Oops...I Left My Heart In Peru

Like I mentioned in my last post, I spent 10 days in Lima, Peru.  It was absolutely amazing and changed my life.  I feel like a different person.  Normal life doesn't feel normal anymore--it feels dull.  I miss the people of Peru.  I miss my friends on Team 1 (and our fan club member, Amber).

Okay, I'll start at the beginning.

We did this trip with Never the Same Missions/Big World Ventures.  If you haven't heard of them, they are a fantastic organization that does summer mission trips for teens.  (Adults can go on it too, but it's geared towards teens and young adults.  Adults are there mainly to minister to teens.)  During the day, we ministered to the people of Peru and at night, we had a youth conference sort of thing.

On June 24, we arrived at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale, FL for leader training.  My sister and I hung out with some other the other "kids" while Mom was in training.  This involved many, many Dutch Blitz games and some very violent games of Spoons.  Also, there were some Coldstone Creamery runs where almost all of the people on the trip went.  We filled up the entire store.  I'm pretty sure that the people working there hated us.

Mom and my sister in front of the hotel.
June 26 is when things really started picking up.  The rest of the people arrived and we had our first FUAGNEM (fired up and going nuts every minute...aka the youth conference) and drama auditions.  This mission trip is based around a drama that presents the gospel, which is awesome and fun!  I was cast as the baseball player (shocking because I'm not athletic at all) and my sister was cast as a mime.

The next day started intense drama practice.  Intense as in from 9am to 6pm with an hour for lunch.

Here's a little excerpt from what I wrote on the second day of drama practice:

I'm exhausted.  My legs are sore, my eyes stay open from sheer need to remain awake, and I hear video-game style music playing over and over in my head.  Today was a very long day...and it's not over yet.  This morning, we had to eat breakfast at 7, meet with our team (GO TEAM 1!) at 8, and be ready for drama practice at 9.  Since then, I've had two 20 minute breaks and an hour lunch break.  But I'm not complaining because I'm having so much fun!  I've met so many amazing new people who are on fire for the Lord!  (Our team is so lively and amazing!)

Then on July 29, we flew to Lima.  The flight was very longgggg and boring because the airline we flew on didn't have TVs.  I also forgot earbuds...


Okay, so like I said in my post last week, traffic is insane in Lima.  So, it took us about an hour to drive to the hotel...even though it was about midnight.

The next morning, we had to be up at 7 to go down to breakfast.  Team time was at 8 (where we met with our team for devotions) and we left at 9.
This is breakfast on one of the later days.

There were two kinds of ministry days:

1. Drama days - we performed the drama three times in public places like parks and marketplaces.

Here we were at a school.
Here we're at a park.

People watch our drama in a market.

2. Community days - we spend the day in a community doing some small work projects, playing with the kids (painting faces and making balloon flowers + swords.) 

Me painting a little girl's face.

One of the communities was on a cliff.

We also had a couple of free days.  On the first free day, we went to a local restaurant called Cafe Cafe.  Oh my goodness was it amazing.  That night, the entire mission team went to Shalom Church.  It was one the most amazing services I've ever experienced.  We had an hour and a half of worship in both English and Spanish.  Then, Susie Shellenberger gave a message (with a translator).  We performed the drama for the church.  Also, there was a dance party at the end, which was super cool.  It was amazing to worship with the Peruvian people!

The second free day was an excursion to the Peruvian desert where we went sandboarding (basically snow boarding on sand dunes.)  I'm still dumping sand out of my tennis shoes.

When we were here, all I could think about was
how much this looks like Katie Grace's novel,
Song of the Desert!

The third free day, my mom and sister went to the market, but I stayed back because I was coming down with a cold and we were to fly back home that night (fun, right?).

Other Cool Stuff That Happened

1. I gave my testimony for the first time.

After every drama performance,  someone would explain the drama and then someone else would give his/her testimony.  The last day, God gave me the courage to share what He's done in my life.

