Beyond a good story, nothing is more important than the book’s cover (other than maybe the blurb, but that is a post for another time). Creating the book cover is an exciting, gut-wrenching process for an author. It is trying to convey the greatness of your masterpiece into one simple but striking visual image. And we usually don’t get it right the first time around. Case in point; the before and after pictures of my first novel, ‘Water, Book One of the Akasha Series’:
The difference: the first cover is a product of my imagination. The second cover is a product of the artist’s imagination.
In creating the first cover, I just kept thinking of more stuff the cover should have and telling the artist to revise, revise, revise. She did everything I asked her to do; her mistake. After seeing the final product I sat back, looked at it, and thought, “What in the hell was I thinking?” I paid the artist then hired another. My decision was validated by a friend’s opinion, “It looks like a vagina.”
The second cover is a product of the artist’s imagination. I gave her all the same instructions I gave the first artist, and she plain out said, “no.”
I tried again, giving her the simple instruction of, “Water. Fantasy. Go.” And….voila. A vagina-free masterpiece. She came up with an attractive cover that pops against the black background. The design was easily mimicked for all books in the series; Air, Fire and Earth, and even the boxed set. Branding at its best.
She even did my vampire anthology cover:
Now that I am ready to publish a brand new series, I thought I knew enough about the business to take a crack at creating my own cover. For ‘The Rising’, a mermaid, young adult fantasy trilogy, I came up with several versions:
I sent it around. My husband and mom loved it. No shocker there – they are biased. But a few problems were quickly pointed out by the lovely ladies of Patchwork Press (my new partners in crime). In the first version, there isn’t a real ‘mermaid’ element, all of them look too similar to my New Adult series (branding across genres isn’t always the best idea), and they are not very typical of young adult covers – which may or may not be a good thing.
I searched the internet for images, and came across this one on Deviant Art (you’ve seen it in my previous blog posts):
Grr! (If you are interested, click on the book cover image to purchase and read and let me know what you think!)
Finally, I went back to the same amazing cover artist that did the Akasha Series covers, Keary Taylor. Turns out, she basically lives where the story takes place, and she was super excited to do a mermaid cover. I turned her loose on my mermaid pinterest page for inspiration, and I am so excited to do the final cover reveal. It turned out great! Here is a sneak peak:
Boo! I know – you don’t get to see the whole thing yet! Stay tuned for a reveal in mid-September. Book Review Bloggers can sign up here to do a cover reveal on their own blog, plus sign up for the book tour and an ARC. And be sure to add it to your Goodreads TBR list!
In three days, ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series’ will be available for purchase on Amazon and B&N. Shortly after that it will be available for iBooks. Of the few books I’ve published so far, ‘Fire’ – by far – is the most exciting for me! Let me tell you – it starts out with a bang. If you are squeamish, the first chapter probably won’t suit you. Whatever the case, make sure to put ‘Fire’ on your Goodreads TBR list now.
Each day until its release, I will post the first chapter of each of the books in the Akasha Series. You know – in case you haven’t read them yet! Today’s first chapter is the opening to the entire series. Don’t forget ‘Water’ is now free on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks!
There is nothing like an avalanche to put your life into perspective. I leaned forward and the board strapped to my boots responded. Slicing through the fresh powder, I made a sharp curve to the right. A quick glance uphill showed the wave of snow was five times my height, and about to catch up to me.
The avalanche roared like an angry dragon, breath stinking of the earth churned up in its path. The entire right side of the unmarked back country trail was a thick wall of trees, impossible to break through. I pulled my toes up, arching back to the left side of the trail. But I wasn’t going to make it. Ice pelted me on the back of my neck, sending chills down my spine. I pointed my snowboard straight downhill and put all my weight on my forward leg, hoping to outrun the beast.
I willed my board to go faster than I ever dared before. The avalanche was faster. It opened its mouth wide, closing in on me from both sides and overhead. Gray blacked out the blue sky above and the trees to the side of me. The mountain slope cracked and slithered forward, like a monster’s forked tongue. As the force of nature dropped over me, I closed my eyes and threw my arms around my head. My screams were swallowed by the creature.
