Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dissolving TheMerryBird Designs

After 8 + years of running an online/offline graphic design business I've decided to close my online freelance doors.  The business times in the past two years have been erratic and slow,  so officially, March 2015 TheMerryBird Designs will no longer offer graphic services.

The following shops, online links and Merry Bird places will be pulled down or altered to fit a new phase of business at a later time.
TheMerryBird etsy  "Your Stationery in Flight"
TheMerryBird Ryze
TheMerryBird Thumbtack

Thursday, April 03, 2014

5 Tips for Creating an Ingenious Presentation

Wheeewww! it's been a while! And I thought while my mind was helping my children with childhood projects and presentations  I would fly in to blog about tips to keep your presentation top notch!

Years ago, as a  graphic book cover artist I would never forget to "present" my work in its best form, clean, concise boards on easels and a flawless speech about my ideas. Here are some tips I remind myself of each time a presentation is needed at work or for a freelance client.  These tips hold true for a professional as well as a student presentation:


Can everyone read the presentation board you created from 4-5 ft away? or from a seat in the back row? TEXT must be BIG enough to read from afar.


Being simple is best.  Don't use too many words or have too much to read. When presentation boards are simple, those reading them or viewing them can easily remember points about the presentation or see images in their mind when they walk away.


Color, Font Size and Font style all come into play so think before you choose a "script font" in "red" printed on a blue background... the audience will get a headache!


Have a goal in mind for your presentation. Do you want to engage? educate? make a joke? or be serious? or inform your audience?


The more you practice the less you have to read from your info/prompt cards!

If you use these five tips your presentation will be off to a great start! You will have confidence and will prove you know your stuff! So fill in the blanks and practice, practice, practice!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Think before you turn the other cheek!

So, I'm conversing with my 10 year old son and he's told me to "kiss this!" ( as he points to his butt). I said "I beg your pardon? who taught you that one?" he replied "oh mom!.... The Grinch..." He evidently was joking.

I took a moment and thought how bizarre my mind was working at that moment. The thought I had in my head wasn't a pleasant one but when I realized his statement came from the movie The Grinch, I bowed my head and released my breath.  What is society really thinking out there? If scenes of a movie have so much control over our minds do we have to accept it? ignore it? don't watch it? forget about it?

It's amazing how words conjure up emotions that in turn conjure up reactions. I guess The Grinch won in that conversation I had with my son and now I'd like to take a lesson. Images come from statements that stick. In today's online world of flashing images, colors, sounds and god knows what else, a serious business needs to take notes on how to reach an audience with a statement that sticks in their mind for more than a nano second. The Grinch's green coat isn't as scary as the thoughts he planted in my child's head - I like to come up with a positive "statement" for any business I work with that would capture it's respective audience without insulting anyone and yes stick.....or maybe, I should insult....people seem to be immune to this way of thinking and like it.

Our immunity to insulting behavior is due to all of the slang utilized in posts, articles, blogs, talks and movies. Society has become immune to hearing truth in words and images. The reflection is evident in our way of thinking that it's ok to accept insults and laugh about it.  Complacency is our worst enemy but as I learned I can't turn the other cheek when asked to "kiss this"!

- Kristine Sheehan

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

After dealing with some serious health issues I'm back to say hello and Happy Thanksgiving! This time of year always rolls around so quickly that I have to remind myself there are only 33 days left to shop for Christmas... Holy cow! (or should I say Bull to my local readers?? poor thing!)

I have been tracking many authors hoping to catch them thinking about book cover design or to interview them about a latest novel they've written - It's so exciting to watch budding authors or master author works show up on the Amazon best seller list or find out a movie is in the making.  Thinking about movies, how many of you can't wait to see Catching Fire, Hunger Games? or better yet The Book Thief? I'm looking forward to both!

As the end of the year approaches I reflect on the awful status of our economy, the mickey mouse government and the nuclear option...well before I get blown to bits let me make you aware I am thankful for health, family, and friends and of course my readers! I'm researching other avenues to write about here and hope to post helpful, informative or friendly graphic, publishing or artistic idea's this coming year..... it can only get better! See you soon!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Today's Meet The Author - Tina Gerow

Glad to speak with you today Tina Gerow (aka Cassie Ryan)!

