Friday, February 13, 2015

Playing Around with Cover Designs

I am obsessed with book covers these days and have been teaching myself some basic graphic skills with some free programs (image program: PhoXo, Fonts: Font Squirrel) I am far, far from an expert on graphics but I had a lot of fun making these covers. If the author thing doesn't work out for me, maybe I can design covers for sale some day in the future. Far, far into the future. Meanwhile, I love trying to figure out what might work for different genres.

I found this image of lips covered with little bits of candy decorations and didn't really need to do anything to the image. I think I added a little glow to it and softened the edges. This one is more about font. I wanted something that would be good for a romance. The title for this imaginary book was easy based on the image and makes me wonder if I can write a story to match the cover. That could be my next challenge!

My breakthrough with this one was learning how to do the gradient on the word Kisses. It was so easy, now I feel silly for not figuring it out months ago.




With Sunset Heat, I just loved the image of the cowboy and his horse with the deep sunset. I'm envisioning this for a western romance, either contemporary or historical. I'm not sure I like the font I used for the title, but didn't want anything too elegant and flourishy (made up word) for a cowboy image. I may re-visit this one. All I did with the image itself was pick up the color of the deep red from the sunset and create a backdrop. I needed to because the image was square. (also, I need to re-size this because it's a little too squarish for a book cover, I think.) I then layered the image over the backdrop. I thought about trying to blend the line where the end of the cowboy meets the backdrop, but decided not too. I had the cowboy on the bottom of the cover at first, and that blended better at the top, but I think the cover is better with the image at the top. What do you think?
Evidence is closer to my usual genre. the image already had the handprint, but I had to move it and make it a mirror image because I wanted it on the left. I don't know why. I think because I wanted the author name on the lower right, and wanted to stack the author name. I usually make the author's name all on one line out of habit. 


There are some things I'd probably do differently on this one if I wanted to use it. I'd bring the tagline down a little, or move the title up, make it bigger, and put the tagline in that empty space beside the thumb print. I think I like the fonts I used. I wasn't planning on using a distressed font, but I thought it worked well with the texture on the background.





Last one for today. This image of the red curve, I guess you'd call it, looked so luxurious that it made me think of royalty. This could work for a hot romance along the lines of 50 Shades kind of book. Not sure I'd keep the 'a novel' text there, but I'd like something there to off-set the title. Any ideas? I might also move the tagline to the top of the cover. Oh, and no matter what I did, I lost the top of the L when using a script. It didn't matter which one I used. I downloaded some more since making this cover, so maybe one of those would work, but I definitely wanted a script for this image.

If you try it yourself know that I make sure that the fonts I download are free to use for commercial purposes. Also, the public domain images I've found to practice with are free to use for commercial purposes with no attribution required. In case I actually make something I want to use, I don't want to worry if I can legally do so.

                                            This genre is
totally new to me. I have never even attempted a science fiction cover before. The one on the left feels like it needs something more, but I'm not sure what it's lacking. Anyway, I was happy to learn how to do that angle thing with text. I'm sure 'angle thing' is the technical name for it, right?  

I have to admit that the one on the right is one of my favorite covers I've made.      

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thrilling Thirteen II

Are you ready for more thrilling novels? The team of authors that brought you Thrilling Thirteen is back again with Thrilling Thirteen II. All new books, and a couple of authors new to the team.
When Ty Hutchinson, our fearless leader, emailed me about contributing another book to a second volume, I was like, YES! SIGN ME UP! The first time around was a great experience and I'm sure readers will love this volume at least as much as the last one. For 99 cents, you can't beat it for value.


Thrilling Thirteen II


Identity Crisis (Sam McRae Mystery) - Debbi Mack

A NEW YORK TIMES EBOOK BESTSELLER 

A simple domestic abuse case turns deadly when the alleged abuser is killed and Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae’s client disappears. When a friend asks Sam to find Melanie Hayes, the Maryland attorney is drawn into a complex case of murder and identity theft that has her running from the Mob, breaking into a strip club and forming a shaky alliance with an offbeat private investigator to discover the truth about Melanie and her ex-boyfriend. 

