Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Message in the Roses by Sandy Semerad, excerpt

A Message in the Roses is now with the editors. So this excerpt is pre-edit. I keep fooling around with the beginning of the book where Carrie Sue is in the present. Please put me out of my editing obsession.

I thought I needed to add a small section/intro explaining why in 1986 she didn't have a cell phone. Some young readers might wonder about this.

What do you think?

 Chapter One 

 A snow storm had knocked out Carrie Sue’s power, landline and Internet. Before the outage, Atlanta media warned everyone to stay off the roads. 

She sighed in awe when she saw her backyard. It looked like a winter wonderland, but not so pretty when she walked out to gather kindling. 

Her feet slipped on ice. She fell hard on her butt. Hail the size of golf balls pounded her body. The wind howled, as if protesting the assault. It took her awhile to gain her balance and carry the logs inside, but as she fed the fire, she began to relax and reminisce.

Her mind traveled back thirty years. She saw herself as a young newspaper reporter, passionate and reckless. She'd written down most of the racy details in her journal and had recently found it in the cedar chest, beneath her old wedding dress. 

She caressed the lovely, leather bound book like a comforting friend. No cell phones or social media back then. 

Carrie Sue couldn’t imagine living without a cell phone now. She’d even succumbed to Facebook, though she’d never shared her spicy memoire. Maybe it was time to finally let go. 

 Journal of Carrie Sue Justice
 December 8, 1986

 My stomach knotted when I saw the strange car in my driveway and damn it, my key wouldn’t open my front door. Deadbolt was locked.

The door vibrated from the blaring stereo inside, as if my house had become possessed. I couldn’t imagine my husband blasting music. He’d always complained about loud noise in the morning, and when I left an hour ago, he looked dead asleep.

As the Eagles belted out Heartache Tonight, I punched the doorbell nonstop with no response. By now snow clouds had buried the sun.

Dad used to say, “Always trust your gut.” My gut screamed disaster, reminding me of the day I received the tragic news about Mom and Dad. They died in a plane crash on their way from Atlanta to Ethiopia.

 I shook off that sad memory and focused on trying to get in the house. Kyle didn’t expect me home. He thought I was interviewing Police Chief Barnum about the recent shooting death in our community.

 As a news reporter, my job was to find out what happened. Why did police arrest four black teens for killing a white teen? Were their arrests racially motivated? Barnum had promised to give me the full scoop.

Unfortunately, my car broke down.

Tyrone, with Ty’s Wrecker and Repair, kindly offered to take me to my appointment in his tow truck, but I had him drop me off at my house so I could drive Mom’s old Cadillac to my meeting. I can’t stand to be without wheels. My downfall.

 I couldn’t back the Caddy out of the garage, because Kyle had parked his car behind it. The other car, a red Thunderbird, had parked beside his Alfa Romeo. How inconsiderate to block the driveway like this.

I wanted to protest his rudeness, but first I needed to get inside. I zipped up my leather jacket against the icy wind and inspected the unfamiliar Thunderbird. Had a Georgia tag with the letters “Hotstuf,” and a graduation tassel hanging from the rear view mirror.

I peered through the T-Bird’s window and saw papers and spiral notebooks scattered everywhere along with crumpled up paper bags and a pizza box. I pulled at the door handles. Locked.

Who was visiting my husband? And why was he up this early, blasting the roof off? He’d worked late last night, which suited his nocturnal clock.

I’m usually up and out with the chickens. This morning I’d left the house before seven, in plenty of time to stop by the newspaper office before driving to my interview with Barnum. If my car hadn’t died, I would have arrived early.

I stomped my feet like a toddler. The tantrum and fierce wind dislodged my hair from its bun. Unruly strands whipped my face as I pounded on the front door and rang the bell.

 Kyle had some nerve, locking me out. This house has been in my family forever. I’ve lived here most of my twenty-five years. My closest neighbor and buddy, Freemont, said my home reminded him of Tara in Gone with the Wind, with its white pillars and large veranda.

After I lost Mom and Dad, the so-called “classic antebellum” house I inherited became more of a burden than a home. I’d gladly trade this old relic and all my possessions if only I could turn back the clock and stop my parents from boarding that deadly flight.

I probably wouldn’t have married Kyle if they’d been alive to advise me against it. Sadly, they weren’t, and I fell in lust too quickly.

 Knowing Dad, he would have broken down the door, but Mom would say, “Be patient. Patience is a virtue.”

