Upgrading my book cover

As I get closer to the end of my second novel, I am looking for ways to tie it to my first.

The characters are not the same, but both books place young adults in natural disaster situations, to see how they fare. Character development ensues.

I have some ideas about how I want the book covers to fit together, but right now I’m just toying with the creative process. (I don’t even have a release date yet for Book Dos [or, clearly, a title], so this idea is infantile.)

Below are several book covers I enjoy, and some that invoke the same feeling I’d like to inspire with my own.

Disclosure: Not all of these books are some I’d recommend. Some I haven’t even read. These are solely for visual pleasure.

Both of these are simplistic, yet convey powerful images:

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)Twilight (Twilight, #1)

These are part of the same series, and I love how they tie into each other:

Fallen (Fallen, #1)Torment (Fallen, #2)

Here’s another example of two books in a series playing off each other. I love the black and white, and the striking use of color to contrast:

The Dark Divine (The Dark Divine, #1)The Lost Saint (The Dark Divine, #2)

I also enjoy the similarity of these:

So, I’m looking for simplicity and drama.  In a branding format.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?




Free books – and a scavenger hunt!

wildfire-graphic-2We’re in day four of the Wildfire blog tour.

You can enter to win one of 4 free ebooks in a giveaway and scavenge for clues to win an additional ebook.
The first to email the clues to bitnbooktours@gmail.com wins!

Below is a list of blogs participating in the tour this week – be sure to check out the author interviews and excerpts from the book!


Day One (April 14th, 2014): Kick Off Post & Graphic

MoonBeams Over Atlanta


Day Two (April 15th, 2014): Excerpt Part One

Tome Tender


Day Three (April 16th, 2014): Author Interview

 Ink Of My Heart


Day Four (April 17th, 2014): Graphic

The Hellvis Compendium


Day Five (April 18th, 2014): Author Interview

Fire & Ice Book Reviews


Day Six (April 19th, 2014): Excerpt Part Two

Steampunk Sparrow’s Book Blog


Day Seven (April 20th, 2014): Author Interview & Graphic

Bit’N Book Promoters



Happy hunting everyone!

Blog Tour

So, this is happening next week:

Wildifre bit'n tour April 2014

Stay tuned for details.


Wildfire is FREE today!

I just felt like giving away books today.  (And … *cough* boosting my Amazon sales ranking *cough*.)

As of noon, I’m at #26 in the Young Adult Contemporary category.  John Green, of course, is #1. And I’m pretty sure that ranking cannot be ousted.  (Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? Amazing.)  But.  A girl can try.

Here’s a link to my (free!) book for your convenience:

Wildfire cover final


I sat and wrote something yesterday that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past few months: acknowledgements for Wildfire.  A list of names just didn’t seem to be enough.

I’ll be updating the book with them soon.  Long overdue.

In the meantime, have you read Bitterblue?


Most acknowledgement sections seem to start off in the same manner.  The author generally says something to the tune of, “I could not have done this alone.”

Barring any aversion to cliché, this is how the acknowledgements should start.  Because that’s what it’s for, right?  We thank those who contributed to the journey, because the compilation of a book in its entirety is not possible without help.

I started this book when I was young; a starry-eyed college student with dreams of sitting in a room for hours, rapping away at a computer, spinning words of importance and revelation.  But I also went to a party school.  And I had daft priorities.  And a vastly good time.

After college, I waited tables (because I had a journalism degree and no predilection toward journalism).  I wrote by day and served food by night and I remember this as a very freeing time.  I was living in St. Louis, in an old, cold stone house.  I’d make a pot of tea and sit in a tiny office off the kitchen, and write.  Everyday.  At night, I’d go to work, swelling with what I’d accomplished during the day, filled to the brim with story lines and character arcs and dialogue.

Michelle Foupht, Hannah Korner and Maggie Chandler were the first readers of that early manuscript.  Michelle and Hannah, both talented writers themselves, were instrumental in pinpointing errors and false truths. Michelle, with her keen insight into the human psyche, helped me understand my characters.  Hannah, a passionate, sage soul, was angered when I later decided to cut half the manuscript and one character she had become particularly fond of.  The ache she showed for that character and the work in general will always be a source of pride and amusement for me.

Maggie, a shining example of a true friend, kept me from giving up.  I remember a phone call in particular, in which she grumbled at me for my choice to return to graduate school, but not to pursue creative writing. “That’s a cop out,” she said. “You have a job you don’t love, and your free time should be spent working on your writing, not working toward something else you won’t love equally.”  At first, I was angry with her audacity.  I was trying to find myself, I told her.  Trying to figure out what would make me happy.  But she already knew the answer to that.

