Author Archives: Jen Talty
Please welcome Cool Gus Team Member Deborah Coonts to Write on the River to talk about her latest release!
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This whole story started with a smoking gun.
You see, I’m not much of a foodie. And, I’m not much of a cook either. In fact, I have a love/hate relationship with food—I love it, but I hate it when my jeans don’t fit. And it doesn’t help that I’m more of a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives kind of gal rather than one who favors an exorbitantly-priced, twenty-item tasting menu that stills leaves you lusting after a Whataburger. So, when it comes to fancy food prep, I’m a bit clueless.
Which leads me back to the smoking gun thing.
I was eating dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants in Vegas, Due Forni, with two of my best buds, one of them a chef. As a first course, we ordered some of the homemade mozzarella and their famous bread (totally to die for). I ordered the smoked cheese and, through mouthfuls I expressed my pleasure and my wonder at how they imparted the smoky flavor. I’m originally from Texas and the whole smoked thing is a religion there—but it requires a huge smoker and tons of hickory and I didn’t see that sort of set up at Due Forni. So, I wondered out loud how someone might give fresh mozzarella a smoked flavor.
My bud, the chef, looked at me as if I’d been living under a rock and announced, “With a smoking gun, of course.”
But, of course! A smoking gun. Who knew?
That little tidbit stopped me mid-bite and totally derailed his dinner as I peppered him with questions.
I mean, there’s just something so prosaic about killing someone with a smoking gun, don’t you think?
So, off the story ran, as stories are wont to do. Before long I found myself mired hip-deep in the world of gourmet cookery. And I became interested in the conundrum of serving incredibly fresh food in a place that is as hospitable to the nurture of delicate plants and exotic fish as the surface of the moon. And that led to research into the pipeline for gourmet foodstuffs, the need for temperature control, for impeccable and consistent quality and lightning fast shipments. All of this is incredibly competitive, with the top-tier chefs locked in a fierce battle for the freshest, most unique items on the planet.
The perfect recipe for murder.
Or several, as the case may be… kitchens are dangerous places, you know.
And, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this sort of culinary chaos.
In LUCKY CATCH, Lucky has been promoted. She is now the Vice President of Customer Relations for the Babylon, Vegas’s primo Strip property, which really doesn’t change anything, it just sounds more important. She’s still charged with keeping the lid on guests, entertainers, chefs and staff who decide to turn up the heat while at the Babylon. Normally, this isn’t a problem, but with the dishy, world-renowned chef, Jean-Charles Bouclet in hot pursuit and the return of her former lover, Teddie, setting her emotions on sizzle, Lucky’s is a bit distracted.
And then, with Thanksgiving approaching, a young woman gets smoked in Jean-Charles’s food truck on the Babylon’s back lot and he becomes the prime suspect. Of course, he goes on the lam leaving Lucky to deal with his sister and his niece who stick to Lucky like a good roux, leaving her to wonder what game he is really playing. To make matters worse, Mona, Lucky’s mother, is up to her normal shenanigans, throwing fat in the fire just when Lucky seems to be taming it to a manageable flame.
Of course, all of this would be easy as pie for Lucky…except the Babylon is hosting a nationally-televised celebrity chef cooking competition and the prized white truffle, one of the main ingredients, goes missing. Not even the truffle pig that Miss P has ensconced in Bungalow 7 in the rarified air of the Kasbah, can find it.
Would someone really kill for a truffle?
As usual, in a bit of shameless product placement, I insert many of my favorite local restaurants in the book, which is one of my favorite things to do. And, of course, I had to sample them anew before doing so… quality control and all of that. Not to mention the tax-deductible thing.
I wonder if the resulting gym membership is deductible as well?
Anyway, please join Lucky on her wild ride through the kitchens of Vegas and find out whether Lucky can clear her chef before his goose is cooked, whether she decides it’s possible to love again without being parboiled in the process, and who her LUCKY CATCH might be.
And whether I might be shot for working a metaphor so hard it rolled over and died.
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Thanks for stopping by Deborah! Nothing but good times.
Exciting times here at Cool Gus Command Central. Today we have two awesome releases by two of our very talented team members. Dante’s Fire by Jennifer Probst and Lucky Catch by Deborah Coonts. We’ll be spending the next two days hearing from these fabulous writers! Nothing but good times.
