First Cup of Coffee – August 23, 2018

About the Book

Not all desires are shiny and sweet—and the dark ones might change you forever…

It’s not the kind of obsession a tough Army guy can admit to—a jones for Ava, the pretty-princess pop star. Not just her body, the perfect product that sells all those magazines. Her music.

The critics call her human lip gloss, all style and no substance. To Joe Ivanchan, Ava is the exact blend of reality and fantasy that he can tolerate, the closest he’s willing to get to giving his heart after the injury and breakdown that got him out of the service.

But Ava is real. She’s a flesh and blood woman with a publicity machine and an album deadline, along with a whole team of handlers paid to shellac a pristine sheen over a damaged, desperate soul. A woman with fears, with secrets, with desires.

When Joe finds himself in an interview to join her security team as her driver, his instinct is to get away. But the woman behind Ava’s carefully focus-grouped image is even harder to walk away from. The angry needs tormenting her speak to something within Joe. Something empathetic, protective—and primal…

Besides, even a falling star can light up the darkest night.

Buy the Book

Competing for Covers

The cover of Platinum. So much pretty.

(Just in case you missed the cover reveal on Sullivan’s blog over the weekend.)

Covers are a funny thing. They are often the faces of our books – the first impression and lasting image. From the marketing end, the cover is the keystone of all publicity. After all, there’s not that many other visual images to tie to a story, except maybe the author head shot. (And for a lot of us, no one wants to go there. 😉 ) For the readers, covers add to the book’s caché. I know readers who collect bookmarks or cover flats of digital books, just to have the cover to look at.

If you’re a writer working with a publisher, what the cover will be is pretty much out of your hands. Oh, we get input–Carina and Ellora’s Cave have us fill out art fact sheets describing the book, characters, mood, tone, genre and visual hooks. And the marketing teams show the draft cover to us and we can give feedback. They smile, nod and give us the cover they want to.

If you self-publish, the writer becomes her own marketing team. Even if she hires a cover designer, she still has to communicate her concept, what the models should look like, the fonts and colors. It can be grueling, as I recently watched my friend and CP, Carolyn Crane, go through. She wanted the cover for her new book, Mr. Real, to be exactly right and wonderful, going through many iterations to get there.

(I know this because I think I looked at EVERY ONE.)

At any rate, she finally decided on a cover that she loved. Everyone was joyful. Until she found out that another author had received a nearly identical cover from her press – and the book is in the same genre and releasing on the same day. You can read Carolyn’s truly hilarious take on the fiasco here.

What strikes me most about this whole adventure though, is how lovely everyone was about it – especially the other author. We hear a lot of tales about author jealousy, infighting, plagiarizing, attack-sockpuppeting and various other kinds of unpleasantness. People love to pass around those stories. I knew this guy once who loved to complain about how women compete with each other in jealous and mean ways. He’d say “if two guys show up to a party wearing the same clothes, they’ll be friends for life – if two women wear the same dress, they’ll be at each other’s throats.”

Yeah. He was an ass.

But whenever he’d say that, I’d remember something that happened to my mom. The first time she ever volunteered to help organize a charity event, it was the inaugural fundraising ball put on by the American Cancer Society in Denver. She killed herself helping to plan this ball. Tons of work. And she stressed about what to wear. We shopped in EVERY store in Denver for the perfect dress. She visited me in college in St. Louis and we shopped there. We visited my aunt in Chicago and shopped there, too. This was over the course of nearly a year. Finally she found the perfect dress (I think in Chicago) and all was right with the world.

She arrives at the ball early, along with the rest of the committee, to finish setting up and in walks her good friend and another committee member wearing the exact same dress. That she’d bought at an exclusive boutique. Myrtle Rose, my mom’s friend, broke out laughing – I mean, what were the odds? – and said she’d go home and change. My mom protested and MR said, no, she’d been torn between two black dresses and all her make-up and jewelry would stay the same – she’d just shuck on the other dress and be right back.

It was done with the same spirit of friendship and generosity as Carolyn showed – and as the other author, Julianna Stone, showed her. After all, Carolyn was out money and the time she’d already invested in showing off the cover. It was well done of her.

I love a happy ending.

Oh, and speaking of – If you’d like win a 3-chapter, synopsis and query critique from me, you can do it here!

Obssessing Over Book Covers

We’re pretty sure this is a Western scrub jay. He likes to hang out in the tree in our back yard. Apparently he likes to eat small animals and large insects. Check out these wicked talons:


I’ve been working on my art fact sheet for Rogue’s Pawn, so images are on my brain. Carina has a great system for developing covers. They send us this very detailed fact sheet to fill out, that the cover artist will then use. They ask for things like mood, visual hook, main character descriptions, major visual elements. You can also attach images to give the artist a feel.

I’ve been screwing around with it for a couple of days now, off and on. This is a slow turnaround for me. I start to spin on that perfectionistic procrastination. The cover is so important – what do I say that will get me the PERFECT COVER?? Somewhere deep in my subconscious is the idea that I can manipulate fate, like if I feed the coins into the slot machine in exactly the right order and pull the arm just so, the cherries will ring up and I’ll win the grand prize and be thin, rich, young and happy for the rest of my life.


Yeah, so – sorting through all the neurotic hopes and dreams and wild expectations is part of it. The rest is finding ways to take the images in my head and convey them to somebody else. I also know that I am not a graphic artist, nor a marketing genius, so I don’t want to inundate the people who with mountains of extraneous information and images.

I mean, wicked talons mean something to me, and are a recurring image in the book, but is this picture really relevant?

Oh yes, yes, yes, cackles that voice inside. Plus this and this and this.

See? My cover artist will hate me.

In the end, it’s always about letting go. Giving up control. Detaching from the things that simply don’t matter.

It’s one cover, for one book. Nobody will live or die by it. I know this.

Still, I think I should include the talon pic, don’t you?

Torn Fishnets and All

Allison’s Cover has been spotted in the wild!

It’s not technically final, according to Pocket, but somehow it leaked and a few bloggers picked it up, so get to show it now. My own personal leak may or may not have shown it to me quite a while ago and it hasn’t changed since then. I suspect this will be it, even though it’s not yet up at Pocket’s very fun community site for urban fantasy readers.

And yes, the burning question is: how did Abby so thoroughly destroy her fishnet stockings?

Trust me, it’s a major plot point in the book.

There’s this pivotal scene where Abby is battling a vampire, an angel and an incubus in a dark alley. She falls to one knee. You know those cobblestones – they’re full of rough edges. She rolls to avoid the slashing sword of an evil Fae. Her fishnets tear on the other leg, hanging by only a few tenacious threads.

That’s when the incubus falls in love with her.

Wouldn’t you?

Okay, that scene may or may not happen in the book. Covers belong to the marketing people and not to the author. Abby may not be a mini-skirt wearing, midriff-baring, torn fishnet flaunting kind of gal, but she is tough. She’s sassy. This picture captures her attitude.

I’m working on getting Allison to pierce her belly button now, so I can buy her this outfit for signings. Wouldn’t that be total Awesomesauce?

Yeah, I think so, too.