Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Judging My Own Book by Its Cover

A cover is a really important part of a book. What the cover looks like can have more to do with whether a reader decides to pick up your book than the words on the inside or the blurb on the back.

That's a terrifying prospect as a writer, because, most usually (of course there are exceptions), we don't make our own covers. In fact, depending on your path to publishing, you, as author, might not get any say at all about what the cover looks like.

A bad cover can make the uphill climb of finding an audience that much harder. It's like birthing a beautiful and intelligent child, only to have someone else reject it as worthless because your child is wearing dirty or ugly clothing. I've seen several indie writers put out a book with a less-than-professional cover (usually a financial decision), then re-release it with a better one and see large changes in the kind of attention their book attracted.

If you've been reading here at all, then you already know that my debut novel is coming out with +Curiosity Quills Press  on April 23, 2015. (I am perhaps, maybe, just a smidge excited about that). Curiosity Quills is a small, independent press. My contract with them gave me input on the cover, but no right of refusal and no requirement that they actually use my input.  So, I was on tenterhooks, waiting to see what my cover would look like.

You wanna see it? It's available out there, but I've never officially revealed it. So here it is!

I love it! And, boy was that a relief!  

The cover is by +Polina Sapershteyn , a graphic designer in NYC that Curiosity Quills contracted for the work. (Here's her website if you want to check her out)

There are several things I love about this cover. 

First, the bright yellow is really eye catching. When I've seen it displayed onscreen on an Amazon search page, for example, I feel certain that anyone seeing it would at least glance that way because of the bright yellow. The image also instantly suggests humor and superhero, two important hints about the book on the inside of this cover. 

Second, +Polina Sapershteyn captured a lot of revealing details about threads of the book in this one image. The torso is thick in the waist, in a way that is not typical of superhero comics, but is completely normal for my menopausal characters. The costume is non-professional looking--the cape held on with a tied ribbon and the tunic consisting of a teeshirt looking material that wrinkles across the breasts. That fits so well with Helen's thread in the story (she's the one who does eventually make herself a costume)! The image used on the center of the chest suggests gender and LGBTQ+ issues. That fits so well with Linda/Leonel's thread.

I was utterly amazed by how well Polina was able to represent my work, especially when you consider that she and I have never met and only made contact online after she'd already done my cover!  There's not much there from the ideas I submitted, except thematically. But, you know, she's a graphic artist. I'm not. Her ideas were better than mine. There's something to be said for trusting the judgment of professionals.

So, what do you all think? Do you, as readers, judge a book by its cover? Have you seen other covers that you felt really captured a book or really didn't? Do you like mine? :-)

Friday, February 20, 2015

#1000Speak: 1000 Voices for Compassion

I've been feeling that compassion is sorely lacking in the world around me of late, so I was thrilled to learn of this hashtag movement for #1000Speak. Check it out on all your socials--you'll find some great writing about the idea of compassion.

Compassion is probably the one lessons I truly want to hammer home for my children (including the ones I only claim when they are at school with me).  The idea is simple enough: consider the other person.  Think about what that person might be feeling. Consider that there is history you are unaware of that might make a small thing more painful than it seems on the surface.

Around the middle school I teach in are several versions of the idea, hanging on posters outside various teachers' classrooms. In middle school, we have to fight the blurt factor. Kids this age have a thought and say it without considering the consequences or the effect on others. They often don't have ill intent at heart; they simply didn't THINK:
Now the kids at my middle school are just that: kids. So when they blurt something hurtful out, we, the adults, step in and try to mitigate the pain caused, rebuild the bridges burnt, and encourage kids to learn from the teachable moment. 

But what happens among the adults out there? The ones who value their own zinger of a joke over the heart of a human being, or who have simply never outgrown their adolescent narcissism? For me, I've started to call them on it. Bullying among adults is just as large a problem as it is among children. Larger, maybe, because the kids are more likely to learn and outgrow it. But bullies will keep bullying as long as they get away with it. So, when you see it, speak up! It's not as small as it sounds.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blog Tour: Treasure Darkly

I'm happy to introduce you today to Jordan Elizabeth, a fellow CQ author. Her new novel, Treasure Darkly is coming out soon. I'll be a guest author at her release party on Facebook!  Hope to see you there!
(The stunning cover art is thanks to Amalia Chitulescu)

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe…until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead. A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.

