Monday, January 29, 2018

Interview with Illustrator Little Cloud

Today on Illustrator Monday I'd like to welcome Little Cloud.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I studied illustration at CO1 School of Visual Arts and graduated with distinction. Since then, I have been working on graphic design and children illustration. My medium of choice is acrylic and watercolour. I likes making my works that creates contradicts between cool colour and innocent children face, depicting the human relationship and contradictory life.
If there was one thing you wished author’s knew about illustrating what would it be?
Style – the wordings is important to make one fascinating of your story, but style would help create the soul for your book. Finding the right style that you imagine in your brain is most critical.
That is challenging, every Illustrator has a unique style.  It is a challenge to find just the right one that fits with your story. How do you communicate with the author on a project? Do you like it when the author gives a lot of direction or just lets you have creative license?
I would prefer author giving me a clear direction so we don’t have to waste a lot of time on revising an artwork. Usually we can compromise into agreed visuals in verbal. By fine tuning the layout, the most desired features or styles will happen.   
What has been your favorite project to work on so far?
It was a music children book – with very cute animals and musical instruments for 3-8 aged children
What is your preferred medium to illustrate in?  Digital? Pencils? Watercolor?
Watercolour and pencil
Any last words?
Frankly I’m not an experienced illustrator for children book. But I always look for an opportunity to develop further in children illustration. I’m a person who is nice to work with and am very responsive for my jobs. Just give me chance and I believe I could be the best partner with you.
Thanks for sharing with us today. Where can we find out more about you?
Very glad if you could follow my Facebook and instagram J

I’m from Hong Kong. Just drop me an email


Friday, January 26, 2018

Interview with Kaki Olsen author of Swan and Shadow

This Friday I'd like to welcome author Kaki Olsen. Tell us a little about yourself.  

      I’m a Boston-raised, BYU-educated Red Sox fan who writes in between her full-time job, her               volunteer work and as much travel as she can fit in.  I’ve been writing since elementary school,           but it took me 16 years of non-fiction publications to get around to my debut novel.  I write                horror, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and literary fiction as well as personal non-fiction.  I            have no kids, but I have six nephews, three nieces, one step-nephew, two fish and a lot of                    fictional characters to keep me company.

Wow you sound busy.  Will you share a short excerpt from your novel?

I think it’s inevitable that every high school student read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.  Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up one day as a giant cockroach.  He tries to live a normal life, even when everything’s changed.  He can’t work or go out.  He can’t find joy in things that used to make him happy.  He overhears conversations about what a burden he is to the rest of his family.  Eventually, he allows himself to die to put an end to that.

In all of Aislin’s years of homeschooling, I only asked to change the curriculum once.  When Mom mentally replaced Gregor with Aislin, she removed it from the planned reading list without further argument.

It may be just a story, but I’ve seen some of the guilt Aislin feels for the circumstances she didn’t ask for.  If anyone in this world knows what it was to wake up one day with a different life, it would be her.

Aislin has always said that I try to compensate for her lack of a life with my own activities.  She scoffs at my attempts to keep her life normal, but I would rather risk her scorn than let her believe that she has nothing to contribute to our lives.

As far as I know, Aislin has never read that novella, but I’m sure that she knows the story too well.

What brought about the idea for this book?

      I have always loved Swan Lake, but thought one night that the premise would be impossible in a       modern context.  Within ten minutes, I had imagined a life where a character was expected to           find true love when she has human contact only with people she runs into at the all-night                     convenience stores.

Sounds interesting, I bet that would come with all sorts of challenges along with a bunch of interesting characters. Have you been given any helpful advice? If so What?         

          A few years ago, I took the author of Ella Enchanted out for lunch.  We got around to talking              about writing and she said that the best character tip she had been given was to search the                pockets of the character in question.  It’s how she came up with a book of proverbs that one of          her kings uses as his guiding principles.  It’s also how I found a rag doll that once belonged to              the dead daughter of a prisoner of war.

I'll have to remember that one. That sounds like fun. Currently, what are you working on? 
      Last year, I published the story of an android who saves a human colony ship by illegally smuggling a dragon egg on board.  My roommate encouraged me to write a collection of stories set in that world.  The dragon now has an Italian adopted sister, goes to elementary and is passionate about voting rights for family pets.

           I’m writing my first murder mystery and historical fiction, set in 1926 England, where the                        daughters of a stationmaster find a dead body on one of the trains to pass through their father’s              station.  It connects to a greater mystery and pattern of deaths.