2. We invited a school to come watch the drama.

3. A lot of people got saved!

There will be people in heaven because a bunch of teenagers and adults took part of their summer to go to Peru.  Oh, and one girl on our team got saved...but I'll talk about that in a minute. :)

4. This is cool as in cold.  At our hotel, the hot water didn't always work.  Not fun.

The guy who organizes the trips says usually the hotels are a step up from where we stayed.  However, the hotel we stayed at this time had a lot of character.


You could go out on the roof, which was AWESOME.

5. The guys put on a special candlelit rooftop cake party.

Each girl got a rose, note, and a slice or two of cake.  It was so special!  There are great, godly guys out there. :)


These things were incredible.  The worship.  The messages.  Oh, they were so life-changing.  One night, we talked about not waiting to let go of our sins.  Don't wait.  And that's the meaning behind the green shirt you saw me wearing while eating breakfast that says "Today.  Right Now.  Immediately."  That was such a moving night.  We separated into our teams and let go of all of our sins.  There was a lot of hugging and crying (hence the nickname "Cry Night")--especially when one of our team members gave her life to Christ!  Oh, it was so amazing.  We'd all been praying for her so hard!  I started sobbing I was so happy.

This was on 4th of July.

That's all that I can think of for now.  There might be a part 2 later. (Unless you guys are tired of me rambling about the trip and how amazing it was.)

To close this post out, here are some words from my Mom:

Next year, Big World Ventures is going to Guatemala, and we would love to go.  (Many people participate in these trips year after year.)  We are praying about God’s plan for us.  If any of you feel called to do a mission trip next summer, we would highly recommend this trip for all ages.  One woman on our trip is in her 60s and pulled around her oxygen with her everywhere that we went.  You would not believe the health problems that she has, but she does not let anything stop her, and God used her in mighty ways to impact many lives.  Please let us know if you are interested.

Have you ever been on a mission trip?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!


8 Things You Might Not Know about Lima, Peru

A week ago today, I got back home from a 10-day mission trip to Lima, Peru.  Next to Realm Makers, it was the most amazing trip of my life.  We served in communities and put on an evangelistic drama, as well as a lot of other incredible things.  (I plan to do a recap post sometime in the near future.)  For now, here are some crazy things you might not know about Lima.  The culture shock is real, friends.

1. The traffic is insane.  

Picture a very large city with a ton of traffic.  Now picture that same city where the traffic laws don't have to be followed. Car horns = hi, I'm here; big car/bus = I'm first

This is an intersection.  Yeah.  Crazy, right?  (Photo Cred: Mom)

2. You can tell kids in public school about Christ.  

Wouldn't that be nice to adopt in America?  One time, we invited a whole kindergarten to watch our drama.  We had to do spur-of-the-moment public speaking and it was actually pretty embarrassing.  (How can you even embarrass yourself in front of 5-year-olds?)

Here our team is praying with school children...
on school premises!  It was amazing!
(Photo Cred: Mom)

3. You can't flush toilet paper.  

There's a little trash can to the side of every toilet to put used toilet paper in.  Isn't that gross?

4. There are pickpockets everywhere.  

Story idea for a gang of Peruvian orphans trying to find their way in the world?  (First thing that came to my mind.) When in very crowded areas, you have to wear backpacks on your front and hold it close to you.  It's kind of awkward to walk like that.

5. The people are super nice and open to the Gospel.

Unlike in America, people like tracts.  They will listen to you tell the story of how Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again to save us from eternity without Him!  When in doubt, tell someone your testimony.

6. The roads are SUPER bumpy.

Especially when you're trying to do face paint in the back of a bus.

There are also these really cute taxis.  They're actually enclosed
3-wheeled motorcycles.  (Photo Cred: Mom)

7. The soccer fields are usually concrete and very dusty.

Since Lima is in a sort of desert, there isn't much grass and water has to be brought in on trucks.  Thus, concrete soccer fields.