And he is not alone. His new found sister, Amethyst, thinks that's rather dashing, until Horan kidnaps her, and all she gets is a bullet through her heart. When Clark brings her back to life, she realizes he's more than just street-smart - and he's not really a Treasure. Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

TREASURE DARKLY, book 1 of the Treasure Chronicles
The young adult novel is a dark mix of steampunk, the paranormal and romance in a “Wild West” setting. 
Below is an excerpt from TREASURE DARKLY.  You can read more on the Curiosity Quills Press website.
“Looks like he did drink it up.” The general client spoke from the right. “Must’ve interacted with all that bloody hertum. Look at ‘im, he’s bleeding already.”
“What’s it gonna do to him?” the guard from the morning asked.
“Lots of stuff.” The general laughed. “When he touches the dead, he’ll be able to bring them back, and exchange that life for another. Perfect soldier, huh? We only have one vial ready and I was going to give it to a lucky fellow. Guess it will be this boy.”
“Whatcha gonna do with him?” The guard snickered.
“Have to be a test subject,” the general said. “Sure thought it was that Judy who stole my bottle. Pity I killed her. She sure knew how to make my pecker sing.”
Clark’s mother.
Clark bolted off the ground and ran. He could hide in the hole under the shed behind the brothel. Mable never found him under there. He might be cursed with raising the dead—he’d already done that to the poor mine worker—but it didn’t mean he’d let them take him for tests.
You can read more about Amethyst Treasure in GEARS OF BRASS, a steampunk anthology from Curiosity Quills Press available now from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, is the author of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, available from Curiosity Quills Press.  Check out Jordan’s website,, for contests and book signing locales.  Jordan is represented by Belcastro Agency and she is president of the Utica Writers Club.

No blog tour is complete without a giveaway.   Enter below for a chance to win a paperback copy of GEARS OF BRASS.   

Monday, February 16, 2015

Guest Posting: Christine Campbell, Author of Searching for Summer

 It's my pleasure to introduce you to Christine Campbell, a new novelist friend of mine, and someone who understands balancing family and a writing life. Enjoy her guest post! Love, Samantha.

In my latest book, Searching for Summer, Mirabelle, the main protagonist discovers at a young age that writing has power:

Learning to read and write turned lights on for Mirabelle: the realisation she had such an awesome tool of communication shone brightly for one so young. Stories in her childish printing lined the classroom wall, interspersed with those of her classmates, although praise and recognition had dried up at home since her fathers departure.
Writing made her feel good.
She instinctively knew she held in her hand the ability to reach other people, even her father in his distant home. She had looked at the map in the classroom, standing on a chair, her little finger tracing the distance from Scotland to Jamaica, her young brain computing, if the whole island in which Edinburgh was a tiny speck, smaller than the full stop shed learned to put at the end of her sentences, if the whole island of Great Britain was narrower than her finger, then the large expanse of ocean wider than both her hands put together meant Jamaica was a world away. Out of reach of her presence but, thanks to the postal service she had learned about at school, not out of reach of her pencil.

In that respect, at least, I have something in common with the character I created or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say she has something in common with me. Like Mirabelle, learning to read and write turned lights on for me.
From very young, I used books as a refuge, a place to escape the harshness of reality, and writing as a way to express the effects of that reality.
As I grew up, married and had a family, reading and writing still played an important place in my life, but it had to play a lesser part to the day to day needs of my children, so I wrote short stories and an occasional column for the Womens page of a weekly newspaper. But there were novels bubbling away inside my head, stories that couldnt be told in a mere 1,000 or 2,000 words. They needed a bigger canvas. So, as my children became less dependent on me for filling their needs, I started writing novels.
I have been richly blessed in my life because I met and married my best friend, and he has always understood my need to write in order to make sense of the emotions and stories that swirl about inside me that can only be expressed that way. He is an enabler and he has always tried to give me space and time to write.
Still, it is a balancing act. Everyone has obligations to fulfil, whether they be work, children, older parents or dependent spouses. Whether we have meals to prepare, books to balance, shelves to stack or boards to sit on.
Writing, for most people, has to be balanced against these other responsibilities. And thats not always easy. There are those whose work is their writing, and perhaps the rest of us envy them, thinking it would be luxury. I doubt it. If writing is their work, then it, in itself, becomes an obligation.
But the lights turned on by learning to read and write have never dimmed for me. Reading and writing give so much joy. I am passionate about them both. Now that the children are all married and having children of their own, I have so much more time to indulge that passion, to feel that joy. My days now would feel empty if I was prevented from tapping out my novels.
Just as learning to read and write turned on lights, so too did discovering the power of the author. As creator of our characters, we have the power to dump our negative emotions on their shoulders: There you are! Get out of that one! We can allow them to sample pleasures we may never have time or opportunity to sample ourselves: There you are. Is that not wonderful? And we can give them the comeback lines we wish wed said.
Such power. Such pleasure. Such joy.
There are many things in my life that I juggle with, many things I love and want to do well, but I hope writing will always be one of the clubs twirling up there in the stratosphere of my imagination, falling neatly into my hand and onto the page.


