New Year’s Two Book Deal

Texas Druids Duo cover 2

To kick off 2013 I’ve put together a special offer titled Texas Druids Duo.

A compelling combination of historical fiction, western romance and Irish magic, this two-in-one book brings together Darlin’ Druid, volume one in my Texas Druids trilogy, and White Witch, a prequel novella. The novella introduces the Devlin siblings, descendants of ancient Irish Druids, each blessed with a unique psychic power. Carrying them through the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the story showcases Jessie Devlin’s clairvoyant ability and portends events to come.

In Darlin’ Druid, Jessie embarks on a dangerous quest for love. Seeking a man she has foreseen in dreams and visions, she heads west in search of him despite knowing a maniacal villain may also await her. When she meets Captain David Taylor, she’s in for a shock. Can this arrogant Texan be the hero of her dreams? As for David, he’s not anxious to hook up with a sharp-tongued colleen with a firecracker temper. But fate throws them together, leading them on a passionate journey, through horrific dangers and emotional upheaval that culminates in a battle between good and evil on the Texas plains.

Available now in ebook format on Amazon for only $3.49.


Kidnapped, A Dearest Druid Excerpt

I bet you thought I’d forgotten my promise to post another excerpt from book three in my Texas Druids trilogy (coming in spring 2013.) Actually, I waited to post it just in time for Christmas, my little gift to you, dear readers. Enjoy!

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Choctaw Jack needs Rose Devlin’s magical touch to heal someone he loves. In this scene she awakens as his captive.

Rose regained her senses slowly. Feeling herself rock to and fro, she groggily recognized the loping gait of a horse beneath her. But how could that be?

She forced her eyes open, taking in the starlit sky and the dark landscape passing by. Blinking at the sight, she realized she was seated crosswise on the horse – in a man’s lap. Just like that, the scene in her bedroom with Jack came back to her, and she knew whose chest she leaned upon and whose arm was locked around her.

Panicking, she cried out in fright. Pain lanced through her jaw, reminding her of the blow her teacher-turned-abductor had delivered just before she’d sunk into oblivion.

“Easy now,” the brute murmured. “You’re all right. Noboby’s gonna hurt you.”

She threw her head back to see his shadowed features. “I’m not all right, ye . . . ye kidnapper!” Cupping her painful jaw, she demanded, “Take me back this instant!”

“Can’t do that, Toppah.”

“But ye must! Tye and Lil will be looking for me.” Catching the odd word he’d spoken, she repeated it. “Toppah? What’s that?”

“It’s you. It means yellow-hair.”

“Oh. Well, don’t be calling me that again. Now turn this horse around and take me back,” she again demanded.

“Nope. We’re heading for the Nations. You might as well relax and enjoy the ride.”

“Enjoy the ride, is it? You’re daft!” She pushed at his steely arm and attempted to twist free, but, although his hold caused no pain, it was unbreakable. Feeling smothered and panicky, she shoved at his chest, managing to create a small space between them.

“Be still,” he ordered sharply. “Do you wish to fall off and break your neck?”

Before she could reply, another man’s voice sounded nearby, speaking in an unfamiliar tongue. Unaware of his presence until that moment, Rose uttered a frightened cry and instinctively shrank against Jack, no longer trying to free herself. His arm tightened around her for a second. He said something to the other man, then spoke softly to her.

“Don’t be afraid, Poe-Lah-Yee. That’s only my friend Tsoia. He won’t touch you as long as he thinks you’re mine.”

“Yours! I’m not yours!” she shrilled, once more stiffening against him.

“You might not want to let him know that.”

Ready to unleash a tirade – uncharacteristic for her – she thought better of it. Twisting her upper body and craning her neck, she caught a glimpse of the other Indian’s shadowy form. He rode near them and, unless she was mistaken, he led another horse.

“What did he say?” she warily asked.

“He said you screech like an owl,” Jack replied, a grin in his voice.

Rose huffed in annoyance, not liking the comparison. After a moment’s silence, she asked in a softer voice, “And what did ye call me a minute ago?”

“Poe-Lah-Yee. It means rabbit.”

“Rabbit! I told ye before I’m no scared rabbit.” Although, to be truthful, she felt like one just now. “Oh, and my hair’s not yellow. It’s strawberry-blonde. That’s what they’re calling the color back in Chicago.”

“Mmm. I guess I could call you Poe-Aye-Gaw. That means strawberries.”

“For goodness sake, can’t ye call me by my real name?”

“I dunno,” he drawled. “Poe-Aye-Gaw is kinda nice, or maybe P’Ayn-Nah. That means sugar. Yeah, I like that one.”

