Monday, October 31, 2022

Book Cover Designers—If You're Looking For One Then You Might Want to Read This


There are a few reasons that I decided to do this post today. The first of which is that I've been running a fun little tournament on my Instagram for my followers to vote on their favorite covers of mine, so I thought I would share a bit more about the covers in question. I've also recently been discussing book cover designers with a friend who is considering her options and I realized that I had a lot to say on the subject.

But finally, this is a bit of a love letter to my cover designers. I appreciate all of the hard work that they put into each and every one of my covers, and into giving each of my books lovely, unique, eye-catching covers. So, if you are looking for a cover for your upcoming release, I heartily recommend these options.

This post is mostly for indie authors, but if you enjoy seeing a glimpse into how independently published books get out there then you're probably going to want to read it to.

Anyway, with all my preemptive rambling out of the way. Here are the covers.


These covers I found on a site called The Book Cover Designer. Basically, the site is a place where a large collection of cover designers post premade covers, they have already completed, and you sort through the site until you find a cover that you think will fit your book. Then you buy it, and it is removed from sale. The nice thing about all premade covers, not just the ones on this site, is that they are available almost instantly, so if you're last second shopping you might want to check into premade covers.

There are a great many designers and covers on this site so you will get varied results from some stuff that doesn't look all that professional to stuff that looks really, really great. The price range also varies a ton. It can go from $20 bucks to $800, depending on sellers.

One of the issues with this site is that there is just so dang much to choose from and so the cover you are looking for can get buried under a lot of stuff that you aren't. They have search words and divide the books by genre, but it can still be a bit much to slough through. I've browsed hundreds of pages on that site before deciding on a cover.

But if you have the time and the patience, you're more than likely to find a cover that fits your price range and your story.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of this cover designer. I had the cover done when I was fifteen and it was actually my mom who emailed him and did the transaction (since when I was that age, I had no computer or internet access of my own). I need to find those old emails, but without his name we're looking for a seven-year-old email in a haystack. Still, he did a fantastic job. When I first saw this cover, the girl had black hair and a pale green dress, but I knew immediately that she was Chelsea. The rest of the cover was the same and after the colors got changed it became the cover you see today. I think I remember it being about $75.

This cover was designed by a lady by the name of BetiBup. She puts out a lot of covers on The Book Cover Designer. I'm not the biggest fan of some of her styles, but I liked this one, and she is extremely affordable (this cover cost me about $48 dollars, I think). When I first saw this cover, I can't remember what the girl's hair color was, but her dress was black. And I don't think the magic swirling around her was there, but I can't remember if that was added later or not. The one issue I had with getting this cover was that I don't think English was the designer's first language and there was a lot of confusion as we emailed back and forth, trying to get the coloring right. BetiBup was very patient and willing to make any changes that I asked for, she just sometimes didn't fully understand what those changes were due to the language barrier.

While I was mulling over the idea of releasing alternate cover editions of some of my books, I turned to The Book Cover Designer again. I flipped through the pre-made covers to see if anything would tickle my fancy and that's when I stumbled upon this one. I couldn't get the cover out of my head and eventually I reached out to the cover designer, Katharina Fisher. She was very amicable and willing to even design it as a dust jacket for my purposes. Plus, she agreed to continue with the rest of the series, having those custom made and at a discount.

Which is how I got this cover:

I definitely recommend Katharina if you are into more of an abstract look to your covers.

Victoria Cooper Art:

Victoria Cooper is a designer I found through The Book Cover Designer. She had gorgeous premades, but none of them quite fit what I was looking for. But then I found out that she charges roughly around the same amount to make a custom cover as she charged for her premades. Most cover designers charge much more for a custom cover than a pre-made which leads to me feeling guilty and deciding to only get a premade and waiting till Kingdom Come for them to make a premade that fits exactly what I'm looking for.

I worked with Victoria Cooper a lot. She did the covers for all of my Winter Cursed books, Of Gold and Iron and Of Stars and Shadows, and a good number of my Amar books including the whole Return to Amar series.

(and while I am changing these covers, I still love the originals)

She's quick, reliable (I've never had to schedule out to have a cover made, I just emailed her whenever I needed one and she would get me a final file in a few weeks), polite, and always willing to make revisions. She won't even complain when the whole concept has to be scrapped—which has happened once or twice, oops.

But more than that, she also isn't afraid of a little experimentation inside of the parameters of your design. For Winter Cursed I wanted the picture of Elisabeth holding an apple while there are brambles with roses blooming on them circling the image.

This is what the original concept for Winter Cursed looked like:

But Victoria had the idea that it would look better if it was more of an isolated image with a simple, but eye-catching background and have the brambles wrap around a frame (I chose a mirror to match my story) and viola, we got the cover we have today.

She also, played around with the color. I liked the brown the best because that was the first one she showed me and I absolutely fell in love with it, but she also sent me a blue version and that was when I knew that needed to be the color of the second book's cover.

So yeah, I definitely recommend her.

Fantastical Ink:

Fantastical Ink is the designer of my Harbinger of the End cover.

Fantastical Ink was amazing to work with. When I ordered the cover, I didn't know the full specifications of the cover size and I had yet to write the blurb for the back cover, so they said that I could purchase the cover then and when I was ready, I would give them the specifications and they would adjust accordingly. Which was a huge help because KDP can sometimes be finicky about cover sizes and my edits can sometimes add a few thousand words so contacting them after that to have the cover size adjusted meant that I had no problems whatsoever uploading my cover.

