Why Book Covers Matter

Looks matter. Book covers matter. Or don’t they?

“I looked across the bar and saw her standing there, glass of wine in hand and her head thrown back in a laugh. At that moment, I could tell: she had a great personality.”

You might live to be one hundred years old and never hear that sentence, partially because no one will say it and you’ll be too busy arguing about expired coupons and the Good Old Days with the staff at Denny’s. I know because I’m *this* close to my senior discount and am already hearing the siren’s call of Early Bird Specials and Double Coupon Tuesday. I’m also a writer, and when I was in college the first time, (ahem), I was an artist. I understand that we’re visual creatures, and for those of us who love books, cover art matter. A lot.

Without a great cover, you’ll probably pass over the book. It’s a simple, brutal truth that there are good (and even great) books with terrible covers. A cover should tell– but not over tell– the story. It can be simple, or complex, or an image. It can be a person, character, or object that’s critical to the feel and arc of the book, but under no circumstances can it be of poor quality.

Book covers should transport us in much the same way that words do– but in the blink of an eye. I use concept art to express wonder, mystery– even fear and danger. Here are the covers for Heartborn and its sequel, Moonborn. In the details, there are constellations that have meaning, giving the reader something to search for as they go further down the path to my world.

With Moonborn, I want the sense of wonder, awe, and wide open skies, but with the added danger of a world tinged red by uncertainty. Is it blood? We’re trained to fear red. What does the red sky tell you?

 

I love color and motion, which is obvious with these covers. With that being said, I don’t only write YA, which led me to one of the more unusual cover decisions I had to make. I’d written a short story that was– for lack of a better term– zombie smut– but thoughtful, and intended to ask some uncomfortable questions about human sexuality. Whether or not I’ve succeeded is left to the reader, but the cover captured exactly what I wanted (Thanks, Staci!).

 

Once again, you might not know what it’s about, but it’s colorful, there’s an element of mystery, and it’s crisp. I tell other writers every time they ask me for advice– spend money on your editor, and spend money on your cover. If you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

In case you’re in the mood for “Horrotica”, as my friend quipped, you can get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Cool-Touch-Zombie-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B00UKS4EW2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Moonborn will be available in three weeks, although the Grand Opening, so to say, will be at Utopiacon in Nashville. I’ll have plenty of copies, book candles, and swag. I highly recommend this event, check it out here: http://www.utopiacon.com/

Hope to see you there, and send me your favorite covers. What draws you to them? What turns you off? Let me know.

Cheers,

Terry

When books make you cry.

It can take seconds, but books have an emotional impact well beyond their weight. I get up, walk from the living room, see a hardback version of a favorite book— I’ve left it out from sorting my shelf. 

It’s filled with poems about a war (doesn’t matter which one, the truths are all the same, merely different uniforms). I flip it open, read. I sit down. I read. I think of the losses, and what the author was feeling. I’m not sure I can know, but I can try. I think of family funerals, and rain. I think of the chill of a grave and the life left over, forced to live in a place not of my own choosing where there’s enough pain that I am compelled to write the poem I hold in my hands. The book creaks as I close it, and I notice that there’s glue on the back from an old sticker.

The book has traveled, just like me. The poem is one year older than me. The pain is raw as the day it was written. I don’t know the author. Should I go type my own words now, freshly shorn by the ragged edge of a single page– the scent of someone else’s blood funneled into my own narrative? It feels like theft, kind of, but then writers are emotional vampires, building stories from borrowed hurt and joy.

I wonder if the author is still alive, and then decide I don’t want to know. They are alive to me, as certainly as if they were standing next to me, reading their poem and watching from the corner of their eye, just to make sure I’m listening.

“What are we watching?” I ask my son, averting my eyes. He’s nine, and I’m not sure I can explain how second hand pain works. Not at this age, and not yet. Maybe someday he will read something I’ve written and ask how someone like me could write something so bleak, and then we can discuss what it means to be an adult, but not right now. I look at the television and think of muddy fields and missing sons, and who wrote it down so that I could be thankful for the room around me, free of rain and fear.

Book Candles. Editing. Fun.

Write a book. Now, go back and re-read the book  few years later. Edit your book while swilling coffee, ordering book candles, and bathing in the horror that you actually wrote that and thought, “Damn. This is art.”

This is my current place in life. I finished a novel last week (Moonborn) and then quickly wrote 8,000 words in Halfway Drowned. Then, in a crisis of conscience, I decided to begin a project that has haunted me like my fashion decisions from the 1980s. I began to revise my first novel, The Forest Bull, and to call it a humbling experience isn’t really accurate.

It’s more like . . .shamespiration.

By the third paragraph, I winced. By the fourth page, I considered deleting the book entirely. The fact is writing is a muscle. It gets stronger with use, and despite the clarity of our ideas, a lot gets lost in translation from mind to paper. I’m twenty-six chapters into this self-flagellation, and the results are drastic. Sometimes, I cut a sentence. Or two. I add a detail here, subtract a clunky phrase there, and a different book begins taking shape.