           My third project is entitled Here There Be Humans and chronicles the epic quest of young                   dragons to find their long-lost kin.  The catch is that in the wider world, there are bloodthirsty                 monsters who kill dragons on sight and practically worship anyone who slays a dragon.  When               they finally meet a human, she is an autistic princess who is intimidated by humans as well and               whose advisors want her to feel too incompetent to sit on the throne.

          It looks like you are keeping busy.  I find jumping back and forth between stories keeps me from getting bored. Tell us a little bit about your main characters

          Swan and Shadow is the story of twin sisters.  Aislin is homeschooled, intelligent, reserved and               uninterested in taking risks.  Maeve plays three sports, dates regularly and has made it her                       mission in life to find her younger sister a boyfriend.  This is complicated by the fact that Aislin is           so wary of taking risks because she is the latest in a string of Byrnes who have spent their days as             swans and their nights as humans.  She has a deadline for breaking the curse and is terrified that             she will screw it all up, but it takes another catastrophe to take her own destiny in hand.  Maeve             feels guilty about the life that her sister can’t live just because the curse only afflicts one member             of the family.  She sees everything she does as well-intentioned and an acceptable level of                       interference.

    What was your favorite scene to write?

         Aislin and her love interest go to see The Nutcracker and discuss how crappy most ballet stories            are to the main characters.  Only one of them knows that she’s living the crappy story of Swan               Lake.  I loved writing the dramatic irony of that and it takes place as they’re sitting on the subways         that I rode in high school. 

What has been the best compliment you have received since you released Swan and Shadow?

       My book came out in March.  I gave my best friend a copy of Brandon Sanderson’s Calamity for         her birthday in late Febraury and she said I could borrow it after she finished reading.  When I             tried to borrow it, though, she said she’d put the book down until she finished reading my book.       I got very angry that she had her priorities wrong, but when she announced at the end that my           book was phenomenal, I forgave her.  (She’s also the person who proofread draft 3, which                   caught my publisher’s attention.)

      That ties with a commentary from my first male reader.  His wife bought the book for his                     birthday and since he was the 83-year-old, gruff, no-nonsense tenor who sat behind me in choir         rehearsal, I wasn’t sure he’d like a fairy tale retelling.  One day, he approached me and said,              “Kathryn, you’re writing the rest of that story, right?”  “Yes, I will.”  “Good,’ he muttered.                    “Otherwise, I’d have to kill you.”

What kind of research do you do before you start a new story?

      It depends on the story.  For Swan and Shadow, I researched folk tales and swan behavior.  I               watched videos of flight patterns.  I calculated range because someone asked me if the swan               ever got out of reach of home.  She is the same person who found me a Roman recipe for roast         swan.

      For What Is Behind Him, my murder mystery, I’ve been researching such things as shell-shock,           inter-war home life, socioeconomic problems, the history of the British railways, the                             development of the BBC programming, fashion in the 1920s, burial customs in rural England,               educational opportunities for women, war service of certain battalions and wildflowers of                   Southeast England.

     I think my most interesting research was for Here There Be Humans.  I decided that the dragons          needed to run into a human who catches them off-guard and immediately, a 17-year-old girl              walked into my mind.  She was dainty and well-dressed, but also very nervous in appearance and      prone to fluttering her hands like tiny wings.  She wouldn’t tell me why this was because I knew          immediately that she had a verbal output disorder and I spent several weeks finding out what her      symptoms meant.  Eventually, I ran across Fragile X Syndrome, which manifests at time as high-          functioning autism in females, and I knew I had her diagnosis.  I’ve since read books from the              perspective of people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and talked to parents of autistic                      children.  I even found a name meaning “swallow,” which fit her birdlike mannerisms.  In a book        on Tudor life, I discovered that the mentally impaired were listed as innocents because they                could not be held accountable for their actions.  So Princess Celandine the Innocent was born, a        name which suggests she’s virtuous, but is actually a sly insult to her disorder.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

       Cedar Fort sends a questionnaire about cover ideas out with their book contracts.  I then got an        e-mail with a proof of the cover.  I gave feedback and was surprised to have a good friend of                mine respond.  Rebecca Greenwood works as one of their artists and is a published author in              her own right, but I knew her from church and she even was in a musical that I helped                          choreograph one summer.

Kaki, how do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?

      Most of the time, I remember that it’s not personal.  If I have a specific issue that I refuse to               change, I discuss it with the critic.  For example, my acquisitions editor wanted me to change the       ending to Swan and Shadow.  I told her in detail why it had to end that way, but she still                       disagreed.  Eventually, I wrote something in the middle and she loved it.

     In another case, my proofreader objected to an insecurity of a main character and went on at            inappropriate length about how annoying it was.  By the end of the manuscript, I was ready to            scream.  We worked out that it was a matter of the character never developing from beginning to      the end in regards to that insecurity.

