Thursday, June 30, 2016

July Sale: Twice Told: A Lupa Schwartz Box Set

Renee Pawlish's monthly promotions have been going gangbusters, and as an experiment, I am including the eBook of Twice Told in the July box set promo for 99 cents on July 16 and 17. I am also hoping to capitalize on any boost in the rankings this gives me by building my own countdown deal.

So on July 18 and 19, Twice Told will be $1.99. On the 20th and 21st it will be $2.99. On the 22nd and 23rd it will be $3.99. It will cost $4.99 on July 24 and 25, $5.99 on July 26 and 27, $6.99 on July 28 and 29, $7.99 on July 30 and 31. On August 1st and 2nd it will cost $8.99 and it will return to the normal price of $9.99 on the third of August.

The box set includes books 2 thru five in the Lupa Schwartz mystery series, and the eBook of book one, Extreme Unction, is still available for FREE.

Please note that this promotion is only available on the AMAZON store's website.

However, I have also included ALL of my fiction books which are available through Smashwords in the Smashwords' on site July sale. All of the Lupa Schwartz stories are 50% off and my noir collection and non-fiction book are deeply discounted to 75% off. You can find that sale here, and my books in the sale are here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Guest Post: Designing Your Own Book Cover: How to Select The Right Image by Kari Anders

Kari Anders
Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs All of Kari's covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.

In Elements of a Book Cover that Sells, I talk about creating a cover that speaks directly to your audience by using the idea of a Single Story. In the following post, I expand on this idea by giving helpful tips on finding the base layer for your cover: the image.

Your image should convey the mood of your story. If you’ve written a fun-loving, silly, woman’s novel, your cover might be an illustration of a lady in heels with a pink background. If your book explores the story of a missing woman, it might have a dark background with a woman running away. If it’s a love story, readers will expect a couple holding hands or kissing on the cover. All these components convey the mood of the book and attract your audience.

If the mood is not evident, you will miss potential readers. When readers go searching for a new book, they usually know what type of book they want to read. If nothing else, they know what types of book they have enjoyed in the past. They will be attracted to images that remind them of another book they’ve read. This relationship connects the reader to an emotion they felt while reading that book. For instance, I had recently finished Where’d You Go Bernadette and was looking for a new read. I saw the novel How to Write a Novel, with its blue cover and illustrations and bought it. Why? It reminded me of Bernadette. That’s it. I wasn’t even looking for a book like Bernadette; I just subconscious equated the cover of Bernadette with a book I like.

Often authors spend energy on trying to get their cover image to be unique, and to stand out from the crowd. While really, they should have been doing the opposite.

You may have noticed that in all of the examples at the beginning of this article, I suggest having images of people on the cover (the woman in pink heels, the couple kissing, etc.). As an author, you may be tempted to steer away from covers that give away too much detail that you’d rather let the reader imagine. One of the reasons I believe readers like books over their film adaptations, is because they get to bring the scene to life using their own imagination. The same applies to the characters in a book. Giving away too much detail can remove this experience from the readers. So why do I suggest books with images of people? Simply, they sell better.

You may see that some covers don’t have the full person or even just avoid their face on the cover. You might see only a woman’s legs or feet, or you might see her face below the nose. This allows your readers to still create the characters using their own imagination while still creating a book cover that sells.

The other advantage of showing only a part of a character is that it allows you to simplify your cover. If you are trying to convey too much information to your readers, it will be busy and overwhelming and will distract them from absorbing the story’s mood. Remember, you want to sell them a single story. Don’t try to input double meanings, or symbols that the reader will only understand once they’ve read the book. Symbolism is for your writing. You aren’t trying to sell them on your cleverness with a book cover.

Taken (cover #1)
To convey the mood, keep it simple, and focus on a single story. You want to be obvious with your images, but not necessarily literal. You don’t want readers to have to guess or search for what your cover is about. But at the same time, it doesn’t need to be a specific scene from your story to convey the mood, and being too literal can destroy the intrigue you want to create. Let me show you what I mean:

Bad Cover: The problem with this cover is that it is too literal. You can actually tell that this is a scene from the book. You might read the book with the anticipation in your head of getting to that scene. But readers are, in their own opinion, better imaginators than any author. Therefore, you are certain to disappoint. There are too many details in this cover that need to synchronize with the readers’ imagination. How many times have you seen a book made into a movie and found something in the movie that played out way better in your head?