Please welcome NY Times Bestselling Author Jennifer Probst to Write on the River with her latest release, Dante’s Fire, which is being released today in Print, eBook and Audio!
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By Jennifer Probst:
A New Kind of Hero….
Ah, how I adore my alpha billionaires.
The Marriage to a Billionaire series was created on this brand of delicious men that never left me alone – who haunted my dreams and my heart and helped me write with passion.
And then I fell madly in love with Nate from Searching for Perfect – my first beta nerd-geek extraordinaire. Readers filled my inbox with their love for this nerd and his transformation, and I was overjoyed taking the risk had been worth it.
And then…a new type of hero haunted my muse. I saw him so clearly, a human trapped in this world with a dark secret and power that tortured him. Kept him isolated. A sexy, broody, secret billionaire hero that was different from all others I had ever written.
Dante was born in all superhero glory. But not a regular superhero. A human with a special gift that helped the world but destined him to live in the shadows. Enter the woman of his dreams, secrets, passion galore, and I had the series of a lifetime.
Dante’s struggle is universal, and I identified with him immediately. I may not have special powers, but hasn’t everyone felt alone and isolated in this world? Not worthy of love? Trying to do the right thing but pressured to bend and be selfish with our own pleasure?
This is the human struggle I wanted to explore. Of course, he needed to be super hot, an amazing lover, and bigger than life.
And he is.
He also needed the right woman who would not only be strong enough to accept his gift, but love him even more for it, though it’s a sacrifice for both of them.
Selina Rogers is that woman. Their story and struggle to be together will hopefully be the perfect ending to your scorching summer!
Here’s a teaser of what you will find in Dante’s Fire and my new hot hero.
Darkness stole over his face. His features seemed carved from stone. “Someone I loved was killed. For a long time, I didn’t know how to handle it. I lashed out, angry at the world, angry at my weakness. I finally realized in order to be strong; we have to allow ourselves to feel the grief first. The rage. The helplessness. Then we can heal.”
As if they shared the same soul, pain shuddered through her body, imagining him as a boy watching someone get hurt. Someone he couldn’t help. “Is that how you got your scar?”
Dan touched his face. A lifetime of memories flickered in his eyes. “Yes. I had nights I didn’t think I could handle because of the nightmares.”
The words drove deep. Him too. Maybe she wasn’t so alone after all, but like most bad things, people kept them locked inside and refused to share. Suddenly, he reached over to her. His finger trailed down her bruised cheek with so much tenderness tears stung her eyes. “But I learned something important. Scars aren’t a weakness, Selina. They’re signs of strength because we survived.”
The truth struck her full force. Her hands gripped her coffee mug as she struggled to process this new energy between them, this intimacy that made her suddenly ache to have his arms wrap around her and hold tight. To feel his hands stroking while his lips took hers.
She froze, waiting for him to do something, waiting for him to do nothing. Last week she might have made the move. Might have. But now?
His hand dropped.
“I better go.” His gruff words broke the spell. He dumped the paper cup in the garbage and headed toward the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yes. See you tomorrow.”
She watched him walk away and wondered if she’d ever be the same person again.
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Thanks Jen! Absolutely LOVE this book.
Tomorrow we have National Bestselling Author Deborah Coonts with the 5th book in her Lucky Series, Lucky Catch.
Which we haven’t made a final decision on. For Shit Doesn’t Just Happen, the first book in the series, we have a final cover. The release date is 9 September 2014 and you can pre-order your copies at Amazon and iBooks (other platforms pre-order coming in the next 24 hours).
I could get into various points of what makes a good cover, but there are plenty of really good blogs and information out there about that. I could also get into various techniques I use in Photoshop. I did a short video on that when I made a cover for Mary Reed McCall. Other than this Video, which might interest you, the technical details would bore the novice to tears. Its almost as bad as listening to me when I go off on a tangent about how to create an eBook and HTML and CSS…oh no…I’m losing you.