One of the things about them is that they are a little on the pricier side. They're one of the companies I was talking about where there premades are much cheaper than custom covers. You also have to schedule pretty far out. They keep a calendar on their website for what months they are available to be booked and the months fill up so if you want to work with them, I recommend scheduling it a little bit in advance. They do, however, sometimes do 20% off premades sales. It was through one of those sales that I purchased Harbinger's cover.

Another thing of note with Fantastical Ink is that to buy a cover from them you have to sign a contract with them saying that you will have to purchase a secondary license from them if your book sells a certain number of copies and that they are the only ones who can add to the book (add dust jacket flaps, turn it into an audiobook, or give it a back and spine). I oftentimes go with someone else for all of those things if it is going to cost too much to have the original designer make a back and spine (usually if it is more than $50), but with this cover I cannot. If you don't outsource that shouldn't be a problem at all, but I've had to jump through certain hoops (such as the fact that the audiobook cover will be of the alternate hardcover version since it would cost $5 to get it converted with someone else and much more with Fantastical Ink).

Still, they make gorgeous premades and I love to check out what they come out with.

100 Covers:

So, you might not feel comfortable working just one on one with the designer and would rather do business with designers that have a company backing them. Well, then these next two designer options are probably more for you. The first of which is 100 Covers. They did the cover for Domain of the North: Awoken

100 Covers is extremely affordable (you can get a custom-made ebook cover for only $100 dollars) and they offer unlimited revisions. This is very important to me because I usually have the designer tweak one small detail at least a dozen times before I decide that I liked the first option best—I know, I'm probably a pain to work with. Which leads into the next thing, you don't talk to the designer 1-on-1 with 100 Covers. Instead, you talk to a go-between who keeps everything civil, makes sure that you are satisfied and that everything you want is passed on to the designer. This helps to avoid getting snapped at by a harried designer (not that such a thing has happened to me while getting covers done, but I did have an artist I worked with snap at me before and it can get a bit awkward after that). Revisions do take a little while to be completed, but it's worth the wait.

One of my favorite things about 100-Covers is that audiobook and Kindle Vella covers are automatically included in the cheapest option. If you order the full-wrap option (the $200 one), dust jacket flaps are also included. A lot of people do not include these features. I usually have to pay $5 per each audiobook cover I want converted, $10 for dust jacket flaps, and I paid an extra $40 dollars for a Vella Cover for my other story I'll be releasing on that platform, Savage Gods and Spellbooks.

Also, they don't charge extra to do an illustrated cover versus a photo manipulation cover. Most companies will have illustrated covers cost more, and for good reason. It takes a lot more work to create an image from scratch. But 100 Covers doesn't charge extra which is, well, it's fantastic.

But most importantly still, 100 Covers offers a series discount (!!!!) 50% off each subsequent book in the series, so if you order the ebook option all the books after that will be only $50 and if you order the paperback option each book after that will be only $100.

Mibl Art and its Sub-Categories:

This one is quickly becoming some of my favorite designers to work with simply because they offer so dang much. I first found them through their sub-group GetCovers, which is their budget-friendly covers option. You can get a cover for $10, $20, or $35 depending on how many stock images you want (I always go with the $35 option). Don't worry, if you think that there's no way you can get an excellent quality cover for that cheap, then rest assured I've worked with them extensively and you can judge their cover work based on the covers I have listed here:

Also they offer 100% money back guaranteed if you are not pleased with their work

They have a very quick turn-around, so if you're in a hurry know that you'll get your cover in time.

On top of designing super cheap and amazing looking covers, GetCovers offers a whole range of other services. I used to have someone on Fiverr convert my audiobook covers, but Fiverr charges fees so a cost of $5 goes up to $7. GetCovers charges no fees, so it is only $5. They are also who I go to for dust jacket flaps (it costs $10), or if I want a back and spine done for a cheaper option than the designer I am currently working with offers (unless of course I signed a contract like I did with Fantastical Ink). It costs $10 for a basic spine, $20 if you want something a little fancier.

The $10 option

Something fancier I got for $20

Considering that a lot of designers charge AT LEAST $50 more for a full-wrap this is an amazing deal. (as an example, I went with the $100 option for 100 Covers which means that I don't get the full wrap, but rather than paying an extra $100 dollars for a full-wrap and dust jacket, I can get that from GetCovers for $20-30 dollars). They also did the typography for my Harbinger of the End hardcover since the artist who illustrated it didn't work with fonts.

MiblArt offers higher-end cover design for a somewhat more expensive rate. Their covers are $150 for ebook and $200 if you want the wrap-around addition. It's much more expensive that GetCovers, but I think the quality of their work speaks for itself. The designed my The Gods Created Monsters cover and tbh I still can't get over how perfect that cover is and how it so perfectly matches everything I was going for.

Mibl also does cover redesigns, for the same price as a regular cover, but they'll take an older cover and spruce it up, keeping a lot of the same elements but just making it shnazzier. This is actually what I'm doing with my OGaI and OSaS having them redesigned to better fit their genre and while I can't share the new covers just yet, I'm in love with what we have so far.

GetPremades is the final sub-group and I think its name is self-explanatory. It offers some of the best quality premade covers I've come across. Its price is comparable with MiblArt so you won't get too much of a discount with them, but sometimes you come across a cover you just can't live without and would never have thought of designing yourself like what happened with me.

