Sunday, January 25, 2015

Selecting a Cover

One of the most rewarding–and most stressful–parts of having a book published is approving a cover design. Covers are one of the most important parts of any book, especially in this digital age. Your cover design is the size of a thumbnail, and it's all you have to make a reader stop, look, and read your most important element–the blurb. Then, and only then, will a person make the decision to buy your book. So while covers won't necessarily sell copies, it can make people stop and read about your book, and maybe buy it.

This time, my historic romance takes place not in New York, but in the wild country west of the Mississippi in 1860. So, I got to include something I haven't been able to before–a horse!

I was so excited about the opportunity, I've been gathering pictures of wild horses for months now. The story, Expressly Yours, Samantha, is about two people involved in the new Pony Express, which began in April, 1860.

But a horse is not enough to stop a reader in her tracks and read the book blurb. I needed something more. My publisher wanted it to evoke the idea of romance, since that's what I write, but I had a problem with all the lovely women who were nuzzling horses. They were too pretty.

What, you say? How can someone be too pretty? Isn't the idea of a cover to make a person stop and look? And wouldn't they be drawn to a pretty face, rather than a not-so-pretty one?

I get where the designers were coming from. But the heroine is passing herself off as a boy at the start  of the book, on the run from an abusive uncle. So a beautiful ingenue with a wide smile just didn't work. I wanted a haunted face, one that could realistically be mistaken for a boy, with the right haircut. And I wanted her standing against a horse.

I have to admit, the designers did it. I can't show the cover off yet, but it works. I'm glad they took the time to make it right. Will I miss a few readers because there's not a pretty face on the cover? Possibly. But if they take a moment to look into the haunted eyes of my heroine, they'll hopefully be intrigued enough to read the blurb. And maybe buy the book.

Expressly Yours, Samantha, will be released March 16. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Sound Of Silence

If you've been following this blog for a while, you already know that my sister, Pat, moved in with me last year. She set up the finished half of the basement as her domain, but after the first few months, decided she preferred to be upstairs. She was quiet when I worked in the mornings, and we enjoyed each other's company, so it worked well, despite the reservations we originally had on both sides.

She has the flexibility to travel, and from the beginning, told me she'd be elsewhere during Ohio's harsh winters. So, last week, she took off, driving cross-country away from the snow and ice, to spend the winter in Phoenix and Shreveport, with a side trip to San Diego thrown in for good measure. My dog, Mary, and I waved goodbye, a tad jealous, but also looking forward to getting back to my old routine.

So what happened? A wild streak of creativity? A feverish bout of writing getting me way ahead of schedule? Ideas for story lines for as yet unplanned novels coming at me fast and furious?

No. Crickets are what happened. Silence.

I've been polishing up a manuscript I'd been working on since before she left, and my next Cotillion Ball story is coming together as outlined. But nothing new. I've been moping, as has Mary.

It's strange, since I've lived alone for years. I should be used to this.

How about you? Does anyone have a trick they use to jumpstart those creative juices? If so, please share. April's a long way off.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Devil She Knew–Interview with Rena Koontz

One of my favorite people, Rena Koontz, takes time out from teasing us all with her pictures from Venice Beach (bare feet in the sand as we all shiver here in Ohio), to stop by for a visit today. Her book, The Devil She Knew, is on sale for only 99 cents until January 16. If you haven't snagged your copy yet, now's the time.

The research for this book deserves its own story. Here's Rena to talk about how she did it.

He’s dead now – the real Tony DelMorrie, that is.

Yes, the mob guy in my romantic suspense, “The Devil She Knew,” was a real-life Mafioso. A “made guy,” sometimes called a wiseguy, is someone who has been officially inducted, usually as a soldier, into a Mafia family. That was Tony in real life. And I met him.

My husband and I were out with a friend in downtown Cleveland one Saturday night, dropping in and out of various fun spots, when we wandered into Tony’s coffee shop – yeah, the same one depicted in the book. My husband, then an FBI agent, knew who Tony was but never expected him to be there, working the floor like a Las Vegas nightclub entertainer. Gold chains ringed his bulging neck and dripped down onto black chest hairs. I could see them because Tony had his shirt partially unbuttoned – a flashback to disco days.