With her career and life on the line, Sam’s search takes her from the blue-collar Baltimore suburbs to the mansions of Gibson Island. Along the way, she learns that false identities can hide dark secrets, and those secrets can destroy lives. 


Choke - Dani Amore:

The new pulse pounding thriller from bestselling author Dani Amore.

Vincent Keyes is an L.A. psychologist who specializes in peak performance. He helps some of Hollywood's brightest celebrities, sports stars, and corporate executives be the best that they can be.
 But suddenly, the doctor's own ability to perform under pressure is put to the test when someone forces him to "practice what he preaches" or people very close to him will die.
The psychologist quickly finds himself in a complex web of murder, manipulation and revenge in which he must be smarter, faster and stronger than he ever thought he could be.


Sin Walks Into The Desert - Matt Ingwalson

"Sin Walks Into The Desert is a taut, suspenseful tale without a wasted word or scene. Five Stars." - IndieReader.com

Sin gets a late night call from la Calavera. She's an ex-federal agent living on half a lung in a retirement home near the border. And she says el Viejo is missing.

This is el Viejo she's talking about. Diabetes and arthritis may have the old man in a rocking chair now, but in his day he was the baddest of snipers and the bravest of private eyes. He also saved Sin's life, back when the boy was a 12 year old punk hellbent on shooting up the school bus with his daddy's .357.

So Sin heads off to find his mentor, only to find a nest of killers with ancient vendettas waiting for him in the desert with the kingsnakes and coyotes.


Tenderloin (Abby Kane FBI Thriller) - Ty Hutchinson

"If you're looking for a gutsy female, a woman who is tough and gritty yet has a mothering instinct that is second to none, Abby Kane will reel you in." -- SeattlePI

Life in San Francisco could not be better for FBI Agent Abby Kane and family. With white-collar crimes dominating her work schedule, chasing deranged killers is a thing of the past, until the body of a dead DEA agent pops up in Bogotá. 

Ordered to Colombia for answers, Abby’s investigation takes her deep into the Amazon jungle where she discovers evidence of strange experiments at a rundown lab. When she later crosses paths with one of the scientists involved, she learns that a new drug has been invented, and its danger isn’t the addictive high but the terrifying side effects. 

Abby believes the cartels are behind the drug, but the locals think it’s one man. They call him The Monster.


Blood On Blood (Ania Trilogy) - Frank Zafiro & Jim Wilsky

 If you enjoy fast-paced, gritty crime fiction, I think you'll like it a lot.~ James Reasoner, Amazon reviewer

When half-brothers Mick and Jerzy Sawyer are summoned to their father’s prison deathbed, it isn’t for a tearful goodbye. The spiteful old man tells the two estranged brothers about an old diamond heist with outstanding loot, and sets them on a path of cooperation and competition to recover the jewels. 

Jerzy is the quintessential career criminal, fresh out of a short bit and looking to get back into the action right away. Mick is the failed cop and tainted hero struggling to get by with a clean life that doesn’t seem to ever pay off. Both men see this score as their ticket out of Chicago. 

Throw in the mysterious, blond Ania, and Blood on Blood is hardboiled Hardy Boys meets Cain and Abel. Jerzy and Mick battle each other for all of it — the diamonds, the girl, and survival — and nothing else matters…not even blood.


Truth And Lies (Charlie Fox Thriller) - Zoë Sharp:

"Ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction."~Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune

Truth And Lies is a short story by the highly acclaimed crime thriller writer, Zoë Sharp. Published in e-format as part of the FOX FIVE short story collection, it features her ex-Special Forces soldier turned self-defence expert and bodyguard, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox.

Truth And Lies puts all Charlie’s skills and ingenuity to the test as she has to single-handedly extract a news team from a rapidly escalating war zone.


By Executive Order - Lawrence Kelter

Two governments, one objective: stop the flow of narcotics – by any means possible. America and Israel, old allies in a new war. To win this one, they must sell their souls! The clandestine operation plunges veteran FBI agent, Hal Niecro into the most extraordinary investigation of his career. He has been assigned to investigate the murder of Rachel Rabin, an Israeli national.


