Confessions of a Self-Employed Queen/Writer

SQ and KittyThat’s one of the many stupid unimportant few benefits of being self-employed—you can pick whatever job title you want. I picked Queen. I thought it was crazy enough to work fitting less pretentious than calling myself a writer.

As I loll around work at my castle home-office all day with my chauffeur, Myren, and my cat, Kitty for distractions company, I can hardly keep myself from shooting one of them but they hid the shot gun to be safe enjoy the freedom of being independent, of being my own boss. Sometimes I’m even the boss of my Chauffeur, Myren. (I’m never the boss of my cat, Kitty.)

Things you can do when you’re self-employed:

  1.  Pretend to work with the TV on to catch up on Game of Thrones for the latest news reports.
  2. Eat whatever garbage you can scrounge or have your chauffeur Myren take you to the store to buy more candy if you run out which happens all the time because I’myou’re a candy-holic home-cooked healthy meals at a time convenient to you.
  3. Lay around in bed until noon before you start work at your optimal time.
  4. Dress (dress?) in whatever you pick up off the floor of your closet after you convince the cat to get off it comfortable clothing.
  5. Go out in the middle of the day to the liquor store to stock up on tequila so you can get through the afternoon with the likes of Myren, the Chauffeur and Kitty, the cat for company do necessary errands during business hours.
  6. Hire a chauffeur named Myren and call it a business expense.
  7. Fire your chauffeur named Myren and hope he doesn’t sue your pants off for threatening bodily harm and never mention this mistake to anyone because it’s none of their business.

What do you do or would you do all day instead of working if you were self-employed?

 

 

It Takes a Good Idea

Although I have never encountered writing block when writing my books, I’ve certainly been struck with this bug when dealing with blogs. I have been looking for something interesting to share with you for the last four hours! I’ve even looked into the huge book–bigger than a big dictionary–that I gave my Dad for Christmas some twenty-years ago. The book is 1350 page thick. My Dad loved it and read it all. My mother gave it back to me after Dad’s death, and I kept it preciously. I will pass it on to my son who loves reading as much as I do.

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This book is called “Chronicle of the Twentieth Century”. There’s never been anything like that. It reports the major events of the world history starting on January 1900. Each page is written in the format of a newspaper page, with pictures and small reports. I started looking for something interesting to tell you, and I forgot myself reading and reading about major events for hours.

Did you know that the founder of McDonald’s Ray Kroc was a former piano player and salesman of paper cups and milkshake? At the age of 52, Kroc started his first McDonald’s in Chicago in 1955. He built a hamburger empire by purveying small beef patties that changed American eating habits. When he died at 81 in 1984, his personal fortune was estimated at more than $500,000 million and the McDonald’s chain reported $8 billion at the time of his death.

It’s never too late to become famous!

Think of an idea, execute it, work hard on improving it, promote it, and persevere.

Of course, creating bestselling books is more difficult than cooking hamburgers, but it can be done!

Mona Risk is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of sweet romantic comedies. You can view all her books at www.monarisk.com or sign up for her newsletter.

From Louisiana To the Heart of Acworth, Georgia

Cajun food at its best.

We celebrated an early Father’s Day with my husband and my son’s family last Thursday evening.

The place? Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth, Georgia, with local and national acclaim. A little bit of Louisiana tucked into the outskirts of Atlanta. http://www.chefhenrys.com/

The town of Acworth is small – very small. A railroad track runs the length of Main Street, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35 trains passing daily. But, the trains don’t bother Henry’s clients. The restaurant has helped put the town back on the map. The restaurant is cozy and rustic and is housed in a 1909 building on Main Street. Even before you reach the front door, street music, straight from New Orleans, blasts in the air…the feeling of Mardi Gras.

The atmosphere is homey, where you are invited into their home…you are part of the family. Henry visits each table and casts beads to every guest. What fun. He isn’t rushed as he takes a few minutes to talk to each guest and gets their names.

I’d love to add some photos, but don’t have permission to use them. Click on the link below to catch the essence of the town and Henry’s Louisiana Grill.

http://acworthtourism.org/acworthy-announcement/why-acworth-is-a-metro-atlanta-foodie-destination/

The food at Henry’s is an experience, not simply dining out. I had Shrimp and Grits. Absolutely the best I’ve ever had. If you get a chance, drop in and join their family for a meal. Oh, they’re closed on Sunday. They’re open for lunch also. Come prepared to wait in the evening, but it’s worth the wait. Who knows, you may get lucky and walk right in. If it wasn’t great food, there’d be no wait. 🙂

I raise my glass to Pepper Phillips, an author  at Authors of Main Street, but who we lost to illness. Pepper remains in our hearts. From Louisiana, she graciously shared many of her favorite recipes with us. She loved cooking and it showed.

Do you have a new, favorite eating place?

I wish you love, butterflies and music.

Links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords, can be found here: http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books.html

 

To Grandmother’s House We Go

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[Disclaimer: I’m writing today with a terrible head cold and hoping it all makes sense.]