Completely engulfed, I moved with the avalanche. The whole of the trail had transformed into its body; an agitated, unstoppable river of churning snow and debris. The world became darker and darker, the snow heavier and heavier. Flashes of light were few and far between.
When I gasped for air I was sometimes rewarded with a clear breath but more often than not I sucked in a mouthful of snow. Hacking to rid my throat of the slush, I came to the awful realization that I was drowning on dry land.
My hands, flailing for something solid to hang onto, finally caught hold of a tree. Small as it was, it held fast against the merciless rush of snow. I fought against nature, literally holding on for my life. I wrapped myself around the trunk as two large branches just above me ripped away and disappeared in the churning white waves, along with my screams. I squeezed so tight the rough bark scratched my cheek. I inhaled the heavy scent of pine, as though the smell alone would keep me tethered to the tree. I willed the roots to be strong.
They were, but I was not. My grip started to loosen as my tired muscles and numb fingers were unable to hold on any longer. I lost the stable trunk and returned to the tumble of snow.
I came to a halt just like the rest of the debris that used to be the Canadian mountainside. A small air pocket had formed, allowing me to spit out the coppery taste of blood. Suffocation couldn’t be too far off, encased as I was in an immobile block of ice. Feeble attempts at movement proved useless. Silence settled in on me as I heard the last of the snow come to a halt above me. I tolerated its crushing weight because I had no choice.
As the numbness slowly receded, pain returned to one hand. I wiggled my fingers. They were free, possibly above the surface. I grimaced. Great – at least the wolves would find me. Closed casket for me.
One great benefit to being an indie author is other indie authors. In general, the community is very open and friendly. During the Orangeberry Summer Splash Blog Hop, I crossed paths with Christopher Starr, author of ‘Road to Hell‘. He was kind enough to post his review of my book on his blog, then he started asking questions. I answered, then sent a few questions of my own. The exchange went on for more than a month and thus you have ‘Between the Covers’, a candid conversation in how writers write. Below is the first of five posts; be sure to follow Christopher’s blog to catch the next post later this week!
Terra: I wrote the first book not exactly planning on turning it into a series. Once it was complete, and especially after that cliffhanger, I kind of had to continue. I also never expected to enjoy writing so much. The first book was a work in progress for 10+ years, and went through many major revisions. The second book took only two months to write. The majority of the third was written in a month (thanks to NaNoWriMo), and I am now writing the fourth and final book of the series. So far, no breaks in between. How about you?
Christopher: It’s funny, our experience is surprisingly similar. It took me over 7 years to write The Road to Hell. And it went through about 4-5 rewrites, a change in main character, a change in POV, about 150 new pages and some pretty merciless cutting. Writing it was more an “I wonder if I can” process than an exercise in series writing. I do have an advantage though: I know which angels are going to live and the Bible gives me some pretty rigid plot points. I’m lucky in that respect.
Christopher: I know exactly what you mean about writing a novel and then learning to write. The biggest thing is the discipline for me. I like to think that I’m all creative and the inspiration will strike me at some time and I’ll create this magical treatise the world will unite behind.
But that shit doesn’t happen.
So I learned the disciplined portion of it and the value of the rewrite. Get it out. Put words on the page. Advance the story paragraph by excruciating paragraph. Eventually, my right brain takes over and kicks in, finding pieces of the story I didn’t know existed. I’m learning that’s part of the process too.
How do you manage continuity?
Terra: I am laughing out loud right now because I really don’t think there was good continuity. Even after the first and second book were published, I was going back and making changes in order to fit the storyline of the next books. I really like to come full circle, so to speak, in my books, and make sure there are no loose ends. So in writing the fourth and final book (which has been probably the most difficult to write), I am trying to tie everything up. This means revisiting issues that maybe weren’t mentioned since the first book. And you?
