Saturday, July 9, 2016

Overcoming Obstacles by Michelle Lee

Hello cover art aficionados. My name is Michelle, for those of you who haven't read any of my past posts.  I am a part of the BWL community, but not as an author - I am the one who gives the books their outer wrapping. 
In the past, I have done a series of posts about all things covers.  Please feel free to check them out.  They are linked at the end of this post. 

Now for the purpose of today's odd topic - Overcoming Obstacles.

I want you to take a moment, close your eyes and imagine a beach.  The waves of the crystal blue ocean flicking against the tiny white grain of sand along the water's edge, turning them a damp beige.  The feel of the wind rushing through your hair, the heat of the sun against your bare arms.  Picture dolphins jumping from the water, playful and free, just off in the distance.

Now come back to me.  Remember that scene ... I will get back to it in a moment.

What some of the BWL family knows is that in addition to being their resident pain in the rear cover art goddess, I am also a biology geek and a teacher.  What most do not know (but will now) is that I am dyslexic.  I can't read long streams of numbers without getting a headache.  Math is a nightmare for me - especially algebra.  And until I was in the fourth grade - reading was also  major nightmare.  I avoided it like most sane people avoid snakes and spiders.  But something happened the summer after third grade ... I discovered that I didn't need to understand all of the words.  That my mind would fill in and adapt, if I gave it a chance.

Take a look at the following image:

What you are seeing is what reading is like for me - and yes, this passage above makes perfect sense to me.  When reading aloud in earlier classes, when we came upon an unfamiliar word, we had to sound it out.  But my sounds never quite matched what the words were, so I great discouraged.  I was called stupid by other kids, and as a shy person naturally, it made me withdraw more.  But that summer, my sister spent a lot of time with me, reading to me, and as I heard her voice, I would link the words to the sounds in my head, and pull it together.  Something I wasn't able to do in class with other kids snickering and teasing me.

That summer, I discovered reading.  And the more I read, the more I loved it, and the better I got at it.  Now, as an adult, I read bout 3-10 books a week, sometimes hitting 45-50 in a month (various lengths of course - some are novellas, some novels).  I still struggle when reading aloud - so I avoid it when possible.  But when I read silently to myself, but brain is able to infer, fill in, and adapt to what I am seeing.  Sure, I might miss an occasional word, struggle with the difference between form and from, but it doesn't decrease the please of reading.

I am very up front with my students about my troubles reading (and writing) so that when I do write something wrong on the board - they know they can correct me, that I WANT them to correct me.  And yes - it does happen often.  Some are amazed that I am "allowed" to teach, others that I made it through school (including college) with this cloud hanging over my head.  But some, the ones that need it the most, understand that the things that might get us made fun of, the things we struggle with, are not insurmountable obstacles.

For me, dyslexia was simply an obstacle that I needed to know how to overcome ... and then I did so.  In addition to being a teacher, I am also a published author ... something else that my obstacle could have held me back from, had I let it.

So what does this have to do with the scene I asked you to imagine earlier?  In addition to dsylexia, I also have what it called by many 'mind-blindness', the technical terms that has been proposed is Aphantasia. 

Phantasia is the ancient greek word for, among other things, imagination and images.  A is a prefix meaning lacking, without, or not.  So aphantasia means without images, or mind blind.

Think about that for a minute and remember the ocean scene.  When you closed your eyes, did you 'see' the ocean?


I don't.  I can hear a narrator telling me what it looks like, and I have found that if I keep up a running narration in my head during some moments, that I can recall them as an auditory memory later.  

I can look at images and recognize things ... like an actor, or a certain type of owl.  But closing my eyes and telling my principal what a certain student looked like, if I didn't already know the student?  Describing a bird I just saw flying by, and trying to identify it from memory?  Practically impossible. I can't visualize the person or owl to give the details.

Now remember that I said in the beginning of this post - I am BWL's Art Director and primary cover artist.  Which means I take stock photo images and somehow morph them, blend them together, to create covers.  Covers like these:





Each of these covers is at least 2 images, some contain up to 5.  Somehow I had to 'visualize' how the images would come together - right?

