Posts Tagged: Nashville

Cover Art

Who knew the process of publishing a book was so involved?  When I started this dream, I thought, “Hmmm, I’ll just write and put it out there.” Wow, was that ever wrong! There’s writing, revising, editing, sending it to beta readers and an editor…and that’s just the book. Then there’s the website, social media, and book covers. Whew, it can be exhausting.

Now, there are several sites out there that offer pre-made book covers, and some of them are pretty good. But I happened to have a friend who is a really talented photographer and graphic artist. I can describe to him exactly what I have in mind and he makes it 100% better than I could have imagined. And then there are the times he just creates a masterpiece from his own thoughts.

church

FtoK thumbnailFree to Kill in the Katie Freeman series was the first book I completed and published. It was also the first time I had to actually think of what to do for a cover. Michelle (my social media guru), Ryan and I sat down to begin brainstorming. I gave them a pretty in depth description of the book and what I had in mind. Ryan asked what the church I envisioned looked like, so I started searching online. I found a church in a small town in Kentucky that was PERFECT! But who had the time or money to go to Kentucky? So I started looking for similar architecture in Tennessee. I found the church on the cover of Free to Kill in downtown Nashville – and BONUS! it even had the red door!! The only problem was that it was on a weird street corner with traffic all around and electrical wires obscuring every view. But Ryan took his camera and somehow made the church look like it was in the rural setting from the story. It was the first time I realized what a master he was behind the lens.

From that time on, we have worked to build a theme between the books in a series. This was something I didn’t really think about in the beginning. Take a second to go look at the covers of your favorite book series. Do you see a similarity? That’s called Branding – and it’s vitally important. Who knew!?

With this information, Katie Freeman covers had a color scheme and a main attraction – that was always red. In Free to Kill, it was the door. In Free to Deceive, it was the fountain. In Free to Live, it was the front door of the house (Ryan actually had this cover designed before I published book 2, but it was so perfect for book 3, that we held off on using it). I can’t wait to see what it is in Free to Believe – book four (no release date yet, but shooting for June…).

The same theory applied to the Devil Mountain Shifters books that I released in October. They all had the same mountains in the background and the same physical look.

The Tip of the Spear series was a little trickier. I said from the beginning that I wanted the large spear on the cover with the main image in the center. Ryan still argues with me to change that, and one day I might let him win. But changing that now would mean redoing all the covers so that they are consistent. I think both he and I struggle more with the Tip covers than any other. He sends me beautiful first drafts that would be sufficient if I used them. But there’s just something that doesn’t hit right. He’s become a mind reader when I say “there’s just something not right about it.” One thing I’ve learned is to actually tell him when something doesn’t sit right. That’s a difficult thing to do for a person who hates to make waves. I’m one of those people who will never send food back in a restaurant, just because I don’t want to upset anyone. I’ve had to adjust that mentality for my books. After all, these are my babies. If I don’t speak up for them, who will?

blog pic

Goofing around during the photo shoot for the In The Wind cover.

Ryan Bukowski

Ryan Bukowski, my cover artist and photographer

 

Passion…or Happiness?

inspirationI ran across this post today: http://markmanson.net/passion and it made me stop and reflect a little on the journey I have taken to become a published author.

As my bio points out, I have spent 20+ years in the world of higher education administration and finance. Two years ago I had an “ah hah” moment and realized I wasn’t happy. I WASN’T HAPPY! Who just decides they aren’t happy with something they have thought they enjoyed for 20 years? It happens more often than you think.

I decided to do something about it. My first thought was, “What am I passionate about?” Exactly like Mark Manson pointed out, I started thinking really hard about what made me “happy.” All the while, I was drowning myself in books so I could escape how much I hated my job. I spent hours dreaming up stories about people I would encounter, or articles I would read that inspired a new daydream for me.

My only saving grace at work was the people I interacted with every day. They encouraged me, made me laugh, and listened when I needed to blow off steam. They were my lifesavers. And they were truly the only reason I made it two more years in that job.