Here's a very dusty soccer field.
(Photo Cred: Can you guess?  Mom)

Another picture of the soccer field, featuring an adorable
little girl (sadly, I forget her name), and myself.
(Photo Cred: Mom)

8. They think Americans are the coolest (mostly the kids).  Especially people with light hair and/or light eyes.

Here's my sister with a very adorable little girl after we performed
our evangelistic drama.  (Photo Cred: Mom)

Have you ever been to Peru?  What did you think of it?  Have you ever set a story/part of a story there?


How to Take Critiques without being emotionally destroyed by them

At some point or another, someone is going to read your writing.  This could be a school essay, a short story, or your baby (novel).  It's scary because you wonder if you are good enough.  Is this good enough to get published?  Is this good enough to get a good grade?  Am I actually a good writer?  Did I to X plot point right?  Are my characters realistic and likable?  I find that a lot of times, I use beta readers as validation that my work is finally good enough.  I hope hope hope that it is...but then the critiques come in.  It's a very sad feeling to know that you still need to fix things.  Sometimes, it makes you feel like a failure.  Here are some ways to combat those feelings.

1. Separate yourself from your work.

Your identity is found in Christ, NOT your writing.  Before sending your work out, take a step back from it.  Realize that this isn't personal anymore, it is a product that you made.  (I learned this from Thomas Locke at Realm Makers last year.)

2. Realize that beta readers are your friends.

They offered to critique your story because they want to help YOU.  It isn't an evaluation of how good of a writer you are.

3. Be open to change.

I've beta read for some people who defend every single editing decision they made.  Yeah, that's a little frustrating because how are they supposed to get better?

4. It's okay to be upset, but don't dwell on it.

This isn't quite as easy as it sounds.

5. There's always another novel.

So this novel is beyond hope (at least for the present time).  Write another one!  And another one!  And another one until your writing improves.  Even published authors haven't hit their "ceilings".

Have you ever gotten harsh critiques?  How did you get over them?


Book Review: Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt (remember this book I keep fangirling about?)

About the Book

Her death was just the beginning.

Quinn Rogers doesn’t exist. There are no records of her name. Her DNA has no match. She is a ghost. A phantom killer no one can trace. The perfect assassin. Or so she thinks.

At the top of her game, Quinn’s no longer looking over her shoulder. Her master will protect her, save her, like he always has. But there are forces at work neither of them suspect.

Can Quinn find the truth in a world of lies? Or will her unsanctioned past catch up to her in the end?

My Review

Step aside, cliche thrillers because The Dragonfly series is coming to town!  Brianna's incredible writing skills kidnapped my mind and threw it into the world of assassins, terrorists, and secret agents.

The Characters

I fell in love with Brianna's characters, despite their murderous tendencies.  Why?  They are real, broke people.  They work for (I don't want to tell you too much) who will kill them if they don't do as he says.  This trains them to dim their consciences.  But as the story goes on, stuff happens that reawakens those thoughts that what they are doing is bad.  However, there is still survival stuff and characters interactions that get in their way and make them completely human.

Also, there is Nathan who is an adorable human.  (He's not an assassin, but he's just precious.)  Can we talk about the fact that he grows so much over the story, and the main plot isn't even about him?!

The Setting

Unsanctioned Eyes takes place all over the world: London, Afghanistan, and other places.  I've never been to any of those places before, but after reading this book, I feel like I have.

The Plot

Masterfully written.  I'm not going to say any more on this.


There was quite a bit of language, but none was "super awful".  (It's not every other sentence either.)  It fits with the characters.  Obviously, there was quite a bit of violence.  The assassins aren't super moral people, so they don't do the most moral things.  But this is NOT EVIL BEING GLORIFIED.  The characters start to change by the end of the story.  Quinn is presented with the idea of God and His saving grace.  The author is not condoning the actions of her characters.  I just wanted to make that very clear.