Heavy, gold rings weighed down his fingers and dug into my own when he shook my hand. It was his pleasure to meet me, he said, adding that such an Italian-looking face as mine belonged in his café. I feared he would notice how sweaty my palms were or the crack in my voice when I thanked him.
And then Mrs. DelMorrie came to the table. The TV show depicting mob wives is not exaggerated. She was fake nails, fake lashes, fake boobs and a hair color that rivaled a Sherwin-Williams sample palette. She batted her eyelashes at the men and called me “hon,” insisting I sample a piece of red velvet cake, the house specialty. “It’s the best you’ll ever eat, Hon. With your figure, you don’t even have to worry about calories.”

Yes, they were both charmers. No, the cake wasn’t the best. The icing was so sweet I could feel my arteries clogging as I swallowed. But I wasn’t about to decline the offered piece. I chewed fast, anxious to make an exit.

I knew Tony’s reputation and was privy to inside knowledge about his character. It’s what helped me make him so real in my book – because he was real.

“The Devil She Knew,” is my second romantic suspense released by Crimson Romance. If this blog has piqued your interest about the story, now is a good time to order. It’s discounted to 99-cents between Jan. 8-16  on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, The Crimson Romance store and other e-book retailers.

Thank you, Becky, for allowing me to share a tidbit about my book.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m participating in a Romance Writers Blog Hop.  Not only do you get to know a little about me and my writing process, but I get to introduce you to fellow romance authors and learn their individual writing styles and processes.

My fellow author, Susan B. James has tagged me to be next on the “My Writing Process Blog Tour” (#MyWritingProcess).Susan's first novel, Time and Forever is about two women in their sixties time travelling back to 1969. It's won Honorable Mentions in The Hollywood Book Festival and The Great Northwest Book Festival in Fiction.
In Kate’s hero, Michael is Sherry’s son from Time and Forever. Susan cannot seem to write a book without a touch of magic.  She also writes children’s books as Susan J. Berger. Susan is drawn to humor and was born to wonder and to laugh. Here's Susan's contact information to find out more about her. 

Now that you know about Susan, let’s move on to the four required blog questions about my own writing process:
What am I currently working on?
The seventh book in the Cotillion Ball Series is currently undergoing edits for a March 16 release. It's a lot grittier than my other Cotillion books, since it's set in Kansas and Missouri in 1860 instead of in New York. My first 'western,' as it were. I'm really anxious to get it out there and see if it attracts a different audience. I'm reworking a contemporary, the first in a series about three generations of women in the same family. I need to get the first one done, and done right, before I can go on to the next. And the next story in the Cotillion series, The Widow's Salvation, is due to my publisher on June 1. 

How do my romances differ from others in the genre?
I love to write about lovely ball gowns and high society, but I also have a huge love affair going on with American history. This country is so rich in stories and traditions, so I had to figure out a way to combine the two. My Cotillion series began in New York City in 1855, a year after the debutante ball tradition began in this country. But because America in the late 1850s and early 1860s was filled with western expansion as well as having increasing strife between the North and the South, I felt I needed to explore both worlds–the fairly civilized eastern border of the country which was slowly falling into a mighty war and the frontier, where people took their lives into their hands on a daily basis in an attempt to civilize the remainder of the land. 

As for my contemporary line, I enjoy writing about older heroes and heroines, people who have already been around the block once or twice and who have built up walls around their feelings. The first book in my Barnswallow series features a woman who is getting a divorce after sixteen years of marriage, and a man who has spent his life building a business at the expense of a marriage and several relationships.

Why do I write what I do?
Even though I found American history a bore while I was in school, traveling through the United States awakened my awareness to what a great, diverse country this is. I have four states left to get to, and I hope to cross them off my list soon. I love finding a significant, yet somehow forgotten, event in history and plunking my characters down into the middle of it. Even small events, such as the invention of the trolley car, had a profound impact on the lives of the people living at the time, and I enjoy weaving these little tidbits of history into my story. 

How does my writing process work?
Because the Cotillion books were set up as a nine-book series, my publisher asked me for a synopsis of each book before they'd grant me a contract. That's the first time I've ever written a synopsis first, since I started out as a pantser. My first couple of books had to be rewritten time and again because I didn't do any pre-planning. I found Blake Snyder's Save The Cat book very useful, and use parts of it now to develop plot points at the right time. That helps me with plotting. I use Scrivener, which also helps me keep track of POV and word count. I write fast to get my thoughts down and then go back once I get to the end, and add in details. I call it layering. 

I’m now tagging my fellow Soul Mate Author and someone with whom I share a blog called History Imagined, Caroline Warfield, whose debut novel, Dangerous Works has been selected as a five star top pick from Night Owl Reviews, and one Mary Balogh read in an afternoon and loved. Here's where you can go to find out more about what Carolyn's up to.