 “Give me patience,” I whispered as I followed the veranda to the back porch. I thought I could get in this way, but when I arrived at the porch, the door wouldn’t budge. The slide lock was engaged.

Burning with rage, I ran back to the front of the house and rang the doorbell again. I could barely hear the chimes above the blaring stereo of Bruce Springsteen singing I’m on Fire.

I screamed like an angry banshee or what I thought an angry banshee might sound like. My hollering should have alerted him or someone. I yelled loud enough to be heard from miles away.

After a while, I gave my burning lungs a rest and glanced at my wristwatch. He’d given me this watch to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary. I found out he’d charged it on his American Express card and couldn’t afford to pay the bill. He had the nerve to ask me to pay it. For crying out loud, what kind of man surprises his wife with a gift she didn’t ask for, and then asks her to pay for it? I’m glad I had sense enough to keep our bank accounts separate or else he would have bled me dry.

My expensive timepiece showed eight thirty. I needed to call Barnum to reschedule pronto. At least the loud music had finally stopped.

I pushed on the doorbell again. The chimes echoed loudly. I waited and waited. No Kyle.

I knelt down to pick up the stone planter from the veranda. A pang of guilt warned me against what I felt compelled to do. Mom loved these windows. She called them “sentinels.” They’re nearly as old as the house.

 I gripped the giant vase in both hands, bent my knees for leverage and drew back the urn. Then the front door creaked open.

My husband’s handsome face appeared, looking like Hamlet seeing his father’s ghost. Kyle had played Hamlet a number of times for the Shakespeare Festival. His wavy hair, the color of a copper penny, was mussed. His two-day stubble gave him a rugged bad-boy look. He had on a beige long-sleeved tee-shirt, open in the front to show a wisp of his chest hair. His snug corduroy jeans displayed his abundant manhood. His brown eyes glared at me like I was crazy Ophelia.

He stepped outside and grabbed the planter out of my arms. “What’s wrong, love?” His mouth looked puffy, and he seemed to be exaggerating his Irish brogue, the one he used to charm my pants off. He wrapped his arms around me as if he thought I needed a strait jacket.

 I shoved him away and walked inside to see what he was hiding. Lo and behold, I ran smack dab into a young woman about six feet tall, voluptuous with large breasts and hips. I’m her opposite, blonde, five-seven and skinny. Mom used to say I looked like a popular model, the one with the gap between her front teeth like mine, but of course, my mom would say that.

Kyle’s lady friend tossed back her silky long hair, the color of last night’s sunset—reddish orange. She looked me up and down.

 My messy hair was frightful, but the rest of me appeared decent. I’d worn my favorite black dress, leather jacket and heels.

Kyle’s paramour had on tight blue jeans and a velour sweater that matched her hair. Her sweater was wrong side out, as if she’d dressed in a hurry in the dark. She glanced at the tiny watch on her wrist. “Oh, no, I’m late for work.”

“Who are you?” I spouted.

Rather than answer and explain why she was in my house with my husband, she turned toward Kyle. He answered for her. “Carrie Sue, this is Maryann Nielson. She’s Blanche in Streetcar. We’ve been going over her lines.”

I bit my tongue and considered Kyle’s explanation. He directs plays for Stage Atlanta at night. In the afternoons he teaches two college classes with ample time to coach actors at the college or at the theatre. I saw no legitimate reason for him to invite this woman to our home.

Maryann’s lips twitched nervously. “Hi,” she said. Her green eyes ping ponged from me to Kyle. “Thanks, Kyle. See you later.” With that, she rushed out the door as if escaping a burning building, jumped into her red Thunderbird and sped down the long circular driveway like a racecar driver.

I glared at him. “You and Maryann have been screwing around, haven’t you?”

Kyle gave me a stern stare. “No, absolutely not, Carrie Sue. Maryann called this morning and asked me to help her get into character. You know how it is, opening night jitters. She’s nervous, unsure of herself.” I gasped in disgust.

“You think I’m stupid enough to believe you were rehearsing with the stereo blaring the way it was?” I slammed my hands on my hips to keep from slapping him.

 He rolled his eyes. “I turned on the stereo to try to wake up. And when Maryann arrived, I thought it’d be more appropriate to rehearse on the back porch.” He stepped closer as if he thought he could charm me. “And I forgot to turn the music off, love. I’m sorry.”