Now that summer has finally arrived and I’m planning my holidays, I’ve been thinking about my childhood summer vacations with my family in the 1970s and ‘80s. Every few years, we’d drive from our home in Ottawa, Ontario, to Vancouver, BC, to visit my grandmother – a cross-country trip of 2,991 miles that took us through the forests of Ontario, the wide-open prairies, and finally the magnificent Rocky Mountains before we reached the west coast.

My grandmother’s house was built by my grandfather in 1949 on the gorgeous University of British Columbia endowment lands. My mom and her brother and sister grew up there. Grandpa died in 1969, and Grandma passed away fifteen years ago. She was a wonderful person, and I remember her home with a great deal of affection. Unfortunately, the house was demolished after it was sold.

The house may be gone, but the details still exist in my memory. The rippled texture of the wall paneling. The marbled vinyl floor tiles. The 1940s-style kitchen cupboards. I remember the particular echo of the rooms, and the warmth from the sunlight pouring through the windows. Upstairs, an old console radio stood next to the door leading to a stuffy attic that was cluttered with dusty treasures (vintage dolls, an old wool bathing suit, Grandpa’s glass eye!). An heirloom family portrait from about 1900 hung over the fireplace in the den, and the bookcase held a collection of antique books with ancestral signatures scrawled inside the covers. Some of those books are now on my bookshelf, the portrait hangs in my parents’ hallway, and Grandma’s table and chairs are in my living room.

My favourite memories of our summertime visits are mundane ones. Trying on my mother’s old clothes (and cat-eye glasses). Playing croquet on the back lawn with my sister and cousins. Lying on the grass and staring up at the blue sky, completely relaxed and absorbed in the sun-streaked clouds. The almost hypnotic procedure of collecting huckleberries off the bushes beside the driveway. Wandering the neighbourhood and admiring the extravagant gardens. A short walk took you to the UBC campus where my parents met in 1964. The ocean shoreline and coastal mountains were a few minutes’ drive away.

I wish I could take my kids to my grandmother’s house, but we’ll find different adventures, and they’ll have magical memories of their own to keep with them as they grow older.

[The painting above was done by my grandfather – my dad’s father – based on a photograph that was taken during an unusually snowy winter in Vancouver.]

What makes for a good cover?

I could write a book just on covers so trying to cover everything is almost impossible.You can blame Stephanie Queen for this post because she suggested I do it. So love it or hate it, here I go!

My qualifications are minimal but I’ll give them to you. I’m an artist and I have taken gobs of chicken croppedcollage art classes. Why? Because they were fun and I never dreamed I’d need that info one day. I’ve also judged art, photography, and covers. (I’m showing off one of my pen and ink drawings, a favorite media and a favorite subject.)

Let me begin by saying covers are art. There are gazillions of paintings that I wouldn’t pay a penny to own, yet they are worth a fortune. There are a few things that others would consider just as repulsive, yet for some reason the wild color and vibrant splashes appeal to me.

So let’s start with the basics. Covers should send a message about what is between the pages. That info can be conveyed in a variety of ways. Let’s concentrate on romance genres in general.

We often see what I call naked people (minus shirts and more) covers. Amazon got wise to them and now many are tagged as adult novels, therefore separated from the average reader search. But authors didn’t like the censorship and being relegated to what they call the dungeon. To search the dungeon, the adult filters must be off. So many authors have cleaned up their covers and there are fewer naked people covers. The only clue to the reader about the heat level might be the word sensual romance in the description. To me, there are sensual romances and there are burning hot romances. But you’ll get the idea real fast if you read the sample. (Always read the sample before buying the book!)

Then there are the super clean romances and many covers contain the sweet innocent females often portrayed in costumes that belong to the Mennonites, Amish, or Brethren. Most artists don’t know the differences, and unfortunately, nor do the authors.

Suspense and thrillers – guns, chalk outlines of bodies, etc.

Fae – Look for the pointed ears.

Vampires – Look for the bloody mouth.

Shape Shifters – Look for the wolf or other animal on the cover.

Historical romances – Look for the women in period clothing.

Yes, what’s on the cover will often tell you what is inside. But I can think of two instances ARW KindleCover 200x307 smwhere the covers were beautiful paintings and never gave a clue to the content. One is a very erotic book, and the other is a story that is just a historic romance. Personally, I tend to gravitate to those paintings and my historic westerns have “paintings” on the cover. The painted covers on my westerns are actually photographs that have been altered to look painted and the series contains the word historical. (This cover is is made from a photograph of Wyoming where my story takes place.)

So aside from a cover telling the reader what is inside, the cover needs to do several things. It needs to be visible as a thumbnail. What’s a thumbnail size? Think postage stamp or thumbprint. I’m an avid reader, but when I look at a ARW KindleCover 200x307 smcover in thumbnail size and I have no clue as to what is on that cover… That’s bad! Since several of my books are also available in print, the ebook version means the writing on them is not as clear in thumbnail. But overall, the cover is easy to comprehend in that small size.

Now here’s where it starts to get complicated. There are elements to covers that actually belong to marketing. It’s what I’m going to call gift wrapping. The vast majority of people can understand this example.

