Sunday, April 29, 2012

Photos of a trip to an African Village!

 I lived in Guinea, West Africa, for two years with my husband, who worked for a mining company in the village of Kamsar. The ex-patriot ladies (maybe 35 or so) went every year to this small village to buy pots to use as planters for flowers, etc. And in my case, to bring back home with me to Canada. Every year as I pull them from the shed, it reminds me of this incredible time.

Yesterday as I was cleaning them in preparation for re-potting, I decided I wanted to share some of these photos with you of the day’s fun. As you can see by the clothes that the villagers are wearing, they consider it a festivity to have visitors to their small home and they make it into a celebration of sorts.

The favourite pastime of the day was having me take pictures of them (with my new digital camera) and then they would rush over to me and look at the photo in the back lens. They thought this magical and couldn’t understand how it worked (not surprising, since neither can I??) After the event, as promised, I made up a bunch of copies and sent them back to the village so they could each have a memento of the day with the Fotays (white ladies).

 I love children and these are so special! 

The young teen boys trying to look "cool!" Typical, eh?

Dinner! Smelled great! Looked yucky!

Mom's are alike everywhere in the world. Except this one was willing for me to adopt her baby and take her back to my home with me so she would have a better life! I was SO shocked and SO tempted.

Young girls with their mama's keeping watch.

Working on one of the pots.

She's either the chief's wife or a very popular woman of the village...ahem!
I never did get that straight.

What we came to buy. The famous pots cooling after being baked.

It’s an experience I’ll never forget and every spring I’m reminded by my beautiful pots.

Coming Soon!  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Meet Drea...A brilliant book designer! (Part three)


This is the last day with my guest Drea. Today she will explain what she would need to know in order to work with you. I've enjoyed having her visit and now realize just how much effort an artist puts into her work.


If you would like to discuss having me work for you on a book cover or any art project these are the steps to follow:


1.     Send a description of your project needs to

Please include the following very important factors for me to be able to quote your project:

-the largest size it will ever be printed at (bitmap images can't be enlarged w/out quality loss)

-whether it's black and white or color (or black and white with how many colors?)

-a description of your vision (for example, “I want it to be a red T-rex dinosaur sitting in a tree overlooking the ocean with a fluffy blue cloud on his tail and a little man playing flute standing on the cloud with little yellow music notes coming out that go around the title”) please be as descriptive as possible, vague descriptions (for example: “I don't know what I want but I'm pretty picky, use your imagination”) will be a cause for much higher price rates.

-if you want something clean and simple or complicated and full of detail or something in between.

-Your book Title, Genre and a basic description of what it's about.

-What fonts do you like. (try to name at least 3 or if there is a specific font you want please let me know so I can check the usage rights)

-your project deadline or approximation of and when would you like to start (please be reasonable, sometimes I have several jobs in the works and I want to make sure I have enough time to make them all look incredible).

-an idea of your budget (if you have an offer please state)

-any questions or additional information (Style, composition...etc.)

2.     Within the next few days I will evaluate your description and send you a free quote with some feedback for your project as well as what date I will be able to start your project and direct you to your payment options for us to proceed (Check, Money Order, Western Union, You can even use a credit card thru my Paypal commissions button).

I will need one the procedural one half money down in order to start the project. Other than price negotiations (for example how much will it cost if it is 2 people instead of 5 in the scene?) My consultancy rate is $50 per hour 2 hrs minimum so unless this rate is factored in I will not begin drawing or answer further design questions until the money is received (all checks cleared...etc). If you would like to hire me for an hourly rate to illustrate and develop concepts this can also be negotiated (name your price, we'll talk, it's often much cheaper to do this than to make huge changes in direction further a long the way)

3.     Once I receive the payment I draw some basic sketches of different compositions of your visions from your description. The amount of these sketch I will provide depends on the clarity of or original vision. If you are very clear in your initial project description about the composition you want this really makes this step shorter, If you are unclear it's not a problem you will already have been given and accepted the price quote.

4.     I will email you the drawings and at this point ask you to give me as much feed back as you possibly can. Which composition do you like? Is there anything we should add or take out?

Anything that comes to mind that you wish to see please fill me in at this point.

(please consider if you have paid for little amount of elements and suddenly want to add many more elements that will obviously take many more days to complete I will send you an extra flat fee in order to proceed) Once I receive your feedback depending on your feedback if needed I might send you one more thumbnail before moving to the next step.

