Friday, August 26, 2016

I Got Those First Draft Blues...

The challenges of this writing week have been the death of my desktop (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!) and the return of wrist problems AND a surprise visit from my pop on a day set aside for nothing but research and writing.

Which wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't already behind.

But I am. Mostly due to circumstances outside my control, but that's life. Or the writing life.

Writing a first draft is just the weirdest thing. You start with basically nothing. Even when it's a series book and you have the advantage of knowing the characters and their dynamic...there's this feeling of trying to make a snowman out of sand. I hate this stage. It is all blood, sweat and tears. And Sam-E and motrin and sleeping with wrist braces and typing with copper thread gloves and begging my computer not to leave me...

I'll do anything you ask, just don't die, my little graphics card...

Anyway, here's a messy, clunky  wee snippet from the first draft of FAIR CHANCE, third and final book in the ALL'S FAIR trilogy, which is the current project (though not due out until next year)


“I knew you’d come.”

Andrew Corian, dubbed “The Sculptor” by the national press, was smiling that same old smile. Supremely confident and a little scornful. For a moment it was as almost as if he was seated at his desk in his old office at PSU and not in this dingy interview room at The Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac.

“Sure you did,” Elliot said. He had been second-guessing the decision to meet with Corian from the minute he’d acceded to SAC Montgomery’s request, and Corian’s supercilious attitude just confirmed his doubts. They were not going to get anything useful out of The Sculptor.

Corian’s big hands, wrists handcuffed, rested on the resin table top. He spread his fingers, palms up in a have a seat gesture as Elliot took the chair across the table.

 “How could you resist? A chance to play hero one last time. A chance to convince yourself you got the better of me.”

“You’ve been hitting the psych shelves in the prison library pretty hard,” Elliot commented, folding his arms on the table top. He glanced casually around the room. He’d been in plenty of these interview rooms back when he’d been with the FBI. Neutral colors. Durable furniture. Mesh over the windows. Generic right down to the two-way mirror behind which stood Detective Pine of Tacoma Homicide and FBI Special Agent Kelli Yamiguchi.

Just in case they missed anything, the cameras overhead were recording the interview.

Corian’s eyes, a weird shade of hazel that looked almost yellow in the institutional light, narrowed at Elliot’s jibe, but his broad smile never faltered. He seemed to be a in great mood for a guy looking at a multiple life sentences.

“I don’t need to read a psychology book to understand you, Mills. There’s nothing complicated about your psyche.”

“But enough about me,” Elliot said. “Let’s talk about your favorite subject. You. Or more exactly, why you wanted to see me.”

Corian sat back in his chair. He looked a bit like a cartoonist’s idea of the devil. Gleaming bald head and immaculately trimmed Vandyke. He was a big man and prison had made him bigger. Leaner. Harder. He looked like he ate steroids for every meal and spent all his free time body-building. Maybe the body-building wasn’t far from the truth. There wasn’t a hell of a lot to do while sitting around waiting for trial. Not when you’d been caught red-handed, as it were, in a series of brutal slayings and mutilations spanning more than fifteen years.

He said, “I didn’t want to see you, Mills. I gave you permission to visit. That’s all.”

“Two letters in two months? We’re practically pen pals. Come off it, Corian. You want me to sit here and listen to you explain in detail how brilliant you were. How brilliant you still are compared to the rest of us.”

Corian’s smile widened. “That wouldn’t be the only reason.”

“It’ll be the main reason. You’re sure as hell not interested in bringing closure to the families of the victims.”

“You’ve never understood me, Mills.”

“You’re right about that.

“But you’re afraid of me.”

Elliot sighed. “No, Andrew. I’m not.”

They had never been on first name terms. Corian replied, “You should be, Elliot.”

“This is bullshit.” Elliot made sure his tone revealed nothing but boredom. “If the idea was to get me here so you could practice your bogeyman routine, you’re wasting both our time.” He pushed his chair back as though to rise.

Corian sat back and expelled an exasperated sigh. “Goddamn, Mills. Can’t you at least buy me a drink before you screw me over?”

“Look, you wrote me. I’m not looking to continue our relationship--if you want to call it that. I don’t need closure. I got my closure when they slammed those cell doors on you.”

That wasn’t completely true. Like everyone else involved in the case, Elliot wasn’t going to truly breathe a sigh of relief until Corian was tried and convicted. He wanted the reassurance of knowing Corian was locked up in a maximum facility until the end of time. The numerous court date postponements were wearing on everyone’s nerves.

Corian had the gall to look wounded. It was only partly an act. Being a psychopath, his own pain and his own frustrations were very real to him. It was the suffering of other people he was indifferent to.

“I’d appreciate a little courtesy. A few minutes of intelligent conversation. Or as close as you can manage.”

Elliot eyed him without emotion. “All right. But we don’t have all day. If you’ve got something to say, you’d better say it.”

Corian leaned back in his chair, smiling. “How’s the fall session shaping up? Have they hired someone to replace me yet?”

 “Oh, no one could replace you,” Elliot said sarcastically.

“True.” Corian grinned. “How’s Rollie? I read his book. When you think about it, it’s pretty ironic. The only child of a celebrity sixties radical joining the FBI.”

 “Yep. Ironic. Are we done with the chitchat?”

Corian’s smile faded. “All right. Ask your questions.”

“As of this date, sixteen bodies have been removed from the cellar of your property in Black Diamond, bringing the number of victims to twenty-three. Is that it? Is that an accurate headcount? Or are there more?”

“Headcount.” Corian’s smile was pure Mephistophelian. Partly he was acting. Partly he was simply…evil.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cover Art Contest! And YOU'RE Invited!

It has been a really, really long time since I've done one of these cover art contests. 2014 was the last one.

