The Graphic Designer’s Wife Has No Book Cover

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I’ve been working very hard to wrap up Pussycat in Peril. As y’all know, I really love my pussycats and have a lot of fun writing these stories. The covers are fun too. From the start of the series back at Loose Id, I wanted the covers to have a comic book feel to them because in my head these women are superheroes. Larger than life. Able to leap tall buildings, yadda. I remember giving the artist pictures of She-Hulk and other similar comic book heroes, but also pictures of Pam Grier as Coffy. No, I’ve never seen Coffy, or any blaxploitation film. My mama was having none of that, but I have seen the posters and screen captures and they are bad-ass to the extreme. So I wanted me some of that.

The Pussycat book covers, more than any others have a style book. The backdrop must be an international location. The Pussycat books are in a way a tribute to what I loved about romance novels when I was a youngun; they allowed a small town girl like me to travel the world and I thought that was hella cool. So those exotic locales must be incorporated as well. PDS_2x3The heroine has to be an active figure, no damsels in distress, and she has to have a weapon. That hasn’t been a problem thus far, but will be in the next Pussycat book, Diamonds on the River, because she’s a jewel thief and doesn’t do weapons. My son wants one of my books to have a woman with an missile launcher. So I have to keep that in mind. He also wants me to write a book with a boy defeating an evil monster that eats the children in his village. Yeah, this gig is a family affair.

Anyway, back to Pussycat in Peril. I’ve really struggled to come up with a concept for this book cover. I bought a stock photo a while back, and it’s good, but it doesn’t really capture the vibe of the story. For one thing, I really want this heroine to be wearing a hijab. For a lot of reasons, but mainly authenticity. They’re stranded in the mythical North African city of Laritrea under siege by a ISIS type group. It would be normal for her to wear a hijab, and she wears an abaya to conceal her rifle as she’s a sniper. I want him to wear a keffiyeh, though they’re not common in the region, primarily because of all those sheikh books in the 1980s. I hated those books with a passion and made my hero, who is Egyptian Arab as unlike those stories as possible. For one thing, my hero is an American Marine, born and raised in Tennessee. So yeah, you can see my problem. A stock photo, with a man and a woman, she must have a weapon and both must be in traditional clothing. The main problem with her is that in most stock photos when a woman has a gun she’s also half naked. I guess it’s supposed to soften her aggressiveness or something. But having fired a semiautomatic weapon I can tell you, hot shell casings are very much a thing and if you get one of those down your bosom, well, yeah, not fun. Also, if she’s wearing a head cover  it would be ridiculous for her to be half dressed below the neck. The struggle is real.

Since I started self-publishing, nailing down the cover image I want is one of the first steps in writing a book. I keep an idea folder on my computer and I start by storyboarding the cover and sometimes the scenery. I’ve started doing this on Pinterest as well. If you’re interested in this process, check me out on Pinterest. Sometimes we have to make changes when Whit and I don’t agree on the concept, or the image doesn’t work for some reason. He’s very particular about the type of photos he works with and it took me a minute to grasp the technical aspects of cover art. And then there are those times when he just doesn’t like the picture. No technical reason. He just thinks it’s ugly. Given all that, this is the first book I’ve written in a while that didn’t begin with the cover. As I said, I found some stock, but it didn’t really grab me. It wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally found the pictures I want, with emphasis on pictures. This cover is going to require four, possibly five stock photos. Whit’s going to have to do a lot of meshing. Unfortunately, Whit hates meshing.

In a word folks, this cover is going to be amazing. Watch this space. With any luck it’ll be out before Easter!!!

“Acts of Wars” Excerpt

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Lisa posted this excerpt from Acts of Wars on her blog.

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A little something to commemorate Hump Day. Happy reading!

Gregor Glinka stared through the windowpane at the dark city street outside his home, his long fingers cradling and caressing the bowl of the brandy snifter he held with both pale, narrow hands.

“I hope you are right, my love, and the Abomination returns with the information you need. I do not trust her. One should not trust any of her kind; the how of their existence would naturally make them a faithless group.”

The silky, heavily-accented voice came from behind him, and Gregor turned from the window to look at his lover of fifty years. She was a beautiful woman, and her beauty had been what had attracted him initially, but other qualities beckoned him to her side time after time. Ambitious as she was beautiful and with equal parts vicious and good, she had powerful magic in her and…

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Honoring Our Roots

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I’ve been thinking about this ever since Monica Jackson died, and today with the passing of Gwynne Forster I think it’s time that we African American and multicultural romance authors start thinking seriously about some type of memorial, a tribute of some such to those who forged the way for us. Remember, before these amazing women came along THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS ROMANCE NOVELS WITH BLACK FOLK, OR ANY NON-WHITE FOLK. PERIOD. Wrap your mind around that for a minute, and imagine what an incredible thing they did. Think about the grief we get in this industry and imagine what it must have been like for them, starting at the very beginning. Doing as black women always do; making a way out of no way.