Taken (cover #2)
Good Cover: The following cover could very well be the same book. It’s obvious this story is also about a woman who is gone, missing or taken (as the title suggests). You don’t have to decipher a code in the image to get a sense for what the book is about. But at the same time, this cover isn’t so literal. You get to conjure up an image as to what might be happening because you aren’t force-fed a scene.

Here’s a test: Once you have selected an image, forget your story. Can you create a powerful title on the picture alone? Does that title do your book justice? If not, keep looking.

The most common place authors and designers find images for book covers is stock image sites. There are hundreds of thousands of images to choose from, and they are usually between $10 and $25 per image. With a stock image from or, you can sell between 250,000 and 500,000 books before you have to worry about purchasing additional licensing. There are also sites you can find free stock images, but make sure you read and fully understand the terms of copyright before using an image from one of these sites. DO NOT use an unlicensed image from a Google images search, even if you don’t think you are going to sell very many books, as this will most certainly earn you a letter from an attorney asking you to remove it at the least, and a lawsuit at the worst.

The advantages of using stock images are selection, price, and availability. To find an image for a previous post, I used the search terms “girl in front of a ship” and found 42 pages of results. That’s a pretty specific request. Also, stock image sites regularly update their inventory, and they tag images by a number of categories, including model. So if you find a model that you like, but the image isn’t quite right, you can find other photos with the same model. This is very useful for a book series.

A drawback to using stock imaging is uniqueness. Stock sites will sell an image any number of times, meaning that even though your typography and location of the photo might be unique, another author might end up with the same image on their cover. Professional publishing houses will spend thousands hiring a photographer and models to get unique images for their covers. However, this isn’t a possibility for most self-published authors. On, I am building a collection of non-stock images from local photographers I’ve worked with over the years. Check back soon for the launch of Original Images, and happy writing!

Friday, June 10, 2016

June Promo: CS and FP $1.99 Each

Last month, I announced that my novel, Common Sense, was going to be available as part of a new mystery and thriller novel promo program. All books in the promo had to be available for 99 cents on Amazon, so I reduced the price of my novel for the entire month of May. That sale ended on June 1st, but it's not too late to pick up a copy for less than the normal retail price of $3.99.

The promo program will be featuring FREE books on June 11 & 12, so I will be including my permafree title, Extreme Unction, as part of the program. However, as an incentive to buy for those who come to the book through the free offer, I am once again reducing the price of Common Sense. This time, it will be available for $1.99. As an added incentive, book three in the series, Fair Play, will also be available at the reduced price of $1.99.

You can find all of the info on the promotion here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Author Interview: D.J. Williams, Author of Waking Lazarus

With the DNA of a world traveler, D.J. Williams was born and raised in Hong Kong, has ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the slums of the Far East. His global travels have engrossed him in a myriad of cultures, and provided him with a unique perspective that has fueled his creativity over the course of an eighteen year career in both the entertainment industry and nonprofit sector.

His debut novel, The Disillusioned, has garnered praise from
Hollywood’s elite such as Judith McCreary, Co-Executive Producer, Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, & CSI, who said, “The Disillusioned is a fast-paced mystery…you won’t put it down until you’ve unlocked the secrets and lies to find the truth.”

Currently based out of Los Angeles, Williams continues to add to his producing and directing credits of more than 300 episodes of broadcast TV syndicated worldwide by developing new projects for television, film and print.

Waking Lazarus
Jake Harris' life hasn't turned out the way he planned. Battling his addictions, and the shattered pieces of his family, he is hired to ghostwrite a memoir. From the 1920's story of a controversial evangelist, to the present day mystery of a former District Attorney, everything changes when his search for the truth leads to an atrocity hidden from history. With a past he can't remember, he begins to discover that he is not the person he believed himself to be. Rather, he is a threat to a secret society that has remained in the shadows for nearly a century. Jake is drawn deep inside a world he never knew existed that brings him closer to his own extraordinary destiny.

Who are your influences?
My biggest influences are John Grisham, Michael Connelly, and James Patterson. Each one for different reasons. With Grisham, I enjoy the variety of stories he weaves into his books. With Connelly, it's the way he develops his characters in such a way that they can grow throughout a series of novels. And Patterson, for his style of writing each chapter as if it were a scene in a move. With my background as an Executive Producer and Director, I find that my writing style is a mix of all three.

