Hey, everyone! You’re probably wondering why I’m featuring myself on my own site…let’s just say last minute cancellations.
But I didn’t want to let anyone down so here I am! High five to consistency. Anyway, you may also be wondering why I’m talking about covers when I’m a writer. Easy answer! I always get compliments on my cover from those who have read and not read my work.
I also have a great cover artist. Check him out here. Now, without anymore noise, here’s how you pick the perfect cover.
There Is No “Perfect” Cover
I’m breaking my own rules today but the truth is the truth, my fellow writer. How you see your characters on your mind isn’t likely to ever be reflected with total accuracy on your cover. Unless you have a cover artist who has mastered mind travel and can pull the image directly from you to his canvas…you’re kind of out of luck.
The cover may come close to your idea of “perfection” but it will never actually achieve. There is likely always going to be something just not right to your writer eye. Maybe the shading is off a bit or the font doesn’t match the mood as well as you’d like. Of course, this isn’t said to deter you from seeking out a great artist and being as exact as you can in your cover goals. Dream big! Just do it in a bit of bitter reality, ya know?
Remember Your Audience
The cover of a western romance is going to look very different than a coming-of-age romance. Besides the genres being different, who generally reads these books is different, as well. We all remember Fabio and his many shirtless wind blown covers (eye rolling to the max) but who do you think reads novels like that? I’ll tell you who doesn’t. Fifteen year old young women. They breeze right both those things in favor of bad ass female heroines with intimidating poses or troubled looking young men with dark eyes. Do you get what I’m saying here?
Who your audience is will determine what they’re attracted to in a cover. ‘Nough said. …
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Hello from England! I’m Chrys Cymri, and I write humorous urban fantasy novels set in my own home county of Northamptonshire.
Something which people have praised in my main series, ‘Penny White’, is that the dialogue is witty and that the characters have distinctive voices. How does a writer go about doing that? Here are some dos and don’ts:
Do:
1 Listen
All the time. Listen to how people talk. Take note of any interesting verbal tics which you could use to differentiate a character. For example, one of my friends uses ‘basically’ regularly in his conversations. Are there regional differences, such as turns of phrase, which you can use?
Morey, the Welsh-speaking cat-sized gryphon in the ‘Penny White’ series, makes his first appearance in this way:
“I blurted out, ‘You’re a gryphon.’
‘Oh, she’s a sharp one, she is.’
‘But I thought gryphons were larger.’
‘All this ego in a large package? Duw a’n gwaredo. Doors wouldn’t be big enough to get my head through.’ He swooped across the garden and landed on the wheelie bin resting nearby. ‘Know anything about snail hunting?’”
2 Turn on the radio
Audio plays are a great way to pick up tips for dialogue. The lack of visuals means that setting and characterization have to be set by spoken words alone. I love the Big Finish ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventures, and I’m always listening out for ways to use dialogue to set a scene or define a character. Here’s Penny’s brother talking to Morey, the gryphon, in ‘The Cult of Unicorns’:
“James grinned. ‘And I’ve met someone.’
‘Really?’ I took a sip of coffee. ‘What’s her name?’
‘Zarah. Or Sarah.’ He shrugged. ‘It was loud in the nightclub. But I’ve got her phone number. We’re going to meet up for New Year’s. It’s time my luck turned.’
‘What are your intentions towards this unidentified female?’ Morey asked.
‘What do you think?’ James leaned back in his chair. ‘Oh, I forgot. You can’t have it off with Taryn, can you? You’ve taken vows of celibacy, right?’
‘I took a vow of chastity, not celibacy,’ Morey said. ‘There is a difference. Chastity means no sexual relations outside the sanctity of marriage. What did they teach you at school?’
‘My sex education was mostly about putting condoms on bananas,’ James replied. ‘So, how does this chastity thing work, then?’
Morey cocked his head. ‘Well, you see, when two bananas really, really love each other, they get married and then there’s no need for condoms.’” …
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Hey, there, peeps! Due to unforeseen circumstances, the author scheduled for the May highlight had to cancel at the last minute. I know, I’m bummed, too.
Sadly, this was a little last minute for me, as well, and I couldn’t find a replacement to get me a post in time. But no worries! June and July authors are already booked and ready to give us some of their golden writing nuggets.