Scale Of Justice - Dani Amore

Murder...well done...

Detroit crime boss Diego Villanueva must meet the demands of his Colombian overlords in order to retire to sunny Florida. To help him meet that challenge, he enlists the services of Tomas Sariagmo, whose son was caught stealing from Villanueva. Sariagmo must help Villanueva succeed or both he and his son die. Scale of Justice is an explosive, violent short story from bestselling crime novelist Dani Amore.


No Good Deed (Mark Taylor Series) - M.P. McDonald

"It's a frightening tale of an innocent man trapped in the kafkaesque brave new world of paranoia and terror. An important subject written with true passion by Ms. McDonald." ~ Stephen Carpenter, (Creator of the NBC hit show, Grimm)

The government can do anything they want to him—anything at all... 

Mark Taylor knows his actions scream guilty—but he was only trying to stop the horrible terrorist attack. Instead of a thank you, the government labels him an enemy combatant and throws him in the brig with no rights, no trial, and no way to prove his innocence. 

He's just a regular guy—a photographer—who finds himself in an extraordinary situation when an antique camera he buys at a dusty Afghanistan bazaar produces photographs of future tragedies. Tragedies he's driven to prevent. 

His frantic warnings about September 11th are ignored but put him in the government cross-hairs where he learns what being labeled an 'enemy combatant' really means...


Saving The World - Gary Ponzo

“Gary Ponzo is a fantastic storyteller.” Stephen Carpenter, creator of the hit NBC series, “Gary Ponzo is a fantastic storyteller.”~Stephen Carpenter, creator of the hit NBC series, Grimm.

Award-Winning author, Gary Ponzo, brings us a mind-bending thriller about Margo Sutter, a proven teenage clairvoyant who claims to hear invisible aliens planning to destroy the planet. The world is in a frenzy debating whether to prepare for the apocalypse or lock up Margo in an institution. When she seeks help from noted psychiatrist Michael Bryant, he’s drawn into a maze of deception, lies and intrigue.



Through Smoke (Firefighter Heroes Trilogy) - J.R. Tate



Is Margo who she claims to be? 

Through Smoke (Firefighter Heroes Trilogy) - J.R. Tate



Through Smoke (Firefighter Heroes Trilogy) - J.R. Tate

"Great story of NY firefighter, love, and family." ~atabarac, Amazon reviewer


Firefighter Michael McGinnis is no stranger to intense situations. Veteran of New York’s Ladder Twenty-One Company as a search and rescue man, he has seen his share of burning infernos, high-rise saves, and intense emergency situations. Despite McGinnis’ years on the job, nothing can prepare him for getting tangled in his brother’s mistakes as a drug addict and gambler, especially when a blood thirsty bookie gets involved. A romance sparks between him and fellow paramedic, Eva Crisante, catching him even more off guard. Morals are tested, lies are told, and relationships are built and then torn to ruins. The problems ahead are more challenging than any fire McGinnis has experienced. He learns that bravery is not only needed in his job with the department, but also in dire situations away from work. His tough love for his brother is tested, proving that there truly are things more dangerous than a five-alarm fire.


The Death of Red Rocket - Lawrence Kelter

Rehoboth Beach is a far cry from glamorous. It’s an old-world seaside town with Coney Island-esque mystique, a rickety boardwalk, and small-town shops that sell inexpensive tourist items. 

But for Lindsay Harding it was more. The Yale Law School grad had one last summer to enjoy before beginning a fulltime job at a prestigious Washington D.C. law firm. 

Connor Patrick was a man apart from the crowd, shunned for being different, lonely, and socially awkward, he was the kind of person you’d avoid if there were any possibility of doing so. 

Lindsay was the girl with everything to live for. Connor was the boy without a reason to live. A twist of fate and a plunge into the macabre—find out how their paths became inexorably intertwined in The Death of Red Rocket


Volcano Watch (Forensic Geology Series) - Toni Dwiggins

"I couldn't put this one down!"~ ScienceThrillers.com

** Murder and Magma **

NO WAY OUT--so says the note in the pocket of the murdered mayor.