GetPremades also offers custom premades in that you can order a specific style pre-made, they will make it. Like Victoria Cooper, it costs as much to make a custom cover as a premade so you're at your leisure to choose what cover would work for your story best. They will then offer you the first opportunity to buy the pre-made. If you decide against it, they will put it up for sale. It's a good option if you want to see how a cover design would work out with minimal commitment since you don't actually have to buy the cover when they are through (although I've loved the designs they've come up with for me and haven't been able to resist). This is what I did for the Era of Evil and Winter Cursed Omnibus covers.

With MiblArt and GetPremades Custom Covers, you do not pay until you are satisfied with the final version of the cover. Those two also offer a 10% series discount so every book after the first in a series will be 10% off. (GetPremades offers series continuation on all their pre-made covers so you don't have to order a custom cover to be able to have your books all match in a series)

MiblArt and GetPremades also include a free Title Page in your purchase, you have to pay $5 extra for a title page from GetCovers.

All three options have unlimited revisions, and they get them done fast, within a matter of days. They do the same thing that 100 Covers does and have you speak to a representative rather than the designer themselves. Also, they offer regular discounts, just join their newsletters and they'll keep you appraised of whenever they are running a sale.

I use MiblArt and its subcategories so much, there's rarely a release that goes by that I don't use them in some way or the other. Whether as an alternate cover, to make my audiobook cover, or get a spine and back.

Illustrated Covers:

Or perhaps you want a fine art illustration cover on your book. I can't say I blame you, it's one of my favorite cover styles. If you're wondering how to get a lovely, illustrated cover I'll tell you where I found my own. I stalk the artists on Instagram, lol. I probably follow hundreds of artists over there to keep an eye on what their art styles are, their pricing, and if their commissions are open or not.

For most of the illustrated covers I've gotten, I contact an artist not a cover designer. I discuss their rates for what the cover would cost, some have specific prices for covers while others calculate it depending on how many characters and what type of background it is. Another thing that I make certain of is that I'm purchasing an illustration I can use for commercial reasons or if that is automatically included in the price.

Illustrated covers take a while to complete, it takes at least a month to finish a cover of this style. Not to mention that the artists have other commissions/take hiatuses and are not always available all the time so when I want a cover done, I schedule it several months—sometimes half a year or more—in advance.

Hannah Rogers did the covers for A Tale of Gods and Glory, and my Rage Like the Gods books.

She's lovely to work with, and really works on the cover until she can get every detail just right. She only does the front image, so I have to find someone else to do the back and spine if I want it to be more than an ebook, but she does do her own typography.

Kae did the cover for the alternate hardcover of Harbinger of the End

Kae does do the back and spine, she even did the dustjacket flaps. However, she doesn't do typography.

I have several other artists reserved for other book covers, although I haven't had a cover done by them yet, I look forward to working with them, and I'll be able to share more about them after I have (perhaps I'll do a part two of this blog post sometime in the future when I've hired out more designers...)

Honestly, with illustrated covers the choice for me comes down to what sort of style I like the most, and think would work best for the cover. Who you hire largely depends on whether you want a more realistic image or something more stylized. And what fits in your price range.

It's also possible to purchase illustrated covers from a cover design company, although with that you can't actually pick what sort of art style you want since you have to work with the designers they have hired.

100 Covers has illustrated covers, as I mentioned above since, well, my cover with them is illustrated. And as I stated before, it doesn't cost any more than a regular cover does, so, if you're in a bit of a pinch for money, this is probably the cheapest option for an illustrated cover. However, they are quite stylized so if you're looking for something more realistic this might not be the best option for you.

MiblArt also does illustrated covers, their basic design pack for this kind of cover is $380, but it will cost extra if you want more than two characters on the cover. I have yet to get an illustrated cover from them, but their portfolio is amazing, and compared to what some artists charge $380 is not actually bad for a cover with at least two people on it. They claim to have the cover to you in 30 business days and honestly if I ever have a designer fall through and am incapable of finding another one (since I have to schedule so far out for artists), this one is my backup plan.

Moorbooks Design:

I'm finally getting a cover by Moorbooks and I honestly couldn't be more excited. To see why I'm so hyped check out their portfolio. They also do premade covers if their price is a little too much for you. The cover reveal for the book I'm getting done with them is at the end of next month if you want to see if it was worth the hype.

If you want stellar lighting and a high-quality cover for a still-reasonable price I'd recommend checking out Moorbooks. One thing I'll note is that they do charge extra if you want more than two characters on the cover. MiblArt does not which is why they're doing my The Gods Created Monsters books. Also, since Moors is very popular, I'd recommend reaching out to them a couple of months before you want the cover done because they get booked quickly.

So, all cover designers have their ups and downs. Ultimately it is up to you on what company or designer you decide to go with. I've had pleasant experiences working with all of them, and I personally love all of my covers. Hopefully, this post has helped you pin down a designer you would like to work with if you were on the market, and if not... well, it's something to refer to when you are.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Worlds of Nicki Chapelway: Part Four Ruskhazar

Okay, I will try not to show my clear favoritism and turn this into a beast of a post while I discuss today's world Ruskhazar.

Ruskhazar is the world in which 30 books of mine are set in. The tally is currently seven series and one standalone. Every time I turn around, I get a new story to add to the vast lore of this world.

This land is the harsh and beautiful home of elves and men, it has existed for three eras, but according to the gods if the prophesied end of the world is not stopped then this will be the final era.

All of the books set in this world have "gods" somewhere in the title since I wanted a clear indicator that they are all a part of the same world. (my books set in Amar all have the name of the world in their series title—I like to make it easy to know what books are connected or not).


