Sunday, April 29, 2012

Catholic Family Fun By Sarah A. Reinhard

Icon by Amber Fabian,

Today, I'm pleased to host my friend, Sarah Reinhard, on her Catholic Family Fun book tour.  Sarah absolutely embraces every word in her title.  My favorite memory of her is from the Catholic Writers Conference Live/Catholic Marketing network Tradeshow.  She was running all around the trade show, having a complete squee-fest over meeting all the well known Catholic writers, speakers, and priests.  We're talking "screaming fangirl-please hold my baby so I can get a picture of you and him for posterity" excitement.  So if anyone is suited to write a book about making the Catholic faith fun for kids, it's definitely Sarah!

First, I asked her to write a little something about what she hopes her children will remember the most about growing up Catholic:

Jesus is there, every week, in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith (CCC 1324), but it's also been a real source of conversion for me personally.

I don't know how to explain it, but those years of sitting in Eucharistic Adoration for an hour a week, those years of attending Mass, those years of trying to find Jesus in my life...somehow, they are all summarized in that small host that is Body and Life.

God is love and he gave us his Son. It's so basic, so often said, so easy to forget and ignore.

I want my kids to grow up certain of it, and I want them to find their strength in Jesus, who is there for them, every single week, in the Eucharist.

They don't have to search high and low. They don't have to go on an adventure, embark on a journey, leave the comfort of their pew.

Jesus is there, every week, in the Eucharist.

And neither do I. It's an ongoing lesson for me as much as it is one that I want them to embrace.

Book Description

This inspirational guidebook offers activities with strategies and suggestions for fun family engagement—with one another and with faith— strengthening faith formation in young to grade-school age children.  Author Sarah Reinhard, busy mother of three, tested these activities in her own family. Taking into account the modern-day realities of parenting, she offers a reassuring, ‘you-can-do-it’ approach.  Modification of her ideas are encouraged to suit individual family interests, schedules, and budgets, so that each family can build a “domestic church” of their very own.
Activities Include
Silly Activities
Craft Projects
Meal Sharing
Outdoor Adventures
Places to Go
Saints to Celebrate
Ways to Serve
Ways to Pray

This is written to be a fast read, or an easy resource, ala 101 Things to Do on a Rainy Day, a book I loved as a child.  As I read through it, I was struck with how many of these things our family did spontaneously--and how many I'd thought about doing and never have because I wasn't sure where to start or how to do it easy.  The beauty of this is book is two-fold:  First, the activities are FUN.  how many times has your child has come with a "Family Fun" idea that is heavy on faith, but no one really thinks would be fun?  Second, Sarah has offered ways to mix in the faith, sometimes subtly; sometimes, with more focus.  She's put the RE in recess!

If you're a Catholic parent, especially with younger kids, this is a great book to have for rainy days or sunshine Sundays.

About Sarah:

Sarah Reinhard writes about marriage, motherhood, the Catholic faith, books, and life on a farm at her blog: She is also a frequent contributor to other blogs, podcasts, and websites such as: Catholic Mom, Faith & Family Live, Catholic Foodie, and Catholic Writers Guild. Sarah lives in central Ohio with her husband and their three children.

Purchase from Amazon:

Purchase from Publisher:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Novel's Journey: Neeta Lyffe 2 is Done!

Today, I sent Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco to my publisher at Damnation Books.  This book had some challenges, as you know if you've been reading, but as I read it for the final time (backward, no less), I found I really enjoyed it with the changes.  So, while I don't have a lot to say this post, I do want to share the lesson I learned about getting critiquers/beta readers:

1.  Get a wide range of your audience.  It was interesting that the women who read the story liked the romance element and saw Neeta as sensitive and strong, while the guys saw her as weak and whiny.  If I'd only had women crit this, I would not have seen the flaw that would have turned off a big part of my audience.

2.  If doing a series, get readers who have read the previous book, and some who have not.  This was vital for knowing not only that my characters stayed within expectations for those who knew them, but that I explained the world well enough that those who are picking up this book first can understand it well enough to enjoy the story.

3.  If the book isn't right, don't rush it.  Rework and send it out again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Inside Scoop from a Cover Artist, Lex Valentine

Today, I have a guest blog from the cover artist of Live and Let Fly--Lex Valentine.  Lex did a terrific cover and was very receptive to my feedback.  She was great to work with and I've gotten a lot of comments on the results.  She's going to give you the inside scoop on cover art from the artist's POV.

I’m Lex Valentine and I’m an author. I’m also a cover artist for MuseItUp, Pink Petal Books, Passion in Print and MLR Press as well as for authors who self-publish. Karina asked me to guest blog here today because I created the cover for her new release, Live and Let Fly. I thought it would be a good opportunity to show readers and authors alike what goes into the creation of a cover.

