Have You Seen these Dope Artists? They Designed My Rockin’ Book Cover

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One of the reasons I went indie with my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, was creative control—not just of my story, but of the cover art and presentation.

I had two artists in mind who I wanted working on my book’s look, because these guys are seriously awesome AF.

Cover Art: Rebecca Lopatin

Rebecca Lopatin_Darrel_charcoalYes, we have the same last name, because yes, Rebecca is my sister. But she’s also a professional, accomplished fine artist here in the blazing hot desert of Phoenix, Ariz. Like, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She studied art in Italy. F’ing ITALY.

You guys, she hand-painted my book’s cover art. Like, the classical way. Savage, right?


Rebecca has a garage full of oil paintings for sale that need some serious walls. Even if you’re not looking to buy, you gotta check out her work and give her a follow:

Cover Design: Ryan Quackenbush

Ryan is a sick digital artist and illustrator. I mean, this guy sells his own graphic novels at Phoenix Comic Fest (a.k.a. Phoenix Comicon). His stuff is dark and edgy and just AWESOME.

So naturally, I wanted that look and feel for my cover design, considering the genre of my book. He took Rebecca’s art and turned it into a badass book cover that seriously makes people gasp when they see it.



If you’re into the graphic novel scene (and even if you’re not), I’m telling you to head over to Ryan’s pages NOW and scan his stuff, or follow him:


Why I Waste Time During Work


We live in a world where productivity rules. If you’re not working a billable hour, you’re dirt.

This mentality becomes even more perpetual if you’re a business owner who sells services, rather than things … like me. I don’t sell shirts or dresses or books (yet). If I’m not working an hour, I’m not getting paid.

And yet, I make a conscious effort to waste time during the workday.

I pull weeds. I watch an episode of Parks and Recreation. I pet my cats, or talk to my boyfriend, or sift through the sea of endless posts on Facebook.

I. Waste. Time.


Because I’m more productive this way. Not only do I complete more work, I develop better end-products. My writing is crisper. My imagery is more vivid. My social media posts are snappier, while my media strategies are tighter.

That equals happier clients, who always come back for more. Happy clients ensure future freelance writing work, which ensures I pay my mortgage, pay my bills, and have healthcare coverage.

Studies prove my theory, too.

Take this excerpt from a 2013 New York Times article by Tony Schwartz called, “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.”

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

BOOM. Do I know my stuff, or do I know my stuff?

So tell me, do you waste time during your workday? Why or why not?

Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?

Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity


Today, I have a cool guest post from a company called Modernize. I don’t usually allow companies to guest post on Rogue Writer, but these guys pitched an idea on decorating your writing space to help inspire creativity and increase productivity!

So naturally, I just had to say yes. I found these tips helpful, and the pictures a lot of fun. I hope you do, too. 🙂

Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

By Jane Blanchard

No matter if you’re an artist in a studio or a businessperson in an office, your work environment has a major impact on your productivity and efficiency. Because of your surroundings, you could be unknowingly making it harder to focus and concentrate. It’s bad enough when your work space isn’t conducive to getting tasks accomplished and making headway on important projects, but perhaps your work space is even physically and emotionally draining.

When you work from home and depend upon your own diligence to ensure that obligations are met and important duties are fulfilled, the design of your home work space is one of the most important factors in your productivity. In fact, studies have shown that the most important determinant in an your ability to focus is your physical surroundings.

With that said, here are some tips and design ideas for a workspace at home that will help make you as productive, creative, and efficient as you can be.

Ample Lighting

Though it’s often overlooked, lighting is crucial to a successful work space. Without sufficient lighting, you’ll be straining your eyes in order to see, which can cause debilitating headaches; you’ll also experience fatigue much faster than you normally would, and it’s been said that spending prolonged periods of time in dark spaces can produce depression or exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Via Modernize
Via Modernize

This home office has plenty of natural light coming from the large windows and skylights, but also has plenty of ambient lighting installed for working into the night time if need be. Additionally, experts have said positioning the desk in front of a window to give you a view of natural scenery can have a calming effect, helping to prevent you from succumbing to stress while also inspiring and promoting your creativity.

Desk and Chair

Image 02
Via Modernize

No matter what type of work you do, a good desk and a chair are incredibly important and are likely the center of your work space. Anyone who’s sat at a desk only to spend several minutes adjusting the seat and scooting the chair around to find a vantage point that lets you reach all the desk’s contents knows that, in terms of comfort and productivity, it’s incredibly important to have a desk and chair that fit your individual body. According to ergonomics, the top of your computer screen should be at or below eye level, both of your feet should reach the floor, and you should use an adjustable chair that allows you to recline occasionally to help reduce pressure on your spine and avoid back pain.