Basically, this is a fantastic book for people who enjoy thrillers like the Jason Bourne series, but are tired of evil being glorified.  I recommend this book to older teens and above because of some of the content.  5/5 stars!  This book releases TOMORROW so remember to get a copy!

*Disclaimer* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Note: Due to technical difficulties, you won't be able to preorder this book.  However you will be able to buy it on Amazon TOMORROW.

About the Author

Brianna grew up in a small town in Oklahoma learning the language of the wind and trying to survive the heat of summer. She fell in love with all things literary at an early age and the journey from reader to writer followed. With the help of One Year Adventure Novel, she finished her first novel in 2012 and hasn’t been able to stop creating new worlds and adventures since. 

As well as writing, Brianna is addicted to tea, chocolate, and music. When she isn’t reading or writing, Brianna teaches Ballet and Jazz. 

She lives in Virginia with her family and spoiled Dalmatian, Valentine. 


A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT {yes, I know. another post from me.}

I know I already posted today (scroll down for that post), but this too exciting to wait any longer.  (By "too exciting" I mean that I just did a major happy dance throughout my house.)

As mentioned in the title...I have huge news.  When I say huge, I mean H U G E.  First of all, I'm going to say that none of this would have happened if it weren't for God.  ALL of the credit goes to him and his infinite wisdom.  Okay...so here's my story.

I wrote a book.  An actual, finished book.  It had been edited and edited.  And I thought it was ready.  In my small, slightly arrogant, younger mind, I thought every publisher would be swept away by its awesomeness.  How could they refuse me and my incredible work of art?  News flash: They did.  One publisher said it wasn't right for them.  One publisher said that it needed a lot of work, but it was a "diamond in the rough".  As I revised, submitted, and got rejected, I wasn't sure if this was God's plan for me.  So, I sent out one final round of queries.

I waited.

               And waited.

                                   And waited.

Some rejected me, others never responded (which meant they rejected me).  I decided that I wasn't going to publish The Clockshifter, at least not for a while.

Then one day when I didn't have a lot of homework, Tessa Emily Hall, who I had followed since I became serious about writing posted that she had become a junior agent and was seeking clients.  She was looking for books in The Clockshifter's genre and wanted to work with authors who fit my description.  After fangirling for a moment, I dived into a book proposal.  I used a book proposal I'd written for a previous draft and did a major overhaul on it.  I researched things using my handy Go Teen Writers book and the Internet.  This was my last attempt and I was going to make it count.  I didn't really believe anything would come of it, but hey, if God wanted this thing published, He would do something, right?

The next day, I received an email from Tessa.  In a nutshell, it said, "I'm interested."  I gasped, then my eyes filled with tears.  God had a plan all along.  This was way better than those other obscure agents I submitted to before.  I started to pray and pray and pray.  I felt led to do this.  I worked tirelessly on another round of edits, adding more words, just like she asked.

For a while, I didn't hear back.  I started to lose hope.

One day in art class (don't freak out, I was using my phone to look at a reference photo), an email came in.  "I want to set up a call," it said.  I lost it.  Right there in class.  I couldn't stop smiling, tears filled my eyes, and I had to explain to everyone what had just happened.

God was at work.

The day of the call came, and I was ready.  I researched "The Call" online and knew what to expect and what to prepare for.  I outlined my career goals and obstacles I might face.  But when the call came, the agent basically said, "Pray about it, but I'm offering you a contract."

And that's the story of how I got a literary agent.

There.  That's my big news.  Someone is taking a chance on me and my book I started writing on at 14-years-old.

God does amazing things.  I thought that so many different agents would be The Right Ones, but they weren't.  God had something great in mind, so much greater than I could ever imagine.

Ladies and Gentlemen, God is amazing.  He ALWAYS has a plan that's far greater than anything you can imagine!

I'm pleased to announce that I'm now represented by Tessa Emily Hall and Cyle Young with Hartline Literary Agency.

