What if they asked you to die for your country…but your family could never know?


So begins the official Week 1 of my six-week experimental launch of The Calico Junction Incident series and already quite a few of you have downloaded and read the first installment. THANK YOU! Initial feedback has been enthusiastic -- whew! -- and I am currently hard at work getting Episode 2 ready for download next Monday.

(If you haven't gotten your free advance reader copy of Kill Team yet, click here.)

But today, we're here to talk about the cover because I promised a bunch of you I'd share the whole behind-the-scenes production process, and so I'm gonna.

Here's my quick and easy guide to making your own book covers:


1. Photoshop

Firstly, just a little caveat because I feel it will be important for those of you who feel intimidated by cover design and specifically Photoshop (or any of its free/low-cost/open source counterparts):

I, too, am fairly new to the fantastical world of PS. The Kill Team cover you see above, that's my second book cover I've ever made.

So be not afraid, friends. I know all those panels and buttons look like they belong on the console of a spaceship -- Transform! Warp! Vector! Rasterize! What be these things?! More importantly, what do I do with them?


That rascally Prince Charles!

Well, firstly, you must always wield your Photoshop powers for good. much as you can restrain yourself anyway.

Secondly, you must be patient with yourself...and be willing to Google everything. Search: "How do I bend lines?" or "How do I make the margins *&^%ing listen to me?!"

And don't forget YouTube. Chances are, whatever miracles you're trying to perform in PS, someone's already done it in YouTube. Start with: "How to make an ebook cover?" That may be all you need. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, listen, in the grand scheme of things, it's often smarter to hire a professional to do these things. There are loads of talented graphic designers and artists out there like Domi who can do your book cover up real nice with original art, detailed customization, and an experienced eye towards your specific genre. Even better, many of designers offer pre-made covers at a discounted price.

So you have to ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you're interested in getting your book to market with a solid cover as quickly as possible and you have no interest in or experience making book covers, by all means, hire someone. That just makes good business sense.

However, I'm one of those people who wants to do it all by herself...or at least learn how to...and satisfying that desire is an important part of my long-term goals. Plus, I have so many stories I want to get out -- finished stories -- that if I had to hire out that many covers, it'd cost me a small fortune to do it.

That said, I have hired graphic designers when the task exceeded my humble skills, and I no doubt will again. I completely expect that one day down the road I'll have to update this series with new covers, and I'll probably want to do that with covers made by someone more talented and experienced in this regard.

But for now, it's just me, Photoshop, and YouTube. Doing is the best way to learn, and practice is the only way to get good at anything. So I keep doing. ๐Ÿ™‚


2. Pick a Compelling Image

Image Credit: _Lonely_/

Image Credit: _Lonely_/

There's plenty of places to find free, high-quality, compelling images for your book cover. Websites like Unsplash and Pixabay are a great place to start if you're watching your pennies.

Personally, I like Bigstock. I've tried other places, but they're my favorite in terms of the size of their collection, the type of images I look for, and the clear-cut licensing terms. I pay for a month's subscription and download my limit of any and all images I can think of that might apply to current and future projects. So far, I've done that twice, and by the end of this second round, I should have enough images to supply my future book covers for a good long while. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, if you look at the cover for Kill Team, you might think, there's really nothing to it. And you would be correct. It's a very basic cover. Basically one image with typography. You can't get much simpler than that.

What makes the cover work -- I think -- and please comment below if you have feedback, suggestions, comments, or just wish to differ -- is that it's a compelling image. It's really just a few lines, but those few lines add up to an iconic image that everyone around the world can relate to. We all know what flying saucers look like, right?

Not only that, but the color of this particular image is electric and eye-catching. Funnily enough, the digital artist behind this image, "Lonely," did the same image I selected for my first book cover for The Cat Lady, which you'll see next week. I like the way he plays with light in his images, and I'm hoping to find more for the rest of the series.

Abstract UFO background. Illustration contains transparency and blending effects eps 10

With the "UFO" removed.

I definitely feel like I lucked out with this image though. I think I had a concept in my head of combining two images, maybe a silhouette of a special ops soldier in a desert landscape, shooting star or UFO in the background -- ohmahgerd! It's easy to get carried away with cover design concepts, but sometimes simple is better.

My plan was just to erase the word "UFO" on the bottom and continue on with layering the words over it, but once I erased it, I realized the little spotlight beneath the words fit neatly beneath my own book I left it.