Image 03
Via Houzz

You might choose your paint colors based on a whim or what strikes you as attractive on any given day, but you should be aware that colors significantly affect people on an emotional and even a physical level. According to color psychology experts, when you want to boost focus you should consider surrounding yourself with lots of greens. Teal and blue-green colors can inspire motivation, and blue has been said to inspire productivity specifically.

Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?

3 Lessons from My Year Without Blogging


I’ve been back to blogging for a few months now, but before that, I stepped away from the blogging world for a year to finish my novel.

When I re-launched Rogue Writer, one of my longtime blogging buddies, Nina Badzin, commented, “I would love to see a post on how it felt to step away and how it feels to be back. Did you stay off social media a lot more, too?”

Nina girl, I can always count on you for writing prompts! Thanks to Nina’s question, I’m now writing this post. So here are the top three lessons I took away from my year off blogging:

1) If you’re working on a larger creative project, DON’T BLOG. It will get in the way of your goal.

I make my living off freelance writing, social media strategy, and content marketing. So trust me when I say this confession was hard for me to publish!

When I stopped blogging, I was working a full-time job as social media manager for a large health insurance company. I worked 50-hour weeks. During that time, I was also chipping away at the novel which I’m now pitching to literary agents.

I had only a few hours of writing time each week. If I’d continued blogging, none of that creative energy would have gone toward my novel, and today, I’d be blogging about how I want to finish my book.

Blogging is fun, but it can sap energy and time which you may need to reach a larger goal. There will always be room later to pick up where you left off on your blog.

2) Taking a blogging break allows you to just enjoy life. Seriously.

When you’re blogging every week (sometimes more), you get caught in the constant need for fresh content. You’ve developed an expectation among your followers that you’ll publish new stuff. After awhile, that pressure can add stress to your life, rather than release it.

When I stepped away from blogging, I felt a sense of relief. My mind wasn’t constantly “on,” and I was able to immerse myself into the world I created for my book. THIS was relaxing. I also enjoyed life a bit more, not having to turn every experience into a piece of online entertainment.

3) You step back and use social media for its original purpose: to be social.

While I was blogging, I tended to use social media for promotional purposes. Build my presence. Increase engagement. Yada yada yada.

But when I stopped blogging, I also stopped posting to my public profiles. I occasionally posted, but it was never on a schedule. Instead, I stuck to using my personal Facebook profile, where I connect with “real” friends and family. I commented on pictures of my friends’ kids, posted photos of my cat, and shared my progress toward finishing my book.

This type of interaction proved to be much more gratifying, and sometimes even fed my creativity!

Have YOU ever taken a blogging break? I’m curious, what did you learn from it?

Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?

Inspire Yourself with these 6 Themes

Huntington Beach, Copyright 2011 Shari Lopatin

This post is part of the Countdown Series on ShariLopatin.com, re-publishing my top “writing tips” blog posts from the past five years. The Countdown Series will culminate NEXT WEEK with the announcement of my business’ (Shari’s Ink) new arm, which will benefit other WRITERS!

Originally published Jan. 6, 2012

I’ve been on a creative binge lately. And for the New Year, I want to help inspire you, too!

I’ve been reading books and writing stories about some of the deepest, most profound themes I know.

You know, those deep, dark ideas that give a story its umph. That inspire us to reconsider our own lives. I’m not an English scholar, I’m just a journalist who also writes creatively … and who lives for stories.

To read them. To write them. To share them.

So I can’t tell you exactly why these themes resonate better than others. And of course, I can only speak for myself. However, I’ve noticed some themes inspire us more than others.

And these are them:

1. Family

As a human race, perhaps one of our strongest Hierarchy of Needs, is the need to belong. The need for family. Think Fiddler on the Roof, or Sound of Music. Family doesn’t have to encompass a Brady Bunch story. The complicated love between rival brothers can tear at your heart more than a summer romance. Or, think of an orphan who’s sought a sense of family throughout her life, only to find rejection time and time again.

2. War

If you haven’t already, go see War Horse. War is such a great setting and theme for any story, because it offers the opportunity for many smaller, underlying themes. A husband and wife can reunite after years apart, thinking the other was dead. A sworn enemy can suddenly become a best friend. What does war make us realize about ourselves, as a society, and as individuals?

3. Guilt, and Redemption

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, tells us that in every story, something or someone must die, or be saved. The theme of guilt and redemption can take us, literally, to that place. What deed in someone’s past could drive that person into utter self-destruction … and what power or action could literally free them, from their own cage? If you’ve ever read The Kite Runner, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

4. Wanting What You Can’t Have

A blind man who longs to see. A woman in love with a married man. A father who would give his life to hold his son, one final time. When we hear stories of others longing for what can never be theirs, we empathize. Our hearts literally ache for this character, as if we’d experienced his or her pain ourselves (and often times, we have).