One of the people I interacted with daily was Michelle Bukowski. She has become my inspiration and my sanity on this new journey to figure out where I’m going. As a talented artist, she pursues her passion because she loves it. Does she hope to make a living from it someday? Sure. But for now, she works a job and then goes home to do what she loves. She puts the effort into gallery showings and delving into the art community in Middle Tennessee. I remember the day I first thought, “Wow, I wish I had a marketable skill like she does.”

Then I slapped myself on the back of the head and told myself to get back to work. Six months later and I was still dredging through every day, being sucked deeper and deeper into the mire that my life had become.

Then one day, I was going through this seminar on some kind of self-help/financial success program. I listened to a lot of them due to my job and the relevance of student indebtedness. One of the points was “Make your money work for you.” And to sum it up, it talked about doing something that paid you back. The example – probably because we were in Music City – was to record an album and sell it. “It will pay you royalties,” the guy said. I could only think that any demo I recorded would be burned or used as a method of torture for prisoners of war. But the idea stuck.

Several weeks later, I read a series of popular Young Adult fiction. I was so angry at the end of it that I wanted to go back and erase it from my mind, but you can’t unread something. It was such a strong reaction that I rewrote the ending in my mind just to appease myself, to assuage my pain – kind of like I did when Fred Weasley was killed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows…to this day I insist that it was Percy who died. I mean, he had his moment of redemption, so he could die without too much heartache for those around, right?

I digress…

After I rewrote the ending in my head, a friend mentioned that there were several fan fiction rewrites online. So I googled them. Some were good. Some were okay. Some were downright horrible. But you know what? There were people out there who were passionate enough to attempt to right a terrible wrong.

The fan fiction sight took me to a page about self-publishing. I read an article about a woman who had launched an extremely successful career this way. She has become my idol… ☺ I thought, why not write these stories that are in my head?

The problem is not a lack of passion for something.
The problem is productivity.
The problem is perception.
The problem is acceptance.

I started by making a three-year goal. In year one, I wanted to write one book and publish it. I never imagined how much of a process this could be. Writing was just the tip of the iceberg. I had to find an editor, a cover artist, and figure out how to get it online to name a few. It was time consuming work! But I did it! I not only wrote one book that first year, I wrote FOUR! And I published my first book one month shy of the end of the first year. Whew! I could taste success.

Then I sold 45 copies in the first three months…not exactly enough to pay the bills, right?

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.
It’s priorities.

I started to wonder, is this really what I’m passionate about? My fictional characters screamed, “YES!” Now that I had given them a voice, they weren’t going to be silenced again. I stopped to reevaluate. And you know what? They were right. I love writing. I love coming home and relaxing by cuddling with my dogs and talking to my imaginary friends. They sometimes do terrible things (like murder people) and sometimes they do incredible things (like turn into bears). But I love every minute I get to spend with them. Sure the other stuff is a drag, having to format and upload and listen to harsh criticism from beta readers. But in the end, I have a book that makes me proud.

I meet so many people like him.
He doesn’t need to find his passion.
His passion already found him.
He’s just ignoring it.
He just refuses to believe it’s viable.
He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.

This may not pay my bills. I still have to get up and go to work, granted it is now at a different place than where I was. I still have responsibilities that require working a full-time job. But I have realized that what I was passionate about, what made me happy, was always a part of me. It just got buried under the pressure and expectations put upon me by myself and others. I let the “You can’t buy a BMW” mentality dictate my priorities. I was afraid to step out there. I was afraid of failure, or being laughed at.

What have I learned as I am nearing the end of my 3 year goal? Stop listening to the negative. If you love something, DO IT! I have found an amazing amount of support from places I least expected it. There are people out there who will enjoy my stories – just as there are those who won’t. I just have to be proud of the product I put out there.