If one were to look closely, they could see I didn't do it perfectly. It was hard to erase the bottoms of the letters without skimming the top of that spotlight, but I think it worked out just fine.


3. Use a template.

By KD Cover KitYes, with a little bit of Googling and some patience, I could put together my own template that establishes the size of the cover, the type and placement of typography, and a bunch of other things...or I could just use a template and make my life easier. Plus, working from a template allows you to play with the various elements to see what works and what doesn't in design.

I'm certain there are tons of templates available out there. For my covers, I used a package of templates I purchased from KD Cover Kit. I should point out, I'm not an affiliate, and I don't know the folks running it. I just happened to come across their templates, and I'm pretty happy with the results. They're damn easy to use, and it makes getting started a lot easier.

KillTeamARCI originally started out with this template. It doesn't much look like the final cover, does it? That's okay. Things will change as you get into a project. You won't be able to find the perfect image for your concept, so you'll have to adjust -- or you'll find something better and abandon your first concept. Also, fonts are a still a puzzle to me, and I had problems matching the fonts to the ones used in the I just scrolled through what I had and made it work. Just like life. Lol.

For those of you who are still viewing this whole process with deep suspicion, let me assure you that most of this process is a drag-and-drop situation. True story! I was actually surprised at how easy it is once you get the hang of the controls. I'm hoping to get good enough to Photoshop dancing monarchs into funny kid pictures soon enough.

Just don't be afraid to search for your answers. The truth is out there.

Check it out. This little six-minute video....

...yielded my first 3D book cover. Huzzah! I truly thought doing 3D covers required some sort of special-er software. This took me 10 minutes. Learning this skill gave me superpowers and had me convinced for a full 24-hour period that doing dishes was a waste of my valuable resources. ๐Ÿ˜‰


So I hope this was helpful to y'all. I know it's not a nitty-gritty guide -- nor was it intended to be -- but I hope it encourages those of you who are inclined to DIY and arting around to give it a go yourself. It's great fun! Just remember, you never know until you try.

And if you do try, leave me a link in the comments so we can all look and go, "How pretty!" Seriously! Do that! I love book covers!

Want a free advance reader copy ofย Kill Teamย before it goes up for sale? Just enter your email address below, and I'll send you a link where you can download it in .mobi/Kindle, ePUB, or PDF format. ๐Ÿ˜€



*le sigh* Another BBQ, another day of overeating bliss. I’d have this say this particular challenge was the most…well, challenging in terms of finding a recipe. My entry of a 30-year-old crab dip recipe (not shown) was disqualified on the basis it was 20 years too young…and probably because there was no crab in it. (I had chicken, so I used it.) My other dish was just meatballs cuz I felt like it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But the more serious and less lazy competitors in this Iron Chef Yo’Mama Challenge were up to the task. We had two entries from my mum-in-law Vickie. Ninja Jim spent the prior afternoon baking cookies with Ninja Dawn and Ninja Ned using a sugar cookie recipe that Ninja Ned had copied down many moons ago from the chalkboard when he was just 8 years old in a one-room elementary ninja school.

And Aunty Em…well, Aunty Em always brings it. And this time she brung it with pictures. These were tasty little biscuits, just right for sopping up sauce. (She also made some incredible hamburgers, but they got snapped up before I could snap ’em.)


IMG_1646 IMG_1644 IMG_1649

Another BBQ well done, I’d say. The kids played until they were tired and cried, the adults ate too much food until they were tired and cried, and there was dancing and jump roping and hula hooping — the usual party shenanigans. All in all, a wonderful time. ๐Ÿ™‚

How was your weekend? Hope it was full of good eats and great people. ๐Ÿ™‚



It’s the weekend! Time to relax and spend time with friends and family, and this weekend is shaping up to be a fun one.

I am blessed with an incredible group of friends and family who are awesome in more ways than I can count, but are also obsessively, outrageously, and unapologetically passionate about food. With the summer almost upon us, that means it’s BBQ season! Which means the oven mitts come off to find out who’s the best cook of us all!

So far we’ve had Spam challenges, dairy challenges, potluck challenges, and bring-the-best-sausage-you-can-find challenges. Every time, the stakes are high, the festivities devolve into heated debates about the legitimate use of lobster as an “ingredient,” and everyone wins….cuz we all get to eat.

Check out scenes from our 1st Annual Fry Fest. It was a gas!

I love BBQs in the backyard. It’s a tradition that’s carried over from when we used to have the restaurant, and it’s become an important way for us to connect with our loved ones (and end up with awesome leftovers…mwah ha!).