      I think the hardest part is knowing when to take it and when to leave it. How many times do you think you read your book before going to print?

       14. I kept track.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Feature with Illustrator Sudipta Dasgupta




Today is my first Illustrator Feature.  Sudipta has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his work and some suggestions when working with an illustrator.

What made you want to be an illustrator?

I’ve always liked to draw pictures, based on some incidents/subject etc instead of abstract painting. During my art college study, I found my core happiness in the story book Illustrations. Later it became my profession when one by one publisher and individual author started working with me. I felt more happiness doing it because it is not a monotonous job which I enjoy the most.

How long does it typically take for you to complete one color illustration of a book?

This depends on the Required style. Some have realistic; some have rather easy, simple style. So I can say one day to four days.

What tips would you give a new illustrator starting out?

Think normally, feel from their sides (like the characters you are developing in the story) then try to understand the Situation of the storyline/subject and now make a nice composition which is the Key of the illustration. Create three to four Layouts. Discuss with your clients if it’s a commissioned work.  Take the best one out of it and start the final work. Make primary color page; if everything seems nice then go ahead with final color. Make it attractive.

Great advice. What warnings could you give an author looking for a new illustrator?

Instead of warning, some suggestions I can give you. Always talk a lot and friendly way to your illustrator. Try to understand if he/she is able to get your point of view, let him/her speak openly and fit himself/herself with your storyline/subject.  If possible, ask him/her show a mock up or similar works he/she has done before. Then discuss price and time and other things (royalty copyrights etc). Always keep a Signed Contract paper before starting the project. The safest way is to ask them to open an account in freelancer website where the money can be saved as escort payment. Once the project is over, you can release the fund.  You can release partial payment once the layout is confirmed.

Those are some excellent suggestions. When an author contracts with you, do they own exclusive rights to the images, or does that have to be purchased separately?

When I get paid, all images belong to my authors/publishers. I can request them to allow me using 1-2 samples on my website. That’s all.

Do Illustrators offer revisions of their work?

Of course they do. When it is in the layout form, authors can ask for modifications. Once the layout is approved and color is complete, Illustrator cannot change any composition, but only the color. So authors have to understand this.

That's good to know.  I haven't worked with an illustrator yet, but I am sure I will in the near future.  It's nice to see things from the other side of the page;)Any last words?

Hire me and feel the heavenly difference. J

 Thanks so much for sharing with us.  Below are some more samples of sudipta's work as well as the places you can contact him.  Happy Reading!!

At my home or at this website



 Linked in: 



Sunday, January 21, 2018

Illustrator Monday

I am going to try something new.  Beginning Monday, I will start featuring an Illustrator a week.  So if your interested in getting started in the business, or perhaps you are looking for someone to illustrate an upcoming book, or design a cover for you, don't forget to stop buy.

Also feel free to send me an email if there are any questions you'd like me to ask  Finding the right illustrator for you story is a process and shouldn't just be jumped into.  Do your research, ask for samples and referrals.  Look at several different styles and see which one is best suited for the story you have written.

Best of Luck with all your novel endeavors.  Happy Reading!!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Interview with T. A. Hernandez author of the Secrets of Peace Series

Let's welcome T. A. Hernandez! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve always loved a good story, whether it comes from a book, movie, television show, video game, or anything else you can think of. I dabbled in writing stories a little bit as a kid, but when I was fourteen, my family moved from southern California to a rural town in Idaho, and writing became a sort of escape for me. I began to take it more seriously and actively looking for ways to improve. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always something I was passionate about—something that eventually became a part of me. I still have a lot to learn, but I think that’s the great part about writing. You’re always learning something, always growing, and that’s exciting. Aside from being a writer, I’m also a mother, an artist, and a college student majoring in social work.

You sound busy. Will you share a short excerpt from your novel with us?

Zira pretended not to notice the way Jared’s hands shook so much he couldn’t even get the key into the ignition. He dropped it on the floor and slammed his hand against the steering wheel, cursing. Zira focused on the branches of a tree outside, but she could see him in her peripherals, hunched over with his head bowed as he rubbed his hands over his coarse, black hair.

“I’m sorry,” Zira said. “About your team and…what he did to you.”

“I don’t need your pity,” Jared growled.

“I know. I don’t pity you.”

He sighed and sat up. “Yeah, well, it’s over now.”

“Are you relieved? That they’re dead?”