Nope.  It's not that simple. I can't just close my eyes and use my imagination.  When I am working on covers, I have numerous windows open on my computer and I have to place images side by side, so that I can see how they would fit together.  I can't just close my eyes and let them merge, trying out different combinations.  

For example, I could tell you by looking at these two images side by side, that the dolphins could be placed into the beach image, and with the right text, make a great cover.  Maybe with a woman in the foreground standing, looking out over the water.

For many of you, you could probably close your eyes and actually see it come together.  I don't.


So much of my process, I don't even understand.  I know some images I will see and have a flash of insight - that it would make a great cover with the right other elements, but I don't actually visualize the finished product.  

I never see it until I actually create it.  

So what are my dreams like, you might ask?  Well ... that is a topic for another post. :)  (Have to keep you coming back somehow - right?)

As for why I posted this ... I admit, the obstacles I face are NOTHING in comparison to what many others face (and I do not in any way want to trivialize those obstacles) ... but at the same time, while mine are seemingly small in the grand scheme of things, they can seem insurmountable to dreams of becoming a writer or artist.  Just like I want my students to know, I want those reading this blog to know that they can be overcome.  More than that though ...

When it is physical, we can point to it and say 'ah ha! there is the issue!'.  But when it is something in the brain?  I always knew I was a little different, and thought something was truly defective in my brain for the longest time.  I couldn't read word correctly, I couldn't visualize images when I closed my eyes. I had to be broken somehow right?  But guess what ... aphantasia and dyslexia are a lot more common that I ever imaged when I was growing up, thinking myself damaged somehow.  

If you are interested in learning about Aphantasia, check out some of the following articles:

* * *

And for those who wanted to find my older posts ... here they are.

* A whole series about various aspects of covers:
     - Image Selection
     - Cover Elements
     - Series
     - Cover Branding
     - Heat Levels

* Dear Artist - a Dear Abby kind of thing, but for cover art questions (feel free to leave questions in the comments for future posts)

AUTHOR RESOURCES -- well worth checking out!!!!

Black and white and shifters all over -- probably one of my favorite posts :) Research is so very important!

I also have a couple odds and ends posts

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Lake (a/k/a Summer Magic) by Gail Roughton

A few years back, Alan Jackson sang of  " old plywood boat, with a 75 Johnson with electric choke". I love that song, love its poignant lyrics that hark back to childhood for all of us born in a far-away time warp when there was enough technology to make life pretty dang sweet but not so much that it'd taken over the world to the extent everybody posted pictures of their meals on Facebook.  There was no Facebook, there was no such thing as a smart phone, cause there was no such thing as the internet. Heck, there was no such thing as a cell phone, and texts as a means of communication were far in the distant future. Life was simpler then. Nobody had to tell kids to play an hour a day. Mothers hollered out the doors for us to "get in outta that hot sun a minute 'fore y'all fry alive!" But it was modern enough that suppers were cooked on electric or gas ranges rather than wood burning stoves and refrigerators had replaced iceboxes, even if folks still called them iceboxes and would continue to do so for years. Ice was plentiful to chill beverages even if came from ice trays and not ice makers and milk and diary products were actually delivered to your door should anyone so desire and most folks did.  Air conditioning wasn't yet a standard in homes but oscillating fans twirled overhead and in windows. There was a television set in almost every home even if it was only one, and even if it was still black and white and not technicolor, and America unwound in front of it every night. After Walter Cronkite advised us "That's the way it is...", we watched sitcoms with far more innocent humor than the sitcoms of today, cheered on heroes in white hats (or law enforcement hats or military helmets), and booed the villains, for whom no one had any sympathy at all, 'cause they were clearly villains and not victims of anybody's society. 

