Monday, March 30, 2015

REVIEW: Revealing the Revolution / N.M. Sotzek

TITLE: Revealing the Revolution
AUTHOR: N.M. Sotzek
PUBLISHER: Self-Published

Science Fiction

Revealing the Revolution takes place in a futuristic Canada, in which “scanning,” a new high-tech sport, has grabbed the world’s attention. In this sport, players face outdoor challenges with the help of robotic animals, which are obtained by scanning real-world animals and sending the data to an AI that morphs into the desired creature. The book tells the story of team Revolution, whose chances of winning the Canadian Scanning Tournament are pretty high until internal struggles threaten to tear them apart.

While the story begins as a sporting tale about a group of people trying to claim a coveted title, the stakes are raised when it’s revealed that the powerful company that created the sport has dangerous motives. Between sabotage, secrets, and unexpected challenges, the members of team Revolution find themselves facing far more than just sporting challenges.

I was lucky enough to read an earlier version of Revealing the Revolution on an author community website, and I’m really glad that it found its way into the wider world. N.M. Sotzek has created a fascinating and unique story that combines the thrill and camaraderie of a sports book with the danger and intrigue of conspiracy thrillers through a high-tech sci-fi concept. I’m a huge fan of anything involving AIs, and I loved the debate around the ethics of scanning. As real world AIs grow more and more advanced, we may soon find ourselves facing some of the same issues this novel brings up. Using an artificial being created by humans for a sport seems harmless enough, but what happens when ingenuity goes too far? Where’s the line between realistic and real? This question has been pondered countless times by ethicists and sci-fi writers (including myself!), and Sotzek handles it well in Revealing the Revolution.

I also enjoyed the dynamic between the team members. Holding a team together isn’t an easy task, and Revolution deals with enough issues that you wonder how they’re going to keep from falling apart. The book is written from revolving character POVs, which do a good job of showing the world from different angles.

Sotzek writes with a fast-paced and clean style that does a great job of capturing the book’s story’s action and tension. The descriptions of the outdoor challenges and settings are fun to read, and meanwhile, a shadowy organization that one team member is involved with looms in the background. Revealing the Revolution is the first in a series, and I’m sure more will be unveiled about the Underground in the sequels.

Creative and entertaining, Revealing the Revolution will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi read.

Nichole Sotzek was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. She always had her nose in a book, and as she grew her love of reading added to her budding love of writing. She earned her B.A Honours in Near Eastern Archaeology and Medieval Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, and it was there she met her husband who introduced her to a concept he had held onto since childhood.

In 2010, Nichole and her husband began collaborating on his idea until he gave her full control of the novel. Revealing the Revolution became the first of a large-scale science-fiction series, which neither could have predicted. Nichole heard (many times) that the novel was supposed to focus on the animals. However, the concept within the novel encompassed too much of the 'future' society to simply write about animals. This was her defense, at least.

During her time in university, Nichole became a member of Delta Gamma Women's Fraternity. Her sisters gave her constant encouragement, and allowed her to learn about bonds of friendship she never could have understood otherwise. These are the bonds about which she writes in the third novel of the AIM series, although transformed slightly to fit the theme.

Nichole and her husband live in Kitchener, Ontario, and continue to spend their time (during nicer weather) outside hiking, fishing, and of course, scanning.

Friday, March 27, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: Fledgling by Jason Kucharik

Every Friday until its publication, I'm going to blog something about Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, a YA sci-fi anthology featuring tech-savvy heroines. The goal is to encourage more girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions. All revenues from sales of the anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Today, I'm spotlighting one of the stories that will be featured in the anthology.




Jason Kucharik


Sarah, a sixteen-year-old adrenaline junkie, has a head full of smarts and not a lot to lose. So when a high-ranking military official offers her a chance to join a top-secret program dedicated to cutting-edge technology, she welcomes the opportunity to do something important and exciting. Her job? To use her engineering know-how and improve upon the program's high-tech flight suits, which will be used to patrol the world. But as the program progresses, Sarah realizes that not everything is at it seems. Those in charge, it seems, will stop at nothing to control every aspect of the program - including her.


