The birth of a book cover #AmWriting #Writerslife #BookCovers

It’s important to get a book cover just right – or as close to just right as possible. A cover can tell a reader in which genre the book falls. It can hint at what a book is about. It can pique a reader’s interest into buying the book. And, probably most importantly, it can totally turn off a reader or potential buyer. With this in mind, I struggle to make each book cover just right.

I’ve made some doozies of mistakes with covers in the past. Instead of listening to expert advice, I thought I knew better. Spoiler alert: I did not. So, when it came to developing a cover idea (I don’t actually design the cover itself) for Finders, Not Keepers, instead of just thinking of something that ‘fit’ with the story, I also took some time to research book covers and what would work best with the novel.

Although Finders, Not Keepers can be categorized as a cozy mystery, I didn’t want the cover to scream COZY MYSTERY as I didn’t want to limit the potential audience of the novel. Although Finders, Not Keepers also has some suspense in it, I decided not to go with suspenseful looking cover as this would be misleading to readers and the last thing I want to do is mislead potential readers with a book cover. Can you say one-star review?

Having decided on giving Finders, Not Keepers a cover typical for mystery genres, I started out by researching mystery novels on Amazon. Once I had a good idea of how those looked, I went on to spend days and days scrolling through possible pictures. I really struggled with finding something that fit with the novel and was mysterious as well. At some point, I had a list of more than twenty search items going. Everything from ‘mystery’ to ‘female friends’ to ‘diamond necklace’. I was all over the place!

That’s when I remembered the original title of the novel – The Diamond No One Wanted. I decided not to use this title as it hinted too much at cozy mystery. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t use the original title idea to come up with an idea for a cover! To make the title mysterious, I decided to show a woman hiding a diamond.


The final cover. What do you think?

And that’s how the cover for Finders, Not Keepers was born. I’m hoping the title evokes questions like: Why is she hiding the diamond? Where did the diamond come from? And what does a diamond have to do with a murder?

Write when you feel like it but have dedicated writing time, too #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxHop #AmWriting #WritingTips

author took box october 1I treat writing like a job. I get up every morning – preferably at 6 a.m. – and write. I write until the dog can’t hold it anymore (somewhere around 9 a.m.). By then, I usually have my obligatory daily chapter written. That’s my writing time – the dark hours of the morning before the world wakes up (although the jerks next door like to start trimming the weeds in the parking lot before 8 a.m. in the summer months. Lawnmowers I can barely handle, but weedwackers? That sound wants me to start screaming while I throw things about.)

author took box october 2

A small selection of my notebooks

But sometimes I come up with an idea while it’s not my writing time. That’s what my notebooks are for. I’ve got tons of them. Seriously, I can’t walk past a stationary store. I buy them everywhere I travel as souvenirs. Of course, I can’t seem to make myself use the pretty ones, so then I have to buy more. “Hi! My name is Dena, and I’m addicted to buying notebooks.”

And if I’m not near a notebook? Then, I make a note in my phone. When I’m driving the car or walking the dog, I dictate a memo. The other doggy mommies and daddies think I’m weird. Luckily, the local newspaper did an exposé on my writing last year and now they just think I’m the eccentric foreign writer woman. (Score!)

That’s great and all, but there are times when writing an idea down is not enough. Those moments – usually while you’re trying to sleep or taking a shower – when your muse not only sends you an idea but an entire chapter. When I first started writing, I’d ignore those moments. Well, not entirely. I’d write the idea down in a notebook and then go back to whatever I was doing. Of course, by the time I actually got around to writing the chapter my muse handed me on a silver platter, it wasn’t nearly as funny/witty/suspenseful/{fill in adjective here} as when I first heard it – which was more than a little frustrating. What to do?

Now, writing takes priority. If I come up with witty dialogue while showering, that’s it for the shower. You’ll find me behind my computer typing away wrapped in a towel. (Note to self: Buy a robe.) And on the occasions when my muse thinks sleep is for the dead? Okay, mostly I tell her to take a hike and turn over and try to continue sleeping. She’s a stubborn muse, though. She won’t let me go back to sleep often. When she’s particularly persistent, I force myself out of bed and into my writing den. (I’m writing this at 7 a.m. after having already finished today’s chapter.)

What’s my point? This. It’s important to have dedicated time to write most days of the week. But don’t ignore your muse. If she’s whispering into your ear at another time (probably inconvenient because that’s how muses work), listen to her and go write that chapter or blog post or poem or song or whatever.

~ Happy writing


This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox!

authortoolbox 5

Lessons learned from The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman #bookreview #MondayBlogs #AmReading

This week I’m reviewing a book we read for book club. I didn’t choose this novel. Frankly, I don’t even know how this book was chosen as I’ve just joined (and taken over) this book club. I’d love to give you some views on what others thought of the book, but the meeting was eventually canceled as I fell ill (story of my life). I’m shocked I actually managed to finish the book on time. Go me!