I slapped his chest, pushing him away. “Don’t give me that crap. You weren’t on the porch. I walked back there trying to get in the house after I discovered my key wouldn’t open the front door because you’d engaged the deadbolt to lock me out.”

Rather than argue, he strolled outside like a tom cat on the prowl and looked around. After a moment, he wandered back in. “Where’s your little car?”

“That’s none of your concern.”

 He frowned. “Did it break down?” Seething with anger, I refused to answer.

“If your car broke down, why didn’t you call me?” “Get real. You wouldn’t have heard the phone above the blaring music. Plus you were preoccupied with Maryann.”

 He grabbed my arms. “Stop it, Carrie Sue. I love you. Don’t you know that?”

 “Get your hands off me.” I pushed him backwards.

“You’re overreacting.” Tears welled in his deceitful eyes.

I turned away, determined not to let this Shakespearian Iago deceive me again. He might be a great actor, but he didn’t have a sincere fiber in his body, I told myself.

He grabbed my waist and pulled my butt against his sex. “I think I know what you need, baby.”

I poked him as hard as I could with my elbows. “Get out of my house,” I shouted.

His arms tightened around my waist. “You don’t mean that.”

I elbowed him again and stepped toward the antique hunt board. Dad used to keep his snub nose pistol in the top drawer. It was the same type of gun Jack Ruby used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. I didn’t find the gun but spotted Mom’s stainless steel letter opener. She called this her “paper knife.”

I wrapped my fingers around the handle, not intending to kill him. My main purpose was to get him out of the house and away from me. However, I have to admit, the thought of destroying his manhood crossed my mind.

Friday, June 20, 2014

When Your Character Turns Mute by Ginger Simpson
There are two kinds of writers...well maybe three if you count the folks who do a little of each, but most are "plotters" and the rest are "pantsers."  I'm pretty sure the term "plotters" tells you thet author actually plots out the story from beginning to end.  What the heck is a "pantser," you ask?  We write by the seat of our pants, meaning our characters speak to us and tell us how the story should progress.  Our job is to turn the telling part into showing and making the story into a novel.  Things are great as long as we "pantsers" have voices in our head.

Unfortunately, sometimes our hero/heroines turn mute.  For no apparent reason, they just stop talking and then we're stalled.  I'm in this predicament with Yellow Moon, a novel I promised Books We Love I'd finish months ago, but my heroine either decided she doesn't like me, or she's as confused as I am.  When silence happens, I either sit and twiddle my fingers, or I do what I've done while on vacation: start a new story with someone who wants to chat.  I've somehow conjured up a gal named Harlee, and she's telling me all about Oklahoma and the drought.  Thank goodness, she's quite the talker.  In fact, I can't get her to shut up and realize I can't type when I'm holding a twenty-pound dog who thinks it's more fun to ride in my lap than have the whole back seat to himself.  Go figure.

I'm still trying to figure out why I write historical novels because even though the character tells me a story, they don't often know all the details, so there is a whole lot of research involved.  Right now, I can't wait until I get back to my Internet so I can determine if a towel was indeed called a towel back then, if water closets were existent, and if so, what type of bathtub one might find in one.  Seems like small details, but I've learned if you aren't accurate with your historical facts, even though you write fiction, someone is bound to notice and tell the world.  The last thing an author wants to lose is their credibility.

So, with that explained, I'd like to share a little of Harlee's growing novel with you.  It's going to be entitled, The Well.  I hope this makes you look forward to reading more.  And remember, this is a first draft, so it's likely to change a little later on down the line.  *smile*

A little set up:  Logan has rescued Harlie and has taken her to his home. This scene introduces her to his mother and the beautiful house in which the Caruthers live.

Inside, a massive entry with a multi-colored, braided rug greeted her.  White pillars separated that space from a setting room with beautiful furniture that looked as though it had never been used.  Elegant emerald silk draperies framed both windows, and a shining wooden floor so unlike the rough planks in her house edged yet another beautiful braided rug–this one in shades of green.  The whole place smelled of cinnamon apples.

A lady wearing a high-collared blue velvet dress swept into the room.  The golden locket around her neck sparkled against the dark background.  Surely this wasn’t how she dressed every day.  Not even one stray hair hung from the graying tresses she wore pulled back into a bun. Although the hairstyle made her appear more matronly, Harlee had never seen such finery.  The older woman’s beauty showed through the few wrinkles on her face and didn’t hide her resemblance to her son.

