Friday, May 31, 2013

A Few Lines From. . . Jude Pittman

A Few Lines From Deadly Consequences by Jude Pittman:

A shot rang out from the direction of the stables. Kelly leapt out of his chair, grabbed the gun out of his jacket pocket and slapped the screen door open.

“What the damn hell?” He yelled as he raced towards the brood barn, where Jake, alerted by the gunshot, stood in front of the closed doors barking like a beast gone rabid.

“Easy boy,” Kelly said, approaching the door with his weapon drawn. “Gilly, you okay in there?” Kelly reached the door and pulled the handle. It held fast. Someone had apparently locked it from inside.

“Gillian?” Kelly called in a voice laced with fear and Jake once again started his frantic barking.

“Okay. Stand down.” Kelly spoke to the dog, then placed his ear against the door and listened.

From inside came the sounds of sobbing.

“Gillian.” Kelly yelled again. “For God’s sake, open the door.”

Stop back next week for a few lines from Jamie Hill.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On the Casting Couch with Maggie Silver

I'm sitting on the Casting Couch myself this week to talk about my latest book, Kissing Maggie Silver and what prompted me to write it.

What prompts any writer? It can be a photo, an overheard conversation, a personal experience, a snippet of news, a throwaway remark by a friend...the list is endless.  In the case of Maggie Silver it was two things.  The first was a visit to a nature reserve in New Zealand, a place where seals, penguins and sea birds are allowed to breed and feed naturally without any interference from the rangers who protect them. The peace and the wild  beauty of the place is magical and especially memorable is a spectacular beach of pale sand that belongs to the tiny blue penguins that live there. No human had walked on it for many years. Instead the penguins and visiting seals  are viewed from camouflaged hides that are built into the surrounding cliffs.

The second inspiration was a photograph of a lovely red-haired model whose clear gray eyes seemed to be full of wistful  longing. I couldn't get her face out of my head and thus, Maggie Silver was born.

Once I'd found Maggie Silver I knew she would visit that beautiful beach in New Zealand one day; the problem  was how to get her there. I knew it was so far from her own life experience that she had a long way to go...much further than the geographical distance she would have to reach it. As soon as I understood that, then her whole personality clicked into place.She was the youngest of a large family, the only girl, used to being teased and treated as little more than a child. She was also kind, helpful, sparky and full of life. Deep down, however, she was still immature and lacking in confidence. I also knew she was someone who was actually more comfortable with her own company than she realised.

Ruairi was far more difficult.  I knew he was the person who would open up the world for her, but how? His face came to me long before I knew he was a wildlife photographer and there were no prompts. He just appeared, fully formed, in my imagination, the absolute counterweight to Maggie. After that it was only a matter of time before his tan skin, his size and strength and his casual confidence turned him into a world traveller, someone who could quickly be at home wherever he was.

After that it was easy because I already knew that Maggie had fallen in love with him when she was far too young to know what her feelings meant. I knew, too, that she had always had a special place in Ruairi's heart, so all I needed to do was to find a way for them to meet up again, and with Maggie's large and ever present family ruling her life, it wasn't difficult. What was difficult was finding a way for them to be alone.

Then there were the small glitches in their personalities that I had to overcome; Maggie's temper and her tendency to feel sorry for herself, and Ruairi's obstinacy. Maggie had to grow up and Ruairi had to learn that sometimes he was wrong. Fortunately they had good people on their side, people who wanted the best for them because they loved them, and because they knew, even if Ruairi and Maggie didn't, that they were absolutely right for one another.

To find out what happened and how they  got there go to or When you do you will understand how much I enjoyed writing about them.

And finally, who would I most like to meet? It's the question I ask all the authors who sit on the Casting Couch so I can't avoid it myself. In this instance it would be Ruairi. Maggie I already know intimately because I lived with her through every emotion and I suffered her frustration with Ruairi when he walked away. Ruairi is another matter entirely.  He has been to so many places in the world and seen so many things that he would be the ideal dinner companion, and the fact that he is easy on the eye would just be another bonus.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Few Lines From. . . Rita Karnopp

A few lines from JEWISH SOUL – Book #3 of the Tango of Death Series

By Rita Karnopp

     Mayla watched the girls head for the bushes.  She turned toward the men.  “If nothing else, everything will be worth it if we manage to save their lives.  If any of us is captured, we must die before breathing a word about the twins.”
     She stretched out her hand and Chester placed his on top and Stane placed his below.  “In the midst of all this evil . . . this is our one good.”  Mayla smiled as they nodded in agreement.

Find out more about Rita Karnopp’s books at:

Make sure to visit next week for a few lines from Jude Pittman

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Few Lines from ... Lisabet Sarai

A few lines from Exposure, by Lisabet Sarai....

The back door, I discover, is unlocked. I’m one hundred percent certain I didn’t leave it that way. Carefully, keeping my body behind the door, I scan the yard. The light filtering from the kitchen windows is bright enough for me to see that there is no one in my little square of turf. It also shows me crushed tomato plants and bean vines torn from their trellises, clearly marking the intruder’s escape route.