Our family comes, our friends come, sometimes the family of friends come — they’re all family — the cats skulk around waiting for things to slip from the BBQ tongs, and the kids run around and play underneath the big pecan tree. BBQs make me so happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

This weekend we have a new challenge: The Iron Chef – Yo Mama! Whoo hoo! Entries must be from handwritten 50+ year old recipes in celebration of Ninja Jim and Katyusha’s birthdays! Kat will be 2, and Ninja Jim will be…well, old. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Just kidding, Jim!)

Anyway, make sure to come back tomorrow night to see pictures of the best of the best of Iron Chef – the Yo Mama Challenge!

So what do you guys have cooking this weekend? Anything yummy?



In light of my recent interest in all things extraterrestrial, Fat Cat got me this awesome book, and it is out of this world!

It covers UFO sightings and incidents from around the world. Definitely cool to see how other cultures view UFO phenomena. It never occurred to me what UFO lore is like in, say, Australia or South America. Plus, it’s got killer pictures.

Check this out! It kind of reminds me of a scene from The Calico Junction Incident, my current series in progress. How would you like a bunch of these guys hanging around your house? Brrr!

World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters

From “World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters” by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

I love all the old photographs in the book. I find it incredible that UFOs have been around since the Dawn of Man.

And check out the retro scifi book cover in the top right-hand corner in the image below entitled: Flying Saucers Have Landed.

From "World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters" by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

From “World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters” by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

Can you imagine if that really happened? I wonder how the media would spin it. What would that look on the front page of The Huffington Post or The Los Angeles Times? How quickly would the riots start? (It’s so much fun to think about. Humans are curious lot.)

From "World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters" by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

From “World Atlas of UFOS: Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters” by John Spencer ~ Reed Books Limited ~ All Rights Reserved

I’ve always held a strong fascination for UFO lore, but in researching The Calico Junction Incident, I realize that I actually know very little. Most of what I know come fromย The X-Files, which actually is not a bad place to start and a damn fine series.

But I’ve been trying to remedy my lack of knowledge by watching alien and UFO documentaries on Netflix (and there are lots to choose from) and, of course, the interwebz, which is rife with some of the most amazing, crazy, and outrageous stories…all of which I find immensely entertaining.

It’s not so much people believing in UFOs that’s entertaining — it’s the crazy fringe culture that has sprung up around that belief. It’s like marijuana culture with the sort of cartoony crackpot hippy fringe vibe — yet, given the number of abduction reports around the world and their striking similarities and the vast number of UFO sightings, it’s difficult to dismiss their validity. Of course, if the government knows anything definitive about the existence of UFOs, they’re not going to talk about it. Last thing any government wants is a populace afflicted with the heebie-jeebies and demanding answers that they probably don’t have.

There are even YouTube channels dedicated to posting recent sightings caught on video, and while there’s quite a few that look straight-up legit, there are some that, while not so legit, are certainly spine-tingling to watch. What if….?

Crazy, huh?

So in the name of research — and because we want to get take pictures of ginormous radio telescopes — my buddy Ninja Jim and I are heading out to the desert next week to take a tour of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in Ft. Irwin, California, my old stomping grounds.

I asked Fat Cat if he wanted to come, but he’s allergic to road trips…and the desert. (He belongs in more tropic climes.)

What do you expect to find out there? he wanted to know.

I looked him in the eye and said: The truth.


So tell me, Good Reader, do you believe in UFOs? Leave a comment down below. And if you’ve actually seen unexplainable lights in the sky, I definitely want to hear from you. And if you’ve experienced an alien abduction, then I really, really want to hear from you!



This is Kat…my cat. She is just the right amount of naughty.

Dear Handsome Readers,

How the heck are you guys? I hope wonderful.

I’m doing pretty good myself. Life is good, am I right?

So the time has come for me to return to Earth. I have been on many adventures since last we talked story. I have traveled from the Great North to the Tasty South; lost 10 pounds and found it again — twice! (in the Tasty South, natch); earned a dozen new wisdom hairs; and have been adopted by a cat named Kat.

Mostly, though, I’ve been hermitting — hiding out in my smelly old writer’s cave writing and illustrating stories. And today — yes, that’s right, you gorgeous reader you! — today is the day I get to tell you what I’ve been working on!

Shenanigans mostly…but also lots of science fiction, conspiracy theories, and podcasts — oh, my!