  “Oh, there you are Logan–”  Her salt and pepper brows rose.  She eyed Harlee’s dishevlment and frowned.  “Who...who’s your friend, dear, and why are you carrying her?”

"Ma,  this is Harlee Wagner.  She's had a bit of bad luck.  I found her at the bottom of the well on the property Pa’s interested in.  She thinks she’s been there for about four days, and seems to have lost her family.  I insisted she come here to get something to eat and clean up.  I’m hoping you have something that might fit her.”  He looked at Harlee and smiled.  “Oh, and I’m carrying her because after her fall, she’s weaker than a newborn colt.”

“But, she’s getting muck all over your shirt.”  His mother wriggled her nose.

“It’ll wash, don’t fret so”  He sniffed the air.  “What smells so good?”

“Cook has just finished a grand cobbler.  You’re just in time, and... Harlee was it?  You definitely are a rumpled mess, but I’m still pleased to meet you.  If Logan has promised you help, you’ll definitely get it.  You’re welcome in our home.”  Mrs.  Caruthers words held more sarcasm than warmth.

Thank you, ma’am." Harlee's voice turned hoarse again. "I assure you I don’t usually look or sound like this, but after sitting in water for a few days, this is what you get.  I’m sorry about Logan’s shirt.”

Mrs. Caruthers ran an assessing gaze over Harlee.  “Like he said, his shirt will wash, and so will you.  I think I can probably find something for you to wear.”

“I’d appreciate that very much.  Whatever you find doesn’t  have to be anything fancy.”

“No worries, I might have an old dress or two for you, but first lets get you cleaned up.”  She wrinkled her nose again as if she smelled something bad.  “Oh, and you must be starving after being in a well for so long.  Once you bathe and change, Cook can fill up that empty stomach of yours while you tell me all about your fall.”

Logan started up the stairs with Harlee still in his arms, but paused on the first one and looked back at his mother.  “ I’m going to fetch the doc.  Harlee took quite a tumble, and I want to make sure she’s not hurt more than she lets on.”

“Of course, son.  I agree, we need to have the doctor check out our guest.And don’t you worry about anything, Harlee.  Logan will take you to the guest room, and I’ll have the maid come and help you get freshened up. Meanwhile I’ll find those dresses I mentioned.”

Don’t worry?  Logan’s mother had only heard bits and pieces of Harlee’s dilemma.  No matter who told her not to fret, her insides knotted with fear and her head filled with unanswered questions. As soon as the doctor gave his approval, she was ready to find out what had happened to her family.  Besides, Mrs.  Caruther’s had all the charm of a coiled rattler ready to strike and made Harlee feel like next in line to get bit.


While you wait for me to finish this book, please feel free to check out all my other offerings on my Amazon page.  In fact, Time-Tantrums and Shortcomings are on sale now for ninety-nine cents until the23rd.  How can you pass that up?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lists, Lists, Lists ala Janet Lane Walters

Today, I'm going to talk about lists. I love lists and making them is how I find my way around this world of writing. Do you make lists? My pleasure is in checking off what I've listed to be done. It's called organization and without my lists I would flitter about like a butterfly.

I'm at my desk with my computer and in front of me are lists, four of them. One of those lists is all about who I am where. Sounds confusing but one must always know who and where they are. Another list has the names of those who will be guests on my blog on Friday and Saturday. Mostly to remind me to make sure they have sent me the needed material. The third list is one that tells me when I have books on sale at Amazon. I try to keep them in order so I will know when the next round happens. Since I write under 2 names, this is important. The fourth list is one of all my books. If I didn't have that I might forget a book that I wrote. Imagine the amazement to be reading something and wonder who wrote this book. Could be happy or sad. I could have written one of those stories one deletes from wherever they're reading.

Those lists are just a few. I have lists for each book I work on and I really delight when I can check off a draft that I've written and can cut a few more days off my writing schedule. I make lists when I'm packing for a trip. Believe me, if it's not on the list, it doesn't get packed. This can be a near disaster when one arrives at a destination and realizes something vital was left off the list. Sometimes I make lists of lists.

Lists accompany me to the grocery story and other shopping venues. I make lists of the books I want to buy and read.

How about you? Do you like lists or do you manage to flit through life without a list to keep you grounded and organized?