The creation of a cover starts with the information the author provides to the artist. The artist uses the information to either draw an image or find an image or images that fit. They create the cover based on their interpretation of the information. When the author looks at it, they let the artist know what works and what doesn’t work. The artist then goes back and makes changes to bring the cover more in line with what the author envisions.

Most publishers that allow author input (some houses do not allow input unless the cover really misrepresents the book) up to a point, one or two passes of changes and that’s all. The reason they can’t allow more is because it’s cost prohibitive (time is money!) and it can build ill will between artist and author and publisher. The fastest way for a publisher to see an author as a Diva who may not be worth their time in the future is for the author to keep asking for more and more changes to the cover art. And believe me, if an author is Diva-ish when it comes to their cover and their book doesn’t sell well, the publisher may pass on future manuscripts from that author. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen.

The best thing an author can do when it comes to cover art is to realize there are limitations to everything. First, there are limitations when it comes to communication. If the author doesn’t articulate their vision very well, the artist is more likely to return a mockup that doesn’t match that vision. Artists don’t have crystal balls! They can’t read author minds! You need to be very concise about your descriptions and you also need to articulate what you are willing to bend on.

Second, there are limitations based on the artist. Some artists can actually draw. Others use photo manipulation. Those that can draw rely totally on the descriptions provided by the author. Those that use photo manipulation are limited by the images that are available to use. The more wild and diverse the characters and setting the less likely a photo manipulation artist is to find images that will work for the cover.

Third, there are almost always limitations based on cost. If a photo manipulation artist finds only one image that correctly portrays a character, the author may insist on that image. If the publisher pays the cost of the images and the image is expensive they may say no. If the artist pays the cost of the image and it comes out of their commission, they may say no. There are a lot of images that are cost prohibitive out there. And for artists who receive their fee based on the sales of the book, paying out of their pocket for images means they are fronting the cost of that cover in the hope that they will recoup what they have spent. They are in a sense, paying the author for the right to do their cover…at least until the sales start rolling in. No sales means the artist has given away that cover for free and the money spent on it becomes a loss.

Fourth, there are limitations based on time. If the cover art is needed quickly because a release date is very close, there may be very little time to make changes to the first draft of a cover. Also, when the artist is paid a flat fee for a cover, the longer it takes to create a cover, the less money an artist makes on it. At some point continuing to make changes becomes cost prohibitive. If an artist’s flat fee is $100 based on $25 an hour, that’s 4 hours the artist has to find images, create the cover and make the changes. If the work goes beyond 4 hours, the artist is no longer making any money on that cover.

Luckily for me, Karina’s cover required only two passes of changes. She wanted a very James Bond looking cover which immediately brought the gun barrel image to mind. Finding the inside of a gun barrel at the stock agencies turned out to be a piece of cake. I then decided to use the Mobsters font because it turned some of the letters into guns. Some of you may remember the font as the one used on the Sopranos TV show.

Next, I needed a red dragon. Since I write dragonshifters myself I did have a few dragons in my light box and they led me to the dragon I eventually chose for Vern. Finding a human Vern turned out to be fairly easy too. The man with the glasses seemed very James Bond-ish while still giving the reader the ability to see him as Vern’s human form.

I had a feeling that finding a Grace would be trouble. And she was. I looked at a lot of nun photos before I found one that might work. Lucky for me, Karina liked the one I chose.

We had some tweaking to do in terms of colorizing but all in all, this wasn’t a difficult cover to make and Karina’s requests didn’t outdo or match the Diva authors I’ve worked with. It ended up being a fun cover I think readers will be drawn to. The James Bond ties are obvious as is the fact that the book is humorous.

As an author myself, I always strive to give authors a cover that fits their vision. Sometimes I can’t do that. When that happens, I try to at least give them something representative of the book, something beautiful that catches the reader’s eye and makes them want to know more about what’s inside. I know that when I, as an author, have no input on a cover and the cover isn’t pleasing to me, I find myself trying extra hard to sell the book to people. And I’ve sometimes found myself trying to justify the cover even though I don’t like it either. As an artist, it can be really uncomfortable to sit in the author chair and not be given any say over my cover. And believe me, I have been in that position several times.

So there you have it, thoughts from a cover artist on what it takes to create covers. If you’re interested in my work, my portfolio can be seen at Many thanks to Karina for having me today and I wish her many sales with Vern and Grace!

Lex Valentine
Winterheart Design

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My novel's journey: Multi-genre week

This was me last week.  I'm still working on plot cards for Gapman, and writing when I don't have plot ideas coming.  I also did another sweep of The Old Man and the Void because my SF crit group, Tharsis Tuus, has revived after a long hibernation.  I'm trying to get ahead in all my June blogs so that I can take vacation, as well.  Fabianspace, DragonEye, and Rocket Science for the Rest of Us will continue to have posts.