I grew up in the heart of Georgia, raised a country girl in the very center of the state. In Middle Georgia, when you say "the Lake", you mean Lake Sinclair, a man-made lake engineered by Georgia Power Company. It's a major, major source of hydroelectric power for the Middle Georgia region, has  roughly 400 miles of shoreline and spreads over 15,000 acres. Nothing compared to the Great Lakes, of course, but we'll take it. Its shores are lined with lake houses and boat houses and in my childhood, those houses were mostly little cottages, cabins or trailers used as summer or weekend houses, most of which were accessible only over a series of turns onto dirt road after dirt road. Nowadays, a high proportion of Sinclair Lake houses are extremely nice year round residences and I'm not sure if a dirt road even exists anymore in the general vicinity of the Lake.  

I don't remember how old I was when Daddy built his own old plywood boat (not that it was old at the time of construction, of course), around ten or eleven, I'd guess. Daddy was a master carpenter, so there wasn't anything half-done or half-finished about that boat. It was absolutely water-worthy, complete with steering wheel and windshield. I remember early morning fishing trips with Daddy and Mr. Emory, our next-door neighbor without whom no father-daughter excursion was complete. We didn't have a lake cabin ourselves, but the owner of the construction company Daddy worked for did, and as he was getting on up there in age and seldom, if ever, went to the Lake at all, we had full permission to use it at any time. We didn't, in fact, ever use the cabin proper, mostly because boarded up cabins have a very distinctive smell that's not all that pleasant, but we made frequent use of the property itself for family cookouts. That was pretty much standard Sunday afternoons, boat rides and cookouts at the Lake. Nothing fancy. Just good food, good company, good fun. Like I said, a simpler time and place.

Then "life"--whatever that means--got in the way, and before I knew it, it'd been a minimum of forty plus years since I'd been on any boat at all, let alone on Lake Sinclair, and just as many for my husband, who'd also spent the weekends of his teen years at the Lake, though he was more athletic (it doesn't take much to be more athletic than me) and had been a heck of a slalom skier.

I'm happy to say that situation's been rectified for us now. A few years back, my husband bought an older, used boat. He didn't get a lot of use out of it the first couple of years after its purchase, mostly because until this spring when I retired, I was too tired to even think spending a whole day of my two day weekend manhandling a boat in and out of the water even sounded good. This year, though? Ah, this year, we rented a boat slip at a lake marina right off the main road to the Lake, and put the boat in the water for the summer. It just sits right there and waits on us, and we're there at least once a week. It's great when we're with the kids and grandkids. Sinclair's a lake where you just jump right off the boat into the water (with life vest, of course).  You don't see too many folks skiing these days, the big thing's "tubing" and I admit, even I might be able to tube, though I haven't gotten up quite the nerve yet. So far I've left the jumping into the water and the tubing to the young folks. 

It's just as great when it's just us. We love riding up and down and exploring the lake but I confess I think my favorite's when hubby turns off the engine, sets up the trolling motor, and we just putt up and down the shoreline while he throws out his fishing line. Oh, he hasn't caught a thing yet, and we don't even go when it's actually a "good fishing time" so there's pretty much not even a chance he'll catch a fish, but that's not the point. I come from a long line of fishermen who don't fish to catch fish; i.e., my Daddy and Mr. Emory. They fished to enjoy the outdoors and the company they were in, and that sure works for me. I slather on the sunblock and sometimes I read (that Kindle App on the smartphone, don't you know?) and sometimes reading's just too much trouble. I just look at the shoreline, listen to the whooooossshhh of hubby's line as it swishes out into the water and the slow criiiiikcriiiiik of the reel as it comes back to the boat. I drink in the peace, the smell of the water, the sound of contentment. And I go back. Back to a simpler time and place.

I must have subconsciously missed the Lake more than I realized in the forty plus years I spent away from it, because it certainly plays a part in the one of the books written in my years away from it.  In fact, it's the scene where the heroes of said book take down their villain.  Okay, yes. I love, love, love the lake, it's idyllic and quiet and peaceful but some parts of it are pretty dang remote. Back in the day, they were even isolated, especially in the winter, and I ask you. What kind of writer would I be if I passed that up as a setting in a Southern Gothic horror story?

Because evil never dies. It just--waits.

Gail Roughton on Amazon

Visit her Blog and on Facebook

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Weekly eBook Winner ~ Get Fired Up for Summer Contest

Sandy Haber wins a copy of Sapphire Kisses by Joanie MacNeil.