At that point, my rage finally overwhelms my fear. I pour myself a finger of scotch and sit at the kitchen table, simmering in helpless anger and vowing some kind of revenge.

Then a horrible thought crosses my mind. Jimmy knew I would be out tonight. He was the only one who knew. Was it possible that he was involved in all this, somehow? Is it possible that smiling Jimmy might have betrayed me?

The balance shifts again. Shudders shake my body. Sitting alone under the fluorescent lights, gripping my drink, I am paralyzed by the realization that I don’t know who I can trust. If anyone.

Exposure - An erotic thriller by Lisabet Sarai

Visit Lisabet's Fantasy Factory:
Venture Beyond Romance:

Please come back next week for A Few Lines From. . . Rita Karnopp.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Behind the Cover Artist's Curtain: The X Factor

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

Welcome to another exciting edition of Behind the Cover with your host – Michelle Lee.

*cue applause*

This time the topic is what I like to call the X-Factor in covers.  You know what I mean, that little bit of extra something that isn't easy to define, since it varies from cover to cover – but it is there. 

If you missed past episodes of Behind The Cover Artist's Curtain, you can check them out online.

For my first example of the X-Factor, I want to look at series books, since it is easiest to pin-point that little bit of something extra when comparing books that belong together.

So let’s look at Gail Roughton’s War-N-Wit, Inc. series …

Now looking at the cover, you see similar elements.  The witch diver bar.  The guy is on top and the woman on the bottom.  The fonts (placement, color and style) are all the same.  Now you would expect to see something similar with series books – at least those covers I do for series books.  (Check out my last post if you don’t know why – just scroll down to the end).

So what’s different, besides the actual images themselves?

To start, let’s a close look at the divider.  Notice the stars?  See how they change from cover to cover?  Instead of keeping it stationary and in place, I have it shifting slightly with each cover.  That’s the X-Factor.

Also, see the cat in the first cover?  Here’s a hint – it is on top of the author’s last name.

Now look at the second cover.  Is the cat in the same spot?  Nope – in fact, when you do find it, you will see that it isn't even the same cat silhouette. 

Find it yet?

Now … let’s look for it in the third cover - again, different spot and different silhouette.  

Again, this is the X-Factor.  Just a little fun I had while putting the covers together. It also allows the author to have fun now with promotions … maybe even inviting readers to find the cat in the cover.   In this particular case, the author enjoyed the play on the witch’s cat so much she added one into the story.

(you can check out the details on Gail's blog - just continue on down to the comments)

I already mentioned in the series post about Jamieson Wolf’s Hope Falls series, how the background shifted with each book.


But what about covers that aren't for books in a series?  Do they still have X-Factor potential?

Well audience, let’s look at another set of covers - this time for Erin Quinn.


The X-Factor in these covers is a little more subtle … but if you look, it is there.  Starting with Kissing Kris Kringle … notice the I’s in the title … see the snowflake that dots it?  Also, the I in Erin’s name is the same way.

Now look at the I in Erin’s name in the cover Shaking It Up.  See the heart?  That’s a little X-Factor.

Now let’s look at a couple more covers.  

Jenna Byrnes’ Heads or Tails involves, well, a quarter coin toss. : )  So, if you notice, behind the word TAILS the headlight, it has a quarter.  Just kind of hidden there; a little bit of whimsy.

Oddly enough, another coin is found in Ann Cory’s Penny Serenade.  Pennies obviously play a key component in the story … so within the moon, which is also something that is important in the story, is the silhouette of Abe Lincoln from a penny.

Another good example is the cover for Jamie Hill’s Impulsive.  Since there are four stories in this collection, I wanted to try and get a little something from each of them worked into the cover.  There’s the bottle, for the genie story.  A trumpet for a jazz based tale.  Snowflakes and a mystical mist, for the other two stories – one of which involves a ski vacation and the other – you guessed it – magic.

 Basically, what the X-Factor boils down to is the stuff that I have fun adding in.  Something that maybe the author didn’t necessarily call for in their cover art form, as in the case of Micah the cat for Gail’s covers, or if they did, there wasn’t a real way to work it in except by doing something subtle, like with Ann Cory’s Penny.

Either way, planned by the author or not, these little things make their covers stand out just a little bit more.  It also helps to prove a basis for a “can you spot the ______ ” kind of question for contests.

And that concludes this edition of Behind the Cover.

I really do hope that you have enjoyed this brief glimpse into what goes on in creating a cover – or at least covers I create.

Next up is author branding.  

After that, I don’t have any ideas right off of what I will talk about, so if there is something you would like to see that I haven’t covered yet – leave that info in a comment.

Until next time!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Romantic Times 2013 Observations, Eavesdropping and Overall Impression


Romantic Times organizers found themselves – probably for the first time ever – inundated with participants from the NY Times bestseller list (the “List”), and they were in a tailspin tending to that List.  Directions to workshops and events were mixed up, many of them had the wrong names on the wrong rooms, event organizers were hard to find and support staff seemed non-existent.  The most common response was “just go look at the tags on the doors or read the schedule that came in your bags” (many of which were wrong).  Mass confusion!

