I don't create the covers for all my books, but when I do, I just love the process. When I first tried my hand at making covers, I started with the Unconventional Series. I tried using Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 (that's an old version) and didn't have much luck. I just couldn't get a handle on overlaying objects. I was feeling frustrated and wondered if there was another program in my limited selection that might work. Even though Microsoft Office PowerPoint seemed a stretch of the imagination, I gave it a whirl and created the first covers for this series as seen below. The cool thing about PowerPoint is that you can save your creation as a jpeg file (or other picture types). The hangup I had to overcome, however, was that I could only save it at 72 dpi. For covers and promo you need at least 300 dpi. I tend to think there's a solution for just about everything, so I Googled a question about saving my PowerPoint files at 300 dpi (newer versions don't have that problem) and voila! I found instructions to solve that dilemma. After that, I experimented with PowerPoint and discovered it could do so much more than I ever imagined.
I was pleasantly surprised when I figured out how to pull an image out of a picture (I used Elements to do this) and insert the image in an unusual way into PowerPoint (Stranded in Oasis). I also experimented with creating promo cards and a banner. Previously, I had gone to a printing website and used their online software to create my cards, which was very frustrating because I wasn't proficient with their software and kept having to redo my project. Suddenly, a light went on and I thought about PowerPoint. As you can see below, I'm happily creating covers and promo to my heart's content. So, if you have PowerPoint and a desire to do your own creating, there's a lot you can do without having to buy an expensive program.
"Stranded in Oasis"
After traveling throughout Arizona, I have come to love "The Grand Canyon State." For several months, I contemplated a new series with Arizona being the home front for a cast of quirky characters, however, writing deadlines and obligations postponed that process--until now. The first story in the Oasis Series, titled Stranded in Oasis, is well into the writing process.
For anyone who has lived in a trailer or RV park, I'm sure you can relate to my observation that sometimes strange, lovable, or mysterious characters make up that population. In writing this story, I have merged the characteristics of many of the folks I have met in trailer and RV parks to create, I hope, lovable and not-so-lovable, characters that make you laugh or perhaps cry.
My starting premise for this story: What if a successful corporate executive in the prime of life (age 34), working for his grandfather's mega empire, is thrust into a situation requiring him to leave the trappings of wealth and live in a trailer park in the Arizona desert. I began contemplating how said "corporate magnate" would handle Grandfather's demand that he manage Desert Princess Trailer and RV Park in Oasis, Arizona, for six months. Grandfather's excuse is that he wants to determine the tenacity of his heir before making decisions regarding his will. Of course, there is more to the story, but that is a mystery solved at the end of the book.
As for the romantic interest of my corporate man; how about a gal who considers herself to be a desert rat and loves her small town of Oasis. She's also the divorced mom of a nine year old boy who lives and breathes baseball. Add to that, a trailer and RV park full of more desert rats, and our corporate exec is in way over his head. He may know how to head a billion dollar company, but managing a trailer park, while fighting his feelings for a certain gal and her son, has him questioning his priorities and his well-ordered and sumptuous lifestyle.
I have to admit that this book has been as much fun to write as Dream Kisses. Maybe that's because I love throwing my characters into situations completely foreign to them and watching them "tread water" so to speak. Of course, along the way, they learn lessons, meet wonderful people, and find true love. Ahh....
Max's frown increased as he accepted the paper that had been printed from the internet off a website called desertprincess.com. He furrowed his brow and read the page. Was this some kind of a joke? The page was an advertisement that read:
Spend your winters at Desert Princess Trailer and RV Park in beautiful Oasis, Arizona.
Max lifted confused eyes to his grandfather. "What are you telling me?" he asked.
"I'm telling you that you're going to manage that trailer park for six months and it will decide your future with my company."
Max, who managed billion dollar companies and hobnobbed with the most influential personalities in the world, couldn't wrap his mind around his grandfather's instructions. He simply looked from the printout with a picture of an assortment of trailers and RVs parked in rows amidst desert sand, a few scraggly trees, scrub brush, and cacti, back to his grandfather. The old man reached to push a button on his intercom. "Peggy, when's my next appointment and who is it with?"
Peggy, Max's secretary since the creation of man, who looked to be that old, said in her no-nonsense voice, "You have a three-thirty with the governor of South Carolina."