Sandy, please email 
to claim your prize. 


Books We Love

Find the contest details here


Get Fired Up For Summer with 
Books We Love!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hedy Lamarr, A Beauty & A Great Mind by Katherine Pym

Hedy Lamarr in 1930's

Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler) as born 1914 in Vienna Austria to Jewish parents, both considered practicing Christians. Doors opened for her when she performed in a risqué Czech movie. In 1933, she married Fritz Mandl, a wealthy armaments merchant and munitions manufacturer who was in cahoots with the Nazis and sold armaments to Mussolini.

Fritz was not happy with Hedy’s acting career. To keep her occupied and away from the studio, he hosted lavish parties where Hitler and Mussolini were in attendance. He’d take Hedy to business meetings where she listened to wealthy manufacturers discuss how to jam an enemy’s radio frequencies, to locate and destroy their weapons.

Hedy was not stupid. She may have looked like a flower to be admired but not acknowledged. At those meetings, Hedy learned applied sciences.

The marriage was not a good one. Fritz was a controlling man, very jealous. In her autobiography, Hedy stated he kept her prisoner in their palatial mansion most of the time.

By 1937 as Hitler’s strength extended throughout Germany and Austria, as he prepared to spread his rancor throughout Europe, Hedy disappeared to Paris disguised as a maid. She took most of Mandl’s jewels with her. While in Paris, she met Louis B. Mayer, and the rest as they say is history.

Or maybe not...

Even as she was beautiful, Hedy possessed a brilliant mind. She was an inventor and a scientist. She created several items and obtained patents for them. She remembered those meetings Fritz had dragged her to and she loathed the Nazis. She did everything in her power to try and stop them.

George Antheil
By 1940, Hedy had moved to Hollywood. During a dinner party, she met George Antheil, a man of like mind. He was an avant-garde composer. They enjoyed each other’s company and talked of Hedy’s ideas. When the evening ended, Hedy wrote her phone number with lipstick on George’s windshield: Call me.

By this time, WW2 was in full swing. The loss of men at sea each day counted to the several thousands. Allied ships were being sunk by torpedoes from German U-boats.  

Hedy and George realized most of the weaponry during WW2 was radio controlled. They got together and invented a “Secret Communications System” (US Patent No. 2,292,387) what today is known as a “Spread Spectrum Transmission”. If their signals jammed German frequencies, the weaponry would be sent off course, their munitions rendered useless.

Hedy and George worked out a radio frequency called “frequency-hopping” that could not be deciphered or jammed. They set up a sequencer “that would rapidly jump both the control signal and its receiver through 88 random frequencies” similar to the 88 keys on a piano.

For explanation purposes on the patent material, they compared frequency-hopping to a player-piano where the dots on paper are interspersed at irregular intervals. If someone is trying to listen to you, the message will be jumbled, undecipherable as if you hop around indiscriminately rather than walk in a straight line. The sender and receiver know what these hopping intervals are and can communicate. Someone who does not know this system would not be able to understand.

Their idea bloomed into an actual process, then ‘Hedy Kiesler Markey and George Antheil’ sent their designs to the patent office. Their patent was accepted but the Navy never embraced it. One obtuse fellow considered it impractical to stick a player-piano into a torpedo. Their idea was shelved.

But not forgotten...

Hedy Lamarr in 1950's
In his 1945 autobiography, George Antheil gave Hedy Lamarr full credit for the idea. In the 1950’s private companies dug the patent out of the archives and began to use its science. A wireless technology called CDMA was developed (today’s WIFI & Bluetooth). In the 1960’s the Navy used frequency-hopping during the Cuba Missile Crisis.  In the late 1990’s the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Hedy an award for her contribution to wireless communications.

Without Hedy Lamarr’s experiences with her first husband, her unbending dislike of the Nazi’s and her embracement of the Allied war effort, we would not have wireless communications. Oh, I know what you are thinking. Someone somewhere would have figured it out, but I say Hedy’s the girl, the one who spearheaded what we have, today.