You spend forever picking out the perfect baby shower present for your niece. You buy that cute gift bag with the adorable baby blue, green and yellow print with a big teddy bear in the center, plus the blue and yellow tissue paper and extra fancy blue bow for it. Everything matches perfectly! The day of the shower you place the gift in the bag, add the bow, and the tissue paper. You stand back, look at your creation, and groan. It looks like your four-year-old child stuffed the bag. You take the tissue out and start over again. Now the tissue looks crumpled, and it’s lopsided. You grab several fresh sheets of tissue paper and try again. The results are the same as the first time. You give up and take the bag to the party. Your cousin Amanda shows up with the same bag.  You groan again, but this time silently, and convince yourself that Amanda’s doesn’t look any better than yours. Tiana, your niece’s best friend shows up with the same gift bag. But instead of the mandatory blue paper, she has stuffed it in green and orange. Tiana’s gift bag looks spectacular!  Why?

There are a few tricks to the tissue paper so that it doesn’t look quite as pitiful. (Lay it out flat, put your hand in the center and pick it up with your fingertips by dragging them together. Give what’s in your hand a slight twist, and if need be, hold that paper so it dangles down and give it a slight shake. This gives it that soft flowing “flower” shape that can now be tucked into a few places around the bag on the inside. If the paper had been folded, you can often iron it flat. Also consider buying more expensive, larger tissue paper which can be purchased by the sheet. (Check You Tube for creating pretty bags.) But let’s get back to eye appeal.

Tianna used contrasting colors for a bold look. Maybe the bag had a dash of these colors in the print, the bow on the teddy bear or some other little thing, or maybe Tianna just has a great eye for picking contrasting colors off the color wheel and that’s a little tougher to do. But chances are Tianna saw that added dash of color in the print and used it.  She paired it with the soft green, using the green as a neutral color, which allowed the orange to pop next to it. And instead of the traditional bow, she used a ringlet bow that falls almost to the bottom of the bag. Bet you never paid attention to that orange bow on that teddy bear when you bought the bag, but now you see it with that orange, yellow, and green bow dangling off to the side of the teddy bear. But what she has done is created an eye sweep of the bag. The bright color captures your eye and drags your gaze over the bag.

All those soft colors on your bag run together giving your eyes no specific focus. Chances are your bag looks lovely in a traditional/classic way. And I promise we are much harder on ourselves when it comes to things like that. I’m willing to bet that your niece would be just as thrilled with your gift if it had been wrapped in the Sunday comics.

But a gift is not a cover! A cover must entice unknown people to buy the book. We’ve all been taught not to judge a book by its cover. I have no clue how that notion got started, but I wonder if it started with books years ago.

What is called dust jackets, those paper covers that wrap a hardback book, became the first real pieces of book advertisements. And I’m certain that is what started the whole cover trend. Sometime in the early 1900’s, hard bounds began to contain a paper color plate (a printed picture) that was glued onto the front of a book. Usually the dust jacket also contained the same picture.  I grew up reading hard bound books that had been bound with cloth covered, cardboard-like bindings. Those jackets drove me nuts! They slip and side, they’d get worn and tear, or the edges would curl.  That inner folded piece that “held” the jacket to the book was called a fly. It often contained a blurb-like spiel on the front fly and maybe something about the author on the back fly. It had one purpose as far I was I was concerned – it was an attached bookmark. If I could get away with it, I ditched that book cover and read the book without it. (I can still hear my mother complaining that I had removed it! And probably misplaced it.)

But what I often had when I removed the dust jacket was a plain cover. Sometimes the title was stamped but most of the time, it was only found on the spine. So instead of a fancy paper cover, I was staring at a plain beige, blue, burgundy, brown, or green hardbound cover. There was nothing about it that said read me! The title was all anyone knew about that book. No flies to tell me anything, just a plain book. But considering I had older siblings and apparently one of them was just as bad about losing covers…  I learned quickly not to judge a book by its cover because the pages between that bare beige cover might have the most exciting book I had ever read.

But today we are spoiled. Can you imagine walking into a Barnes and Noble where all the covers were plain? Or trying to find an ebook on Amazon that had nothing but a plain covers? Covers must appeal to our eyes. So even the most thrilling thriller must have eye appeal. And forcing the eyes to cover the entire cover requires a few tricks to the trade. Eye sweeps! The “Z” is the most common sweep. The eye flows across the top  from left to right then catty-cornered to the next left to right sweep. That is our normal pattern for reading. We read one line at the top and then zip down and across to the next line. A mirrored “Z”  (or a backwards Z ) will also work for a cover.  A “C” is the next most common sweep and the C can also be reversed. Remember this is from top to bottom! Always start at the top!  And lastly, it’s plain but works, is the straight line or what is called an “I“.

So let’s look at these sweeps on real covers. This one belongs to Stephanie.

I did a fast search on Amazon and this one popped up first.

It is the perfect example of an “I”. Here it’s the yellow background that creates the sweep. The yellow is in the sky, down the surfboard and into the sand that’s reflecting the sunrise. The sweep is punctuated by vibrant blue and hot pink. It forces the eyes to read straight down the page. If you are familiar with Stephanie’s series, you know it’s going to be a fun exciting read. This is the perfect book to read on your beach vacation. Don’t you agree?

