Ravven: Queen of the Cover Artists

Our assignment this week at the SFF Seven is to give a shout-out to the non-author creatives who enrich our lives: illustrators, musicians, jewelers, painters, poets, voice-actors, etc. This one is an easy pick for me because I just released THE FATE OF THE TALA, which means I’ve been posting the cover everywhere.

Fortunately, it’s so freaking gorgeous that no one gets tired of seeing it over and over. That’s because it’s the work of Ravven, Queen of the Cover ArtistsCome on over to find out more. 

 

 

Wrestling POV – How Do You Choose?

I woke up this morning and got some photos of the full moon setting during a lunar eclipse, the second full moon this month, and during the supermoon cycle. That makes it a super blue blood moon, which is a mouthful. Because our bedroom window looks west, we were able to lie there when we woke up around 5:40am, and watch the shadow cross the moon until totality. I live in a magical place.

Yesterday I started on a draft of THE ARROWS OF THE HEART, the next book in The Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms saga. For those familiar with the series, this will be Zyr and Karyn’s book. And, for those who get my newsletter – if you don’t, and want to, sign up is here – you know I did a survey on whose point-of-view (POV) to tell it from. Because, clearly, I’ve been wrestling with this issue for a long time. 

These results were fascinating and unexpected – especially that so many readers were good with alternating first person. But they also didn’t give me a definitive answer. All you people who trust me to just tell a good story! I love you, I really do. BUT YOU ARE NOT HELPING.

See, normally, POV is not a question for me. The traditional advice – and I think it’s good advice – is to take the POV of the character with the most at stake in a scene. This works much better with alternating POVs, however, when there’s freedom to choose a POV based on stakes. And which gives weight to alternating first person POVs.

In this series, however, I’ve always done a single First Person POV. I think there’s something to be said for sticking to a single form. Like, Shakespeare wouldn’t start writing plays in rhyming verse instead of blank verse. Not that I’m Shakespeare! But I do believe in creating coherency in a series, for a common feel. In addition, each novel in this series has been from the heroine’s POV. I’ve always felt that’s important, as it seems so much fantasy dwells on the male gaze. (Some of the novellas have been in the hero’s POV, or even in third person alternating, but I see those as subsidiary to the main arc.)

Still, this hasn’t been a no-brainer on this book. It should obviously be from Karyn’s POV – but I keep thinking about Zyr’s POV and hearing his voice in my head. Many of you – and writer friends I whined to who likely aren’t reading this – said to just go with it! Write it the way you want to!

So, I *did*! I started yesterday and wrote a page or two in his POV and…

………………it’s all wrong. 

It’s something, and I’ll keep it, at least for a while, but I think this is a case of pushing through the wall. (I talked about that at a panel recently, nicely summarized by Shannon Moreau here.)

You know what decided me? I started thinking about the cover and working on that with the fantastically talented Ravven, and I only see the heroine on the cover. That says a great deal.

So: opinions from those of you who haven’t weighed in yet?

The Tide Is Shifting!!

THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is taking shape! If you haven’t been under a rock these last two days – and if you have, hey, I don’t judge – then you’ve already seen the cover. So much gorgeousness! The incomparable Ravven did this for me. Many people (who haven’t been under a rock, but that’s okay, too) have asked if this is the same artist who did the covers for (RITA finalist!)  THE PAGES OF THE MIND and THE EDGE OF THE BLADE.

The short answer is: no.

But Ravven did an AMAZING job of matching the look and feel of those previous covers. Those were done via my publisher, Kensington. They hired artist Cliff Nielsen to create the images and Kensington’s in-house cover designer, Kristine Mills, took it from there. Ravven did both jobs and managed to capture the same vibe while pinpointing everything about Zynda as I described her.

Because, yes, that’s Zynda – the Tala cousin of the three princesses of the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. She’s a powerful shapeshifter, capable of taking many animal forms, and she’s also a sorceress. Just how much can she do? Well, we don’t know for sure! But, like her cousin Andromeda (Andi), she is of Salena’s potently magical line. Zynda has an interesting role to play in unraveling the riddles that plague their realms.

Oh, wait – you’re wondering why I’m doing this book on my own, when the previous five were with Kensington? Yeah, savvy readers will have picked out that THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE will be self-published rather than traditionally published. This partly by my choice, partly not.

See, this is how traditional publishing works, is that they might decide they no longer want to publish a series even though the author (and possibly readers!) think there’s more story to tell. In Kensington’s case, they were happy the books were so well received and have gotten great awards, but the sales weren’t what they wanted. Specifically the print sales. All of these books have sold great in ebook form – which is very typical for romance – and have sold through on the advances Kensington gave me. The print sales, however, weren’t as good as they wanted. What did they want? I don’t know. These decisions are rarely made clear to the authors. Instead, what they do – and did with THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE – is pass on the “option book,” which is the next book I’m contractually obligated to offer them.

Once they passed on SHIFT, which came as no surprise to me for a number of reasons – frankly, I was luckier than most to go that long as many authors get two books and that’s it – I had the freedom to self-publish the rest of the series. That’s pretty huge, by the way. Back in the Bad Old Days, I would not have had this option. The infrastructure to self-publish simply wasn’t there. You know how some of your favorite series suddenly seemed to just… stop? 95% of the time, that’s the reason why. (The other 5% being author going off the edge, burning out, or dying, pretty much in that order.) 

So, I’m planning to do this book and at least one more. After that… it depends! I’ll have to see where the overall arc is and how you all are with it. I’ll have to make my own sales decision. For the time being, I’m *thrilled* that this cover continues the look of the series in grand style. In additional exciting news, my editor for the first five books is freelancing, so Peter Senftleben will be editing these also! I’m also fortunate to have my same production editor, Rebecca Cremonese, who makes sure all of my books are as perfect as my stubborn nature allows. 

I’m shooting for August 15 release date on this. Amazon only allows a 90-day lead on setting a pre-order date, so by mid-May, when we can actually DO it, I’ll know for sure that I can commit.

This is the initial blurb. It will change as, you know, I write the actual story. If you want to learn something about how my process does (and doesn’t!) work, save this and compare it to the final. Could be entertaining!

Free from the hand of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. New allies appear–and enemies encroach–from all sides. To survive, they must adapt to this new reality without a moment of doubt…

Growing up in a country where magic was common as dust, Zynda never had to worry about her enchantments upsetting the balance of nature. But the land beyond the borders of the thirteenth kingdom calls to her. It may be foreign and ugly, but the strangeness is laced with an excitement she has never known. Outside her homeland, Zynda’s shapeshifting and sorcery are a potent advantage to nations grasping for dominance–and the thrill of power lures her even as she recognizes the threat she poses to these magic-buffeted realms.

A ruthless enemy stalks them, promising destruction if she does not fight with all her strength–but if she upsets the equilibrium of the land, all will pay, the common people most of all. And a man of this outside world fascinates her, a mossback with no scrap of magic in him. He knows nothing of the fears and temptations pulling at her. But in his steady embrace she learns she must choose well–for the consequences may reach farther than she ever imagined…