Archive | April 2015

Advice Needed: Do I Change My Book Covers… or Don’t I?

The Book Cover is the first thing a prospective buyer sees when deciding if they want to pick up your novel. And sometimes, it’s the one thing a writer will not invest the time and money on. I’m in a dilemma with one of my series and maybe you can help.

I have written 7 novels. Five of them are “selling right now.” Some more than others, but I’m seeing at least one sale of each of these five during the month.

And then there’s my Dark Fantasy series, THE WORLD OF KAROV and THE RUBY AMULET. I haven’t had a sale of these books in months. The question is… why? Am I not promoting them enough? Are they too dark? Or, are the covers not compelling enough? I’ve got a healthy 27 reviews for Book #1 with a 4.4 rating. It has to be something else… Here they are now:

Original Book Covers

Original Book Covers

You see, when I first started indie-publishing, THE WORLD OF KAROV was the first book I did on my own. I was a “newb” in every single sense of the word, from working social media, to uploading on KDP and Createspace, to creating a website, to… well, everything. So when we were creating the cover I was so excited and had a thousand untested ideas and I wanted the ENTIRE KITCHEN SINK included, which I’ve since learned is a newbie mistake. I didn’t need the entire book represented in the book cover. The twins, the animals, the mountains, the ruby amulet, the powers, the blood – you see what I mean. I have a great book artist but, it was my first time working with her and she really gave me everything I asked for and I LOVED IT. But, then I started publishing other books are realized that “editing” the entire kitchen sink is important. So, Book #2, THE RUBY AMULET is much more sedate and we simply kept the green/red theme. The problem is, they don’t look like a series, nor possibly something compelling enough that you’d want to pick up.

Here’s the blurb for THE WORLD OF KAROV:

Adam and Alec look like identical twins, but their personalities are as different as possible. Adam is gentle and kind, whereas Alec is the essence of nightmares. Always jealous of his twin, Alec does everything he can to destroy his brother’s happiness, including kidnapping Adam’s fiancée on their wedding day and disappearing with her deep into the Canadian mountains. Adam searches for them for months, but he never finds them. Just when Adam is at his most grief-stricken point, a stranger appears and offers him a chance for a new life in a land filled with magic, gems, and powers unimaginable; a world mysteriously led by a special tribe of children who have hidden themselves away from a great evil that is seeking to destroy them. Adam takes the chance and goes with the stranger, but his past is never far from his mind. Eventually, reality comes back to haunt Adam, resulting in a final showdown with his brother…. and this time, only one will win.

And the Blurb for THE RUBY AMULET

In this suspenseful sequel to The World of Karov, a ruby discovered in a mountain stream transports Joshua, and his best friend Sean, to the war-torn world of Karov. They are immediately caught up in a violent struggle between the people and their treacherous king, who is determined to find the legendary four-pound ruby hidden deep in the emerald caverns. But time is running out. The king is closing in on Joshua and the gem, and the boys must help the Karovites find it before the king does. For if the king gets to it first, he will become the most powerful being in the universe and the Karovites will be enslaved… forever.

So, what do you think of these covers? Don’t worry about being unkind, I’m a writer, I’ve learned how to take criticism… do you think I should invest in new covers and start all over?

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A Letter to my 9th Grade English Teacher… Thanks for Nothing.

Dear Mrs. Schuster,

It’s been over thirty years and I’ve thought about you often. When I first walked into your Honors English Class in ninth grade at Pomona Middle School, I was so excited. You see, we moved a lot as I grew up and we had just moved 3X over the previous two years. I was so happy to start fresh in the beginning of a class school year for the first time in years. My family was finally settled in a district where I would get the chance to live out my entire high school career without moving again. What you didn’t know was that while I was a straight “A” English student in Connecticut, where we had previously lived, those two years away we never covered grammar in my English classes. That was going to be reviewed in 9th grade and I’d already left, so when I entered your 9th grade class, I was at a distinct disadvantage since it was covered the previous years.