Here’s another one of Stephanie’s covers and I personally love, love, love this cover It’s an example of a “Z” but it’s subtle and somewhat modified.

This is really a multi-color sweep but it works! The writing is a dark purple. (Yes. it’s a red/blue on the color chart.) Do you see the “Z” ? It goes across with the writing of the title and it sweeps with her stance in that dress to the hatbox and then across with Stephanie’s name. (Down her back, to her butt, across to the hatbox, and then follow the hem across the train.) And let’s face it, that white Victorian room is to die for! Add a beautiful woman in a fishtail wedding dress and what is there not to like? I want that room! (And I used to be slender like that! Those were the days.) Look hard at the bottom sweep. That single rose by her hem forces the sweep across Stephanie’s name. The monochrome color scheme makes the words and the bride pop. And if the title and Stephanie’s name had been in black it would have been too harsh against all that soft white. It’s a great cover!

This one is Jill James book but I like it for the sweep of the “C” and there is a slanted “I” also in it. Do you see them? The “I” goes from the top left to the bottom right.

At the very top left corner there is a sun and that yellow from the sun is echoed in the trees, the title, and ends in the bouquet, creating that slanted (top left to bottom right) “I”. The “C” is formed in the white, her dress, her shoes, and Jill’s name. I think we’ve all known brides who have either bailed or wish they had! Probably more that wished they had.

This is Susan’s and it’s a “Z” do you see it?  Follow the pink, across the top, the legs point to the shoes, and then her name. The dress and shoes tell you this is going to be a cute story.

This one is also Susan’s.

There’s an I and two Z’s in this. The I is in the blue ribbon. The cover is very classy with it’s subtle colors. It also matches the historical story which is sweet and yet has a sexy component to it. The “Z’s” are green and the other is a reverse “Z” in brown, again very subtle. I loved this story, which kicked off this particular series.

This one is Mona’s. Can you tell me what the eye sweep is? There are actually two.

Did you guess an I for the Eiffel Tower? But do you see the green? It creates a “C”. This cover says it’s contemporary romance in Paris. Are you catching the height of that gal’s heels? Wow!

Cannibalized covers usually don’t quite work, and I suggest that people don’t use them. There are a few, and only a very few, cover artists who can manipulate photos of people and make gorgeous covers. They can take a gal in a pencil skirt and when they are done, she’s wearing a medieval dress. Making those sort of changes to a picture are not impossible. There are classes on photo manipulation and You Tube videos on how-to. But doing it well, take real talent!

I saw a book cover, and my first glance told me it had been manipulated. It bothered me. I saw the cover several times, and each time, I was struck by that something-is-wrong-with-this-picture feeling. To make matters worse the cover artist used the elements from the cover to design a website header for this author so every time I visited the blog, it was there. One evening I took a few minutes and looked hard at that cover. Yikes! The dress was painted onto the gal’s skin. The head was too small for the body and her hand was child-sized near her face. The added head was camouflaged with a shadow. The hero stood by the heroine and the light hitting his face was different from the light on the heroine.

Another cover showed a gal looking over her shoulder. Um, no one can move their head that far around on their neck. She is not an owl! A recent cover showed a gal in an elaborate hat, except the gal had no hair to go with that hat. The light was striking her dress one way, but her face was being struck from a different direction. Adding a bouquet of roses into a picture is one thing, but switching heads, and moving arms and legs is often another. There’s a cover where the gal is being held in a passionate embrace, but when you look carefully, her feet are off the ground. If you pick up someone, their toes drop slightly or a whole bunch, but this gal has her feet firmly planted on an invisible step.

Then there are the bad breath covers. It can be him or her, with his or her head turned away from the other person as though the breath was enough to cook a maggot. I’m not sure what that says about the story. Is one of them reluctant to marry? Or does one of them need to see a dentist or stop eating that much garlic?

Yes, I realize that many who write or read historic romances, it’s really all about the dresses. I’ve seen these authors being thrilled with a poor cannibalized cover, because the dress was pretty. I want to scream no! Tell them to make that cover artist fix it. But they only see the long flowing dress and not the the errors.

Changing the color of a car or a dress is not difficult with today’s software. Changing hair color is tricky but doable. But I’ve seen some horrendous hair jobs. The change is made in the area where you will find things such as hue, saturation, etc.  I actually changed the eye color for a friend’s cover. She had the perfect cover stock, except the gal had brown eyes and this heroine was supposed to have striking blue eyes. So back then, I changed the eye color pixel by pixel. The average cover artist will not take that sort of time to make such a change. But the finished product – the cover is fabulous. (Patting myself on the back.)

Yes, things can be done well. But many are not. There’s one cover artist that I must admit that I truly admire, for she can change a gal’s dress and I have seen her do it. But honestly, I can’t imagine ever doing it myself.  But no matter what, a cover must be striking. It must capture the eyes and hold them. One of my favorite whodunit authors has a wonderful cover artist and each of her covers will grab your attention, even if ultimately they don’t appeal , they will still grab you. I can walk into any bookstore and tell from a distance that it’s her book. That is branding and branding takes on a life of its own.