Christopher: Continuity is, for me, a bitch. I figure the first book is set in stone—I can’t modify that story at all. What I keep doing is going back to the original, making sure I maintain the events or words. I never wanted to be one of those “spreadsheet authors”—you know the ones who build character sheets and plots through spreadsheets—but I understand the value of it. I guess it beats flipping back into my old book to try and remember what I said or the color of someone’s eyes. I’m currently working on my spreadsheet…
Please post questions of your own! Christopher and I will both be available to answer them!
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I recently submitted a short story to one of my Goodreads groups, Gotta Have Paranormal Romance with a Kick. The requirements were to write a short story about what it would be like to be Mrs. Dracula. No word count minimums/maximums. So I sat down, hammered something out, and won! Squee! I got a $25 gift card to AllRomanceBooks.com, plus an e-copy of Being Mrs. Dracula by Faith Marlow.
Of course, my version of being Mrs. Dracula includes Wiccans, environmental issues, and an unexpected twist at the end. Interested? Read below and let me know what you think!
“Mrs. Hun, your rebuttal, if you please.”
Melinda nodded at the moderator, and turned to face the cameras. Lights bore down on her, and she hoped her makeup held up to the heat. A bead of sweat rolled down the back of her neck. She ignored it, trying to focus instead on the audience behind the media.
“Although my opponent’s environmental goal is admirable; it simply isn’t enough. As Ohio’s newest senator, and duly elected representative, I intend to support the push for nuclear energy.” Melinda waited for the uproar to die down. Her announcement wasn’t unexpected; in fact, anticipation of the announcement is what led to such a large turnout. She leaned closer into the microphone, speaking above the crowd, “Nuclear energy waste is miniscule to what we produce now. A coke can’s worth per person’s lifetime compared to 68 tons solid waste and 77 tons carbon dioxide.”
There were shouts from the audience, both for and against.
She continued, “A nuclear plant takes up less than a square mile to produce the same amount of energy a wind farm on 200 square miles produces.”
From behind the cameras, someone yelled about weapons of mass destruction. Melinda did something her campaign manager strictly prohibited. She responded to the criticism, “Nuclear war is an exaggerated fear, fed to you by Hollywood and the media.”
She looked over at her opponent, candidate Daniel Kelley, and swallowed hard. A small, knowing smile crept up on one side of his face.
As the debate ended with a clear winner, the two candidates shook hands in front of the camera. He leaned into her, “Good luck with the rest of your campaign, Mrs. Hun.”
She nodded, “And to you, Mr. Kelley.”
He glanced over at the empty seat in the front row, “I look forward to meeting your husband.”
Melinda looked down. Her husband had yet to appear at a public event by her side. “Mr. Hun is busy with work.”
Daniel narrowed his eyes, “Well, I hope he is around to at least take care of your injuries.”
Melinda gasped, touching her eye. The tips of her fingers came away tinged with beige cover-up. Her makeup was running. She immediately adjusted her hair over her neck, hoping no one had spotted the bruising there.
Daniel smiled, leaning in further, “Makeup, hair, and high turtlenecks can only cover so much.” He bent the rest of the way, kissing her on the cheek, then straightened and winked at her. Daniel Kelley disappeared into the maelstrom of media, prompting a new frenzy of flashing lights.
Melinda closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. The campaign, relatively free of mud-slinging so far, was about to get ugly.
* * *
Melinda entered campaign headquarters with her manager and several aides, “How is my California colleague’s campaign going?”
The youngest aide, a recent college grad, answered, “He leads the polls.”
“And Louisiana?” she asked.
“The same,” the manager said. “Barring any unfortunate disclosures regarding religious affiliations, your fellow wiccans will be sitting at the capitol next year.”