Excuse me while I do another happy dance.

In which I fangirl and release a small summer project ||| a book trailer

A few weeks ago the fabulous Brianna Merritt asked me to be an advanced reader copy for her thriller novel, Unsanctioned Eyes.  I immediately said yes and the moment I began reading it...I fell in love with it.  So in love that I made an unofficial book trailer for it.


Somehow, Brianna masterfully crafts a story that makes you come to love assassins (and the precious, Nathan).  I have no idea how she does it BUT SHE DOES IT WELL.  She makes you care about them and desperately want them to change.  I don't bore you to death...I'll let you watch the trailer instead of listen to me fangirl about it for the rest of my life.  (My full review will come closer to when the book releases on JUNE 27!)  Also, some preorder links are in the works.  Brianna will announce when Unsanctioned Eyes is available for preorder!

About the Book

Her death was just the beginning.

Quinn Rogers doesn’t exist. There are no records of her name. Her DNA has no match. She is a ghost. A phantom killer no one can trace. The perfect assassin. Or so she thinks.

At the top of her game, Quinn’s no longer looking over her shoulder. Her master will protect her, save her, like he always has. But there are forces at work neither of them suspect.

Can Quinn find the truth in a world of lies? Or will her unsanctioned past catch up to her in the end?

About the Author

Brianna grew up in a small town in Oklahoma learning the language of the wind and trying to survive the heat of summer. She fell in love with all things literary at an early age and the journey from reader to writer followed. With the help of One Year Adventure Novel, she finished her first novel in 2012 and hasn’t been able to stop creating new worlds and adventures since. 

As well as writing, Brianna is addicted to tea, chocolate, and music. When she isn’t reading or writing, Brianna teaches Ballet and Jazz. 

She lives in Virginia with her family and spoiled Dalmatian, Valentine. 


See you all next week!

Hello my lovely friends!

I'm taking a complete internet break this week.  I'm going to just LIVE and try to get a good bit of writing done.  See you all when I get back!



Happy (belated) Blogiversary to Me + Q and A Vlog

Hello everyone!

As of yesterday, Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings is 3 years old!  I started out knowing nothing and writing shameful posts, but I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the beginning.

Remember those questions you asked me in the survey?  Here I answer most of them! Enjoy!


Title and Cover Reveal for author Brianna Merritt ||| a book about a woman whose death was just the beginning

Yes, I know I said that I was taking a blogging break this week...but I guess I just took a break on Monday.

My lovely friend, Brianna Merritt, is publishing her book and today is the title and cover reveal.  I must say that I am stoked for this book because it looks A-MAZING.

(I met Brianna at Realm Makers last year, in case you were wondering.)

She's the girl in front of me wearing the navy
blue medieval dress. (Photo Credit: Hannah)

About the Book

Her death was just the beginning.

Quinn Rogers doesn’t exist. There are no records of her name. Her DNA has no match. She is a ghost. A phantom killer no one can trace. The perfect assassin. Or so she thinks.

At the top of her game, Quinn’s no longer looking over her shoulder. Her master will protect her, save her, like he always has. But there are forces at work neither of them suspect.

Can Quinn find the truth in a world of lies? Or will her unsanctioned past catch up to her in the end?

The Cover and Title

Okay, here's the cover...

Isn't it beautiful?  I love all of the colors.  So pretty.  I can't wait to see this on my shelf.

About the Author

Brianna grew up in a small town in Oklahoma learning the language of the wind and trying to survive the heat of summer. She fell in love with all things literary at an early age and the journey from reader to writer followed. With the help of One Year Adventure Novel, she finished her first novel in 2012 and hasn’t been able to stop creating new worlds and adventures since. 

As well as writing, Brianna is addicted to tea, chocolate, and music. When she isn’t reading or writing, Brianna teaches Ballet and Jazz. 

She lives in Virginia with her family and spoiled Dalmatian, Valentine. 


