Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are seven contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GREEN TEAM--but there is also a red team, an orange team, a gold team, a blue team, a purple team, and a pink team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!
If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the GREEN TEAM, and then add them up. (Don't worry, you can use a calculator!)
Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 8th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Today, I am hosting Tobie Easton on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Tobie was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she’s grown from a little girl who dreamed about magic to a twenty-something who writes about it. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, Tobie hosts book clubs for tweens and teens. She and her very kissable husband enjoy traveling the globe and fostering packs of rescue puppies. Tobie is the author of the acclaimed Mer Chronicles series, which offers a hidden peek into a world where mermaids aren’t just real, but live secretly among us. Learn more about Tobie and her upcoming books at www.TobieEaston.com.
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book HERE!
Submerge is the exciting and magical sequel in the Mer Chronicles series by Tobie Easton.
Lia and Clay's love has broken the Little Mermaid's curse, but their ever after may not be as happy as they planned. Lia is adamant about staying on land
with Clay for her senior year despite her family's opportunity to move to the new, sparkling capital city below the waves. Before any decision about the future can be made, her family must endure Melusine and her father's trial, where new revelations will have far-reaching consequences that threaten what Lia holds most dear.
The verdict will shake Lia's whole world, calling into question her future with Clay, her feelings for Caspian, and the fate of all Merkind. As she wonders whom to trust, Lia sets out on a treacherous path that will lead her away from her sheltered Malibu home to a remote and mysterious school for Mermaids - Mermaids who may hold the secret to ancient magic Lia can use to either get back all she's lost or embark on a thrilling and dangerous journey where only she can define her fate.
Here's a bit more about the series from the author herself, along with some EXCLUSIVE CONTENT:
Hi, all! I’m Tobie, author of the Mer Chronicles series, which follows the descendants of the Little Mermaid and offers a peek into a world where mermaids aren’t just real but live secretly among us on land. The second book in the series, Submerge, just came out, so for YASH, I’m sharing the mood board I created for Ondine, an important new
character introduced in Book 2. Here’s how my main character Lia describes Ondine when she sees her for the first time:
The next woman to testify is a Mermaid I don’t recognize.
Not only do I not recognize her, she looks like nothing I’ve ever seen. Her pale, nearly translucent skin tells me she’s visiting from Below. That skin, along with her beautiful, doll-like features, makes her look like someone carved her out of porcelain. Tiny pieces of the clearest crystal sparkle around her eyes and up into her hairline, glittering like diamonds.
But that’s not what startles me, not what takes my breath away as she swims up the aisle toward the front of the room. The white-blond hair that runs in loose, lustrous waves down to her waist is streaked with ice-blue strands that perfectly match her tail.
I’d heard that could happen Below. That when Mer spend all their time in the farthest reaches of the ocean, sometimes their hair begins to grow the same color as their tails—but I’m not sure how, and I’ve never seen it. I’m not even sure if I believed it. As she floats through the water, tall and graceful, with tendrils of her blue-streaked hair skimming the surface, it’s like gazing at an illustration come to life.
She’s a mythical creature, a Mermaid straight out of a storybook. So fantastical, so surreal, I get the feeling if I reached out to touch her, she’d turn to sea foam.
“Wow,” Clay says, not even bothering to whisper.
I’d tell him to pick his jaw up off the floor, but mine’s right there next to his. I’ve never seen anyone who looked so magical.
Without further ado, here is the Ondine mood board!
You can also explore the Clay and Caspian mood boards I created for YASH last year ;) Is this how you picture the characters from the Mer Chronicles? I’d love to hear what you think!
SPECIAL ADDITIONAL GIVEAWAY FROM Amalie Jahn:
In addition to The Clay Lion giveaway associated with the YASH, I am also giving away the chance to win an eBook version of the first book in my Sevens Prophecy Series, Among the Shrouded. Enter for your chance to win below:
That's about it for my contribution to the hunt! Don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Amalie Jahn, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 26. Add up all the favorite
numbers of the authors on the GREEN TEAM and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, MADELINE DYER! You can find her HERE.
So, who the heck is Amalie Jahn... for real?
Like everyone else's, my twitter bio consists of a mere 140 characters:
Award-winning #YA author. #TED speaker. #HuffPost contributor. #Ironman. Cancer survivor. Laundry folder. Berry eater. Skinny jeans opponent. Here to serve & <3
When Pitch War mentees were asked to pimp our bios here on our blogs, my gut reaction was just to expand on those 140 characters. I mean, they do a super job of reflecting the accomplishments of Public Amalie Jahn, the person who's on display for the whole world to see. The bio's perfect.