Sugar? Did he think her sweet? And what if he did? It made no nevermind to her. Snorting in disdain, Rose squirmed uncomfortably in his lap. She remained silent for several minutes, racking her brain for a way to escape, unable to think of anything. When she squirmed once again, Jack gave her a sharp squeeze.

“Be still,” he ordered again. “What’s wrong, you hurting someplace?”

She felt a blush warm her face and was grateful for the darkness. “I . . . I need to relieve myself if ye must know.”

“Oh. Why didn’t you say so?” He called out to the other Indian and both men drew their horses to a halt. Easing Rose to the ground along with the blanket she was encased in, Jack said, “You’d best put your boots on. You don’t want to step on a cactus with bare feet.” Reaching into a bag tied to his saddle, he produced the boots and handed them down to her. “Go on behind those bushes. See them over there?” He pointed off to the left as she struggled into her boots.

“Aye.” She barely made out the shadowy foliage.

“Be quick about it, and don’t try to run.”

Not bothering to reply, she picked her way cautiously toward the small clump of bushes. As she took care of her urgent need, Jack’s warning echoed through her head. It was very dark, the moon having set. If she stayed low, perhaps she could make it to some hiding place before Jack and his friend noticed she was missing. She didn’t give herself time to rethink the idea. Bunching up her blanket and nightdress – her only garment — she crept stealthily away, praying for a hidey hole she could duck into.

She hadn’t gone far when a hand clamped around her arm, wringing a terrified shriek from her lips. Dragged upright by that iron grip, she lost her hold on the blanket but hardly noticed as her captor shook her.

“I told you not to run,” he growled. “Little fool! Did you really think you could escape me?”

“I had to try!” she cried.

He gave her another, harder shake. “What if you had fallen and broken a leg or cracked your head open? And where did you think to go when you don’t even know where you are?”

“I . . . I don’t know.” Trembling with fear and cold, she couldn’t hold back a despairing sob.

He sighed impatiently and raised his hand to strike her. Cringing in terror, Rose threw up her free arm to ward off the blow, but it never came.

“What the . . . ? I’m not gonna hit you, woman. I told you I wouldn’t hurt you, didn’t I?

Lowering her arm a little, Rose peeked at him. She couldn’t see his expression in the dark, but he sounded more disgusted now than angry.

“Course, if you try running again, I just might have to beat some sense into you.”

“No, please!” she begged, voice quaking like the rest of her. “I-I won’t, I promise.”

Jack felt her tremble and knew he could never carry out his threat. Retrieving the blanket she’d dropped, he wrapped it around her shoulders. As he led her back to the horses, more gently than he’d first intended, he puzzled over her terror-stricken behavior. True, he’d meant to frighten her so she wouldn’t do something stupid again, but he hadn’t expected her to cower before him as if waiting for him to strike her tender flesh. She’d made him feel like a brute when all he’d meant to do was brush a lock of tangled hair from her face.

Once they remounted and set off again, he continued to mull over Rose’s reaction. The fear and timidity she’d shown him on other occasions had angered him because he’d thought it due to him being an Indian. Now, he was beginning to suspect some man, somewhere, had treated her cruelly, causing her to fear all men. The thought spread vengeful fire through his blood, making him want to give the coyote, whoever he was, a strong dose of his own medicine.

For a while, his captive sat stiff as a statue, not making a sound, never looking at him, but exhaustion caught up with her. Her head drooped and she relaxed against him. He carefully adjusted her position so that her head rested upon his shoulder. Dawn was breaking, allowing him to study the delicate curve of her cheek, her dainty nose and the fine, slanted arch of her brows. They were a rich reddish brown the same as her lashes, like a pretty chestnut pony he’d once owned. He found the dark color startling in comparison to her light hair, but not unpleasant to look upon. No, not unpleasant.

She sighed, lips parting in sleep, and Jack was caught by the tempting sight. He wondered dangerously if she tasted of sugar, as he’d called her earlier. Unhindered, his gaze slid downward to the swell of her breasts and his pecker began to rise. Shit! He quickly aimed his gaze straight ahead and shifted beneath her, trying to alleviate his sudden discomfort. He’d better keep his eyes off the woman, and his thoughts too, or he’d end up proving she was right to fear him.

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Merry Christmas, y’all!

A Lumberjack’s Christmas Feast

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Sharla Rae, who has written a wonderful book about life and love in an Oregon lumber camp, ca. 1880s. With hope for its speedy publicatioBook, Christmas in the Old Westn!

I recently added a gem of a book to my home library: Christmas in the Old West, A Historical Scrapbook by Sam Travers. The following is an excerpt from that book. This article was originally printed in the Anaconda (Montana) Standard on Dec. 17, 1898.