Kristen King and Lara Pitts were first readers of the next iteration of the manuscript.  Kristen, my friend since my freshman year of high school, does not shelter her friends with good opinions unless she truly has them, so I took her approval with gratification.  (Sometimes, an honest grievance is more comforting than a false compliment.  And Kris has never once given a false compliment; which has made our relationship challenging at times.  But also makes it real.)  To clarify, Kris did not love it all.  Her one negative comment was the shoulder touching.  “Why is everyone always touching everyone else’s shoulders? Is that necessary? Do people do that?”  I reduced the number of shoulder touches in the book, but have to admit that my characters do have a fondness for often touching people they care about on the arm or shoulder.  As do I.

Lara married into my family and, at some point, inexplicably, became my biggest fan.  An avid reader, who talks swiftly and loves deeply, her affection has been a vessel, holding up my head in times of doubt and grief.  She and her husband (my beloved cousin) Jeremy commissioned an early copy of this manuscript, made with care by a man who stitched the pages together by hand, bound it in the most beautiful blue, and added the title and my name across the front and spine in gold lettering.  This gift, given to me on the day our grandfather (my favorite storyteller) died, is a treasured memory and a constant reminder that there are those who love and believe in me without question.  I am often brought to tears as I brush my fingers along its spine.  This is the only printed copy of my book so far, and it sits on my shelf between Franz Kafka and Jules Verne.  And whoever thought my name would be there?

The third treatment of the manuscript traveled to a scenic, wooded mountainside in Colorado, where Serenity King, in her quiet wisdom, edited with a green pen and a vast wealth of grammatical and structural knowledge.  She encouraged me to explore the layers and complexities of the story, and urged me to bring more of both Angela and Max into the dialogue.  This was an essential change that created more depth and vulnerability in the book.  Serenity, who is now a very important leader in a richly academic environment, no longer has time to write fiction. But one day, I anticipate a work of astounding clarity and vision will be published in her name, and the world will be better for it.

The final revision of the manuscript, which is unrecognizable from the first writing, would not have been possible without Janet Rucka-White.  Janet and I first talked together as we watched our boys play from the side of our neighborhood pool.  I don’t know who suggested we get together to have writing meetings.  But the first time she came to my house, I made her coffee and then cried for an hour.  It was a lost time for me.  I was questioning everything in my life, certain I was failing at it all, and I vomited these dreadful feelings to this person I didn’t know, who seemed to have it all figured out and together for herself.  I was certain she would never come back.

I cannot be more thankful that she did.  Her honesty and encouragement were instrumental in the completion of this book.  She read every chapter as I completed it, then she dared me to do more.  She challenged me to strengthen Savanna into a more likable character.  She questioned my methods, she demanded more from me.  And she directly influenced Max’s fate.  “Tell me he doesn’t die,” she said to me in a Starbucks parking lot one day.  Her eyes were cut into slits and her face was stern.  “Tell me.”

After the final structure of Wildfire was complete, new editors were called in.  Kim McCullough, my childhood friend, who long ago introduced me to the world of Fantasy fiction and the genius of R.L. Stine, was tracked down through Facebook and asked for input.  Maggie Mills, a colleague who edits professionally and reads voraciously, provided me the compliment of her time and notes.  And said Drummond evoked “a young Matthew McConaughey,” which is exactly how I see him now, and wonder why I didn’t before.

Cristina Riera, whose family name I used, found worrisome repetitive phrases and actions, which I eliminated.  But her real contribution to the book was deeper than that.  Cristina is a beacon of authenticity.  She knows precisely what she feels and wants, and presents nothing less to the world, regardless of acceptance.  And she is purely lovely, from the tips of her long, elegant legs, to the jet black hair on her head, to the cavernous depths of her soul.  And when she reads this, she will scoff and tell me to f— off.  Just knowing her makes me better, and more honest, and a writer is nothing without truth.

Any errors left in the manuscript were likely something one of these women pointed out, but I stubbornly chose not to correct.  Such is the arrogance of a writer.

Fundamentally, I want to thank my parents for always wanting more for me than they want for themselves.  For my father, who worked his fingers raw so he could see me attend college, who would not accept any alternative.  For my mother, a beautiful and demure woman, who didn’t really know what to do with the imaginative little tomboy with stringy hair who refused to wear the dresses and pink jeans she bought her.  My mother would glance at the cover of the books I read, splashed with zombies and monsters and screaming women, and would sigh and say, “I worry about you, Kimberly.” But she never asked me to stop reading.