It’s clearer, smoother. I think part of my first book is that I tried to be mysterious and ended up being an idiot. You’ve got to give readers a clear path. I didn’t. I was. . .sort of clear. I’m thankful that the 2017 version of me is willing to change what could be a killer book with my favorite villain.

I’m keeping a running count of how many words are deleted, and what I add. I think, based on the first half of the revision, it might be about even. Sometimes,  less is more. In this case, better is more, and in honor of my newfound commitment to these characters, we’re issuing a new paperback version. Same art, new font, and smaller. Handy for carrying with, using as a weapon, or displaying on your book shelf.

The art is *really* nice. Amalia hit a home run four years ago, and I still love the way Elizabeth looks coming out of the forest, dripping evil and, umm, evil.

Okay, back to it, but not before we discuss BOOK CANDLES.

I’ve ordered custom book candles for all of my signings this year. They smell like waffles, have the label of the Hawthorn Diner, and the size is “adorable”. I think they’ll be five bucks each. More to come once they’re here– I’ll post pictures and you can imagine the wonder of waffles as you read.

Cheers for now!

 

Young Adult Fantasy: Moonborn

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the next chapter in Livvy Foster’s life. If you haven’t read Heartborn, you can catch up here: Her guardian angel was pushed: Heartborn

Ready? Let’s go. Here’s a taste of Moonborn.

Livvy Foster has a new heart, home, and a place in the powerful halls of House Windhook. The fall of Sliver was only the beginning of a civil war that sees angels from across the sky challenge each other to lead a world in which the past and the future are connected by a storm crafted from time, ambition, and power.

When House Selinus attempts to bend the light of days in order to become the supreme power in an apocalyptic future, they confront a goddess who is older than time itself– and she’ll stop at nothing to get the one soul who escaped her through the years: Livvy.

With deceit, war and love swirling in the clouds above a shattered world that was once Livvy’s home, she’ll be asked to do something a girl with a broken heart never thought possible.
Fight for Windhook. Fight for her world.
Take wing with Livvy, one heartbeat at a time.

 

What do you think?

Cheers!

Terry

Being Royal Is a Headache

It’s hard to be royal.

Being a queen means not belonging to yourself, I think. After studying royalty for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a job one should consider carefully before taking the crown.

Crowns are heavy, and they have a way of leaving the body with the head still attached. History is filled with the vain, stupid, greedy, and lustful regents who found themselves at the end of a sword. The wrong end.

But history is also filled with good, just, intelligent royals who also found themselves relegated to the past by violent means, often in a spectacular, horrid fashion.

I write this because I’ve been giving a lot of consideration to where Livvy, from my novel Heartborn, will go in the future.

It’s true that writers use our characters as voodoo dolls, making them endure the very worst that our imagination has to offer.

I really like Livvy, and for seventeen years she struggled from breath to breath with a defective heart. I don’t want the rest of of her life to be a mockery of that, but I also want her to ascend to the heights she’s meant to be at when the world comes calling– and make no mistake, Livvy has greater concerns than she can imagine. Or, she will have, but that’s an issue for book two and three in the trilogy.

I think the question of whether Livvy is meant to be a queen is out of her hands, and in a sense, mine. The story goes where it will, especially when characters show the kind of steel that Livvy has within her. Still, in her own words, “Weapons were meant to be used.”

I think that royalty is a weapon, but for Livvy, I want to believe she’s the one holding the sword.

 

Free Chocolate

Dark chocolate. Shaped like a star. From Roanoke. It’s MINE.

ALL MINE.

I spoke at the Roanoke Regional Writer’s Conference (say that fast, dare ya) and Liz Long rewarded me with dark chocolate.

This is not a drill. It’s fancy.

I have an online release party tonight for an anthology of which I’m a part– The Jurassic Chronicles— and I predict the star will be gone (completely) by 10:00 C.S.T.

About the dinosaurs, if you like them, check it out: 

Here it is: dino goodness! The Jurassic Chronicles

Stop by, won’t you? I’ll be jacked on chocolate, giving stuff away. Release Party: Much Dinosaur!

Cheers!

I made Taylor Swift cry.

In a good way, and in a dream. I’ll explain.

Last night I dreamed she read one of my books (Heartborn), posted a video of herself crying about how it made her feel, and several things happened:

The book became a sensation.

It was made into a show on the CW, and everyone in the show was beautiful (with great hair).

I got invited onto the Tonight Show for banter with Jimmy Fallon. I told him I liked him, and thought he was even better looking in person. We laughed and fistbumped, then he asked me who my favorite band was.

I said, “The Cult” without hesitation, to which the curtain drew back and there they were, ready to rock. Ian Astbury invited me up and I got to sing Love Removal Machine and OH MY GAWD it was amazing even though I can’t sing and I’m fairly certain that even in the dream world, my mic was turned off.

It’s going to be really tough to top this dream.

Christmas, Fried Chicken, and Michigan.