Comic book-type stories hit a sweet spot for me, and the plot of Fledgling is reminiscent of a good ole superhero story (without actual superpowers - more the Batman or Iron Man type). I loved how brave and strong Sarah was throughout. And the fact that she was not only the kick-ass gal riding the flight suits, but also the brains behind them, made this tale an ideal fit for the anthology.

Jason Kucharik grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Full Sail University with a degree in 3D animation and, after moving to San Diego to pursue a career as a freelance artist, decided it wasn't for him. Unsure of what to do next, he wrote a bucket list and decided to tackle the first item: write a novel. An idea for a short story turned into a 125,000 words novel in a projected three part series. More ideas began to populate every day, and he was hooked.

After meeting Taran Matharu (first male author on Wattpad to get signed for a publishing

deal) in an authors club on Facebook, he began co-authoring Project Aspire with Taran and two other authors. Jason's second novel VOK, rose to #1 in Science Fiction on Wattpad in September of 2014 and continues to be featured due to the readers he gains daily. He is currently looking for representation to bring VOK to the masses and working on a variety of other projects in his free time. 

"Growing up with a mother who was willing to do anything to provide for her children and make them happy, as well as two strong-willed, passionate sisters, I've always appreciated the unsung strength of females. It breaks my heart to see sexism so prevalent in our society to this day. Hopefully, Brave New Girls can help correct such a huge flaw, and I'm happy to be a part of that."

Twitter: @JasonmK85

BRAVE NEW GIRLS will be released in Summer 2015! Sign up here to receive a notification when it's available to order.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

REVIEW: The Silver Cord (Lily Lockwood, #2) / Alison Caiola

TITLE: The Silver Cord (Lily Lockwood, #2)
AUTHOR: Alison Caiola
PUBLISHER: Wonderland Press

Contemporary Fiction

Life as a famous actress isn't as easy as it looks. Lily Lockwood has found success on film and on stage, but her personal life is in tatters. Not only is she still in mourning for her mother, but she's also a new mother who left the baby's father after he cheated. Now, he wants to return to her life, but her heart is with a handsome doctor named Robbie – who also happens to be the adoptive brother of her mother's firstborn, given up at birth. As if this tangle of personal drama isn't enough, Robbie's mission to Somalia with Doctors Without Borders takes a disastrous turn, leaving Lily to wonder if she'll ever get a chance with the man who could be the love of her life.

The title of The Silver Cord refers to a story-within-a-story that Robbie tells Lily in a flashback, about two lovers separated in the Holocaust. As one said to the other, no matter what, there would always be a silver cord tying her heart to his. This is an apt title for the second Lily Lockwood story, since even though Robbie and Lily share very little page-time, the bond between them is palpable through Lily's longing and ruminations. 

Like the first book, The Seeds of a DaisyThe Silver Cordoffers a glimpse behind the scenes of a seemingly glamorous life. Despite the limelight, Lily remains down-to-earth in her day-to-day dealings, treating her glitzy career the way any hard worker would treat a job. The attention and wealth are all superficial trappings to her, and what really matters are her personal relationships. Though being famous has its perks, it can't help her when she reaches her most desperate hour. Caiola portrays Lily with remarkable vulnerability and humanity, depicting the person behind the perfect face the tabloids take for granted.

To say that The Silver Cord is an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement. The story is full of drama as it follows Lily's attempts to get her life in order and then, later, to find a way to rescue Robbie from the clutches of ruthless terrorists. While The Seeds of a Daisy was pretty straightforward contemporary fiction, The Silver Cord has a dash of thriller thrown in. Lily finds herself dealing with a situation her life as an actress could never have prepared her for, and we're privy to her deepest fears and anxieties.

Caiola has a wonderful way of bringing emotion to life on the page. In addition to seeing what happens next to Lily, we also learn more about other characters introduced in The Seeds of a Daisy, in particular Robbie and David, Lily's half-brother who was given up for adoption before Lily was born. All in all, The Silver Cord is an enjoyable follow-up to The Seeds of a Daisy and an entertaining read.

Alison Caiola's many years in Hollywood, first as a PR Executive and then as a writer, makes her qualified to write about the entertainment industry and the behind-the-scenes craziness that ofte it often spawns.