5. A Forced Life Change

I saw the previews to a movie called The Vow, based on true events. A married couple of five years are in a car accident and both fall into a coma. The wife awakens with no memory. Her husband is a stranger. However, his love for her drives him to try and recreate their relationship, with the hopes his wife will fall in love with him again. Imagine if tomorrow, something dramatic happened to you, or someone you love. Suddenly, you lose your legs, or your child goes blind. How would you, and your loved ones, cope?

6. Identity and Heritage

I once heard a true story about a Mexican-American woman who grew up poor and ashamed of her heritage. When invited to speak at a prestigious event, her mother sewed a traditional Mexican dress for her daughter. The young woman refused it, and instead bought her own. She later married, and refused to teach her children Spanish. Years later, after her mother died, she found the old dress in her mother’s attic, boxed away. This time, she broke down crying. Denial—or even hatred—of one’s self-identity can drive destruction of epic proportions.

Me, in college

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What themes do you find inspiring, lasting? What can you never read enough of, or write too much of?

Are we friends on Facebook or Twitter yet? If not, let’s connect!

Write What You Love & Forget Everything Else

This post is part of the Countdown Series on ShariLopatin.com, re-publishing my top “writing tips” blog posts from the past five years. The Countdown Series will culminate in a few weeks with the announcement of my business’ (Shari’s Ink) new arm, which will benefit other WRITERS!

Originally published Oct. 13, 2011

I just finished THE HELP last week. And then I read author Kathryn Stockett’s personal three-page narrative at the end.

And I realized something.

Kathryn didn’t write THE HELP to be a bestseller or a future American classic (which I’m sure it will become). She didn’t write it because she thought it’s what others wanted to read, or what she thought would make a possible award-winning book.

Kathryn wrote it, because the storyline was her life growing up. Her questions. Kathryn wrote THE HELP because she followed her passion. And the result is astounding.

Forget what everyone else says. What do YOU want to write?

Don’t write a story because you think other writers will find it to be literary genius. Don’t write an article because you think it’s what everyone else wants to read.

What are you passionate about?

Because when you write with your heart, with your passion, it shows. I could tell, reading THE HELP, that Kathryn poured her soul into this book, into the characters. I bet she cried writing it. I bet she smirked devilishly plotting it.

And you know what? She inspired me.

Here are just a few other books I’ve read or movies I’ve watched, where I could tell the author/screenwriter wrote with his or her heart:

  • The Kite Runner (book)
  • Great Expectations (book)
  • Almost Famous (movie)
  • Of Mice and Men (book)

If you don’t write what you love, others will know. They won’t feel your story, they won’t empathize with your characters. To them, it will never be real, it will never last.

MY QUESTION TO YOU: What are you passionate about writing? Have you ever caught yourself writing for others, instead of for yourself?

Are we friends on Facebook or Twitter yet? If not, let’s connect!

Turn Your ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments into Amazing Characters

This post is part of the Countdown Series on ShariLopatin.com, re-publishing my top “writing tips” blog posts from the past five years. The Countdown Series will culminate in a few weeks with the announcement of my business’ (Shari’s Ink) new arm, which will benefit other WRITERS!

Originally published June 27, 2011

When was the last time you had an “ah ha!” moment? Mine happened about two months ago, after I arrived home from work and found my house ransacked.

That Monday in April was the day I realized how much I appreciate my right to own a gun. You see, I’d called 9-1-1 (I was alone at the time) and frantically told the operator the burglar may still be inside my house. I was stuck outside–a young woman in the dark–with no protection.

The police took 40 minutes to finally show. And I realized, the only person who will protect me–is me. “Ah ha!”

For the first time in my life, I considered becoming a gun owner. If I were a character in your book or story, what would this moment reveal about me?

Use your revelations to reveal your characters’ truths

My blogging buddy, Leah Singer, wrote this great post back in May called, “My ‘Ah Ha!’ Moments.” Even though she didn’t refer to character development, she got me thinking: How can we use these revelatory moments to unearth greater truths about our fictional characters?

In her bestselling book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” Anne Lamott said a death or a birth must occur in every story. Whether it’s the death of a dream, a physical death, or a realization (birth), you cannot have that dramatic conflict without either/or.

5 Personal “Ah Ha!” Moments to Consider

Yes, I’m going to take a leap of faith here, and reveal five of MY “ah ha!” moments. With each revelation, consider the story behind the statement, and what might have led to this conclusion:

  1. Just because I was thin through my 20’s, doesn’t mean I’ll be thin in my 30’s (unless I work at it).
  2. I may never work in journalism again.
  3. Sometimes, money is more important than dreams.
  4. I betrayed myself when I refused to accept my heritage.
  5. My family is more important than my career.

Notice, each one of these “ah ha!” moments reveals some sort of internal or societal conflict.

