Category: The Industry


Making Cover Magic

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Book covers are not something I used to spend a lot of time thinking about. I generally buy by author and blurb, so before I started self-publishing, it was well outside my wheelhouse. I’m very fortunate that I have a husband who is a graphic designer by trade and is able to do the magic to make my cover ideas happen. I also adore Taria Reed at The Reed Files for finally giving us the type of beautiful diverse images we need.

This is the most recent cover my husband magicked for me. This the image he started with.

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My character wears her hair in braids. So he had to add them.

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She also has a darker complexion, so that had to be changed also.

My male lead actually has chestnut hair.

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This book takes place in Laritrea, which a fictionalized version of the North African country, Libya. So I wanted a background of some Roman ruins.

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Then he did the comic book style that really fits this story to a tee. I’d say, altogether he put in several hours on this cover. And if I told you what his typical going rate is, you’d faint. I’m just very lucky I get free labor from him!

The process is just so very awesome. And he’ll sit there and patiently tweak it until he gives me exactly what I want. Just awesome. Most of the time, the ideas are all mine, but sometimes, he’ll surprise me, like he did for Buttercream.

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Everything about that cover was his idea. I remember getting so annoyed because I had to find photos of the inside of a bakery. What difference does it make? I whined. And, of course, it makes all the difference in the world.

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My only real contribution to this cover was the font for the title. Y’all don’t want to know how long it took me to find that freaking font. I absolutely adore fonts, and will pay a ridiculous amount of money for them. I had to have that B, nothing else would do.

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This cover took him two whole weeks, mainly because he simply wasn’t feeling it, and actually created another cover that he didn’t want to use. It’s hard sometimes because I’m impatient, but he is an artist and if the groove isn’t there it simply not there. It’s not like on his job where he has to produce whether he’s feeling it or not, and I have to remind myself of that all the time.

My guy is amazing and wonderful in so many ways, but I adore him so much for the way he supports and fulfills my dreams, even when I’m being an absolute nag about it.

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As always, it’s up at Smashwords and ARe first. Will probably be up at Amazon and B&N tomorrow, but you can get your formats at either SW or ARe, if you’d rather not wait. Another fabulous photo by the awesome Taria Reed, and a knock your socks off cover design, by my better half. Y’all better have some.

International Readers

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I’ve been kicking around the idea of having some of my books translated for some time now. Given that it can cost upwards of $5k I doubt it’ll happen, but it’s fun to think about. So, to get an idea of what language I would choose I started looking at the countries of origin for my blog clicks. To my surprise the fourth country after the US, UK and Canada was Bosnia-Herzegovina! What? Then I realized I’ve been talking a lot about trans stuff of late, and that’s probably skewed my results. (Are there a lot of trans folk in Bosnia-Herzegovina? I have no idea.) Anyway, to control for that effect I looked back two years to see my most popular countries. I expected Brazil to rank higher, as Portuguese was one of the top languages I was considering, but Brazil only ranked #10, well after Switzerland and even Korea. I’m assuming that Korea ranks high because of US Service members, but I could be wrong. I’ve been wondering about my appeal to the Swiss for quite some time now. I wish someone from Switzerland would post about the subject. I get a surprising number of hits there. I have to assume they have a high rate of African immigrants, but I don’t know for sure.

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The most interesting factor to me is the fact that I get hits from nearly every country on the globe. Besides Bosnia-Herzegovina, I’m stunned to get so many hits from Saudi Arabia. Of course, I talk about a wide range of subjects here and there’s no way to control for what they clicked on once they came here, but it’s still fascinating to see. I’ll probably still go for Portuguese should I hit the Lotto or something. It has such a large population of black/blackish people, and so many West African countries speak it as well.

What do you think? Should I go for Portuguese, or is there another language you think would be more popular?


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I’ve had a lot of inquiries about the original Pussycat Death Squad book. (And I really appreciate it, because these books really are my heart.) It came down in late summer because I got the rights back from the publisher. You might have noticed, I got the rights back to six books in the past few months and I’ve been working my poor husband like crazy to get new covers done. He works full-time and this is his busy time at work. And, much as he would deny it, the man is an artist. And yeah, (whispering) he has an artistic temperament and since he’s working for free…yeah, I have to take my covers when he gets around to them. He’s working on the new cover and he should have it finished by the end of the week and it’s a beauty! I know I say that every time, but the man just amazes me.