Like Daisy, the mother in The Seeds of a Daisy, her son JD Daniels is a successful and award-winning actor. Alison recently wrote, directed, and produced the television series The Tyme Chronicles. She currently resides on the beautiful North Fork of Long Island with her Malti-Poo daughter-dog Emma, surrounded by vineyards, farms, and wonderful friends.



Alison Caiola, author of the Lily Lockwood series, returns to Zigzag Timeline to talk about her latest release, The Silver CordVisit her websiteFollow her on Twitter, or Like her Facebook page.


Hi, Alison! Welcome back to Zigzag Timeline, and congrats on the release of your second Lily Lockwood novel, The Silver Cord! When you wrote the first book, did you have a sequel in mind?

Thank you so much for interviewing me again for Zigzag Timeline. When The Lily Lockwood Series Book One: The Seeds of a Daisy was released you were the first to review it and to interview me. It has been very successful so I wanted to keep the tradition alive and have you do the same for Book Two: The Silver Cord.

When I originally began writing The Seeds of a Daisy I had no idea that it would be the first book of a popular series.  After a few months of writing, I knew the ending had to lend itself to segue into book two. The Silver Cord is book two.

How has Lily Lockwood changed from Book 1 to Book 2?

In The Seeds of a Daisy Lily started out being very dependent on the people in her life; her mother, her mother’s close friends, her manager, her boyfriend Jamie Fleming and her assistant. The readers have a front row seat to witness Lily’s growth in the book. By the end of the first book, Lily is a different young woman than she was in the opening chapters.

The Silver Cord takes place two years after The Seeds of a Daisy ended. Lily is a mother of toddler Daisy Rose, her career has taken off, and she is up for a Tony Award for leading role in a Broadway play. Lily appears to be much more self-assured. But looks can be deceiving because, while she has grown since Book One, she is riddled with insecurities and is always second-guessing her decisions and choices.

Even with all the self-doubt buzzing around in her head, when faced with insurmountable obstacles, she faces them head on and Lily grows into a more heroic character.

The Silver Cord has a bit of a thriller element in it through Robbie’s kidnapping during his Doctors Without Borders mission. What was it like writing those scenes?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing those “edge of your seat” thriller element segments of the book as well as the different heart-stopping twists and turns the book takes. I did much research and spoke to many people knowledgeable about Al Qaeda, the C.I.A. and Navy SEALs.

Some of the elements from The Seeds of a Daisy drew from your real world experiences. Is that true for any parts of The Silver Cord?

You’re right, and while there were many facets of The Seeds of a Daisy that were totally inspired by my real life events, for the most part, The Silver Cord was not. Since we all have self-doubt at times, I drew upon my own, put them under a microscope, fed them steroids and voila the readers have a front row seat to Lily’s inner turmoil.

What's your favorite scene from The Silver Cord? Could you please describe it?

Wow, that’s a tough one. While I enjoyed many of the scenes, if I were to describe my favorites, especially the terrorist scenes in Somalia, it would ruin the element of surprise for the reader. I don’t want to spoil that for anyone. I do love the scenes that include characters who readers loved from book one and are back in book two: Auntie D., Fernando, and Tommy. I also introduce three of Lily’s friends, Kristin and Jessica, who she has known since grammar school, and Jodee her costar on Broadway.

After Lily tells the girls that she is contemplating reuniting with Jamie, her ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her in book one. The friends are aghast and, because Lily has spent the last couple of years bashing Jamie, they decide it is their right as the audience to her years of “Jamie Rants”, to hold a “tribunal” to decide whether Lily should get back together with Jamie or not. The tribunal starts off with the four friends drinking wine and eating Chinese food. As the evening progresses, the friends are doing tequila shots and rolling on the floor with laughter. Jamie walks into the room which puts the kabash on the tribunal. The scene is very funny, very Sex in the City.

There is another scene in the book that I love and it is actually a flashback within a flashback, within a flashback. Lily misses Robbie and reminisces about him and a story he shared with her about his grandparents. His grandmother had told Robbie, when he was a young boy, the story of how she and his grandfather, David, had met. His grandmother, Chaya Rachel described their pre-WWII courtship in Poland and how they felt as if they were meant for one another and even felt tied to one another, heart to heart by what David professed was an invisible silver cord.  When the Nazis invaded, they were separated and, unbeknown to each other, both taken to Auschwitz.  During her time in Auschwitz, Chaya Rachel prayed to be reconnected with David and knew their hearts still remained tied to one another. After the war, David found Chaya Rachel and the two were reunited for life.   After remembering that story Lily realizes that she and Robbie are also connected, one heart to the other.