The Book

 the italian teacher 2

My Review

This is a difficult book to rate as I would have never picked this one up off the shelf (even though the cover art is fabulous) as the description didn’t interest me. Family sagas are not my thing. I wouldn’t have finished this novel, but it was a book club selection (and everyone knows you are legally obligated to finish those). Although the writing is good, the story didn’t pull me in. I hated, hated, hated Bear. His serial marriages added to having numerous children he essentially forgot about it made me more than a bit angry. And Pinch? He was not a character easily loved. I kept screaming for him to get it together! Strangely enough, the characters on the pages of a novel do not listen to their readers.

My Rating

I struggled with this, but finally decided on three stars.

My Thoughts as a Writer

Normally, I don’t include my thoughts as a writer in a book review, but I couldn’t resist. This book provides a valuable lesson for writers (or at least it did for me). What happens when your protagonist is unlikeable? No one is going to continue reading the story because they are rooting for the main character. Maybe if he’s deplorable, they’ll root for his demise. But what if he’s just boring and lacking in personality (as Pinch was), what then? I don’t have an answer to this question.

Cover 2.0Morgan, the main character in my novel Life Discarded, does something horrible at the start of the novel. Like, really, really bad. It’s the prologue. I then spend the rest of the novel trying to justify / explain why she was essentially a good girl turned bad. The reviews were mixed. No matter how hard I tried to justify Morgan’s actions, some readers couldn’t wrap their heads around it. I took this lesson to heart. I now try to ensure my main characters are likeable or at least don’t commit major crimes.

Do you enjoy novels with an unlikeable protagonist? Do you write novels with only likeable characters?

Let’s stop using the term ‘guilty read’ #AmReading #BookAddict

*Steps up on soap box*

Over the past years, the term guilty read has become increasingly popular. A guilty read usually refers to a book that a reader is embarrassed about reading. This can be a fluffy romance, a whodunnit, a humorous novel, etc. You can see what these books have in common, can’t you? They aren’t literature. OMG! Say it ain’t so. Say you don’t actually read books that aren’t literature! How dare you? What are you? A commoner?

There’s nothing wrong with reading a book that’s just plain entertainment. We watch television that’s only entertainment all the time, don’t we? (Or do you only watch documentaries?) And go to movies that have no intellectual qualities to them. Marvel super heroes, anyone? Why then do we have to term entertaining reading guilty reading? Look at the definition of guilty:

guilty reads 1

Based on this definition a guilty read is defined as something that’s wrong. Say, what? Why is reading entertaining books wrong? Have we become too wrapped up in what other people think of us that we have started calling books we like to read guilty?

guilty reads 2I admit that I used to be guilty (pun intended) of the above. I wasn’t so much embarrassed about what I read (I did tell friends in person what I was reading) as I was trying to project this image of me the writer as being some intellectual who only read literature or books other authors asked me to review. Yikes! Nothing could be further from the truth. I read romance and fantasy like it’s going out of style. I don’t watch television to relax (well, sometimes), I read books.

And you know what? I also write so-called guilty reads. Yep, that’s me. I write romantic comedies and whodunnits that many a reviewer has called a ‘mind cleanser’, ‘easy read’, ‘quick read’… The list goes on. I’m also not embarrassed about that – or at least I’m not anymore. (I don’t write literature and that’s okay)

So, let’s stop with this ‘guilty read’ thing. Let’s call a spade a spade. If you’re reading a romance, say so! Reading a funny whodunnit, just say it! Reading an erotic romance, say … well, maybe you want to keep that to yourself especially when you start to blush while reading in the train. Let them think you’re having a hot flash. You are – kind of.

*Steps down from soap box*

keep calm and read a book

Why you shouldn’t trust Advertising Cost of Sales on your #Amazon Advertising Campaign #WriterWednesday #AmazonAds #Amazon #BookMarketing

I’m not saying you can’t trust Amazon. I mean why wouldn’t you be able to trust a giant in the industry? But seriously, it is important when running an Amazon ad to do your own analysis with regard to the ACoS. The ACoS is the Advertising Cost of Sales and this is “the amount you’ve spent on a campaign divided by total sales during the campaign run dates” Sounds good, right?

ACOS 1.1

Um… not exactly.

There is an inherent flaw with the total sales figure provided by Amazon. Only those wonderful readers who immediately click ‘buy now’ are considered sales. Personally, I’ve only heard rumors of the existence of these one-clickers. I’ve never actually come across one in person. This sounds simple enough. You click on the ad and then – praise the heavens! – you actually buy the book as well. Ching Ching! I make some royalties, Amazon takes a cut, you get a book you adore (I hope!), and all is well. Not quite.

