Archive for the Miscellaneous Category

Book Cover Design Resources and Tips for Sci-Fi/Fantsay Authors

Posted in Book Art, Miscellaneous, Publishing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Starfire Dragons Book Cover

For the self-publishing author, book cover designing can be tricky. It’s not as simple as finding art online and using it. You have to make sure it’s the right size and you have to pay for use of the image. Nor is it as simple as having a friend drawn and/or design your cover. You have to make sure you leave room for the book title and other factors. The first part of this post gives ideas on where to find book cover designers or buy art already made and for sale. The second part of this post gives you important tips in creating or selecting a design. This entire post is specific to sci-fi and fantasy authors.

Where to find art for your book cover design:

  • Freelance artists – Find a book cover designer on sites like,, and other freelance sites. Keep in mind that though the cost might seem like a bargain, you get what you pay for. Every once in a while, though, you can get both a good price and a great cover.
  • Public domain art – My sci-fi book cover is made partially from public domain images from NASA. You can also find public domain art on Wikimedia Commons, the Library of Congress, and National Archives.
  • Stockphotos – All my fantasy novels used art from a stock photo site. My favorites are,,, Be sure to read the usage rights on these. Some do not allow for use on book covers. Or if they do allow book cover use, they charge a lot more. Count on spending at least $50 for the image. The average I paid was $100.
  • Online art galleries – Deviantart is my favorite source for finding sci-fi and fantasy artists. If you see art you like, you might be able to buy it outright. Or if you see a style you like, you might be able to commission the artist. Not all artists are book cover designers so you will have to be specific in what size you need and the placement of your title and other text.
  • Contact an art school – Contact the art school’s illustration and design department to see if they are interested in a project. Offer to support the school in some way as a form of payment.
  • Ask a friend – This is what I ended up doing for my first sci-fi novel. If you don’t know an artist, ask your writer friends who they used for their art.

Dragonbone Chair ebook cover The Dragon and the Lion by Dawn Ross

Tips for making a good book cover design:

  • The image for your book cover design should be large and at least 300 dpi. This will be especially helpful if you plan on printing physical books rather than e-books. This will also be helpful for if you need to crop or re-size the image for other uses. I understand a lot of publishers want the image in .pdf format, but I’ve had no trouble using the .jpg format. You should have no trouble saving it in both formats.
  • The book cover image should have thumbnail appeal. The image can’t be so busy that viewers on a computer screen can’t tell what’s on the cover. I like how the ebook version of Tad Williams’ book The Dragonbone Chair is just a simple sword.
  • The image should be relevant without being cheesy. Again, I reference the cover for The Dragonbone Chair. Its simple design isn’t just easy to see in a thumbnail, it also indicates the book is a fantasy.
  • When combining two different images, make sure they work cohesively together and not cut-and-paste. My cover on The Dragon and the Lion is made from two separate images that I edited so that the color scheme matched and they look like they belong together.
  • Stick to classic fonts. You can be a little creative if you like, but don’t overdo it. And make sure that if you do get a little creative with your font that it is relevant to your book.
  • There should be room in the art for text placement. If you’re cover is of a warrior or something, make sure the book title can be seen without having to cover the warrior’s face or other important elements of the cover.
  • Don’t forget the back cover. If you have art for the back cover, make sure it is simply a continuation of the front cover and doesn’t introduce new elements or styles. Or you can simply use a solid color for the back cover.

That’s all I have for now. Where do you get your book cover art? Do you have any tips for making a good book cover design?

Awesome Dragon Robot

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags on September 23, 2013 by Dawn Ross

I would so love to see this in real life:

Off Topic – Pets Rescued from Hurricane Sandy

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , on November 10, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Sorry, I haven’t had time to write a blog post for this Saturday. I am working hard in school on my economics class and management class. Because they are online courses, I can work at my own pace so I have been working ahead to be done by Thanksgiving. If I can get done early, I can dedicate time to work on Book Three of the Dukarian Legacy before the spring semester starts.

So instead of blogging today, I am going to go off topic and discuss something near and dear to my heart – pets. As many of you may know, a lot of people on the east coast suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Pets have suffered too. Here are a few pet videos about some four-legged victims of Hurrican Sandy:

Is My Daydreaming Constructive to Writing Fiction?

Posted in Miscellaneous, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2012 by Dawn Ross

I didn’t do much real work during the first half of this week. I was too busy daydreaming. For nearly the entire day Monday and Tuesday, I only did mindless tasks which allowed my imagination to wander. It felt great indulging in my make-believe world. I immersed myself in an entirely new setting as different people. I felt anticipation when the characters in my head were on an adventure. I felt sadness, love, and a number of other emotions my characters felt as the story progressed. These are the sensations I strive for when I write. But I didn’t write any of it down.

