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Welcome to the Dark Side!

We are writers mainly from Australia and New Zealand who write speculative fiction with romantic elements. Be it fantasy, paranormal, dark urban fantasy, futuristic and everything in between.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Darklight On ... RWA's Ruby Finalists

Today's Darklight On is ... The Ruby Finalists for Speculative Romance

We have an amazing bunch of authors over at the DarkSide, all with fantastic stories to share with readers, but today's Darklight on is all about the finalists for RWA's Ruby Award for Speculative Romance.

The three finalists were Keri Arthur, Anna Hackett and Leisl Leighton, with Keri taking the award home for Cursed. So if you are looking for your next favourite book, then these three stories are not to be missed!


Cursed by Keri Arthur 

Whomsoever draws the sword from the ancient seat of this land shall rule her, and they shall bring peace and prosperity to her people.

For nearly a thousand years, the firstborn son of every Cannamore king has drawn the sword, and the land and her people have indeed prospered. Princess Nyx Bel-Hannon is neither male nor firstborn, but it’s her hand that draws the sword rather than her twin brother’s. Her reward: imprisonment.

But a deep darkness now spreads across the kingdom, and her borders are threatened by creatures capable of magic powerful enough to destroy mountains and split the land asunder. Without the true heir to wield the sword, Cannamore risks annihilation. The king and crown prince want nothing more than to be permanently rid of Nyx, but cannot afford her blood on their hands. Instead, they give her to a fractious warlord in the hope he will do what they dare not.

Nyx has no intention of letting the warlord get in the way of her thirst for revenge or the need to claim her throne. But it’s a quest that may well destroy the kingdom she loves, because Nyx has been cursed by the god of war. It is her destiny to save Cannamore.

Or utterly destroy it.

Click HERE to find out more about Cursed and Keri Arthur!


Edge of Eon by Anna Hackett

Framed for a crime she didn't commit, a wrongly-imprisoned space captain's only chance at freedom is to abduct a fearsome alien war commander.

Sub-Captain Eve Traynor knows a suicide mission when she sees one. With deadly insectoid aliens threatening to invade Earth, the planet's only chance of survival is to get the attention of the fierce Eon Warriors. But the Eon want nothing to do with Earth, and Eve wants nothing to do with abducting War Commander Davion Thann-Eon off his warship. But when Earth's Space Corps threaten her sisters, Eve will do anything to keep them safe, even if it means she might not make it back.

War Commander Davion Thann-Eon is taking his first vacation in years. Dedicated to keeping the Eon Empire safe, he's been born and bred to protect. But when he's attacked and snatched off his very own warship, he is shocked to find himself face-to-face with a bold, tough little Terran warrior. One who both infuriates and intrigues him.

When their shuttle is attacked by the ravenous insectoid Kantos, Eve and Davion crash land on the terrifying hunter planet known as Hunter7. A planet designed to test a warrior to his limits. Now, the pair must work together to survive, caught between the planet and its dangers, the Kantos hunting them down, and their own incendiary attraction.

Click HERE to find out more about Edge of Eon and Anna Hackett!


Moon Bound by Leisl Leighton

Only her love can heal his broken soul...

Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch–kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as the Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand–new world.

But the Darkness was not destroyed.

Wiccan Healer–Witch Bronwyn Kincaid wants a quiet life. Her new powers have other ideas. Her increased healing magic and empathy mean she can't ignore the plight of River Collins, a wolf brought up thinking the animal inside him is an evil he must forever suppress. If Bronwyn can't control her powers and help River accept his wolf, the evil Darkness that hunts the Were will use them to destroy those they love.

Click HERE to find out more about Moon Bound and Leisl Leighton!

Tuesday 13 August 2019

DarkSider News for August - Part 2!


Winter still lingers down under - perfect weather to curl up with a good story or two...


The Romance Writers of Australia conference was held during the past weekend and the awards night was held on Saturday.

For the prestigious Ruby Award (Romantic Book of the Year) we had three of our DarkSiders as finalists.

For the Speculative Fiction category the finalists were:

with Keri winning the award!

Buy links for Cursed available on Keri's website. 