Climate and Terrain: Despite everything that happens in this world, Ruskhazar itself is not overly large. It is a peninsula that has been nearly entirely circled by mountains. The climate is a little on the frosty side although those in the valley in the center of Ruskhazar can enjoy all of the seasons.

For the most part, Ruskhazar is a rocky, highly forested land, and the people living there wouldn't have it any other way.

There are a few islands around Ruskhazar. Einan, the largest of these islands has been settled by elves trying to get away from the other races. The Spice Isles are used as a prison/labor camp. The smaller islands are used as burial grounds or private homes of wealthy and powerful individuals.

Creatures and Monsters: Ruskhazar is the home of men and elves, both of which can be divided into two clans each.

Lowlanders— humans that dwell in the valley, these individuals are born with the ability to use magic

Highlanders— humans that come from the mountains, they are entirely immune to magic

Lower Elves— tall, golden skinned elves of the valley, they have dark hair and eyes, and are virtually immortal and usually quite snobbish

Higher Elves— short "stone elves" with gray-blue skin, white hair and pale luminescent eyes, they originally dwelt in the mountains but after their people were nearly wiped out and their homes destroyed they now exist alongside everyone else, these elves age much slower than humans and many are not fully developed adults until they are in their forties

On top of that, there are also outsiders, exiles from the deserts of the south. These people cannot control magic, nor are they immune to it.

Then there are two types of monsters that an individual can become

Vampires—considered a curse given to the followers of The Lady of Night, these creatures cannot bear the sun's rays and must drink blood every few days or risk falling into a deep sleep; however, they are granted virtual immortality and do not age. Their characteristics include pale skin, red eyes, and fangs

Werewolves— considered a blessing granted on the followers of Neltruna, these creatures can choose to take on the more powerful form of a great wolf, their only noticeable characteristics is that those who are wolf-kissed have silver eyes.

For the most part, other than vampires and werewolves (which can blend into the general population and use them to grow their numbers), all of the monsters of old have been wiped out, hunted to extinction by the Highlander's ancestors. These old monsters were dragons, krakens, shapeshifters, and many other deadly beasts that Ruskhazar is better without...

The dead don't always remain that way and are often used as puppets by necromancers. Spirits who have died violently and lost their way to Skyhold can also occasionally be spotted.

Political Atmosphere: Ruskhazar is united under a dual kingship. The Greater King is a Lower Elf who has been in power since the forming of Ruskhazar, he is largely a figurehead and is rarely even seen. Most of the state affairs are handled by the Lesser King, a Lowlander. Many Highlanders are upset by this fact, that they are forced to subject themselves to a Lower Elf and a Lowlander rather than being ruled by one of their own, many of them would rather be their own separate kingdom.

Higher Elves for the most part are too scattered to form a collective opinion. Their civilization was destroyed when Ruskhazar was founded and now they exist on the outskirts of society as criminals, servants, or addicts.

Another thing of note are the criminal underworlds, one in particular run by an elf by the name of Elwis the Eel operates as an entirely separate kingdom, one where he is the king. There are few criminal organizations that would dare to oppose him, but The Order of the Bloody Hand—an honorific assassin guild who don't keep their killings a secret— and the Queen of Thieves—a vampire who a thousand years ago ran a criminal kingdom much like Elwis's before she fell out of favor and is now trying to rebuild her organization—do attempt to hold their own against him.

Likewise, werewolf packs, vampire hoards, and sorcerer cults tend to stick to themselves and ignore the politics of Ruskhazar as a whole.

Magic: The Academy of Magickers lies near the heart of Ruskhazar, a free opportunity for any magic-wielding individual to study there and become magickers.

So, in other words, magic is very important to the culture of Ruskhazar. The majority of the population (Lowlanders, Higher Elves, Lower Elves) are born capable of wielding the substance and while not everyone chooses to tap into their potential, many do.

Highlanders are entirely immune to magic, and this is a mystery that has yet to be unlocked.

However, there is also the art of sorcery, a partnership with a demigod to wield a portion of their power. Since magic is believed to stem from the goddess of magic, to turn to another source is considered perverse and sorcery is illegal, but that doesn't stop its practitioners.

Religion: There are five deities worshiped by the people of Ruskhazar.

Thyre—the head god, the guardian of time, seasons, and the underworld

Neltruna—his wife, the goddess of monsters, the dark, and all things unknown

Eirik—the god of humanity and the rival of Thyre, he also has dominion over life and death and the harvest

Meruna—the bride of Eirik, she is the goddess of magic, love, and the virtues

Dagmy— the goddess of beauty, lies, and carnal beasts

There were two other gods, the twins who created the elves, but they hated each other so much that they fought each other even unto death

Finally, there are the demigods, the children of the gods, these individuals were killed by their godly parents, but their essence lives on. Worship of them is considered a heresy.

Okay, I'll stop myself there. If you want to find out more about Ruskhazar then you can get the novella Between Gods and Demigods for free. You can also snag yourself a copy of A Tale of Gods and Glory or pre-order Rage Like the Gods and The Gods Created Monsters. Savage Gods and Spellbooks will be releasing next year on Kindle Vella (I told you that there were a lot of stories set in this world)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Know the Novel Part One Part Two

So, here we are again.

I'm unsure if it can really be counted as a writing project if I don't make at least one change to my plans... 

Or I suppose this could technically just be called an adjustment in plans, since I'm changing nothing about what I said about my first two projects. I'm just adding a third project into the mix. The Gods Created Monsters.