When did you begin writing?
I remember when I was eight years old picking up a copy of Treasure Island, and then spending the next two or three days lost in the story. I didn't know then that my passion was writing, but I did know that story telling was in my veins. It wasn't until about five years ago that I sat down and decided to write my first novel, The Disillusioned. I finished the manuscript without telling a soul what I had done. Then I shared it with a few friends to get their honest opinion, and went through the painstaking process of finding an agent and publisher. In fact, my wife didn't read the book until I received my author copies from the publisher. After finishing a 15-city book signing tour with Barnes & Noble, I've been humbled by the response of the story. My hope is that Waking Lazarus will build on the characters and story while growing an audience who enjoys the series.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.?
I've tried several different methods. Sitting down and outlining every chapter, character development, and a long list of story ideas. What I discovered about myself was that I could spend all of my time doing this and never write a single word. So my style is to begin with a main character, decide on the POV, and the beginning of a story. Then I write, and write, and write until the story begins to take shape. I push through a first draft, and then rewrite. During the rewrite I look for the characters that stand out, the story lines that are the most interesting, and then add another layer to the overall book that keeps readers guessing.

If you could actually meet one of your characters, who would it be?  Why?
I think the one character would be Stella Adams. In The Disillusioned, she was the mystery, and the payoff of finding her has fueled what I have planned in the rest of the Guardian novels. She's someone who is willing to put it all on the line for justice. I only hope that I could be half as brave as she is in the story.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy? 
My philosophy on writing is that I want my stories to make a difference, to cause readers to think about the world around them in a different way. While some authors write for pure entertainment, I believe there is an underlying message in my books that goes deeper than an action adventure or suspense novel. At least that's my hope. I figure if I'm going to spend 6-8 months writing then I want there to be purpose behind it. In The Disillusioned, it was to raise awareness about human trafficking. And now in Waking Lazarus, it is a deeper look into good versus evil, and how those lines are often times hard to define in the world we live in.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres? 
Honestly, I don't think about what genre I'm writing. I think more about the characters and how the story unfolds. In the future, I'm sure I'll write stories that are outside of the mystery/action adventure genre, but for now that's what keeps me writing. I've got big plans for the Guardian novels that will keep me busy for the next few years.

Do you listen to music as you write?
Yes. I always write with a soundtrack blasting in my ears. It helps me to focus, to grab the emotion in a scene, and the imagine what it is I'm trying to reveal. In fact, with Waking Lazarus we're taking it a step further. We've actually recorded a soundtrack that will accompany the book. I haven't seen this done before and am so excited for readers to have this as an enhancement to their reading experience.

How to find Derek Online:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Audiobook Review: The Killing by Lionel White

The Killing is probably best-known as one of the finest examples of the noir film genre ever made. Directed by a young Stanley Kubrick, it was adapted from the novel Clean Break by Lionel White. Starring Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray, it tells the story of a newly released con, Johnny Clay, and the crew he has patched together to pull off a race track heist which he’s been planning for years while cooped up in the joint. The plan relies on Clay finding a number of otherwise honest men with money issues who he can cajole into ignoring their consciences for just a few minutes during the biggest horse race of the year in order to reap a huge payoff.

Things go awry when one of the team’s members, George Peatty, a mild-mannered bet window operator with a wife too hot for him by several degrees, let’s slip to his unfaithful bride, Sherry, that he’s due to come into a big score. The story in the novel is told in third person, and the plot is slowly unveiled one chapter at a time until all of the pieces come together in the third act when the heist goes down without a hitch but somehow Johnny Clay’s dreams still manage to fall apart.

A huge Kubrick fan, I watched the movie years ago but had never bothered to read the book, even though heists and noir are among my favorite pastimes. Then I saw that Mike Dennis had released an audio version of the classic novel using the more familiar movie title, and I was in. Mike gifted me a copy, and I devoured it in three days.

Mike Dennis
Mike’s voice perfectly captures the mood. He has a somewhat classic tone in the narration, like a 60’s period news reader, his cadence is smooth and unclipped, but the pacing never drags. Meanwhile the nuances of Peatty’s meakness and Clay’s bravado shine through in the dialog. In fact, the entire cast comes off as individuals despite all being voiced with only subtle variation by the same narrator.

Mike has cleverly begun carving out a niche in the narration biz, finding old properties that fit his voice which the right’s holders haven’t bothered to give the audio treatment, and working out a deal. They don’t make movies like this anymore. They don’t write books like this anymore either. But thanks to talented and clever men like Mike Dennis who see the opportunity, an entire new generation can still be teleported back to the days when they did, and the world is all the richer for it. I seldom give full star ratings, but there’s really nothing in this nostalgic production to complain about. 

The Killing is available on Audible or from Amazon