For the Romantic Suspense category, the finalists were:

In other awards, D.D. Line was awarded the Lynne Wilding Meritorious Service Award, and Dakota Harrison came second in the Emerald Pro.

Congratulations Keri, Leisl, Anna, D.D. and Dakota!
How proud are we here at the DarkSiders!


The Girl Who Became a Goddess by Theresa Fuller was released on 19 May.


The Girl Who Became a Goddess is a tribute to the childhood stories of Theresa Fuller who has experienced multiple cultures and learned to love them all. These are tales passed on from generation to generation, some to delight, some to terrify, all to enlighten. 


As a girl, a mother, and a teacher, Theresa retells her favorite folktales through the lens of her own life experiences in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, putting a unique spin on ageless classics. 


The Girl Who Became a Goddess is a love letter to a young girl from the adult she has become. 

Available from:
Amazon US | Amazon Aus | Kobo | B&N |

Booktopia | A&R |

Rogue Retrieval by C.M. Simpson (Book 1.5, Mack 'n' Me Odyssey) was released on 27 February.

I was doing okay, right up until Mack arrived, with Delight and Pritchard in tow. Retrieved for a rescue mission, I was in more trouble than I knew, and, as if that wasn’t enough, Mack had an agenda of his own. Well, of course, he did…

Available from: 

Mercenary Royal: Deadly Sins by Shona Husk  was released on 16 July.

Is it a rescue or a princess-napping?

Nyssa Leofric can't marry the new head of Riel Industries. They trade in illegal weapons and he only wants her for her wealth and family name. When her parents insist, and unable to escape on her own, she arranges arranges her own kidnapping, hiring the mercenaries known as the Dead Suns.

Jessie Tabris believes in two things: getting the money up front and that people lie. He takes the job because Riel owes him credits. But when Nyssa's ransom is paid, he finds himself in a bind. No one should be forced into a life they don’t want. But the Dead Suns are threatening to disavow him and his team if he doesn’t return Nyssa to Riel.

Now they must work together or they could both wind up as part of Riel's next experiment.es.

Mercenary Royal is the first book in a new trilogy, Dead Suns, set in the shared world of Obsidian Rim. You can see all of the authors and stories at the Obsidian Rim website.

Buy links available from Books2Read

Greed by Lana Pecherczyk (Book 2, Deadly Seve) was released on 8 July.

Crime rages in Cardinal City. The fanatical Syndicate’s answer is to be judge, jury and executioner, even if that means destroying half the world to eradicate sin. The only thing standing in their way is a family of fearless vigilantes known as the Deadly Seven.

Griffin Lazarus’s restraint is notorious within his superhero family, the Deadly Seven. His mastery over the sin of Greed is second to none. What they don’t know, is a shameful secret drives his discipline and one slip could mean fatal consequences for anyone close to him. When he’s forced to work with a beautiful, feisty reporter poking around his personal life, his control swiftly unravels. Everything about her throws his beliefs into chaos. She’s arousing, loud and infuriating, and craving her could be his undoing—or his redemption.

Lilo Likeke, an altruistic reporter for the Cardinal Copy, is hunting the story of a lifetime. Who are the Deadly Seven, where did they come from, and why are they here? If she can nail her unicorn story, she’ll finally prove her apple falls far from her corrupt family tree. When her mobster father is kidnapped, and she’s drawn into his web of chaos, she soon learns you can’t outrun your past, but you can choose your family. Trusting the man behind the mask might kill her story, but it also might save her heart.

With the fanatical Syndicate breathing down their necks, none of it could matter if they don’t live to see another day, and Griffin has no intention of losing the woman he covets, even if that means embracing bedlam…

If you like your superhero movies and TV shows, and your paranormal romance band of brothers and fated mate books, then you'll fall head over heels with the tortured heroes and sassy heroines of The Deadly Seven.

Available from: 
Amazon US | Amazon Aus |

Nightworld Academy: Term Two by LJ Swallow  (Book 2, Nightworld Academy) was released on 3 June.

Welcome to the Nightworld Academy, attended by vampires, shifters, and witches. A place filled with harmony and mutual respect between the supernatural races. Sometimes.

I'm the only witch at the academy who can wield a rare magic. But should I trust the man who can teach me to unlock my powers?