5.     Now I will make a draft drawing at the size and with the text (title, author...) placement and fonts we want and send it to you. This drawing is the sketch we will use as the base for the final and is where we can work out all the smaller details and make any final changes. I will send one more draft based on those feedbacks. If the assignment is in color I will then do a quick color version of the draft and send it to you so that we can decide on those, if necessary I will send one more color draft based on the feedback. After this point any further changes to the composition, adding and taking out elements etc. will cost $25 per hour (half the current market rate) added to the total of what's due. Once the drafts are approved by you we can move to your final piece.

The final will begin and is often a lengthy in depth process where I end up observing every pixel in the document to ensure it looks the best quality you can get. I know you will be excited to see how it's coming along so I will be sending you previews as we go a long and if there you see some minor changes you think would really achieve your vision they can be taken care of at no further cost. (Major changes at this point will cost an additional $25 per hour and often will take long to do, highly not recommended). Once you approve the final preview you will be directed toward final payment. Once final payment is received I will send you the full resolution image in the file format of your choice (if you don't know it's a good idea to check your printer/publisher for what is preferred and let me know).

Thank you very much to all the readers and writers out there, am very excited to be back in touch with Mimi Barbour and collaborate the skills we have developed independently over the years. Wishing you all many wonderful inspirations as well as productive energies and prosperity for your works. 2012 has so far been a great exciting year so far for my art career, am looking forward to having you as a part of it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Meet Drea...a brilliant book designer! (Part two)

Once again I have the pleasure to introduce you to a lovely, brilliant artist who has agreed to give us some insight into how she comes up with the incredible artwork that I'll be showing on this site.
If you didn't see this page yesterday, then this will be the first time you've met Drea. Trust me, you'll want to go back to yesterday also and meet her on "Day One" of her visit.

Tired of seeing your generic book covers with procedural formula design work that cost a fortune?
Now is your chance to get something at a reasonable market rate that not only blatantly stands out from the crowd and is valued as a collectable piece of art which you will own the rights to.

Steps taken to design “The Becoming” -

Draft #1

Draft #2

Draft #3

Draft #4

Draft #5

Draft #6

Draft #7

TIPS to ensure your book cover is what you envisioned and you feel totally satisfied with the result:
Think about how the content of your book looks like in your head, I used to write a lot myself (before completely emerging myself in visual arts) and found myself seeing a lot of images popping up in my head almost like a movie of some kind. I'm sure many of you can relate to this, and these are the visions which would inspire me to write or draw. You might want to start brainstorming a cover and hire an artist as you are still writing the book that way you don't get frustrated waiting for the illustrations to be done in order to publish your already written book.
Research different styles of art work that you think match these visions you see while you wrote your book. Send those as reference to the artist (either attached files or links) so they know exactly what you are talking about.
Research at all kinds of different fonts not just the ones that everyone else uses. As long as the title is legible to someone who hasn't ever heard about the book or know the title, it will definitely pass even if it's fancy (I will definitely let you know if strangers can't read the font before starting the final).
Take your mind out of the box of “book cover” you may be limiting yourself and your success.
Visual art is as free as your writing is, it's all art and anything can be possible, there is no actual limits just techniques and influences.

Before giving feed back after receiving the first sketches you may want to ask several other people what they think about the design. Ask people you know who have different tastes as well as people in your target market what they think.
They will bring you some new insights on what might help spruce it up, gain interest or make a decision on what composition to choose.
Never know, you might even get some more interested buyers that way too :)
Be honest. If it's taking time for you, or you are having trouble to decide on some changes let the artist know, it's ok to ask questions of designer's professional opinions especially once you've put money down.
If you feel the idea you came up with is really complex and your budget isn't very big you might want to come up with a more simplified version of your idea or if you have time to save money to get all your want it's perfectly OK to get a quote and then let the artist know a later date that you want to start that way you have time to save up.
What it really all comes down to is good planning and good communications.
Your book took you a while to write and it deserves the same for your cover.

Angel Spirit


***Tomorrow I will have the last interview with Drea and show you some more of her amazing works of art.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meet Drea...a brilliant book designer! (Part One)

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to a lovely, brilliant artist called Drea, who has agreed to give us some insight into how she comes up with the incredible artwork that I'll be showing on this site. Please be sure and return tomorrow for Part Two.

Andrea Fuenzalida (Drea) is an international, multi cultural artist. Born in Perth Australia to wonderful Chilean family, lived on Groote Eyelandt aboriginal lands in Northern Territory of Australia, Port Hardy B.C Canada, Santiago Chile and now resides in the multi cultural community of San Francisco California USA.