Jared met her gaze, and Zira was caught off guard by how much pain she saw in his eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before, or maybe he’d just done a good job of hiding it until now. “I wouldn’t say that I’m relieved. But I do feel better somehow—safer—knowing they’re gone.” He took Zira’s hand, an unexpected gesture that made her flinch. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“I’ve been dreading this since we first saw Li in that diner. It was easier knowing I wasn’t going into it alone.”

“Anyone could have done that.”

“Maybe. But it was you who put me at ease all week and gave me something else to think about.”

“I didn’t—”

Jared shook his head and gave her a small smile. “It’s just a ‘thank you,’ Zira. You don’t need to get defensive about it.”

“All right,” she muttered. “You’re welcome.”

What brought about the idea for this book?

The idea for Secrets of PEACE came from a few different places, and it’s hard for me to identify any one thing or even a series of things that gave me the idea. The characters came first, or at least the main protagonist did. I had been through some difficult personal issues in the two years before I started writing the book, and I think I just wanted to write a character who was strong and resilient in spite of having the odds stacked against her. I had also just finished playing the first Assassin’s Creed game, and I was intrigued by the idea of murder being used as a tool for peace. That idea formed the foundation for the plot, and the story evolved from there. It changed a lot along the way, and it took five years to really get it right, but I’m satisfied with the way it turned out.

Tell us a little bit about your main characters

Secrets of PEACE has two protagonists, both of whom are assassins working for the authoritarian government in a future America. Zira is the primary protagonist. At eighteen years old, she’s inexperienced and a bit reckless, but hardworking and determined to prove herself. She doesn’t trust people easily, and her abrasive personality can be a fun challenge to write. Jared is the other protagonist of the series. He’s a couple years older than Zira, fiercely dedicated to his job, and the best assassin in their unit. He’s skilled and tough, but he definitely has a softer side that he isn’t afraid to show to the people he trusts. Chairman Ryku is another major character in the story and serves as a mentor to both Zira and Jared.

They sound like interesting characters. What was your favorite scene to write?

It’s so hard to pick just one, but I’m going to have to choose the scene at the end of the first act of the story in chapter 11. It’s an intense scene, and things take a definite turn for the worst for Zira. But that’s really what starts her personal journey of self-discovery and self-determination, which continues throughout the rest of the series. The scene also introduces a character who has become one of my favorites to write (and seems to be a favorite among readers as well), so that’s exciting.

Currently, what are you working on?

There are three planned books in the Secrets of PEACE series. The second one, Renegades of PEACE, came out in July 2017, and I’m currently working on the third book, Survivors of PEACE. It was kind of a surprise novel. I had originally planned to end the series with Renegades, but then somewhere during the revision process, the characters began insisting that there was more of the story to tell. Ever their obedient servant, I of course gave in to their demands.

What has been the best compliment you have received?

Anytime someone compliments me on my characters, I’m beyond thrilled. It’s great to see when they come to life for readers the way they do for me. I had one reader in particular who mentioned the complex character relationships and relatable human emotions as a highlight of the book, and that was probably the best compliment I’ve ever received about anything I’ve written.

That's great.  It's always nice to know people enjoy something you put your heart and soul into. Do you have people read your drafts before you publish?  How do you select beta readers?

Oh yes, I definitely have people read my drafts before I publish. Several times. It’s a key part of my writing process, and I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without the feedback I’ve received from beta readers and critique partners along the way. I have two betas who read for me regularly and whose input I value and respect tremendously. One is my critique partner and fellow indie author, EJ Fisch, who writes amazing science fiction novels with complex characters and fast-paced plots. The other is my best friend, who reads way more than anyone else I know and is great at spotting big-picture issues like poor characterization, pacing, and plot holes. Aside from that, I usually try to do beta reading swaps with other writers. I find most of them through Goodreads and social media. I prefer to use people who write in the same genre I do, or as close to it as possible.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

Being an artist as well as an independent author definitely has its advantages. I designed the covers for all of my books myself. It’s fun, and sometimes it serves as a nice motivation to keep me going when I’m halfway through the writing process and feel stuck. I can whip up a cover and remind myself that someday, I’ll be holding that book in my hands, and all the crap I had to go through to get the dang thing finished will have been worth it.

How do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?

This has probably been said time and time again, but it’s important, so I’ll say it anyways. You can’t take criticism personally. Sometimes that’s hard, especially when someone criticizes something you were really proud of or thought was nearly perfect. And if you need to take a minute to scream into a pillow or drown your sorrows in a chocolate milkshake, that’s fine. But don’t wallow. It’s not about you. It’s about making the story the best you can possibly make it. At some point, you just have to pick yourself up, take a step back, and try to look at the story objectively so you can fix what’s wrong with it. Not all criticism you receive will be helpful, but if you can put your own personal feelings aside, you’ll be able to sort out the useful stuff from the nonsense and do what works best for your story.