Many thanks to:

Wikicommons, Public Domain


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Getting Emotional in Writing

Yesterday I had a friend (who is also a fan!) tell me how much she loved my books except for one thing - they're too short! An avid reader, she went on to say how she got so caught up in my characters and the story that she couldn't put the book down and was disappointed when it ended.
Way back in a high school psychology class, I had to write a paper on the central nervous system versus the peripheral nervous system and used writing as an example of how to describe each. I use my brain, a part of the central nervous system, to create the work. When I re-read and edit, I use my peripheral nervous system since my hands sweat, my heart beats faster, and my body twitches in response to what I have read. This allows me to build a scene as though I am the character I've written and make the story more real to my readers.
As a writer, I also get caught up in the emotions of my scenes and characters. My palms would sweat when I wrote about Lucy and her ex-husband's relationship in The Mystery Lady as well about Katie's life with Maddox in The Bookstore Lady:

She’d never awakened in a motel room alone and naked before. Someone had always taken her home. Usually Maddox. She pushed that thought out of her head and splashed water on her face. In the mirror, her skin seemed almost green in the bad lighting. Someone had beaten her, probably Maddox, judging from the bruise on her cheek and the cut on her lower lip. Probably from the diamond he wore on his pinky.
Beside the toilet, bright blue fabric speckled with purple spots along the hem hung over the shower rod. Her favorite dress. The one she wore yesterday. At least she thought it was yesterday. She fingered the spots and fought off a wave of dizziness.
Blood stains. Whose blood?

In The Mystery Lady, Lucy becomes paranoid when she spots a car parked on her street for several days then strange men in her neighbourhood. Her concern for the well-being of she and her children actually left me a bit on edge and I found myself peering out the window a few times as well!
 Roger always said she’d make a good writer because she was such a drama queen, but maybe she was a drama queen because she was a writer. In truth, her mood was more about Roger and her deep down reluctance to let her kids go with him for the week. Normally, she’d probably have a hard time staying mad at someone like Clancy.
“Look, sweetheart.” He chuckled. “You go back to whatever it is you do all day and have fun with your kids. I’ll pad my tools with bubble wrap so you can relax.”
 “You are such a jerk.” She snapped.
“That’s quite an observation considering you just met me. Maybe you should give me a chance to actually be a jerk before you accuse me of such a heinous crime.” He toyed with a wrench.
Fondled? Stroked? Darn her writer’s brain. What was wrong with her? Lucy blew out a frustrated breath then rolled her eyes and stomped away. “Men.”


One of my favourite characters in the Wild Blue Mysteries series is Leo Blue. I find it easy to put myself in his place to see what he sees and think what he thinks. Leo looks at life a little differently than most, which makes him a lot of fun to write and  great foil for Danny since he will say and do pretty much whatever he wants.
The scenes with Leo and Christina in The Bakery Lady were some of my favourite (and steamiest!) to write. I allowed my emotions to run wild and tried to take inventory as I wrote to capture the moment as realistically as I could. In fact, one of the best ways for me to develop a scene, is to write a rough draft then go back and "feel" the emotions and "live" the scene in my head. Here's one example:

Leo clenched his hands at his sides to keep from reaching out to push back the damp hairs off her neck for a better view of the butterfly. “You’re right, she is cute. And funny.”
She spun around and knocked a steel bowl full of cookie cutters off the counter. The bowl clanged on the painted concrete floor and rolled toward the oven while the cookie cutters clattered to the white tile floor. Her freckled elfin face was dusted with flour, some of which rose off her lips as she huffed. When she glared at Clancy, her eyes reminded Leo of the slate gray-green Himalayan Mountains at sunset. Her red lips shone like the juicy flesh of a watermelon. He’d forgotten how much he liked watermelon.

 I find that the more I write, the more emotional my writing becomes as I become more connected to my characters and learn more about them. Currently, I am working on a new book in the series, The Painted Lady, which should be ready for release in 2017.

 All three of my Wild Blue Mysteries are available through Amazon & Books We Love as well as at Coles/Chapters/Indigo in Canada by special order!

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...