Twinepathy (Part 9): Lava Java Coffee Shop

Hullo, everyone! Excited for the next part? It’s a nice long one, too! Today we get some answers, and we get to know Blaze and Data better. Yay! Like the new banner? If you missed the cover reveal, you can check it out here, and if you’re new, you can find the first part here. Enjoy!

The Lava Java coffee shop is always busy, even when it seems like no one should be there. Today is no exception. Data leads us to a corner booth that’s mostly secluded. We all slide in, but she heads over to the counter and orders. Minutes later, our coffee comes out, fresh. She hands Brooklyn and me our favorites, and she gives Maddie an ice water. How in the world does she know that Brooklyn only drinks fat-free lattes, and I love peppermint hot chocolate? She hands Blaze something that just looks like a ton of caffeine and sugar, and she sits down next to him, in a spot where she can see everything that’s going on in the coffee shop.

“We definitely owe you an explanation,” Data begins, stirring her iced mocha. “You see, I’m the head of a top-secret superhero organization. The details are complicated, but we’ll get to that later. My power is complicated, too, but to put it simply, I’m a mind reader that works through physical contact.”

Blaze chokes on his drink and looks at us. “Trust me, it’s way more complicated than that, and way bigger.”

Data gives him a look, and he backs off. “I brushed against you, Albany, two days ago, when I was on a jog. Because of your connection to your sister, I was able to read both of you. I couldn’t turn around and talk to you then, but—”

“Are you saying you know everything about us?” I interrupt, abandoning my peppermint goodness.

She nods. “Pretty much.” Brooklyn and I exchange glances. “Everything from before I touched you, that is, not since,” she amends, glancing at Maddie. “Anyway, part of my job is to catalogue superheroes and give them a way to contact us in case of emergency. That’s what the volleyball with the button was for. I knew about Brooklyn’s little volleyball and decided this would be a good hidden contact device. I sent someone to give it to you.” She takes a sip of her iced mocha.

“Who?” Blaze asks. “Who made this royal mess?”

Data gives him a fierce glare. “That is confidential information.”

“Why?” Blaze taps his fingers on the table. “Because you know that I’ll harp on them when I get back?”

“No. You don’t even know this person,” Data says, giving him an angry look before turning back to us. “Obviously, something went wrong, and they simply left it on your porch with no explanation.”

I frown. “So you’re trying to recruit us to work for your top-secret superhero thingy?”

She smiles. “Pretty much.”

“Then we’ll need more details,” Brooklyn hints. Good for her, actually speaking up.

“And since you know our real names, I think it’s only fair that you tell us your real name,” I put in.

Data focuses on me, and I squirm. Usually I can handle a stare, but her stare… she already knows so much about me. I feel like that earthworm in biology class. A simple, easy dissection. “My name’s Jenna,” she says, leaning back. “Everyone calls me Jen now.”

That seems to fit her, somehow. But was that a touch of sadness in her voice when she said “now”?

She sips her coffee. “The organization is called IDIA, the International Defense and Intelligence Agency. To outside observers, we seem to be just like the CIA or the FBI, but on the inside, we’re a superhero recruiting and freelancing operation.”

“Freelancing?” I ask.

Jen nods. “When someone – say the FBI – has a case or a situation they can’t handle, they’ll send someone to me. I look at the situation objectively, unlike them, and then decide what kind of powers or abilities would be most useful in the situation. Then I put everyone in contact with whoever – using our superheroes’ code names, like Data or Blaze, to protect their true identity. It’s very efficient and safe. We also provide support, counseling, and protection, even for people who aren’t on working status.” She pauses. “I also help put together superhero groups on occasion, too, but that doesn’t happen very often.”

I exchange glances with Brooklyn. The two of us have been on our own for a long time, not trusting anyone with our secret. For us, it’s been easy to keep it under wraps and pretend it’s normal. Some others might not have it so easy. And this… this could help us.

“What do you mean by people who aren’t on working status?” Brooklyn asks cautiously.

Jen leans forward. “We allow members to choose whether they want to go on missions. Some empowered people want to live quiet, normal lives, without the chaos of missions or world-saving fiascos. So they go in ‘dormant’ status – they have code names and contact devices, in case of trouble, but they don’t go on missions. We could always start you two off on that level if you’d like?”