I was really hoping to have this one done before the FallFicFrenzy started, but then I got back the edits from Rage Like the Gods and I've spent the past several weeks consumed with working on the final draft of that. Which really wouldn't be that hard, since I'm only really reading through it to make certain that it all sounds good and fits with continuity, except this book is like 900 pages long.

So, anyway, I have not been able to get this story finished up. Which is why I am now adding it to my FallFicFrenzy challenge, because, yeah, I need to finish this. After RLtG, this is the next book that I'm releasing. I'm already 38,000 words into it so hopefully that puts me at about halfway done. My current goal is to focus on finishing TGCM and starting Of Dawn and Fire in October and then in November I would like to finish Of Dawn and Fire and get at least halfway through Savage Gods and Spellbooks.

With all of that said, let's get to know this novel.

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

Once again, this story was inspired by a video game. It's set in Ruskhazar after all. This one is actually not at all influenced by Skyrim though. It's actually inspired by the game Dragon Age: Origins

If you've never played it then all you really know is that it is a messy complicated game about doomed heroes trying to save the world and it has my favorite fictional boyfriend Alistair Therin

he is the perfect man
(also image from Pinterest)

... and this game basically sets you up to NOT get a happy ending with Alistair unless you're willing to do a lot of really, really, really, really sketchy things. So anyway, your girl needed a happy ending so she decided to write it herself.

And that's how this story was born.

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

The gods created the monsters…now it is up to the mortals to kill them.

Alya has always dreamed of adventure, but as a noble lady she knows that the only thing her future holds in store for her is marriage. However, when her engagement to the crown prince leads to her family’s murder, Alya loses herself to her need for revenge. She wants the future king dead and she is willing to do whatever she must to ensure his doom. Even if it means becoming a commissioned monster hunter and slaying as many undead as it takes to forestall the end of the world.

She is joined in her quest by the disillusioned guardsman who saved her life, a criminal who doesn’t want to do penance, a disgraced magicker who just wants everything to go back to the way was, and her cat. If they want to survive the dangerous duty of holding the line against the monsters then these outcasts are going to have to learn how to trust each other, ignore their selfish impulses, and do something right for a change. Because the world is ending and alone, they are not powerful enough to stop it.

Slay the monsters, defend the innocents, find the source of the rising dead… and don’t kill each other in the process. It shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

A band of novice monster slayers go up against creatures that have not been seen for a thousand years in this adult high fantasy series set in the world of Ruskhazar. It is perfect for fans of Michael J. Sullivan, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Witcher Saga.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

As I already mentioned, this story is set in the world of Ruskhazar, my high fantasy world home of men and elves, sorcerers and magickers, vampires and werewolves, the living and the dead... I have a ton of books set in this world (the current tally is 30 novels and novellas all divided into seven series and a single standalone). So, one of my favorite aspects of Ruskhazar is just how vast it is. There are so many moving parts and chaotic characters and events that it needs 30 books, seven series, and one standalone just to be able to tell its story. At this point, Ruskhazar almost feels like a character all its own and while each of the series (and standalone) can be read alone, in order to get the whole of Ruskhazar itself's story all of these books are necessary to unfold the drama.

Some of the aspects of Ruskhazar that this book explores that the others don't as much are...

The royalty, my other books set in this world are about regular townsfolk: the poor, the rich, and the criminal. But this book has a lot about at least the Lesser King line the Vadimovas (there are two kings in Ruskhazar, but the High King is a figurehead and doesn't do much). Only one other book in all the 30 set in Ruskhazar has a focus on the Vadimovas and that book is set two hundred years before this one and tells the story of how they came into power.

Monster hunting. I have monster hunters in other books ste in Ruskhazar, but they are oftentimes only temporarily monster hunters, villains, or both. And with Ruskhazar in the unique situation that it is (meaning that it is going to be destroyed by the undead) monster hunters are sort of a very important part of society. One that is oftentimes overlooked both by me and by the people of Ruskhazar themselves. So, I thought it would be nice to write a story about these unsung heroes.

The connection between the classes and clans. Ruskhazar is comprised of two clans of men and two clans of elves and none of them really get along due to the kingdom's sordid history. This is a key part of all the Ruskazar books, but one of the things that I decided to do in writing this book was have each member of the monster hunting band be from a different one of these clans. Two separate types of elves, and two separate types of humans.

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

I have four protagonists in TGCM. Alya, Zarynn, Conan, and Ikor.

Listed in order that they appear in this image:

Alya is a Lowlander noblewoman. Her family was killed by her betrothed the crown prince and now she wants his head. Preferably no longer attached to his body. She is angry and focused and untrusting and quite frankly has lost too much. All she has left are her cat, a brother that she has no idea where he is, and a guardsman who saved her life.

Zarynn is a Higher Elf sorcerer, a flirt, and a hothead. He bears brands on his face, one that identifies him as a sorcerer and one that he gave himself in anger so that no one would be able to ever brand him again. Except when a sorcerer is twice branded, they are executed. And he starts out this story in jail waiting for his death sentence to be fulfilled when he's offered a pardon.

Conan is a Highlander and former guardsman, however he was designated to die defending Alya so that it would look like the crown prince, the very man he has sworn to protect with his life, wasn't the one responsible for the assassination of his fiancé. Fortunately for Conan and Alya, he managed to get them both to safety, but she lost her parents to the attack and he lost many of his former guards and friends. Now he is left wondering at his purpose and if there really is an inherent good in people.

Ikor is a Lower Elf magicker and was once the Scholar of Spells, the person responsible for chronicling every known spell. Unfortunately, he killed someone two hundred years ago to be able to get this position and the truth of his dark deeds has just come out. He has now been removed from his position and cast back into the real world. But he has quite the adjustment to make after existing in a world of academics and books for the past two centuries.