Back to Shit Doesn’t Just Happen II Cover in the making…
Bob and I have always had a collaborative process when it comes to covers. Not just for his covers, but for all our authors as well. When doing a cover, I always try to get a feel for what the author has imagined their cover might be and try to give them concepts that fill their vision. I also do my own vision because I didn’t write the book, therefore I am not as close to it and I have a different perspective. Each author is a little different in that some have very definitive ideas of what they want or don’t want. I will always make recommendations or tell authors if I don’t think an idea is working, but the bottom line is the author gets the final say. I could go through close to 75 different covers before we land on just the right one. We will often go through 20 different fonts to get just the right one. Or make minor tweaks here in there in color or placement of extra images etc. Sometimes it has taken a couple of months to finalize a cover.
I really love the creative process and what I love the most is the input from the author. Today, Bob and I spent a good portion of our day emailing back and forth for the cover of Shit Doesn’t Just Happen II (which will be out 23 September 2014). Actually, the emailing started as I was sitting in an airport while searching various sites for images and ideas for the cover. Plus, we wanted to mirror the first book, but we wanted to make sure it was different enough that everyone would know by just looking at the cover it was not the same book.
We place a lot of importance on cover and spend a lot of time working on them. They are a very important visual marketing tool and in thumbnail, it has to reach out to the reader and say, ‘look closer’, which isn’t always an easy thing to do. One of the things we’ve always said was the cover has to say something about the book. Well, that is very true about fiction. A romance cover needs to look like a romance. A thriller has to have a darker feel to it. It’s one way the reader categorizes books in their mind. They are flipping through web pages and they see something that looks similar but different to something they read and loved, they are more likely to stop. Images trigger a visceral reaction. So, genre does play a key role in the direction we go with our covers. One series, The Duty, Honor, Country Series, we used historical images and the while the books are very much fiction, they have a non-fiction feel, which is what Bob wanted. However, non-fiction can be different. Interesting point here was that I thought Bob had totally lost his mind when he asked me to work up the covers for Duty, Honor, Country. Initially, I fought Bob on this idea. I thought we were heading in the wrong direction, but often, as the creative process works, we have to try different things and as soon as I did the layout, I knew we had a winner.
In non-fiction, it is often the title, subtitle and content of the book that triggers the reader to look closer. When readers search on-line for fiction, they often search by author name or specific genre categories. When readers are looking for non-fiction, they are more apt to search by key words and topic such as, what really happened to the Titanic? Or, The Criminal Mind. Or, The Civil War and Women. Cover is still important, especially now with the amount of on-line shopping for books.
Bob had sent an email to me about a week ago with the disasters he’d be covering in this edition and I focused on the Challenger and used an image from that disaster. It was a good cover and Bob liked it, but he thought it would give the reader a false concept of what the book was about since the image is one of those images that most of us would recognize. I agreed, but was still like, ugh, I really liked that cover. I tried various different ideas he had, and neither one of us was feeling it. Then I found this abstract image and thought, wow, that’s different. Intriguing. Which is what we wanted. But it didn’t scream disaster. So, I started playing with different ideas with that image. Which also sparked some other ideas. And that is the key.
The process in getting from an idea of a cover, to the final, OMG that is a great cover, is as frustrating and exhilarating as writing a book.
Just like writing a book, creating a cover is a process. A process of creating a world a reader can relate with and get lost in. I look at it as if I’m creating a character. Writers have always said that good characters ‘pop’ off the page. Well, we’ve also always said that covers have to ‘pop’. When a reader searches for something on any on-line retailer, or even on Google, the images that draw our attention and if one is interesting, well we click on it. Especially if we don’t know exactly what we are looking for. Pick a topic. One that interests you. Or one that you are currently writing about or researching. Go to Amazon and search that topic. What comes up? What covers draw you in? Did you look at the covers first, or read the title?
We writers also often use beta readers to get feedback. Covers can be treated the same way.
We have a pretty good idea of which cover we’re leaning toward. But here are a bunch of different covers (in random order). Please, let us know your thoughts, comments, opinions. We really appreciate all the feedback.
Cover Concept One
Cover Concept Five
Which cover do you like the best and why?
Nothing but good times ahead…
I had some interesting travels this past week.