So was Monday and Tuesday a complete waste? Today I can’t remember every detail of the story I daydreamed about. Part of it is lost, as is some of the emotional impact. In fact, I am now bored with the story and am no longer inspired to write it down. As a writer I should know by now how to harness this inspiration when it comes over me and use it constructively to write. But sometimes I just want escape without the burden having to sit at my desk and write it down (in other words, work).

Although I didn’t write anything down, I don’t feel these days were a complete waste. I remember enough of the story that I can file it away in my brain and bring it back again on another inspirational day. And I feel like I’ve really developed the story and the characters. When I first started daydreaming, everything was vague. The characters were wishy-washy molds of clay waiting to be sculpted. But as my mind wandered and the tale progressed so did the development of my characters. I feel like I know who they are now. I know how they think and how they will react to various situations. Everything came to life in my mind and I now feel that when I do write it down, it will be easier to bring it to life on paper too.

I do this daydreaming thing a lot. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. When the real world got tough, I daydreamed another little girl named Julia who was stronger than me and was able to stand up to the injustice surrounding her. It helped that she had a unicorn/Pegasus that flew to her rescue whenever she needed it. When my sister Julie was born, I had to develop a new character. (I was jealous of Julie and couldn’t very well have a hero with nearly the same name.) The new character was a boy this time. Over the years, I’ve developed a number of different characters. They fought injustice in various fantastical themes including medieval, the Crusades, Renaissance, colonial, western, modern, sci-fi, etc. I now have more stories in my head than I could ever possibly have time to write down.

Does all this sound crazy? Am I the only one who does this? Do you other fiction writers find yourselves daydreaming your hours away? Does it help you in writing fiction?

Get Caught Up in Sci-Fi / Fantasy with Netflix

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by Dawn Ross

I love Netflix. No, I’m not being paid to promote them. It’s just that I’ve been really busy lately with drawing pet portraits that I didn’t have time to think about what I wanted to write about for my Saturday post. So, I am going to tell you why I love Netflix and what I have been watching lately.

I love Netflix because now I finally have the opportunity to watch sci-fi/fantasy shows that I missed because I didn’t have cable. For me, cable is a luxury I can do without. I don’t watch much TV anyway. I read more than I watch. But because I keep hearing about these great shows that I missed, I decided to sign up for Netflix.

The first thing I watched in my 30 day trial period was Dr. Who. I watched the more modern version, not the older version. Now I know who Dr. Who is and what a TARDIS is!!! My favorite Dr. was David Tennant and I stopped watching after they replaced him with Matt Smith.

I didn’t continue with Netflix immediately after that 30 day trial period because I couldn’t find shows I wanted to watch. But when I took my computer in to get fixed (after it got a hold of some really bad malware), one of the Geek Squad guys at Best Buy told me that Stargate SG1 was now on Netflix. I had seen a few episodes years ago that my mom had recorded but I never had the opportunity to get into the whole series. Stargate SG1 was as great as I remembered it to be. Unfortunately, they took it off of Netflix just as I was getting into season 3. They will put it back on, though.

Stargate SG1 got me to watching another Stargate series, Stargate Universe. I loved the story line. By implementing a 9th chevron onto the stargate, a team of people were transported to a ship light years away. I also loved the dynamics of the characters. My favorites were the soldier Greer (Jamil Walker Smith), Rush (Robert Carlyle), and Eli (Louis Ferriera). My least favorite was Chloe (Elyse Levesque). I don’t know why, I just wasn’t that into her. She played her part well, but perhaps I felt her character was a bit wishy-washy.

Incidentally, as I watched this series, I noticed that Robert Carlyle (who was playing Nicholas Rush) is also Mr. Gold on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. If those two characters became one, he could be called Mr. Nicholas Gold Rush!

Although I liked Stargate Universe, I did get a bit bored with it towards the end of the 2nd season. It was a good way to end the series.

Right now I am watching Farscape. It is good, but I don’t think I’m liking it nearly as much as Stargate SG1 or Dr. Who. I like all the characters with D’Argo being my least favorite. I wish they hadn’t killed Zhaan. Will they find a way to bring her back like they did with some of the other characters who supposedly died? I’m only in season three right now.

So other than these shows being sci-fi/fantasy like my writing, they really have little to do with writing. Although, sometimes watching such creative entertainment inspires me in my own writing. But lately I’ve been drawing my pet portraits which you can see on my other blog by clicking HERE. While drawing, I am also watching these great shows on Netflix. Can anyone recommend some other great sci-fi/fantasy shows currently on Netflix?