Fluff, Alya's cat also bears mentioning. He is very much like his owner. Grumpy, violent, and fiercely loyal to few.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

While he isn't in it much, the crown prince of the lesser kingly line is quite villainous. He did kill my protagonist's parents after all and try to kill her and Conan as well. However, the main villain of this book is actually a whole town. I don't want to get into too much detail because of spoilers, but essentially, they are villains. And their leader is a very powerful, very creepy vampire lord.

6. What excites you the most about this novel

Found family!

My main characters are all so messed up. I'm looking forward to them being able to find identity and security with each other while they heal from the scars of the past. Especially Alya who is very angry and very hurt and I look forward to her being able to recover enough to start caring again.

This is only the beginning of these four together, but I can't wait until they can go from the strangers who couldn't care less if any of these others live or die to being like "touch my family and you die". It's going to be a long journey and very convoluted, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Also, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I can't wait to delve further into the relationship between Alya and Conan. It's sunshine and the grump only where she is the grump and he the sunshine. But Conan is just so pure! And Alya is so much like a wounded animal. She doesn't care about morality or doing sketchy things and she certainly doesn't care if people get hurt so long as she ends up with what she wants, but Conan does and she cares about him. So, I'm really going to enjoy writing how she goes from the angry stabby person to someone who thinks twice and tries to find a more peaceful solution all because the guy she likes is squeamish when it comes to blood.

Actually, tbh Conan does this to the whole group. I put a Cinnamon Roll in the middle of a group of misfit criminals and murderers and watch him sweeten everything around him.

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

It's a four book series, this is book one.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

Plansting. I know a good deal of what needs to happen, but there's definitely some gray area, especially in the middle where I'm currently writing that I'm still trying to figure out.

9. Name a few unique elements in this story.

I don't know if this is unique per se, but the fact that this book is about monster hunters. I know that other stories have done monster hunters, but I personally haven't really written about them myself. Not to the extent that I've wanted to. So, I'm really excited to focus on a book about killing monsters and butt-kickery.

Like there is killing monsters and then there is the death of monsters being your primary goal. Where you actually set out to hunt them down and end their existence. And to me that's an important distinction.

One thing that sets this book apart from my other Ruskhazar books is that it is a large cast of characters who are actually in a group and stick together. For the most part in Ruskhazar, if I have multiple main characters then they are all sort of on their separate paths with some underlying part of the plot connecting them. But they don't really know the other main characters in their books. And they don't necessarily get along. I have some main characters who are literally enemies of each other.

One exception is my main characters in Savage Gods, but I only have two so I don't really consider that a large cast.

But TGCM has four main characters, and the main part of the book is the connection between them as they become allies. And that forced proximity is not something a lot of my other main characters in Ruskhazar books deal with. They are all loners, but the characters in this book are a family.

10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

So, here's the map of Ruskhazar again

And here's the cover of the book

I already shared a sketch of my four main characters above, but here is one of Alya and Conan as well

The pre-order link!

And here's the playlist

And Pinterest board

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Know the Novel Part One: Introduction

It comes upon the fall months where much writery must be done. Now, don't get me wrong, I write literally all the time. I don't stop writing throughout the whole year, but I have yet to cease experiencing the thrill of writing extra hard during the fall months of October and November (one to finish my project before NaNoWriMo and the other to do NaNo itself). This year I'm embarking on a new challenge called the Fall Fic Frenzy hosted by Christine Smith (speaking of, she is also the host of this linkup I am doing so seriously go give this incredibly talented blogger some love).

So, my goal with this Fall Fic Frenzy is to essentially write two novels in two months (as opposed to NaNo's one novel in a month). While I enjoy working on multiple projects at a time, when I get to a deadline and start to knuckle down to really focus on a project, I tend to set aside everything else for a week or two and write only that.

This is my attempt to broaden my attention span and see if I can get into that intense writing groove of churning out a novel super-fast with more than one project at a time. Hopefully with copious amounts of chocolate and the power of friendship I shall succeed. Wish me luck!

Today I'm going to be introducing two of my projects.

The first of which is Savage Gods and Spellbooks (SG), a high fantasy adventure set in the world of Ruskhazar. I'm hoping to start releasing it on Kindle Vella soon (maybe even as early as next month) so it definitely needs to get written. (Although technically due to the episodic format of Vella, I don't actually need to write the whole thing before I start releasing, but I want to have a sizeable chunk done nonetheless)

The second project is one that a good deal of my readers have been waiting on... it's the third and final book in the Of Dreams and Nightmares trilogy, Of Dawn and Fire (ODAF). For those of you unaware of what these books are, they're a YA romantic portal fantasy adventure about a human girl with Irish heritage who finds herself trapped in the Otherworlds, a land of fae. She tries to find some way to get herself and her brother Thomas home safely, a plan that includes kidnapping a solitary faerie that goes by the name of Ravven Crowe and forcing him to guide them back home. However, her plan goes south when her brother ends up the prisoner of a soul-stealing faerie. The only way to save him is for her to make a deal with Ravven and trust him while they work together to make her into the Fair Assassin—a human who is allowed to kill faeries...

And guess what? You can actually get the first book for free in the collection A Glimpse into the Unkown that is offered to my newsletter subscribers!