Joanne Fluke

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If you are cozy mystery reader who loves yummy good recipes, reading the Hannah Swensen mysteries is…well…fattening!  (Forgive me, Joanne, but reading these recipes are dangerous for anyone who is watching the scale. I think I gain five pounds just reading.) But I promise the stories are delicious and the recipes are easy! And Joanne Fluke is a real sweetheart of a person.

And what is the eye sweep on both these covers? If you guessed straight down, in an “I”, you are correct.

Branding a cover isn’t easy, but once it’s branded, watch out! My River City books are branded with skyRCline. I’ve grown to hate the skyline. It was a great idea at the time, but now I have to live with it. Unfortunately it didn’t work with a few pieces of stock that I would have liked to have used, but couldn’t because it clashed with that skyline. I’ve talked to quite a few people about changing and they all say, “NO!”

It’s my brand and it’s very recognizable.  I’m stuck with it. Beware, if you read my westerns and then read these – there’s a lot more heat in these novels! I might have another coming out the beginning of 2017. They won’t melt your Kindle, but they are not tame!

Branding is something that makes a cover belong to that author. It’s supposed to be distinctive. We create brands in our lives all the time. My daughter is an artist and it wouldn’t matter if she stripped everything off her walls, repainted, bought new furniture, etc. When she was done, it would still be that modern house with her distinctive “look”.  Peeling me out of my jeans is almost impossible and that is reflected in my home, which is filled with old fashioned furniture, and things like lamps made out of bitty feeders, horseshoes, stirrups, ceramic or metal chickens, goats, lambs, etc. Okay, yes, it sounds crazy, but it’sWanting me. I’ve branded where I live and I bet you have, too!

That same branding is applied to books. It’s something that says this is this author and only this author!

Also covers fall into two basic categories.  There are icon covers. Joanne Flukes are covers are icon covers. Then there are “photos” of people, landscapes, etc. But a photo of a icon is still an icon. A simple picture of a  glass or a single rose is an icon cover. There’s also something that is a called a step-back cover. This is a layered cover. You might have a gal in a beautiful dress in the foreground, and behind her is a muted sailing ship on the high seas or maybe a castle. Step-backs can also be done with icons. You might have that couple in the background and a ship’s wheel in the foreground. I’ve seen beautiful step-backs and some terrible ones, but when they are done right, they are awesome.

So covers are really a series of elements. Most people have no clue as to why, but certain things appeal to them. They probably couldn’t tell you why they like Rembrandt and dislike Monet. There’s no right or wrong. But understanding why a certain cover appeals could be as simple as discovering that the eye sweep of a “C” is less appealing to that person then a simple “Z”. Or they dislike yellow. So no matter how beautiful that gal is in her yellow dress, someone won’t read it because she’s wearing a yellow dress.

Am I critical of covers? Yes! Do I like all of mine? No. But because of my art background, I see what others fail to see. That cover where the gal has a sword resting over her shoulder. Yikes! That heavy blade is razor sharp and its sharp edge is against her shoulder and running through her hair! She’s going to have a few long locks missing and nasty scar where the blade bit into her skin. And in all honesty, the smaller pubs and indies don’t have the money like the big NY publishers to have photo shoots to create the perfect cover for their books. Instead cover artists and indies search sites with stock photos that can be used. And many times the covers are terrible. And don’t just blame indies for lousy covers. Yes there are some horrible ones coming out of small pubs.

There are websites devoted to finding horrible covers. And some of those covers are laughable. Especially where someone wants something stuck into the cover so they “poke” a hole in the cover and insert a face. I’m talking about the landscape with a decapitated head in the picture. I’m not talking about the ethereal image tucked beautifully into the clouds. It’s as though someone just cut a hole in the picture and pasted another image into it.  There are good ways to add elements into a picture and really horrible attempts. If you can’t do it, hire someone who can!

We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all know that’s exactly what we do. How many of us have bought a book because the cover was so darn cute or so pretty! You want to read a cowboy book or maybe a sailing story, and there in the mix of books is this really adorable guy. It’s true, don’t deny it, you’ve always had a thing for a guy with a goatee or you just love a hunky redhead.  Yep, you grabbed that book! (And you didn’t read the sample. Shame on you. You just bought a pig in a poke.)  I’m a sucker for an antebellum on a “painted” cover listed under historical. And tall, dark, and handsome, will make me look twice. But super-sized muscles is an instant turn-off for me and those muscles usually grab most women!

So you’ll never appeal to all readers, but make certain your cover is eye-catching. It has a good eye sweep, it depicts what is between the pages, it says you wrote it, and if it’s part of series, that series is obvi ous. Most of all, be certain your artist didn’t make a mess of things. Look very carefully at the picture. If you are unsure, ask your friends. Not everyone will see the flaws, but someone is apt to find them if they exist. Never accept second best from a cover artist. If need be, pay the artist for his or her time and find another one. (Pay them! They put time into it! If you were working and your boss didn’t like what you did, you’d be furious if he or she said, I’m not going to pay you for the last 120 hours because I don’t like what you produced!)