Cover Design by James, 

And that would largely be because I bought so many covers when we did that last one. But anyway, I've got some new projects coming up, and while most of them do have the cover art already designed, a number of them are without art. 

So I'm going to be put up a couple of cover art challenges in the posts that follow/precede this one.

Here's what you need to know.

The deadline is September 22.

It's more challenging this time because in most cases you're being asked to match the style and feel of existing covers.

The technical stuff. The covers must be vertical (rectangle-shaped) and must be a minimum width of 1,400 pixels. Recommended size is approximately 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels tall. JPEG (JPEG / JPG) or TIFF (TIF / TIFF) ONLY.

I will pay $75.00 a piece for the winning cover (not including the price of any photos that must be purchased) and the artist of course gets a cover credit inside the book.

The photos can be submitted to the contest with the watermark.

****Because I have an existing account at Shutterstock, I would prefer that you choose from their library, but I'm not going to make that a hard and fast rule if someone comes up with a really amazing image for a winning cover. ***

You submit your cover art to the email address on my contact page. Make sure you let me know what name you want your work posted under.

Your work will be posted on this blog site and then readers and other interested parties will vote for their choice for the final cover over the next week (I need this all finished up by the end of September) HOWEVER THE FINAL VOTE IS MINE. And I can be picky and eccentric as regular viewers know.

If you have any other questions, go ahead and in the comment section below.

Cover Challenge #5 BITE CLUB (The XOXO Files)

The cover for the first book in the series (published by Samhain but soon to be back in my hot little hands) was done by the wildly talented Kanaxa. I liked it a lot at the time, but I'm neutral as to whether to keep that concept or change it out entirely.

So this is another one that could potentially turn into a two-book deal?

I wish I could be a little more definite about what I want, but I honestly don't know. What I can tell you is these books are fast-paced and funny. This is light-hearted stuff not serious gory vampire stuff.

Anyway, here's the blurb:

Fraser Fortune and the production crew for The Mysterious reality show are headed to Gnarlbone, Massachuttes, the vampire capitol of North America--much to the dismay of newest team member Dr. Drew Lawson.

Drew is putting everything on the line to see where the instant and powerful connection between him and Fraser might lead. He wasn't expecting destination Transylvania, USA.

Sometimes romance bites.

And again, if you'd like to read the excerpt from the original book, Mummy Dearest, it's right here. Oh, and there's a little bit of a trailer on this page at the very bottom.

Cover Challenge #4 FOOLS RUSH IN (Doyle & Spain 2)

This is the sequel to Snowball in Hell. It's set in 1944 Los Angeles -- historical -- which is always SUCH a PIA. And to make it all the more complicated, I'd like this one to look similar to the Carina Press cover for Snowball.

 That's not mandatory, but it's preferable that series books look like they're related.

Here's the blurb:

An anonymous midnight phone call involves reporter Nathan Doyle in a case of kidnapping and murder, placing his fragile relationship with LAPD Police Lieutenant Matthew Spain at risk--as well as Doyle's life.

If you're not familiar with Snowball in Hell (and why should you be?) you can read an excerpt right heeyah.

Among things that happen in this book...there's a body that disappears out of a hotel room and an explosion. I know. Not as helpful as I imagine.


Here the dimensions are the tricky bit.

•JPG, PNG, or TIF file format only.
•No smaller than 2400 x 2400 pixels.
•No smaller than 72 dpi resolution.
•24-bit (True Color) minimum.
•RGB color (not CYMK).
•Images must be a true square, not a rectangular image with borders.
•File name should be condensed book title. Alphanumeric characters only.

Image Content:
•Must contain both the name of the title and author(s).

You don't have to match any previous artwork or covers. Which maybe makes it easier. Or more fun?

It appears that I don't have an official blurb for this story! Whaaa--?! But you can read an excerpt here. And there is a little book trailer here.

Cover Challenge #2 THE MONET MURDERS

Here's the blurb: The last thing Jason West, ambitious FBI special agent with the Art Crimes Team wants -- or needs -- is his uncertain and unacknowledged romantic relationship with legendary Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy.

And it seems like Sam is unsold on the idea as well.

But personal feelings must be put aside when Sam requests Jason's help in order to catch a deranged killer targeting wealthy, upscale art collectors.

I'm not sure if it makes it harder or easier that I'm not crazy about the cover for book one. (The model appears to have vanished from Shutterstock, which makes it more challenging too--but in any case he was a bit young for Sam Kennedy and way too blond for Jason West.)

So I guess this could go either way. It's possible that a completely new concept would make me rethink Mermaid's cover--you might find yourself with a commission for two book covers.

Or not.

I honestly don't know because I'm pretty divided on this one.

It might be safer to stick with just picking up style elements from Mermaid and applying them to Monet?

Questions can be posted below -- though clearly I will not have much in the way of answers. ;-)

Cover Challenge #1 SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS

Here's the blurb:

God Help You Merry Gentlemen...

Arriving home early after spending Christmas in jolly old England, sometime amateur sleuth Adrien English discovers alarming developments at Cloak and Dagger Books--and an old acquaintance seeking help in finding his missing boyfriend.

Fortunately, Adrien just happens to know a really good private eye...

Although the existing series covers (by the wonderful Kanaxa)  are getting a bit long in the tooth, I still really like them a lot and am not ready to change them out. So the challenge here is to create something that works seamlessly with the existing series covers. Which you can check out on my cover gallery right here.

Although a couple of the covers featured landscape and not humans, books with humans on the cover sell better, so my advice would be opt for a human male on the cover.

The second thing to remember is this is a holiday story. So a few holiday elements might not come amiss. Or maybe they would. I'm not the artist here. You are.

Any questions? Post them in the comment section below.

Good luck!