Melinda nodded. Discussions on how to effectively change America’s environmental policies began within her small coven ten years ago. With a lot of hard work, and equal amounts of luck, they managed to ensconce a handful of loyal wiccans within the US political system. This was just the beginning. Between the congressional race and well-paid lobbyists, they were going to slowly oust the large corporation stronghold within US politics, and guide the country to vote on policies that were environmentally responsible. America would no longer be run by the highest bidder.
“Melinda,” her campaign manager stopped her with a hand on her arm. “Are you going to be okay?”
She furrowed her eyebrows at him.
“Your husband returns tonight?” He pressed. “This is a situation your opponent would love to exploit. We can’t afford that kind of press. We are behind enough in the polls as it is.”
Melinda fidgeted with the hem of her shirt, uncomfortable with this kind of attention. “What my husband and I do behind closed doors is no affair of yours.”
“Of course – yet it will soon become the affair of the entire nation, if you’re not careful.”
She cleared her throat, and met his eyes, “I will be in my private suite the remainder of the evening. Text if you need anything; otherwise I’ll see you before 9 for our flight tomorrow morning.”
He sighed, looking at her with sad eyes. The matter was not closed; next time he would approach it with more care.
* * *
Melinda took the elevator below ground to her private suite. There weren’t many buildings in Columbus that went this far underground, especially so close to the river. Melinda wasn’t keen on spending so much of their campaign money on a lease, but Mr. Hun was insistent. She crossed their spacious living room, removing her jacket and high heels along the way. She looked at her watch, he would be waking soon.
At the floor to ceiling bookshelf, Melinda pulled on the copy of Bram Stroker’s ‘Dracula’. One click, and a panel opened inward. Melinda squeezed through the small opening. Inside was a large pentagram. Lit candles placed at intervals around the circular room provided the only light. Several men and women in robes waited on their knees, obediently keeping their heads down.
Melinda cleared her throat. One rose, walked over to her, and handed her an iced cocktail. She sniffed it, raising her eyebrows at him.
“It is the usual infused herbs, mixed during an incantation, Melinda.”
“And the blood?” She asked, peering through the clear glass.
She nodded, throwing her head back and finishing the cocktail in one swallow. She handed the empty glass to the robed man, along with her cell phone and campaign badges, “I am ready.”
He set her belongings down on a small table and pulled a lever just above it. The center of the pentagram opened, and a large bed rose into the room, gears underneath squeaking with the strain. Melinda held her breath, heart stopping for a moment as it always did upon his awakening.
The form on the bed stirred, pulling the chains that bound him tight. A slow smile crept onto Melinda’s face, “Settle down husband, you will fly tonight.”
He turned, gray eyes boring into her, “You have another name for me, witch?”
The vampire sat up in the bed, his bare chest heaving in anger, “One of these nights, I will break your curse. I’m too old; lived far too long to bend to the will of a human.”
Melinda stepped forward, removing her turtleneck and revealing her bruised throat. A small price to pay. The vampire did need to feed after all, “The day may come,” she said. “But it will require something strong enough to break the bond of marriage.” She wrapped her hand around one of the chains, pulling it tight. The vampire was yanked down again, flat on his back. “And something stronger still to break these bonds. Not to mention the curse.”
Melinda crawled onto the bed, straddling the vampire. She felt his whole body go tense. “We’ll be performing the Great Rite before I release you,” she nodded to the robed man and he took his place back in the circle. “We’ll need to make sure the curse holds while you fly free. I want my little bat to return home by dawn.”
She stroked the side of his face. He bared his fangs, but couldn’t bite into the healthy, throbbing pulse at her wrist. Not without her permission; one of many stipulations enforced through the curse.
Dracula closed his eyes, frowning. “I suppose this must be my penance.”
“Penance?” Melinda scooted down on the bed, making herself comfortable in between his legs. “It’s for the good of the country.” Her smile was all too malicious, “I’ll make a true patriot out of you yet.”
Do we take pollinators for granted?
As a whole – yes. Our use of systemic pesticides is killing them. We depend on pollinators for over 1/3 of the fruits and vegetables we eat. As filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg mentions in his TED introduction of this video, pollinators are like the canary in the coal mine; if they disappear, so do we.
