Writers, like professional athletes and gamblers, are rumored to be a suspicious lot indulging in odd, idiosyncratic practices and rituals that set them to the correct frame of mind and, if the powers that be are willing, ensure success. Just like I don't collect things or have any special (if useless) talents, I don't have any writing rituals, either.
Egad, how utterly boring I am.
I don't have a particular time set aside to write. I don't have a special place designated as my writing spot. I don't have any distinctive habits that must be performed to settle my mind or get me into the writing frame. I'm pretty random when it comes to my writing.
I write when the urge strikes me. Sometimes that's frequent, not so much other times. I once went around a decade without writing anything creative--just copy for my job. That was, overall, a pretty dark time of my life. Bitter cynicism permeated me, to the point at which I wasn't really joking when I said I sacrificed hope for Lent.
Although many writing experts advise aspiring authors to dedicate themselves to a daily habit of writing a certain number of words or for a certain length of time, even setting aside a scheduled "writing period," I never subscribed to that. I learned long ago that forcing myself to write produces utter garbage. If the story doesn't interest me, then I and my readers are better off if I simply abandon the project. Sometimes I return to an old project that recaptures my interest, but that seldom happens.
Those writing experts would probably call me undisciplined; however, I don't see it that way at all. When I write, I'm very disciplined. I follow the characters as they lead me through their journeys and self-edit along the way. When that draft's finished, I go through it again wearing my "editor's hat." Heaven forbid I deliver a rough draft to my editor. Finessing the manuscript as much as I can before she gets her hands on it keeps her rates at a level I can afford.
For what it's worth, those same experts also caution against editing as one writes. Customary advice says to vomit the rough draft and then go back and self-edit, basically leaving editorial judgment for the second draft.
Since I typically produce three or four novels a year, I'm comfortable disregarding their advice, because my undisciplined, random practice suits me just fine.
Progress continues with my upcoming release, Bear of the Midnight Sun. I hired a graphic designer for the cover--I wrote about that disappointing experience last week--and received a cover that's OK. I used part of his design to create my own front cover. You can decide which is his and which is mine. Ultimately, it doesn't matter.
What I would like your opinion about, however, is which of the two cover options you prefer. I'm calling them "with the beard" and "without the beard." Leave a comment to indicate your preference.
So, about the book ...
I'm taking a break from fantasy romance to wade back into paranormal romance. This book continues the series begun with The Barbary Lion and its sequel Tiger in the Snow. You'll see the theme in cover design.
As consistent with the trope, our hero is an immortal shifter, a polar bear. He's older than Dmitry and younger than Atlas. Also consistent, he's looking for his mate. In an original twist upon the usual grab-and-bag scenario of shifter males finding and claiming their mates, Sindre finds his soulmate as a fellow guest in a talk show studio in Las Vegas.
It's Vegas, baby. Anything goes!
Unlike Atlas Leonidus, Sindre doesn't mean to be an overbearing jerk. Just like Atlas, he can't really help it. Miranda, our heroine, finds herself overwhelmed by this big, virile man and the powerful bear he unleashes within her.
This adventure takes our hero and heroine from the bright, garish lights of Las Vegas, NV to the frigid arctic to the steamy heat of Kenya. We reacquaint ourselves with Atlas and Chloe, who hasn't quite tamed the old lion. Be prepared for marital advice from the Barbary lion: hey, he said it, not I. I heard his voice clear as day when that scene flowed onto the page.
Beginning October 1, my Book of the Month promotion will be the first two books in the series: The Immortal Shifter Duet which contains both books. Bear of the Midnight Sun is scheduled for release on October 31 and will be November's book of the month.
#HollyBargo #MFRWhooks #HenHousePublishing #Fantasy #Romance
This week's prompt concerns strange or useless talents. Well, I suppose we're in for another week of short blog posts.
I can't think of any particular talent I have that would fall under strange or useless. Actually, one might consider me bereft of most talent, so I cherish the few that I do claim and refuse to call them strange or useless.
