A Big Change is on the Horizon

Do you have a mom story? You know, one where she volunteers you for something? I love my mom, Kathy, dearly. She is the founder of Mantle Rock Publishing and I have worked for her as her cover designer almost from the beginning. So last year when she volunteered me to write a 20,000 word novella, I thought she might be going, well, nuts.

I’ve always been the “cover artist” in our little band of authors. But now, thanks to support from mom and my two compadres, Pam Harris and Regina Merrick, I am announcing the upcoming release of my debut novella, All Yours, Art and Soul.

All Yours, Art and Soul is a Christian contemporary romance based on my fictional vision of St. Simons Island. Beth Kindall is a watercolor artist living her dream life in her home town. Trevor Garrett is looking for a home on the island who has instant chemistry with Beth. What might be the perfect relationship may never happen if Trevor’s realtor Kelly has anything to do with it.

Look for my next announcement about presale opportunities!

Cover Release…a bit late

As always, I’ve been super busy this past month. I’m behind on cover work and trying to stay as caught up as I possibly can. Therefore, I’m a little late announcing this cover.

Working with Kevin was a lot of fun. He had a clear vision for what he wanted his cover to be. Sometimes, that makes my job easier, and that was the case with Kevin’s cover.

The Letters will be available on Amazon in the next week or so. Check out his cover blurb and add this book to your reading list!

Rachel Hamar—a Manhattan bank teller—lives nothing close to a Manhattan lifestyle. Residing in Washington Heights, NY, the only thing keeping her in The Big Apple is her mother—a long-time patient in a local psychiatric hospital. It’s December, 2014, and the twentieth anniversary of her high school sweetheart’s tragic death. She’s not sure how much more heartache she can endure, especially after being told earlier in the day she no longer has a job at the bank. A casualty of downsizing.

In the midst of spiraling depression, Rachel receives a mysterious letter in the mail. When she opens it, she becomes cautious and skeptical of its contents and discards it as a mistake, concluding it’s simply addressed incorrectly or a postal worker’s faux pas in the midst of a busy Christmas season. But another letter arrives the next day. And another the day after that. Before long, she is in possession of several letters. Each one more puzzling than the last.

Thinking that someone may be playing a cruel game, she contacts the police, and this propels Rachel and the two detectives into one of the most bizarre cases they’ve ever encountered. Is it a friend’s cruel joke? Is it some stalker’s perverse idea of manipulation? Or is it something more?

Stay Strong Bible Journaling Templates

This year our church has adopted the theme “Stay Strong,” and we are focusing on one chapter per week Bible reading plan. It’s a simple plan that focuses on more in-depth study and meditation as opposed to speed reading the whole Bible. I am going to attempt to create a Bible Journaling Template each week as we work through this study. As you all know, I’m not great at following through on big projects like this. I get bogged down in the “day to day” stuff far more often than I like to admit. So, we will see how this progresses.

However…weeks 1 & 2 are done! Happy Dance! So I will share the first one here today!

Our first chapter is Ephesians 4, which is often known for the ONEs…One Lord, One Faith, One baptism. But as I read through it, I was drawn to one thought – Unity. This chapter was about living as one with each other. How do we do that when we all are so different, with different backgrounds and lifestyles? “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love.” It seems so simple, right? I will be at the head of the line for “humble and gentle” training. Far too many times, I fall on the “blunt” side of things and am often guilty of using honesty as my justification. I’m adding this verse to my prayer journal to help remind me throughout the year, that blunt honesty is not the answer. Humble, gentle, patient words of love should be my goal.

Cricut Crafty

Last fall I bit the bullet and bought a Cricut Maker. For those of you who may not be in the crafty world, a Cricut is a digital cutting machine that will create designs from everything from paper to vinyl. It’s been a fun addition to my crafting addiction.

I thought I would share my latest project…A label for my vegetable oil bottle. Let me start by sharing the story. I LOVE the square bottles that olive oil comes in from Aldi. I emptied one some time back and started using it for my vegetable/canola oil. But, no one in my family knew what was in that bottle because it didn’t have a label. Now, enter the Cricut machine! I decided to make a vinyl adhesive label for the bottle. Instant Love!

It’s really a simple design using two fonts available from the Cricut Access Subscription… Haley and Folk Art Festival.

I typed in “OIL” sized it to about 1.25 inches tall. Then I typed Vegetable in the script font and sized it to fit the length left on the bottle. Weld everything together and cut it out! Weed away all the excess vinyl and use transfer tape to remove it from the backing paper. Then place it on your CLEAN bottle and you are done!