It started off with some issues flying out of Rochester to LGA. I had the right dates but somehow I had booked myself from LGA to ROC instead of ROC to LGA. It happens. Not often, but it does. Now this is why I heart Delta. Because I booked it through their site on my business AMEX CARD from Delta, Howard at the Delta counter worked his magic and got to NY and back without any extra charges. How awesome is that? But this was the start of a Planes, Trains and Walking movie. The emphasis on walking. Oh, and I broke my favorite black sandals that are insanely comfortable because off all the walking I ended up doing…
Bob and I decided that since I was heading to NJ to visit with one of our contract editors that it would be a good idea for me to head across the Hudson and spend a day at Thrillerfest, so instead of driving (I don’t drive in NYC) I flew. I managed to get from LGA to Penn Station via a bus, then walked two blocks to the Path and get on the train. Of course when I got to the Path I had to pick between two trains. Well, I had to make sure I got on the right train, which I did. I even got off at the right stop. All by myself. See, I don’t generally travel alone, anywhere. If its work, I’m with Bob. If its fun, I’m with Hubby. So, this is all their fault. Just saying.
Fast forward to Friday and I had to make my way back into NYC via the train. And walking. Well, not as much walking. I managed to take the Path to 33rd and transfer to the D train and then off at 42nd and then walked in the RIGHT direction to the Grand Hyatt where I was able to get into my hotel room at 10am! When does that happen? So perhaps the travel Gods are no longer frowning on me.
I didn’t actually attend Thrillerfest, so I can’t report back on any of the panels or workshops, because I didn’t attend any, but I did sit in the lobby and meet with authors as well as one of our contacts from Amazon and also got to meet face to face (even if for a moment) our contact at iBooks.
My first meeting was with Amy Shojai, one of our authors. It was nice to see her again and we discussed our plan with her future books. I then had lunch with Laura Benedict and Rebecca Cantrell and a couple other authors as well as agent Janet Reid. It was a great lunch, chatting about publishing and other topics.
But what struck me right off the bat this year at Thrillerfest was the feeling I got the moment I started to see people was an overwhelming positive sense. And, while I know the topic of Amazon and Hachette was discussed, it wasn’t THE topic of conversation. I talked with a lot of authors who are trying different things from Kickstarter to collaborations to shorts to switching genres to writing more, writing less. Many roads to OZ.
While it had a very positive vibe, Thrillerfest is still very grounded in Traditional Publishing. Even though many authors are dipping their fingers into other possibilities, the focus is on Traditional.
There is a danger in having roots too deep in any one camp. There are both positive and negatives to both indie publishing and trad publishing. I think the hardest part for an author today is sorting through all the information and making the right decision for themselves. This is especially hard when the top 1% on both sides who are well respected in the business are giving advice that is often times the complete opposite of one another. Many of the authors I talked to at Thrillerfest are intrigued by what Bob and I are doing and the Cool Gus Business Model, but, and this is a big but, they are either doing well enough with current publisher, or stuck in contractual obligations, or simply scared to make the leap in part because they do know its not “simple”. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on, or not sit on, publishing is still undergoing some major changes and there is more to come. We can fight it all we want, but that won’t change reality. Change is required to grow.
There is a lot of misinformation being passed around the internet. And a lot of slanted information for one side or the other. It’s very hard to wade through all the blogs, news articles, blogs and posts about any and all aspects of publishing. I had a long talk at Thrillerfest with Dan from Amazon, mostly about Cool Gus and our authors, since that is my business, and that is the point. It’s a business and we all have to make business decisions. Many roads to OZ and OZ means different things to different people. But we do all have to exist and often work together in this business. Sometimes ego just has to be checked at the door.
Now, how did I break my shoes?
Keith Raffel was gracious and invited me out to dinner with him, Laura Benedict, Shane Gericke, Janice Gable Bashman, Karen Dionne, Rebecca Cantrell, Kieran Crowley and Julie Kramer. The dinner was filled a lot of wonderful conversations about various aspects of publishing and different ways to go about it. Also, Rebecca was up for Best eBook Original and WON! Congrats Rebecca! Dinner was on 2nd Avenue near 77th and Keith, Laura and I got this bright idea we’d walk back. Very glad we did as Keith provided a great Fire Work show (thanks Keith!) for Laura and I and also let Laura and I window shop for shoes in some very nice little shops. But, it is a long walk from 77th and 2nd to 42nd and whatever intersection that is for the Grand Hyatt hotel. Not to mention we took a slight detour to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, these long leisurely walks weren’t meant for my very favorite black sandals and the straps broke on the way up to my room and oddly, these were the only shoes I brought with me. Thankfully, I didn’t have anymore walking and got a cab to the airport in duct tape sandals.
Nothing but Good Times.