The events on Halloween taught me a lesson--I'm not human and the supernatural world lives by different rules. Now I'm back at the academy determined to work hard, develop my magic skills, and save lives.

I met my aunt and she showed me that life as a future-sighted witch has greater challenges than I realised. Especially for me, because we've discovered I've more abilities than anybody expected.

The new guys in my life face problems too. Jamie is using dangerous magic to protect himself. Ash is struggling to control how dangerous he is to others. And Andrei's life is under threat as a result of Halloween. Can Tobias help or will he report us for breaking rules?

The hunters who survived the attack are looking for revenge, and the Dominion are moving closer to the academy. Add in the pressures of working with Katherine and Amelia on the Winter Ball committee, and I'll be lucky to reach the end of term in one piece.

Term Two is the second in this upper YA/NA series of magic academy books. The main characters are eighteen and older, and this is a slow burn RH.

Term One must be read first.

Please Note: As the series is set at a magic school in England, the books are written in British English.

Term One must be read first.

Available from:
Amazon US | Amazon Aus |

Paranormal Academy is a collection that has the story Soulhunter Academy by LJ Swallow and was released on 22 June.

For the evil that reigns, there is only the honest left to fear.

Clarissa was an ordinary nanny until Dr. Jeremy Colvert turned her into a bio-cybernetic freak. Now she’s on the run, and an act of kindness might be her undoing.

When Michael met Clarissa everything in his world changed…again. Since the accident that nearly killed him, he too is a freak—a mixture of cyborg and man. Now they’re hiding from those out to get them, and the aim to shut down Dr. Colvert’s experimentation isn’t exactly going as planned.

Love might have bloomed, but there’ll be no future if they can’t save each other.

Content Warning: this story contains sexual content and violence, but most of all hope.

Available from:
Amazon US | Amazon Aus |

Midnight Academy is a boxset that has the story Blackwood Magic by LJ Swallow and was released on 30 June.

Amelia and Matt discover they share a rare witch spellbond. Will this powerful connection persuade Matt to stop using illegal Blackwood spells, or does the magic already control him?

Available from:
Amazon US | Amazon Aus

Nightworld Academy: Term One by LJ Swallow  (Book 1, Nightworld Academy) is now available in Audio format and was released on 11 July.

Welcome to the Nightworld Academy, attended by vampires, shifters, and witches. A place filled with harmony and mutual respect between the supernatural races. Sometimes. 

I'm told my curse is a gift. A valuable one that could cost me my life.

My visions of the future are weird, but my new school is weirder. All lessons take place in the evening and the majority of students are on an advanced program where they take extra classes late into the night.

I enrolled at the academy because my last school expelled me for punching another student. Nobody believed that I knocked Tyler unconscious to stop somebody else dying. But why would they believe the crazy girl?

I expected to meet other troubled teens here, but the pupils are predictable for an English boarding school. There's Ash, the rugby team captain and the academy’s most popular guy. Then there’s Andrei, the moody guy with a bad attitude who takes pleasure in annoying me. And Jamie who’s studious and friendly but intense.

I thought I had the academy figured out: the mean girl, the quirky friend, the nerd, the emo, and the jock. But on the evening I swear allegiance to my new school house, everything spins out of control and I realize I’m dealing with more.

Much more.

One of us will die, and I know who.

Term One is the first in this new upper YA/NA series of magic academy books. The main characters are eighteen and older and this is a slow burn RH. As the series is set at a school in England, the books are written in British English.

Get this audiobook today to start this gripping new series filled with magic, mystery, and romance from USA Today best-selling author LJ Swallow.

Available from: 

Marked Hearts by LJ Swallow (Book 1, Her Immortal Guardians) was released 28 July.

I’m Rose Walker. I died for ten minutes, and I’m not the girl I was.

I once died for ten minutes, and I survived. My best friend died in the car accident and memories of that night haunt me. After months in recovery, I'm determined to escape from the shadows surrounding my life. I've found a job in the local hospital, a new place to live, and I'm ready to move on with my life.

The new house has a strange atmosphere. My tiny bedroom decorated with nursery rhyme figures is cold, and I'm uneasy about the strange visitors I trip over on the stairs. I've an immediate and intense attraction to my housemate Alek, which also bothers me. He's attractive but arrogant and precisely the type of guy I avoid. So why can't I keep away from him?