Again, Brooklyn and I exchange glances. Yes, I say.

Brooklyn pauses, her brain whirring. “Yes,” she says quietly. “We’ll do it.”

Whoa, what are the twins getting themselves into??? What do you think of Jen? Enjoying this? Comment below!

Next part –>

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Writing About Writing: Cover Design – Part Two

Hi, everyone! This is my official post for the cover design for Paralyzed Dreams. If you missed my last post with cover design tips, go check it out! This post will give you a sort-of template for designing a cover, using the cover for Paralyzed Dreams as an example. I used Photoshop for my cover, so some parts may be different for you. Note: I am not an expert… and this might not work for every book. This is just a basic outline.

1: Find a picture. If you don’t know what picture you’re going to use, make a list of important items in your story. See Cover Design – Part One for more details on this. For Paralyzed Dreams, the main elements were volleyball, the wheelchair, and Pam. After a lot of searching, I decided on the wheelchair and found this picture:

wheelchair5

Look familiar? 😀

2: Next, find out what size your cover needs to be. Amazon KDP recommends that your cover be about 1000 pixels by 1600 pixels. If you’re going to put your cover on other sites, check to see what size they recommend. You may have to make several different covers, and you’ll have to make a separate cover for print books as well.

3: After you’ve figured out what size your cover needs to be, open a file in your cover-making program that is that size. This should be fairly self-explanatory.

4: Extra tip: Don’t mess with your background layer; leave it as is. This applies to all projects. Now that you’ve got your file, place the photo onto it. Move it around until you like how it looks. You can always move it some more later. (If you’re using more than one picture, this is where you would combine them. Maybe I’ll post on that sometime.) After this step, mine looked like this:

paralyzeddreamskindlestep4

5: Add effects so your cover doesn’t look just like a plain old picture. I added a black gradient to the top so my white text would stand out and some swirls just for a nice touch. 😉

Gradient

Gradient

Swirls

Swirls

6: Add your text. To make your cover look more professional, try using different fonts within the title if it’s two or more words. Also, change the size around. Always try to use at least two fonts. I used three: Print Clearly for “paralyzed”, Alex Brush for “Dreams”, and Portmanteau for my name. Try to use a font for your name that you can use on all of your books to create an author brand. That way, everyone can recognize your books and name.

The Final Product:

The Final Product!

I’ll probably do more posts on cover design at some point. There’s so much to cover! (Pun not originally intended…) What do you think of the cover? Like this post? Anything you want to know more about? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Writing About Writing: Cover Design – Part One

Hi, everyone!

So after my big news post on Monday, I’ve had several people mention that they’d like to hear more about the self-publishing process. I’ve noticed that there’s a scarcity of blog posts out there about self-publishing… the details, at least. One of the things I’ve recently been looking for – and haven’t found – are posts on creating professional-looking covers. And since that’s my favorite part, that’s where I’ve decided to start. 😉 This first post will focus on general tips, and the next one will provide a sort of process to help you design a professional cover.

First, decide whether you should design your cover yourself or hire a professional cover designer. There are actually some fairly inexpensive cover designers out there, and there are also places where you can buy a pre-made book cover. If you don’t have a lot of time and patience, this might be a better idea. Also, if you don’t have access to a photo manipulation program (Photoshop is what I use), getting a cover designer might be the better choice. (I believe there are also online programs you can use, but I can’t be sure). There are tutorials out there for creating covers in Word, but all the ones I’ve tried… *cough* I’m sticking with Photoshop. Just keep in mind that there are alternatives to making your own cover.

Your cover is the first thing readers will see, whether it’s in print format or ebook. Your cover needs to pique readers’ interest, while still being important to your story. If you’re writing a historical romance, your cover shouldn’t look like it’s for a zombie book or a murder mystery. That’s why the pictures you choose are so important, along with the fonts.