Now, what to label next???

Book Cover Reveal – The Silver Lode

One of the joys I receive by working with Mantle Rock Publishing is the continuing relationships I have with the authors. I always love getting to create second and third covers for books in their series. This one is a delight as well, because the author is just delightful!

I created Suzanne Bratcher’s first cover for The Copper Box a few year ago. First covers can be intemidating because you are just building a releationship with an author who is asking you to put a face on their “baby.” I remember it took us a few rounds to get just the perfect cover.

I’ve since had the privilege of meeting Suzanne in person at a couple of retreats. She is just the sweetest! So when it came to creating the cover for her second book, it was truly a joy. Luckily the photo of the mine shaft came up early in my search and it captured the mood.

Next, it was on to find the perfect guy. This guy was a little challenging because he fell in the late 30’s age group. In case you haven’t perused the stock photography sites, guys are either young, muscle-bound 20 somethings or middle aged with graying temples. That late 30’s group is hard to find. Her book is a romantic suspense and would have loved a more somber facial expression. We ended up going with the semi-smile because well, who wouldn’t wants to read his story?

Here is the blurb for The Silver Lode which will be available for ebook preorder on Amazon soon.

Beneath the ghost town that clings to Cleopatra Hill, a maze of abandoned mine tunnels conceals a vein of silver ore mixed with pure gold. Seventy years ago, the discovery of that silver lode caused a murder. Are more coming?

Historian Paul Russell is about to lose his job and the woman he loves, he doesn’t have time to search for the legendary silver lode. But when a student drops a seventy-year-old cold case on his desk, a murder connected to the silver lode, the mystery offers Paul the perfect opportunity to work with Marty Greenlaw and win her back.

As Paul and Marty search for the silver lode, suspicious deaths begin to happen. When Paul’s son disappears, the stakes become personal.

Retreats, Retreats, Retreats

Just got back from the Arkansas ACFW Writers Retreat. We met at a beautiful retreat center in Clinton, AR. The drive was gorgeous. The trees are beginning to put on their fall colors and we were treated with a wonderful color show.

I get to recover this week and head out to our church retreat on Friday. I’m looking forward to some fellowship with our church family.

As always, I’m behind on showing you the book covers I’ve completed. It’s been a busy summer and I’ve completed a ton of covers which both humbles and excites me. I’ll try to get some posts up showcasing those wonderful books.

And if all of that is not enough, I’m writing a novella. Yes, you heard correctly. I’m WRITING a novella. It’s a short story about an artist in a coastal town. I’m still working out the plot, but I have the first two scenes completed…I think. LOL.

One last goodie. I’ve participated in a month-long daily drawing challenge. Many of you have been so gracious to comment on my Facebook and Instagram feeds when I posted those drawings. Here are a few to get you in the Halloween spirit.

To Tell or Not to Tell

Last weekend our Mantle Rock team met to discuss several book proposals that had been submitted for publication. Most were from authors who had never been published as that is our target group. Among the proposals, we had a historical suspense novel and several romantic suspense novels. At the end of the day, we decided to return them all to the authors with some comments for improvements. The theme that ran through all the books was “too much telling, not enough action.”

Telling is a common mistake beginning authors make. They are so excited to introduce the new character that they feel inclined to do a massive dump of their character’s back history. Sometimes, it takes the shape of a prologue. Sometimes, it becomes endless paragraphs of thoughts or memories. Either one is most unnatural and sometimes, boring.

Let’s take a cue from our day to day life. I’m a church secretary by day so I’ll use an example that has been happening over the last few weeks.

A new couple has started coming to church. I introduced myself at our mid-week fellowship meal. They are Jeff and Karen Smith. I told them I was the church secretary and would be glad to help them if they needed questions answered or pointed to the right person. That ended our first encounter. I knew nothing but their name and that they were visitors. And that was enough.

The next day, I inquired from one of our ministers if he had met Jeff and Karen Smith. He told me he had and that they were from a community near the church and were church shopping.

A few days later, Jeff showed up at the church building and pressure washed our parking lot. Another coworker told me he was a handyman by trade and enjoyed helping out where he could.

Now stop and think. You probably have a pretty good mental picture of what Jeff looks like. But in reality, I have told you very little about him. In fact, I know very little about this couple. As time goes on, I suspect I will learn more, but for now, that’s fine. Our actual relationships are usually built from these small beginnings. We may know casual information but the deep back history comes much later in our relationship. We may go years without learning a couple lost a child in a house fire or that their divorce was scandalous. Those things drip out over time. That is how we should treat our back history in a novel. Only tell what is necessary, when it is necessary.