I can't dance. When I sing, dogs howl. My musical prowess leaves much to be desired. My drawing skills are considered better than most, but not good enough to take on the road. I have no particular gift for working with animals: what skill I have I worked hard to acquire. I tried pottery, a 6-week course. It was fun, but there was no real spark. If it's green, I'll kill it. So, gardening's out. I dislike digging in the dirty anyway, and I detest yard work. I'm not particularly insightful or perceptive, but a few folks have mentioned that I'm pretty good at cutting through bullshit. My mother taught me to sew--and do it well--but I loathe sewing. And embroidery. I'm also an indifferent (okay, awful) housekeeper.
Nope, I'm not particularly talented.
So, what can I do? I consider myself a decent cook, not great and nowhere near "Master Chef" caliber. But what I make usually doesn't suck. I consider myself a pretty damned good writer. Obviously. If I thought my writing skills were abysmal, I wouldn't be doing this for a living. I consider myself a good editor, too.
Yeah, I'm limited. And I hear voices. For instance, I heard my grandmother's voice on the way to her funeral. She never spoke to me again. However, the voices I usually hear are the characters who manifest in my books. My head's a crowded place. But that's probably not what one would consider a talent, just a psychotic disorder.
I'll be taking more art classes beginning this week, one class a month exploring different media and techniques. I'm looking forward to it. Perhaps I'll find that divine spark, that sense that yes, this is what makes my heart sing.
Gia frowned as she dried off. The big jerk apparently expected her to parade around naked. She snugly wrapped the towel around her body and held it securely. Stepping cautiously from the bathroom, the fragrance of hot food lured her further.
“You must be hungry, Giancarla. Come downstairs and eat,” he called from the kitchen.
Gia marveled at his apparently supersensitive hearing. Either that or he had spy cameras installed everywhere. The latter thought made her frown again. She briefly considered rummaging through his drawers to find something besides a damp towel to wear, but decided against it. If she delayed too
long, he might deny her supper. And he might decide to embark upon a career of beating and raping women if he were sufficiently annoyed by her intrusive rummaging.
Vitaly hardly spared his rescue a glance as he set a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast on the kitchen table. He poured a glass of juice and set it down next to her plate. He avoided looking at her, knowing that a long stare at her satin skin so easily accessible would rev up his libido even further.
Gia gingerly sat on the chair, the cool, polished wood uncomfortable against her bare bottom. She picked up a fork and warily picked up a bit of egg.
“I haven’t poisoned or drugged it,” he said as he sat down across the table.
She blinked and tried to dim her awareness of him as a man. The removal of his coat made that impossible, though. His broad shoulders strained the white fabric of his dress shirt. The rolled-up sleeves displayed thick forearms roped with muscle and colorful with tattoos. He’d taken off his tie and unbuttoned the collar of his shirt. She could see more tattoos where the shirt opened at his throat.
Nervously, she glanced at the clock on the wall. It was barely eight o’clock and already full dark. She glanced back down at her plate and tried to figure a way out of this mess. Even an unseasonably warm fall holiday was too cold to go wandering about in nothing but a damp towel. If she made a dash for the front door, she was sure to be apprehended before she touched the doorknob.
“Thank you for making supper,” she said politely.
“I thought you could use something to eat,” he replied with simple kindness.
Gia thought back to his leather bag full of sharp, shiny things, and asked, “What is it, exactly, you do?”
He chewed and swallowed as he thought, then gave her his mild reply, “I’m something of a jack of all trades. Today, I was to interrogate a thief.”
“Interrogate?” she repeated faintly. He could have agreed with those thugs who had kidnapped her and interrogated her with knives and who knew what else? She pushed her glasses back up her nose and forced herself to take another bite of egg.
“You should not have been dragged into this,” he said truthfully.
No kidding, she thought, but was prudent enough not to say aloud. The ink covering his arms and chest suddenly took on a more sinister meaning. Vitaly Synvolka wasn’t a rebel, he was a criminal. Instead she merely said in a tone faint with horror, “I’ve never even had a speeding ticket.”
“Neither have I,” he replied with a small smile.
