Tuesday, July 22, 2014

revamping yet another cover

Yes, I've read of the agony of the struggling writer-- how each book is wrung from them with blood and sweat. I confess. I have love and have fun writing. I enjoy creating covers. What I hate is accepting they won't be liked-- yes, it's a conundrum to do something you love and know others won't love it also. 

When my books aren't selling, it's enough to sometimes make me want to cry. I stop and remind myself this is creative work. It is the reward just to be able to do it. Don't ask for it to be appreciated by others, but in reality we all want our work to be liked. It's unrealistic not to admit that. 

Creating covers is a lovely break from thinking about the harder aspects of marketing. They are also, however, part of marketing. So with recently purchased new images, I took a hard look at my existing covers. Could any be made better?

Better means more adequately tell, in one image, the story within the book. That is the object of covers. They are meant to attract as flowers do bees. They must though depict what is within, or they are cheating the potential reader. Putting up a cover that looks wonderful, the type that has sold many books, when it has nothing to do with the book, is unfair and as a writer-- unsatisfying.

From Here to There was one of the books to which I looked. That poor book. It has had so many covers-- the most of any of mine-- a few of its rejected covers

I love its story, plot, characters. It is about human relationships, several kinds, and the world of cattle raising. But one cover after another didn't get that across. Well, there is no use crying over spilt milk--onward and upward is my motto-- both likely cliches. (One I took from a friend who used it often). 

So when I re-edited that book, I decided to once again look at its cover. What could I use instead of what I have tried? The most recent one represented the western cowboy-- a major theme of the book. I liked it but can't say it was helping sell the book.

Part of the problem possibly was-- what does this cover say in regards the romance? The guy on the cover looks like the hero in the book. That was a plus. He also illustrates the underlying theme of ranch life. But was that really enough?

Looking at the book itself and its deeper themes, what did that cover do for illustrating them? It's about the modern west, cowboys, ranch living, illusions and how sometimes what we think is not real turns out it is. It's about families, relationships, love, sexuality, animals, and how we can do what we must-- with enough motivation. Obviously I can't get all that onto a cover.

I went looking through my images, found one I had bought just because I loved it with no idea how I could use it. Next I looked for images that could represent the hero and heroine. I found one that had the right look and only took a little adjusting to look like them. 

The next step was playing around to see how I could put the two images together in a way that depicted the energy and love of the West.

Will it help attract readers? I have no idea, but it definitely does the book more justice in terms of beauty and vitality. For readers who hate the very idea of romances, it will ward them off. For someone who would enjoy a romance that offers two stories of how love can come together, one told through an old journal, well that part I could not get onto the cover or it'd be cluttered. You just cannot get it all one one cover... I don't think anyway. 

That wasn't the end of rethinking covers. At this point, I was taking an art break before my next editing job (three books I have not decided to  ePublish) before getting back to finishing writing fourth in that series (Oregon historicals). 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

cover remodels

 So if someone makes the argument that a writer should wait to publish until the book is as good as they possibly can make it, which means maybe never since they keep getting better at what they can write, then the same argument could hold true for covers, right? 

For an indie writer, one benefit with eBooks is the ability to change the book-- words, blurbs, and covers.  Paperbacks, of course, are a different ballgame. But because I can change covers, I have. Now, not every single book has had it happen. I have a couple who have only had one or maybe two covers at the most with some tweaking perhaps on titles, but overall eight of my books are more or less how they began. Of course, three of those books haven't been out very long; but I tend to think they will remain because even though they haven't sold that well, the covers fit the stories as well as I can imagine any image doing. When I can, I'd rather keep the cover as they began. It's easier.

However, in the last month or two, I've changed four covers in significant ways. In a housekeeping mood, I've even changed blogs with different backgrounds and opening photos.  It reminds me of how Farm Boss used to come home from work, and I'd be telling him where I wanted the sofa, and how it would look better. This farmhouse has made that kind of change rare as the rooms don't lend themselves well to shifting things around. Remodeling is always about thinking there is a better way.

When I get the idea of changing a cover, I often have no idea where I will go with it. In this case, I found the image of a man and woman which I had bought some time back but never used. I also grabbed one of my own sky photographs from Tucson.

Sky Daughter isn't an easy story to capture in one image. It's of a young woman who went to her grandfather's mountain to heal from a series of losses and disappointments and a man caught up in a weird plot which distorts spiritual power. There is a monster. Adding it to the cover helps to illustrate the risk this couple are under as they try to find the answer to what is going on without getting killed. It has a mix of witchcraft, nature, cultural differences, and Idaho.

Because of its complex story, Sky daughter has had, since it came out May or June of 2012, six or seven covers. I also think this one is permanent as finally it seems to depict the energy of the story in the way I want. The tough part with covers is one image has to say it all. Not easy.