The volcano beneath her town is seething, and the fate of Mammoth Lakes now rests in the hands of emergency planner Adrian Krom. But Krom has his own agenda.

Investigating the case, forensic geologist Cassie Oldfield tracks mineral clues to discover how the mayor died--and what she found. As the volcano moves toward red alert, Cassie races to prevent 'no way out' from becoming a prophecy.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Exciting Times! Saying Goodbye to Kindle Unlimited...For Now

While I will not be renewing Kindle Unlimited when my books come to the end of their current 90 day term on Jan. 13th, I almost wish I was renewing. You see, after a decrease in December, which I now attribute to people just too busy shopping and preparing for the holidays to read very much, I've seen a surge of borrows. I'm really worried about taking a big hit in visibility and income. I will be placing my books in all other outlets, but whether they do well or not is anyone's guess. You might be wondering why I'm pulling out of Select. I will be posting a blog about that in the coming weeks, but it has nothing to do with Kindle Unlimited. It has to do with having to be available on other retail sites. When that commitment is done in about four months or so, I should know if it will be better to stay out of KU, or dive back in. Right now, I'm kind of excited to get into other retailers. I've been hearing good things about iTunes lately, so I'd like to experience that first hand.

Despite some things I think need to be changed and my occasional griping about it, I didn't hate KU, and right now, I'm loving it. If only it would drop the exclusive commitment, and set a borrow amount for our books at the beginning of each month. It's crazy to expect us to speculate all month what we'll be paid. It takes the uncertainty that is always a part of publishing a book and makes it that much more difficult. We never know if our books will sell, but when we get sales, we at least can figure out how much we'll earn. To put this into practical terms--I have a day job that I work part-time. Our schedule comes out a few months in advance. Before if I had a slow month in January, I knew I had to request some extra shifts in March to make up the difference. I don't like working extra as I'd rather be writing, so I don't want to do it routinely. However, now I don't know until two weeks before a new schedule starts if I will need to work extra. That sucks because I get little choice as to what shifts are open. Anyway, that's my personal problem with the payout announcement delay.

Also, it irritates me that that Amazon boasts that they added to the fund just to get us to an amount that is still a lot less than it used to be. Why not set a minimum per borrow with the hope that it could be more if they add a bonus? That would create a lot of goodwill with indie authors. I bet even if they said they were going to only pay a minimum of a $1.25/borrow, but then added a bonus to make it $1.40/borrow, the perception that they gave us that as an incentive to stay in would work a lot better than keeping us guessing for weeks and then finally announcing a borrow amount of $1.40. Same amount, but the perception would be different.

But in spite of those drawbacks, my books haven't had as many readers since 2012--the best year of self-publishing that I have had so far. In fact, KU has made being an indie author fun again--at least for me.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The CIA Torture Reports

In light of the recent declassification of the CIA Torture Reports, I've been thinking a lot about the "enhanced interrogation" I depicted in No Good Deed. The more I read of the reports, the more I think I got right. Caveat-- I have not seen anything saying that torture was used against an American citizen as it does in No Good Deed. That part is fiction. Probably. 

However, that picture right over there?
That is a an actual photo of Jose Padilla, one of the three American citizens held as an enemy combatant. He had no trial until something like seven years after he had been held in a brig. I believe that photo was taken when he had to be escorted to see a dentist. The one below is after they put the blackout goggles and sound canceling earphones on his head. To go to the dentist. Anyway...

And as I read the reports, I thought of a review No Good Deed recently received that said: 
"...the post-9/11 enhanced interrogation was old news. Not that it isn't horrific, but it's just not current. Terminology such as 'enemy combatant' is endemic to the vernacular of anyone who reads any news in 2014.
I normally wouldn't call out a less than stellar review, because, really, what author wants to put any spotlight on a review where the reader didn't connect with the story? However, in this case, I'm mentioning it because of the remark that the topic is "old news". Heh. I just was at Google News and here is the sidebar list of Top Stories: 
TortureGolden Globe AwardsRepublican PartyArizona CardinalsCaliforniaEbola virus diseaseAngelina JolieLos Angeles LakersKabulSony Corporation
Um, yeah. I guess it's back in the news now. I have not read all 500 pages of the torture report, but what I did read wasn't much different from what I researched back in 2008 and 2009, when I wrote No Good Deed. 