Happy Memorial Day

Hey everyone, this week I'm taking a little blogging break...but I'll leave you with this.

We have freedom because of all the people who died fighting for it.  Freedom has a cost.


How to Prepare for a Writers Conference

It's writer's conference season!!!  It's also summer, which means no school.  What does that mean?  Writer's conference prep!  Sadly, I won't be attending any conferences this year, but here is how you can prepare (because your first time can be very scary).

1. Plan ahead.  Pace yourself.

Don't procrastinate all of this stuff until the week before the conference.  Start planning now!

2. If you are planning on pitching, research the publishers at the conference and prepare your pitch!

Here are some great resources:

Also, the conference I went to did a series of blog posts where an agent/publisher said what an author should bring to a pitch session.  This was very helpful!  (And even if the publisher only requires the first few pages, bring at least the entire first chapter.  They may ask for more!)

3. If you aren't pitching, still prepare an elevator pitch.

"What's your book about?" is a common question at writers conferences, from authors, publishers, agents, and vendors.  People want to know!  It's much better to have a plan than scream, run for the bathroom, or hastily change the subject.

For tips on how to write an elevator pitch, I highly recommend this link:


4. Bring a notebook, pen, or something to take notes with.

You're in a bunch of amazing classes, TAKE NOTES!  Even if you hate taking notes, DO IT.

5. Bring spending money.

There's most likely going to be a bookstore featuring authors attending the conference.  That means...signed books!  And books in general.  Yes, spending money is a must.

6. Learn to like coffee, tea, or anything caffeinated.

Writer's conference = no sleep

7. Bring a camera.

You're going to meet a ton of new writer friends!  Pictures are a must!

8. Prepare to socialize.

Last year, I went to Realm Makers with the goal of meeting as many people as possible.  Suddenly, I became an extrovert and actually started conversations.  One time, I started talking to Patrick Carr's wife without knowing who she was.  Then I looked at her name tag...

9. Make business cards with your contact info on it.

Your new friends are going to want to keep in contact with you/follow your social media!  Make it easy for them!

Have you ever been to a writer's conference before?  Are you going to one this year?  What are some of your tips for a newbie conference goer?


Why Great Book Covers are as Important as Quality Writing

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a survey.  Many people said they enjoyed my posts on cover design, so here's another one.  (The last one for a while, I promise.)

We've all seen those covers--the covers that look like they were designed using Microsoft word.  They can come from the authors (who even write incredible books!) and "professional" designers.  Maybe you are one of those authors.  (I'm totally not trying to make you feel bad, I'm trying to help.)  Here are 5 reasons why a quality book cover is as important as quality writing.

One person who took the survey said:

"I've never been able to pick what it is that gives it away, but 82.857% of the time self-published books can be spotted by their covers?"

If a book cover looks self-published:

1. People probably aren't going to take the book seriously.

No matter how much popularity self-publishing has gained in the past few years, many readers still think it's the "easy way out".

2. People probably aren't going to want to market your book because it doesn't look like a "real book".

Have you ever read a series that was so good you couldn't shut up about it?  I know I have (*cough*Out of Time Series*cough*).  Whenever I love a book, I blast my praise for it everywhere.  Twitter.  Goodreads.  Right here.  Still using the Out of Time Series as my example, the books look legit.  They look like books you could pick up at Barnes and Noble.  I don't feel weird about promoting the books because I don't have to put a side note in the promotion that says "trust me, this is actually a fantastic book."

3. People probably aren't going to flail and fangirl over the cover.

Yes, I'm one of those shallow bookworms who will be interested in a book simply because its cover belongs in an art museum.

4. People will probably be hesitant to take a chance on the book.

(Yes, I realize that this point is like point #1, but it's SUPER IMPORTANT and needs reiterating.)
Money is a factor of life, so I probably won't buy a book if it doesn't look good (both visually and conceptually).  But, if a book is pretty and doesn't look like the author self-published it, I'm more likely to take a chance on it.

