Thursday, April 23, 2015

MARK OF THE JAGUAR - Scholarly LDS Fiction at its Finest!

MARK OF THE JAGUAR is a landmark novel in that it is the first work of LDS fiction that connects Pre-Columbian people with the stories and archaeological artifacts of the Book of Mormon people and times (2200 BC to 421 AD). There is a presumption made that these people were in Mesoamerica and the historical context is based upon the appearance of the historic figure of Kan Balam, the king of Palenque ca. 685 AD.

Yax Kan’s story takes him from being orphaned in his childhood, through his training as a shaman, healer, scribe and stonecutter, and on the quest set out by his mentor to find the lost truths of the ancient religion of the people of Mesoamerica.

This is a story of adventure, danger, beauty, romance, and spiritual growth which attempts to shed light on what it may have been like for some of the people living between the time of Moroni and Columbus.

Follow Yax Kan’s quest from near Comalcalco on the Gulf of Mexico to Izapa, then to the ancient city of Teotihuacan, and onward to Palenque and then through Chichen Itza and Tulum, down to Lamanai and Lubaantun in what is now Belize. See how jaguars go from foe to friend!

Website &/or Blog URL:
Facebook site -

 Mark F. Cheney received a BS in Psychology and was a post-graduate student at the University of Utah. He has written numerous articles about the ancient Maya on see (reprinted from the IMS Explorer).

Mark has traveled extensively in Mesoamerica and has explored many of the ancient ruins from Teotihuacan, Mexico to Copan, Honduras (photo above, 1995), and from Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, to Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala, studying the glyphs, art, architecture and artifacts of the residents of the ancient world.
Mark was born in California, served an LDS mission in Florida and Georgia.  He and his wife, Sally, currently reside in Oregon.
They have six children and 15 grandchildren.

Cheney has given presentations at firesides on Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, and college classes on the World of the Ancient Maya. He is currently an LDS Sunday School teacher.
Yax Kan and the Mark of the Jaguar is his first work of fiction.

List of published titles:
MARK OF THE JAGUAR, a Book of Mormon Adventure in the Land of the Maya
The book is now available at the following locations:, (see book reviews and author bio on Amazon.) or (Barnes & Noble), and many other bookseller websites - paperback, hardbound or E-Book.

Also, see non-fiction articles on by Mark F. Cheney

Awards earned: Winner of the Indie Book of the Day Award -

Also a Whitney Award Nominee for 2014.
See more about author at

The book is available in the Salt Lake County Library system, as they purchased a few copies for distribution.

Also available in the BYU Provo library.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tips for Book Signings

Since the release of The Watchers I've had the privilege of touring with big companies such as Costco and also events like Fan X.
Every single one of my signings have broken records.  

I want to share with my author friends a few tips that really helped me.

Book Stores:

  • Sign in places with high foot traffic.
  • Meet with the manager a week before the signing and introduce yourself and solidify plans.
  • Have something on your table to draw crowds in (free pen, bright colored candy etc.)
  • Start a conversation
  • Introduce yourself as the author (Some people thought I was just a Costco employee)
  • Banners. Make it a big deal
  • Have everything set up the night before. Outfits picked out, car filled with gas, etc.
  • Have a helper. They can help you draw crowds in, set up, take down, grab food and water, deliver messages to the manager etc.
  • Always hold a book and a pen in your hand. Let people know you want to sign a book for them.
  • Have signs around the store that say "Author Signing Today!"
  • NEVER sit behind the desk unless you absolutely have to.
  • Have 3x5 cards handy to get other's info. I made so many good connections with schools, other authors, and editors while signing.
  • Pretend to be a full on extrovert. Fake it until you make it, but you have to throw yourself out there.
  • Look your best. This includes good hygiene.
  • Eat a big breakfast. You will need all the energy you can get.
  • Get LOTS of sleep the night before.
  • Arrive early.
  • Make friends with the store staff and manager. They help sell your books too.
  • Wear good shoes and dress comfortable. Its going to be a long day.
  • Perfect your pitch to ONE LINE. Everyone is going to ask you what your book is about and they want to hear it in ONE sentence.
  • The more "tools" you have the better. Tools are things like cards, banners, swag, bookmarks.
  • Never send anyone away empty handed. Give them a card with your name, book, and website on it.
  • After the signing, send a thank you card to the store staff and manager


Events are like information overload and most people are there to see rather than to buy.

Apply everything from above as much as you can, but focus more on getting exciting info into readers' hands and just talk with people rather than selling books.