Tell us about all about you…as the non- author first then about you as author.

I have a varied background.  I’ve done many different things – band director, Dominos pizza manager, House manager of a 30-plex movie theatre, Business Systems Analyst, Technologies Project and Program Manager and Starbucks barista, but I’ve always wanted to be an author.  I live in Arizona with my hubby, my 19-year-old son, two feisty cats, one king snake, and several fish…
I'm a multi published author under two pen names. I write sensual paranormal romance as Tina Gerow and erotic paranormal romance as Cassie Ryan.

I'm also an experienced line editor and a public speaker on many topics both motivational and writing related and teach online writing classes several times throughout the year.

So basically I'm a slacker ex band director with an outgoing personality and an overactive imagination that I've put to work for the safety of myself and others :)

How long have you been writing?  

I’ve written something or other all of my life and always dreamed of a day when I’d see one of my books on the shelf, but I didn’t start writing seriously until 2003 when my husband encouraged me to stop talking about it and DO it J  I joined RWA and hit the ground running.

What inspires you to write in the style that you do? (what genre do you write in? does it vary?)

I grew up loving anything paranormal in both books and movies.  And when I hit my teen years I started stealing books off of my brother’s bookshelf – Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks and a whole host of others.  I actually HATED romance for a long time.  I had read a few of my mom’s Harlequins  when I was ten or eleven (she probably still doesn’t know about that!)  The heroines at that time were wimpy and whiney – or at least to me.  I wanted them to stand up for themselves, wield their own swords and kick some ass!  But then when I went on a vacation with a friend in my late 20’s and I ran out of books on the beach so she loaned me Nora Robert’s Born in Fire.  It wasn’t paranormal, but I fell in love with the characters, the vivid descriptions, and yes, the romance of it all.  From there, I read the rest of that series and began to branch out to other romance authors and found some paranormal romance authors like Cheyenne McCray and Sherrilyn Kenyon who became favorites.  Then I began to think I might actually be able to write in that genre, so when I joined RWA that’s where I started.  My first book Into a Dangerous Mind, was about a psychic serial killer and has gone on to win several awards and be published in Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish.  It will be available on audio book soon!  I only have one book out that doesn’t have any paranormal in it – it’s Take It Off and is a fun little contemporary romance with lots of snark – and snark is in ALL of my books.  I tried my hand at erotic paranormal romance several years ago and Kensington picked me up for a three book deal.  That’s how Cassie Ryan was born.  Those are all paranormal and all smokin’ hot J  I don’t see myself foregoing either the paranormal or the romance any time soon.  I love both writing and reading them, so I think they are here to stay, at least for me!

How many words per day do you like to write? Is that a daily goal or weekly goal?  

I like to TRY for at least three thousand words a day, but since my brain blowout a few years ago, that goal has been a tough one to keep up with.  Since then on a good day I can get in a few thousand, but that involves at least a few naps.  Sometimes instead I’ll give myself a time goal – things like “I’m going to write for two hours today” and then depending on how I’m feeling when that two hours is done, I can always extend it.

What is the name of your first book? How long ago was
It printed? Where did you market it and did you have a good sale number?

Into a Dangerous Mind was my first book.  I published it originally with a small press publisher who has since gone out of business.  Its first release was in 2005.  For marketing I took out ads at several review sites like Romance Junkies, Fallen Angel Reviews and took promotional items to Romantic Times convention and RWA Nationals.  That’s back when My Space was the big social media outlet, so I did promo on there as well.  It didn’t hit the market with a huge bang, but over time it is still my best selling Tina Gerow book to date.  In the last few years my agent has sold the foreign language rights so that now it’s available not only in English, but in Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish.  And I’m finally putting my audio book rights into play and should have that available before Christmas of this year.

I understand you have a book series. How many books are in the series (or will be in the series when completed)? How did you come to write a series?