Drea has been consciously putting her effort into art all her life and heavily influenced by both tribal and modern culture. With a BFA in Computer Animation she has a multitude of both digital and traditional skills under her belt. After graduation, she chose a path to conceptually develop her fine art into her own distinct styles and extremely powerful, marketable visual ideas. She has also been freelancing her various skills (mostly to independent businesses) in computer graphics and traditional art, to everything from logos, T-shirts, Posters, CD covers, brochures, web graphics... Giant puppets for theatre and even a 5 x 5 ft mosaic which has withstood a 9.0 earthquake.

Since March 2011 she has been self employed full-time with her own art creation sales as well as custom illustration mostly for private commissions.
Now 2012, she has completed her first book cover illustration for her good friend Janice McLean's yet to be released, “The Becoming” and has decided (thanks to Mimi Barbour) to open her schedule for other authors in different genres to commission her to do original illustrations and designs for your book covers and interior illustrations.

Tired of seeing your generic book covers with procedural formula design work that cost a fortune?
Now is your chance to get something at a reasonable market rate that not only blatantly stands out from the crowd and is valued as a collectable piece of art which you will own the rights to.

Drea would also like to use to opportunity to explain how her custom illustration commission process works and it's good information to know as general advice for hiring and have a good working relationship with professional illustrators and graphic designers:

In researching book cover designs, I noticed lately a lot of book covers in the market are currently taking advantage of photo editing and digital collaging for their cover designs. Being that I have used photoshop every day, sometimes for several hours, since 1999 and have excellent photo editing and manipulation skills and on the conditions that you provide all the photographs at a high quality resolution for printing, I can definitely do this technique for you.
(Low quality photographs cause pixilation to occur all over the image and looks awful (unless for some very good reason such as the story line we want the ugly looking pixels there. From a professional view point I only recommend this if you are willing to pay for all the photographers, models and locations rights fees - or pay for the photos, because I must warn you that you might face a lawsuit in the future and nobody wants that.

Unless you insist and have a proposition we both agree on I really don't legally really need to sign a contract with you. The conditions are very simple, if the work is not fully paid for the image belongs to me, if it is fully paid for it belongs to the client and this will also be explained with your price quote. That said I highly appreciate good client's business, have a high level of integrity and (as I'm sure you all relate) take a lot of care and pride in the work I do. If I use it to promote myself or in my portfolio the rights to the author/client will be fully credited. Be aware, many people in my on-and-offline social networks world wide have a lot of increasing interest in everything I do so if other people want copies of the art unless we come up with another agreement I will direct them to your shop links to buy copies of your book and boost your sales :) I embrace the community spirit and my dreams is to see all us independent artists and businesses in the world rise up and be successful together.

***For the next few days I will have excerpts from Andrea about her work . And drawings that will show us the actual steps she took to make the wonderful cover above. So please check back tomorrow.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I Love the Victorian Era by Lilly Gayle!


I'm so lucky to welcome a wonderful writer, Lilly Gayle, to visit my blog and share with us some of her insights into the very interesting Victorian Era!
When I think of my Grandma who would have been born in the early 1900's and the stories she told me about their life in those days, I have to admit that I'm glad that my time is here and now. I couldn't imagine living without all the amenities we are surrounded by today....
....I love my computer!!


Most historical romances are set in Regency England or they are Westerns, Civil War novels, or Medieval romances.  I love all of these genres but I also love the Victorian Era. 
  The Victorian Era encompasses the time of Queen Victoria’s reign from June 1837 until her death in January 1901.  It was a time of peace, prosperity, and refined sensibilities. During those years, Americans living in larger cities, New England, and the Deep South, followed the fashion, fads, and lifestyles popular in British cultural and so this time frame is also called the Victorian Era in America.
It was a time of time of romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and the arts. It was also a time of moral values and sexual restraint—a time when women began to question and later protest their roles as nothing more than mothers, wives, and housekeepers. It was an era of reform and enlightenment. It was also an era of economic, colonial, and industrial expansion.  It was an era of liberal views shifting in the direction of political and industrial reform. And a time when women protested for the right to vote.  It was a great era in which to set a historical manuscript.