Next blog will get into the other recent cover changes and why the new ones seem better.


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Recently my book, From Here to There, received a review from a reader where the reader mostly liked the book but added a statement that piqued my interest: "Also some cliches in the plot..." 

If you want to read the rest of the review, you can find it at Amazon. The part I care about for this piece is what is a cliche, how do we recognize it, and is it really a bad thing? I started with looking for a definition.

Cliche: a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

Of course, when I re-edited From Here to There for the umpteenth time, because of that review, I was looking for what might be a cliche. Since the story is about the western way of life and the mythology behind thinking there even is a 'western way of life,' cliches seem likely to be part of the story. One of its old-timer cowboys is a lover of western lore based on fiction books. He wouldn't mind being told he spoke in cliches,  he'd be proud of it.

Going by the definition that I found, if life itself is full of something, then to put it into a book might seem overused. I mean heck, you've read/seen it all before, right? Perhaps though, you read it before because it's how life is. 

 To one reader having an older character have a heart attack would be cliched. We see heart attacks all the time in books. Except it is also real life. If we have lived in multi-generational communities, we know heart attacks happen. So one reader sees it as a cliche because they read it before. Another reader relates to it because they had a very similar experience in real life.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided most writing is full of cliches but so is life. What do we have happen that hasn't happened to millions before us? Some experiences more commonly happening than others.

When writing, I personally feel a cliche is fine. Cliches are what happens in life, and if they fit the story, I think that can be part of good writing-- reader/critic disagreement or not. Trite or space filling cliche is less fine, but then again, the mundane is part of real life. The alternative to the mundane in your book is writing a Perils of Pauline plot. 

Cliched expressions are often how we talk. We hear something said in a movie, and we repeat it. Everybody repeats it. If people speak that way, should a book not? So, I don't feel a cliche is a bad thing in the right usage. I get it some readers disagree with me.

The kinds of thing that happen repeatedly in life, the mundane, I like in a story I am reading it or writing, like where the heroine polishes furniture, gossips with a girlfriend, or works in a garden right before her world goes to hell in a hand-basket. How many times has our own life reflected the lull before the storm, red sky in the morning lol Okay all cliches but are they not true sayings also?

So when I write, I am always thinking of the plot device, WWW, but between potential crises will be the enjoyment of little moments which might make my books almost as much woman's fiction as romance. Those little moments probably might seem prosaic, cliched even, but that's what life is made out of, isn't it?

The love story will be at the core of a romance. It is not, however, all that is going on. For my books, it's not all about fighting a villain or dealing with a natural catastrophe. It's not about constant action but rather real life mixed into action. I won't force a crises just to get constant action. I think the lull makes for better living and better reading at least for me.

Trying to make every story unlike every other story out there, by thinking up something that never happened before, for me, defeats what writing is all about-- which is an interesting story but one that can feel real. 

In the case of my book, From Here to There, where it's about the western thinking, it's about what I have seen in my own life with ranch living, and sure it's got cliches. Take them out, and it ceases being what makes western thinking what it is.

We watched Donovan's Reef Sunday evening. Wayne movies are full of cliches like the obligatory fight scenes, the taming of the woman scene, etc. but it's what people want in his films. Well him having to spank her, in many of the plots, is definitely not what I want and think that's a forced cliche his films way overdid. No guy, hero type or not, is going to take a woman over his knee in my book or life lol. Well, in life I guess it could happen once, but not going to a second time. That said, I still enjoyed that movie as I do most of his films. They are predictable but that's what makes them fun.

I don't think cliches are bad in writing or life.

As old as the hills.
Time will tell.
A diamond in the rough.
Opposites attract.
Alls well that ends well.
The writing on the wall.
and so forth.

I had a book, Evening Star where the hero, who had grown up on a ranch, talked with colloquialisms. It was part of his persona and his brother ridiculed him for what he called cliched expressions. I personally liked his folksy-ism as I love those kinds of expressions and use them myself. In that book, it also illustrated a major difference between him and the more 'sophisticated' heroine.

To research this article though I was not only looking for cliches but articles out there telling writers the ones they must never use. The following twelve are from Writer's Digest. I added them here for those of you who love to know and follow the rules. Incidentally none of these made it into From Here to There-- and since they suggest you never personally respond to a review, as it's considered harassment, I will never know which ones the reader thought had. They better never read Evening Star ;)
1. Avoid it like the plague
2. Dead as a doornail
3. Take the tiger by the tail
4. Low hanging fruit
5. If only walls could talk
6. The pot calling the kettle black
7. Think outside the box
8. Thick as thieves
9. But at the end of the day
10. Plenty of fish in the sea
11. Every dog has its day
12. Like a kid in a candy store

 Seriously-- at the end of the day is a cliche???