Aside from the writing itself, what’s your favorite part of being an author?

I enjoy interacting with readers and fans of the series on social media and at book signings. I also have spreecast streaming video chats where I can talk with fans from all over the world in real time and answer their questions.

What’s next for Lily Lockwood?

I am currently working on Book Three: The Family Bond. The story revolves around different scenarios that Lily and other characters have involving their family members. There is also an Organized Crime component that includes a relationship Lily unknowingly has with a key member of the largest and most deadly Mafia Family in the tri-state area.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Always a pleasure, let’s do it again after Book Three is released. J


Tuesday, March 24, 2015


An interview with C.M. Cox., author of Sortilege.

Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

My name is Courtney Cox and I publish under the name C.M. Cox. I was 11 years old when my work was first published. I wrote a poem about a dog that ended up in a poetry collection with other poets, and a newspaper article about going back to school after summer break that landed me on the local news. I began studying creative writing at a college level at age 16 but did not feel that I was getting the education I wanted. I took a two year break to pursue things like skydiving, spelunking, rereading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time, traveling Europe, and general self-improvement. I tried college a second time but it did not stick then either. I ended up in a writing apprenticeship under a published author and NYU professor, where I was far happier and finally received the education I wanted. 

What got you into writing?

I have written my entire life and have always known that writing books was my future. As a child, my mother read to me constantly and I was often caught awake late at night with a flashlight and a book. I read anything I could get my hands on, and writing was my favorite pastime. I showed up to kindergarten with a completed written and illustrated story. 

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

'Sortilege' was my first real novel idea. It started as a birthday present for my sister, with whom I shared a room. I was always forcing her to listen to my little shards of stories and she became quite annoyed one evening that I never finished any of them. It was a short story that became a novel over a period of ten and a half years. The characters introduced themselves to me - an elf and man from a race of plant-people - and I wrote to see what would happen to them. 

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

All of my characters are dear to my heart, as they have lived with me for so long! I really enjoy Katz because I feel a special connection to her struggles. She is a fairy with faintly glowing skin, sparkling tattoos - most notably stars tattooed along her hairline - and eyes that constantly shift through the entire color spectrum. She is tall with coppery skin and reddish-brown hair. 

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

At the beginning of a new section, there is scene that introduces a candle lighting ceremony. I wrote it centered around the candles and I love how it turned out!

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

I love the act of writing itself, the creation of the rough draft. I focus on dialogue in the first draft, but I also love going back and describing things, adding the layers of details, which I usually do in the first round of edits.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I'm not sure how long it takes, as I drug out the first book over nearly 11 years! I wrote the rough draft of the sequel in about 3 months. I like to lay out the bones of the story, making detailed notes on the setting and characters, and then make a very vague outline. Writing the rough draft is when the magic happens. I never quite know what will happen next in the story, and I love the adventure in that.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

With fantasy, you get to make your own rules!

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Several! When I was 6 or 7 I read 'Bobcat' by Virginia F. Voight; it was the first book that made me realize words could be beautiful. When I was 8 I read 'Where The Red Fern Grows' by Wilson Rawls and cried for the first time over a book, which taught me the emotional impact of reading. When I was 8 I also began reading the Harry Potter series, which were the first books that truly transported me to another world. When I was 14 I read an interview of 'Eragon' author Christopher Paolini (and the book!) and he shared that he had begun work on 'Eragon' when he was 15. His life story and book inspired me to begin working on a novel while I was still in middle school. 

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

All the time! To be honest, these surprises are one of the main reasons I keep writing. I don't outline or plan much, so the characters and plot keep me entertained, 

Thanks for stopping by!

Find Courtney online:

Twitter: @cmcoxwrites

Sunday, March 22, 2015


An interview with Jeffrey Bolden, author of Lucid.


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

I’ve been writing for as long as I could remember in some form or another. I guess you could say I’m a quintessential artists of sorts. I started writing poetry at thirteen years old. I didn’t even really realize I had talent until Mrs. Jackson, my sixth grade teacher told me to never to hide it. It’s kind of the same way I got into writing fiction. I didn’t realize how good everything was panning out until I had a publishing deal on the table at eighteen. That didn’t work out, but it inspired me, you know.