Searching for Summer is my latest novel, and the first in a new series about Mirabelle, a very reluctant detective.
It is set in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.

Mirabelle loved living in Edinburgh: loved the atmosphere created by a city whose main shopping street looked across the road to a castle, Edinburgh Castle standing guard over Princes Street, its severe faรงade softened by the gardens skirting it, the gardens themselves cocooned from the bustle and noise, folded into their own tree-lined valley, with paths dipping into and out of its depths.
She knew the adage, Edinburgh was all fur coat and nae knickers. She was well acquainted with its underbelly, its darker side, saw its dirty linen, but loved it anyway.

And, as the blurb on the back of the book says:

Mirabelles daughter, Summer, disappears one Friday night, and Mirabelle would dearly love to rewind that day and live it differently. Instead, she is left not knowing if Summer is alive or dead, went of her own accord or was taken against her will.
Casting all other concerns aside - food, sleep, work, relationships - in her desperate need to find the answers, she takes to the streets of Edinburgh in search of Summer.
Searching along wynds snaking behind old buildings, through ancient doors and tiny spiral stairways, showing Summer's photograph to everyone she meets in shops, museums and nightclubs, Mirabelle becomes a reluctant detective, gathering clues, trying to make sense of them in order to find her missing daughter.

So Mirabelle leads us through the streets of Edinburgh, up hills and through wynds, into parks and garden, and hidden courtyards. We get to see Edinburgh and Mirabelle at their best and worst as Mirabelle searches for her daughter and keeps finding other people.

Searching for Summer
Available to buy now
on Amazon

or to order in bookstores
ISBN 9781785104879

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cautiously Optimistic

Guys! Do you know it's only 70 days until my superhero book comes out?

Yep, Kermit gets it. That's exactly how I feel, excited and freaking out all at the same time. What I'm learning is that putting a book has a weird arc.  There's this very exciting part at the beginning of signing a contract, dealing with edits, etc.

Then there's this very-long-feeling part in the middle where lots is happening, but you're not the one doing all that stuff (this is a traditional, small press publication). People at the publishing house are working diligently, but you're just kind of waiting, hoping someone will send you news or images of your book cover, promotional opportunities, etc. If the publishing process was a novel, this is the messy middle and the editor would have me trying to liven it up!

Now, I'm in the tail--where I have a lot to do again. I'm reading the galleys, finding any last minute errors that survived the process so they can be corrected before print. All those promotional things I've been lining up (interviews, guest blog posts, etc.) are now due!  My correspondence time commitment is crazy-high.

My goodreads page went active, my amazon author page went up, and my book is up for pre-order at least in Kindle format. And all of that happened in the space of a week.

So, if you see me looking a little lost, turn me around and send me back home--I've got a lot of tasks on my plate; I shouldn't just be wandering around like that!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG: Things are Getting Real

It's getting real, folks. As of today, it's 78 days until my book is released. 81 days until my book release party. This past Sunday, I got my galleys, which means I can start sending them to people for reviews (if you're a reviewer and want to read my book, ping me--my media contacts are in the sidebar).

Getting those galleys sure made things feel real. I'm reading my own book on the kindle app on my phone, and it looks just like any other book I've ever read on my kindle--as in LIKE A REAL BOOK!

Of course, feeling real is also scary as all-get-out. When I saw that cover show up in my library on
the kindle app, I whooped happily, and then immediately felt sick. This is that scary kind of real, scary because it matters so much. Scary like getting married, having kids, buying a house, taking a job. Big, life things.

Right now, I'm oscillating like some kind of fan, spinning from excited to scared with little plastic clicks of my neck (probably time to call the chiropractor about that).

All the preparations I've been making for months have been leading here. And now there are only 78 days left to do anything else I'm going to do "before the book."

Holy Freaking Schmoley!

This posting is part of the Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To check out other posts by writers in a variety of places in their careers, check out the participant list. This group is one of the most open and supportive groups of people I have ever been associated with. You should check them out! (BTW IWSGers--you'll find yourself in the thank-yous of my acknowledgments page of this book. Your support helped get me this far!)