Category Archives: Cool Gus Publishing

Black Witch of Mexico by @Colin_Falconer

Please welcome guest blogger Colin Falconer to Write on the River!


Available at Amazon

Available at Amazon

Colin Falconer

(note this title is FREE to those who have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited)

I was in Mexico researching a book and a writer friend told me about the black witches. I decided to go looking for one. It was in the south, in a town called Catemoco, that I finally tracked one down.

He was a snappy dresser, even down there in the middle of nowhere; a silk guayabera shirt, chunky gold rings on every finger, one of them a skull with small rubies set into the eyes.

In a candle-lit room filled with statues of Santa Muerte, he got straight down to business.

‘Is this for business or for love?’ he asked me.

I decided to play along. ‘Love,’ I said.

‘Who is this woman? Do you want her back – or do you want her dead?’

That took me off balance. ‘I don’t want anyone to die,’ I told him.

‘Give me a photograph,’ he said, putting out his hand. ‘She will come back to you.’

He smiled as if he could read my mind.


“There exists good and evil in the world,’ he said. ‘There is the devil and there is God.’

He regarded him with his magician’s nasty eye. ‘I can call forth the maldad negra and cause great harm, even death.

‘Is that what you want? Is it? All I need is a name, and a piece of their clothing or even a photograph. I can take away your bad luck and give it to someone else.

‘Or I can make a woman love you. Is that your secret desire? Come, tell me. What is it you want? I can give you anything, anything. Todo que quieres.’

I walked out.


But the idea lingered; what would have happened if I had gone along with him?

And so The Black Witch of Mexico was born.

Would you sell your soul to have anything you wanted?

From the witch markets of Mexico City to the ancient valleys along the Guatemalan border, places still haunted by the statues and ruins of the Olmecs, a man is drawn deeper into a world he doesn’t understand. He soon comes to question everything he once believed.

Are witches just superstitious nonsense? Or is there such a thing as real evil in the world?

The Black Witch of Mexico is a chilling psychological thriller where nothing is quite what it seems.

Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.


Shit Doesn't Just HappenWhich 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

ShitDoesntJust2_(Grey2)Cover Concept Two

ShitDoesntJust2_(B)Cover Concept Three

ShitDoesntJust2_(6b)Cover Concept Four


Cover Concept Five


Which cover do you like the best and why?

Nothing but good times ahead…

A day in the life of an Agile Publishing Partnership

by Jen Talty

In the last two months, we have partnered with two new authors; Mark Chisnell and Sibella Giorello. At Cool Gus, we believe that anyone in between the author and their readers must add value. That is a question we discuss with authors for a long time before both parties decide if this is a partnership that can add value to the author’s career because (one of our other sayings): there are many roads to Oz and Oz means different things to different authors. Publishing is not a ‘one size fits all’ business.

So, what is it like to be me? Never a dull moment when you’re surrounded by 4 screens, three computers, an iPad and surround sound. Who says I need a dog under my desk? The best part is yesterday, amidst the madness, I figured out how to cool down my iMac. Nope. Not telling. You all can sweat it out!

Cool Gus Command Center

Cool Gus Command Center

So, a day in the life…

Yesterday, after finishing up a first read through and sending an editorial note to Jennifer Probst for a short story titled Dante’s Fire, updating keywords for Bob, approving ads for an on-line ad campaign, creating a bundle cover for Mark and Colin Falconer, sending work to one of my assistants, and updating our Kindle Countdown, I began working away on a cover for Sibella for her YA book titled Stone and Spark when I received an email from Sibella letting us know her other publisher had been informed that Amazon would be featuring the third book in her Raleigh Harmon Series: The Rivers Run Dry from 14 to 30 March and she figured it would be impossible to switch gears and get the first book in the series: The Stones Cry Out up and ready for sale by 14 March. Yes, that is she emailed Bob and I on 10 March 2014. And one day later, The Stones Cry Out is available for sale via Amazon partnered with Cool Gus. I use the word partnered because we don’t really view ourselves as publishers, but we’re not a paid service either. Money rolls to the author; always.