The next Pussycat book is Pussycat in Peril. It’s the third book in the series and is about Astaria, who, if you will recall was the second in command to Lelia in Pussycat Death Squad. Astaria has found herself trapped back in her home country in the middle of an internecine war and must be rescued by her husband. (Her husband? Where the hell did she get one of those? And more importantly, why?) It’s a marriage of convenience story, and those have always been one of my fave romance tropes. It was also strongly influenced by Roberta Gellis’s The Kent Heiress. To the point of, dare I say it? Being FAN FICTION!!! Quelle horreur! Gellis’s story takes place during the French Revolution and I always wanted to do a contemporary story of that nature, but couldn’t really come up with a suitable setting. Then the Arab Spring happened, and voila my imagination was off to the races. (No, I  don’t know why I’m speaking French this morning, but the setting of this story was a former French colony.) I’m loving the heck out of this story, especially since the Arab revolution and the aftermath is still very much in the news.

Astaria, the heroine is of East African lineage, and like all the Pussycats is as lethal as she is gorgeous. As a sniper in the counter-revolutionary forces she has no trouble living up to the “Hot Shot” title Kaeden has given her.  Kaeden Nassir, the hero is just awesome. An Egyptian American Marine from Tennessee he is everything a hero should be; madly in love with the heroine, and prepared to die to protect her. Suffice it to say, it would behoove you to be careful any time he has his precious “Arkansas Toothpick” in his hand. As for the photos at the top of the page, Astaria’s father was an archaeologist excavating Roman ruins in their home country. The pictures are of Roman ruins in Libya and, as I’ve mentioned before, Laritrea is loosely based on that country and activities occurring there. I’m hoping to have it ready in time for a Christmas release.

As always, thank y’all so much for your support. I love writing these stories and it’s still amazing to me that y’all enjoy them as much as I do .

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When Lisa and I met seven or eight years ago (Has it only been seven or eight years Lisa? Somehow it seems much longer!) I tell people all the time that Lisa is the little sister I never had (and probably never wanted), though she actually acts like the big sister. It’s amazing that we met online and only met in person a few years ago. We had written both Given and Stolen before we were ever in the same room together! I love the way the internet makes such things possible!

Historicals were always my first love and I knew I wanted to write some, but i also love paranormals and saw no reason not to put them together. I wanted shape shifters and other beasties that are black and actually help, you know, black people. There are no slaves or magical Negroes in any of our books. In these books you see free black folk going in to rescue enslaved Africans and at least one cheetah shapeshifter ripping the throat out of slave catchers. And we’re not even going to talk about the antics of one pissed off bear and a crafty owl!

We loved these stories so much (and don’t worry, Matthew’s story and the raid on Harper’s Ferry, is coming) that we based our urban fantasy series, beginning with Rumors of Wars in the same magical system. I also love resistance movements, and to me the Underground Railroad was the most amazingly successful resistance movement in the history of mankind. All these passionate people working together to overthrow a system of terrorism and tyranny. Totally amazing and yeah, more than just a little bit sexy.

When we got the rights back to these books and my husband started working on the covers, I told him we wanted something amazing. Something that would literally take your breath away. And as always he came through spectacularly. Here are the blurbs for both stories, and as always, y’all better have some.

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As a member of Eshu, those who can shift into any animal at will, Jacob Adams is used to knowing and getting what he wants. And when he meets Mary Katherine Day as they work together on the Underground Railroad, he not only knows that she’s going to be his wife, but he expects her to accept her fate willingly. A businesswoman of independent means, Mary Katherine has no interest in marrying, which to her mind is bondage only slightly less vile than the slavery she works so hard to help others escape. Jacob embarks on a campaign to lure her into his bed by awakening her virginal body to the delights to be found there. Though she struggles against her sensual nature, Mary Katherine eventually succumbs to the irresistible lure. Initially she’s convinced that they can maintain their sexual relationship without marriage, but it quickly becomes apparent that their passion is too intense to hide in such a small town and she is risking a horrible scandal that could destroy her life. Shortly after they’re married they are forced to confront ancient enemies and a secret that could ultimately destroy their relationship.

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Despite the forces allied against her Grace Adams is determined to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad and also a doctor. She is Eshu, able to shift into any animal form at will, and she knows this ability will help her in her difficult missions. Then one tragic mistake alters the trajectory of her ambition. Grace has not only to demonstrate her ability as a conductor, but also to resist the sensual allure of her passion for Dr. Parker Quinn.

