Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cover It

I wrote about blasted covers as well as how HEAVENLY was conceived and created. One reader said," But aren't people allowed their opinion?"

Of course. And these days people take ever opportunity to spread their opinion - positive or negative - that they can take. Or so it seems.

The internet has opened a can of possibility some nasty folks just can't wait to let crawl out and spread.

Example: Nailed. Original cover idea was two guys and a girl. Love triangle. ( see above image ) I had some adults ( women readers over 20 ) who said they loved this cover.

I had some reader/reviewers bash the cover. You'd honestly have thought they were talking about Prop 8 and not a little-known author's YA book cover. Seriously. One reader flatly "refused to post the most hideous cover i've ever seen!"

I've seen worse, honey. Maybe she hasn't read that much after all.

Anyway, NAILED didn't sell well with that cover, so my daughter ( who helped me conceive Eden's cover ) and I came up with a new idea: a pretty girl dressed up with a hammer.

We got her long-time friend and our next door neighbor ( yup - a lot of attractive people in my neighborhood ) and shot some digital pics on my driveway:

I ended up using the picture you see on the cover.

And we played around with tints.

This process taught me a lot about covers. One concept, though good in idea ( two guys and a girl) didn't grab-at-first-glance like image number two did.

Again, being able to make these changes because I own the rights and publish independently enabled me to rip the cover ( after four months of seeing low sales ) and replace it with something else. ( sales literally jumped, tripling the first month the new cover was out.)

The book continues to sell more each month.

What a difference a cover makes.
Same thing happened with Magic Hands:

This book sat unnoticed until my daughter came up with the new cover image:

Sassier, right? Again, we grabbed a neighbor ( the cover model of Heavenly, because he has wonderful hands ) and my daughter ( the one who helps me come up with cover ideas ) donned the colorful outfit and let me photograph her butt.

Luckily, I'm not tanked forever because of a bad cover. I get to go back to the pow-wow room with my daughter and create something else if whatever I have out there isn't pulling. I redesign, re-upload and keep selling.

One of the perks of indie pubbing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Take Cover!

Or better yet - CREATE COVER! Next step in the multi-step process of creating a book. Remember, I'm an indie author - this is my process - who the heck knows how they do it in NYC. All I know is, the two years it takes to get a book out there and into the hands of readers is ridiculously long, considering the process is not that extensive. ( as you can see by reading these posts and the time line ) But that's their thing.

This is mine.

So, for HEAVENLY...here's how the cover idea was born: I was sitting in church one day -- yes, church -- and I looked over and saw this kid's face and WOW. I was like: He's my Matthias! Luckily for me, he lives down the street and my son plays with his brother and our families are pals.

I asked him if he wanted to be on one of my book covers and he ( and his mom, because he's a minor ) were totally into it.

These were some of the pictures I took of him that first day - first, to see if he was photogenic. He is. The camera LOVES him. Second, to see if I could get the "look" of heavenly concern on his face I wanted for the cover: Something beautiful, serene and in the clouds.

I sent a handful of these photos ( taken on his front porch and in my yard ) and tons of photos I'd taken of clouds and sky to Jennifer Johnson of Sapphire Designs ( see previ0us post ) and told her I wanted his face in white clouds. She came up with the gorgeous, perfect image that is now the cover of HEAVENLY:

I went back and forth on the kind of sky and cloud picture I wanted, afternoon sky, noon sky, evening sky, stormy sky - but ultimately went with the noon sky because I felt the colors captured the spirit of hope and heaven prevalent in the story.

We talked about colors and font for the title. Black was too harsh and white got lost in the clouds so we settled on gold which gives it an obvious, traditional feel.

I then toyed with making the cover black and white - since the themes in the story are serious.

But I had an idea for the series of books to change with color, and new the second book, PENITENCE would showcase a storm, so I opted for the blue sky and white clouds for HEAVENLY.

All in all, it takes me about ten minutes or less to shoot pictures. Jennifer creates a cover image in anywhere from 1 hour to three, depending on the details.

I then had Jennifer work her magic on a gorgeous dedicated website for the book: www.heavenlythebook.com and was really pleased with the results there.

The cover step is one of my favorite steps.
I consider myself lucky to be able to choose what I want on a cover, and not be left mercilessly to the creative ideas of people who churn out cover ideas for a living and who may not do much more than read a blurb for inspiration.

I've seen some hideous covers - as we all have. I've had one cover blasted. ( Not surprising in this subjective world )

Next time, I'll show you the blasted cover and tell you what I did to change it and make it's sales triple!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Step Two: Polish

After I've read and re-read ( and still miss ) errors in my own work ( I guess your brain sees what's supposed to be on the page just as easily as what's on the page) I send the manu to my editor Melissa Mayntz who takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months ( depending on her load ) to comb through the piece with corrections and suggestions.

I made the mistake of not using her once, and I've paid for it over and over again having to correct one particular book multiple times.