Maybe a little too perfect.
The truth is those 140 characters represent the shiniest 8x10 Glamour Shots version of myself. Elegant lighting, mild retouching, and the Mayfair filter. In real life, I am about as far from perfect as one person can get. So maybe that's what I should be explaining here instead.
Who is Amalie Jahn? The Unfiltered Private Amalie Jahn?
Okay. That might be going a little too far. But you get the idea.
Much like my manuscripts, I see myself as a work in progress. I remember when I was younger I assumed becoming an adult meant having All The Answers. When I reached some magical age of maturity I would have it All Figured Out.
I could not have been more wrong.
When I started my publication journey five years ago, I didn't know what I didn't know, but somehow I thought I would be able to lone wolf myself onto the New York Times Bestseller list. That dogged perseverance would see me through.
And I quickly discovered that was never going to happen.
Being an author is a terribly isolating profession. You sit at a keyboard alone, talking only to the imaginary people inside your head. I should not have been surprised when the depression set in.
But I was.
I learned eventually that I needed other authors. And editors. And beta readers. At first, I thought I needed them to make my books better. What I discovered was that I also needed them to make ME better.
So, that's why I'm here doing Pitch Wars. Would I love to land a mentor and even an agent? Absolutely. But over the years I've learned success isn't measured by what you can cram into a 140 character bio. It's measured in growth. Growth of my craft. Growth of my community. If I come out of this with a more polished manuscript and a bunch of really great new friends, I'll be thrilled. Because if I'm ever going to make it in this industry, I won't be doing it on my own. I'll be doing it with a whole lotta help from all of you.
So what's left to tell you? I could probably write for another day, but perhaps in the interest of getting the laundry done I'll share just a few more bullet points.
I'm excited to reveal a reimagined newsletter format for the months to come - Between the Pages!
If you don't already subscribe to my Readers' Group, you're absolutely missing out! Each issue includes not only updates about my work but also deals on books I love, giveaways, and sneak peeks into my life. There's a Get To Know section spotlighting an author I think you should know about as well as What I'm Reading Now feature.
In addition to this blog, I love reaching out to fans this way and hope you'll find something of value in each issue!
I spend a lot of time visiting schools, talking to students about creative writing and the publishing process, but at the beginning of March, I received a very special email from a middle school teacher in Atlanta. As a class assignment, all of her students read The Clay Lion and wrote letters to me sharing what they thought of Brooke's time travel journey. The teacher thought perhaps I could write them back or maybe Skype in for a few minutes, but after reading their insightful questions that were keeping them up at night, I decided to do better. Fast forward to the end of the month, when a six-hour trip landed me at their door. Listening to how the story affected them and seeing all the assignments they connected to the book was an amazing experience I won't soon forget.
I'm so thrilled to announce one of my books has been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming Young Adult anthology, Marked By Fate. There are so many amazing NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling authors in this group, I just know I'm going to learn so much from this experience! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all the announcements as we move closer to the release day in October!
As a distraction from querying my latest manuscript to agents and publishers, I decided to officially participate in #NaNoWriMo for the first time ever. Book three of the Sevens Prophecy Series has been calling to me for months, so although I know I'll never finish the book during the month of November, I'm hoping the community of authors will help me get a few thousand words securely under my belt before December. Fingers crossed and wish me luck!
It's stressful when a new book releases. It's especially stressful when that new book is the second in a series. There are expectations to live up to and the final installment to consider. You walk a fine line between giving up too much about where the series is heading and not giving away enough. In short, book two is the toughest of the trilogy in my opinion.
With that said, I loved writing this book. When I started the series I knew I wanted to shed light on some marginalized topics - human trafficking, domestic violence, third-world poverty, among others. I spend a considerable amount of time with high schoolers, visiting classrooms doing book talks and promotional tours, but what struck me the most when I was out promoting The Clay Lion Series was how uninformed the students were about many real-world issues. It was at that point that I decided to write The Sevens Prophecy Series, blending supernatural elements with these important topics. The release of this second book is a significant step along this path of enlightenment and I'm looking forward to bringing the story arc full circle in the year to come.
When the initial email came in from one of my local Barnes and Nobles about my participation in their first annual Teen Book Festival, I had to get online to see what it was going to be all about. Once I saw what a great weekend it was shaping up to be, I had no hesitation volunteering my time at not one but three local bookstores.
