First Cup of Coffee – October 30, 2023

Why do some tasks feel more difficult that others and what makes them easier all of a sudden? Also, reader events and my process for deciding which to attend. And a recommendation for a really great, data-filled podcast!

Cover Tough Love

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “Judging a book by its cover: cover trends and what you look for as an author or a reader.”

There have been excellent posts this week exploring why we buy covers, what we look for and love in covers, even being misled by covers. What I’m going to talk about is what a cover ISN’T for an author. And yes, this is something that’s hard to hear. Stop now if you’re not ready for a little tough love.

What a cover isn’t: It is not an expression of the author’s creativity.

I say this because I’ve heard more than one – usually a newer author – say that they want it to be. I recall one time that my aunt asked me to talk to a friend of hers who was a first-time author working with a small press to publish her memoir. She was super unhappy with the cover they developed and fighting with them about it. I think she fully expected me to give her ammunition in that fight. Instead, I gave her this tough love talk:

The cover of the book is not an expression of your creativity. The BOOK – what’s inside the front and back cover – is the expression of your creativity. You got all those words and pages to convey the story you want to tell. The cover is not, and should not, be an extension of that story.

Now, I’m not saying that the cover CAN’T reflect the story, but a book cover has two jobs:

  1. Catch the reader’s eye in a pleasing, enticing way.
  2. Convey genre or some sense of what kind of story it will be.

That’s it. Simple, but also very difficult. That’s plenty of work for an image and a few words to do. Those jobs don’t need to be further complicated by putting the author’s story-vision into an image. In fact, when authors try to insert that vision, they can get in the way of the primary two functions of the cover.

So, I know it’s hard. I have been there and I have had covers I hated, where the characters looked NOTHING like what I had in my head. I have had covers I loved that did nothing to sell the story inside. I’ve had horrible covers that I’m convinced tanked sales. I’ve had covers that readers rhapsodized over for no reason that made sense to me. When I work with my cover designer on the covers of my indie books, I really have to take off my author hat and put on the publisher one – and remind myself of the two rules. Tough love for myself, too!

First Cup of Coffee – October 27, 2023

Battling the proliferation of secondary characters, and why that’s key to shorter works. Shipping Alex and Paul on The Morning Show and ruminations on love and unconditional support.

First Cup of Coffee – October 23, 2023

A great sci-fi movie you’ve never heard of (at least, I hadn’t), why I’m shipping Alex and Paul on The Morning Show, ROGUE FAMILIAR audiobook is now wide, a fabulous giveaway, & giving my books as gifts.

Ergonomics for the Healthy Writer and Faroween!

Guess what? I’m a participating author in Our World or Others: A Faroween Scavenger Hunt October 19 – 29! Visit the FaRoFeb website on October 19 to choose your quest and compete for a chance to win incredible prizes including giftcards, paperbacks, ebooks, and more! There are six main prize packs as well as some bonus quests and games.

Everyone who completes one of the quests will win something! This is for anyone who loves reading fantasy romance, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy romance. Can’t wait to see you there!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “Tools of the Trade Ergonomic Edition.” Because, let’s face it, writers are notorious for experiencing various physical pains. Comes of sitting for hours everyday, hunched over a keyboard or paper (writing and reading!), forgetting to move but never forgetting those important snacks that keep our brains going. So, what do I do? I walk!

Yes, I have a walking desk with a treadmill, and have had one for nearly ten years now. Best investment I ever made! The current treadmill is from iMovr and goes from 5mph to 2.5mph. I usually walk between 1.5 and 2.2mph – the variation is really important! I have a hydraulic desk, the same one all these years, originally made by GeekDesk, which I can adjust to allow me to sit, stand, or walk. The minute height adjustments are particularly great, allowing me to have my forearms and wrists flat on the desk, my back straight, and my monitor at eye-level. I also vary them slightly from day to day and even hour to hour, so my body won’t solidify into the same position for too long.

No more butt in chair, hands on keyboard, people – get that writer body moving!



First Cup of Coffee – October 20, 2023

The wrong way to ask for blurbs, choosing POV for a given scene and how experienced authors should give ourselves credit for more complex approaches, and a bit on animal behavior and whether cats can tell time.

First Cup of Coffee – October 16, 2023

Why being selfish is good, refilling the well, and other thoughts on the variety of people who listen to this podcast, why Cats & New Mexico Weather is a thing. Re-reading DEERSKIN and realizing not everything must move the plot forward.

First Cup of Coffee – October 13, 2023

Yes, I saw the Taylor Swift concert movie last night! Loved. Thoughts on TS and voice. Also, a trick for coping with those inertia-filled tasks that forever slide down the To Do List and remembering we’re not being graded.

TWISTED MAGIC and Writing Retreats

First things first, if you preordered TWISTED MAGIC, you’ll have gotten a notice that I’ve delayed the release. I know, I know – yet again. (Well, first time for this book, but I really thought I’d given myself enough time.) The new release date is November 28. That should give me plenty of breathing room. (Famous last words!) Seriously, I am at midpoint and on the downhill run. I just knew I couldn’t have it completely done by October 26 (two weeks away!), which was the upload drop-dead date.

Apologies. I know you all are waiting. But it’s going to be awesome!

More on topic: this week’s subject at the SFF Seven is writing retreats. We’re asking each other if they work for us and, if so, in what way?
I’m pretty sure I suggested this topic because this continues to be a conundrum for me. I love the IDEA of writing retreats. When I see writer friends posting about being on retreats, I am invariably envious. I want to go! I want to be there, with the friends, in the pretty places, thinking and talking about writing all day.
In truth, I have gone on very few writing retreats. The only one I can think of in recent years is when I went to Kauai almost a year ago and stayed in the gorgeous beachfront home of a friend along with three other writing companions. It was a fabulous group and we did have wonderful conversations.
I got very little written.
What I think it comes down to for me is that I’m fortunate enough to have a serene home life which is entirely built around enabling me to write as productively as possible. For many people, it seems that going on retreat gives them time and quiet away from the demands of home. For me? Being around people at a retreat is considerably “noisier” than my daily life.
So, I’ve come to face that, for me, writing “retreats” are truly excursions. They aren’t time away; they’re time into.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As KAK noted on Monday, there can be other reasons to go. But I have to realize I’m not going to be maximizing wordcount.