Entertainment was quite diverse during the Victorian era. Besides the theater, balls and soirees, freak show exhibits became popular during this time. These “shows” boasted a variety of “freaks” from famous conjoined twins Eng an Chang to Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man
Classic literature was popular but so were Dime and Gothic novels.
Dime novels typically idealized law enforcement, outlaws, or both. Gothic novels were a genre of literature that combined horror and romance. Since women were known to write and publish Gothic novels using male pseudonyms, it has become a popular theme in many romance novels set in both the Regency and Victorian Eras.
 Tuberculosis –then called consumption—was the main cause of death in the latter 19th century. Because of this dreaded disease, sanatoriums were created where sufferers were often sent to recuperate or die. Most died. Before Luis Pasteur suggested germs as the cause of disease and microscopes proved him right, most people believed bad odors--called miasmas--caused sickness.
Both London and New York smelled horribly in the early years of the Victorian Era as sewage was dumped directly into the streets. Luckily, the flushing toilet and advent of modern sewers came about during the Victorian Era.
The Victorian era was a time of discovery, when germs and cleanliness were recognized as contributing factors in survival rates after surgery. Other than alcohol and opiates such as laudanum, painkillers had not been invented. Chloroform was the only known anesthesia, which didn’t come into effect until the middle of the 19th century. It often caused paralysis or death, so many surgeries were carried out with no anesthesia at all. Operations were painful procedures that more closely resembled torture.
The Victorian Era was also a time of serial killers and advancements in detective work.  In 1882, fingerprinting for identification was first used in New Mexico. In 1883, author Samuel Clemmons aka Mark Twain used fingerprinting in his book Life on the Mississippi to identify the killer. In a later book, Puddin’ Head Wilson, there’s an entire courtroom scene using fingerprint identification.
In London, Jack the Ripper gained notoriety during the Victorian Era. In America, Lizzy Borden grabbed headlines. So did a lesser known sadistic killer, the Chicago Butcher—Adolph Luetert.

In 1897,  Luetgert, Chicago’s main sausage manufacturer, was known for his dalliances with other women. The rich entrepreneur had dozens of mistress, but when his wife protested his infidelities, Luetgert stabbed her, boiled her, and put her remains through the sausage grinder. Coincidentally, the electric chair was also introduced during this time in history.

As photography became more common place, so did a macabre interest in photographing the dead. For a vast number of “Victorians” death photos were the only time a loved one was photographed.

Oddly enough, my mother has a death photo of an ancestor, Herbert Newton, in her collection of family photographs. She shared it with me and now, I’m sharing it here

Creepy. Huh?

Swimming became popular during this time period and the bathing suit became a noted fashion. Although, Victorian swimwear was quite modest and those daring enough to swim in the ocean did so by hanging on to a rope.

Throughout most of the civilized world, this was a time of industrialism and creativity—a time of inventions such as: the automobile, telephone, radio, toilet, camera, stamp, train, vacuum cleaner, and sewing machine.  Steam was used to power factory machinery, ships and trains. And it has since inspired a whole new genre of fiction, dubbed: Steam Punk.

Although I have yet to pen a Steam Punk novel, I have two historical romances set in the Victorian Era.

Here are the Blurbs and buy links for both:

Wholesale Husband- A June 2011 Release from The Wild Rose Press~
She needs his name. He needs her money. But can a rich New York socialite and a poor Irish immigrant find true love in the gilded age?

Betrayed by her fiancĂ© and heart sick over her father’s death, Clarissa Burdick is further devastated when she learns she can’t inherit her father’s company—the company she loves—until she’s twenty-five or married. And Clarissa is neither. So she sets out to find a husband strong enough to protect her from her uncle’s thugs, too uneducated to run the company himself, and poor enough to marry a woman in name only.  But Irish immigrant Devin Flannery is smarter than he seems and more educated than Clarissa expects.  Her Wholesale Husband soon proves a greater risk to her heart than her company.
Wholesale Husband is available from The Wild Rose Press and Amazon


Slightly Tarnished blurb:

Victorian romance laced with danger.

When a brooding English earl with a SLIGHTLY TARNISHED reputation marries his dead wife’s American cousin to save her from her uncle’s vengeful schemes, the sea captain’s daughter with a taste for adventure sparks desires he thought long dead.

Nicole Keller has always been headstrong and independent, but after a failed business venture and a sinking ship take her father, her home, and her childhood sweetheart, Nikki must support herself and her mother. But moving to England and marrying Chadwick Masters, Earl of Gilchrest isn’t what she has in mind. And falling in love with the mysterious earl could endanger both their lives.

Slightly Tarnished available from: : Amazon and The Wild Rose Press

So, now you know why I love the Victorian Era. What’s your favorite romance genre?
The Shower of Books Giveaway Hop

For this Shower of Books Giveaway I will be happy to present the lucky winner with a free e-book of His Devious Angel - my newest release on the Angels with Attitude Series. All you need to do is leave a comment with your e-mail address. Also, Lilly has graciously agreed to presenting two lucky commenters with a copy of each of her books.