You see, when I met you, I was so enthusiastic about English class because I loved reading and writing. I remember introducing myself to you and telling you that I was the younger cousin of two boys you had a few years previously. Did you know a look of distaste immediately passed across your features? Had I known that my cousins were terrors to you, I wouldn’t have said anything, because from that moment on you looked and treated me with utter disdain, as if I were vermin by association. When I had problems with grammar, you never helped me. You never bothered to find out my needs, even though I clearly remember asking for help. I had no idea what those “Grammar Trees” were. To this day I am not skilled in this area, though I have tried to learn.

A simplified grammar tree, though I remember them looking like rockets.

A simplified grammar tree, though I remember them looking like rockets.

You berated me and treated me poorly for months, so let me remind you of the moment you finally crushed me. I was flummoxed why you seemed to hate me and why you were always so critical of my work. I didn’t understand. I had always enjoyed my English classes and read voraciously. So when you gave us an extra credit assignment to write a simple book report, I remember thinking, “I’m going to create something that will ‘wow’ her and be really interesting. Instead of the typical dry book report, I decided to write it like an interview and interview the main character in the novel.” I remember thinking that my idea was so cool and I was really excited. It was supposed to be just a page long, but I made it two. I remember the day you walked around the room handing students back their assignments. I remember seeing the 5+ points on all my friend’s papers. When you finally got to my desk, I remember you smiling and for a moment I thought I’d finally won you over. When I stared at the big red Zero in shock, I clearly remember you saying, “That was the worst piece of writing I ever saw” and then you walked on. I remember crumpling up the paper right in front of you and throwing it onto the floor, saying “I give up.” You crushed me that day and I gave up on you, and writing.

Mrs. Schuster, for years I never wrote anything again if I could help it. My confidence was shot. My belief in my ability to do a good job in an English class was shot. And it was because of you. I wasn’t confidant enough to dismiss your actions for whatever ulterior motive you had.

But know this. When I went to college, I had an idea in my head for a story. I grappled greatly with writing it, the indecision that it would be any good weighed heavily on my mind. I worried that someone would tell me that “it was the worst piece of writing they’d ever seen.” And then one day I honestly said “Screw you, Mrs. Schuster. I don’t care what you think, I’m going to write it.” And I did. I wrote the first draft of a fantasy novel titled, THE RUBY AMULET. Was it good? No way, it needed a ton of work. Was the grammar terrible? You bet. But you know what? I wrote the entire book and I said a ‘big kiss goodbye’ to you because I decided that no one, especially a mean, bitter, nasty old teacher, was going to dictate what I could and couldn’t do with my life.

It was not because of you that I became of writer, but I became a writer IN SPITE of you. I pushed myself, I got an editor, I learned the trade. I’ve published seven novels now and a host of short stories and not one of them is because of you.

So I leave you with this. I want you to know that you didn’t crush me, and that after thirty years of thinking of ways to tell you what I thought of what you did to me, I finally feel better. I don’t know if you’re even alive any more to read this, but you should know, for this student, you influenced me… but not in the way a teacher should. Thank God I gained enough confidence and moxie to not let you influence me for the rest of my life. My one hope is that other students you may have done this to persevered as well.

Signed Your 9th Grade Honors English Student,
Thanks for nothing,
Elyse Sussman Salpeter

Muses… Are They Real? I Believe They Are.

museI’ve heard many discussions on the topics of muses. Are they real? What do they really mean? I ask you this. Have you ever uttered the words, “I can’t write right now. My muse isn’t speaking to me.” Well, I have. In fact, it happens to me a lot. The question begs, is it true, has my muse deserted me, or am I just too pre-occupied with other things to do the task at hand?

I have a very dear editor friend who told me that “muses are a load of $%^&!” That if you want to write, you just sit down and do it. That it has nothing to do with a muse and it’s all about you. That if you’re committed and want to produce, you need to suck it up and just write. I’ve kindly listened to this, but I have a different interpretation. Yes, I can sit down and just write, but will they be good words? Or just words? I truly believe that there’s this part of me, some inner essence that comes out when it’s feeling more creative than other times. I call it my muse, though in reality, it may very well just be my mood. Perhaps, and most likely, they are one and the same. You see, there are moments when I simply have no ideas in my head. Nothing compels me to write, to draw, to cook, or to create. Usually at those times I’m too tired, too busy, or too overwhelmed with life and I can’t string two words together that I’d ask someone to purchase. But, out of the blue, there are other times, and incredible moments, when I feel like I have this superpower and I get this great idea and get “in the zone” and can write for hours.