Mostly, however, I've been in the read-aloud edits for Neeta Lyffe Zombie Exterminator 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco.  This one has a strong romantic element because Neeta and Ted get together at last; unfortunately, they are both kind of dancing around the fact that they love each other, and Neeta is also suffering from insecurity from the trauma of chopping Bergie's head off in Zombie Death Extreme.  The result was, I inadvertently "committed chick lit."  The women understood where Neeta was coming from, but the men thought she was annoying or out of character.  I thought I'd fixed it in the last round of edits, but Rob let me know that I still had not gotten the chickness out the book.  Fortunately, he's the kind of guy who can say, "Here is where you're going wrong.  Try this..."  So guys, rest assured, you will not be reading chick lit, and you can thank Rob Fabian, Dough Davidson, Lee Mather, and Walt Staples for it.

In other news, it's my birthday, and I feel like giving you a present.  The first five people to go to my website, pick out a book and e-mail me using the comments section will get an electronic or print copy, their choice, depending on if I have them in my home stock.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Behind the Scenes with Editor Penny Ehrenkranz

Penny Ehrenkranz is a line editor for MuseItUp and a dear lady.  I thought for the book tour, it'd be fun to ask her about her experiences editing and especially about editing Live and Let Fly.  She's also an author in her own right, so check out her books!

1.  What is your job at MuseItUp?  What kind of editing do you do?

I am a line editor at MuseItUp.  As such, it’s my job to look for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.  I also try to help the authors weed out extra words like “that” which tend to creep into everyone’s manuscripts.  I will also keep a lookout for inconsistencies that might have slipped by the content error.  I will also offer a second opinion if the author and content editor might not agree on how something should be written.

2.  What do you like about it?

There are a couple of things I like about my job.  First, I am an avid reader.  What could be better than a job where I get paid to read all day long?  It’s an almost perfect job.  Second, I have always enjoyed the English language and all its nuances.  Even when I’m reading a book for pleasure, I’ll notice errors that an editor didn’t catch, even from some of the big houses.  It happens, but it also proves to me that line editing comes natural to me.  

3.  You were already a fan of Vern and Sister Grace.  How did that help or hinder you in your editing?

I am indeed a fan of Vern and Sister Grace.  I think it probably helped my editing, knowing the characters. I could better tell if something fit or seemed out of character.  It always helps in editing if the editor enjoys the story she is working on.  Vern and Grace are such delightful characters; I look forward to both reading and working on the stories to tighten them up for publication.

4.  What was the best part of editing Live and Let Fly?

I enjoy working on books where the author has a sense of humor.  That’s not to say I don’t like reading dark and mysterious books, but it’s a nice change.  Live and Let Fly didn’t disappoint me.  Karina’s writing style always gives me a chuckle as I’m reading.  Vern just cracks me up sometimes with what comes out of his mouth.

5.  What was the most challenging part?

That’s hard to answer.  Karina is cooperative and open to suggestions.  By the time it got to me, the manuscript was in pretty darn good shape. Chris, as content editor, might have had more of a challenge than I did.

6.  Tell us a little about your own works.
I have three very different romance stories publis
hed this past year by MuseItUp: Love Delivery, a contemporary romance, Lady in Waiting, an historical romance, and Mirror, Mirror, a time-travel romance.  Sam’s Dot Publishing released a collection of my short stories in January of 2011, A Past and A Future.  My children’s books are all under contract with 4RV Publishing and will be released the end of this year and through 2015: Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch are middle grade paranormal mysteries, and Boo’s Bad Day and Many Colored Coats are both picture books.  Here are links:

Love Delivery

Lady in Waiting

Mirror, Mirror

A Past and A Future

Ghost for Rent, coming 2012-2013
Ghost for Lunch, coming September, 2013
Many Colored Coats, coming October, 2014
Boo's Bad Day, coming June, 2015

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Novel's Journey: Editing Neeta 2

Yes!  Finally!  I have recovered from the conference, finished my workshops, sent the Catholic school calendar manuscripts (my annual assignment) and cut my to-do list to 77!  That means I could edit Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco!

I had a very interesting reaction from my critiquers concerning Neeta 2.  The ladies loved it, and the guys didn't, even after I fixed the romance.  Obviously, I didn't do enough; the guys still thought Neeta came off as weak and not just troubled.  The ladies who critiqued, however, seemed to get that.  It was a very interesting to see the dichotomy there.

However, I don't want this to be a chick book, so I've spent the past few days "buffing" Neeta up.  There's a new opening chapter where she shows her stuff against a zombie (and where we see a little about why she and Ted are good together.)  However, for the rest, I was able to change a few reactions, add a little thought process, and show a little more of Ted's good qualities. (Aside from being laid back and funny.)