I have a few series under both pen names.  As Tina I have the Maiden series.  There will be four in that series when it’s done.  The only reason there are four is that there are four sisters in it and each one of them will get their own story.  I wrote the first two and then that publisher went under so I never got to publish the last two in that series.  I still want to go back and finish those and publish them on my own.  People ask me all the time when I’m going to do that so I need to make it happen in the next few years. 
As Cassie Ryan I have two series.  The first one is the Seduction series – Ceremony, Vision and Trio.  I sent in a partial of Ceremony and when Audrey LaFehr called to offer me the contract she asked me if I could make it into a three book series.  To be honest I had no idea how I was going to do it when I assured her that of course I could!  But I did it and Ceremony of Seduction is my best selling Cassie Ryan book to date and is in its second printing.  My second series for Cassie is the Sisters of Darkness series.  There were supposed to be two more books after Seducing the Succubus and The Demon and the Succubus, but Berkley didn’t pick up the last two books in the series.  So I need to go back and write those two as well.  Fans are already asking for those so it’s definitely on my To Do list.  When I pitched the overall idea for the book they asked me if I could write it in such a way so it would be a series, so that’s how that one ended up as a four book series.

How do you feel about online book reading? Do you have a book that you’ve written for a digital shelf like ibooks or kindle?

I love reading both online and in paperback.  Ebooks are really convenient and I have a kindle reader on my iPhone that I use quite often.  And sometimes the e versions are cheaper than the print, which is nice when it happens.  All of my books are available in e-formats – pretty much any e-format you can imagine, in fact.  If you go out to your favorite ebook site and search by Tina Gerow or Cassie Ryan you should find them all.

Do you think it’s worth to ask buyers to purchase a digital novel for the same amount of $ as a print novel?

I, personally, think that’s ridiculous.  An electronic book should definitely be less expensive than a print book.  I know there is labor involved in both versions, but electronic doesn’t have printing and storage and postage and all of that involved.  Authors normally get less royalties on those versions as well, which I also don’t agree with.  But unless we self publish them, we don’t get a say in how much the books are offered for.

How do you think the change in the publishing industry affects authors today?

I know more and more authors are self publishing.  I even know several New York Times best selling authors who have said they will never publish another book through New York or small press.  It’s going to be self pubbing all the way for them.  They have more control and they make more money that way.  Since they already have a solid reader following, they can make quite a good living at it, as they are already proving. 

Authors have more choices but with those choices comes more work on the author’s side.  If we choose to self publish, not only are we now writing the books, but we are finding ways to get them edited on our own, finding and working with cover artists, figuring out marketing, copyright filing, distribution and a whole host of other things that a traditional publisher usually deals with.  There are definite plusses to both traditional publishing and self publishing and I think authors owe it to themselves to stay educated on both and choose the best path for them, which sometimes involves BOTH paths.

If you could give a budding author advice what would it be?

Talk to successful writers and make good connections.  A LOT of this business is about networking, so take the time to make good connections, not only with other authors, but librarians, book cover artists, editors, agents, readers and everyone else you can.  Not only is it a great way to keep yourself sane by surrounding yourself with other people who “get” the fact that you constantly hear other people “talking” inside your head, but when you need it, your network is a great place for information and support.

Beyond that – ALWAYS read and follow ALL submissions guidelines.  It will save you a LOT of pain AND rejections J

And write.  Write lots and write even more.  And don’t forget to read!

And last – don’t ever give up on your dream.  Don’t let anyone steal it or talk you out of it.  Grab it with both hands, invest in it and go after it!  I fulfilled my dream of being a published author, then my dream of being multi published and even award winning.  My next one is to be a #1 Best Selling Author on the New York Times list.  Hey – go big or go home, right?  And I’m not giving up until I get there!

Can you recommend our readers a publisher that you like to work with?

There are several great publishers out there but I’ve only worked with a few.  Both small presses that I worked with are no longer around, but I’m also published with Kensington (their Aphrodisia line as Cassie Ryan) and Berkley (which is part of Penguin – also as Cassie Ryan)  My best advice is to get plugged into a writing network like RWA or even friend lots of writers on Facebook and pay attention to what’s said, and what’s NOT said.  Ask around and form your own opinions.  Also, read books from those publishers and pay attention to the quality of their products. 

If you could be a famous author, who would it be and why?