I’ve added an event in the heretofore unknown to me town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which appears to be the geographical equivalent of my spirit animal.

This magical little town is known for (but not limited to):

  1. Christmas
  2. Buttered noodles
  3. Pretzels
  4. The “Best Fried Chicken Dinner in the World”.

Okay, let’s stop there for a moment as I tell the good people of Frankenmuth that I will most certainly put that claim to the test.

World Famous Chicken Dinner!

When my wife and I were dating, I made fried chicken. I made really good fried chicken, and my wife is somewhat of a connoisseur in that arena. She famously said, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like fried chicken and I don’t want to know anyone who doesn’t like fried chicken.”

I could not agree more.

SO. I’m coming for you, Frankenmuth. I will have an empty belly, a stack of books, and an intense curiosity in sampling all of your wonderful fare.

Here’s the event– I can’t wait; it’s going to be wonderful. Once Upon A Book

If you’re familiar with Frankenmuth and have suggestions for me, I’ll be there from August 10-12 of this year. Drop by, say hello, or suggest the things that I simply shouldn’t miss.

I’ll have a minimum of two new books with me, and plenty of swag for readers.

I’ll bring the books, Frankenmuth, you bring the chicken. It’s a date.

 

Carrots. Fuel for adulting.

Where I’m at in life today:

I plan on writing in the car at the pickup line. I arrive about an hour early to get Optimum Line Placement, assuring that my son gets in and we take off with near military precision.

Side note: If you told me to invade a country and gave me whatever resources I’d need, I would select the teachers who supervise the pickup line. I could have my forces in Moscow by noon. They do not play around when it comes to getting the kids on their way.

Ok, so I’ll write a chapter today– around 1500 words. The fuel I’m choosing is white carrots, purchased from the Hendersonville Produce Stand. It’s the kind of place that has fruits and vegetables that look real, rather than the polished, waxy approximations of food in some stores. I like the irregularity– it’s the same in people, I think. It’s the cracks that make us good, to quote Dozer from the book Heartborn.

Why white carrots, Terry? Welllll, glad you asked. I really dig parsnips, and these are rather like them. Add a touch of butter, salt, pepper, thyme. Roast until tender. Add protein of your choice. Boom. Writing fuel, or fuel for whatever you’re doing.

In my case, it’s writing. I’ll report back on the efficiency of carrots as Fictional Fuel.

2017: The Bells of Wonder

Let’s talk about our goals.

I have a few. Some are likely, some are certain, and some are an outright challenge to myself. I like those. They assure me of taking my craft seriously, as well as continued growth.

They are, in no particular order:

  1. Write three books.
  2. Write three short stories for anthologies.
  3. Produce three audiobooks.
  4. Drink a lot of coffee.
  5. Whiten my teeth.
  6. Repeat as needed.

Specific characters: what’s next?

The sequel to Heartborn will arrive in March. Livvy is going to learn a lot more about her new world, and more to the point, what happened to her old world. Angels aren’t always agents of good, and their presence walks the line between war and wonder. Sometimes, their world might seem too brutal for someone like Livvy, but I think the angels should worry about how they fit into her plans.

She’s tough, and smart, and her heart is pure. That goes a long way, even in a world filled with war and lies.

What about Carlie?

Excellent question!

Carlie has a big year planned. I started wondering about her next challenges. Are they internal? External?

How about both.

Carlie needs pressure to grow, and I’ve found the perfect way to let her explore her magic, love Wulfric, and grow into the witch who will ultimately cradle Halfway in her protective grasp. Halfway Drowned will arrive in late summer, and the villains are fantastic. One of them even wears gym socks with rings, so you know he’s a terrible person.*

*If you really like gym socks with rings, and do it in a retro way, that’s cool.

Ring. Wally. Risa. It’s time.

I’ve thought long and hard about The Fearless and their path.

And now, I have it. I will be repackaging the entire series to introduce a project I’ve wanted to write for three years– book five of The Fearless is well underway, but the side project is near and dear to my heart.

It’s no secret that I love Delphine, but her backstory hasn’t been explained enough to match the depth of her intellect, will, and sexuality. I’ll fix that in 2017. I’ve got a stack of research and a keyboard, and Delphine will have her own story. Soon.

Yes Terry but pie.

Naturally, I’ll be heavily engaged in the following activities as well:

  1. Eating
  2. Eating pie.
  3. Eating cake, pie, and other bakes things.
  4. Running.
  5. Pushups.
  6. Wondering why my weight stays relatively level.

New Team Members

I’d like to introduce Jessica Herring as my web designer. She’ll be bringing the site up to speed in a clean, friendly format. I hope to interact with a lot more readers this year– my calendar is full, but still growing. Hope to see you at an event!

Najla, Amalia, and my Bookish Circle of Trust (You know who you are!) will continue to produce the cover art I love, with a special shout out to Staci Hart for her brilliant imagery on Heartborn.

More to come. I’d love to hear from you about great books, food, events, or whatever. Let’s chat.

Here’s to your best year ever. Thanks for reading.

Cheers,