A few things had to be in place in order for this to happen. First, we needed cover, which we had, though we are going to be updating it as we work on an over all branding plan with Sibella. Because this is a backlist title, we also had an edited manuscript. I received the email at 11am and by 4pm later that afternoon, I had the book loaded to Amazon and by 6pm that night, all the reviews had been linked. While I did that, Bob and Sibella discussed some other things they could do to promote both books. While I waited for some thing to happen on the back end, I went back to my to do list putting together some bundles we’ll be featuring shortly.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had some missing reviews (49 to be exact) on one title for Mark from Powder Burn. I did what I could on my end (that was sending an email with all the proper ASIN and ISBN numbers) and continued on with my list. The reviews have been found and are now back where they belong. Thank you.

Couple of key things here. First, what other “publisher” would help promote another publisher’s book? At Cool Gus, what is good for the author is good for Cool Gus. We’re not about a book; we’re about careers. Building them. Supporting them. The long tail. We’re hoping Colin Falconer will be picked up by Amazon Publishing and we’re working on making that connection for Colin, getting his manuscript to the right people.

Something else to consider: we don’t want 100 authors. We can’t do justice to 100 authors. There is only one of me and cloning isn’t an option since Bob has sent the mold off with the mothership. Publishing is a business. It’s a people business. We were at a conference last month and someone asked me what we get out of attending conferences. That answer is simple: networking. We have spent a lot of time cultivating relationships with the people at KDP, Createspace, Amazon Publishing, Nook, Kobo, Google, Bookbub, Book Sends, Audible/ACX, Storyfinds, Overdrive, Inkbok, and so many others in this business.

Bob has always said it is nearly impossible to self-publish if you have more than a couple of titles. What can be overwhelming to the new author is all the nuances there are to self-publishing, which has changed drastically just in the last couple of years. Bob has made his living as an author (or is it writer, I forget) since 1991. He knows both camps. His insight into the business comes laced with experience and blunt honesty, which is available to our authors at any given time.

The reason we were able to get the book up in such a short time is because we are a team. We work together to make sure the author (which is who we work for) gets what they need when they need it and in a timely fashion. This is why we are looking for just a couple more authors to round out our team.

It’s a great time to be an author.

Blog Contest for this Week: Sign up for Bob’s Newsletter and get your name put in for a drawing to win an AUDIO edition of The Kennedy Endeavor. Bob sends out a newsletter no more than 4-6 times per year. Besides interesting information about Cool Gus, Sassy Becca and Big Orange (Bob’s new Jeep), Bob also gives his newsletter subscribers exclusive content. You can sign up here.

Also, Bob is doing a Goodreads Giveaway. Here are the details.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cut Out by Bob Mayer

Cut Out

by Bob Mayer

Giveaway ends March 16, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer Probst!

Available in eBook, Paperback and Audio!

Available in eBook, Paperback and Audio!

Please welcome guest blogger and Cool Gus Team Member Jennifer Probst. Jennifer is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of both sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her novel, The Marriage Bargain, was the #6 Bestselling Book on Amazon for 2012. Her first children’s book, Buffy and the Carrot, was co-written with her 12 year old niece, and her short story, “A Life Worth Living” chronicles the life of a shelter dog. She makes her home in New York with her sons, husband, two rescue dogs, and a house that never seems to be clean. She loves hearing from all readers! Stop by her website for all her upcoming releases, news and street team information.

Take it away Jennifer!

* * * * *

The Power of Dialogue…

One of the true pleasures I find in a good book is well written dialogue.

Since I write contemporary romance, with real situations and every day characters, dialogue is key to liven up the action, hook the reader, and keep the pages turning.


As my son would say, easy peasy, lemon squeezie…

I’ll be using examples of my new Re-Release, Executive Seduction:

1. Make sure your hero and heroine sound DIFFERENT: Let’s be honest—if you overhear a conversation between men and women, they are from two separate planets. Men talk daily stuff. Men are brief, sometimes stilted, sometimes crude, and communicate with grunts, laughs, insults, comments, and despise going deep.

Women like to talk about feelings. They speak in longer sentences, more descriptive, more animated with their bodies. They listen, delve deep, and sometimes touch others in a show of support.

If your hero is speaking in long, flowery language to your heroine, it’s just not gonna fly. And if you’re heroine isn’t opening up or trying to communicate with the hero, there’s a damn good reason why. She’s hiding something. Make sure you know what it is.

2. Keep it snappy: I don’t want to hear inane conversation about garbage day, dishes, or who they were speaking with on the phone. Make it count. Make it move. Make it interesting.