As it turned out, the event was tremendous. I had a great time meeting other authors, participating in writing workshops, and I even got to lead a YA round of Pictionary (I knew almost all of the books, obviously!) The best part, of course, was getting to know some new Clay Lion Series fans. There's nothing better than bringing some new young people into the family. Looking forward to next year's event already!
Over the years, I've learned not to freak out when I start editing my work and realize everything I've written is garbage. Well, not garbage exactly, but obviously in need of significant polishing. I've come to accept that there's a euphoria associated with allowing the story to flow onto the page and a panic associated with reading that work over at a later date. I tend to edit as I write, polishing each sentence as I go, but there are many times I come back to early chapters months later only to discover what I thought was smooth and glowing is actually awkward and in need of a thick red line. I waver between both ends of the spectrum, thinking some days I'm a truly gifted author and on other days that I should clearly never put pencil to paper ever again. Most days I live somewhere in between.
However, the day Kirkus reviewed The Clay Lion was certainly a confidence boost. The review company, known in the industry as "The World's Toughest Book Critics," said the book was "a lovely, tear-jerking tale of time travel, familial love, and sacrifice." Hearing that they consider The Clay Lion to be a "poignant, well-written story" which "puts mortality--and readers'reactions to it--front and center" definitely felt good.
Today, however, it's back to edits for Gather the Sentient and back to the other end of the spectrum. The good news is I know by the time the book is finally published it will be ready for readers to enjoy.
As if winning the Literary Classics Gold Medal wasn't amazing enough, I was honored to travel to Los Angeles to attend and sign books at the Association of Writers and Writer's Programs Conference and Book Fair as well as receive my award. Having never been to California, the trip alone was an adventure. As with other events I've attended, I found that the best part of the experience was getting to know some of the other authors - truly a remarkably talented group of people. Below are some of the photos from the event. Looking forward to many more in the future.
After much deliberation and soul-searching, it is with great pleasure that I reveal the new covers for The Clay Lion Series. In honor of the book's third 'birth' day, it was decided that the brand could survive (and benefit from) the change. The new covers honor the pencil sketches that are synonymous with the brand but give a gentle nod to the time travel element of the series as well as the young adult audience. We hope readers will love them as much as we do, but on the off-chance that you are still building your series collection from the original, traditional covers, rest assured, you will still be able to purchase them as well. Thanks to all of my fans who weighed in on this decision and I'm looking forward to sharing the new covers with the world!
The start of a new year is always a good time to reassess one's goals and priorities. The past several years I've been concentrating on marketing and award entries, but this year I'm making the conscious decision to shift my focus back to the actual writing I love. My goal is to have Gather the Sentient, book 2 of the Sevens Prophecy Series, published by summer, and the third and final installment completed for you by Christmas. This is a somewhat lofty goal as I also have plans to write a stand-alone young adult contemporary novel this year as well. Excited for what this year has in store and delighted to have all of you along for the ride! Now, back to the writing!
I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Miami where I attended the Miami Book Fair and received a gold medal from Readers' Favorite for The Clay Lion. Here's five things I learned:
1. Awards are cool. For real.
2. You're never too old to take a walk across a stage.
3. Or pose for a picture with Paddington.
4. For some unknown reason I immediately turn into a 13-year-old girl (squeeee!) when speaking with an author I admire.
And the most important thing of all?
5. At the end of the day the most important parts of any journey are the people you meet along the way. It was a thrill to finally come face to face with many of the authors I've supported online as well those who have mentored me over the years. Not to mention the joy of bringing new friends into the fold can not be beat.
I'm convinced that the most amazing experiences in life aren't planned. There have been times I've just been stumbling my way from day to day and have had opportunities present themselves that I simply can't pass up. Being invited to Maastricht to speak at their 2015 TED Conference was one of those times, and it was an absolute honor to be a part of this event Not only did I get to speak about a topic I am extremely passionate about, but I also got to share the stage with some of the most amazing people. Getting to know them was the highlight of the trip.
So here it is, my time on the big red dot. Thanks for listening and I hope you are inspired to find ways to incorporate kindness into your daily life.
In celebration of Friday's audio release of The Clay Lion, I sat down with the book's narrator, the AMAZING Lorelei King, to pick her brain about her career, my books, and travelling through time:
AMALIE: Six months ago I’d never listened to an audiobook. When I asked the librarian at my local library who the best audiobook narrator in the business was she replied “Lorelei King” without a moment’s hesitation. How’d you get started in the industry, and what do you think makes you one of the best?