With that said, make sure to check in next month for the new author highlight. If you can’t wait until then, there are several old highlights to dig into. Perhaps this one here…
All the best and have a good month!
Hi, my name is LeAnn Mason, a new author of a series which is a bit of a genre mash-up. My debut book, Illusionary, is the first book in a series that is a little bit sci-fi, urban fantasy, dystopian and crime novel all rolled up in one little package. Crazy, I know!
Natasha and I ‘met’ in a group and realized that we both had our debut books releasing within a day of each other, thus a camaraderie was struck! Recently, Natasha was kind enough to think that I may have some information that her readers/followers might find insightful. What kind of information you ask? Social Presence. Specifically building a loyal and engaged following.
Having a social media presence is key to surviving the indie book world. Why? Hype drives sales. How many times have you done something simply because other people have gushed about how awesome it was? Yeah, lots. So here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
Lurk…
Make sure you stalk people you deem successful. See what they are doing which is getting reactions from their readers, peers or other professionals. *Note both the good AND the bad publicity and learn from it.
Be seen…
If there are authors, pages, people you like and admire make sure to make yourself known to them. Comment on their pages and posts, share things they want to have seen and offer you help and support when it seems needed. They notice and often they will be happy to return help when you need it.
Be interactive in your own media presence…
Make an effort to like and comment on the responses your posts garner. Give your friends and followers an individual response when possible. People like to feel like you know and care what they think, noticing them can make a huge impact as to their loyalty to you or your brand.
Find common ground with your following and those you follow…
If there are things that you are passionate about, bring them to light. Chances are it will be another facet of you that your following can get behind that is not within one narrow scope. Variety is the spice of life after all. …
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Hi guys! I’m Heather Elizabeth King and I write supernatural mysteries and paranormal romance. I’ve been a lover of scary movies and scary books since I can remember. By the time I put fingers to keyboard I’d probably seen over a hundred horror movies, so writing scary stories came naturally for me. Almost everything I write has a supernatural element in it, so it seems fitting for me to give advice on how to scare readers.
Like I said, I write supernatural mysteries and paranormal romance. And when I say paranormal romance, I don’t mean sexy lycan and brooding vampires. The paranormal element in my books is always something beastly and scary. I’ve tried to write about happy people living normal lives, but inevitably, a ghost pops up or an undead creature comes sauntering into town. I just can’t help myself. And when a reader tells me one of my books gave them nightmares, I feel it’s a job well done.
You may find it hard to believe that it’s possible, with only words, to scare someone so much that they have bad dreams, but it is possible and not as hard as you may think. If you’re thinking about writing a supernatural mystery or a horror, here are four ways to use DESCRIPTION to scare your readers senseless.
DESCRIPTION
Description is important in every genre of fiction. When I write erotic romance, the description I use is meant to arouse the reader. When I write romance, the description I use is meant to make the reader fall in love with the hero. When I write supernatural, the description I use is meant to scare the reader. But not only that.
A writer who has mastered the art of using description to tell a story is a writer who can transport their readers anywhere. Good description lets the reader feel like they’re in your fiction world. Good description will make the reader feel like she can smell the pumpkin pie your heroine’s mom is cooking, taste the hot tea the heroine is drinking, see the creature that’s partially hidden in the trees, feel the coarse skin of the thing that has cornered the heroine, and hear the heavy breathing of an assailant. Description is one of the most important tools in an author’s arsenal.
Use the senses – I touched on this a bit when I talked about Description. A character’s senses are a key ingredient in good description. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked. There’s so much that can be done with a character’s senses. Most authors use the sense of sight, but what about hearing. Does your character hear a sound that shouldn’t be there? Footsteps? The sound of a door closing in an empty house? These things are so simple, yet so perfect in creating the right, scary atmosphere.
Sometimes, the first indicator a character has that something is wrong is because they smell something that shouldn’t be there. In Patricia Cornwell novels, she does such a great job writing about the smells of a crime scene and autopsy suite that the reader nearly gags in disgust.
Using a character’s senses to let the reader know something scary is about to happen isn’t hard, but it’s very effective and worth the extra effort.
How do the characters feel? This seems obvious, but writers often forget to let the reader know how your characters feels about what is happening to them? Are they scared? Are they happy? Confused? Tell the reader AND show the reader. It’s vital the reader knows how your characters are reacting to what is happening to them and around them. Why? Because letting readers know how your characters feel is a great tool in telling your readers (without telling your readers) how they should feel.