Of course, it was inevitable that certain participants would need to be pushed aside in order for the organizers to respond to all the members of the List who showed up this year.  Those participants were, unfortunately, readers, aspiring authors, small press authors and other members of the “smaller community”.  On the day of the big book sale, I understand some of those authors got together and rented a room over at the Marriott and then passed out postcards to their fans telling them where they could be found.  My partner, Jamie Hill, and I were grateful that we didn’t bring any books and were spared that experience.   

Jamie Hill

As Books We Love, we focused on what would be most beneficial to our authors.  We attended workshops related to changes in the industry, marketing using social media and (here’s where the eavesdropping came in, a few workshops geared towards larger publishers and agents and how they were faring), which, interestingly enough, was fairly consistent across the board.  A large number of List authors were freaking out about the fact that with ebooks dominating the industry their NY publishers are pricing their ebooks out of the competitive marketplace.  That’s not to say their books aren’t selling, hey, I myself bought a JD Robb ebook for $14.99 and got severely scolded by my partner: -), but I had a long airline flight, and if the new release by Books We Love’s Joan Hall Hovey ("... Joan Hall Hovey has penned as good a thriller as I have ever read...a superb tale of terror and suspense that puts her right up there with the likes of Sandford and Patterson..."Ingrid Taylor for Small Press Review”) whose novella is priced at only $2.99 had been released before I left, then I’d have foregone the JD Robb and been reading Joan’s Defective which is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords and coming soon to all your favorite online retailers.

Fortunately, Jamie and I made good choices.  The workshop focusing on Apple and their major move to counteract the Amazon machine was fascinating, and gave us lots of new material for charting our own course in 2014 and beyond.  One of the List authors gave a particularly interesting presentation on the use of Facebook fan pages and groups and as a result of what we learned in that workshop we’ve started our book club, which in three days has gained 350 members.  Those of you who follow our Blogs and Facebook will already know about this but if you don’t already follow us, we’d love to have you, please do come by and join our Facebook Book Club (or like our Facebook Fan page) where you’ll see that we’ve already implemented many of the suggestions we got from those workshops.   

In summary, Romantic Times is not a conference that I would recommend for small press publishers or authors.  They’ve already decided to jump on the List train, and maybe, for them, this is the right choice. 

As a small press publisher, Jamie and I will be looking at regional conferences – the ones that are very happy to have small press publishers and authors in attendance and who make a lot of effort to provide opportunities for authors and readers to connect and interact, and to provide Workshops that focus on advice from experts in the small press segment of the publishing industry – relevant content to all of us, and of course, Readers! Readers! Readers!

In my opinion the Romantic Times organizers made a huge mistake when they shunted the small press authors and their publishers off to an “overflow motel” to sign their books, and Jamie and I were very glad to have opted not to participate in either the eBook Fair or the print book fiasco.  We’ve heard there were many complaints from small press publishers and authors who stated that they “definitely won’t be back to Romantic Times”.  Unquestionably they did not appreciate being treated like the proverbial unwanted step-children. 

Jude Pittman

Putting on my author hat, Romantic Times had very little to offer me individually and if I’d paid that large conference fee as well as airfare and accommodation to attend a conference that was focused on an entirely different segment of the industry I’d have been mad.  As a publisher, we benefited from the marketing workshops, the social media workshops, conversations about industry changes and fluctuation and of course, from watching some of the scrambling.  It was like being an outside—insider to observe these “industry leaders” reacting to this new world.  One of the agents joked that an awful lot of his contemporaries were out there selling cars instead of books. 


In addition to the workshops we interviewed some very promising aspiring authors, and we’re excited about adding a couple of new faces to our team.  A lot of those authors liked the focus of Books We Love and what we have to offer our authors, and they definitely loved the fact that ours is one of the highest paying contracts in the industry – if not the highest.  

We met our expectations and we learned a lot about the current state of NY publishing and where they are going.  More than one List author was heard to lament the fact that he/she was stuck in a contract that tied her books up for decades and was never going to get the rights back to either take them to a small press publisher or self-publish the books themselves.  Almost unanimously these List authors agreed that if you’re going to go the self-publishing route, you need to hire a manager and a promotion team to take care of all the details required in publishing.  You need someone to format, someone to design, someone to arrange for your cover, someone to take care of the actual publishing and definitely you need someone to do the marketing, announce your book, promote your website and fan sites and all the millions of other details that either your Small Press Publisher or your combination business and promotion manager needs to take care of so that you can take care of your number one job – writing.

The next most common refrain we heard from the List authors giving workshops is that if you want to be a known author then the most important thing for you to do is write your books.  You cannot write one book and expect that you’re going to become a name author.  Most of these List authors are writing anywhere from four to ten books a year.  They know that writing is a business and being on the List requires an equal combination of talent, luck, determination, good marketing and downright hard work. You can’t have a best seller if you don’t first write one.

Overall, it was a positive experience for us.  We went with realistic expectations, and of course we had a lot of our own business to take care of.  We also met with Michelle our cover artist and were able to exchange ideas and suggestions.  Look for Jamie Hill’s release of two favorites in one volume, Playing for Keeps coming soon to Books We Love.