While I don’t want to be long dead J I think I would choose Jane Austen.  I love her books, but I also love her spirit.  Think about the spirit she had to have to be a female writer during the time she lived in.  I think she and I would’ve been good friends since neither of us are wilting flowers.  I love that all of her stories delved so deeply into characters and themes that they are still beloved today.  I would love to leave that kind of legacy behind when I go.

Tell us where we can find your book(s) and provide a link!
Thank you!
Tina Gerow books:
Into a Dangerous Mind –

Stone Maiden: 

Fire Maiden:


Take It Off:

Vortex Blues:

Hansel & Gretel’s Real Estate Ventures: 

Fantasy Quest:

Books written as Cassie Ryan

Ceremony of Seduction

Vision of Seduction:

Trio of Seduction:

Seducing the Succubus:

The Demon and the Succubus:

  The Pleasure Project (an Anthology with other authors)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Changing Times: Children's Books and Cover Art

All summer long I encouraged my children to read, “Yes, please read this, please read that, whatever is of interest to you Sam I am”. Of course that excitement lasted all of about the first week of summer and then it was onto video games, swimming, volleyball, playing with pals, vacation or just hanging out became their norm.  This drove me nuts since I really enjoyed my down time as a kid with a good summer book, why shouldn’t they?  Isn’t that what summer is for? I mean the sunshine on my back while laying in the grass, the whispering wind through an open window, a rainy day on the patio, in my room or a tree house hideaway….. ahh nostalgia.  What made reading those books so appealing? (I’m not even that old!)
This got me thinking about children’s books and cover art… isn’t the old adage don’t judge a book by its cover? After all, content is important! With the shift in the past decade from manual illustrations to computer graphic design, books and the covers surely reflect the NEW times we now live in. No wonder my children didn’t want to read a “book” as I know it, they were reading them on the computer. Here are a few differences I found intriguing.

Comparisons: Now and then

Drawing vs. computer graphics – cover art now is just different than it used to be. Shapes are bolder, images are morphed, touched up, digitally sketched, pigmented, blurred etc. FONTS are amazing… no graphic tape needed here, neither sharpies or pencils make a difference… nah! Instant graphic design!

Color then vs. colors now  Color back in the hay day of printing wasn’t as thrilling or it took allot of work to mix to make the color you wanted your images to have, not to mention the price tag of production. Pantone colors are easily accessible today, making it much more palatable to the eye. Not to mention the extensive graphic programs that make color creativity and placement easy. 

A Page turner indeed: No more paper cuts, no more folding corners or book markers to save pages. Digital book pages turn with a gentle glide, a page is marked with touch of a corner, closing a book with the touch of a button and putting it back on a shelf, tucked away on a digital page. The cover can later be found twinkling on a surreal bookshelf... waiting for one click. It seems that tangible ownership of a book collection isn’t as important to kids as the visual “collection” of them now. BUT, the main thing my kids enjoy is book Interaction. One could “Click here” and hear the character speak, or “click there” to see an animation. FUN!

The scent of a good book is lost – I never realized the scent of ink made me as happy as it did until I couldn’t smell it anymore. The kids will miss out on this point! For sure!

Check these links out for an interesting view of then and now children’s cover art for books – some of it is downright hilarious while others are quite offensive!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Today's Meet The Author: C.M. Fields

Glad to speak with C.M. Fields today!

Tell us about all about you…as the non- author first then about you as author.
I am 42, an engineer and working for the high tech industry. I have more than 15 years of experience in this career and for a while I was sort of burned out, gained weight and had lost my mojo. As I don’t have a family yet and wanted to be prepared to have one, I took it upon myself to get in shape, live a healthy life and I educated myself on nutrition and exercise. With a mix of nutrition, regular workouts and yoga, I went from 220 pounds down to 165. Although I still want to improve and stay fit for the rest of my life, I am comfortable with the goals I have reached so far.