Work brings more challenges. I struggle to settle into my new role following my time isolated from the world, and the dizzy spells interfere with my job. A new nurse working in ICU is one of the few who talk to me. I'd love to spend more time with enigmatic and friendly Finn, but the guy has a chilling effect on me I want to avoid.

I’m about to discover that there’s a reason Alek and Finn have entered my life and they have something heart-stopping to tell me. The slow recovery and fogged nightmares aren’t the only changes I need to deal with, and these two men are bad for my health.

Please Note: Marked Hearts was originally published as Touched by the Dark

Available from: 

Non spec-fiction

Take Me Home by Suzanne Gilchrist (Book 1, Bindacreek Creek: A Town Reborn) was released 21 July.

Forgiving the past was too painful until now.

Almost forty, Abby Taylor has built a new life for herself in the small country town of Bindarra Creek. When an old friend convinces her to give two adolescent boys a temporary home, she is torn between a growing love for these orphans and the grief in her past.

After his marriage fell apart, Roman Taylor has focused on his career. An unexpected phone call sends him rushing to Abby’s side where he is drawn into his estranged wife’s new life – a life that could offer a future he thought he’d lost forever.
Will they seize this second chance to have a family of their own? Or will fate once again destroy their dreams?

Welcome to Bindarra Creek – A Town Reborn, a fictional town set on the western slopes of the New England tablelands. Take me Home is the first book in this new group writing venture series. With a community full of quirky characters, the books feature compelling romance, heart-warming family life, drama, and even suspense.

Her Outback Haven by Annie Seaton (Book 3, Second Chance Bay) was released on 26 March.

Dane McDougal purchases land in a remote beach side location of the Gulf to build an upmarket fishing lodge. To his surprise reclusive potter and single mum, Nicole Curtis has a two year lease with the former owner, that Dane wasn't aware of. 

Dane wants her to move out, but Nicole digs her heels in. 

Can Dane convince her otherwise? And more to the point, can he remain immune to the gentle charms of this woman?

Buy links on Annie's website

Undara by Annie Seaton  was released on 22 July.

Within the treacherous caves of Undara, a betrayal will test the bonds of friendship and family. A page-turning new eco-adventure for readers who love Di Morrissey. When entomologist Emlyn Rees arrives at Hidden Valley she wants nothing more than to escape her marriage breakdown by burying herself in the research team's hunt for new species of insects in the depths of the dramatic Undara lava tubes. However, little does she suspect she will be the key to solving a mystery that's more than one hundred years old.

Travis Carlyle is initially resistant to letting some city folks tramp over his cattle station, but soon the researchers' findings and a growing friendship with Emlyn bring opportunities to turn around his struggling farm. With a broken marriage behind him and children to care for, Travis needs to plan for the future and this could be his family's best chance.

But when things start going wrong for the farm and around the dig site, Emlyn and Travis are at a loss to understand why. Are they cursed with bad luck, or is there a more sinister force at play? Are the tall tales of enigmatic stockman Bluey turning true? As the unseen saboteur grows bolder, Emlyn and Travis are caught in a race against time to save the station ... and their lives. 

Buy links on Annie's website.

The Trouble with Paradise by Annie Seaton (Book 1, The Richard Brothers) was released on 20 May.

Professor Melissa McIntyre makes one mistake, but it is a night to remember. The tropical island holiday after her beloved grandfather’s funeral was supposed to be balm for her soul, and not create more worry.

When Dominic Richards moves back to his home town to take up a new job, the last person he expects to discover as his new assistant professor, is the beautiful woman he spent a memorable night with on a tropical island.

Nic doesn't do forever but having Melissa around has him thinking maybe he could.
But Melissa is not one bit interested… or is she?

(Note: this is a revised and expanded edition of Holiday Affair originally published, 2012.) .

Buy links on Annie's website.


Wrath by Lana Pecherczyk (Book 3, Deadly Seven) is expected for release on 3 September.

Betrayed. Alone. Angry.