  • Have as many helpers as you can pass out cards or swag.
  • Volunteer to teach a class or clean up after the event to help keep booth costs down.
  • Dress up and be showy
  • Talk with your fans! Let them see you are a "real person" and awesome in real life too.
  • TAKE PICTURES. Allow others to take their picture with you and have them tag you on social media. I know that sounds super scary, but its great publicity. Don't blink.
  • Find a way to take credit cards. I used Swipe and it worked out pretty good.
  • Have as many book titles as you can. Some people will want to buy one of everything you have.
  • Make your booth so much fun! Dress it up.
  • Make a special sale for the event. Discount or do buy one get one free or some other deal to motivate people to get your book right now.
  • Get a corner booth if possible.
  • Register for the event early.
  • Have stuff on your table people can just take for information if they are in a hurry and you are busy with someone else.
  • Crowd control. Best way to do this is when you are talking with a fan and another fan starts "lurking" and seems interested in talking with you too, then just open your circle a little bigger. Acknowledge them and include them in the conversation as well. This sounds simple, but takes some skill when you get a big group.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Literary Agents

Dear Deirdra,

I just finished writing a book. I would like to get a literary agent. How do I do this?

Awesome Author

Dear Awesome Author,

Congratulations on finishing your book. That is the first step to getting an agent.
Agents will only consider manuscripts if they are complete. The only exception to this rule is non-fiction by an author with a platform. So you basically have to be famous.

1. Finish your book (check)

2. Hardcore beta readers (at least 4)

3. Get an Editor.
       Yes, you will need an editor before you get an agent. This will cost you some money. The reason why you need an editor is because of competition. Agents get THOUSANDS of query letters. They usually only can pick a few every year. If a busy agent is trying to decide between a good manuscript that is edited and ready to go up for sale vs. a good manuscript that is going to take months of editing before he/she can promote it, then they will chose the good manuscript that is less work.

       An edited manuscript also shows that you are serious and professional. There are tons of crazy authors out there who have crazy ideas about publishing. Agents want as little drama as possible.

4. Write a query letter
    This is a huge topic. Many writers conferences will have whole workshops about how to write a query letter. Some authors spend just as much time writing a query letter as they do writing the book.

Elana Johnson has some amazing advice on how to write query letters. See links below:

Here are some basic do and don'ts:

And you can take a look at my interview with Elana here:

5. Research Agents
    You are wasting your time querying a non-fiction agent if you've written a fantasy book.
     Search for agents who have a good reputation, are accepting submissions, and who accept your genre.

I like using a service such as:

6. Follow Guidelines

    Some agents only want your query letter, some would like to see the fist 10 pages and synopsis. Following an agent's submission guidelines lets the agent know that you can follow directions.

7. Pitches

Many writers conferences will bring in agents who are looking for new manuscripts.
I'll tell you what, if I was an agent, this is how I would find my authors.
Remember how I said that some authors are crazy - well they want to make sure their authors won't be showing up at a Barnes and Noble dressed like a Sith Lord.

The terrifying thing about pitches is that you have to actually talk with the agent in person. Kind of like a job interview. It can be a little nerve racking, but be confident, have fun and make sure you don't spend the whole time talking about your book. Ask them questions too.

8. Try again

You will get a ton of rejection letters.
The Watchers was rejected over ONE THOUSAND times before it got published. I thought about applying to the Guinness World Book of Records for the author with the most rejections. BUT after The Watchers was published it hit bestseller lists and sold out at every book signing, then had publishers asking to publish it.

So don't give up. I made a rejection letter recovery page. You can see here:

Also see this post:

Here are some interviews I've done with agents so you can hear it directly from them:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Felicity ~ A Sparrow's Tale by Loralee Evans

Title: Felicity~ A Sparrow's Tale |  Author: Loralee Evans | Illustrators: Loralee Evans and Rachel Evans | Publish Date: October 2014 | Recommended Ages: 8-13 |
Summary: Tales of adventure and danger have thrilled Felicity since Augustus taught her to read as a little nestling.  She adores the tales of heroes and heroines who forge ahead in spite of all odds, and who always seem to succeed no matter what.  More than anything, Felicity wants to be brave and selfless like them.  But adventures are in short supply, especially for someone who's just an ordinary sparrow.  Until the day an unexpected visitor shows up at her tree with an unusual request...  

About the Author: Some of Loralee Evans' earliest memories are of sitting with her mom or dad while they read her stories like The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, or Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  These memories, along with many great teachers who got her excited about about reading, are what helped her develop a love of books, and of writing.  She has lived in Missouri, Texas, and Utah, and even spent a year and a half in Japan.  Some of her favorite authors are James Dashner, Harper Lee, C.S. Lewis, Heather B. Moore, Rachel Ann Nunes, Candace Salima, J. Scott Savage, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Julie Wright.  Felicity~ A Sparrow's Tale is her fourth book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

With An Artist's Eye, A Deep Look at Book Covers

With Self-Publishing becoming more popular AND profitable, authors are taking on the responsibilities traditional publishers normally would.
One of these responsibilities is the book cover.

I don't need to go into the details of why its important to have an eye catching cover, but in short, if you don't have a good cover, then you won't sell books, or make money, and then you will see your book cover on one of those book cover blooper sites, and you will be sad.