It’s your book, and your name will go on that cover. Be certain it’s saying what you want it to say, not just about the book but about you.  Don’t put the Norfolk skyline on a book that takes place in Seattle. The book reflects the author. Blow the cover and you’ll probably blow a ton of sales! Why? Because like it or not, covers sell books!

Any questions?

 

Summer Magic

2016-06-12 18.12.37-1Summer is a magical time in Wisconsin. There are festivals in Milwaukee, many at the lakefront, and plenty to enjoy outdoors.

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Not to mention the Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Festivals that dot the summer weekends with camaraderie and Highland joy.

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Then there are the gardens…..

I tend to stress over work, over writing, over political platforms and whether those in need will be cared for, my children and their wellbeing…damn, there’s always something worth stressing about along with plenty that isn’t worth the worry.

 

When I stress, I garden. I love time in the garden. I love sipping coffee in the morning and tea at night (or single malt) among the blooms.

What helps you celebrate the season? How do you decompress and de-stress?

I’d love to hear from you – I’m always looking for ideas.

 

Leigh

Funniness and the Lost Fingernail

Funny things happen all the time. Sometimes, what seems disastrous at the onset is funny in hindsight. Case in point: last week, I helped serve a luncheon to about thirty “silver sisters” (an over eighty crowd). While pouring water cups, I noticed that my fake fingernail had fallen off. Horrified, I peered into all the cups of ice water I’d just poured. Not seeing my nail, I returned to the pasta salad. I couldn’t find it there, either. I spent the entire luncheon in fear that any moment a little old lady would bite down on my nail and dislodge her dentures.

After the luncheon while we were cleaning up, a friend and fellow volunteer found my nail in the box of our cleaning supplies. Everyone laughed, but I tucked the experience away knowing it would make a great scene in a novel. (I also went home and removed the nails, vowing to never wear them again—at least not when I’m preparing food.)

A couple of years ago, I had a terrifying experience in a stuck elevator. It left me shaken, but it also became the beginning of my book, Stuck With You, a book I’ll feature in the upcoming #ComedyBookWeek.

Everyone loves funny books, yet it’s a niche category which is difficult to promote, as I found out from personal experience. The book market is dominated by romance and fantasy, with many promotional websites not even offering a humor category. With this event, we will be relying on the 30+ participating authors and their social media platforms to drive awareness of humor in various genres, and in all its weird and wonderful forms.

We would love your support of the event, be that in the form of a review of any book on the participating list (CLICK HERE), a mention, or an interview with one of the participating authors. If you’d like to read Stuck With You in exchange for an honest review, just email me kristyswords@yahoo.com and I’ll send you a copy.

stuck copy

Stuck With You

CHAPTER ONE

Click. Click. Click. Stainless steel and glistening marble. No family pictures or personal mementos. Emotionally dead. A zombie.

Andie pushed open the walk-in closet and tweaked her assessment. A zombie wearing Armani. She snapped a few photos of the shoes lined up like soldiers on the shelves and the shirts hung with every collar facing north. Tempted to grab a fistful of the pinpoint Oxford shirts and wrinkle the heavy starched fabric, she controlled herself and instead searched the ground and dark corners, hoping to find a stray jock-strap or a Twinkie wrapper—anything incriminating. But Grayson Dodd was too good. Or, more likely, he hired someone to make him look good. He probably had someone come in to keep the contents of his medicine cabinet in alphabetical order and his sock drawer color coordinated.

She snapped a few more shots of the bedroom before heading to the balcony. In a few more minutes, she would be rewarded with a view of Catalina lying in a blue, sparkling sea. The Newport shots required patience and perfect timing. The morning marine layer often wouldn’t burn off until noon and by four p.m. it generally returned. This meant that she usually ate her lunch in a fast food parking lot, napkins carefully protecting her work uniform—a black linen skirt and creamy lace top.

Andie sat at the bistro table with the chairs strategically placed so that the balcony rail wouldn’t interfere with the view, and waited for the sun to work its magic. Far below her the cars moved along the crowded parkway. Clients and sellers wanted to see Catalina Island—not Southern Orange County’s busy streets.

Andie scrolled through the photos on her camera, assuring herself that as soon as she had the ocean shots she would have the bones of a decent flier. She let the sun warm her shoulders and closed her eyes, imagining Grayson Dodd’s reaction to her work…She knew it wasn’t fair to dislike him just because he was marrying her cousin, Kayla. Sure, he had an apartment with all the warmth and appeal of a Modani showroom, but maybe he was a decent guy. She had only met him a few times. It was nice of him to give her mom the listing.

Andie stood and rolled her shoulders. She knew that Kayla and Grayson were a set match. Everyone said so. And even if they had their flaws—Grayson’s million dollar view was perfect. When the sun finally overcame the fog, she snapped the photos, said goodbye to Catalina, tucked her camera into her case, locked all the doors and headed for the elevator.