So, you can expect to continue seeing my books appear. In December, I will have published 7 books this year! That is amazing to me. Have I loved every minute of it? No. But as Mark Manson said, that is unrealistic. You will never love 100% of what you do 100% of the time. But I love it enough to continue!

I accept bribes

I have struggled this week with self-motivation. I have always been a procrastinator – the one who waited until the night before a paper was due to write it… the one who waited until the final deadline to submit a project. Honestly, it drives my mom nuts! Which, of course, is why I originally liked to do it.  But there comes a time to break the habits formed in youth. Unfortunately, I am a creature of habit and I detest change. How do I manage to complete a book, you ask? Well, mostly through determination, bribery, external influences, and character persistence.

First, is my determination. I have always enjoyed writing. I have an overactive imagination and can easily get lost in a daydream for hours. Now, I make myself write down those daydreams. They become the stories that you will hopefully one day read.

Next is bribery. Sometimes, it’s a matter of ‘finish this chapter and you can have a brownie.’ Other days, like today, it’s ‘write 500 words and you can have a gummy bear.’ My bribes are not always food related. Sometimes it’s watching television, or going for a walk, or going out to dinner with friends. My goal today is 10,000 words. When I’m done, I get to have dinner and see The Martian at the movies (and let’s face it, Matt Damon is a reward all his own!). Great motivation, except that it’s taking the gummy bears to get me there.

External influences help as well. I can tell myself, “You have to have this book done by Oct 15, or else.” But that doesn’t always work. So I usually make a reservation with my editor to have the book to her (or him…) by a certain date. Of course, it needs to go through the beta readers first, so I try to leave a little room for that – sometimes that gets close. Having someone else waiting on me keeps me motivated to hit that deadline.

Finally, my characters tend to be persistent. Once I have dreamed a character to life, they aren’t happy being left to languish in whatever state I previously left them. They like their HEA and are downright demanding that I get them there as quick as possible. Sometimes, I have dreamed several characters at once and I have to take a little time to write down the basics of one while I develop the other into a story. But I know if I don’t write it down, the character will pester me until I go slowly insane…

That’s pretty much how my books get written. Of course, I am supposed to be writing a story now, instead I’m writing this blog… do these 500 words count toward a gummy bear? I think so!

My first book!

I’m pleased to share with you the first book in my Katie Freeman series, Free to Kill.

Description:
FBI Agent Katie Freeman’s life has been upended. After being reassigned from Louisiana to middle Tennessee, her new bosses suspect that her reassignment is due to an indiscretion with her previous partner. Now, she and her new partner, Michael Powell, are asked to assist on the bewildering case of a woman who was kidnapped, tortured and left for dead on her own front porch. Before they can make any headway, a second woman disappears. As the number of missing women rises, Katie and Michael must work to figure out how the women are being abducted and where they are being held. Will they be too late to save the latest woman?

Complicating matters even further is a cold case left behind by Michael’s former partner. Who murdered Henry Stephens twenty-six years ago? What happened to Henry’s wife? And why does one of the suspects act like he knows Katie?

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If you’ve read Free to Kill, please consider leaving a review.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.
Julie

In the Shadows – Tip of the Spear Book One

Check out the first book in my Tip of the Spear Series.

Jessica Ross is on the verge of achieving her dreams until one poor decision threatens to derail everything she has wTOS---3dorked so hard for. Now on the run from her ex-boyfriend, will she have to give up everything in order to survive?

Jason Powell has everything he ever wanted. After years in the military, he lives life on his own terms. Now a partner in a private investigation firm, his job allows him to travel to exotic places and he has his pick of women – what more could he ask for? Then he meets Jessica and his world is turned upside down.

Can Jason protect Jessica from her ex-boyfriend while also accepting his feelings for her? Can Jessica trust her growing feelings for Jason, or is she convinced that they exist because he is her savior? Will these two live to see a happily ever after, or will the danger hiding in the shadows take everything away?

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Thanks so much for reading! If you read In the Shadows, I’d love it if you would leave a review on the platform where you purchased my book.

Best,
Julie