(How do you like that run on sentence? I talk in run on sentences too.)

I did a study to find out why authors without professional covers choose not to get a professional artist.
Here are the top three reasons why:

1. Money.
It cost money to get a good cover, but you can find a good graphic artist to use stocks. These covers can be as low as $75. Though some covers can run into the thousands of dollars to produce.

2. They don't know where to get a cover.
Ask your other author friends with great covers or check out

3. They have a relative who is an "artist."
The cutest ones are the covers done by the author's nine-year-old kid.

I want to show you a few covers (with the authors' permission of course.)

Take a look at Karen's book:

Notice the lighting and blending.

               Before touch ups                                               After touch ups

  • Lighting can create the mood for the book.
  • You also want to make sure when using multiple stock images that the lighting all comes from the same direction.
  • Make the skin a shade darker. Of you don't, it will make the person look washed out once printed.
  • Put light in the eyes.

Cheri's book:

Stock 1
Stock 2

Stock 3

  • Layering your stocks can give you a completely new and unique look.

Theresa's book:

Here is an example of how you can make the same stock art look different - different enough to express genera or hit a complete new target market audience.

  • Its like magic. You can change so much. Get creative. The possibilities are endless.

Tina's Book:

The author was really involved with this one. She took the stock art photos. The model is her beautiful daughter. The author also painted the girl's shirt!

A few ideas to think about when you work on your own cover.

  • Watch the skin coloring! In the original, because of the lighting or the way the image digitized, the model turned out looking a little yellow.
  • Color treatments (both pictures) made the colors more vivid and less muddy.
  • You need balance in pattern. We have two graphics. The one on the bottom is super busy with all the buildings so I countered this with the calm sky on the top.
  • Balance in color. Not all books need balance with color, especially if you are going monotone or trying to make a focus point. With this book, the balanced colors are red, green, and blue.
  • I used different embellishments that were super customized for this book. (rose, border, etc.) This is a fun way to make your cover art your own. Just don't over do it with embellishments.
  • I pointed the model facing the opening of the book. Rotating, mirroring, and sizing images can make a huge difference.
  • Use only portions of stock art. (Explained more on The Tyrant King cover.) The sky on the this one belongs to the same stock as Marsha Ward's cover below! No one would ever know unless I pointed it out.

Oh, here is this too:

Yep, I made that whole bar with just this.

Marsha's Cover:



Totally squeeing on this one. We decided to make this one a wrap around cover instead of using panels. Wrap arounds (especially one like this) can be much more expensive because its a lot more work.

Take a look at the original. - Notice how the picture isn't long enough.
What I did was position the main figure then spliced the background and air brushed them together to make a seamless painting. Go ahead - blow the cover up on your screen and look at it magnified. I bet you can't tell the background image is really 12 panels glued together with paint.

  • If you have a historical book, pay attention to details in the stock that need to be eliminated such as powerlines, telephone poles, tire tracks, small airplanes in the sky, details on clothing, etc.

Cheri's Book:

Air Brushing

You can make anything look and be something completely different with air brushing.
Air brushing is basically like a fine mist painting. Its like using a can of spray paint, but more exact and this can be done on the computer in a professional program like Photoshop.

  • Make your spine STRONG! This is actually a wrap around. The middle is a bit transparent so the title of the book will stand out. Truth is, most books in books stores don't get cover facing out. It just takes up too much room.
  • Dressing up your font doesn't mean make the lettering so fancy that you can read it in a fast glace. Try using embossing, highlighting, drop shadows, and other affects that will give your cover a polished and professional look. 
  • If you already have great cover art, consider hiring someone to do you lettering placement. A sloppy lettering job is the first sign that the book is self published, and not in a good way.


If you plan to do a print you will need to have a bleed.
Your printed book needs to be cut to the right size.
The printers try to be exact, but they will need some wiggle room.

Here is a visual:

  • Make sure your spine is straight and in the exact middle.
  • Don't put words, important graphics, or font to close to the edge.

Another Cheri Book: (She is amazing)


The leather is a picture I took for this job. Same with the dagger and the table.
I had a hard time finding a crown I liked. The stock I found is something that wouldn't work as a whole, but one part became an awesome focal point to the cover.

  • Look at pieces of stock to create a whole new picture.

Debbie's Book:

Here is another look at customizing and layering.

Look at the locket details. Its engraved now and has a few other fun details. The lighting on the locket has also been changed to match the background.

So, my author friends, don't settle on a less-than-awesome cover. You can have a super awesome cover of your dreams. No excuses. You've worked so hard on your book, you might as well wrap it up in something nice when you present it to the world.

Thank you AWESOME authors for letting me show off your books.

Here is where you can purchase their books:

Karen: AND

Cheri: AND





Thank you to ShutterStock for the stock images.

Share |