Part II of Another Fantastic Author, Amy McGuire

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , on September 30, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Amy had so much information to share that I couldn’t get it all in one post. So I am happy to present the other half of her interview:

Dawn Ross:  Do you have any technical writing tips?

Amy McGuire:  Get your work professionally edited if you can afford it and get at least five or six of your friends and family, writers and readers to edit it before you put it up for sale if you can’t afford professional editing.  Yes, you can edit your own work and probably should to a point, but make sure you get other eyes for things like grammar, spelling etc.  I learned this one the hard way.  I had my first edition of The Heart’s Discovery out with some grammatical and typing errors and the reviews reflected it.  My second book I won’t be making the same mistake.  Crazy thing is, I thought I went over it with a fine tooth comb.  Unfortunately, even reading it aloud (which I highly recommend you do by the way) didn’t get all the errors.  When you’re the writer of a manuscript and you’ve seen the same scene over and over again, your mind will start to fill in any blanks and change any errors.  The mind is a sneaky thing.  This is why I highly suggest you get an editor, whether professional or a friend or family member to give your manuscript a good looking over before you put it out.  Especially in the self publishing field writers need to be extra careful to make their manuscripts look as professional as possible before trying to sell them.  Take the sentence I just wrote.  It’s grammatically correct and spelled correctly, but it kind of reads awkwardly, doesn’t it.  Now I’ll take the sentence and rewrite it.  Writers need to be extra careful to make their manuscripts look as professional as possible before selling them, especially in the self publishing field.  We are scrutinized more heavily because we don’t have a traditional publishing house backing up our work.  We also have to be head and shoulders over all the really poorly written books in our field.  It drives me crazy when I find a book for free or .99 on Amazon because I can almost guarantee it’s poorly written or edited.  Yes, that seems like a bit of a biased statement.  I know there are many out there for that price which are edited and written well.  Sadly very few readers will buy them because they know about the other poorly written and poorly edited books out there for the same price.  I also think it’s frustrating to have to sell your book for cheap when you’ve been a lot of effort in, just because everyone else is trying to undercut you, but that’s another topic for another time.   My final advice is this; as an indie author you are not in an easy field, but if you’re going to self publish, do it well.

Dawn Ross:  In which venue do you sell the most books? Amazon, Smashwords, or other?

Amy McGuire:  Interestingly enough, my website has garnered the most sales.  Perhaps because I push it so much.  I guess I figure, if I’m going to put so much effort into my site, I may as well use it as a major marketing tool.  My book is on Amazon and Smashwords as well and I send people who buy my book off my site there to write reviews sometimes, but mostly, it’s been my own site.  So I guess I’m not typical of all the self published writers out there.  Or maybe I am.  I’m not sure who to compare myself to at this time, still being a bit new to the game.  I guess you could say I’m the opposite of John Locke in that very few sales came from Amazon.  If I was to use a pie chart to say how many of my sales come from each distributor it would probably look something like this: 5% Smashwords, 10% Amazon, 85% my site at

Dawn Ross: What do you do to market your self-published books?

Amy McGuire: I use Facebook mostly, with my own group, multiple groups I belong to, and my own page.  I use Twitter a bit and have been greatly helped in that area by members of the groups I belong to who generously tweet for me every once in awhile.  I also do a bit of word of mouth when I see people.  I actually had a stack of business cards made up that I give out to people or post in public places as well.  I don’t know if I’ve made any sales using those tactics yet, but time will tell.  It’s also nice when someone you meet says, ‘You’re an author?  How do I check out your site?’ or ‘How do I buy your book?’ and you can just hand them a card with all your information on it.  I have my website, twitter account, Facebook account name and email on there along with the name of my current book and the saga.  My books (paperback format) are also in the store of a friend with a little display.  I haven’t seen any results from that yet, but probably because I haven’t advertised it as much as I should be.

Dawn Ross: What was the most difficult part in self-publishing your books and how did you overcome it?

Amy McGuire:  Believe it or not, it was the actual motivation to do it.  There is such a stigma around self published books because they have been done so poorly in the past, that I was afraid I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I did it. I overcame it with the help of a wonderful author, Jason Matthews, who wrote How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks-All For Free.  He has been my mentor through the process and beyond.  Sometimes you just need a little nudge and encouragement when trying something new and scary.  That was the case with me.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Dawn.  If any of your readers are interested in purchasing my book they can do so at any of the following locations:

My site:

Amazon Paperback:

Amazon Kindle:


You can also reach me at

Amy McGuire

Thank you, Amy! :0)

Meet Another Fantastic Author – Amy McGuire

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , on September 29, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Welcome, everyone. I’d like to introduce you to another great author, Amy McGuire. Who is Amy and what does she write about? Read about her here today and come back again tomorrow for more!