What got you into writing?

Boredom really. I got in trouble a lot as a kid, so I spent a lot of time not doing what I would usually do at fifteen, sixteen, and just be in the house, writing, rapping, playing video games. But it was when my mama said I couldn’t go outside until I cleaned my room, I sulked off to my room, you know, like teenagers do, and I sat on my bed and saw this perfectly clean, empty notebook sitting on the floor. At first, I thought I was just going to pen a couple of songs or whatever, but then this picture came into my head. It was of an urban teenager shooting from inside of a McDonald’s in New York City, his bullets being covered with flames. And then inspiration. I was going to create the first truly hood superheroes, and at that time, G-Unit was big so of course, I had to have a 50 character. Ah youth.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

Lucid actually started off as a script I called The Birds Pt. 2. I was listening to The Weeknd a lot at the time and as I was listening to The Birds Pt. 2, I found myself picturing the song as events. And the first scene I saw in my head was of a young blonde sitting at the curb bawling. I instantly knew what happened to her. I instantly knew all the characters, and it turned out that my inspiration was living with me at the time. It didn’t even feel like I was writing a script, more like a diary of the impossible.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Well, I don’t want to be bias toward Saint, the protagonist of Lucid, since he is loosely based on me, but to be honest, I would have to say Baugh is my favorite, because of the person who I modeled Baugh after is a real person. Needless to say he isn’t the character in Lucid, but there’s a couple of scenes where Baugh is openly trying to push Saint toward greatness, pushing Saint to realize his dreams as an artist. Baugh is the one that believed in Saint from the start, and it was so important that I included my brother as that character in this story because that is exactly what Baugh is to me in real life. A person who has believed in me since day one. I don’t have many, and it was an honor to be able to include an example of who my brother is to me in the story I am most proud of.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

It’s so hard to pick a specific scene just because to pick one would be to take away from the scenes around the favored. All of them are great, embedded in my memory. But the scene that most eloquently conveys the message I wanted to be relayed from Lucid was the scene where Saint had realized he had become his father, and that the demon he had been trying to run away from was himself, which in a way relates to a passage on the first page. That glimpse of self-hatred is palpable, and then what Rocky does subsequent that entire scene is just powerful. I’m sorry for being so ambiguous but if I were to reveal the details, it would spoil the experience, and me, I’d rather you savor it.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

I don’t really have a favorite part. What did Alonzo say? “To be a good narcotics agent, one must know and love narcotics. In fact, a good narcotic agents should always have narcotics in his system…” That’s kind of like how writing is. You can’t love writing if you don’t enjoy creating these characters history, crafting every part of their existence. Now I’ll admit, scenery boggles me, but I have made leaps and bounds only because I have plunged neck deep through the sludge and waddled through in search of perfection. And on that search toward that goal, I found love for every aspect of writing. That would be my advice for young authors and young men and women in general. If you truly love something, you love the good, you love the bad. Once you can say that about anything, you have found your passion.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

It used to be a lot quicker, I can tell you that. My writing process is ridiculous. I simply write. I write histories of the characters. I have countless drafts. It’s mindboggling. The only thing that keeps me from going completely insane is the fact that diamonds emerge from the slush that is my writing process. At times, they may be cloudy, but they’ll still shine.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

Lucid was actually my first attempt at psychological thriller because it was a script where my mentor/sister wanted to create a web series where the sleep apnea was the premise of it. In my script, originally, Saint, back then Pimp, killed Shana, back then Tae, was killed by Saint in his sleep because his father used to be him in his sleep. Needless to say, Lucid took a much darker turn, and because of the message behind it all and the multiple elements that craft Lucid, I decided to recast this piece as a literary piece. It’s still my first literary piece, so who knows, maybe I found my niche. But releasing Lucid terrified me.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Donald Goines. Ayn Rand. Mario Puzo. Brent Weeks. The Stormrider series. The Secret, The Magic, there are so many books I can name that have helped me develop myself as an author. Of course, I have my own voice or at least a developing one, but I’ve read countless books and with everyone devoured, I become that much better.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