After his ex-fiancée savagely slit his throat, the fallen hero Wyatt Lazarus lost his voice, his career and his trust in women. She betrayed him in the vilest of ways, and he failed to see it coming. Now alone and ashamed, the unquenchable influence of his sin fuels his anger. Instead of redeeming sinners—he ends them. Wrath becomes his identity until a brutal mistake throws him into the path of a cheeky yoga instructor in need of a savior.

Misha Minski believes in karma, but after years of suffering blackmail from an old acquaintance, it’s hard to stay strong. Soon her number is up. Rather than spend her last days wallowing in self pity, she’s determined to enjoy one last night of pleasure with her new mysterious protector, but instead, finds something much more—a future.

But when the evil Syndicate join forces with Misha’s psychopathic blackmailer, Wyatt must push through his bitterness and reunite with his heroic family, or the woman who gave him back his voice will be lost to him forever.

Read Excerpt on Lana's blog.

Pre-Order from:

Nightworld Academy: Term Three by LJ Swallow (Book 3, Nightworld Academy) will be released on 15 September.

I’m the only witch at the academy who can wield a rare magic. Should I trust the man who can teach me to unlock my powers?

Term Three is the third book in the Nightworld Academy series. Term One and Term Two must be read first.

Nightworld Academy is an upper YA/NA series of magic academy books set in the UK.

Available from:
Amazon US | Amazon Aus |

Non spec-fiction

Her Outback Paradise by Annie Seaton (Book 4, Second Chance Bay) is expected for release on 26 September.

Matt McDougal looks after the business: takes the bookings, runs the store and looks after the finances… because he gets seasick on the family boats. Nurse Sara Sweeney comes back to her home town because it’s hard to get a doctor in remote areas like Second Chance Bay. Matt and Sara grew up together, and when a new female doctor arrives in town, Sara thinks Matt would be perfect for her broken-hearted friend. But Matt has other ideas...can he convince Sara she is the right woman for him?

Buy links on Annie's website

Congratulations to all our DarkSiders!

Thanks for sharing in our news. Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday 8 August 2019

Magic Thursday The Nuts & Bolts of Designing a Book Cover! (Part 4: The Mock Ups)

by Helzkat Designs 
(aka Eleni Konstantine)

This is my fifth blog post on the topic of cover design.

In the post, You can't judge a book by its cover, right? Umm, Wrong, I discussed familiarising oneself with what the market - aka your genre - is doing with covers. While you don’t want to mimic it exactly, it gives you a good idea of reader expectation.

The second post, Magic Thursday: The Nuts & Bolts of Designing a Book Cover! (Part 1: Finding Images), I discussed royalty-free stock images and how to search for images for a short story collection.

The third post, Magic Thursday: The Nuts & Bolts of Designing a Book Cover! (Part 2: Analysing Comprehensive Scene images) looked at selecting and analysing images in the folders that held comprehensive scenes.

The third post: Magic Thursday: The Nuts & Bolts of Designing a Book Cover! (Part 3: Analysing Other Images), I looked at analysing images that are not comprehensive but have an aspect that can be used in the cover - this can be either for the background or other elements.

Today we're going to look at actual mock-ups.

Now I have a confession to make - I love doing mock ups. I love trialling different elements and moving them around and seeing what works and what doesn't work for a project. And I do A LOT of them. I can't seem to help it. It beneficial to me and I know it allows the client to the see different designs before moving to the next step. By seeing the variations the client can see from the get go what works for them and what doesn't. A partial idea that either the client or I thought may look good may turn out to look wrong in practice. And sometimes something you don't think will work actually looks better.

I had tried to be more like other designers and give only a few choices when doing the design but just couldn't do it. My process is my process.

A quick word about fonts. The fonts you use need to have a commercial use provision. There are many fonts sites out there where you can purchase different types of licences depending what you are using it for. Over the years I have gotten bundles including one with 10,000 fonts for commercial use. I now have a subscription to Adobe Photoshop CC which gives me access to the Adobe fonts, which are all commercial. Basically I don't really need to go further but I do keep an eye out for fonts I like.

If you type 'commercial fonts' into your search engine, you will come with quite a few sites and even some free commercial usage sites. Just read and stick to the conditions. 

With the fonts, you can play around not only with the placing but also with the space between the letters themselves and you can stretch and narrow them.  