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Day in the Life

Many people ask what a writer's day is like. Strangely enough, my day is anything but what the typical writer's day. At least the typical writers I've read about. I don't start the day with coffee, sit at my desk and write for eight hours. Matter of fact, I don't even sit at a desk to write. Usually, I'm on the couch with my lap top. I seldom wake up, get my coffee and begin to write.
So when do I write, you ask?
I've often woke up in the middle of the night and wrote throughout the night. I learned early on in my career not to ignore a thought. If I don't write it down immediately, it's gone. I woke up one night with a dialogue from a work in progress. Thinking I'd remember it the next day, I turned over and went back to sleep.The next morning I remembered little of it. A few words here and there. In fact, not only was most of the dialogue gone, so was the idea.
So now I get up and write it down immediately. That often leads to other ideas and hence, the reason I ended up writing all night. Fortunately, my children are grown, my husband was on the road and I didn't have to answer to anyone. If I wrote all night and slept all day no one was the wiser.
Although seldom did I sleep all day. Sleep, in my opinion, is a waste of time. I hate naps, always have. Well, as long as I remember anyway. So I'd sleep for a couple of hours and if an idea hit, I'd write all day also.
So, what is my typical writing day?
Truthfully, I don't have a typical writing day. Sometimes I write first thing in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Sometimes, I don't write at all. Lately, I've not written much because my characters refuse to speak to me. They can be stubborn that way.
I must have made them angry or they don't like the way the story is going. I'm sure they'll lead me in the right direction eventually. In the mean time, I'm reading what I've already written and revising/editing as I go along. I'm hoping by time I get to the point where I left off, I'll figure out which direction they want to go.

For now you can find my books at Amazon

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Did you know ...

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Direct and Resident Bio-Geek

Following up my summer reading list, I wanted to take a moment and share some fun biological facts with you.  Some are interesting, some kinda gross, and a few are in the category of what the heck?  You have been warned.

Those that are on the BWL Facebook Group might have seen a couple of these already ...

There are going to be a lot of links provided in this post to fact based sites.  To make reading the post the most enjoyable, stop and click the links where provided.

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Fun Fact 1: You know that long 'kee-eeeee-arr' sound that a Bald Eagle's make in commercials?

Like this one ...

That sound that has become an almost iconic Bald Eagle sound ... isn't actually an Eagle.  Bald Eagles have a weaker, whistling or thrilling call.

So if it isn't a Bald Eagle, just what are you hearing?  It's a hawk of some kind, normally a Red-tailed Hawk.

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Fun Fact 2: The chemistry of fireworks

What makes fireworks so breathtaking is the various different colors they come in.  What makes those color possible is the different color certain elements produce.

"Sodium produces yellow/gold colors. Barium creates green, copper compounds produce blue, strontium salts give you red and titanium metals give you silver colored sparks.

Other commonly used chemicals are carbon which provides the fuel, oxidizers which produce oxygen for burning, magnesium which increases the overall brilliance and brightness, antimony that gives you a "glitter" effect and calcium which deepens the colors." ~ Science Is Awesome

For more information on the colors and what element they are created from check out:

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Fun Fact 3: Lobsters

That's right, the lobsters that we consider a food of the rich (which used to be considered trash food, or food for the poor, and there were laws about how often someone could feed them to their servants - little tid-bit for you history buffs) have a 1 in 2 million chance of a mutation that gives them blue pigmentation. 

It is a mutation that causes an overly large amount of a specific protein that combines with the red carotenoid molecule, turning the lobster blue.

for information on Toby, a blue lobster that found a home at the National Aquarium in Washington DC.

Other color variation are:
Orange at 1 in 10 million odds
Yellow at 1 in 30 million odds
Orange and Black calico at 1 in 30 million
Split color varieties at 1 in 50 million 
White at 1 in 100 million odds

For you history buffs, check out the history of the Lobster 

For more information on the biology of a lobster

As if that wasn't enough to blow your mind about lobsters, how about this?


It is believed that this occurs when the egg is first fertilized.  Often times, the lobster will show characteristics of both genders.

It's believed that odds of a lobster being two-toned are about 1 in 50 million, maybe even 1 in 100 million.

Links for more info:

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Fun Fact 4: Two-Gender Animals

As mentioned in the fact about the two-toned lobsters, some animals can show characteristics of both genders.  Now I am not talking true hermaphrodites.  I am looking at something else called Bilateral Gynomorphs - where an animal is literally half male and half female.