My most recent, my lovely Aunt...

My most recent, my lovely Aunt…

It’s in these weird little bursts of internal creativity that make me believe I have a muse. For instance, I’ve never really drawn or been an artist, but for some reason I took up sketching a month ago and I feel like my little artistic muse has jumped out. I can’t honestly say I’m an artist. I can’t just sit and draw a person, or a scene, or sometimes even stick figures in a straight line. Even now, each time I pick up that sketching pencil, I don’t have that confidence that something brilliant will be produced (or forget about being brilliant, how about legible?). So I stare at my sketch pad until I feel the urge. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t, but when I feel that internal pull, I can’t do anything but try to answer it and in those moments, I do feel like I’ve been given a gift and my “muse” is talking to me. With her, I can do something I normally can’t seem to do on a daily basis.

I feel like a muse is a part of our personality. The part that is creative and reflective. I believe they’re real and if they’re ignoring you, maybe you need to take a break from whatever you’re forcing yourself to do. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of saying “come on, just give yourself a moment to not try to be brilliant all the time.” Step back and let it rest. Let things stew, because I believe those ideas and gifts will come to us when we’re ready to accept them. And that’s when our muse will set us free.

Creativity Comes in all Forms – Time to Step Out of Your Box

My Aloysius Pendergast fan fic ala: Paul Bettany

My Aloysius Pendergast fan fic ala: Paul Bettany

Last week I touched on a recent illness that happened where I landed in the hospital for a week. For a full week AFTER I didn’t have the energy to do more than maybe turn on my phone. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write. I mean, here I am a writer and I couldn’t wrap my head around creating more than a blog post and I couldn’t get enough attention span to read more than a page or two while I lay in bed.

Another Bettany

Another Bettany

But, three days home, I dragged myself out with my son to our art class. You see, a few weeks before I got ill, we decided to take art classes together. So, every Wednesday we spend an hour, just the two of us and an instructor, and we do whatever lesson she has planned. We’ve created bubble people, painted, we’re doing anime and for a few weeks we did Grid Art. I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw. I have all these ideas in my head, crazy made-up animals I’d like to recreate on paper, and people I’d like to draw. So that art class spurred me to make a grid and try to draw on my own. I took myself out, bought a bunch of shading pencils and a drawing pad, and it turns out, I don’t think I’m all that bad. I put a few of them on Facebook and got a lot of reactions. Most were, “You can draw, too?” Um, I didn’t think I could. I’m just sort of dabbling, but my mom even called me the other day and exclaimed, “I don’t understand where this is coming from. People don’t just start drawing. I don’t believe I ever remember you excelling at art.” But I happen to come from a family where there are a lot of amazing artists, my mom used to paint, my sister is ridiculously creative, a few of my cousins are just amazing at it. Maybe there’s some latent gene that just popped out with me, I don’t know.

Al Pacino

Al Pacino

It’s kind of funny. I don’t know if I’m any good or not, but I find it soothing and challenging and I’m using a part of my brain that’s not being taxed to put words on paper, or concentrating on remembering what is happening in the scene of the book I’m reading. If I want to repetitively draw and shade the same spot over and over, my mind can wrap around that. While I get myself healthy, I’m still creating, so I feel like I’m still “moving ahead” (dang my Type “A” mentality) So I think I’m going to keep going for a while. See where it takes me. I’d LOVE to get better at this. So far I’ve tried Paul Bettany and Al Pacino. I think Robin Williams or Charlie Sheen might be next – found some good black and white photos with contrast I can use.

So I leave all my creative types with this… what else can you do? Do you ever step outside your box? You should give it a try. I bet there’s a whole lot out there to explore that you never thought you could do.