So for those of you who don’t know, this past year and a half, I have been writing the show notes for theย awesome Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast hosted by the equally awesome and golden-voiced Simon Whistler.

What makes Simon and the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast…well, so rocking is that he conducts in-depth long-form interviews with some of the most creative and successful indie authors working in the space today. Simon really takes the time to delve into their background, drill down into their strategies and techniques, and explore their journey from zero to hero. You’d be hard-pressed to find an indie author, aspiring or otherwise, who hasn’t found inspiration from one of Simon’s interviews.

He’s also been gracious enough to invite me as a guest on the show, a newbie writer! Three times now actually. Isn’t that wild? It’s not what you think though. It’s not because I’m a hero-status author, but the other thing. I’m practically brand-new! A little baby indie author. How cute!

Simon thought it might be something fun, different, and hopefully instructive (Here’s what not to do, little baby indies!) to follow along on my own indie author journey to full-time writer. Hopefully, he’s right and his listeners find our chats to be all those things…because doing these interviews has been all those things for me and more.


It’s kind of crazy how it all happened. He had joked with a guest on the show about needing a podcast assistant, so I emailed him offering to assist, and we’ve been working together since.

It’s been a world-class education for me. I have listened to and written the show notes for almost 70 episodes now, and it’s been eye-opening and incredibly inspiring. Truly, I have worked at and studied harder at this show-notes gig than I ever did in college. I want this writing dream bad.

It’s been more than just a working relationship though. I count Simon as a good friend. Thanks to his kind encouragement, smart advice, and scheduled-in-orange kicks in the pants (yipe!), I am now ready to launch my first series.

– – –

Last summer I wrote The Cat Lady, a stand-alone short story — or so I thought — about a woman living alone in the desert and taking care of — well, she calls them kitties, but they are definitely not kitties. I just wanted to write a fun story that takes place in the desert. I love the desert and I love glowing eyes in the windows at night, so that’s what it was.

Well, Simon read it, liked it very much, and asked when the next one would be out.

What’s that now?ย  I hemmed and hawed.

What happens to Chris, the guy who gets his leg ripped off?

Me: Huh. I don’t know. I guess I should go find out.

– – –

What I discovered is that The Cat Lady was not, in fact, a stand-alone story at all…but Episode 2 in a six-part episodic alien invasion suspense series called The Calico Junction Incident.

Who knew?

So great! I’m thinking. I’ve got the story all figured out — and it’s a doozy! I’ve got three episodes finished, and I’m jamming pretty fast through the rest of it. At this point, I’m thinking I should start getting together a plan to put these stories out.

Then Simon reminded me it had been six months since we last chatted on the podcast and would it be a good time to catch up?

Well, yes, of course, that would be just lovely, I told him.

But the truth was, I dreaded getting on the show and having to admit I had been bobbing along for the last six months with barely a plan and with only a bunch of half-finished rough drafts and excuses to show for it.

So when Simon asked during our interview what I was up to these days, I told him — and his very smart, very creative, and very large audience of listeners — that I would be launching my series free to my blog readers…starting next week!

Yay! Yeek! Same diff, right?

[You can listen to the madness here, if you enjoy such things. Although, if you’ve read this far, that’s probably a silly question.]

– – –

So every week for the next six weeks, starting this coming Monday, I will be releasing a new episode of The Calico Junction Incident, my six-part episodic alien invasion suspense series that covers the fall-out when a UFO is shot down over the Mojave Desert by special ops soldiers and crash-lands in some lady’s backyard.

Each episode will run 8k-15k words, feature pen-and-ink illustrations by meย  :D, and be available as a free download to readers on my mailing list. Any feedback, corrections, suggestions, criticisms, baked goods, or high-fives by Readers will be gratefully acknowledged in the final published ebook that will go live at the end of each week on all the major e-tailers…and of course, contributing Readers will get a copy of that too!

Yup. That’s the plan. (Thanks, Simon! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

KillTeam3DSo to kick things off a little early, I’m making Kill Team: Episode Zero of The Calico Junction Incident available for download today! Yay!

That’s right. I’m starting at zero and moving to hero, baby!

So please be sure to come back next week to check out the pen-and-ink illustrations I’m doing for the book, and to let me know what you think about the story or the project, or even swing by just to say hi. I like getting hi’s. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks for reading, guys. I hope you all enjoy the series.

To get your free copy ofย Kill Team, just enter your email down below, and I’ll send you a link where you can download it in .mobi/Kindle, ePUB, or PDF format. ๐Ÿ˜€