If I put a decorative font for one aspect, say the title, I tend to then have a plainer font for the author name. 

Viewing the Mock Ups
Going back on the past blog posts and images, I shortlisted I got to work on the mockups. 

I look at not only the image(s) but the layout as well the font that will be used. It's a whole package. I wouldn't do just the visual of the design and add fonts later. They are an intergral part of the design and need to be there from the word go.

At the end of the day, I may later use a combination of the mock ups to get the final cover or one mock up may just pop out as 'the one'.

Because I wanted to show you what can be done with a project, I did a huge amount of mock ups. I will not talk about all of them but you can view them at the Mock Ups folder (located in Google Drive).

Once you are in the drive, you can change the view by pressing the 'eye' symbol, which is located on the top right of the page (right next to the little bin symbol) because trying to view them as thumbnails isn't easy.

Once you do that it should come up with the slide show view (you can just make out the list in the background and it has an arrow on the right to take you to the next image).

If that doesn't work, then you can just select the first image, and it should open up the slideshow.

You may see the same mock with variations. This is to show a different aspect of the same mock up. And you may see an image pop up again later in the folder.

Now out of these mocks, some I like, some not so much and some I love, some I love even if they aren't quite right for this project.

Selected Mock Ups

I'll go through a few of them to talk about the elements. Some of these elements are done in a rough way - you don't have to be precise with the initial design. You can do a quick 'cut and paste' job to show the layout to see if a design will work before pursuing further.

As with the previous posts, I have purchased them so I can show them to you. Usually I would use a 'comp' or 'preview' version of the image that has a watermark.

Use the 'comp' 'preview'  in mock ups so you don't buy unnecessary images. Remember to tell the client that these image are low resolution and have watermarks.

Below, I will put the main image at the top, the design and the design elements below it (though instead of repeating design elements again and again, I'll only put it in the first mock up they appear). 

Mock Up 1

The image on the left is pretty much like the original image, only I have played with the contrast of colours and it's brightness a little. The right image has the added moon so the figure is reaching for an actual object instead of just the universe.

Both of these mock ups work. I like the placing of the images and the fonts though perhaps colour of the title will need to be a little different. 

I sometimes go back to designs and try new things like trying a different background or new elements to the design, such as the stars or balloon.

I also used a star brush.

I like the larger figure so this could be added to the previous  two designs. The colour scheme is different and also works. Out of these I'm leaning to the top left as the title colour also works well. 

Remember to view your mock ups in both a large size and thumbnails. Thumbnails is what is shown on most online retailers so your name and title of the book need to be clear. You can still read the relevant information in the below image. 

Mock Up 2

This is an example of using only one image for a design, which has been brightened and cropped. The fonts are balanced and colours used to compliment the image. 

The aspects of the birds flying free is something that attracted me to this image but because they are silhouettes they could be confused for crows, which symbolise death. Since my collection is more on the light side, this wouldn't be appropriate. Though I really do like the fonts used. 

Don't dismiss all of a design. If there are elements you like, note them down and try in later mock ups.

Mock Up 3


The original design was quite dark. I cropped it and brightened it to suit the collection more.  The balloon design just doesn't sit right (the balloon has been roughly cropped from its original as an example in this design). It distracts from the tree. The sun has been manipulated to be more subtle so I would lean towards that one.

Mock Up 4



The moon peaking through the trees feels magical in the original image. I cropped it and contrasted the colours. And then started adding elements found in other images, playing with the blending modes.

Again I went back and tried the dragon in the design but that doesn't seem to work like the others. Any of those could work though I think the author name needs to be smaller so the middle of the design doesn't look as squashed. And the space between the 'A short story collection' and the title could also be closer like it is for the dragon design. Again that shows while an actual design itself doesn't work there are elements that could work.

I often get clients select different elements from different designs. For example, they may like the font in one design with the colours in another but the image of another.  The next step would be to mash them up.

Mock Up 5

I tend to have stories that have people going into other worlds so this door image was attractive to me. Again the image was cropped and made brighter. The only variation is the balloon that can be seen in the red doorway. I think this needs a little work with the font placement and sizes, though I really do like the title font.