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PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER
Below is an excerpt from chapter two of my novel, Doomsday. I chose it because it has all of the elements I discussed: using the senses, telling the reader how the characters feel, making sure the characters come across as human, and using imagination to draw the reader in a supernatural world.
Doomsday – A Remy Jones Mystery
My breath caught. Had I been wrong? Had I missed her pulse and mistaken her for
dead? Not only that, she had changed. She didn’t seem freshly dead anymore. Her skin had
taken on a sickly tinge, her flesh sagging as though it had rotted in the few seconds since I’d
turned away from her. To look at her, she could have been dead for days.
“Vincent,” I whispered.
He looked at me, then followed my pointing finger to the spot on the ground where the
woman was.
Her arm twitched.
“Damn,” he said.
Not exactly what I wanted to hear. If he was nervous I figured that meant I should be
scared witless.
“Remy,” he continued, speaking in the same quiet voice I had used, “I want you to walk
slowly out of the food court. When you get into the square, run for the corridor. You got me?”
Mouth open, I was breathing too heavily to give him a verbal response. I nodded. “Let’s go,” he moved from behind the counter. “Keep it nice and calm.” …
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I’m M.G. Herron, a science fiction author, content strategist, and the founder of the Indie Author Society, a community that helps writers learn the ropes of the publishing business. As an innately adventurous spirit with several years indie publishing sci-fi books and freelance copywriting, I’ve become somewhat adept at writing myself into a corner…and climbing back out again. Here are some of the tactics I employ when the going gets tough, which seems to happen most often in the middle of a novel. Maybe you can find a use for one of these tools in your own arsenal. To learn more about me, or check out my SF adventure/thrillers, visit http://mgherron.com.
It’s almost the middle of November as I write this, which means that thousands of people around the world are approaching the middle of their novel projects for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.
The middle of a novel is where a writer’s resolve really gets tested. Perhaps you have already felt bored, stuck, lost, or at a complete dead-end when you’re working on your book.
This is a signal that you’ve reached the soggy middle.
The Soggy Middle
It’s not uncommon for a writer to feel lost in the middle of a long project.
In fact, it’s perfectly normal—even to be expected.
Known as the “soggy middle” or sometimes the more pun-y “muddle,” this is the phase of the project where you, the writer, feel as if you’re lost or stuck.
This is a perfectly natural feeling to have. These, and many others. When Chuck Wendig sardonically constructs the “The Emotional Milestones of Writing a Novel”, the names of the arbitrarily numbered middle points run the gamut of fear and anger and self-doubt, from “Septic Dread” to “Destroy Boredom with a Hammer.”
Which is to say, you’re not alone!
To put it another way, as Stephen King said, “Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.”
The soggy middle is where you let that self-doubt overcome you.
It’s dark. It’s stormy. It’s scary.
You’re paralyzed. You’re frozen. You’re dead in the water. …
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Hello, all! I’m Jill Archer, a former lawyer turned librarian who writes fantasy from rural Maryland. As a lifelong reader and frequent peruser of book stacks and shelves, I’ve read a gazillion book blurbs. Some are better than others.
Book blurbs are one of those things (along with synopses and query letters) that writers don’t like to write. If you’re traditionally published, your publisher will likely write it for you, but even then, you should be able to write a good one yourself. Like an outline, a book blurb can be a valuable tool that helps you maintain focus during the drafting stage. Many book blurbs are written after the manuscript is completed, but you don’t have to wait. I always write mine before the book is finished.
(A quick aside: book blurbs are sometimes referred to as “back cover copy” and a “blurb” can also mean a quote from another author who has something nice to say about your book. Confusing? Yeah, I hear you. Lots of things in publishing are.)
Here are some tips to help get you started on writing the book description type of blurb:
Keep it short. Shoot for no more than 250 words. A longer blurb won’t make a reader want to read your book. A succinct hook and an enticing, brief description will.
Keep it simple. Some writers are tempted to over explain or cram their entire story onto the back of their book. Don’t. Take some time to figure out what your core story is. Don’t include subplots. Try to use words that don’t require explanation.