Verbiage ran through her head while she waited. Location, location, location! Ocean views from this cozy (aka small) Newport Coast charmer (aka last century condo.)Typically, she loved her job…well, she didn’t hate it…at least she was a photographer…but now, as the elevator slid between floors, a funk she didn’t know how, or didn’t want to acknowledge settled over her as heavy and dense as the Newport fog. She couldn’t look at it too closely, because she knew if she did she’d find the cause of her bad mood…Jeremy Zimmerman. And she didn’t want to find Jeremy Zimmerman anywhere, especially not inside her head. It was bad enough knowing that she would have to face him at Kayla’s wedding.

The doors slid open. Andie looked up from her camera’s display screen and saw Grayson Dodd leaning against the back wall, wearing a pair of khaki shorts, a Camp Pendleton Mud Run T-shirt and a pair of leather flip flops. Where were the pinpoint Oxford shirt and wingtip shoes?

She nodded at him and pushed the elevator button.

“Hey,” he said as the doors closed. “Hi.”

She smiled and hoped it looked sincere and not as forced as it felt. “I just shot your condo.”

“That seems harsh.” He grinned. “Did it bleed?”

“Huh, no. Do you want to see? I got some pretty good shots of Catalina.”

“So—you’re not only a condo killer, but an island assassin.”

“I have a camera. I know how to use it.” She tried to read him. His light gray eyes stared back at her from behind wire rimmed glasses. She didn’t know this Grayson. He was different—and the difference extended beyond his wardrobe. “I can shoot you too. Right here. Right now.”

He shuddered. “Scary.”

She shrugged and grinned. “I can plaster you all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I even do LinkedIn.” Her voice caught as the elevator hiccoughed and bounced.

Andie stopped thinking of shooting Grayson when the elevator shuddered a mechanical sigh and stopped. The lights flickered and died.

“What the—?” Andie reached for the control panel and ran her fingers over the buttons. She blinked at them. Maybe her eyes would adjust to the perfect dark. But maybe not. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out her phone.

No service.

It provided a faint, milky light and she used it to inspect the control panel. A red plaque had the words In case of an emergency, please call:1-800-555-help.

“Good to know,” Grayson said as he pulled out his phone. “Assuming you had service.”

Andie spotted a large red button and pushed it. Almost immediately, an alarm wailed. It echoed through the tiny space and filled Andie’s head. “Someone will come now right?” She had to yell to be heard over the alarm. “The alarm will tell someone that we’re stuck.”

But no one came.

Time grounded to a halt.

“Why don’t I lift you up?” Grayson suggested. “Maybe you can crawl through the roof.”

“And then what? I’m not Laura Croft. This isn’t an action movie.”

He laughed again, a soft sound, barely audible above the alarm. “I’m not looking for action.”

“Oh!” she harrumphed. She actually harrumphed. Little old ladies like Grammy Dean harrumphed and now she was harrumphing too. Next thing—knitting, canasta, and Bonanza reruns. “You are not picking me up.” She winced at the double entendra.

“Well, I would suggest you pick me up, but I don’t think you could…at least not in the literal sense.”

Was he flirting with her? Ew. She tried to ignore him. Leaning against the far wall, as far as possible from Grayson, she was hypersensitive to him. He didn’t say anything, but she still felt him. She really couldn’t hear anything above the noise of the alarm, but she could swear she felt him breathe. His nearness crackled like electricity. Her skin prickled. He smelled like soap. A really nice, lavender sort of soap. Which made her wonder if males should use lavender soap. Maybe it was Kayla’s soap. Which made her think of bathing, which led to bathrooms, and the absence of such an important necessity…

Panic fluttered in Andie’s belly. She pounded on the door until her hands throbbed. She sat on the floor and used both of her feet to kick the door. Her screaming barely rose above the wailing alarm.

“Hello?” A voice from the outside. “Is someone in there?”

Finally! Andie breathed a sigh of relief that all of her banging and yelling had actually been useful. “Yes!” she screamed.

“Are you hurt?” the voice asked.

“Only my feelings,” Grayson said.

“I’ll go and get security,” the voice said.

“It won’t be long now,” Grayson told her.

Andie harrumphed again. She was getting good at it.

Time stretched and slowed until it stood still.

“Security here,” said a new, deeper voice. “Are you still there?”

“Where did you think we would go?” Andie rolled her eyes for the benefit of no one. Eye rolling and harrumphing had become her fallback positions.

“Pull the emergency button!” the voice instructed.

“I did that!” Andie yelled.

A light flickered as Grayson used his phone to located the red knob. He tried pulling it. “It’s stuck,” he confirmed.

“Call the fire department!” Andie yelled.

“What are they going to do?” Grayson asked. “Use the jaws of life?”

“Why is that stupid?”

“Did I say it was stupid?”

“No, but you said it like you thought it was stupid.” Andie wasn’t sure because she couldn’t see him, but she thought Grayson rolled his eyes. “Hello?” Andie pressed her nose against the heavy metal doors and tried calling through them.

“Hello,” Grayson said.

She rested her forehead on the doors. They felt smooth, cold and solid. “I’m not talking to you!”