Parker is a stationmaster on the Railroad and resistant to the notion of a woman, especially his woman, engaging in such a dangerous undertaking. But her passion only makes him more determined to have Grace for his own, despite the scandal and the laws against miscegenation.

Although Grace loves him, she doesn’t want to marry. She knows the domineering Dr. Quinn will be even more restrictive than her father, but he won’t be deterred. It will take all of their passion and determination to survive social scorn and legal challenges while they make both their goals come true.

Given Has Been Re-Released

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Remember I told y’all I have the most talented husband the known universe? Check this one out. This is the first book in the Eshu Chronicles, a historical series featuring shape shifters who are conductors on the Underground Railroad. This book was first released in February 2010. It hasn’t gone up at B&N or Amazon yet, but as always it’s currently available in all formats at Smashwords and ARe. Y’all better have some. B&N and Amazon.

I already mentioned that I have a small, but growing international readership. And I’m so grateful to those readers. I sell regularly in Canada and UK now, and even got a couple of sales in Germany. For some reason it never occurred to me that I’d ever sell any books in India. For the first few days I assumed it was a mistake and kept expecting a return, but no, the return period is well past. I’ve been thinking a lot about who that reader might be. They bought Try a Little Tenderness, which, as you know is my all-time fave. I’d really love to hear from them and get some feedback. India is a country I’ve always been fascinated with and is on my bucket list. Of course, so is most of the entire world!

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And no, this is never a good plan. I am working on the latest Pussycat Death Squad book, Pussycat in Peril. Astaria, whom you might remember from the first Pussycat Death Squad book is in a green card marriage with Kaeden, a Egyptian-American Marine. Kaeden has had feelings for Astaria almost from the beginning, but he doesn’t want her to be with him because she feels beholden, so he’s waiting until she gets citizenship before he speaks up. Then, she returns to her home country to rescue her family and disappears. In the middle of a revolution. A revolution that has cut the entire country off from the rest of the world. And of course, our hero has to go find her. This book is so much fun, especially in light of current events.

The other book I’m working on is Love Me Some Him. This is the long-promised book about Dare from Dark Star. Well, it starts soon after events in the Lion in Russia, so yes, Dare shows up at Tonya and Nate’s wedding with a black eye from being sucker punched by Leo in that story. And well, things go downhill from there. These two have got the Hillbilly Mafia, the Department and at least one prison gang hot on their tail. Chances of survival don’t look good.

Oh, and that big ass gun up there? That’s a British made Lapua Magnum .50 caliber rifle. With a confirmed kill from nearly 3000 yards, it’s favored by snipers everywhere and by Astaria, heroine of Pussycat in Peril and an accomplished sniper in her own right. She’s been known to keep it hidden under her burqa.

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I’m an absolute NPR junkie and listen to it constantly. I’m also obsessed with songwriters and their uncanny ability to compose in four minutes a story that would take me thousands of words to write. The other day I was listening to a story about Allee Willis, who co-wrote “September,” one of my all time favorite songs, by the legendary Earth, Wind and Fire. As the writing process went on, she was concerned about Maurice White’s use of the nonsense phrase, “Ba-dee-ya,” and kept asking him when they were going to replace it with real words.

‘What the f- – – does ‘ba-dee-ya’ mean?’ And he essentially said, ‘Who the f- – – cares?'” she says. “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.”

I think this is an important lesson for writers in every genre. Years ago when I was working on Let’s Do It Again, I got into a bit of a situation with the editors over the use of the word “slingshot” as a verb. I know slingshot is not typically used as a verb, but in this particular scene where the heroine is flipping mashed potatoes at the hero across the dinner table because he’s kissing up to her mother, the word “slingshot” evokes imagery that the word catapult does not. A slingshot is a child’s toy and I envisioned the heroine as being childish in her aggravation at the hero. Well, after it was pinged for the third time in the edits, I finally told them I was prepared to die on that hill, but slingshot stayed. IMO that is one of my funniest scenes and I’ve gotten more email about it than pretty much any other scene I’ve ever written.

What does ba-dee-ya mean? You can’t use “slingshot” as a verb. Don’t write books with rock star heroes. And the list goes on. There’s always someone who will be bogged down in the minutiae of a story, but never forget that you are the ultimate arbiter of what goes into your books. That doesn’t mean you should throw a hissy fit over the use of basic grammar or reject perfectly reasonable suggestions about continuity and such. But you’re the only person who knows the story. You are the queen of the universe in a world that you’ve created. Never, ever forget that.