I don’t know what form this should take; Scholarships? Donations to libraries? I’m not sure, and this is well out of my wheelhouse, but we’ve been fortunate enough to have some really amazing women in our genre and we must find a way to honor them. And even more so, to nurture new talent and support other young women and girls with an interest in literature. What do y’all think? Any ideas? Yes, I know we’re all crazy busy. But I don’t want to look back someday and have our newbie authors asking “Who was Gwynne Forster?” Or even worse, having outsiders writing our history for us. Others are already claiming credit for creating multicultural romance. This cannot stand. Let’s put our heads together and come up with a fitting way to memorialize our roots, our mothers. The women who made us what we are today.

A Little Bit of History of Given and Stolen

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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.

Writing Two Books at Once

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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.

Love from What About Our Daughters

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Imagine my surprise this morning when I saw this post up at What About Our Daughters. http://www.whataboutourdaughters.com/waod/2013/11/13/readers-who-write-wednesday-paranormal-roslyn-hardy-holcomb.html?lastPage=true&postSubmitted=true

Y’all know I love that site like damn and whoa. If you don’t follow her blog and Facebook page you are seriously missing out. Lisa and I just got the rights back to Stolen, so it will be re-released in the next few weeks. It is still available at Barnes and Noble, but not Amazon. It really is an awesome book.

IR Books = Declining AA Book Sales?

Earlier this year Affaire de Coeur sent out a survey to authors and readers regarding interracial books. (You can check out the questions here.) I’m dying to see the results. If I get a chance to get down to B&N I’ll pick up a copy of the magazine. Anyway, their survey is the reason I posted mine. I’ve not mentioned this before on this blog, but I’ve always sensed some tension in the African American romance community in regard to interracial romance books. Back when there was still a black reader forum on Delphi I remember some readers there expressing consternation with interracial romances and their fear that they would eventually “take over” the African American romance genre. Given the questions that appeared on Affaire de Coeur’s survey I have to assume that those concerns are still extant.

6. Many AA authors have told AdC that they don’t like the intrusion of interracial romance. Some have even gone as far as to state that unless they writing an interracial romance as opposed to an AA romance, they are not supported by their publisher. Do you think there is a push? Why?

This question in particular bugs the heck out of me. For one thing, I resent the hell out of the word INTRUSION. In what way are authors of interracial romance intruding on anything? This notion that we are somehow poaching on their readers is absurd. As my survey clearly showed,  it’s not the same reader pool. Most of the readers of interracial romances are either omnivores, who read a little bit of everything, or they are exclusively fans of interracial romance and wouldn’t read monoracial romances even if interracial romances were not available. I suspected this was the case, and my survey confirms it.

I can’t really comment on the publisher issue, but I have to assume that if there’s a push for interracial books it’s because they’re selling. Other than at e-pubs, which have always had interracial books, I haven’t seen a proliferation of interracial books. I think Genesis is still doing one a month, and the last time I checked at Kimani they were still asking for monoracial exclusively. (I’m too lazy to check. Is this still the case?) I can count on one hand the number of IRs I’ve seen from Kimani and they’re all from authors who are already established with them. I haven’t looked at Dafina guidelines in a while, but I don’t seem to remember there being a lot of IRs there either.

7. There is a decline in the number of books where both hero and heroine are AA. Do you think it is attributable to the interracial romance?

This is news to me as well. I didn’t know that there had been a decline in readership of monoracial romances. I doubt that interracial romances are at fault here. The main problem I have with MR romances is level of sensuality. I’m thinking Zane is a publishing phenomenon for a reason, yet I don’t see that popularity reflected in the MR romance community at all. This is an issue that I talked about over at Save Black Romance.

Many IR readers of veterans of the e-pubs. E-pubs thrive on identifying and capitalizing on under-served markets. But those books have a very high sensuality level. A sensuality level readers have grown accustomed to. I’ve complained quite a bit about the lower heat levels in MR romances. It was much the same way when IR books first started. I actually wrote my first love scene because I was tired of the titty-fingered way many authors dealt with sex scenes in IR romances.

Further, as my survey showed, many of our readers are omnivores. That is, they’re reading MR, IR and mainstream books as well. Mainstream books have taken off into all manner of realms: SF/F, suspense, paranormals, menage, slash, etc… Except for suspense storylines, this evolution simply isn’t present in the MR books, and I say this as someone who reads several of them a month. With very few exceptions, MR books are where mainstream books were a decade ago. If readership is falling off, I suspect it is informed by this issue.

Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember when there were no black people in romances period, but this schism troubles me greatly. I hate to think that at this time of great success, we seem to be on the path to consuming our own. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a thrill when I see black romances on the shelves in bookstores. Yeah, I’m a bit envious of those who’ve found success in New York, but I know those authors have worked their asses off and I’m proud of them too. Goodness knows I’m the last person on earth to ask that we join hands and sing Kumbaya, but I don’t think any of our needs are served by this level of discord either. After all, ultimately we all have the same goal: to write and sell books. It’s a big world out there, I think there’s enough readers for all of us.