As an author, one of the things that drive me is a passion for traveling and experiencing new cultures. This passion has taken me to many different places and has helped me expand my views of the world. Working in the high tech industry with virtual teams gives you an access and a view to the world that opens your mind and gives you a bigger picture. My first novel is a project that I kicked around in my head for about two or three years. I would start writing something and then would stop. Then I would start something else and stop again. Eventually I realized that I simply had to plan my story and write it, so I did. I put together a rough idea of what I wanted to have in each chapter. Once I had this, things just flowed. I would come back from work, play some music and things would just happen. As a self-published author, I realized soon the road is long and there’s no easy way to make your message known. Just like everything, you have to be persistent and believe in your message, stay at it and keep going. So, this is where I’m at. I believe in the overall message of my story and will continue trying to spread it.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since my early twenties. First I started with essays and short stories. Over time, I realized friends and classmates liked what I wrote. So, it eventually evolved into a desire to write a book. Off and on, it has been all this long… approximately twenty years. Looking back, I gotta say, it’s a long time!   I guess I have to start upping the gears and be more prolific.

What inspires you to write in the style that you do? (what genre do you write in? does it vary?)
This is my first novel. What inspired me to write in this style is that I wanted to give an overall message. There is a story in the book and I try to share my view of where things might be heading to; I felt I had to make it more generic, hence I chose this style.
In my next book, I will most probably choose a story in the first person, it will be a way more personal story and so will have to be in this style.

How many words per day do you like to write? Is that a daily goal or weekly goal?
I approach writing as a way to open your mind and your heart, as a way to pour your heart out with what’s bouncing around in your mind. It’s a sort of therapy, if you will. So, being that it’s something somewhat emotional and whimsical, there are days when I was close to writing an entire chapter, and there were other days where nothing came and I simply spent my time correcting things in the story, adding and removing little things here and there.

What is the name of your first book? How long ago was
It printed? Where did you market it and did you have a good sale number?
The name of my first book is “A Life as a Stock”. It was first printed in September 2011. I published it and marketed it through iUniverse and it’s available in, Barnes and, Sony books, and other major online retailers.

My sales have not been what I expected and I think it’s one of the things about self-publishing. You have to try different formulas and find out what works and what doesn’t. Right now, I had read different posts from successful authors that a low price for the electronic version of a book is something that has worked for them. So, I’m right now working on finding out how to lower the price of the electronic version with the major online retailers. I have gotten overall good reviews (you can find one at The Urban Times online: though.

Will your novel become a series?
Right now, I don’t have a series in mind. And it’s funny, I have been asked about this before. Maybe I should consider it.

How do you feel about online book reading? Do you have a book that you’ve written for a digital shelf like ibooks or kindle?
Even though I did not write my book specifically for the electronic version, I think it’s a great new platform. Everything I have read tells that it’s a growing market and platform. I’m all up for it!

Do you think it’s worth to ask buyers to purchase a digital novel for the same amount of $ as a print novel?
I don’t. When I first went into this I went with the same price thinking that that was the way things were done. As I have learned more about it, it’s clear that you can’t. And it makes all the sense in the world. With an electronic version you’re not using paper or ink to produce a physical product. You’re simply selling your story, that’s all.

How do you think the change in the publishing industry affects authors today?
My perspective is that with every major change, you have to focus on the big picture. It’s great because now everyone who has a story has access to publish it and have a shot at doing so. It’s not so great because anyone who self publishes has to go through a learning curve, has to try different formulas and find what works and what doesn’t. That assumes that your story is good and has potential; if it’s not, then that’s a different story.

If you could give a budding author advice what would it be?
Make it look professional. Proof read a lot, polish your message and don’t give up. Nobody’s going to do the work for you, you have to knock doors, try different formulas and, most importantly, you have to realize that most successful authors became successful until their second, third or later novel.

Don’t spend your money unnecessarily with publishing packages that promise you the stars. There’s a lot of cost effective alternatives. Look for those. Reach out to the book clubs and introduce yourself to them, give books away. At the end of day, it’s about making connections.

Can you recommend our readers a publisher that you like to work with?
The only one I have worked with is iUniverse.

If you could be a famous author, who would it be and why?
Gary Jennings. He had a way to transport you to the world he was describing. You could see and smell the world in the story, you could feel the dust in your feet.

Tell us where we can find your book(s) and provide a link!
Barnes &
Kobo Books:
Sony eBooks:

Thank you C.M.!