This post has nothing to do with Milk & Honey, I just think that cover is delicious.

Try A Little Tenderness Excerpt

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I think i’ve said repeatedly that Try a Little Tenderness is my favorite book. It’s the one book that combines most of my passions, sexy nerd scientist hero and viruses. Lots and lots of virus. In a different world, I would’ve been a scientist, or maybe a history-scientist. I absolutely love history and am fascinated with the impact disease has had on it. Many of the great sociological changes of the 20th century can be directly attributed to disease. Some even speculate that Woodrow Wilson had a mental collapse brought on by the effect of influenza which led to his inability to negotiate at the end of World War I. And, of course, we can all speculate that European expansion and colonialization of the New World wouldn’t have occurred had not disease wiped out 90% of the native population. Right now we are battling ebola and I’m watching closely with some trepidation, because ebola is not particularly “catchy,” yet we’re struggling to contain it. What with climate change we are going to encounter more deadly emerging viruses and our response has got to be more on point. With all that said, when I wrote Try A Little Tenderness six years ago I was hopeful that mankind will overcome as we alway have. I haven’t lost that optimism, but I am concerned. Here is an excerpt from my all time favorite book”

Lola grinned as she heard Koss’s bellow from down the hall. In fact she had no doubt their neighbors on the first floor had heard him as well. She shook her head. He’d been yelling off and on all morning. Why didn’t the man simply get a graduate assistant to help him with his notes? She’d never met anyone who hated to write as much as he did. Lola put down her textbooks to go find out what had set her cantankerous lover off this time.
“What’s going on?” she asked from the doorway of the study. Koss sat as his desk, staring absently into space. “Need some help?”
Koss looked up. “No, no. I’m just trying to get my notes organized.”
Lola walked over to look over his shoulder at the motley assortment of notes that littered his desk. For such a neat freak, he certainly seemed to take his lab notes on whatever scrap of paper he happened to find. Was that a gum wrapper? Damn! She shook her head as she picked up the sticky notes and at least one dry cleaning ticket. Undoubtedly for his one sport coat which he hadn’t been able to locate for the last faculty tea. And his handwriting. It didn’t look like anything produced by a human hand.
“I hope you have some kind of magic decoder ring for this. What the hell is that, by the way? Sanskrit?” At least now she understood why he hadn’t gotten anyone to help him. No point in driving a poor, unsuspecting graduate student over the edge. The curriculum was bad enough.
Koss picked up a stack of papers and began arranging them into a neater pile. “Are you here just to ride my ass, or did you want something in particular?” he snapped.
“Oh, I’m definitely here to ride your ass, but I think I can help. I’m a pretty good typist, and with a little effort I think I can make out those hieroglyphics you call handwriting.”
“Trust me, by the time you finish grad school, your handwriting will look like crap, too. Do you really think you can help? You’ve got your own classes ”
Lola rolled her eyes. “I’m taking one history class and an English class I should’ve taken years ago. I don’t think I’m in any danger of flunking out anytime soon. It’ll be cool. Your work is so interesting. I wish I’d been there when you were off in the field making these discoveries. It sure beats the hell out of reading some play about a guy who never shows up. Sounds too much like Ginger’s love life.”
Koss seemed to ponder the idea for a moment. “I could certainly use the help. Of course I’ll give you collaboration credit…”
“For what? Doing clerical work? Please! Besides, the last thing we want to do is draw attention to us. You could get into all sorts of trouble.” Lola shook her head vigorously.
“I already told you. I don’t give a damn about that. You’re not my student. And you’re unlikely to be my student for at least another year.”
“Actually, Koss, I could finish up in December. That’s why I’m getting these core classes out of the way. I’ve already applied for the grad program.” She shrugged. “I probably won’t get in, but I’ve applied.”
“You’re kidding? Why didn’t you tell me before?”
Lola bit her lip, uncertain herself why she hadn’t shared the news. “I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. I didn’t want to let you down. ”
“Lola, you’re not going to mess this up.” He pulled her into his arms. “You’re too smart for that.”
The gentle kisses eased all her fears. Too bad he couldn’t be there to kiss her twenty-four hours a day. She reached over to take his notes. Studying his penmanship ruefully, she shook her head in dismay. Apparently even the most brilliant people had to have some flaws.

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