5. Sometimes a great elevator pitch just doesn't cut it.

Sometimes having a fabulous elevator pitch can sell people on a book, but when they look it up on Amazon and see the not-so-great cover, they might not buy the book.

This all comes down to one solution: 

If you plan on self-publishing your book, save up some money and invest in a quality cover designer.

If you've already self-published your book, it's not too late to change the cover!

Here are some ways you can find a quality designer:

- Ask other self-published authors (whose covers are professional-looking) who they used.
- Ask small presses what designer they use.
- Find an artist you like.

And remember that when you publish a book, you aren't writing for yourself anymore, you're writing for the lovely people who are going to buy it.  Think about that same thing as you go through the design process.

Have you ever passed up buying a book because of the cover?  Who are some of your favorite cover designers (any recommendations)?


Dear Younger Me: Never Give Up

Dear Younger Me,

I know that right now, you probably want to give up.  You want to trash that manuscript, burn it with fire.  It's not good enough and it never will be.  And you're right...if you give up.  Keep pressing on because one day, someone is going to look at your writing and say, "You should publish that."  So, Younger Me, stay strong.

Keep pressing on.  Keep writing.  Keep revising.  Keep polishing.  Keep querying.

One day, it will all be worth it.  Your writing will touch someone.  Your writing will bring light to the darkness.  Your writing will be good enough.


Alea Harper


2017 Survey + Ask Me Questions! (Don't let me do a Q+A video with no questions.)

I'm very sorry for not posting last week.  In my defense, I was in a play last Saturday and Sunday which took the afternoon/evenings.

Yes, you saw right.  I'm going to do a Q + A video.  You can ask questions at the end of this nifty survey.

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Research: What's it like to go to a formal dance?

First off, I'm sorry for my spontaneous hiatus.

Okay, now for the actual post.

Last weekend, I went to a formal dance.  No, I did not go just for research, but I thought you all might be interested if you ever want to write about a modern day dance.  (I can't speak for medieval balls, sorry.)

1. Girls wear long dresses and guys wear suits.

Most girls curl their hair and either leave it down,  some up some down, or put it up in a pretty updo.  We also have the burden of wearing heels for a minimum of 15 minutes.  At most dances, girls wear anything from modest to scandalous.  Thankfully, I went to a Christian dance which had a dress code. Guys have it easy and have to brush their hair and put on a suit.  At the dance I went to, most guys shed their jackets and ties/bowties by the end.

P.S. The dress I'm wearing in my new profile pic is the dress I wore.

2. There are pictures before the dance starts.

Why spend hours getting beautified and not have pictures for posterity?

3. The music is LOUD.  (And depending on the DJ, not very clean.)

I had a headache most of the night because of the loud music.  It was so loud that the floor shook...even in the bathroom.  Most of the music consisted of autotuned, electronic rap that talked about (insert something bad here).

4. Most people dance.

I didn't dance that much, mostly because the music wasn't catchy, but most people did.  Now, if you're thinking that it's ballroom dancing, you're wrong.  It's put your hands up in the air and move your hips kind of dancing.

5. Slow dances relieve your ears...but people can ask you to dance.

Slow dances have actual music, which is great.  Guys ask girls to dance and they put their arms around each other and start swaying back and forth (with enough room for Jesus in between!).

Have you ever been to a dance?  What was your experience?  I would love to listen to what you have to say!


how to make a professional book cover {a comprehensive look}

I see a very sad trend in the publishing industry (mostly in indie publishing, some in traditional publishing as well) -- bad book covers.  I'm talking about the book covers that look like this: (do not fear, for these are not real book covers.  I designed them as examples, though the one for Death Like Sleep is one I made a long time ago for what is now The Clockshifter. I now hide in shame because of it.