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

creativity begets creativity

As so often happens for me, an exchange with another writer led to thinking more about something that I then felt was worth sharing here.
When I have a conversation with another-- whether in real time, a thread of comments on a blog, through Skype, or exchanging emails-- it makes me put into words what I had been thinking. Sometimes it causes me to redefine my thinking because of taking into account new ideas. 

In this case, the exchange was about the writing process and editing which is so much a part of writing. The other writer said that she thought a lot of the reason we can look at a book later and feel it's not all we'd want was based on our changing. We grow and see things differently. I agree with that and would add that our skills grow. 

So editing has been where I've been this last week and working on three different books which had already been edited many times. But this writer had looked at one of mine and saw some things she felt were not working. She gave me specific ideas regarding where and why. That led me to take a long look at that book.

Sky Daughter was first written in 2002. It's one of the rare stories I sent to a publishing house after I had written it. The good part was the first editor liked it enough to send it to another editor in a different department. The bad part is both rejected it for different reasons-- the first for too much romance and the second for not believing in the paranormal aspect (this was before Harry Potter and the launch of so many urban fantasy books).

In June of 2012, I ePublished it. I brought it out after I had stopped doing free days. It was one of my first books to surprise me when it didn't have good sales. You know when you love a book, you think others will. ePublishing teaches you quickly that's not always the case. In its case though, after I got into this 7th or 8th re-editing of it, I was glad for those lukewarm sales and no free days.

Using her critique as a starting point, I found pluses in my writing. I still liked my hero, heroine, dialogue, the basic plot, its secondary characters, and believed in its premise. Sky Daughter was my first with a monster, and I had done research in terms of the experiences real people had claimed with such beings. The monster, as one of the characters, still worked for me. So much for the pluses. 

But when I got into it, I was disappointed and surprised at the many places where my writing was not smooth. It happened most especially in transitional passages-- where you take characters from one place to another without dialogue. Also I had times where the writer's, hence characters' logic, no longer worked for me. Fortunately better logic was waiting to be found. So I worked on that and the places where I had been redundant, which no matter how many times you think you got them all, there they are. 

When you see those kind of failings, it leads to a losing faith in your abilities. I remember sitting in the yard talking to my husband and telling him how disillusioning this re-edit was being. But if you are a writer, you trudge on. You hope that the changes you made this time will prove to be good in a year when you look at it again.

 Anyway, if you bought Sky Daughter, delete it from your reading device, go to Manage your Kindle where you can ask for it to be sent again. Sometimes they send the corrections automatically, but they have to decide it's a major enough change to warrant it. I believe this is.

After seeing those kinds of goofs in a book I had thought was well written, I went directly to doing another re-edit. For From Here to There, I had gotten a critical review awhile back when I was too busy to get back to the book. The reviewer had written that overall they liked the story, but the writing was not as consistent as they had expected, and it had cliches. Unfortunately unlike with the Sky Daughter critique where I could ask for specifics in an email, this one on Amazon, I could not ask what they meant, but I worked it over last week (gave it a new cover too). 

Fortunately in avoiding total depression as a writer, I found less of those what-was-I-thinking passages or the how-did-that-get-by-me places! Still I found enough where I could say it better (especially in those pesky transitional points), that I also republished it (one of the pluses to eBooks). 

So again, if you bought From Here to There or got it free, where you have a record of owning it at Amazon, delete it from your reading device, go to Amazon and find where you manage your Kindle and tell them to send it again. They will do this but be careful you don't delete it from there. Once you do that, you have to buy it again or get me to email you a copy if you tell me you owned it and lost it. I will take your word for it.

After From Here to There was off to Amazon (and already up with its new cover and corrections), I went straight to a third edit to see how it held up-- Desert Inferno

It's the first book I brought out as an eBook in December of 2011 and still one of my favorites as it takes the O'Brian family of the historical westerns to a modern story involving the Border Patrol. I also redid its cover. 

Desert Inferno was less disappointing. No major glitches, but I still am able to write some of it better. When I can write something better, I will and I then republish. Like I said above, if you have bought this one, you can get the re-edit on probably Wednesday. Give Amazon time to get the new one up. This ability to redo them is one of the pluses of ePublishing. 

It might seem that changing a book means it wasn't publishing ready. I guess that could be said. I mean if I can do it better today, shouldn't I have waited for today? Well what about this idea-- I could also do it better next year. So why ever put them out?

Thursday I have in mind discussing cliches in writing. I think it's worth looking at a little more.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Comes the Dawn

Writing Comes the Dawn took me back, through my characters as to what it's like to spend time in Sinagua ruins, which are spread throughout the Southwest in hidden canyons. Such an experience is always meaningful for me. You see bits of pottery, sometimes arrowheads, and you really do find yourself imagining what it must have been like to live in those beautiful canyons and build those homes. 