“Too bad. We’ve been in here for almost a half hour and I’m getting bored.”

They sat in silence for hours, or maybe a few minutes. Andie wasn’t sure which.

“Okay!” The security voice returned. “Just called the elevator guy. He can be here in 40 minutes.”

“Forty minutes!” Andie and Grayson both said at the same time.

“I can’t stay here for another 40 minutes,” Andie complained.

“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

She knew exactly what the worst thing that could happen was. She would have to designate a pee corner and she would have to squat and pee in front of Grayson Dodd. She fumbled in her purse for…anything. She pulled out her keys and tried wedging the skinniest one under the red knob. It didn’t budge. Using her phone for a light, she studied the control panel. It had four tiny holes for a screw driver. Knowing she didn’t have anything the right size, she swung the light at Grayson.

He blinked at her behind wire rimmed glasses. Without thinking twice, she ripped the glasses off his face and broke off an arm.

“Hey!”

“Do you want to stay in here?” Andie pointed the broken glasses at him with a shaky hand. “Do you want to pee in a corner?”

“Huh, no.”

“Me neither.” She tried poking the broken arm of the glasses into one of the tiny holes. Nothing.

“Here, give it to me.” Grayson held out his hand.

Sighing, she handed it over.

Grayson bent it to form a loop and eased it under the knob. Holding onto the broken eyeglass arm, he leaned back, using all of his weight. Nothing. He turned to her. “Help me?”

Andie opened her mouth to complain, but soon realized his plan and complied. She put her arms around his waist and tried to not stand too close.

“Better idea. Switch places.” He placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her so that she stood in front of him. Taking the newly created wire loop, he wrapped it beneath the red knob. “Lean against me,” he said.

She leaned. Nothing. Well, something, but it was more an internal, zipping blood thing than a mechanical, fix the elevator sort of thing.

“On the count of three, jump backwards,” Grayson said. “Don’t be afraid to hurt me.”

Andie nodded. She felt dizzy standing in the circle of Grayson’s arms.

“One. Two. Three.”

The knob popped as they jumped away. Grayson fell to the floor, and Andie landed on top of him.

The light flickered on and the alarm went silent. The elevator lurched once before starting and grinding to a stop. The doors slid open.

Andie blinked against the sudden light and tried to sit up without touching Grayson. She scrambled away from him, crablike, stood and brushed off her skirt. She knew that she should say something, anything, but she hurried away, relieved that she wouldn’t need the pee corner after all.

Fear of . . .

fear (fir) n. anxiety caused by real or possible danger, pain, etc.; fright

Fear of Failure

For writers, this is the fear that nothing is good enough. Their writing sucks, no one will want to read it, so why finish it? It can be paralyzing. These are the writers working on the same book for 10 or 12 years or they have a trunk-load of unfinished manuscripts in their computer’s hard drive or under the bed. Nothing will ever be good enough to do something with it.

Just as frightening is . . .

Fear of Success

This was me for years. What if I get published and it does well? Then, what do I do? What if I can’t repeat the success? What if I’m a one-hit wonder? From there, the only direction is down, right?  If I do nothing, I have nothing to fear. When I published my first book with The Wild Rose Press I sat for months doing nothing. Why? Because my dream for so long was to “get published.” Now that it had happened I was at a loss of what came next. Dreams are glorious things, but what do you do when they come true?


What are you afraid of?


Occupo Somnium, Jill James, writer of romance and dreamer of dreams

Change is the only constant

This has been a big year for changes around my house. I’m writing less, working outside of the home, and still trying to keep the best seller dream alive! 

The book business is not for the faint of heart. Luckily, I’m not deterred – only slowed down a bit! 😀 

The things that used to work to promote books – don’t. As authors we are constantly looking for the next thing, the next advertising avenue, the next blog or marketplace to share our work. The problem is that often if your book isn’t on trend; like the wave of NA that hit for a while or the new Step Brother trope, it’s hard to find readers. We all have to make the business decision on whether we want to write what’s hot or write what we like best. Right now, I’ve decided to write what I feel is best suited to me. Mistake or not, it’s what I feel best doing.

You can try and write to the market or you can wait for the market to swing back around to your focus. So, I wait! Okay, that’s not entirely true…I work on my craft and get some writing in and then I sort of wait! 😀 For readers to try something new, by that I mean a new author. And hope it’s me or one of my Main Street friends. 

As for the rest of life, parenting is not for the faint of heart either. My son will spend his last few days in middle school this month and transition into High School this September. I tear up thinking about it, because change even when it’s good, can sting the old heart a bit. I can’t believe he’s gotten this big, while I haven’t aged a day. 😜


Life, well it just keeps moving along. My new “day job” has offered me new and bold character ideas. My son growing up has offered me new reasons to panic and worry, but also a vast number of reasons to be proud. Change is the only constant…let it not stop you in your tracks, but rather embrace it and see where the change takes you.

Wishing you all an amazing June, at the same time, I can’t believe it’s already June! Let this summer take you away and change your life in every possible good way it can. 

Wishing you well, in fiction and real life!

Kelly Rae