Tara West

YA paranormal/fantasy and New Adult author


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Thanks veterans

THANK YOU veterans past and present for your service. I’d also like to send a special thanks to my husband and nephew, Alex, for having served in the armed forces. I love you guys!!!

This week I will be preparing for the arrival of Shea MacLeod! Can I get a SQUEEEEEEEEEEE?

I’m also busy co-writing Whispers book four, Visions of the Witch, with Heather Marie Adkins, author of The Temple.

I’ve posted chapter one over on GoodReads. Won’t you join and be my friend? Here’s the linky to chapter one.

Have a fun weekend and remember to thank a veteran and remember those who’ve died fighting for our freedom. 🙂

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Confessions of a Cover Artist – Dafeenah Jameel

As part of an ongoing series, Confessions of a Cover Artist, every Friday, I’ll introduce readers to new cover artists whom I feel make exceptional covers. These artists must come highly recommended by their clients, so artists, please don’t apply to be featured. If you find an awesome artist, hold onto her/him. An artist who understands what the client needs is a true gem and can keep continuity with the author’s future books. Dafeenah Jameel has been highly praised by my friend and best selling YA author, Lizzy Ford. IMHO, no matter the quality the writing (and Lizzy’s books are awesome) even the best authors need appealing covers and Dafeenah has helped Lizzy and other authors achieve success.

TW: Why do you design cover art? How did you first get started?

DJ: I originally started with a small overseas publisher. I work as a translator, formatter and designer, but the books are in Urdu and Arabic. Then I met Lizzy Ford and found about the indie phenomena. It was a way for us to get our translations printed in English also. So I started cover designing for indie authors.

TW: What have you learned along the way?

DJ: You can’t please everyone. So don’t even try to. Do your best and go on.


TW: What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?

DJ: I think it would take less time to list the ones I didn’t make. Cover design overseas and for the fiction US market is very different. I’ve been able to work with some very talented people who’ve helped me a lot to learn and grow as a designer.

TW: List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

DJ: 1. Genre specific

2. Eye catching

3. Unique

4.. Visible title

5. Encompasses the story

TW: What are common mistakes indie authors make when designing their own covers?

DJ: Not hiring a professional. I realize most indie authors are on a budget, so they try to design their covers themselves, and while there are areas where authors can save and do things themselves, the cover (for most people) isn’t one of those areas. If there are only two places an author spends money, then it should be for an editor and cover designer.


TW: What advice would you give to the indie author trying to design cover art?

DJ: Hire a designer. Or at least get the advice or critique of someone who is a designer. You don’t ask your plumber for stock advice so it’s best to not ask your husband/wife/companion if they think your design looks good. Chances are they’re going to tell you it’s fabulous just like they tell you those jeans don’t make your butt look big. Strangers aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. Your loved ones depend on you for dinner so they don’t want to upset you that way they don’t have to eat burnt lasagna for dinner.


TW: What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?

DJ: It depends on my schedule but for the most part I usually get first drafts within 48-72 hrs. Then it just depends on what changes are required as to when the final design is completed.


TW: What software do you use to create covers? Where do you go for images?

DJ: Photoshop and CorelDraw. Various stock sites.
TW: Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?

DJ: I have a questionnaire that I give to new clients. It asks for the summary of the book, details of the MC such as ethnicity, eye color, etc. Also I ask about some pivotal scenes in the book or quirks of the MC. Anything that I could use to portray the story. These things aren’t mandatory but the more I know about the inner workings of the book the better cover design I can do for someone.

TW: If you suddenly lost your skilz, who would you hire to design your cover art?

DJ: Renee Barrat from The Cover Counts. I’m in awe of her skill and knowledge.

TW: Why do you enjoy working with indie authors?

DJ: Helping someone to realize their dream is always a wonderful thing. I’ve had some fabulous people help me in my path so it’s a way for me to pay it forward and help someone else.

Dafeenah’s website:  http://www.indiedesignz.com

Dafeenah’s Portfolio: http://www.indiedesignz.com/gallery.html


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Lifestyles of the Redneck and (sorta) Famous

Squeeeee!!! In just two weeks, my crit buddy,  Shéa MacLeod will flying to Texas from London be help celebrate my Birthday!