Take four minutes to watch this video, and discover (or re-discover) the beauty of pollination:
What a wonderful job Schwarzberg did! Only he could make the common housefly and bats look so beautiful!
My favorite part, by far, has to be the slow motion butterflies. Although the bats are a close second. What’s yours?
Hi there everyone! If you haven’t yet, hop on over to Can’t Put it Down Reviews where I am giving away six sets of the first two books, ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ in the Akasha Series, plus one grand prize winner gets to pick a t-shirt from my store.
Now on to my newest flash fiction. This was recently featured on Can’t Put it Down Reviews. It is some of the back story on Kaitlyn’s (main character in the Akasha Series) parents. Enjoy!
Good Luck Charm
Mary leaned forward, looking through the windshield of their small, blue Honda and up into the sky. “Do they know we’re coming?”
The sky was growing darker by the minute, and the wind was picking up.
Cato answered from the back seat, “No one knows. Well, except Shawn. Boy probably doesn’t even remember, as involved in video games as he was.” Cato stared at the scenery rushing past. Corn fields. Acre after acre of the tall stalks; all leaning to the left with the growing wind.
“Oh, please. Your son is gifted and you know it. I’ve seen the spark on more than one occasion.” John smiled at Cato through the rearview mirror. He put his hand over Mary’s, attempting to calm her fears.
She smiled, but her eyes still wrinkled with worry. It began to hail. Small chunks of ice pelted the windshield and road ahead. Mary began rubbing at the charm around her neck.
It was a necklace given to her by their only child. John thought of their daughter Kaitlyn, at home probably working on college applications. She was all they really had, and he would give anything to make it a better world for her. Which is why they were all here. With far more confidence than either of his two passengers, he resolutely nodded his head. “Yes. Everything is going to be –“
“John! Stop!” Mary cut him off with her screams. He slammed on the brakes. About a mile ahead of them, a funnel shot down from the cloud cover. It was already bending the sturdy highway signs with its force. John put the Honda into reverse.
“Don’t want to do that either, John.” Cato pointed out the back window. A thick formation of clouds were already spinning in preparation for another tornado vortex to emerge.
John and Mary locked eyes. Their communication was almost telepathic. This was not natural weather.
The corn stalks no longer leaned in one direction. They waved wildly, as if flagging away the trio. But it was too late; they were trapped with twisters blocking each direction of road.
“So now we know – there has to be a traitor with The Seven.” John and Mary each turned to look at Cato.
“Let’s just get through this. Then we can turn to who is responsible. If I don’t make it…” Cato trailed off.
“We’re all going to make it.” John didn’t give Cato a chance to finish. “And we will all go home to our children.”
Cato nodded at his lifelong friend, thankful he was here to help face their enemy. The three exited the car.
Mary’s long, red skirt whipped around her legs. The red was a stark contrast to the dark grey skies. She faced the first of the tornados, opening herself up to the warm, moist air being drawn in from the south. She used her powers as a water elemental to diffuse the air of moisture. John stood by her side, commanding the cool, dry winds blowing in from Canada. Together they worked, forcing away the conflicting weather and trying to stabilize the atmosphere.
Though Cato could manipulate all of the elements, he concentrated on the wind speed. He worked to slow it down, preventing any more updrafts. He was significantly stronger than the pair that worked behind him, but he was hindered, having to deal with chunks of road and now farm equipment being tossed at them by the tornado. He moved forward, certain he was the target of the attack. The least he could do was decrease the risk to his friends by angling away, further down the road.
Mary looked back to see their small car in a slow spin, gradually being lifted up. It was as unpredictable as the winds. “We need to move!”
Without hesitation, she turned to the fields. The sharp, unharvested corn cut that might offer some protection from the wind, bit into her bare legs as she ran. John stayed close on her heels. “Where is Cato!” He called to her. But there was no time to answer. He lunged forward, tackling Mary to the ground as the roof of a barn whipped by overhead.