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

SG: like many of my Ruskhazar books, this story originated from video games. I would say this story is equal parts Skyrim and Dragon Age II, but the original idea came about while I was making a new character in Skyrim (a big shocker there...) I thought it would be funny if I made a character and named him after somebody who he had just watched die like 20 seconds earlier. At first, I thought he was poking fun at the Empire by claiming to be one of their previous victims, but then I wondered what if that person had actually somehow come back from the dead? What sort of trouble would he get into then? After that it was easy to implement the Dragon Age II elements, because if you have ever played it you would know that it's a very chaotic game, especially the main character Hawke. I've forever been obsessed with Anders and his negative character arc as he slowly descends from a freedom craving mage and healer to an idealistic maniac willing to do whatever sketchy things it takes to get his point across (if you know you know). Personally, I put a lot of blame on the spirit who shares his headspace and somehow that all translated into Savage Gods, don't ask me how, but it works.

ODAF: The fact that the last book ended on a cliffhanger... Okay, but in all seriousness, the idea for book one Of Gold and Iron first came about from a dream I had, fueled by my obsession with Irish legends, and the fact that I was reading The Cruel Prince Trilogy by Holly Black and really wanted to write a book with craaazy twists and turns. I realized that I couldn't fit the emotional rollercoaster that is this series into only one book. So, a trilogy it became.

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

SG: here's the blurb!

She's looking for another chance

He's already on his second life

When the outcast and dead man meet, sparks fly...

And villages burn.

Victor Andreev doesn’t remember much about how he died. What he does remember is agreeing to serve a powerful entity to cheat his death. Now granted a second chance and bound to the demigod patron of dark fates and sudden deaths, Victor wonders if he made the right choice. There is a reason that dealing with demigods is illegal…

Bronwyn and her brother have spent far too long running from their pasts. Now graduated from the Academy, they are hoping to claim a new life for themselves as Magickers. When Victor and these siblings meet, they join forces. With the dead rising all around them, they set out to discover a way to defeat a dragon before it wakes and destroys Bronwyn's home. Killing that dragon is the surest way to their redemption and they are going to need an ancient necromancer's spellbook to do it.

But this spellbook was hidden away for a reason. The spells it contains are a twisted perversion of magic and were never meant to exist. The whole world is already crumbling, but what if Bronwyn and Victor make things worse trying to save a few people? In a land where dead things wander nothing is truly what it seems. Certainly not Victor who finds himself slowly descending into a madness meant to punish him for his hubris. But that is preferable to when the demigod takes full control. Sorcery and magic were never supposed to meet and when they do, there are always deadly consequences.

Welcome to Ruskhazar, a land threatened by dark magics, dragon fires, and living dead. If you like anti-heroes, slow burn sizzling romance, and kick-butt heroines then you won’t want to miss this high fantasy series that is perfect for fans of Michael J. Sullivan and J.R.R. Tolkien.

ODAF: Yeah... so since this is the third book in a series, I cannot actually share a blurb or summary of any kind because those will contain major spoilers for the first two books. So instead enjoy a blurb from OGaI:

“Swear on something else. Swear on your humanity.”

I suddenly find it very hard to swallow. My humanity? With a jolt I realize that there are far greater things at risk here than just my life. I’m in the faerie world, anything could happen. Even immortality.

The Otherworld is the home of the faeries, deceitful, decadent, and deadly. As the next in line to be-come Guardians, Jaye and her brother Thomas are tasked with defending the human world from all things magical. But when a routine scouting mission ends with them trapped in the Otherworld, it becomes pain-fully clear that someone doesn’t want them to leave the world of the faeries. Determined to not become an immortal’s pawn, Jaye kidnaps Ravven Crowe, an arrogant solitary faerie, so that he can guide them safely home. But things quickly go from bad to worse when they are captured by the Winter Court and embroiled in a plot to start a faerie civil war. Thomas is enslaved by an Unseelie faerie, and it seems that the only way to save her brother and avoid a war is for Jaye to ally herself with Ravven.

The faeries are governed by a set of strict laws. For their own safety, the Guardians have their own rules. But with Thomas’s life hanging in the balance there is only one way to save him that does not include breaking the faerie’s Fair Law, a crime that ends in death. Together Jaye and Ravven must compete in a series of deadly tests given by the faerie courts in order to earn Jaye the right to be named the Fair Assassin and wield the Blade of Gold and Iron. As the Fair Assassin she will be permitted to kill any faerie she so chooses, but first she has to live long enough. Walking a fine line between destruction and further entanglement with Crowe, Jaye is going to have to break her own rules if she wants to win. She must trust a faerie. Her life and humanity depend on it.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

SG: the story takes place in Ruskhazar, the mountainous peninsula home of men and elves where the world is ending as the dead are raised and turned against the living. Primarily the majority of this story is set in a small village that exists between the mountains and the coast that was unfortunately built upon a dragon burial site. I'd say my favorite aspect of the setting is that I can delve deeper into the lore and worldbuilding with each book I write in Ruskhazar. In RLtG one of my characters comes across a magically sealed tomb of one of the only magicker sorcerers in history—combing magic and sorcery is not something that a lot of people do because it kills the weak and drives the strong to madness. But that's exactly what Victor does when he makes the deal with a demigod to come back to life, since he was previously a magic wielder. So, this story delves into that special sort of madness that comes from combining the two and...Victor actually manages to unseal the tomb that my other character could only wonder about.