Next, I mapped out all the scenes in order to make sure my pacing was good and that I had enough clues woven in ahead of time.  I may do this again in more detail, but for this time, I just concentrated on zombie appearances, documentary and clues to the climactic invasion.  As a result, I am moving a couple of scenes around and am adding another documentary entry by Gary Opkast. I tried to keep the clues subtle enough to keep folks wondering while clear enough that people would get it when the characters do.  I think I'll have to go back and add a couple of other clues, though I might drop them into conversation instead of another documentary.

Overall, though, I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed re-reading it, even after letting it sit a month and mulling over the manuscripts many problems.  I feel pretty confident that with some concentrated effort, I can have this polished in a week or two, maybe while starting on Gapman as well.  I'm not sure the multitasking will hold up, but I do know I need to get back on a schedule after a long break of obsessive project work.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Live and Let Fly: When a Dragon Turns Human

My latest book, Live and Let Fly, is a super-spy spoof starring my dragon detective, Vern.  I’ve written a lot of Vern’s cases over the years, but this time, Vern’s going to have to travel to places in the Mundane world working as an undercover agent.

There’s a problem being an undercover agent in our world, however.  Dragons just don’t blend in with the population.  So I had to turn Vern human.

Yes, that's Vern in the sunglasses.  He looks good and knows it, and knows it could be trouble, too.

Vern has been human once before, thanks to a demon’s curse, but it was a scary and confusing experience that he’d mostly forgotten.  (You can only imagine what it takes to make a dragon forget an experience.)  This time, however, holy magic transforms him for a good cause.  Nonetheless, it’s kind of a harrowing experience for him, especially when he discovers that he looks the same as when he was cursed—a rather gorgeous man with dark, Irish looks.  He panics and whines until an exasperated Sister Grace suggests they stuff him full of sweets until he gets fat and develops acne.

“Will that work?”

“No, you silly dragon, and that’s the point!  You have this form because if you were human, that’s the form God would have given you.  It’s a trustworthy face.  Just be careful around the ladies.”

So, not only does he have to deal with uncomfortable shoes, intercontinental plane flights in coach, and the moniker “Drake Muldoon,” he’s got to watch out for women.  Only problem is, he’s a dragon—androgynous and sexless.  What’s he know?

Poolside at the luxurious island resort, Vern manages to fend off one interested lady by telling her he’s “devoted” to someone.  Later, he and his partner, Charlie, have to meet their contact at a big hotel party.  They pass by a couple necking behind a potted plant, but it doesn’t phase him.  As a dragon, he’s seen plenty of humans mating.  He can handle the dancing part, too.  Dragons love to dance, although their dancing is aerial, aggressive, and thoroughly enjoyable, but also completely without lustful overtones.  Thus, when he and one of the beautiful women he’d been dancing with head off the floor and to the bar for a drink, he’s thinking they’re going to cool off.

Not quite what she had in mind.

"Better," I sighed. She started to order us some margaritas, but I stopped her and ordered an iced coffee. "If I have anything alcoholic now, I'll be asleep before I hit my bed," I told her.
"Can't have that," she murmured. "So, do you have plans for Festival? I hear it's a fascinating ceremony." She dragged the word "fascinating" out in a way I probably should have recognized but didn't. Hey, I was tired.
I shrugged. "My friend Nigel's not much for parties. We'll probably just hang around the hotel."
"Doing what? The power's going to be off, you know. For the whole weekend, we're going to live like the primitives."
"Kirsti should like that," I murmured. Yeah, I was tired, and my legs felt like lead. If I'd been a dragon, I would have flexed my claws to work out some of the kinks; instead, I pointed and flexed my toes just to keep them from stiffening up.
The bartender gave us our drinks, and we clicked glasses. The cold coffee felt wonderful going down my throat. I took three big swallows before I realized I was being careless. After all, what's the cliché in these cases? I rolled my next sip around my tongue, testing for any trace of drugs. Aliciya watched me, a shy smile on her lips, fingers twisting her hair. I grinned back.
She leaned forward and started rubbing my knee. That felt good.
I purred. Dragon brain, dragon reaction. I shut my eyes and relaxed.
"Hey, you, don’t fall asleep here. I've got to ask you something."
Oops. I sat up and leaned on my elbows. I looked straight into her eyes so she'd know I was paying attention. "What's that?"
"Well, Kirsti's sweet, so she just sort of takes things at face value, but I want to know. You're not married?"
Huh? "No."
"Engaged?" She leaned a little closer.
I shook my head.
"So, just how...devoted...are you?" She licked her lips.
That's when I realized, she wanted to drag me behind the potted plant!
Oh, oh.
Dragon brain plus human body equals vocal cord short circuit. All that came out of my mouth as she leaned closer was, "uhhhh..."

Vern gets out of it, though not quite in the way he expected.  I hope you’ll read about it and all his other close calls as a human and a dragon in Live and Let Fly.