Max, Sr. stood. "Son, it's nice seeing you, but I've got some research to catch up on before meeting with the governor. He's looking for assistance with their transportation issues and I may have just the company to fit the bill."
Max, Jr. couldn't make his legs move. Softly, he said, "Sir, you're joking, right? You're not really sending me to oversee a trailer park?" He even managed a chuckle.
His grandfather, looking completely serious, replied, "What part of 'head off to Arizona' don't you understand?"
Hubby and I did a little traveling last week to seek out a location for my next historical novel. Searching Arizona is like receiving Christmas presents that just keep coming. We drove to Jerome. For those of you who have never heard of the town, don't feel bad, I had never heard of it, either. It's a treasure! Built on the side of a mountain and overlooking Sedona far in the distance, I felt like I was in a European village. Of course, I've never been to Europe, so I'm just speculating. I uploaded several pictures. Don't you just love the police car? I'm not sure if its really used or just for looks. I read some brochures about the history of the town and discovered it was once the copper mining capital of the world, with a few thousand residents, but when the copper mines played out, it became a ghost town in the 1950s until the hippies moved in. After the hippies, it experienced a revival and is now populated with many artisans, galleries, and restaurants. It's a lovely place--perhaps the setting for another book? Hmm.
In the valley below Jerome, we traveled through the "C" towns as I call them--Clarkedale, Cottonwood, and Cornville--on our way to Sedona. They are lovely towns with much history. There is a train that departs Clarkedale and travels the canyons of Sedona. We didn't have opportunity to ride it, but it's on our bucket list. Cottonwood's Old Town is wonderful and also on our bucket list to wander one day. Cornville, is a tiny hub with beautiful countryside. Blink, and you're already through the town.
Our primary destination was Sedona and if you've never been there, you're in for a surprise. The terrain is nothing like the nearby "C" towns. Because of the iron in the soil, the countryside is red, it's rough, and it's incredibly beautiful. We took a road trip in a jeep with a guide to two vortices, side-by-side, that are said to be female and male (don't ask me to explain that; I haven't a clue). There is an ancient tree standing between the vortices whose branches and trunk are swirled. Of course, that kind of mystical stuff is something I love, so I started daydreaming a story combining history with a touch fantasy--how about a reclusive female healer of the 1800s living near the vortices, and a father whose last hope for his daughter is the healer. To add conflict, he must overcome great difficulty in finding the healer, even though he has little belief in such skill. Perhaps the story will one day come to fruition. Sigh.
When releasing a book through Amazon, you are asked to choose two genre categories. Later, Amazon may add additional categories depending on the book. For the past two years I have been writing contemporary and historical westerns. When choosing a category for my historical works, I naturally select "romance historical" and "romance western." Now, pondering my choices, I wish there was another selection for "chick-lit." My books are neither literary historicals, nor true westerns in the sense of Zane Grey.
I have accepted the inevitable--I write chick lit! The reason--it's what I love to read. When creating a story, writing the emotions of my characters is the most enjoyable. The initial romantic tension is quite fun to develop. Also, the ending wherein the tortured hero/heroine finally discovers peace and happiness is fulfilling. What I find difficult to write are action scenes, such as gunfights, kidnappings, and brawls. Don't get me wrong, they're a kick to create, but not easy. Maybe that's because I'm a character-driven author, rather than plot driven.
If given a choice of whether to watch a Nicholas Sparks movie or a Steven Spielberg action film, I'll choose Nicholas every time. For my husband, the opposite is true. However, he's a sweetheart and accompanies me to chick-flicks. Recently, for his sake, I suggested we watch the current vampire/werewolf/demon/etc. movie with lots of action. I found myself wishing it would soon be over. So what is it that "floats my boat?" That's easy--visiting a ghost town, watching a train chug (they don't really chug anymore) along the side of a mountain and disappear into a tunnel, catching sight of a decaying cabin, traveling through the desert, visiting a museum filled with pioneer relics...aaahhh, I'm in heaven.
The above cover is the one I created for the audio book, Cry of the West: Hallie. The narrator is Crystal Sershen and she is incredibly talented. I felt like I was traveling the Oregon Trail in 1866. The characters jumped into my heart! I loved the voices she created for the hero and heroine and the "bad" guys were really detestable. The children were adorable. We're just now finishing production. This will be my second audio book, the first one being another "historical western chick-lit" (I write that tongue-in-cheek), Abby: Mail Order Bride. Amy Gramour was the narrator for that book and she is also wonderfully talented. The new audiobook should be up within a couple of weeks. I sure hope you'll check it out. There will be a sampling when it is up on Amazon. See if you don't agree with my assessment of Ms. Sershen's talent.