What is believed to happen is that two embryos, with unique DNA, fused together and developed as a single fetus, resulting in an individual with two sets of DNA in a single body; sometimes the two embryos are the same sex/gender, and other time ones is male and one is female - which is what results in such breathtaking color/morphological contrasts - such as these butterflies.

This phenomeon has been seen in animals such as the lobsters mentioned before, insects such as butterflies, and also in birds such as this cardinal.

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Fun Fact 5:  Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi

What the heck is that?  It's the elusive Hippo Leech.

There is actually a leech that is found in the last 10 cm of the rectum of hippos.  Yep, you read that right.  There is a butthole leech for hippos.  Ever wonder why they are in such a bad mood?  LOL  Well wonder no more.

While it is the dream of many field biologists to discover a new species, I am just not sure I could enjoy that claim to fame.

Parasite of the Day: Hippo leech

Hippo Leech Revisited

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If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for more bio fun facts to come.

Just who is Michelle Lee ...

It has been suggested to me that you might like to know a little bit more about me.  I am not sure that I agree, since I am a fairly boring person.  I am a true introvert, with a healthy dose of shy added on just for good measure.  But in a series of posts over the next little while, I am going to attempt to give you a glimpse of BWL's OZ, the woman behind the cover art curtain.

So, why do a say I am fairly boring?  Well, to give you a hint, my idea of a good time is reading scientific journal articles and books.  Now don't get me wrong, I like reading fiction books.  Love them in fact.  I am a voracious reader, and can put down 3-10 fiction books in a week, depending upon what I have going on in my life.

But I am also a bit of a geek.  Ok, so remove 'bit' and sub in 'enormous' and you have a better reflection of me.  So really, it should come as no surprise then that I have a few summer reading books that aren't fiction.

To put things into perspective for you, I am currently working on my Masters in Biology, with a focus on ecology and bird survival rates.  My undergrad is in Biology Education.  My favorite animal group are birds (Class Aves).

So now that you have some background about geeky me, you'll understand a little bit more when I share my summer reading list.

(If you have an interest in any of these books, the covers link to the books on Amazon where you can find more details out about them).


I plan to start with TAKING WING, which examines the evolution of bird flight.  So from the first "known" bird ancestor to modern day.

But you can't look at flight itself without also considering one of the most important aspects that allows it - the FEATHER.

So next on my list is a fascinating look at FEATHERS.

After that, I am going to take a step back and look THE ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF BIRDS.

After that, it is a toss up.  I will probably read both of the following books at the same time, since one is more of a birder guide companion and the other is a textbook.

If I still have time, I plan to then get into a specific set of bird, my absolute favorite - OWLS.

In addition to OWLS OF THE WORLD, I also have several other owl books focusing on specific regions of North America.  But I figure that is about all I will get to this summer.  Ah well - there is always next year.

Now, if you like birds and have an interest in my suggestions for the best reading for an Amateur/Beginner Birders, just let me know in the comments.

Behind The Cover: Romance Heat Levels

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

At BWL, part of the book information an author provides is a genre designation and if it involves a romance, either as the main genre or a sub-genre, they also include the romance heat level.  Now this throws off many people, especially since heat levels, just like comfort levels, vary from author to author, and reader to reader.

Something to consider, I started my career in the erotica field of the spectrum, so my 3 probably differs from someone who has never even read an erotic romance's definition of a 3.

So I have a basic scale that the authors are provided.
1: Sweet  --- 5: Melt your screen HOT

I had hoped that would be enough, but I forgot, not everyone is as comfortable with my level of screen melting.  So for some people, screen melting might be fairly tame to me.  So I still find at times, that authors have problems deciding what deserves a 3, versus when does it tip into a 4.  This isn't through any fault of their own - so please, don't read that into what I am saying.  It all has to do with our own perceptions of things.

So here in plain terms, is what I think of with each heat level designation.

1. We are talking sweet or inspirational romances, or those that only hint at a romance subplot, etc.

Cover results ... NO nudity or any kind!  Full clothing, no embraces that even hint at passion or lust.  Maybe dreamy eyes or holding hands, but that's it.

2. Close the door romances, and those with a bit more of a romance subplot, where a kiss is really all the readers are privy to.

Cover results ... Maybe a shoulder, bare male torso, or a soft kiss.  Nothing majorly scandalous.