3. Use dialogue to reveal hidden secrets: Sometimes a long narrative description of hidden secrets from the hero or heroine is just too lengthy and drags. I love using dialogue to reveal parts of my character. Confessions in the dark after sex are done for a very good reason. There’s safety there. Instead of using thoughts, flashbacks or memories, use dialogue.

Here’s an example of 2 & 3:

The lilting strains of the slow, moody ballad drifted in the air. The floaty material of her silk dress brushed against his thighs as they moved. Logan muttered something under his breath.


“I said Laura must want to torture me. I should be arrested for the lecherous thoughts I’m having in a public place.”

Chandler hid a smile. “She’d be shocked at your lecherous words, too.”

“I think it turned you on.”

“You’re incorrigible.”

“So you’ve said.” His gaze dropped to her mouth. “Laura likes you. She thinks you’ll be good for me.”

“I think she’s tired of making pork chops every Thursday.”

Logan chuckled. “Smart mouth. From the sweetest of smiles comes the sharpest of barbs.”

“Who said that?”

“I did.”

“Oh. I thought you were quoting someone.”

“I was quoting myself. Why do you look so nervous?”

“You’re staring at my mouth like you’re starving, and I’m your next meal.”

He gave a wolfish grin.

“I’m still trying to convince myself I’m not your prey.”

“When you look at me like that, I think I’d chase you to the ends of the earth.”

“See, you are a poet. And to think I’d given up on dry, logical businessmen. Maybe there’s hope for your lot.”

“Dry, logical businessmen can transform if they find the right women.”

This time he caught her before she stumbled. His fingers threaded through her hair hanging down her back. Her scalp prickled, and she ached for him to put an end to the torture and just kiss her. The delicious scent of musk and spice drifted to her nostrils. She blurted out her next words without obvious thought. “Why do you chase me so hard?”

“Why do you run so fast?”

Her lower lip trembled. “Because I’m afraid.”

4. Reveal hidden traits of characters: We all have a belief system. Instead of spouting poetic to the reader of what your character believes in, let it come out in dialogue. You both may learn something. Here’s a quick example of dinner conversation that runs much deeper:

“Food seems to be another one of life’s pleasures. Don’t you agree?” he asked. She paused in the act of reaching for another shrimp cocktail as the waiter left.

“I try to be vegetarian and eat tofu and yogurt, but my heart just isn’t in it.” She smiled. “I feel guilty when I lecture my students on nutrition. I’ve already made note of the dessert menu.”

He laughed. “A woman whose heart is controlled by her stomach. I respect that.” He watched her bite into the shrimp and close her eyes in delight. “I hope your profession can support your appetite.”

“If I wanted a fortune, I would have worked as a business executive.”

“So you said before. What else do you hate besides money, Chandler?”

She blinked. “Power. Controlling people. Lies hidden behind smiles. The usual things most people hate.”

“It’s not so simple,” he said softly. “Most grab at an opportunity with both hands. People raised in poverty see money as their only way out of hell.”

She shook her head. “It’s a trap. They’re really giving up the self, and what they get in return is a lie. Money and power are illusions and only soothe for a temporary period. Then they wake up one morning needing more, and sacrificing more to get it. In the end they lose everything important and find themselves alone. Money can’t help loneliness.”

“That sounds like a conclusion drawn by one who followed the path and got burned. You talk from experience. What made you change?”

5. Ramp up your sex scenes. Sigh. Well, I had to talk about sex, I am a romance writer. A great love scene is key in romance, and let’s be honest, a little naughty dialogue ramps up the tension in both the characters and reader.


“You are so gorgeous. I can’t wait to spend hours just looking at you.”  Her natural shyness caved beneath the raw lust in his voice, and her mind shut down for a permanent vacation. His palm settled over her center and he lightly massaged her tender flesh, but never enough to satisfy. She moaned long and low. “But right now I want to play. Does this feel good?”

Her voice came out ragged. “Yes.”

“And this?” He squeezed her nipples and pleasure pain ripped through her. He rotated his hand, dragging the lacy fabric back and forth, until her heart pounded and her blood roared, and she thought she’d die of pleasure if he kept going. “Oh, God, yes.”

“Open your legs for me, ” he muttered darkly in her ear.

Whew! That’s it – happy reading and happy speaking!

You can buy Executive Seduction at the following links or come by my website!

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Audio


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