I enjoy designing book covers almost as much as writing stories. Whenever a project is started, I immediately being searching for pictures. In writing the third book in the Finding Home Series, I wanted to find a photo showcasing the sweetness of the heroine, Daisy Smithson, and when I came across this one, I knew my search was over. I love her whimsical expression.
Daisy is only twenty-five, and yet she's been through more heartache than women twice her age. Of course, that's where Tim Wells, the son of Hallie from book one, comes to the rescue. He's the same age as Daisy and remembers her from childhood. They had forged a friendship until she told him she was going to marry him someday. Seems she'd dream about it. That isn't exactly what an an eight year old boy wants to hear, so Tim was more than happy to leave Missouri for Oregon and be done with Daisy. NOT.
When Tim returns for sentimental reasons to the farm that was sold to Daisy's family years earlier to fund travel expenses to Oregon, he finds not only Daisy trying to survive after her parents' deaths, but a babe, and no husband. Her reaction to someone trespassing on her property is to aim her shotgun at the intruder. So begins the romance between Tim and Daisy.
But that's not the only romance in this story. I would be remiss in not finding the soul mate for Trent Garrett, brother of Rush Garrett from book two. The perfect woman for Trent is Arizona Cayson, daughter of Huck Cayson, a former squatter on the Garrett ranch. Of course, I couldn't make Trent's romance an easy one. He's carrying a lot of guilt and as the saying goes, "He can't see what's right in front of his face." Of course, that would be no-nonsense Arizona.
On another note, after Missouri Challenge: Daisy is complete, I've been considering what to write next. I believe I will return to the Romance on the Ranch Series with book five. I love writing contemporary western romance, so I've decided to switch from the historical genre for awhile. Just between you and me and the lamppost, I find historical romance very challenging and often difficult to write. With contemporary westerns I kind of "relax" into the story.
With that being said, the fifth book (unless I'm struck by lightning with another inspiration) will be Cecelia Brightman's story. She is the sister of Miles Brightman introduced in book two, given his own story in book three, and who played a major role in book four (he gets around). I really think Cecelia, for all her wealth and busy work with charity foundations, needs some excitement in her life. Thus, enter Connor MacKenzie. Yeah baby! He may have scars, both internal and external, but he is one hot guy and Cecelia's about to fall head-over-heels for the famous artist hiding out in Paxtonville, Colorado. The question is, will he fall for her?
When I found the picture of the the "fancy woman" at a website I often buy pictures from, I knew I'd found my Lilah. As for the river picture, it took some time to choose from several available. The photo actually is of the Rio Grande, one of the adventure locations in Lilah's story. I chose this picture because the terrain best resembled what I described in my book.
For those not having read the first book in the Finding Home Series: Cry of the West, which is Hallie's story, Lilah is her sister, whom she hasn't seen in twenty years. Hallie and her second husband, Cooper Jerome, have sent one of Cooper's old army buddies, Rush Garrett, to search for Lilah and deliver a letter from Hallie begging her to return to Oregon with him.
Rush, indeed, finds Lilah in New Orleans, but the person she has portrayed in her sporadic letters to Hallie is not the same one he encounters. She most definitely is not a seamstress!
Here is a short excerpt from chapter one. To read the entire excerpt, click here.
Settling onto the settee in the sitting room of her two story townhouse, she reached for her book on a nearby table but ended up staring blankly into the empty hearth, fingering another tear. Just as she had anticipated, her fading beauty had brought her to a crossroads. Now, at the age of thirty-eight, threads of gray hair were making an appearance and tiny lines creased the sides of her mouth and eyes; her shapely figure carried a few extra pounds. To the casual observer, she was just as lovely as she had always been, but to her benefactor, she was his aging mistress.
For the past fifteen years, Charles Karney had kept her in style, and she had been the envy of women in her profession. However, Charles had finally been charmed by another; a young, beautiful and vivacious courtesan with golden hair and burnished skin, possibly the most exotic woman in New Orleans, and coveted by all the wealthy gentlemen who supported mistresses, often with the approval of their wives.