3. Now we are getting somewhere - bedroom door is open, but details are flowery or fairly sparse in detail.

Cover results ... Bare skin, maybe an embrace with a more passionate kiss.

4. Details are flowing and clothes are flying. Yeah baby!

Cover results ... Nudity alert!  Might have a partially nude couple, bare torsos on guys, suggestive images, etc on the cover.

 5. These are generally spice releases, but I have seen a couple some through with a heat rating of 5 for a non-spice (generally because the romance is a sub-plot but it is still explicit!).

Cover results ... No holds barred, anything and everything goes on the cover, which matches the characters.  *wink, wink*

Can we tell what covers I still enjoy creating?

Dear Artist: Favorite Styles

Dear Artist
Do you have a favourite style? I know you produce wonderful covers for BWL and I am sure that they are always the absolute best you can do based on the writer's requirements, but you must have favourites. What do you consider to be a five star design for a cover with regards to layout, colour, content, background etc?
UK Lady

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Dear UK Lady,

Thank you for taking the time to ask such a fun question.  Really, it all depends on the genre of the book. 

When it comes to anything from sweets to erotic romances, I like covers that actually clue in to heat level.  I don't like to see, or create, a cover that is sweet at best for a smoking hot story.  Flipside, when a cover is hot enough to melt my monitor, but the story is lukewarm at best.  

For softer historicals, I am a fan of the older Julie Garwood time period style covers - with a castle, a flower, etc.  I LIKE those covers for soft historical romances.  That said, for the hotter works, I HATE that style of cover.  For hotter historicals, I like the ones with a couple on them.

Paranormal and Suspense romances should most definitely be evocative of the genre.  If there is a wolf shifter who is the main love interest, then either the title or the cover should express that in some way.  Same for if the book is set in the year 3125 on a far-away planet.

I am not much into straight horror and suspense and all, because I never feel like I am pulling it off well.  I am a 'fluffy bunny' cover artist - I like creating light, fun, sexy, covers.  So I don't have much insight to offer there.

Young Adult should be FUN and to some degree flirty, even if there isn't a strong romance.  The cover should flirt with the reader ... so a person, or an object, is fine either way on those.

Fiction, just general fiction - either historical or modern chick lit, etc should also be fun or somber, sexy or spooky depending upon the sub-genre.  Again, either people or objects look good to me.

Non-fiction can also go either way.

As for what makes a 5-star cover (to me), well ...

* The font has to match the images, and the images needs to convey/fit the genre
* The images need to actually look good together!  I can't express that enough.  Poor quality photo morphs where images of different characters are just slapped together without blending them into each other in a cohesive fashion just don't work for me.  And let's be real, there are a ton of them out there like that.
* The cover should absolutly, without a doubt, clue the reader in to the truth of the story.  There should be nothing misleading about it (unless the point is misdirection).
* The color choice needs to fit - in all details.

Like always, this post is just my opinion, so mileage can and will vary from artist to artist (and reader to reader).

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If you have a question that you would like Dear Artist to answer, you can leave it in the comment section and it will be addressed (reasonably) soon.

A Study of Men's Facial Hair in Honor of Father's Day

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

If you've been on facebook in the last year, then you have probably seen the results of a study that had been done on men's facial hair and what women find attractive.  Given that the results were only gathered in one country, the scientist in me questions a little bit the overall validity of it, since each culture (and sub-culture, as well as each country) has their own ideas of beauty and what is attractive.  Other "groups" since then have conducted their own "studies", but I am not going to go into all of the various different findings.

Instead ... let's take a look at some different images and see what we, as authors, readers, and cover artists from all over the world think is sexy (or attractive).

Exhibit A:

This is one of the images used in a study of men's facial hair.  Which option, 1-5, do you find the most attractive?

* * *

Exhibit B:
How about in this image, between options 1 and 4?

* * *

Exhibit C:
This is one of my favorite images for looking at a contrast between clean shaven, stubble, and a mustache.  Although the study didn't address mustaches, when looking at male facial hair, it needs to be considered (I think).

Well?  Which one?

* * *

Ok, so let's consider a few different examples, shall we?

How about Ben Afleck?

Bradley Cooper?

Ryan Gosling?

George Clooney?

Liam Hemsworth?


Some articles on the study:   Article 1   *   Article 2   *   Article 3

If you are interested in reading the actual study article, here is the citation information.
The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities, Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 34, Issue 3, May 2013, Pages 236–241.

* * *

One final thought ...

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

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