Lumber camp feast

There are few city tables that are more heavily laden with good things on Christmas Day than is the long board of the cookhouse at a logging camp. There is a big turkey, of course. More than likely some member of the crew has shot a deer, and the fine, fat saddle of the venison graces the Christmas table. Cranberries have been brought from town, as well as fruit and nuts. There are dishes of steaming vegetables, and there are long rows of pies. There is a big pudding, too, if the cook has been feeling right. The bill of fare is one that would do credit to a big hotel, for these camp cooks are experts and, when they make an effort, the result is sure to be a success . . . .

Outside the door of the cookhouse is suspended a broken circular saw that has been brought up from the mill. The equipment of no logging camp is complete without this. When dinner is ready, the [cook’s assistant] pounds away on this saw with a club, and the resulting sound is one that makes a Chinese gong ashamed of itself. It penetrates to the uttermost parts of the forests, and it is sweet music to the hungry toilers in the woods. On Christmas, at dinner time, this tocsin rings out with a more pronounced tone than usual. It discounts in volume and penetrating power any chime of church or cathedral that ever announced the advent of Christmas Day.

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Look for another Christmas tidbit from Mr. Travers’s scrapbook tomorrow on Sweethearts of the West.

Self-Publish on Amazon: Internal Book Cover & Table(s) of Contents

book & green stripes

Amazon requires a book cover to be uploaded twice, once for the marketing image, the one customers see when they shop on Amazon. The other image is the internal one readers see when they open a Kindle book on their reading device. There’s a place during the KDP uploading process where you add the marketing image, but the internal cover image must be embedded in your book file prior to uploading.

There are various ways to embed the internal cover image. You will find numerous discussions on this topic on the Amazon KDP Community forum. Here’s one you might find helpful: It’s a long post, but there is a section about including a cover image. NOTE: I haven’t tried this author’s method, so I can’t guarantee it.

More reading: In Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines, go to page 13. There you will find Cover Image Guidelines. Read this section carefully. If you have trouble understanding the technical jargon, you may need to enlist a friend or relative with html experience.

As mentioned in a prior post, I employed Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer to perfect my text formatting. Each time I ran my book through Kindlegen, it converted the html file into a mobi file (a format used for ebooks) but with this warning: “No cover specified.” I had to embed the cover before I could complete the Kindlegen process and look at my book on the Kindle Previewer.

The Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines state, “Define covers in the OPF file . . .” From my son, I learned OPF stands for “open package format.” This file tells Kindlegen where to find all parts of a book, including the cover. Since I had no idea how to set up an OPF, my computer savvy offspring did the job, using html coding that’s way beyond me.

FYI, Mobipocket Creator can be used to create mobi files, per discussions on Amazon’s message boards. This app is available on the internet. I think it’s free. I’ve also read that it can be a bit persnickety.

In addition to the internal cover image, your OPF file must contain two tables of contents (TOCs). The first one is an HTML TOC. This is the table of contents readers see in the front matter of a book. In an ebook it allows them to jump to whatever chapter they wish. You need to use hyperlinks to set up the HTML TOC.

First, open a blank page that will drop in right after your title page in the OPF file. Call this page Table of Contents, then list your chapters, including the prologue and/or epilogue if you have one. I like to bold the chapter titles and increase line spacing (do this under Paragraph in your Format menu.) Next, highlight the first chapter in your list, click the hyperlink icon on your toolbar, then go to your html book file. (Reminder: You need your chapters to be separate for this, not saved as one big book file.) Click on the corresponding chapter in your file and hit Okay. Go back to your TOC page and try the link. It should take you to the chapter. Do the same for every chapter, the cover, title page, dedication page if you include one, and any other extra features. You have now created your html Table of Contents.

Next, you need to set up a Logical TOC (NCX) for easy navigation through your book. Read page 14-15 in the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines for an explanation of how the NCX TOC works and why it’s necessary. Amazon has included an example of how to set up an NCX in html code. I won’t try to explain it here because it’s one of those tech subjects that flies over my head. Again, if you are unfamiliar with html code, you will need help with this.

I’m sorry this has gotten so technical. There are quicker, easier ways to publish your book on Amazon, but this is the method I stick to because I want to be sure my books are well formatted and easy to read. In other words, I want them to be as professional as I can possibly make them.

Once your OPF file is complete, you are ready to upload to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Look for further posts in this series in 2013 on these topics:

  • Get Your Book Noticed (Marketing)
  • Copyright, Royalties & ISBN Issues
  • Amazon Author Forums

Suggestions for Marketing Your eBook

Friends, I have a post up on Writers in the Storm today titled Marketing Your E-Book: Making the Most of Your Time. Come visit if you can and say hi. I love comments!