Before I go any further, I need to point out some things about copyrights. *sigh* If you use pictures from Google images, then there’s a high chance that you’ll be infringing on someone’s copyright. You have to make sure that you have the rights to both images and fonts. You have several choices. You can either buy your own images (and fonts) from websites that sell royalty free images (like iStock and Shutterstock). Make sure that you’re buying a commercial license for the picture, not just a non-commercial license. You can also use the stock fonts on your computer and pictures you take yourself. The fonts that come on your computer are usually unprofessional and easily recognizable… don’t use Papyrus, please. Honestly, the most over used font. 😀 If you’re a good photographer, or if you know a good photographer, doing your own photo shoot is the best idea. Finally, there’s a huge selection of free for commercial use fonts and images. You may not be able to find exactly what you’re looking for, but there are plenty of options. Always, always, always check the license on fonts and images before using them. If the creator/photographer does not specifically say that you can use it for commercial use, ask them. It’s always best to be safe. And let people know when you use their fonts/images. If they’re offering them for free, the least you can do is let them see what you’re using their creations for. Best advice? Unless stated otherwise, always assume that content is copyrighted.

If you made it through that paragraph, you deserve a reward. 😉 So here are some of the sites I use for photo and font finding. Pixabay is great. When you click on an image, the profile tells you whether it can be used for commercial use and if you need to give credit to the photographer. There’s also Unsplash. If you subscribe, they’ll send you ten pictures every ten days that are free for commercial use. They also have a new search feature, too.

For fonts, I use dafont.com and Font Squirrel. Both sites have fonts that are for non-commercial use only and commercial-use. Font Squirrel has a page for each font where you can see the license. On dafont.com, things are a little less clear cut. Just make sure to check with the creator, and read all read-me documents included with the font.

Now that we’ve got all of that stuff out of the way, here’s the best way to figure out what picture to put on your cover. First, make a list of all items and people that are important in your story… as in “cover worthy” important. Don’t choose something or someone that is important for a plot twist. You want your reader to be drawn in by the cover, but you really don’t want to give too much away. That’s why the cover is one of the most important aspects of self-publishing. Of any book, for that matter.

One last bit of advice before I end this post. Study other covers in your genre. You want yours to stand out, but you don’t want it to be too drastically different. Ashlee Willis has an awesome cover for her book The Word Changers.

And those are my tips for helping you design your covers. Hope you don’t mind how long this post was! 😀 Got a cover you’ve made that you would like opinions on? Post the link in the comments below! I can guarantee that at least one person will check it out. *cough*me*cough* I’d love to see them!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and that it’ll help you with designing your cover. Questions? Comments? Anything you want to see in future posts about self-publishing? Comment below!

Thanks to all of you, Paralyzed Dreams has gotten up to #37 in its category! Read it? I’d love to hear what you think! Haven’t? Go ahead! 😀 Stay tuned for updates on the upcoming Paralyzed Dreams virtual book tour!

Book Review: Our Intrepid Heroine by Ness Kingsley

I believe this is the first fantasy book I’ve read since Ashlee Willis’s The Word Changers… which, yes, I will be reviewing soon. I need to reread it first, though, since it’s been so long, and I might as well review this book while it’s fresh in my memory. 🙂

ourintrepidheroinecover

 This book was awesome. The prologue was wonderful… I’m not the type who skips over prologues, and I certainly would not skip over this one. I really liked Ness’s writing style.

When I began to read the first chapter, I was a little annoyed because the narrator kept interrupting the story, which made it take a while for the story to get started. But I really got to like the narrator and didn’t mind so much. She – I assume it’s a she – added some awesome irony and just helped add some extra zing to the story. Zing. What a fun word. Just like the story. 😀

Back on track. Our Intrepid Heroine (which is how I must refer to her) was a really good character. All of the characters were nice. “The Female” was appropriately annoying, I must say. 😉 But somehow I still liked her a little.

This plot… *sigh* Just the idea behind it was enough to pull me in. A girl going to kill a dragon… which she’s never done before. I could tell the story was going to be funny just by reading the summary. “And a frog” is now going to be my go-to funny line when listing things off. 😉 I was definitely not disappointed. Ness Kingsley has a wonderful sense of humor. The situations, the characters, the narrator, and Our Intrepid Heroine’s dragon-killing instruction book… all just wonderfully crafted. (And I’ve found myself referring to her book as the How To Kill Your Dragon book since I can’t remember the title. 😛 )

I can’t wait for the sequel to this book to come out! Go check out Ness’s blog, and go get Our Intrepid Heroine! You’ll love it, and it’s totally worth it! 🙂