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.
I debated a long time whether to keep that title or go with others, such as Seven By Seven: The Anatomy of Catastrophe. But I’m going to be up front. I feel so strongly about this book, that I believe the more controversial title is needed.
I’m not a fan of profanity, but I didn’t invent the phrase shit happens. It’s part of our lexicon. Apparently Forrest Gump even helped invent it.
Years ago, I remember getting a letter (remember those?) from a kid liking my Area 51 books. And I realized I didn’t need profanity in those books. So I tried to refrain. Of course, in my military thrillers and other books, it has a place. But much like a sex scene, it has to serve a purpose or it’s extraneous. In my few early sex scenes before collaborating with Jennifer Crusie, the scene always ended with someone dying (usually the woman) so the hero could swear vengeance and thus we have the rest of the book (plus he doesn’t have to talk). Kind of misogynistic, I admit. In Chasing The Lost, my hero is seduced and there’s definitely a reason for it. And not what he thinks.
Going back to the anger thing: Jen Talty says a brand needs ‘haters’ to succeed. Sort of like relationships: you’d rather have someone hate you than be apathetic. So the pushback is actually a bit encouraging.
So, yes. I want a bit of controversy. Because I do believe that the book is important. It’s the first in a series. Each one covers seven catastrophes. And lists the seven cascade events leading up to each disaster. This is based on my Rule of Seven. My wife and I developed the Rule of Seven after watching Seconds From Disaster and we saw a pattern to plane crashes—they all required at least seven things to go wrong. The bottom line is that many catastrophes can be avoided. But we have to study ones that happened in order to learn for the future. It gives meaning to the sacrifices of the victims.
In the first book, due out 9 September, I cover events as wide ranging as the Titanic (easy one) to Tulips (not so easy). Then there is the Donner Party where my focus isn’t on the cannibalism, but the homicides. And I discuss a fellow West Pointer, George A. Custer and his date with destiny on the Greasy Grass River, aka Little Big Horn. There’s also the plane crash where the pilot mistakenly turned off his only working engine. And the worst school disaster in US History, which led to a law that has saved many lives since then. And finally how the sacrifice of Apollo 1 saved the lives of the men on Apollo 13.
I’ll blog more about all this. And for those whose sensibilities I’ve offended, I would apologize, but as George Costanza says, end on a high note.
And, oh yeah. The real reason I’m keeping the title is my wife told me to keep it. And I’ve learned to always say yes, which is the secret to a successful marriage.
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’ve tried to avoid a lot of the back and forth going on in publishing. Really. Really Really. But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
Going out to get a cannoli now.
I haven’t published a full page ad in the NY Times, nor signed that letter. Nor did I send an email to the CEO of Hachette. I do have a short post that Amazon KDP might publish sometime soon regarding my feelings about that program. Which is gratitude, which seems to be in short supply.
I’ve made a few comments here and there, but overall I don’t see much point to a lot of the activities of a lot of authors all around. But hey, more power to them. It’s a free society and there are many valid points being raised. I’ve been called selfish for that perspective. Unfortunately, no one knows my motives, nor do I know their reasons for their actions so while I can question them, I cannot judge them. There have been some excellent observations from Hugh Howey, David Gaughran, Dean Wesley Smith, Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, Chuck Wendig and others. Not much I can add to that. I’m just not that informed.
As writers, we should understand motivation. The same action for two different reasons, makes the action very different. I will admit to not being on Maslow’s fifth layer of Self-Actualization nor will I make a pretense to be.
Hachette produces books. Amazon and other platforms distribute books. Both good things in my opinion. I remember when there was one big bookstore on 18th in New York called Barnes & Noble. I used to go there as a kid with my Uncle Joey; a New York City Firefighter. There was only ONE B&N then. It became a big chain and people protested! Protesting bookstores. One wonders. Now people are protesting Amazon. Well okay. I read The Everything Store and it was chilling and enlightening at the same time.
Life is nuanced. Pretty much every event I’ve encountered in my 25 years in publishing has not been all good or all bad. It’s been both and I’ve had to filter it through my, well, let’s call it ‘selfishness’. I also call it my business and livelihood.
So here are some of my realities:
I’m grateful to trad publishing. I find it odd that few successful indies who have backlist from trad, or whose career started there, talk much about this. The infamous hybrid author which I blogged about in 2010 when no one had heard of the term. In fact, many are angry their backlist wasn’t more successful, that they weren’t treated better. True, but the irony is, if that had happened, I wouldn’t have my backlist. My getting ‘fired’ a half dozen times or so by trad publishers allowed me to accumulate 42 titles. When Random House gave me back my Area 51 series, I told my wife I’d just gotten my retirement and over the last several years, that’s relatively true. I also made a living in trad publishing for 20 years and for that I’m grateful. I worked with a lot of good people and some incompetent people; much like any job. I’m pretty sure, for example, that at a tragic time in my family’s life, my agent got me a book deal primarily by asking for a favor. She also took me to Spamalot, which is like, way cool. Thanks, Meg Ruley.
I’m grateful to Amazon and the Kindle, and Barnes & Noble and Nook, and Apple and iBooks, and Kobo, and Mars On-Line for the ability to distribute directly. I’m grateful to 47North for publishing one of my series and the excellent merchandizing they provide.
Most of all, though, I’m grateful to readers. The distance between them and my content now is the Internet.
I am a content provider. Readers are consumers. Those are the two key parts of this equation and that, I think, is what the big corporations need to pay attention to. We might be easily replaceable but then again: we might not be.