The first – and obvious – problem is the kindle unlimited program. Amazon does not include pages read in the ACoS. I understand this would be difficult for Amazon. They would have to keep track of pages read from a specific customer for a specific product resulting from the customer clicking on an ad. Hmmm… maybe not too difficult. Perhaps Amazon could take a moment from developing complicated algorithms to figure this one out.

acos 2

The second not-so-obvious problem is that the vast majority of readers are not one-clickers. I confess. I am not a one-clicker. I always – ALWAYS – read a sample before I buy. Apparently, I’m not the only person who does this. (Yes, it’s true, I am not unique. *Sobs*) Amazon does not track those customers who download a sample as a result of an ad and then later purchase the novel. In fact, I’m not sure Amazon tracks samples downloaded at all. (WHY? Oh great one, why?)

What does this all mean? It means that writers must keep track of their sales in order to determine the real ACoS. You’ll want to include pages read for at least a week after the Amazon Ad ends as well as there’s a good chance these reads are the result of your ad. (Hey! It’s not an exact science.)

Anyone run into other problems with calculating ACoS? I’d love to hear about it.


The Orphan Master’s Son and a quick lesson in North Korean History #MondayBlogs #AmReading #History #Korea

orphan masters sonI finally got around to starting The Orphan Master’s Son. I’ve never read a book set in North Korea before. Fairly soon into the narrative, the North Koreans start missions to Japan to kidnap people. I’m intrigued by this idea of kidnapping people because you need a Japanese teacher or an opera singer. I’m wondering if I could get away with this. Need someone to clear your house? Just grab someone. What about that hot guy gardening next door? I could totally use his help. Oops. I may be getting out of hand.

But, seriously? Did the North Koreans just snag people from Japan for their own use? And what happened to these people? Although I consider myself a total history geek, I know little about the history of Korea. I know about the Korean War (in which my uncle fought) but little else. A quick search shows that North Korea not only kidnapped Japanese but also South Koreans and perhaps other Europeans as well. Naturally, the number kidnapped and what happened to them remains clouded in controversy. North Korea has admitted to abducting 13 Japanese citizens, although the Japanese government claims 17 were abducted. The numbers may in fact be in the hundreds.

North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in a show of good will during a summit between the two countries to normalize relations. Instead of creating a bond between the countries, the admission brought outrage in Japan where most had been convinced that rumors of the abductions were merely conspiracy theories.

330px-AbductedreturnhomeAlthough North Korea has returned five of the Japanese citizens, the controversy continues as the DNA tests of the remains of those who allegedly died while in North Korea were inconclusive.

Now that I’ve done a bit of research of North Korea, I can’t wait to dive back into The Orphan Master’s Son. What are you reading this week?


What I’m really reading #AmReading #BookAddict #BookLovers

bookworms uniteI’ve got a confession. I try to be honest and open on my blog. Sure, I don’t hang my dirty laundry out for y’all to see, but I’m not a liar. It turns out I may have been a bit misleading, though. And I don’t mean the part where my life looks all rosy and happy – I assume everyone online keeps most of the boring, depressing bits of their lives private.

So, what in the heck am I talking about? I’m talking about books I’m reading or have read. Oh sure, I’m still working my way – super slowly – through the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction. And I certainly do read non-fiction historical tomes that make it clear I’m a total geek. And I try to read other books for fellow authors. But the bulk of my reading is so-called guilty reads (which I understand we’re not supposed to call guilty reads anymore, but that’s a topic for another day – next week Friday to be exact).

But you wouldn’t know about this obsession of mine unless you somehow accessed my Amazon purchase list (please tell me you can’t do that!). On Goodreads, I only review the ‘intellectual’ reads (book club books and prize winners) unless an author has asked for a review. In fact, my Goodreads reading challenge is only 50 books, even though I probably read that many in January alone, as I was hiding my ‘fluff’ reading.

currently reading

This is what I show everyone I’m reading.

Why? You ask. Am I embarrassed by my reading? *hangs head in shame* Turns out I’m perfectly happy to read a bunch of fluff for relaxation (and research because a writer is always working), but I didn’t want anyone to know just how far my obsession went. Well, no more. I’ve started recording books I’ve read the previous day on Goodreads. I won’t review them all because even I don’t have enough time for that. I will review some, rate some, and some I’ll just mark as ‘read’.

So, now you know. I am truly a book addict. Recovery starts now. Recovery as in admitting what I’m writing not as in slowing down my reading ‘cuz that’s just crazy talk.

what im really reading

Happy Friday! What are you reading this weekend?

keep calm and read a book