1. Study covers around you.

Don't pick covers that you think look good, pick covers that artsy people love.  Famous bookstagrammers and designers. {Cait, Nadine, Kirk DouPonce, Seedlings Design Studio}  Books in X genre that are published by big publishing houses.  What trends in X genre do you notice?  How do the titles fit with the background?  Do the covers feature faces or people? {here's a video I did where I talked about trends in book covers}

2. "Take" ideas you like, and ditch ideas you don't.  

Do you like curly, artsy fonts?  Do you like gold text?  Do you like X color scheme?  Just remember not to copy another cover exactly.  Make it unique.

3. Pick an aesthetic for your book.

You know those artsy photo collages some really cool authors {Katie, and Aimee} make?  They all have a certain feel to them.  This is due to its color scheme and overall...well...feel.  Once you've picked an aesthetic for your book, you know what colors and style you want on the cover.  If you're still unsure of what your book's feel is, take a step back from the book and ask yourself a few questions.  (These are the questions I ask authors I design covers for.)  Read your answers as if you know nothing about the book:

  • -Back cover copy for your book.  (Brief synopsis.)
  • -Anything important to background/setting (including season story takes place)
  • - Main character Descriptions (Name, age, clothing style, eye color, hair color/length)
  • - Story conflicts
  • - Any symbols that are important to the story.
  • - A Pinterest or aesthetic board for the story, if you have it.
  • - Author name (as it will appear on the cover)
  • - Book title (as it will appear on the cover)
  • - Series name (if applicable)
  • - Any dislikes you have (color, style, font, etc.)
  • - Any other ideas/sample covers you like.

4. Find images.

This is probably one of the hardest parts of cover design.  You have to find an image that doesn't look like it came from Microsoft Word or an iPhone 2. Find images that will look good when cropped to the cover's aspect ratio,  Covers (and good art, really) follow the majestic Rule of Thirds.  This means that if you were to divide the cover into three congruent rectangles, the focus point of the image isn't in the direct center.  {a more comprehensive look at the rule of thirds}  Use images that don't violate copyright.

5. Crop the image and apply filters.

Do any photo manipulation that you need to.  Maybe add a texture as an overlay.  Now's your time to make this image fit with your book's aesthetic (if it didn't before).  Follow YouTube tutorials to learn GIMP or Photoshop.  Make your textures by using paint or your own images.

6. Add text.

This can be one of the trickiest parts of designing book covers.  A lot of designers, sadly, mess this part up.  When you do this step, remember to keep your aesthetic in mind.  Make the text readable.  Don't apply too many effects...simplicity is best.  Don't use generic Microsoft Word fonts...download cool ones (though still keep copyright in mind)!  {Behance, Dafont}  Make them the focus of the cover.  Match fonts (i.e. don't use 2 different curly fonts on the same cover) or contrast them (i.e. curly and sans serif). {a fabulous tutorial on contrasting fonts}

7. Ask people you trust for their opinions.

Family?  Friends?  Better yet, ask an artist and/or graphic designer.  See if a good bookstagrammer will give you feedback.  Be open to the criticism they may give you.  Fix what needs to be fixed.  The key thing to look for someone who is genuine.

Here's what my sister (she's an amazing artist) said about the cover I made above: I love the overall design, especially the double exposure(ish) bird. The simplicity is very appealing to the eye, and the cursive text flows with the curved outline of the bird. The only negative thing I have to say about this cover is the color of the title. It just seems a little off and doesn't pull out the colors in the flowers. Other than that... great job Alea!!!

Here's what Katie from A Writer's Faith said: Oooh, I love it! I think the main issue is the text -- I wonder if there's a way to make it pop more? My attention is drawn to the bird instead of the title, and it seems like they're fighting for the spotlight.

But the colors and background is amazing! Just a little re-formatting and I think I'll be even better.

8. If one draft doesn't work, do another and another until it's as perfect as it can get!

Have you ever made a book cover?  What was your process?  What are some of your favorite book covers?  I love to read and respond to your comments!