Apparently, the expression wasn’t friendly, because Giancarla turned very pale. He quickly fixed it, composing himself to mild neutrality. She’d never know how much that cost him when every cell in his body urged him to throw her over his shoulder and haul her to his bed. He was glad the tabletop hid the rigid bulge behind the zipper of his pants.
“Finish your meal,” he gently ordered. “You need to rest. I will ensure your safety tonight.”
Reassured, she ate. She focused her eyes on the plate and pointedly ignored the man staring at her like she was some particularly tasty treat. When she finished, he ordered her to go back to his room.
“There’s a new toothbrush still in the package in the upper left drawer of the sink cabinet in my bathroom. Use that,” he instructed, forcibly keeping his tone mild and even.
She made her escape, fleeing on wobbly knees and rubbery ankles. Just as he had promised, she found the fresh toothbrush. She used his toothpaste, grimacing at the taste of baking soda. Why couldn’t he use a mint flavored gel like everyone else? She reminded herself to be grateful for the concession of good oral hygiene and crawled into his bed, still clutching the towel around her body.
Stress, adrenaline, or whatever hit her like the proverbial truck and she failed the struggle to keep her eyes open, to wait alert and ready for a chance to retrieve her clothing and escape. She never heard him enter the room. She slept through the noise of his shower that filtered through the bathroom door. He felt the damp lump of the towel she had used to cover herself and pulled it out to toss it on the floor. When he slid beneath the covers and snuggled close to her from behind, she sighed unconsciously and relaxed even further into his embrace.
I design most of my own book covers. Unlike many writers, I do have some graphic design training, enough to be competent if not really sophisticated or expert. That combined with what I've been told is a "good eye" and a preference for simple covers enables me to save some dollars.
Not every cover design I've done makes the grade. Some have been simply bad. The worst I did was for The Barbary Lion. I soon replaced that awful design, even though Goodreads doesn't show the updated cover. Most uncooperative of them.
When Tiger in the Snow came out, I continued with the theme established in The Barbary Lion: a black and white line drawing of a roaring predator in the top third of the cover, a colored center bar with the title, and a sensual, black and white picture of man kissing a woman on the bottom third.
As I worked to finish up the third book in the series, Bear of the Midnight Sun, I anticipated designing that cover, too. However, I could not find a line drawing of a roaring polar bear that I liked. I did find a few pictures for the bottom of the cover that would suit. Stymied, I decided to hand the cover design to a professional who specializes in cover design and posted an RFP or buyer request on Fiverr.
I thought the request was sufficiently specific. Perhaps not. Regardless, in short order I received a flood of bids. Only one responded with a couple of questions that demonstrated the vendor actually read the RFP. All the others sent canned responses, with all but a handful promising 24-hour delivery for only $5. I checked the portfolio of the one guy who actually read the RFP and, unfortunately, did not like his work.
Of those who responded with boilerplate text, I shortlisted a handful who stated they read the RFP. After looking at their portfolios, I replied to each with three questions:
None of them fully answered the questions. All included an exhortation to order now in their replies, as well as rote assurances that they'd design the cover to my satisfaction. One responded with a question as to the image size for the finished cover graphic which is clearly stated in the buyer request.
"Did you read the RFP?" I asked.
"No, I do not have the RFP," she replied.
If she didn't read the RFP, then just what in the hell did she respond to? Why submit a bid?
One of the four shortlisted vendors did respond in more detail than the others and he amended his bid. I decided to give this guy a chance. I like his work and reviews for him are mostly positive.
I value my cover more than these graphic designers. To them, it's just a quick job go dash off. However, it's my reputation as an author on the line. One might be forgiven for thinking that the designer considers the work as reflective of his or her reputation, too. When I bid on a project, I put my reputation as an editor or writer to the test with a promise of top quality service and professionalism.
The response from the bidders on my project clearly indicate that my standards may be too high.
If this doesn't work out, then I'll have to consider it a lamentable error in judgment. I'll know within a week.
#HenHousePublishing #HollyBargoBooks #HollyBargo #Author
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is wanting to Blog Swaps in 2018. For more information:
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