Dawn Ross: Tell me about yourself.

Amy McGuire:  Well, I’m the last of three children born to missionary parents who worked in East Africa for most of my childhood.  I was born in the tiny town of Campbell River, British Columbia during one of their furloughs and about two and a half years later they returned to the mission field with me and my two older siblings in tow.  My first published book is infused with some of the experiences I gained as a missionary kid and the culture I grew up in is a very big part of who I am, both as a person and as writer.  I have written stories and poetry almost from the moment I learned how to form a complete sentence, and can say without question that writing is my passion.  I’ve been married to the same amazing man for over eight years now, and I have to admit that the dark hair and light eyes combination of some of my male characters are inspired by him.  I am also the mother of a darling four year old angel who makes me smile and believe in the power of imagination on a daily basis.  I guess you could say my titles are as follows: Wife, Mother and Author.  I love being all three and wouldn’t have my life any other way.  Romance is my personal weakness.  I love to read it, write it, talk about it, experience it when I can, and live it.  If I ever ‘make it big’ I want writing to be my career and the ‘job’ I do until I can no longer type or come up with stories.

Dawn Ross:  Tell me about your writing process.

Amy McGuire:  When I first started writing The Hope Valley Saga it was one book.  I had a notebook I took everywhere (this was pre-laptop) and I wrote as often as I could.  Whenever I was able to find a moment, I used the desktop to type all the chapters I had written in my notebook into Microsoft Word.  Sometimes just ideas, and not whole chapters would come me and in that case I would enter them into my notebook in Microsoft Word when I got the chance.  As the story developed I ended up with multiple drafts, all saved in a special file on my desktop.  For my birthday a couple years ago I asked for a small, lightweight laptop that I could use anywhere instead of constantly typing from my paper notebook.  Now I use that almost exclusively but occasionally when I am away from it, such as I was when I went camping with my family about a month ago, I go back to my paper notebook and scribble whole chapters or just ideas.

Dawn Ross:  Where do you get your inspiration?

Amy McGuire: I was once told by a very wise person to ‘write what you know’.  So a lot of the scenes in my first novel are loosely based on actual events I experienced.  As my story has progressed and I create the saga, I find my main inspiration is simply the world around me.  I can watch a movie, or show or people in a crowded mall and get inspired.  In fact, one of my upcoming (hopefully in the not too distant future) books which is sci-fi was inspired by another sci-fi show I watched recently.  I find certain books I read will inspire me.  Sometimes just being on vacation and ‘getting away from it all’ can have a huge affect on what I write.  For instance, there is a scene in book three of my saga which I wrote entirely while on vacation in Florida, again, based off actual events.  A thing as small as being bitten by fire ants while taking a walk with my family or as big as a horrific event on the news can be inspiring, depending on my mood and what particular scene I want to write.

Dawn Ross:  Do you have any creative writing tips?

Amy McGuire:  I don’t know that I’m very technical, but I guess my advice to anyone working on a novel they want to get published is this.  Make sure you watch your points of view, that you don’t head hop.  This is something a lot of the more famous writers get away with, and while it’s fun to know what everyone in the story is thinking, it’s not wise to play God as a writer.  You need to look at it from the reader’s perspective.  If this were real life, would they be able to know what everyone’s motives are all the time?  Of course not.  Besides being a bit annoying to jump from so and so’s thoughts to someone else’s without any breaks, it is also incredibly confusing.  I have found myself many a time having to go back a few pages because I don’t know whose head I’m in.  If you must tell the story from different points of view, use two line spaces between the paragraphs of each character and try very hard not to jump back and forth.  A rule of thumb I try to follow is that there should really be no more than two points of view in any chapter.  I’ve been told that one per chapter is best, but it can be very restricting in romance to write like that.  If there are more than two I have to rethink whose point of view is the most important.  I actually rewrote an entire scene in The Heart’s Discovery based on this principle and discovered that the scene was in fact stronger because it was in Gabriel’s perspective and no one else’s.  It also can be lazy writing to just let your readers know what everyone is thinking all the time.  You aren’t forced to show the emotions, but simply tell the reader so and so feels this way or that way.

Dawn Ross:  This is not the end of the interview. Come back again tomorrow. In the meantime, check out Amy McGuire’s books at:

Amazon Paperback:

Amazon Kindle:


Amy McGuire