Even this isn't that huge of an issue when you're indie pubbed. I own the rights to the book, I have a creative team in place and making changes is a simple as popping the list of changes to my book designer, having her make the changes to the PDF doc, then I upload the finalized doc to the printing house. This process can take anywhere from one day to three, depending on Julia's work load. ( More on Julia -- the book designer -- later )

Melissa is fabulous because she's a very analytical editor and thinks about plot stuff I might not think about. Or my fabulous crit partners might not think about. Like: right now Melissa is reading PENITENCE, book two after Heavenly. Her perspective will be excellent when considering PENITENCE is book two of a series, and it has to read as a stand alone book. Just in case somebody comes along and reads it BEFORE reading Heavenly.

I weigh in Melissa's suggestions, make her corrections and then I'm onto the next step: Interior book design with Julia Lloyd.

While this is happening, I also meet with Jennifer Johnson of Sapphire Designs. She and I pow-wow about book covers, back covers and promotional materials.

All of this is TONS of fun. Each person on the team has great vision for each story and together we create the perfect end peice of work to represent the characters and their stories.

In the next post, I'll show you how a cover is created from idea to finish, bloopers, dissasters and fabulous finished work.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How I Do It

First, I write a story. Where do ideas come from? For me, they originate from characters and obstacles. The more obstacles the better. In Heavenly, I wanted to show how hard living with a child who has disabilities is on siblings. How they cope, grow and ultimately change from the challenge. In Nailed I wanted to show a strong female working in an unusual and mostly male dominated work place. How does she deal with it? How do her co-workers learn to accept her?
It's all about real characters with lots of obstacles.

Writing a story can take anywhere from three months to six. Usually, an idea spends some time ripening in my head before I actually tap it out on the keyboard. Every author writes differently. I'm an organic writer, which means I don't outline. I have maybe a dozen key plot points in my head that I know must take place in a story. With A Season of Eden, I started with this idea: a teenage girl develops a crush on her high school music teacher. The guy's a music geek, a late bloomer. And he's barely out of high school himself.

As I write, the characters ( formed fully in my head ) develop and grow as the story progresses and I let them carry the plot. For the most part. I have certain boundaries I will never cross in my writing. One of them is sex. And, though many student/teacher relationships cause controversy because they end up in sexual relations, I purposefully wanted a story between a student and teacher where that didn't happen. That's one of the reasons EDEN is unique.

Same thing in Heavenly. Zoe parties and we know she's been with guys, but we don't see it. Her choices have taken their toll on her -- that's what we see: the result of choices. There's impact in that.

I like 'open endings'. In Nailed, I wanted the final scene to show Mandy's heart torn between to guys she can't decide on. My crit partners said, "In romance, you have to have a HEA" ( happily ever after ) Since Nailed is definitely a light romance, I opted for a more solid ending. But EDEN's tone was much more unsettling, so I allowed the reader to come up with their own conclusion: do they get together again?

After I write a story, I put it aside for a few days/weeks, then pick it up again and read it and edit it with a fresh set of eyes. Setting the story aside allows me to forget a lot and see even more when I comb through it for inconsistencies, slow scenes, lagging dialog, whatever -- all of which is subjective. But it's my story, so I have the final say.

Then, the story is off to the editor.

More on that next.

Monday, May 11, 2009


So, DS is doing his 6th grade "country report" on the thriving metropolis of Khazakstan.
"Where in the world is THAT?!" You ask.
Yes, as a family we debated WHY DS would choose a place no one has ever heard of??? Rome would have been SOOOOOOOOO much easier, right?

DS is taking a light approach to the report, as you can see. He "visited" some of Khazakstan's memorable places and even got to meet with the President! Coolness!
Some fascinating Khazakstani facts: They have the worlds oldest operating space launch. The country is the size of Texas and it's land-locked. ( It was amazing we got in and out of there, when you think about it!)

The terrain is diverse and beautiful! And the food looks divine!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Revenge isn't sweet, it's CHARRED, baby!

So, wasps are notoriously grotesque and disgusting and annoyingly scary creatures. Here in the upper desert, they THRIVE!! NIGHTMARE!! Or, better yet: DAYMARE!!

The horrible creatures infest siding, trees, shrubs -- anything they can crawl in and nest in -- creating a nuisance outdoors!

Three words: I HATE THEM!

So, I'm getting ready to bbq dinner yesterday, open the grill to turn it on and this freaking wasp flies out!! This isn't the first time the mean lil' buggers have tried to make a home inside my BBQ!!

Crazed, I opened the grill and lit the fire. Wouldn't you know it, the wasp flew back inside -- right to five lil' hanging nests???

I slammed the lid down, letting out a "Mwhahahaha! Burn, suckers!"

After the grill was sufficiently ready, I opened it to scrub it clean so I could lay the burgers down, and there on the grill were the charred remains of the wasp and the crispified nests.

Revenge never felt so good.

Friday, May 1, 2009

GOODREADS giveaway~

If you're on goodreads.com ( and, come on, who isn't???) I'm giving away copies of HEAVENLY - one a day - for the next 15 days. Come on over, tell a friend and score a signed copy! And don't forget to add me as a friend :)