That entire book was a surprise. After several renames, the last name before Lucid was Greyscale, and it was so much tamer in comparison to what Lucid is now. The characters were detailed before, they leap at you now. The whole piece is cohesive and I had nothing to do with it. I blame Rachel Peterson for that. She is literally one of the best editors I’ve worked with, and she simply asked me one question. “Where’s the conflict in the first chapter?” And there it was. The last barrier to break down. As you know, the conflict came clearly in the form of Saint being in love with his adopted brother’s ex-girlfriend, having just murdered two people for their drugs and money, and deciding if he should attend the University of Tennessee or not. And all I did was sit back and type his madness on to the page. The crazy part is, Saint wasn’t even supposed to be the main character. It was supposed to be some kind of crazy love story. It just turned a little crazier, and Saint was definitely the right person to carry on the message buried deep under the constant revisions and touch ups. Hope you guys enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Find Jeffrey online:


Find Lucid:


Friday, March 20, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: Robin Hacker by Ursula Osborne

Every Friday until its publication, I'm going to blog something about Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, a YA sci-fi anthology featuring tech-savvy heroines. The goal is to encourage more girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions. All revenues from sales of the anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Today, I'm spotlighting one of the stories that will be featured in the anthology.


Robin Hacker


Ursula Osborne


When Robin was accepted to the best school in the galaxy, she thought she'd be using her education to help the world. But that was a lie - she and her classmates were being exploited by the oppressive government, the better to tighten their control. Unable to accept her fate, Robin fled.

Now, she uses her computer prowess to mess with the tyrannical regime - stealing their money and corrupting their information, even aiding revolutionaries. But a life of rebellion means a life on the run, and the government is always right on her heels. Smart as she is, Robin knows it's only a matter of time before her luck runs out.


First of all, who doesn't love a good rebellion story? This new Robin has all the courage and spirit as her legendary forefather (Robin Hood, of course), plus some smarts the old-timey thief wishes he could have had. Robin's knack for computers fits perfectly with the anthology's theme, and her cleverness and spunk make her a delightful protagonist in a fun, adventuresome tale.


Ursula Osborne is finishing her masters degree and dissertation while working with books. She’s a nerd, a bookworm and an endless fangirl. She dabbles in many hobbies, enjoys baking and traveling but wishes she could go to more places.

Ursula decided to participate in the anthology not only because she full-heartedly supports encouraging girls to enter STEM careers, but also because she wants to see an end to smart girls dumbing themselves down to fit into a judgmental society that tells girls that smart is not sexy. She also has a soft spot for smart, educated, insufferable know-it-alls.

BRAVE NEW GIRLS will be released in Summer 2015! Sign up here to receive a notification when it's available to order.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cover Design: the How, What, When and Why God Why

by Tash McAdam from West Coast Design

Who doesn’t love a good book cover? Nobody, that’s who! If you’re like me, you spend a fair amount of time browsing in book stores, in real life or online. And I think most readers will admit that the cover is the second thing that grabs them. I say second because the majority of bookstores and libraries have to put their books on display spine out, so title is often what people notice first. For me, when I am aimlessly browsing, a good title will make me pull a book off the shelf, and a good cover will make me turn it over. And if a book is on full-frontal display, the cover is what will get me every time.

I studied graphic design as a large part of my university degree, and my partner is a keen photographer. When I wrote my first book, I toyed with the idea of making my own cover, but I was lucky enough to score a traditional publishing deal and didn’t have to! However, the seed was planted, and instead of practising my website and poster design, I started thinking about book covers. Soon my partner and I had a pinterest board underway where we would pin awesome and inspiring covers. We started to make our own. Now we’re having a great time with a fun new hobby, and actually making some money.

What makes a good cover? It has to look good in thumbnail size, black and white (for most ereaders!) and represent your book. It needs to be interesting, but not cluttered (I recommend no more than four elements) and grab the reader’s attention.

So, let’s talk about the basics. If you want to make your own cover, you’ll need a graphics program like photoshop in order to create it. Photoshop has a complex interface that takes a bit of time to get used to, but you easily watch videos and teach yourself if you refuse to give up. Free alternatives like Pixlr are a good online resource if you are just going to make one cover.