For those of you who don’t know Shéa, she just signed a publishing deal with Montlake Romance, a division of Amazon Publishing, for her Sunwalker Series. The first book, Kissed by Darkness, will be rereleased this fall.  While she’s here, we’re going to visit The Riverwalk, The Alamo, take a ghost tour and just plain old have fun.

To tell the truth, I was a little nervous having a big time writer pal come stay at my place. My digs are a little redneck, to say the least. So I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments in order to get mi casa up to par. I have literally transformed my country home into a five star hotel. I sure hope she likes it.

For starters, I’ve updated my child’s toy room (aka guest suite), added personal touches to the bathroom, plus I’ve hired a professional gardener (aka my husband) who has done wonders with the landscaping. I posted some pictures of the transformation. I’m willing to bet Shéa finds my redneck retreat fancier than those guilded digs in London. I sure hope you agree.

Shéa will be picked up from the airport in this state-of-the-art Southern limousine, where she will be whisked away to her private retreat.

Immediately upon Shéa’s arrival, she will be treated to a plate of my homemade fried chicken served on my finest China. No luxury Southern vacation would be complete without it.

Her suite comes with a fully stocked kitchen and her very own personal attendant. Notice the fancy artwork hanging on the walls? No expense was spared.

The luxurious bathroom comes with all the expected amenities such as shampoo and soap, in addition to her own personal collection of Pet Shop and Polly Pocket bathtub toys.

She will be given her own personal designer dog complete with a beautiful Gucci fleamarket knockoff handbag.

During the day, Shéa can relax by the luxury pool with its own private red barn cabana while basking in the beautiful landscape of the Texas Live Oaks, old truck parts and rusty deer feeder.

Her bed will arrive soon as it’s on special order from the high-falutin furniture gallery known as Walmart. The expensive rug was imported from Target (pronounced Tar-jay).


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Confessions of a Cover Artist – Christine DeMaio-Rice

As part of an ongoing series, Confessions of a Cover Artist, every Friday, I’ll introduce readers to new cover artists whom I feel make exceptional covers. These artists must come highly recommended by their clients, so artists, please don’t apply to be featured. If you find an awesome artist, hold onto her/him. An artist who understands what the client needs is a true gem and can keep continuity with the author’s future books.  I love the way Christine DeMaio-Rice’s incorporates texture and blends color in her covers.  I was not surprised to find out she works in the fashion industry. She has a good eye for creative composition. Please give Christine a warm welcome and feel free to admire her creative artwork.

TW: Why do you design cover art? How did you first get started?

Christine: I designed my cover for Blue Valley because I thought that was what everyone did. I found I had some kind of talent when I didn’t know I had, because people started PMing me on Kindleboards asking who my artist was!

TW: What have you learned along the way?

Christine: One, I learn something new about my main tool, Photoshop, every day. Seriously, do you know how wild that application is? I can’t tell you what 60 percent of the stuff on the menu does, but every time I figure something out, I design a little better and a little faster.

TW: Oh, I totally agree about that one. I’ll accidentally come across a tool and wonder how I’d missed it before. What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?

Christine: There were things I could have done more easily with clipping masks and other tools that I spent hours doing by hand. OMG this interview is so boring, it’s like an ad for Photoshop, and I used the phrase “clipping mask” like it was exciting to anyone but me. Let me see if I can spice up the answer to the next question.

TW: List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

Christine:

  1. Swords
  2. Pretty colors
  3. Sexy ladies
  4. Mantitty
  5. Barely hidden boobies
  6. Spicy!

TW: HEY! Those sound like most of the romance covers I make.