Cato remained on the highway, struggling with the wind patterns. They were unpredictable. He detected several threads of power being woven into the storm from two different directions. There would be more than four elementals attacking – and no time to target them. Cato had to settle for playing defense. He looked behind me, startled to find John, Mary and the car gone.
He ran back to where he had left them. Dumbfounded, he looked to the right, at the slightly wavering speed limit sign, still planted in the ground. He peered closer into the fields, thinking he saw a flash of Mary’s skirt. He took a step towards it, when a spinning, blue mass shot by, missing Cato by mere feet. He could barely track it with his eyes. It was their car, now bouncing end over end down the highway, taking the speed limit sign with it. Cato blinked, then turned back to the wind patterns in the sky and could only hope the same fate had not befallen his friends.
Gradually, his energy waned, and he was left only able to maintain a protective circle around himself. The weather had grown too strong; almost like more elementals had joined in. The corn fields and his friends were on their own. Cato’s whole body shook with exertion until he dropped to his knees. His sphere was allowing the strong gusts to pass through, but it would hold against the more solid objects thrown at him by the storm, and it would keep him firmly planted on the ground.
The two funnels moved closer, then angled in – towards the path his friends took. Shards of debris littered the air like feathers in a pillow fight. Cato was still able to discern the funnels, large as they were, merging together. As they did, lightening lit the sky and thunder cracked in the air, barely heard over the freight train noise of the super twister. It was a triumphant announcement; both sides knew who had won this battle.
Wind gusts did not let up. They grew stronger and stronger, pulling even more debris into the air, until Cato could not see past his protective circle at all. He was sure the large mass was coming for him next.
With a final burst of energy, Cato pushed himself to his feet. He wasn’t going to face death curled up like a coward. It would be full on, shoulders squared and eyes opened. And without his shield.
When the noise was unbearable – and Cato was sure the climax had arrived, he lifted his hands to dissipate his shield. Before he could, the world went silent. Stalks, corn, dirt, and fractured wood from nearby structures all fell to the ground at once. There was no wind. What cornstalks were left in the ground were still. In the skies, clouds moved away revealing a disturbingly peaceful blue sky in their wake.
The last of Cato’s energy fizzled out, and his protective circle vanished. Two loud, sickening thumps came from behind him. Cato swallowed the rising lump in his throat, then turned. Mary and John lay dead on the highway. All of their limbs twisted in unnatural, odd angles, except for one. Mary’s hand still clutched the charm at her neck.
Let me know what you think! Comments always welcome.
The best way to introduce my series is through the words of book review bloggers! Because each reader interprets a story differently, I conveyed the story using bits and pieces of reviews by readers themselves. See the Akasha Series introduction on Ritesh’s blog.
And if you haven’t read my post and voted for your elemental power of choice yet, now is the time! Read this article and comment!
So…that’s all I really have to say. Since I feel like this blog post is too short, and because I just figured out how to embed YouTube videos, and because I can’t stop thinking about the Hunger Games - I leave you with the awesome movie trailer. Can’t wait ’till March 23rd!!!
And now, bask in the glory that is ‘Air’ *imagine choir music here*
And, if you are not sufficiently basked – you may continue to bask in the glory that is ‘Water’ *more choir music*:
Now a mixed symphony:
Ok, yes. They’re very similar. It’s called branding. When you see one of my book covers, I want you to know it’s from me! For a fun, quick read on how ‘Water’ came to be, see my blog post titled Mormons, Vagina’s and Cover Art.
‘Air’ will be available for purchase within one month on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. If you have read ‘Water’, and are interested in an ARC of ‘Air’ to review, let me know! In ‘Air’, while Kaitlyn continues to carry her secret, Micah must work to prove himself to her and Shawn turns his depopulation theory into a plan.
Stay tuned for my book trailer to ‘Water’, where I totally exploit the cover! You’ll see how – follow my blog via e-mail so you don’t miss a thing!