ODAF: this book is set in the Otherworlds the home world of the fae. It is based off of Irish legends, although I've added plenty of my own elements to it. The Otherworlds are divided into five courts: the Winter Court which is the home of Unseelie faeries, the Summer Court that houses the Seelie faeries, solitary faeries reside in the Autumn Court, the Sidhe race in the Spring Court, and Merfolk can be found in the Undersea Court. I would say that one of my favorite aspects of this world is that it is the home of the faeries, many of my other worlds have human civilizations, sometimes mixed in with other races (like elves or other fae) but there is definitely a very big human influence in those worlds. Not in the Otherworlds, there are humans there, but they are far outnumbered and disadvantaged. This place is truly the faerie's playing field.

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

SG: I have two protagonists in this book. Victor, the afore mentioned dead man, and Bronwyn, a tiny ball of chaos energy and sass.

Victor is an orphan. He went to the Academy of Magickers, but was only a subpar magic wielder so he couldn't get a commission afterwards. As a last resort he ended up as a prison guard who transported prisoners to the spice isles. It was on one of these trips that the ship he was on was wrecked by a kraken and he was killed by one of the prisoners escaping (someone who actually happens to be a protagonist from RLTG, smh..) however, despite being dead, he heard a voice offering him a second chance. He took it and wound up binding himself to Likho, the demigod patron of dark fates and sudden deaths. An enigmatic deity that Victor cannot trust, because where Likho goes, chaos always follows. When he isn't being influenced by Likho, Victor is a usually very level headed guy, he feels pretty hopeless given his situation, but he doesn't know how to give up... he will complain about it though, and quite a bit.

Bronwyn comes from a family that has been tainted by sorcery (which is illegal, for those of you less aware of the magic systems in Ruskhazar), her father was a secret practitioner and was lynched by a mob when they found out. Her mother took her and her three siblings and moved in with their uncle, Bronwyn and her twin went to become magickers so that they could remove suspicion of their loyalty to magic (since as I mentioned before, those who practice magic can't use sorcery without either madness and death) they've just returned from the academy ambitious and ready to take on the whole world and prove that they are better than their father's memory. Nothing is more important to Bronwyn than making certain that her mother and sister are safe. She also loves her uncle and brother but has far more of a rivalry with them. Bronwyn is a bit of a firecracker, always speaks her mind, and is not afraid to shy away from a fight. Sarcasm is her coping mechanism; however, she has a strange sort of optimism despite how many hardships she has experienced, and an even stranger charisma that draws many to her side. She is fiercely loyal to those she considers friends, even if she doesn't always agree with them.

ODAF: this project is one of my few single POV books (I'm such a sucker for multiple POVs it isn't even funny). My protagonist is Jaye MacCullagh, a snarky human girl from the Midwest who finds herself embroiled in faerie politics. Jaye's got a big heart and an even quicker temper. My other main character (although not POV character) is Ravven Crowe, a vain solitary faerie with eyes that change color and more secrets than he would care to let on.

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

SG: As is usually the case with most of my Ruskhazar books there are multiple villains. A hungry dragon, a cult, a very powerful undead guy (who isn't Victor), Victor himself (when he isn't acting like Victor, meaning that Likho is in charge), and dare I say it, but also the public opinion plays a somewhat antagonistic role in this book.

ODAF: Everyone and everything, including Jaye and Ravven themselves occasionally. Oh, and the spirits of some long-dead and vengeful fae.

6. What excites you the most about this novel

SG: I'm not going to lie, but I am very excited to write a book that balances humor and mild horror elements like A Tale of Gods and Glory did. There is no white in this book, everything is just varying shades of gray and I'm also pretty excited to write about those nuances.

ODAF: Finally finishing this series, diving back into Jaye and Ravven's story and giving them the ending they might not deserve, but we all want to see.

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

SG: This is going to be a duology

ODAF: It's the third book in a trilogy

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

SG: Pantsing for sure, I only have a few ideas floating around in my head and a lot of vibes. This book is 100% going to be carried by the characters and I'm here for it.

ODAF: I'm going for more of a plansting approach with this one. I know some of what will happen and the general direction the story must go, but there's still a lot I look forward to discovering while I write.

9. Name a few unique elements in this story.

SG: I think that the way that this book is connected with the rest of Ruskhazar. I mean my main character was killed by another of my main characters from a different series. Which leads into the fact that my main character is lowkey kind of a zombie. I mean... he isn't decaying or shuffling around (unless he just woke up because he isn't a morning person) but he is definitely undead and that has some side effects. Like the demigod that now hangs out in his head. I think another part is that my main characters are slightly aimless. Don't get me wrong, they have motivations and goals, but on the same hand they aren't quite sure what to do so they basically go for the first thing that sounds like it might be a good idea and try to stick with that. As I said, this is definitely a character driven story and it's going to be one heck of a ride.

ODAF: So, book 3 specifically is definitely taking on a slightly more horror-esque element that the first two didn't have (I mean, hello we have faerie ghosts that are out for revenge). Which makes it the perfect story to write during Spooktober.

10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

SG: with pleasure. First of all, its cover. Which is just gorgueous and amazing

The map
The Playlist:

The Pinterest Board:

ODAF: Here are the covers for the first two books in the series (since I don't have ODaF's cover yet)

I would like to take this moment to mention that I'm actually changing these covers out soon! So, if you absolutely love these covers, now is the time to buy them before they get changed 👀

Okay, back to the aesthetics...

Spotify Playlist:

Pinterest Board

Here are some official artworks I've had done from this series as well

Jaye and Ravven by Ireen Chau

Jaye and Ravven by Flavz

Well, that's all for now. I can't believe that I'm finally writing ODaF. Do you think I should push up the release date by a few months? Have you read a Kindle Vella story before? Comment below!