I guess you've figured out I'm researching trains. Well, steam trains during the 1870s, to be precise. After an internet search, I discovered a train museum in Chandler, Arizona, and I couldn't wait to check it out. I wasn't disappointed! The volunteers at the museum were super friendly and informative. They had a steam engine from around the era I was researching, which you can see in the above photos. Something I didn't know is that the engineer and the fireman were seated across from each other, and the burner was between them (third photo). Imagine the heat as the fireman loaded the burner right there. Also, there was no opening to see out the front of the train. In the last picture above you can see the engineer's seat and his window to the outside. Something else I discovered is that when the engineer was coming into a station, a worker would place torpedoes (basically small explosives) on the tracks. The loud popping noises as the train ran over the torpedoes would alert the engineer to slow down. Another misnomer is that the engineer was the person in charge. Nope, it was the conductor who oversaw everything and everyone.
Below, other than the trunk, the pictures are from eras later than what I'm writing about, but just as fascinating. The second picture displays different seats from different train companies in an early 1900s coach. The third picture is sleeping quarters with a hide-a-potty. The last is from a personalized car. Wealthy people bought their own cars and made them magnificent; kind of like we do nowadays with RVs.
Hopefully, I've gained enough information to keep from writing a serious error in my story with regard to travel via train in 1878.
I'm excited about interviewing Lorrie Struiff, author of A Heap of Trouble. Before we begin, I must say that I love the cover of Lorrie's book! I'm kind of a book cover fanatic. The heart formed by the position of the H/h bodies is fantastic. The colors are outstanding, and the horse and cowboy in the background add balance and interest. I even noticed the cowboy is wearing a duster--love cowboys in dusters! I could go on about the heroine's hair, the fade through, and more, but let's go on to the interview.
Welcome Lorrie. Thank you for joining me. Please tell readers about yourself.
Where do you live? Have you always lived there? Have you traveled much?
Well, I live in West Mifflin, very near Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve lived in the area all of my life. I’ve traveled a bit. I’ve been to almost every state in the U.S., and I’ve been to Mexico and Canada.
Tell us your latest news?
My # 3 Call on the Dead Club series was released this month. My main character Winnie is a hoot and a half.
When and why did you begin writing?
When I retired. Writing had always been my dream. Now that I have the time, here I am.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? With my first published short story. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the acceptance email. I must have stared at it for ten minutes. My mind kept saying, “Really? Really? Really?
Do you have specific writing habits? What genre(s) do you write, and why?
I wish I had habits. I hit the computer as time allows. I write in different genres. I don’t like the confinement of only writing in one. I want to spread my wings. Besides, I don’t want to bore myself or my readers. Lol. Many of the genres fascinate me, and I love to entertain readers. Why limit oneself?
How do you decide the titles for your book(s)?
Sometimes the title comes to me before I start writing which helps with the story. Other times I have a heck of a time thinking up a title. I turn to my critique buddies for help.
Are there messages in your novel(s) that you want readers to grasp?
Nope. Unless it’s accidental. *smiles* I just want to write a rollicking good story for readers to sink into.
How much of your current book is realistic?
Well, it’s paranormal, so I’d have to say none. Honest, I don’t go around talking to corpses.
Are experiences in your current book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All of my stories are strictly from my imagination. I like to take odd characters, throw them together, sit back and watch what happens. Well, it’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the bottom line.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Nelson De Mille. I love the way he can take an extremely tense scene and still make you laugh in the middle of it.
What book(s) are you reading now?
None at the moment. Since I started writing, I find my time to read has flown out the window. I miss reading. After a full 7 or 8 hours on the computer, my eyes are kissing my cheeks and I can’t read anything. So I sit back and stare dumbly at the TV.
What are your current projects?
I am currently working on my next COD story to add to the series. I’d also like to start a sequel to my “Gypsy Blood.”
What s the hardest part of writing your book(s)?
Finding the time. And writing the original draft. Since I’m a panster I have to form the story in my head first.
What have you learned from your writing?
That it’s not as easy as it looks. When I started, the authors I read made it look like a snap. Whoa, did I have a lot to learn.
Do you have advice for other writers?
Join a critique group. Develop very thick skin fast, and learn the basics.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just that I love them all, and thank them so much for choosing my books to read.
Other than the present time era, which era would you choose to live in, and why?
Oh, if I can’t live in the future—I’m nosy—I’ll stay in this one. I’m kind of used to the present.