On Monday I’ll post the fourth part of my Publishing on Amazon series here on my home page. Or, if you’d like to drop by my blog site, I usually send my posts to that site also.

Happy Friday!

Creating a Cover for Your Kindle Book

Blue book

The Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines state that a Marketing Cover Image Is Mandatory. This image is what customers see on your product page. The preferred size is “a JPEG image of 2500 pixels on the longest side (with a minimum of 1000 pixels on the longest side). Covers with less than 500 pixels on the smaller side are uploaded, but are not displayed on the website.”

You can also upload PNG images. I prefer them because colors don’t bleed and the image stays sharper. Saving in PNG is an option in both MS Paint and GIMP, the two programs I use. (SEE BELOW)

Amazon guidelines say not to stretch a small cover image, “because this does not add any quality.” In addition, your “cover image should not infringe other publisher’s or artist’s copyright on the same cover,” and should not “mention pricing or other temporary promotional offers.”

NOTE: I did add an awards badge to my Darlin’ Druid cover after the book won 2nd place in the Paranormal Romance Guild 2011 Reviewers Choice Awards Contest. Amazon has not objected.

Authors are also required to include an Internal Content Cover Image in the uploaded book file. For more details go to page 14 of the guidelines for cover image requirements. If you have not already downloaded the guidelines pdf file, I strongly recommend that you do.

Graphics Programs

I design my own covers using two programs. One is “Paint,” available under Accessories in my Windows program. Instructions in the Paint help menu are limited, so it requires some practice to master the features. I use this program to combine elements of my cover images (background, cover model photos, book title and author name.)

GIMP is the other program I employ. I’m told it’s very similar to Photoshop. If you fully master it, you probably won’t need to use MS Paint. I use it mainly to blend colors and increase image resolution (number of pixels per inch.) The latter helps meet Amazon’s size requirement. Best of all, the program can be downloaded for FREE!

Sources for Photos and Graphics

Artwork for book covers can be found in many different places. For my very first Darlin’ Druid cover, a friend let me use a photo she’d taken of Texas Longhorn cattle grazing in a field of bluebonnets (Texas state flower.) Later, I changed the book cover upon the advice of author friends. The new cover is “hotter.”

Some of my background images come from websites such as and They stock millions of images that include landscapes, human faces and figures, graphics and cartoons. Prices vary, but I’ve never paid more than a few dollars for one image. There are also free clipart sites on the net, but always make sure their images are royalty and copyright free.

When it comes to finding models for a book cover, some authors recruit family members or friends to pose for them. Others purchase clipart figures. An author friend told me about a male cover model, Jimmy Thomas, who sells electronic photos of himself with female models in many poses and period costumes. They range from fairly tame to erotic. You can buy a pose for $10, without exclusive rights to it. You may see the same pose on other book covers. You are allowed to alter the poses any way you like. For my “new” Darlin’ Druid cover, I purchased three poses, then altered and combined them to suit my book. Jimmy also does custom photos, but they cost more.

Once all necessary graphics are collected in my photo gallery, I use MS Paint to combine them. I start by laying in the background. If it needs some touching up, I may go to GIMP for that. For Darlin’ Druid, I combined three background elements: a cloudy night sky, a Celtic cross symbolizing the Druid connection, and a cowboy riding after a calf, showing the Texas theme.

Next I reopen the image in Paint, add some extra white space to the palette (page,) and use the “Paste From” feature under Paint’s Edit menu to open my doctored cover model image. I then “select” this image, choose the transparent background style in the options box just below the toolbar and drag the image into the foreground of my cover. Finally, I add the book title and my name using fonts available in the “Text” feature on the Paint Toolbar.

I hope all of this makes sense. As I did, you will need to play with Paint and/or GIMP for a while if you want to learn how to apply all the features.

Here’s a condensed demo of the steps involved:

Book cover demo

Would I advise you to follow my example? Well, that depends upon how much time you want to spend on your cover. You don’t absolutely need a lot of artistic experience. You might choose a likely photo and use that for your book cover without making any alterations. Adding text and/or clip art graphics is also doable by anyone.

Obviously, the other alternative is to hire someone to create your book cover. Search online and you will find numerous companies that do this type of work. I have not looked into how much they charge, but I’m sure their fees vary according to what you want on your cover. If you choose this path, I invite you to comment about it here. I and others would be very interested to hear about your experience. Meanwhile, I will discuss “embedding” a book cover in your book file on my next blog. Thanks for visiting!