No spoilers! Don’t give away any plot points that occur after the first third of your book.
Don’t include too many character names. The blurb is where you paint the broad brushstrokes of your story. Identifying more than three characters by name is off-putting, even to readers who like stories with myriad character viewpoints.
Anchor the reader in space and time. Readers like to know where and when the story will take place. Don’t make them guess.
Follow genre conventions. Romance blurbs usually reference both the hero and the heroine. Urban fantasy blurbs talk about the main character’s magic or special power. Mysteries usually involve a murder or a crime. Epic fantasies often center on wars or quests. Readers should be able to tell what type of story the book is by reading its blurb.
Hint at something significant. A big risk. Something dangerous. A monumental love affair. A transformative journey. Make sure the reader knows that they, through the characters, will experience something meaningful by reading the book.

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Hello, I’m Rebecca Rivard. First, I want to thank Natasha Lane for inviting me on her blog today! As a paranormal romance author, I create worlds with magical creatures like shifters, fae and vampires. I have books in two series—my own Fada Shapeshifter series and Michelle Fox’s Vampire Blood Courtesans series. When I started my Fada Shapeshifter series, I wanted my books to stand out in the crowded world of paranormal/fantasy romance. So, I set out to create a world that’s a little different—but that seems alive, real. To my delight, I succeeded, since readers often say they don’t want to leave my world. How do you build a fantasy world/paranormal world that readers want to visit again and again? Here are some tips.
1) Study your favorite fantasy/paranormal world(s).
Setting: Is the series set in the real world with magical elements such as Harry Potter (paranormal) or an imaginary world such as Faerie or Middle Earth (fantasy)? What is the geography and the socio-political system?
Magic: Note the rules for magic—and yes, your magic must have its own, consistent rules.
Origin story: A good fantasy world has its own origin story, one that affects the characters’ beliefs and actions. For example, the origin story may be celebrated with its own holiday.
I could go on, but for a thorough list of world building questions, check out this post by Patricia C. Wrede on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/
2)Give it a twist. Is everyone else writing fantasy worlds based on medieval times? Then create a fantasy world set in a different time; for example, 1920s steampunk, as my friend L. Penelope did in her Earthsinger Chronicles (coming in 2018 from St. Martin’s Press). …
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Hi. It’s me, Terry. This verges into bragging, but I do have some things that I’m intensely interested in, and I think that foments ability. I write three-dimensional female characters. I use humor to frame stressful events as a tool to invest my readers, and I am vehemently against the predatory practices of the publishing industry. I’m an author coach and a history professor who is enthusiastic about pie, waffles, giraffes, coffee, and nefarious villains. I also run, because punitive experiences make for good fiction but today I’m going to discuss the social media monster and you.
Listicle:
1.Don’t spam. Ever. If you have the urge to spam endless Facebook groups, twitter, or anywhere else, don’t. The numbers game works against you, and you’ll create a backlash. This should naturally bring you to ask, “Well, then how do I”—stop right there. Let’s go to point number two.
2. Build Your Email List. Immediately. If you have a time machine, go back, strangle Joseph Stalin, and then start building your list. Your list is implicit permission between you and the people who know and like your work. It’s your core, your tribe, your peoples. This is how you become a part of a community in which your books—and you—are the engine that drives the fun. And it should be fun. Not spammy. Naturally, you ask, “How do I”—go to point three.
3. How To Build Email Lists. First, get an app or program that lets you manage your email so it isn’t illegal (gmail isn’t legal). I use Mailerlite, but other people use Mailchimp—I find them to be too expensive. Build a template email that looks professional—header, graphic, your brand name, etc—and then test it by sending it to yourself and a few accounts you can check.
Then, begin building the list in three ways.
When I coach young authors (or first timers) I always say that they should get involved in giveaways with other more established authors. Ask in your online groups or at events. At signing events, have a signup sheet for your mailing list. Offer something free, like your first book. Send one or two emails per month. One out of three of my emails is about books, mainly because I hate spam and love food. You can guess what the other two emails are about (hint: rhymes with waffles). When you send your first emails, people will unsubscribe. Relax, it’s not personal. I can tell you that the more people you meet (who sign up in person), the more ‘sticky’ list members you will have. These people are your friends. Don’t forget that, and reward them with fun stuff (deleted scenes, swag, etc). …
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