Great Advice, any last words?
Thanks so much for the interview! I always love talking about writing with readers and fellow authors, so if you ever want to reach out, please don’t hesitate to contact me through my website or social media.

Find out more about the Secrets of Peace Series.  Happy Reading!!

Secrets of PEACE:

Renegades of PEACE:




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Interview with Birks Kalulu author of The Dream Actor

Today I'd like to Welcome Birks Kalulu author of The Dream Actor.

Birks Kalulu is a university graduate with a degree in public administration from the University of Zambia. He is currently working at Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. He is an online entrepreneur, loves traveling and networking with like-minded people. He is a loving husband and father to two beautiful children. He believes the brain is limitless and every problem has a solution.

Birks, what got you into writing?

I have always wanted to get my voice heard, to tell a story to the world. I have done it before in music but I wanted to expand my outreach. I am a bookworm (that is an understatement) I hope through my writings in my various genres I will be able to help somebody feel that they are not alone. And so I take up a pen and conquer the voiceless corners of the world.

Share a short excerpt from your novel

“Detective Vee!” interrupted Jack, pointing to a tree with three dead dogs up ahead. “You have brought your men to die. You will do them a favor if you call it off,” urged Jack, with a stern look on his face.

“Not a chance,” he replied as they went below the tree. The dead dogs had their eyes gouged out. “Today your brother will pay for all he has done,” warned the detective.

Many more dead dogs where piling up as the pair where getting closer to the men in front of them. Detective Vandross did not appreciate the art of defeat. He didn’t want to lose lives today. But tables were turned against him.

      Which do you prefer: print books or ebooks?

That is a tricky question to ask a writer. So I will answer it instead as a reader (hang me not!). I prefer print books. I love the texture, the smell and their supernatural ability not to have a low battery.

    Having a battery die in the middle of reading a great book would be super frustrating!  Luckily when I do read on a tablet I make sure my battery is charged. Have you been given any helpful advice?

Yes, a lot of great advice. Advice is as important to the mind as food is to the body. The advice ranged from plot settings, grammar, character descriptions etc. Most of the information I got I used it during the writing process.

    Currently, what are you working on?

I have 3 unfinished books, one is a sequel to the dream actor and the other two are nonfiction, a memoir of my father and the other, a social essay. And yes, I plan to finish them all year (fingers crossed).

  Tell us a little bit about your main characters.

The main characters are twins who were born with a mysterious connection. The other twin dreams and the other one acts them out unknowingly. These dreams cause chaos in the little town of Hillsdale. So the boys embark on a heart-stopping crusade to find out the why factor and end these nightmares. In their pursuit to find a solution the dream actor becomes vilified while the dreamer attempts to become his savior.

Share something with us not a lot of people know about you.

Sure thing but I hope I do not get in trouble for it. I used to steal books from the school library so that I could selfishly read them alone. I had nearly depleted the school library; well mostly it was a stash of novels (so I guess I can be forgiven for that).

    Make up for it by donating a few of your books to the library. How do you promote your books? Any tips you can share?

Social media connections, email newsletter, participation in blogs, forums, joining writer groups, having my own blog and website, setting aside a portion of every working day for marketing and outreach (Doing all that EVERY SINGLE DAY).

   Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?

It is not a standalone novel; I am in the process of publishing the sequel early this year. 

What is the easiest part of the writing process?  What is the hardest?

I am going to answer this using my general writing process. They are 5 phases in my writing process.

Prewriting - this is the hard part, I look at this as the back bone of the whole process.  

Writing – this part is easy as long as the back bone is firm enough; though the beginning is harder than the end for me.  

Revision – this is semi hard, but much of my revision is less stressful because I try as much as possible to perfect my story in its early stages.

Editing- I love this part, because now I know I am almost done. And my work is going to be a master piece!

Publishing- As I self-published author, this process was easy, the difficult part is getting your book in front of the right eyes (the readers).

 Do you have people read your drafts before you publish?  How do you select beta readers?

No author should neglect the blessing of beta readers. They are important to the writing process because they play a part in the editing phase. Their advice or feedback is cardinal to the survival of your work. I personally have 3 beta readers, and they have been so helpful by giving me undiluted constructive advice over my work. Two of my beta readers are seasoned writers, which makes their feedback even more important.

Having a good team is critical! Any last words?

I am thankful for the opportunity of being selected for this author interview session. And as people go out and get my book, I want them to realize that dreams are not what they seem. Dreams do come true.

Thanks Birks for sharing with us today.  Check out The Dream Actor.  Happy Reading!!