Mock Up 6


Again I changed the colours of the original image to be more attractive to the eye of someone perusing an online store. It was also cropped. Both the background colours suit but I am more drawn to the design with the dragon. If the girl image was used, I think a different title font would be needed.

The good thing about getting illustrations is that I select to use only the elements I want in the design. I use Illustrator to select then convert to a png file so it can have a transparent background. This is shown with using the girl figure above. I only wanted the girl element from the initial design as below.

Mock Up 7


The purple mocks feel more dreamlike and I like the butterfly addition. The font of the title is nice and bold and has a pattern look to it. But the font of the author name and tagline feels too bold in contrast, so a lighter font would be more suitable.

Mock Up 8

The original image had a more pastel and steampunk feel to it. Since I don't have any steampunk stories, I brightened the image but added a ladder to make it more surreal. The first design works best as the eye is squarely on the balloon and the title. The author font is lovely but doesn't seem to work with the title font. While the tagline font works with either of them.

As much I like the dragon elements, it doesn't quite go especially the colourful one. While I may love cartoon style drawings and go towards them as well as illustrations, this collection isn't aimed at children and that dragon may be interpreted as such.  

Mock Up 9

The original image is so dreamlike and I actually really like the colour scheme but as you can see I tried another colour palette. I prefer the fonts to the first three though the tagline will need to be a different colour as it's difficult to see. This is a design that could be worked on with possibly another element to make it more suitable. Still, they all say 'dreaming' to me.

Mock Up 10

I really like the colour scheme. The white silhouettes contrast well with the image and they all have a surreal quality. It's interesting the white dragon doesn't look as child-like as the colourful one in Mock Up 8 but perhaps another element may be more suited.

Mock Up 11


Such a lovely picture. I can imagine people sitting on the bench looking at the edge of the world.  Two slightly different concepts. On the right, I used the image from Mock Up 1 to give it a twist. I didn't think the two images would work but a gut feeling told me to put them together.

Play around with images you think may not work because you could be surprised. Try different blends and opacity and you can come up with something different.

Mock Up 12

The figure attracted me because even though she's standing, she looks like she's dreaming. In the background are elements of the fantastical world. I like the colour scheme in this one though I do think perhaps the title font isn't quite right.

Mock Up 13

The font location needs to be played with. The right one without butterflies would probably work best. Simple but alluring.

Mock Up 14

Now you haven't seen this image before as I had it marked for something else. It was the image I thought of when I starting to think about covers for this project but resisted so much so I didn't even put it in the initial folders. 

But this called to me again and again. A dreaming woman in a surreal setting. What could be more apt?

Again I have cropped the image and brightened the colours. The title font is decorative but not overly so but the other font isn't quite bold enough and is getting lost. This could be a matter of changing its colour or getting the same font in bold, or a slight change in font so it doesn't wash away when in thumbnail as below.

Trust your instincts.

Round two

I send the first round of mocks to the client with comments in a document. They usually reply with the elements they like and then I do another round sometimes needing to find a new element, other times not. It really is dependant on the project. Usually I don't have to do further searching as my first round is so in-depth.

Since I am the client in this instance, I was able to discard and choose things as I went along so there's really no need for a second round.

Round Up
I like playing around with different elements to bring up a unique design. This can be handy especially when you see the same image over and over in covers. By giving it another twist, it becomes unique. And that's what customisation is all about. And why it costs more because a lot more work goes into it. From searching for the images to building up designs from different images to choosing the fonts to refining.

Getting the right look for the project is important. Keeping the client happy is important so getting in sync with their vision is important. But I also make suggestions and comments on items so they can make informed decisions when revising and choosing their designs.

Next time... The finalists and the selected design


HelzKat Designs (Helen Katsinis) specialises in designing for writers at affordable prices.

She delivers the right look for each project from book covers, banners, business cards, to setting up and customising blogs and websites. She has also given talks to authors on the subject of blogging and navigating in the online world.

She began by designing author banners for her writing persona (Eleni Konstantine) and her writing groups. After winning the 2010 Little Gems Cover Contest (Topaz), she started to specialise in designing for other writers thus combining her two worlds of design and writing.

In 2018, she entered the world of pre-made covers. You can see available covers HERE.

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