SO TELL ME: What have been significant “ah ha!” moments in YOUR life, and how could those experiences add depth to your characters?

Are we friends on Facebook or Twitter yet? If not, let’s connect!

Welcome to My New (Crazy) Blog!

Them: “Shari, you’re so weird.”

Me: “Yea, well … at least I’m not normal.”

Thus begins the journey of a rogue writer.

And the phrase that I’ve been hearing my whole FREAKIN’ life. I finally realized that I prefer weird. Weird is better. At least it’s not normal.


Welcome to my new crazy blog, loyal followers! Where nothing is off-limits, and randomness is the doctrine. Yes, this is me, my quirky world straight from my weird mind. I hope you’re brave enough to stick around … and if you like what you see, share my posts with your friends.

If you’re reading this on email, please click through to my blog and visit the new layout. Check out the new “about” page, and tell me what you think (I’m really, really curious).

And do not fear!

I still plan to write about writing. It just won’t be a constant thing. Instead, get ready for:

  • Weird news
  • Occasional outbursts
  • Cat fiascoes
  • Thoughts about my fingernails
  • Seinfeld (I’m obssessed)
  • Anything else I deem relevant or important

So starting after this post, get ready for the new stuff. Get ready for the weirdness. Because I’m SO GLAD I’m not normal.


Become a Better Writer with This Tip

WordsI can’t take credit for this; I saw it in a PR Daily article, “The 7 traits of great writers.” But what I read was absolutely ingenious.

Specifically, number two on the list:

2. You collect words.

Great writers collect words with the intent of using them later. I keep a running list of my favorite words in the notes feature on my cell phone.

In essence, make your own thesaurus.

Like seriously, how brilliant is that? Think about this for a moment. How many times have you read an article or short story, or heard a newscast, or listened to a friend … when you thought, “Wow, that’s a really great word.”

However, by the time you sit down to type your next masterpiece, the word has slipped from your mind.

Yet, developing a running list of these words—I can only imagine how much more lively, more engaging, this would make our writing.

Why don’t YOU help get this started? Comment and list your favorite 2-3 words. Let’s start a list right here!


Special note: I am currently in the process of revamping the feel of my blog. I am awaiting a few things before launching a completely new platform, so this may still take a couple of more weeks. I’ll announce the new version after it’s officially launched. However, if you begin seeing small changes here or there, you’ll know why.  

I’m Thinking of a Blog Makeover: Help Me!

So … up until today (and probably a few weeks from now), the focus of this blog has been writing. And media strategies. And publishing trends.

And it’s worked.

I have nearly 800 followers, between email, Facebook and Twitter.


I read a mind-altering post today from Kristen Lamb’s Blog, “3 Social Media Myths That Can Cripple Our Author Platform.” And then the mind-change happened. Here are the exact words from Kristen’s blog, the ones that reached out and bitch-slapped me:

“Regular people (code for ‘readers’) love being entertained daily in small, manageable, bite-sized pieces. They often read them on their smart phones while in line or on the train or when stuck at an appointment. In fact, this is precisely why blogs are one of the most powerful tools for creating a dedicated readership … The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) gets THREE MILLION UNIQUE VISITS A MONTH on her blog. She tried to hold a live book event, and her followers crashed Goodreads. Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) is another favorite. MILLIONS of people follow these blogs. Any guess why? These bloggers (writers)…are you ready for this? These writers…don’t blog about writing.”


But … but … my blog is about writing!

To see if Kristen was really, truly serious about the seriousness of her claims, I headed over to The Bloggess. EVERY post has more than 100 comments. She has more than 200,000 Twitter followers, and the same for Facebook. Oh yes, and her first book was a New York Times Bestseller!

Then I visited Pioneer Woman. Same friggin’ thing. Except she always had AT LEAST 200 comments per post.

Yea, I’d say Kristen Lamb is onto something.

I Need YOUR Help, Now

I’m writing my first novel. It’s fiction, and I want to begin building an audience that will read my book when it eventually publishes. I’m sure you understand.

You’ve all mostly been with me since the beginning of my blog, or at least for most of the past year.

I want to remain as a “Rogue Writer.” But I’m thinking of writing less about writing and media, and more about something everyday readers will enjoy.

I just can’t figure out what.

Here are some past posts I’ve written that were random, and successful:

  1. Burglars Beware! Why to NEVER Rob a Writer’s Home
  2. Colon Hydrotherapy in Your Backyard
  3. Be the Chicken Nugget in a Bag of Vegetables
  4. My Jewish Cat and the Art of Guilt
  5. Bananagrams: The New Age of American Consumerism

With that in mind, as a non-writer (just PRETEND) who likes reading blogs, what would you want to hear about … from me? And on the contrary, what do you want me to keep? In other words, what keeps you coming back?

Thank you for your help! A new (exciting) chapter awaits …