I also noted somethings that are highlighted now, but didn't seem to be mentioned much before, such as physicians' roles in the interrogation techniques. In a couple of scenes in No Good Deed, a doctor is present and my character, Mark, is pretty freaked out about that. While researching, I had come across info that said a doctor had to be present while using certain methods, so I made that part of the scene. I don't know how often that protocol was actually followed in real life, but I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to the government that a doctor would be there in case anything went wrong.  

For something that is "old news", these snippets from reviews No Good Deed has received read like they came from today's stories: 

No Good Deed: Book One 

...Whatever possessed our country's policy makers to give a green light to the torturing of others? ...

...I will never think of torture in the same light again. ..

...How do you deal with government incarceration, physical torture and mental dismantling? ...

...The author also makes you sit back and think about what is going on in the world of our anti-terrorism policies.... 

... The author's description of waterboarding & other inhuman torture methods is chilling and all too believable. ...

...Fluid writing style with an in-depth look at what its like to be tortured by your own government. ... The torture scenes are not overly graphic and you can easily skip the most gruesome parts. ...

...One thing that I really liked was how the author handled the political question of whether torture is a viable means of getting answers and information from terrorists. ...

 ...regardless of your politics, should get you thinking. Are the responses to 9/11 making the US a better or worse place to live?...

However, I also did try to show the other side to the story, as noted in the review snippet below:

...The character development in this story is superb. Mark is the main character, but McDonald does a great job of showing the point of view of several other characters, including one of the interrogators who is involved with Mark and his situation. I liked the depth of it in showing what Mark was going through, as well as the turmoil and ethical issues the investigators were enduring...

...No Good Deed reveals the good and the bad about our government and the desire to take care of us. ...

...This book is a real eye opener about the Govt. Enhanced Integration program, and the zeal of certain people get when doing their job of torture...

***

So, here's the thing--I'm not a liberal. I lean conservative and pretty much vote that way, although I'm probably middle of the road on most issues. Some of the worst reviews have come from people accusing me of having a liberal agenda. My real life friends and family would be scratching their heads at that because I don't normally talk very much about politics. I just thought that was an interesting conclusion for some readers to jump to since I never felt that way when writing the book. I can't help that real life evidence points to the fact that what I depicting, minus the magic camera, might actually have happened. And since there was a possibility, I wanted to use that for my plot. Let's also not forget that some of these techniques did happen for many non-citizens. That is not even a question of if, but just how many times and how many of those people weren't even terrorists? (here's my conservative side coming out--I don't have sympathy for the actual terrorists it may have been used on. Sorry! But I do think they all deserve at least a trial to determine their guilt or innocence first.)

So, does anyone else have thoughts on the issue? I'd love to read them in the comments.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Free Today! Sidelines: Life Between Kickoffs

Just a short post for a short book. Sidelines: Life Between Kickoffs, is free today! It is a bit of a sampler since it has a little romance, a touch of humor and a dose of angst. Something for everyone. Check it out.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My 50th Birthday Freebie!


It's the big Five-O. Yep. Fifty years ago today, I made my appearance in the world. I could get all philosophical and talk about how wisdom I've gained and how age is just a number. But I won't. Instead, I'm going to give away as many copies of Seeking Vengeance as I possibly can! Nothing like a sexy book to keep a person feeling young, right? Those guys on the right agree with me.

Get your copy of Seeking Vengeance for free on 11/25 & 11/26!


Vengeance takes on a whole new meaning in this romantic police thriller. 

Tormented with grief... 

Sam Brennan has one goal--vengeance. He's done playing by the rules imposed as a cop and goes rogue in his quest for blood. 

Scarred and wary... 