Speaking of what is necessary, did you notice what I did not tell you. I didn’t tell you his age, skin color, hair color or what kind of clothes he was wearing. In this little short story, those details aren’t important. Jeff is just a handyman. He wears handyman clothing. That’s all you need to know. But I’ll throw you a bone. “Jeff wears a baseball cap that covers his receding hairline. He takes it off periodically to wipe his forehead while he pressure washes.”

But, Diane, my main character needs to be fully developed so you’ll understand why things happen or mean so much to them. Yes, and no. If you started your novel with an action scene (and you should have), that action will carry the storyline for a while. Then the backstory can be dripped in as we get to know the character. No one enjoys meeting someone who drops a load of problems at their first encounter. So why do we as authors think readers would enjoy it when our character drops all their life history at our feet in one dump?

Don’t forget about anticipation. Cue song from the recesses of my memory. “An-tic-i-pa-a-tion, it’s making me wait.” Thank you, Carly Simon. Sometimes, anticipation can fuel the tension your character brings. “Jeff’s grooming was a little superior to that of your average handyman. Just the fact that he knew how to properly wear a belt with his pants made him two steps above average. Perhaps handyman was not his first occupational choice.” Now the story has turned on a different angle. Could the nice helpful man have a darker more sinister past? Don’t tell me now, let it simmer and build.

Hopefully, this little rant will be meaningful for some of you. LOL. It’s really not a rant, just an observation from our weekend meeting. It’s meant to be read with love and care, so please don’t interpret it any other way.

Now, back to designing covers, which is really what I do best. 🙂

Why Choose a Cover Designer?

Several people have asked over the years, “Why should I hire a cover designer when I can do it myself?” It’s a great question and I think it deserves a great answer. I only wish I new what that answer was.

Just like an author hones their craft of writing, I continually update and improve my design skills. I keep up with the latest software. I spend hours in tutorials learning how to better achieve the design effects I want to implement. I study my craft, just like an author studies their craft.

Just like there are acceptable practices in writing, things like italics for silent prayers, scene changes when your POV changes, etc., there are acceptable practices in cover design. And if you are going to create your own cover, you need to know them. Like, never, ever, ever outline text. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, GREAT, because really you should never have to see it. But if you do know what I’m talking about, please understand, that is equivalent to changing POV in the same paragraph three times. Just don’t go there. Don’t think that any ole photo will work, because it doesn’t. If the photo doesn’t grab your attention right off the bat, it may not be your best choice. Are there ways to take an average photo and make it great? Maybe. But it takes skillful manipulation and a knowledge of what software can do. In addition, you need to consider composition, contrast and typography. All things that make a huge difference in the overall finished product.

What will a good designer give you then? My goal is to give you a finished cover that says, “This book is worth your time investment to read it.” I want your cover to look professional and well-planned. I want you to be proud to sign each and every copy because the cover reflects your writing to it’s best potential. It is not my goal to impress my style or vision on your cover. It’s rather the opposite. I want to bring your vision to life. I may steer you toward better practices, just like an editor may help your story move along. But still, I want the cover to reflect you and your story.


Book Cover For Faith’s Journey

Faiths-JourneyAs most of you know, I’m always running a little behind. It seems like every week lately has involved finishing up a book cover and getting the book formatted and ready for publication. That’s such an exciting time for both me and the author because now their book has life. It has a face now and the bones have been settled into place.

I loved working with Heather Greer and her cover came together so nicely. One of the locations in her book was a state park in Illinois and that became the backdrop for her cover. Her main character Faith, dressed in casual fall attire, became the focal point of this very simple but gorgeous cover. Here’s a teaser from this contemporary romance.

Katie McGowan left her parents and their faith behind years ago. However, when faced with a devastating betrayal, Katie is ready to go back to Carbondale, Illinois to help her elderly parents despite their tempestuous relationship. Drained by the constant friction, Katie finds emotional support and encouragement in Austin. His practical, simple faith speaks to Katie, and she finds herself yearning for a new connection to God. As their friendship grows, so does the attraction between Katie and Austin.

Before her fledgling faith and thoughts of romance have a chance to take root, Katie’s cheating fiancé returns, remorseful and promising change. Can her tentative faith strengthen their past love? And if her heart breaks again, will Katie’s journey to faith end before it has really begun?

Faith’s Journey was published by Mantle Rock Publishing and is available on Amazon.