And finally, I have to thank my O’Brien boys – all three of them – for making my life what it is today.  The comfort and pleasure of home is a warm blanket I know I can always wrap around myself in times of pain.  And that is no small thing.  Thank you for loving me for who I am.

Amazon Serials – are they for me?

A dear friend asked me recently if I’d ever thought about writing serialized ebooks.  And I have to say, the thought had crossed my mind.  But I had some reservations.  I understood the concept, but I wasn’t entirely familiar with the genre, so I tucked the idea away for another day.

And today, at the home of Lindsay Buroker, Amazon Serials writer Roberto Calas wrote a very compelling blog post which was entertaining, enlightening, and made me want to revisit the idea.

I love Roberto’s rendition of the writing process.  Step #8 made me spit coffee through my nose a little.

It was very relatable, and very much like my own write – doubt – get feedback – revise – doubt – consider quitting – write some more – kind of cycle.

Comforting to know someone else does this too.  Only he does it all in a two-week time frame.

Anyone else tried serials before?  Any recommendations for or against?

Reach people: publish!

We hear about it every day: self-published author makes good with publisher.

Here’s another example of that, posted today on The Indie Book Writers blog.  

But I’m not linking to this article so you can weep over this story (because it’s not you … or me, for that matter – thanks for the sympathy).

I’m linking to it specifically for the author’s quote:

“I have said for some time, I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but I know how many you will if you don’t.”

If you insert “self-” before publish, it makes me smile even more.

Time for another promo

Wildfire cover finalWildfire is going to be free again tomorrow on Amazon.com.

Hop on over and “buy” yourself an early Christmas present.

Or one for your mom, or sister.  Or aunt’s bus driver’s cousin’s friend.  Cause that person – whoever they are – needs love too.

Who needs a blue ribbon anyhow? (A look back …)

This is a repost from 2009 (on my old blog), when Wildfire was submitted to a contest and shot down.  SO many revisions since then … the finished product is almost unrecognizable from its previous form.  It’s good to look back, though, and recall this part of the journey.  The advice I received was impactful.  And invaluable.  And I’d like to think I used it wisely.

Here she goes:

My entry into the Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest did not win.


Other than winning (obviously), what I wanted from this experience was an honest critique of my work by literary professionals, and this promise, at least, was fulfilled.

The good:

“The author’s voice is fresh and entertaining.” Sweet, dude. Thanks. Gimme my ribbon.

“The synopsis was extremely well done.” Considering I thought the synopsis was hella hard to write (I’d rather just write another novel instead, thank you very much), this comment was unexpected and much appreciated.

“The dialogue works very well.” Yes, I have ways of making people talk.

“The plot described in the synopsis is fantastic.” Cool. So, I win, right?

The bad:

“The first chapter in no way ties into the synopsis.” Doh! Yeah, I s’pose the real adventure doesn’t actually begin till page 85, so … maybe I do a little too much character establishment?

“The plot alluded to in chapter one is not unique.” Hmph. Yeah, so what?

“The author needs to cut some of the backstory.” K. I get it, yo.

The ugly:

“The author needs to establish the main conflict of the story immediately. In my opinion, the first chapter is unnecessary.”  Yeah?  Well … your mama.

As I suppose many authors do, I latched onto to the negative comments much quicker than the positive.  At first I was defensive. “But … but … I want to get a feel for the characters, and their backstory is … important … dangit.”  Then I was despondent.  “I’ve failed. They don’t like me. I’ll be in my corner.”

Then I was inspired.  I could change things up.  I could fine tune and get rid of some fluff.  As I mulled over the best way to do this, I took some time to mourn the loss of my first 85 pages and consulted a trusted writer friend.

“Remember,” she said in all her wisdom, “you have to put all advice in a sifter, shake some out and only use that which is big enough to make a difference.”

I considered that for a few days and devised a plan.  I’m going to read those first 85 pages objectively and decide whether it’s all completely necessary (I have a suspicion that it’s not), or if I’m just keeping it for sentimental reasons (I suspect I might be).  There is one scene in particular that I know I want to keep, but what I’m looking for now is a definite hook.  Let’s hope I can find one.

“Kill your darlings,” Stephen King advises in his invaluable book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Now, to find my cleaver …

Diary of a Badly Behaving Author

Stolen from Kristen Lamb’s Blog, who, in turn, stole it from YouTube (this is all in good fun, but a seriously good message can be found at around 2:50):


Produce a high-quality product from cover-to-cover.  

Don’t spam the Internet to sell it.

And never attack a reviewer.  Or their pets.

Good words.  Hard-hitting, quality advice.




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