Because an imaginary ruin in an imaginary canyon would be part of the setting of my story, I used my own feelings for those of my heroine. When I am in such a place it's easy to imagine myself a woman living in a place like Wupatki with the ball courts, the many rooms, and wide vistas.

The Sinagua generally only stayed in a site for 100 years and nobody can say why. They built these great looking apartment buildings such as Wupatki and then left it after about 100 years to build another. Was it disease? Religion? Or perhaps busy hands don't get in trouble. 

Whatever the reason, it has left in the high plateau of Arizona many such dwellings hidden back in canyons usually with a water source nearby. In some cases, if the water dried up, that might've required a move. Another possibility is a need to build more fortified dwellings. The motives can long be speculated.

The theory on why around 1400A.D. the Sinagua and other peoples of the region totally deserted Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico is thought to relate to an extensive drought. There are other reasons suggested including a spiritual breakdown. Since dwellings were built about that time down in Mexico, it may be their migration related to the build up of the Aztec culture.

It's long been laughed about that Montezuma's Castle was named for the Aztec ruler and how silly. Except the Pueblo people of New Mexico tell of an Aztec leader coming there to see from where his ancestors had come. Often man's history is more intertwined than he wants to think.

In all of these sites you see middens which is where archaeologists go to get information on burials, diet and yes, longevity of a site. I may or may not have mentioned my daughter is an archaeologist and it's been especially interesting to visit such sites with her for what she sees while there. 

Naturally you take nothing from such a place as it will then be waiting for the next visitor to also discover. Plus archaeologists learn a lot about a culture by what it left behind-- when it stays right where it was.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

where it all happens

It seems lately all I have done is write or edit something; so I am going to take a kind of break on the day my new book officially comes out. 

Comes the Dawn available now in eBook

Because it's an area I love so much, I want to share the energy of the part of Arizona where this book mostly takes place. It is a less traveled part of Arizona, a region many (from outside the state) don't know exists as they hit the national parks or resorts. 

I can't offer you the fragrances or all the wonderful little discoveries that await as you drive or hike through this country but can offer a small look at diverse and beautiful area-- The Tonto Rim, White Mountains, and Mogollan Rim where the author Zane Grey placed so many of his books, where feuds have been fought, Indian wars raged, outlaw flourished, settlers built homes, and people like myself have come to love so much.

When I finished the third O'Brian story I wasn't sure if there was a fourth historical O'Brian out there, but it turns out there is another, which might or might not be written by me. For now I have other irons in the fire.

All photos are mine except the Sinagua ruin which is from the book, Echoes in the Canyons: The Archaeology of the Southeastern Sierra Ancha Central Arizona by Richard Lange. This is a detailed look at the many cliff dwellings tucked into hidden canyons in Central Arizona. The book is published by Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona (always worth a visit if you get to Tucson). 

Truly an area rich in beauty and history.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

win a book?

Comes the Dawn

Grace, a young girl in Tucson Moon, returns to Tucson after getting the education she did not originally want. The man in her girlhood heart has returned to Arizona after fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Grace needs to know if all she has felt for him has been a fantasy.

Rafe had been through years of hell with his first marriage ending when his wife took his son back to Tucson to live with her new husband. To Yaquis, family is the center of their lives, and he’s been estranged from his small son. As bad as things seemed for him in the jungles of Cuba, they are about to get worse in Arizona. Before the dawn, comes the darkness which we all must at times come through.

Comes the Dawn is the third book in the O’Brian historical series. The first of the O’Brians began with Arizona Sunset in 1883. Second, Tucson Moon, took secondary characters and brought them forward to 1886 for their own love story. The third, Comes the Dawn, is in 1899 set in southern and central Arizona with its core being love, healing, family, friends, what it means to be a father, the Yaqui culture, and the beauties of Arizona.

Unlike some writers, I don't really have a lot of ways to promote my books. Once upon a time I used to put them up for free days. Not doing that again as it didn't work for me (although some still believe in it).

What I would like to do for Comes the Dawn is offer its eBook version free to one commenter here (chosen at random) between now and the day it's published (the 10th). So if you would like a free eBook version of Comes the Dawn-- comment, say you want to enter the drawing or leave your email. Don't worry if you haven't been a regular commenter. This blog can draw over 100 unique visitors, but commenters not many at all; so this might be a way to get more commenters as well as give away a book. On the 10th, I'll post the name of the winner.

I wanted to do this because recently I've won books a couple of times at blogs or events. I thought it was pretty cool when I did, so I think I'll do this once in awhile. Sometimes it'll be with books already out there  when I am writing about them or sometimes the newest release. It's said it can be a way to get new readers and maybe even a review ;). I figured you never know if something works well until you try it. I like giving away books; so if you like winning one, this is a win/win.

Still aren't sure if you'd like to read Comes the Dawn, check out its trailer: