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Monday, April 29, 2013

What Covers Are Your Favorites?

Book covers are an important part to every book.  Authors have to make certain that they get a cover that fits their book and will intrigue any potential readers.  Readers always judge books based on the cover design first.
So if you are an author and need a cover for your book, how do you know what to get?  Most authors hire a professional illustrator, unless you are able to do your own illustrations.  Many publishing companies have hoards of cover designers that study the different trends of book covers: the ones that sell and the ones that don’t.  They then will design a cover that follows the trend.  But if you are an independent author how do you know what to put on your book’s cover?   First, think of the books you have and their covers.  What was it about those cover designs that made you pick up the book?  Second, hire a freelance artist to help you design a cover.  If you have a series make sure you hire an artist who is willing to do the entire series so that way you will have consistent cover designs.
To give your book it’s best outfit, think about what your book is about.  It is a mystery? Fantasy? Horror? You’ll want a cover the fits the genre.  Is your book light-hearted read, or an intense thriller with many twists and turns.  Do you want a person on the cover or a nature design.  What age group is your book appealing to?
For instance, when I had my illustrator for my Mellow Summers series, I wanted something that would appeal to the teenage/young adult crowd since they were my target audience. 

For my Fantasy series, my illustrator stuck with a simple design and stayed away from the modern cover designs.  Most modern fantasy tends to be dark fantasy, which my books are not.
Just remember, if you wrote a book: think of the covers that grab your attention. Below are a list of covers that would make me pick the book up in the store.  Your cover must do the same.
Not an author?  Well, tell us what some of your favorite book covers are.  Book covers are the outfit of the book.  They are what make us notice them.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How To Write a Good Beginning

As an author, I am sometimes asked how you create a good beginning.  If you are thinking of becoming an author yourself, or just want to write something, you need to know how to write a good beginning, especially if it is fiction.  When you begin a story you need to hook your reader within the first paragraph.  In a novel you need your reader interested within the first two pages.  The sooner you engage your reader’s interest, the better.   Think about it.  Have you ever put a book down because you thought the first few pages were boring?
When I begin a novel, I always try to envision how it should begin.  Action sequences are a great way to start a story, especially fantasy or science fiction.  In my novel, Galdin, I begin the story with a rebellion.  Enemy forces have invaded the castle, the king is dead, and now the queen must escape with her children or perish as well.  My reader knows nothing about the cause of the rebellion, only that the main character’s life is suddenly in danger.  But that is okay.  The point of a beginning is to hook the reader.  The details can come later.  Though don’t wait too long to give the backstory because your audience will want to know.
Here is how I began Galdin.
Captain Dylan burst through the chamber doors.  “We must leave, my lady,” he urged.
The sounds of battle echoed throughout the grounds.  Betrayed.  The king was dead.  Killed by his most trusted general.  Captain Dylan had an oath to fulfill.  But it was more than that.  To Captain Dylan, the king was like a brother.  He viewed the king’s family as his own.  This would be his final act of loyalty to his king.
In this short paragraph, the you know that a battle is taking place and everyone’s lives are in danger.  There is a sense of urgency.
Now, not all stories need to begin with an action sequence.  In my Mellow Summers Series I start out differently.
My name is Mellow Summers and I am twenty-six years old.  I was never one to believe in ghosts, but all that changed the day I decided to attend a university up in Vermont.  I don’t know why I wanted to go to Vermont considering that I hate the cold.  I guess I just wanted to get away from my parents for a while who had made it their mission in life to tell me how to live.  Anyway, like I said, I never believed in ghosts.  That is not until I met Rachel.

So she never believed in ghosts.  What made her change her mind?  Who is Rachel?  In this first paragraph you have the main character’s name and where she lives.  You also have the gist of the story: who is Rachel and what did she do to change Mellow’s mind about the existence of ghosts?
Imagine if I had begun the story with “My name is Mellow Summers” and stopped right there.  Would care about the character?  Probably not.  But add: the bit about how she never believed in ghosts until she moved to Vermont and met Rachel and you have something completely different.
Well, here’s a question: who is Rachel?
Consider how J.K. Rowling began Harry Potter.  In the first few pages we learn meet Harry as an infant as he left on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle’s house.  We know that he is considered a hero in the wizarding world and that his parents are dead.  But we are left with the question: what did this baby do to be considered a hero?  And why does Dumbledore think Harry will be safer with his aunt and uncle who are obviously not part of this magical world of wizards and witches?
When writing the opening sequence to your story you need to answer two questions:
1. What is the story?
2. Why should we care?
In the first question, you set the tone for your book.  After the first two paragraphs, you reader should know whether your book is an adventure story, fantasy, a mystery, or a romance. 
Then, you have to make your reader care about your characters.  You do this by getting them to unknowingly ask questions.  In Harry Potter you want to know who he is and why he is called the boy who lived.  With Mellow Summers you want to know Rachel is and how she got Mellow to change her mind about ghosts. With Galdin you want to know if Captain Dylan succeeds in saving the queen and her children.
And the number one way to know if you have a beginning is this: if it doesn’t engage you, the author, then it won’t engage your reader.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Female Heroines Who Kick Butt

In recent years there has been influx of strong female characters in books; whether for adults or teens.  These heroines serve as role models for many young women.  When I was in school most of the books I had to read had a male protagonist.  But in recent months that has changed.  There is a demand for strong female characters that are able to hold their own in a fight.  I am certain this trend will continue as I myself love the fact that more and more books are making women the protagonist instead of eye candy.

With the rise in books such as Hunger Games and Divergent I decided to present a few of my favorite female characters.

1.  Kahlan Amneill (Sword of Truth Series

Kahlan is  the Mother Confessor in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth Series.  She is strong-willed and able to defend herself.  One touch from her and you could become her personal slave.  However, Kahlan is very aware of her magical powers and tries to use them only when necessary.  As the Mother Confessor, she is charged with protecting Richard, the Seeker and later the man she falls in love with.  

I love the Kahlan has a grace and beauty that most women want.  But she is also a strong leader and in some of the books she even leads the Dahara A=rmy into battle many times.  She issues commands when needed with an air of authority none question.  Yet she can also be gentle and forgiving.

2. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games

Not to be clich├ęd, but I really like Katniss’ character in the Hunger Games.  Katniss isn’t a warrior woman in the traditional sense, but she is very strong willed.  When her sister is chosen to participate in the hunger games, Katniss takes her place.  Prim is the only person she really loves.  She knows that she is going to her death, but she goes anyway to protect Prim.  This is an admirable quality.

While in the arena, Katniss proves that she is no wall floawer and is far from stupid.  She can use a bow and is an avid hunter.  She also uses her smarts to try and avoid the other contestants; letting them kill each other off or she blows up their supplies so they can’t rely on them.

Katniss has a protective nature about her.  She tries to help Rue, another contestant.  And when Rue dies, she shows mercy and compassion when others do not.
On the flip side, Katniss has an openly defiant nature.  Without realizing it, her actions in the arena defy the Capitol and its rules.  When she and Peta are faced with the protect of fighting each other, she proposes that they commit suicide.  This forces the government to bend to her will.   Katniss doesn’t set out to be a hero.  She is just sick and tired of the Capitol’s rules and oppressiveness.

3. Sarah Connor (Terminator 2)

They ay that mothers are very protective of their children and that couldn’t be more evident in Sarah Connor’s case.  It can’t be easy having been chased by a machine bent on killing you, learning that your son is the future leader of some resistance and that machines will take over the world.  This woman you would not want to meet in a one on one fight.  She arms herself with assaut rifles, military grade explosives.  Who else would break out of a mental institution, blow up a corporation, and destroy the T-1000 just to protect their son? 

4. Marian Ravenwood (Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark)

 Marian may not be the star of the movie, but she is a strong female character.  When she first meets Indiana Jones she punches him in the face.  When the Nazis try to steal a medallion that her father left her, she fights to keep it.  And I don’t know any women who can win drinking contests, but she certainly does.  She is spunky and aggressive and doesn’t like it when people mess with her or her friends.

5. Merida (Brave

Brave is one of those movies that I thought would be cute and turned out to be phenomenal.  Merida is a princess who just wants to change her mother so that she can change her fate and avoid an arranged marriage.  In doing so she ends up turning her mother into a bear.  Then she has to embark on an adventure to reverse the spell and learns something about her country’s history.

Merida is very spirited and prefers archery and horse back riding over the duties of being a princess.  She can best anyone with a bow  and even manages to face a full grown bear.  She is very independent minded and fiercely protective of her family.

6. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

Hermione may be a bit of a supporting character, but she is vitally important.  She has a superb intellect and remembers almost anything she reads.  In fact, her brains saves Harry and Ron many times.  Without her, Harry never would have been able to defeat Voldemort—Shh don’t say his name! 

Besides be highly intelligent, Hermione is courageous and loyal to her friends.  She faces many dangers that would make the average person quake.  Many times she faces Deatheaters in her efforts to help defeat You Know Who.  She helps Harry break into Gringots to get a horcrux and shows an incredible amount of bravery during the battle at Hogworts.

7.  Princess Leia (Star Wars

Though a princess, Leia is anything but dainty.  She fights the empire and defies Darth Vader.  She holds her own during phaser fights.  When tortured for information about the rebels, she manages to not reveal anything.  Leia even helps plan the battle against the Death Star.  When Han Solo is taken prisoner, Leia tries to save him.  And she plays a pivotal role in the battle on Endor as the rebels try to defeat the Empire once and for all.  Besides, who else could befriend a bunch of teddy bears and convince them to join forces against Vader and the Emperor?

8.  Emma (Once Upon A Time)

Though completely unaware of her parentage, Emma stumbles upon Storybrook where she gets caught up in a world of story book characters.  Though skeptical, she stay because of her son Henry.  He is convinced that every one is a character from fairy tales.  Emma soon discovers that there is more going on than what it seems and that Henry’s life might be in danger.

She becomes the sheriff of Storybrook and challenges the evil Regina each day.  At the end of season one, Emma battles a dragon just to retrieve some potion that might save Henry from certain death.  Wow!

9. Starbuck (Battlestar Galatica)

Starbuck is someone you do not want to make angry.  She is an excellent pilot.  Though her language can be crude, she smokes cigars, gambles, and if you anger her she will beat you to a pulp, Starbuck has a gentler side.  She is fiercely loyal to those she loves despite her defiance towards authority.  She hates cylons and will stop at nothing to kill any who get in her way or threatens those she loves.  And she risks everything just to help the last survivors of humanity find the mythical planet of Earth.

10. Amborese (Legends Lost: Amborese

Now what kind of author would I be if I didn’t like my own characters?

Amborese starts out as a bit timid, but after being forced to flee from home she learns to find courage.  Thrust into a world she knows nothing about, she discovers that she is the lost heir to throne and must reclaim it.  However, someone else wants it as well.  Pursued by strange and dark creatures and with danger at every turn, Amborese is forced to shed her timidity and become the leader she is meant to be.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Dystopian Trilogy Release

"Imagine living in a world where everything you do is controlled."  This is the premis to my latest bok; the first in a trilogy. Below is an excerpt from my novel with a link to where you can find more information.

    "    Dana dumped the open suitcase on the bed and piled clothes inside it.  She and her sister, Lina, raced through the room cramming what they could into the medium sized, brown grip. 
“Hurry!” their father yelled from the bottom of the stairs.
Banging resounded downstairs as gloved fists pounded the front door.
Dana snapped the suitcase closed and handed it to her sister.  Just as they reached the door to the hallway, uniformed officers burst into their room knocking her to the floor.  The suitcase flew across the space crashing into the far wall, opening, and spilling its contents.
An iron fist gripped Dana’s forearm and scanned the chip implanted in it.  Another scanned Lina’s.  Her,” he said pointing to Dana’s sister.
Armed men seized Lina and dragged her out of the room amidst the screams and shouts of the family.  Dana lunged for her sister.  One of the officers thrust her aside.  She banged her head on the table and collapsed to the floor unconscious, as her sister kicked and screamed.    " 

The  book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.