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Nothing angers readers more than characters who act with no motivation, just to service the plot. Plot comes from character, not the other way around. I’ll discuss how to craft believable characters who enhance, not detract, from your story.


Tracey's latest release, American Royalty is a dangerously sexy rom-com that evokes the real life romance between Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle, if Meghan was Megan Thee Stallion, and was one of the most buzzed about books of 2022. She’s the 2021 Emma Award winner for Best Interracial Romance for Like Lovers Do, which was also named one of the 100 Best Fiction Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews. A former criminal defense attorney, Tracey lives in Virginia with her husband and their three children.

DARA’s February 25th meeting will tackle the basic concepts of graphic design so you can work better with designers and create some of your own graphics. Randee Paraskevopoulos, a graphic designer with over 20 years of experience, will lead the presentation starting about 10 am. Join us on Zoom for social time at 9 a.m. and a short business meeting at 9:30 a.m. If you need more information or the Zoom link, contact

GRAPHIC DESIGN IS ART WITH A PURPOSE. And you don’t have to be an artist to do it. It’s visual communication in which you convey your message using typography, images, page layout and color. Your writing life interacts with graphic design most prominently in book covers and interior page design. But it’s also vital to your website, advertising, social media, and swag. When it’s an image that’s going to last a long time, like a book cover, you’ll want to work with an experienced designer. But you can absolutely do-it-yourself for one-time uses like social media posts.

This online presentation is specifically geared towards writers and will cover just the basics of graphic design. We’ll learn the terminology, so our conversations with designers will be more productive and we’ll get what we want without a lot of costly revisions. We’ll also cover, on a high level, some of the general concepts such as selecting fonts and colors, and the importance of balance and white space in a layout.

Finally, we’ll get a crash course in the free online graphic design program, Canva. We’ll also get a list of safe places online where we can get stock images, clip art, and fonts for free or almost free. When we’re finished, you’ll have the knowledge you need to tackle your own simple designs.


Randee Paraskevopoulos is a freelance graphic designer and developmental editor at P15 Creative (P15 because Paraskevopoulos has 15 letters). She studied journalism at Berry College in Rome, GA, and became a copy editor. She discovered she loved the page layout part of being a copy editor. Now, 20+ years later, Randee still has a passion for graphic design, even though she can’t draw a decent looking heart.

Over the years, she’s created everything from logos and business cards, up to posters and wall-sized banners, from straightforward web banners to complex, multi-page playbills and catalogs. Her specialty is static graphic design – designs that grab your attention and tell you everything you need to know without moving parts or interactive features.

Graphic design and editing are her day jobs. She also writes romantic suspense under the pen name Randee Leigh (again, because Paraskevopoulos has 15 letters). Her novels are still unpublished, but a few of her short stories have appeared in anthologies.

Randee lives her own happily-ever-after in an idyllic suburb of DFW with her husband of 27 years. (He says he knows she loves him because she took his last name.) They have two technically adult daughters, both in colleges far away from home. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, taking classes on a variety of subjects, or watching just about any sport or Marvel movie. She often multi-tasks, doing those things while snuggling with her two chihuahua mixes, Pepper and Jane (named after Thor and Iron Man's girlfriends).

In addition to her bachelor’s degree from Berry, Randee has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and an editing certificate from the University of Chicago. You can find her at

Michael La Ronn is the author of over 80 science fiction and fantasy novels and self-help books for writers. His books include The Good Necromancer series, The Last Dragon Lord series, and the Android X series, to name just a few. His writing is about heroes rising up against incredible odds to be the best possible versions of themselves.

Michael devoted himself to the writing life in 2012 after a near-death experience with a deadly illness. Realizing that life was too short to die without pursuing his passions, he dedicated himself to being an industry-savvy author, marketer, and entrepreneur.

When he’s not writing novels, Michael runs the popular YouTube channel, Author Level Up, where he publishes weekly advice videos for writers. Author Level Up has over 40,000 subscribers and nearly 2 million lifetime views.

To give back to the community that has given so much to him, Michael also serves on the staff of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) as their Outreach Manager. ALLi is a nonprofit for self-published writers whose mission is ethics and excellence in self-publishing. He co-hosts the AskALLi Member Q & A Podcase where he answers new writers’ most burning questions about self-publishing.

Michael is a dynamic public speaker and is an expert on productivity, writing business & craft. His main focus is writing the best books he can and helping other writers to do the same.

Michael was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri and is a proud St. Louisan. He currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife and daughter.

You can find his fiction at and videos and books for writers at

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