To start with, you’ll also probably need access to a stock photography site like shutterstock. Remember, creative commons (licensed for commercial use and modifications) images almost always have to be appropriately credited, and if you use a picture you have found online without checking the source and license information, you could be breaking the law. If you use a photograph or drawing that is your own intellectual property, this won’t be a problem, and you’ll know your image is unique.

Research is important! Make sure you scan the amazon lists for your genre, what is selling right now, what colours are popular, pay attention to fonts. I have noticed a large trend toward illustrations on book covers instead of photo realistic images, and I think that is part of the huge upswing in self publishing, and personal cover design. It costs hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for an illustration, but using stock photography to make a cover only costs a few dollars.

Finding a font for your cover is often the most difficult part, and the area where I see inexperienced designers messing up the most often. Top tip number one! Experiment. Put the focus words in a bigger size. Try both serif (with little lines on the edges of letters) and sans serif (no little lines) Download a font from a freeware site (make sure to check each license carefully and make sure you can use it for commercial use) like and use that. Some current popular fonts are shown below. A book cover totally changes with the font that is placed on it.


Photoshop basics- you might not be a design pro, but a few things are very simple and add a huge amount to a cover image.

  1. Look at your layer pallet (usually on the bottom right, where you can see a thumbnail of your image, and on top of it, each layer of text or extra image) You’ll see a small button ‘fx’- as you might guess, that means ‘layer effects’. You can use this to add a glow, or shadow to your text. This helps make it easily readable.
  2. Layer Styles- also in the layer pallet, at the top, you’ll see a drop down menu that says ‘normal’ next to an opacity slider. Try flicking through those styles for your text, and you can achieve some very cool effects as the layer interacts with the colours behind it.
  3. Opacity slider- if your text is too bright, try lowering the opacity to make it more translucent. This can help integrate the design.
  4. Brushes- photoshop comes with a lot of brushes, but did you know you can get a brush that looks like a dinosaur? A cloud? A pentagram? Try googling ‘free photoshop brush *keyword*’ and see what you can come up with.
  5. Camera Raw Filter- under filter (or press Shift+ Ctrl + A) this will bring up all of the basic adjustments you might want to make to an image including hue, saturation, brightness and contrast.


And finally, don’t forget, google is your friend! There are step by step guides for almost anything you might want to achieve in photoshop, all available for free.

Here are some samples of our designs, and we’d love it if you stopped by our facebook or checked us out on selfpubbookcovers or thebookcoverdesigner

twists and turns.jpgThe Things You Left Behind.jpgthe end game 1 .jpg

disappearing act.jpgawaiting wonder.jpgletitrain.jpg

Friday, March 13, 2015

BNG FRIDAY: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Leandra Wallace

Every Friday until its publication, I'm going to blog something about Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, a YA sci-fi anthology featuring tech-savvy heroines. The goal is to encourage more girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math professions. All revenues from sales of the anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Today, I'm spotlighting one of the stories that will be featured in the anthology.


The Mad Scientist's Daughter


Leandra Wallace

Sixteen-year-old Viala Chesney keeps her inventions a secret. Because when you're the daughter of a mad scientist who committed murder, it's better that way. The last thing she wants is for people to think she'll turn out just like her father. Not that there are many places to hide when you live on a starship.

Starved for company, Viala invents a way to talk to a boy left in a coma following a shuttle crash. But what she discovers leads her to stumble upon a plot that endangers everyone aboard the ship. And it's up to her to stop the threat - before it's too late.


First of all, I love stories set on starships, so this one caught me right off the bat with its awesome setting. I'm also a sucker for stories about inventors. Not only did The Mad Scientist's Daughter have all these cool elements, but it was really well written and had a really intriguing mystery at its core.

Leandra Wallace is an Indiana girl with a love for vanilla in her pop, shiny things, and ampersands. Whenever she sees an old abandoned house, the compulsion to go explore is right behind it. Thankfully, common sense always prevails, or she might have died from snake bite or a falling roof 
years ago. She coincides with her husband, son, and a small black dog, dreaming of one day being a full-time author. And eating calorie-free desserts. 

"Mathematics created all sorts of anxiety for me as a kid in school. Being able to contribute to a girl's future that not only excels at mathematics and the sciences - but enjoys it as well - is an exciting and rewarding opportunity for me."