I'll be adding your names to my newsletter list, so I hope you won't mind getting a periodic letter from me telling of new releases and special news! 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Learn about Google+


Today I want to welcome Shelly Bell, a friend from my group on Triberr, who has graciously agreed to share the results of a workshop she took on Google +. Rather than me taking the lessons, (cause I'm a little lazy...ahem!) I've coerced her into giving us the low down....pretty darn clever if I do say so myself!


10.   You Don’t Want to Get Left in the Dust. First, the kids joined MySpace. Then Facebook. Then Twitter. Do you notice the adults are always one step behind? By the time we catch up with the newest social media site, it’s nearly obsolete. There always seems to be something bigger and better to come along. Don’t be the last one to join Google+. You don’t have to wait for an invitation. Join now and by the time it really catches on, you’ll have mastered all its capabilities. Additionally, it’s geared towards business, so you don’t have a bunch of pesky kids asking to be their friend.

9.     Circles.  Circles are like lists, a way of organizing your friends and those you follow. If you only want to send a post to other authors, create an author circle. When you write your post, you can choose who to send it to. It also includes a public circle which is important. That means anyone can read it. You want those people doing searches to find you and your books!

8.     No Reciprocity Required. Similar to Twitter, you can add someone to your circle or follow someone without requesting their friendship. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable following someone else. Remember, Google+ isn’t really about making friends. It’s about sharing information.

7.     Editing. Ever send a post or a tweet and realize you made a mistake? Google+ lets you go back and edit your mistake!

6.     Starting Conversations. You can share directly from Google+ search results, and contribute to a topical Google+ stream. For example, if you search for historical romance and then want to make a post about your book, you can share right from the search results.

5.     Hangouts. Forget Skype. You don’t need it. With Google Hangouts, meet up with others and have a face to face conversation. Plan a book discussion. Have a meeting. Throw a contest where winners get to meet you via Google+. The possibilities are nearly endless. I say nearly because your computer must have a microphone and video camera, and hangouts are currently limited to ten people per hangout. Also, you have to make sure you’re dressed and presentable. Still, it’s so much better than plain old chat rooms!

4.     Integration.  The site is integrated with other Google products including YouTube, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.  

3.     No Pesky Character Limits. While this isn’t a problem with Facebook, Twitter limits its users to 140 characters. I hate wasting time revising my tweet due to going over the limit. Google+ has no limit and you can still utilize…

2.     Hashtags. The # symbol you see before certain words, phrases or initials indicates it’s a hashtag. This is a way for your tweet or post to be organized with the social media database. Let’s say you write a Google post about your book, you’ll want to use hashtags for people to discover it. You want to give it a category, similar to how you’d use keywords on your blog for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For example, after my book A Year to Remember, I might do the following #romance, #chicklit, #contemporary, #ShellyBell, #fiction, #books. Those are just a few suggestions. Use them all in Google+. Unlike Twitter, you’ve got the room at the end of your post.  I like to visit and enter a few ideas to see how busy it is. Contemporary and Chicklit are used frequently, but romance, books and fiction are used every minute.

1.     Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Theoretically, use of Google+ increases your Google rank in Google’s search engine. Isn’t that what every writer wants? For more readers to find their books? 

I hope you’ll join and add me to your Circle! Find me on Google+ at I look forwarded to meeting up with you in a hangout soon!

Shelly Bell writes women’s fiction and romance, and is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Savvy Authors, and the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC). Her debut book, A Year to Remember, was released digitally in January of 2012 and will be available as a paperback on July 20, 2012. In addition to her career as an author, she is a full-time corporate attorney in Detroit, Michigan, a mother of two elementary-aged children, and a book reviewer for SpunkyBean. She’s never bored.

When her younger brother marries on her twenty-ninth birthday, food addict Sara Friedman drunkenly vows to three hundred wedding guests to find and marry her soul mate within the year. After her humiliating toast becomes a YouTube sensation, she permits a national morning show to chronicle her search. With the help of best friend Missy, she plunges head first into the shallow end of the dating pool.

Her journey leads her to question the true meaning of soul mates, as she decides between fulfilling her vow to marry before her thirtieth birthday and following her heart’s desire. But before she can make the biggest decision of her life, Sara must begin to take her first steps towards recovery from her addiction to food.