Molly Flynn balks when her brother Johnny dumps an injured Sam on her doorstep. As a paramedic, she feels compelled to help the man, and after all, he saved her brother's life, but as soon as he's able to ride his motorcycle, she wants him gone. She knows from the past that bikers only bring pain and shame, and now she has her young daughter Kelsie to protect.

Forced together...

When Molly's brother flees from the same biker gang Sam hunts, Sam is forced to put his own mission on hold as he takes Molly, Kelsie, and Johnny to the one place he feels they'll be safe--his cabin in the Northwoods.

Molly discovers the cabin holds more than safety, it contains all of the memories Sam holds dear. Drawn to the glimpses of the man he was before revenge consumed him, she longs to heal his heart, but will there be time for their love to grow or will he destroy it when he seeks vengeance? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Beckoning Souls--New Ghost Suspense by J.R. Tate

I'm thrilled to present the latest release by J.R. Tate, Beckoning Souls.

Description:

Nathan Gallagher doesn’t believe in ghosts. As a fireman, he’s seen his share of dead people, but they never spoke to him before—until now. His marriage is great, and his relationship with his son is strong, but Nathan is sure that if he tells them that he’s seeing ghosts, it is a quick ticket to a padded room and a straightjacket. 

When the ghosts become violent and attack Nathan, his secret is revealed—except his wife doesn’t believe his claim about the supernatural. She demands he seek professional help. He knows he’s not crazy, but with no proof that the ghosts are real, he’s committed to a mental hospital against his will. The ghosts follow him, pushing him farther into a terrifying world he can’t find his way out of. 

With his marriage, his sanity, and even his very life at stake, Nathan needs to find out why the ghosts are haunting him before it’s too late. 

Here's a little excerpt from the novel to tease your curiosity:


I toss the bottle on top of the duffel bag and lay back against the pillows. It’s starting to get dark out and what is left of the sun peeks through the blinds. The tree limbs make shadows on the far wall and begin to move with the wind picking up outside. One limb hits the window, scraping against the side of the house. I stare at the tangled shadows on the wall and with each second, it seems it grows wilder, looking like a Halloween painting or decoration.
“Why?” A voice hisses, and for a second, I tell myself it’s just the wind. “Why, Lieutenant Gallagher? Why Mr. Fireman?” The voices change, but all still have a very eerie feel to them. Multiple whispers start to overtake my senses, and I can’t decipher the different voices within the mixture. I roll over on my side, close my eyes and pull a pillow over my head to try to get them to stop, but instead, it grows louder, the creepy shadows become three dimensional, and I feel something tug at my leg.
I try to fight through the fear and come to my senses. Right now is a good time to get down to the bottom of it, but I can’t control my heartbeat. The hand wraps around my ankle a second time and I try to kick it away to no avail. The grip is tight through my pants and whoever or whatever it is tugs so hard that I slide across the bed and onto the floor, hitting with a loud thud. My head collides with the hard wood and for a second, the edges of my vision grow dark and fuzzy.
The voices don’t stop. They continue to ask why over and over. They yell out my name. I feel nails clamp down into my leg again but this time I’m not going to let them get a good grasp. The room is completely dark now and I’m fumbling around on the floor with God knows what. The fingernails clench on so hard that it feels like I’m being stabbed with five knives. I feel liquid drip down. I’mbleeding. Damn it, Rose will accuse me of self-mutilation again.
Again they pull, and this time I slide across the floor. I try hard to grab onto anything to give me an advantage, but there’s nothing available and I’m out of reach to grab onto the bed. As I slip toward the hallway, I know the doorway is coming, and my body slams hard into the frame. It’s enough force to make whatever had hold of me let go. The pain is unbearable and I feel my consciousness waiver. Where are they trying to take me? To hell
I gather up as much energy as I can and try to crawl back into the room, but my body fails me. It’s been through so much in the past few days that it’s about ready to quit for good. I rest my head on the cold floor and close my eyes, hoping –praying- that whatever was here is gone now and will leave me alone.
Tears sting the corners of my eyes and I continue to hold onto the doorframe for safe measure. “What do you want from me?” I yell out, but this time, no voices speak. No hand grabs me. Instead, my vision goes black and stays that way.