Strangest thing you've ever seen.
You know, I’m sure I’ve seen some strange things in life, but at the moment I can’t think of a one. I must have a bad memory.
Your most embarrassing moment.
When I walked into the men’s room by mistake at a theater. Talk about red face. Eww.
Best day of your life.
How about best days, plural. When I worked at the ballroom dance studio. I had the best time of my life. Think “Dirty Dancing.” To me that’s a walk down memory lane.
Stupidest thing you've ever done.
What? You want me to write another book?
Smartest thing you've ever done.
*Laughing* Now that would be a flash fiction story.
Favorite coffee or tea frou-frou drink.
Ooooh, gimme my cup of hot tea.
Liver and onions. Mmmm. I can OD on the good stuff.
Food that gags you.
Have you ever seen a UFO? Explain.
No, darn it. I have friends that have, but I always miss out somehow.
Thank you Lorrie for visiting my blog! In closing, please tell us more about A Heap of Trouble.
I absolutely fell in love with all my characters. I’d say the genre is old west romance/action/mystery/humor.
Here is a promo from MuseItUp Publishing:
Sheriff Cole Walker is fearless, except when it comes to critters. When a runaway ringtail monkey decides to adopt Cole and won’t leave, he has more woes than he can handle. Cole has a powerful yen for the newly arrived Mattie Wells, the pretty woman who can jingle his spurs with just a smile. Mattie takes a shine to men who have pets, and she adores the monkey. So do all the town’s folk – until their valuables start coming up missing. But Cole has no choice but to put up with the thieving furball if he’s going to win Mattie’s heart.
But Mattie is holding a dark secret and refuses to get married. Cole tries every which way to make her see that she’s the only woman he wants, but with cattle rustlers and a miniature thief on the loose, it’s all Cole can do to find time to take her to a picnic.
Cole and his deputies, Wade and Sully, are given a month to find the thieves before Mayor Farley calls for outside gunslingers. Cole knows that’ll spell disaster for the town and likely unemployment for him. Can he overcome Mattie’s fears, bring the rustlers in, and teach his new unwanted furball sidekick a lesson about property rights before the town implodes?
With the help of his deputies and his unwanted sidekick Beggar, Cole must find a way to win Mattie’s heart, bring the rustlers to justice, and bring peace once again to Cold Creek, Kansas.
Yep. Cole has a heap of trouble on his hands.
Click here to purchase on Amazon
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After some much needed R and R, I'm ready to roll my sleeves up and begin writing the second book in the Finding Home Series; the story of Hallie's sister, Lilah. Hallie is the heroine from Cry of the West who made the several months journey from St. Louis, MO to Oregon City, OR along the Oregon Trail.
Lilah's story takes place twelve years after Hallie's arrival in Oregon, and it's been twenty years since the sisters parted ways. Cooper Jerome, Hallie's husband, hires his friend, Rush Garrett, to find Lilah and deliver a letter from Hallie, in the hope that it will persuade her to allow him to accompany her to Oregon
I'm sure you can see where this is going. Rush and Lilah are the H/h and I have entitled this book Rescue on the Rio. Because the first book, Cry of the West, was full of western history, I've got my work cut out for me in researching the Rio Grande River and surrounding lands. Hopefully, there will be plenty of action, especially when Lilah gets abducted by bandits bound for Mexico. Luckily, Rush will be tracking them, determined to save her. Not so lucky for the bandits, Lilah is a woman with a strong will and cunning mind. Because the story unfolds as I write, there are many unknowns I can't wait to discover.
I'm having fun just contemplating all the trouble I can get Lilah into. However, there is a vulnerable side to our heroine that few are allowed to see. I have a feeling that Rush, strong and cunning in his own right, may just see beyond Lilah's facade and recognize the longing in her heart for a family and home of her own. Hence, the name of the series, Finding Home.
On another note, the above picture was taken during my vacation in Hawaii. It was my first visit and I marvel at the beauty of the islands. My husband and I rented scooters for a few days and had a blast discovering the Big Island. We went snorkeling and below is a picture of me in my gear. I think I scared the fish. Actually, the colorful array of aquatic friends, and even a sea turtle, made for a wonderful day. Oh, and I also had to upload a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Chicken strutting their stuff. As for the flower, I took more photos of flowers than anything. Every few paces I made my husband stop so I could snap a shot. Such a patient man.