FREITAG lives with her husband in a house they call Clickitting, with their two cats Minnow and Aquila, and their own fox kit due to be born in early December. Jennifer writes in no particular genre because she never learned how, she is made of sparks like Boys of Blur, and if she could grasp the elements, she would bend them like lightning. Until then, she sets words on fire.
Living with her must be excruciating.

But what's this book with its unusual name all about? Well, my friends, I'm as much in the dark as you are since I haven't read the thing yet. Except for the fact that I've read the synopsis. I guess I will enlighten you, too...
The fate of Plenilune hangs on the election of the Overlord, for which Rupert de la Mare and his brother are the only contenders, but when Rupert’s unwilling bride-to-be uncovers his plot to murder his brother, the conflict explodes into civil war. 

To assure the minds of the lord-electors of Plenilune that he has some capacity for humanity, Rupert de la Mare has been asked to woo and win a lady before he can become the Overlord, and he will do it—even if he has to kidnap her. 

En route to Naples to catch a suitor, Margaret Coventry was not expecting a suitor to catch her.
 It's a planetary fantasy. "A what?" you say. Well, Jennifer is so kind as to 'splain >here<.

I've already added Plenilune to my Want-to-Read shelf on Goodreads, but >you might want to do so<, too. To remind yourself and your friends to check it out on the 20th.

I'm going to have to decide whether to buy an ebook version of it right off or wait for a paperback (cuz it's soooo beautiful!!!) for my birthday in December. Or do both. Or just splurge and buy the paperback right on the 20th.

I don't know.

Help me out here, will ya? Let me know what you think I should do!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I am William Landor

Greetings, my name is William Landor. I am the son of a wealthy Boston merchant, but if you want to know something about the business, ask my older brother, Edmond. Edmond is my father’s favorite, and I have never been able to measure up. 

After the tragic death of my mother and sister-in-law, I fled to England where I remained for four years. When I returned in May of 1774, I found that Boston’s political tensions had grown worse. The king had even ordered that the port be sealed; no ships going in or out. What did the people of Boston expect after dumping the tea into the harbor?

I was shocked to discover that my good friend and our family physician, Dr. Joseph Warren, not only supported the rebels, but also was one of their leaders. He tried to make me understand why he and his followers did what they did, but struggled to accept it. They just did not understand what was due their king and country.

I had hoped that my father and I would get along better after I returned, but nothing seemed to be going right. He was angry with me for the time I spent with Warren. He also fears the future. With the Boston port closed, what is a merchant to do?

As if things alone do not make my life complicated enough, I have many secrets I must keep, including that the young African I brought home with me is not truly a slave, and the cloak buried deep within my trunk.

Which side will I choose? Will I ever get rid of that annoying girl, Selah, who is always speaking up about her beliefs? What about my secerets? Will I have have the courage to allow some of them time come to light?

Read all of my story in the book by author Sarah Holman, A Different Kind of Courage.

About the Author: 
Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Connect with Her:

And now, because I read this book and loved it, I'm encouraging you to either go buy a copy on Amazon or enter this giveaway (or both!)...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Giveaway! "The Treasure Hunt" by Kate Willis

That I get to write this post is amazingly cool to me!

One of my sisters wrote a book as a gift for one of our younger sisters (whose birthday happens to be today!), and she wants to give a signed paperback copy to one of you. And being the super-cool person and great older sister that she is, she wanted to have an unusual sort of giveaway. Before we get to that, though, here's a little bit about her recently released book:

From the back cover:
When they reached the gnarled, old apple tree something white lying in the compost pile caught David's eye. He came to a sudden stop and jumped off his bike. Picking up the small package, he dusted off the grass mulch and carefully unwrapped a wooden block with strange carvings on one side. The paper, however, was more than just wrapping. "Your father's favorite pastime and your favorite foods are the keys to this mystery. Signed, Das Alte und Langweilig," read David as he studied the paper. They were silent a moment each thinking of the strange clue and even stranger signature.
Anna was first to speak. "It seems like some sort of treasure hunt."
This is a short and sweet tale that would make a fantastic family read-aloud! It's also completely clean and perfect to hand to any young reader. I love the fact that a large amount of the setting and characters are based off real family life.

Obviously, the author is my sister, but even if she wasn't I would be thrilled to recommend this book to anyone who loves delightful and wholesome reading material.

Enter for a chance to win! (Open to U.S. residents, only, because of shipping costs.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't think you can wait to see if you've won? Know someone who needs this book as a gift? Buy a signed copy directly from me at a discount (only $5+shipping). I take cash, check, PayPal, or credit--whatever is easiest for you!

A Parents' Guide Review of "The Treasure Hunt":
(Since I don't know your family's reading standards, nor am I responsible for raising your children, I provide you with the info you need to make your own decision. As always, I recommend parents pre-read their children's books.)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Homeschoolers)
Rating: G
Recommended for: All ages, family read aloud
The story of homeschooled children on summer break following clues to their very own treasure hunt.
Concerns: none!

Specific questions? Just ask!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Giveaway! "The Sparrow Found a House" by Jason McIntire

I asked the good folks on my Facebook Fan Page to raise their hands if they like free books. A whole bunch of them did, so here we go...

Jason McIntire, a homeschool graduate and author at Elisha Press, offered a paperback copy of his family-friendly homeschool fiction, "The Sparrow Found a House" as a giveaway. I just know you're gonna love it.
Here's why...

In which I praise "The Sparrow Found a House":
It's not often that you can find a good fiction book about being a homeschooler. And, to be honest, I've never read one with as interesting a premise as this: 
What if your new stepdad was a Bible-toting Army Sergeant?
Fifteen-year-old Jessie Rivera is living every teenager’s nightmare. Her widowed mom has married a man who wears his heavy Christian values like his sergeant’s stripes – on both sleeves. Glenn Sparrow is persistent, immovable, and not afraid to be firm. Worse than that, he’s loving, kind – even fun – and he has Chris, Moe, and Katie completely won over. But Jessie is determined that she won’t be won over, or give up her “freedom” without a fight. She knows what she wants, and it isn’t what they’ve got. Or is it?
This book is truly a story of family transformation. It is an enjoyable read with realistic characters (can I just say Sergeant Sparrow is awesome?), an interesting plot, and meaningful lessons and depictions of personal growth throughout.

This book would be a great family read-aloud and might prompt some interesting dinner-table discussions. I could also see this being a very encouraging story for families just starting on the homeschooling journey.

I fully intend to read this book to my children when they're older. (they really wouldn't get it at 21 months and 5 months!) In the meantime, I'm going to encourage all my homeschooling friends to check it out. 

I highly recommend "The Sparrow Found a House." (And I wasn't required to say that. It's my own opinion. Just sayin'...)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't think you can wait to see if you've won? Know someone who needs this book as a gift? Buy a copy directly from me at a discount (only $10+shipping). I take cash, check, PayPal, or credit--whatever is easiest for you!

In which I share my Parents' Guide Review of "The Sparrow Found a House":
(Since I don't know your family's reading standards, nor am I responsible for raising your children, I provide you with the info you need to make your own decision. As always, I recommend parents pre-read their children's books.)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Homeschoolers)
Rating: G
Recommended for: All ages, family read aloud

The story of children trying to adjust to their new stepfather (married their widowed mother) and his ideas about godly parenting and homeschooling.

Concerns: some of the children (especially the eldest) have bad attitudes to begin with, run-ins with school bullies, some lying (but it’s dealt with properly), skeptical relatives, and a non-stressful run-in with a social worker.

Specific questions? Just ask!