Christine: Ok no really. Ignore the real list below because it’s boring but important

  1. Genre. This is a partnership between the colors, the size and type of font, and the image(s). To me, I should know what kind of book I’m buying from the cover alone. The blurb can add nuance, but the cover and title areyour biggest tools for sales because they broadcast the content.
  2. Nothing else is important except number 1 above, but also, customer satisfaction. If the author does not love their cover, they won’t show it all over town, and if they don’t show it all over town, the book won’t sell. Period.
  3. It should look like a real book. When the customer clicks on Amazon, their reaction should be nil. Nothing. They should not even notice the cover because they’ve been looking at trad pubbed books and when they come across yours it should fit in so well that there is no skip in the mind that makes them say, “this doesn’t fit in.” Which is not to say the cover shouldn’t be beautiful, but beauty is fine as long as you understand this is a marketing tool for the words under the cover, not an end unto itself.
  4. Font. I should be able to read it, and it should be correct for the genre. And kerned. I cannot stress enough the importance of kerning.
  5. Depth. This is where most authors who do their own covers fall down on the job. You’ve got the right font and the right photo, and you put those two together and think you’re done. You’re not. Or, to be more clear, you shouldn’t be. You need to add texture, and color depth, and you need to look at that font and ask yourself if it would benefit from a dropped shadow or a touch of bevel. It’s the little things, really. Look at other covers you like and see what they’ve done, and if they’ve done nothing, go look at more covers.

Christine: Illustrating a scene from the book and saying that’s what’s in the book. To be honest, if an author insists on illustrating a scene I pass them on to another designer. On a verbal level, or a structural one, your scene may indeed encompass the whole theme of the book. It doesn’t matter. Go to the bookstore and find covers that show a scene from the book. Very very few do that. It’s just not what covers are meant to do.

TW: What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?

Christine: Three days to three weeks. It depends. Right now I’m doing Lin Welch’s Whisperings series and I’m doing so much photomanipulation it’s taking forever. It was totally unexpected, but they look awesome. If someone needs a fast turnaround, I opened a premades store with inexpensive, readymade covers.

TW: What software do you use to create covers?

Christine: Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, FontExplorer Pro. I occasionally have to use Illustrator but I try to avoid it. That program has moved further and further away from real logic with every update.

Christine: Mostly Shutterstock, but sometimes I have to move afield for that one special thing.

TW: Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?

Christine; Blurb and genre. If I don’t know the person, I ask for links to other covers they like. Once I have all that, if we decide to use a face on there, I send stock photos for approval first. The character’s face is very important and no one knows them like the author. This can take a wildly long time, but after that it’s pretty quick.

TW: If you suddenly lost your skilz, who would you hire to design your cover art?

Christine: This was a tough question. It would have to be someone who has infinite patience and an excellent knowledge of Photoshop, because I’m going to be over their shoulder

telling them what to do, and where I’d experiment to get what I wanted, this person would have to know what to do without the frustrating steps to get there. Honestly they wouldn’t need any visual talent at all, because their eye would just get in my way.

TW: Do you think being a novelist makes you a better cover artist? How so?

Christine: It makes me sympathetic to what the author wants, and it makes me totally customer service oriented, because I get it. I really do.

For more of Christine’s FANTASTIC cover art, LIKE FLIP CITY BOOKS on Facebook or visit her WEBSITE.

Dead is the New Black is FREE today only on Kindle!

Laura Carnegie gave up on the man of her dreams a long time ago. He’s fashion designer Jeremy St. James, and not only is he her boss, everyone knows he’s gay.

When he’s arrested for murder, secrets come to light and nothing is what it seems. If Laura can just solve this crime, keep the cops off her tail, break up a counterfeiting ring, and get the show on the runway by Friday, she might stop being Seventh Avenue’s perpetual loser.

If you love Project Runway, or enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, try Dead Is the New Black.


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Confessions of a Cover Artist- Athanasios Galanis

So some of you may know that in addition to writing books, I’m also a cover artist for a publishing house and I freelance for indie authors as well. You can click HERE to see some samples of my work. Working with so many indies, and now being an indie myself, I’ve seen some really impressive covers out there. I’ve also seen some not-so-impressive covers.

Sorry.

Many indies who say they can’t afford to pay an artist end up designing the cover themselves, despite no training in composition. I’ve seen a few indies pull off some impressive covers, but more often they just have this amateur look. And I’m sorry if I come off sounding snotty. That’s not my intention. But indie authors need to realize the cover is the FIRST thing your readers will see before they buy your book. Not the blurb, not the first chapter–the cover. And so these indies come back to the KB boards or FB groups and complain that their books aren’t selling. But you know, sometimes you need to spend it to get it.  Yes, editors are especially important as well, but you’ve got to start with a marketable cover.