BRAVE NEW GIRLS will be released in Summer 2015! Sign up here to receive a notification when it's available to order.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Announcing VIRTUAL SHADOWS, third Jane Colt novel

Hey everyone! I know it's been a while. I've been reviewing and interviewing and spotlighting and hosting like mad, but it's about time I sat down and wrote a proper blog post. Though I guess it's about a specific book, so maybe it's more of an elaborate spotlight.

Anyway, I'm happy to announce that the third Jane Colt novel, which feels like it's been in the works forever, will becoming out this July! Things are a little different this time, though. I'm going indie on Book 3, dipping my toe into the self-publishing pool. The reason is simple: this is the final chapter in the Jane Colt trilogy, I want to take the reins. I've loved working with Red Adept Publishing, and I always imagined I'd be submitting Book 3 to them. Then, as I was writing the book, I realized that I had a very specific vision for what I wanted to happen. I also realized that, since I'll be participating in two huge events later this year (GenCon and the Brooklyn Book Festival, both of which have tens of thousands of attendees), I really, really wanted the whole trilogy to be available. Just in case anyone wanted to buy the whole series, you know?

Now, this realization came in January. GenCon is in August. Six months is a blink of an eye in the publishing world, and Red Adept has a full plate. The only way to ensure that Book 3 will come out in time for GenCon is to do it myself. However, just because I'm on a short timeframe doesn't mean I'm rushing through it. In fact, half the reason I found myself in this predicament is because I spent so long on the plot, outline, and backstories for Virtual Shadows and didn't get the dang book drafted until this past January. The other half is because I procrastinated.

Funnily enough, I'm going to be working with pretty much the same team that I would be if I'd gone through Red Adept's publishing house. When I spoke to Lynn (captain of the starship Red Adept) to let her know that I wanted to go indie, she was very supportive and said that, since I hadn't submitted Virtual Shadows to the publishing arm, I could still engage the company's independent editing services if I wanted. For ethical reasons, Red Adept doesn't accept clients for books their publishing arm has rejected (this would cause a conflict of interest, since it could look like the company is rejecting a book in order to push the author toward spending money on editing services). But because I never submitted in the first place (and hadn't been rejected), there's no conflict. 

Which is awesome, because I was planning on hiring an editor and proofreader for Virtual Shadows anyway and had no idea who else I'd turn to. Lucky for me, my editor for Artificial Absolutes and Synthetic Illusions, the fantastic Karen Allen (who's just as kick-ass as Indiana Jones's girlfriend), had an opening available in her indie editing schedule. It's kismet! I'm also hiring Streetlight Graphics, who did all the layout and art for the previous two books, for Virtual Shadows because I want all three books to match visually. 

Of course, all this is costing me a pretty penny, but I'd rather subsist on ramen than put out a substandard book that didn't match the first two. Actually, I rather like ramen, especially when you throw in an egg and some... but I digress. Anyway, I doubt I'll ever make the cost back (let's face it, there aren't exactly screaming hoards of raving fans pounding on my door for the last installment of the Jane Colt trilogy), but at this point, I honestly couldn't care less about the money. I'm neurotic about finishing things, and finishing strong, and that's the only thing on my mind as I sally forth into the world of indie authors.

All this is my long-winded way of saying that this summer, the Jane Colt saga will be coming to its thrilling and explosive conclusion (I swear, I'm an author, not a Hollywood PR office). It's crazy that this journey I embarked on four years ago is coming to an end, but also really, really exciting. Wish me luck!

Virtual Shadows (Jane Colt, #3)

Life on the galaxy’s lawless Fringe isn’t easy. Nevertheless, Jane doesn’t regret sacrificing her comfortable life to protect the young man she loves. But the very place she took him for safety is slowly killing him, and her world is shaken again when her brother, Devin, reenters her life.

Determined to discover the identity of those behind a vicious bombing near his agency’s secret base, Devin defies his superiors and ventures into the dark corners of the universe. When he realizes that the attackers have their crosshairs on the mysterious woman who saved his life, the mission becomes personal.

Jane joins her brother on his quest and battles a chilling adversary hell-bent on destroying her homeworld. Entangled in a web of interstellar intrigue, virtual deception, and murderous agendas, Jane races to find answers—before the enemy wreaks devastation upon all she once knew.