As part of an ongoing series, Confessions of a Cover Artist, I’m going to introduce you to cover artists whom I think make exceptional covers. Because, yes, not all cover artists are created equal, either. If you find a good artist, hang on to that person. Your artist can help you to build a brand and keep a continuity with all of your future published works. This series will be by invitation only, so artists, please don’t send requests.

I’ve been keeping my eye on Athanasios Galanis’s (Tom’s) covers. I especially love the warm ambiance he creates with lighting, giving his covers an almost breathable quality. I was not surprised to find out he’s been in the graphic design field for some time before offering cover art services. Please give Tom a warm welcome and feel free to drool over his eye candy covers.

TW: Why do you design cover art?

Tom: I design cover art because it is a passion that drives me and fulfills me like nothing else.

Nah.

I do stuff like this for a living day to day. I love doing covers because I have much more control and input in the artwork than I do in my usual DVD job.  Not to sound immodest but I’ve got an affinity for it and it’s not illegal so win, win. The other affinity I’ve got is frowned upon in polite non violent society so I’ll stick to artwork, DVD menus, video editing and covers, thank you.

TW: How did you first get started?

Tom: I started by giving my opinion to whoever asked for a critique about their cover on Indie Writer’s Unite. I found just redoing their cover was much quicker for me than telling them what would improve it. Picture being worth 1000 words and all that. Then a few people asked me to do their covers and it took off from there.

TW: What have you learned along the way?

Tom: I discover that I grasp what an author wants quite quickly. I’ve learned my instincts are much better than I ever dreamed.

I usually get what the author wants with a synopsis, their name and the title.

TW: What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?

Tom: My only mistake was with one of my first clients who was also a friend. I trusted that he/she would pay me as agreed but he/she didn’t end up paying for all the covers I did for her/him. After 6 months of broken promises and partial payment I had to go after her/him to pull my covers for lack of payment and told her/him if he/she paid for my work in full he/she could use my covers again. To this day he/she decided it was easier not to pay than to use my covers.  This taught me to always have a watermark on proofs sent to a client and always have the proofs be low res and small.

TW: That really sucks to put so much work into a cover and then not get paid. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some wonderful, dependable authors.

List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

Tom:

1.Title and author name placement & typography

2.Appropriate/relevant content

3.Composition of elements

4.Wow factor

5.Color

TW: What are common mistakes that indie authors make when designing their own covers?

Tom: Believing that since they know how to write they know how to set up a cover.   They might, but it’s not certain. If they do have an affinity with the visual it still takes years of practice to do it fast and competently. Remember a picture is worth 1000 words also works in reverse.

TW: What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?

If I don’t have anything else in front of me 2-4 days, depending on what I have in front of me a week.

TW: What software do you use to create covers?

Tom: Photoshop.

TW: Me, too, but I think I’m due for an upgrade.

Where do you go for images?

Tom: All over the web, Google mostly and http://www.depositphotos.com if I don’t want to worry about copyright.

TW: Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?

Tom: Synopsis, title and author name.  If they want to give me more info it’s a plus but not mandatory.

TW: If you suddenly lost your skilz, who would you hire to design your cover art?

Tom: Hmm, is this where I plug my fellow cover artists?

I’d use Christine De-Maio Rice because I like her attitude with her work. She doesn’t treat it in an artsy-fartsy way she does the job and fulfills a need for the author. She’s also got a good eye and you can’t teach that or develop it, you’ve got it or you don’t.  She’s also a friend and I’m loyal to a fault.   Plug alert: http://www.facebook.com/FlipCityBooks

 TW: I love her work, too. I especially love her use of textures and lighting.

 Do you think being a novelist makes you a better cover artist?

Tom: No.  I think being a graphic artist makes me a better cover artist.

Please visit Tom’s website to check out his covers and read about his cool Mad Gods series.

* * *

Tamra Westberry is cover artist for The Wild Rose Press, an indie designer and also writes YA paranormal as Tara West. Prior to that, Tamra taught high school English, journalism and photography. The first book in her Whispers Series, Sophie’s Secret is free on Kindle, Nook and other ebook outlets.