LORELEI: Oh dear, I'm blushing that you call me 'one of the best' - there are so many talented narrators out there - but thank you! :)
Librarians are the best - I think more people should take advantage of their expertise. And of course I'm thrilled that your librarian recommended me. Such a lovely compliment!
In the same way that I kind of fell into my acting career, I fell into audio book narration. It was all about being in the right place at the right time with the right accent – but once I recorded that first book (which was a collection of short stories), I knew it was for me. It just felt right.
AMALIE: Well, since you popped up on my radar, I've listened to over a dozen of your narrations. Of all the characters I’ve heard you voice, Lula from the Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is my favorite. Who’s been your favorite character to bring to life?
LORELEI: I think Lula is my favorite too! There is just something about that girl...
AMALIE: There is something about her, that's true!!! I can see how easy it would be to get into character for someone as ostentatious as Lulu, but you’ve done so many different characters over the years. How do you keep all the voices straight?
LORELEI: In a long-running series, it's surprisingly easy - the characters become like family. I also keep running cast lists with notes about the voices I've chosen for each character. Books that have (literally) a hundred or more characters can be a problem though - and I often find myself cheering when a character dies. 'Hurray! I can recycle that voice....'
AMALIE: So is there a character from a book or series you haven’t recorded that you’d like to try your hand at if given the opportunity?
LORELEI: The book I most regret not having had the chance to narrate is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Loved it - and it had an extraordinary cast of characters!
As for a series, I would love to record the Oz books - I think my favorite book in the series is The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In fact one of the (many!) things I love about The Clay Lion series is its homage to Oz.
AMALIE: Baum's characters and messages obviously hold a special place in my heart as well as you can tell from The Clay Lion Series. What was your favorite part about recording The Clay Lion?
LORELEI: Thinking myself into the mind of a young girl who loves her brother. As a not-so-young (cough) girl who is an only child, it was nice to be in that world for awhile.
AMALIE: Becoming someone else sounds a lot like acting and I'm sure it's true that a good audiobook narrator is also an actress of sorts. Do you think the time you’ve spent onscreen helps your audio work and vice versa?
LORELEI: Oh absolutely! I have a pretty solid background in radio drama and animation which has stood me in good stead, particularly if a book has a lot of dialogue. (It’s slightly different with non-fiction – you don’t ‘perform’ in quite the same way, but you still use an actor’s skills for pacing, intonation and so on.) And you can learn a lot from audio book narration about characterization - which in turn can help with in-vision and radio acting. But in the end, it's ALL acting. Audio book narration is just one part of the job – but it’s one of my favorite parts.
AMALIE: You asked me in your interview about travelling to the past. Now it's your turn… if you could go back in time to change one thing about your past, what would it be and why?
LORELEI: You know when someone insults you and you think of the perfect riposte three hours later? I would love to go back to one of those moments in my life, deliver my deliciously scathing retort IMMEDIATELY, then turn on my heel, flick my hair, and sashay back to the present.
AMALIE: That actually sounds like an amazing use for a trip! There have definitely been some times in my life when I thought of just the right thing to say... a week too late. But since we are both stuck right here in the present, what new, exciting projects do you have coming up?
LORELEI: I'm continuing to record the series of wonderful authors like Janet Evanovich, Darynda Jones (in fact I'm just about to go into studio to record a novella of hers written from Reyes' POV), Patricia Briggs - and now Amalie Jahn! - and I am also working on a couple of projects unrelated to audio books that have to stay secret for now. More news as we have it! :)
I recently recorded a video clip for a television website about my books. Here's the transcript:
Hi. My name is Amalie Jahn and I’m so glad to have this opportunity to speak to you about my young adult time travel trilogy The Clay Lion series.
The first book in the series, The Clay Lion, is about a teenage girl, Brooke, whose brother dies of pulmonary fibrosis. She lives in an age when time travel has already been invented, and despite laws against it, she decides to break the cardinal rule of time travel… which is of course, never change the past, in order to try and save her brother’s life. Along the way she uncovers truths about love, loss, second chances, and ultimately the power each of us have in shaping our destinies.
The idea for writing a novel about time travel came to me in a dream, as have many of my best ideas over the years! My sister and I were superheros, capes and all, and we were traveling back and forth in time to prevent people from dying. When I woke up, I wrote down as much of the dream as I could remember and while I was jotting down notes, I started thinking about Lauren, a little girl in my daughter’s class, battling leukemia. I got to thinking how it would be for her sister Hailey if she should die and the seed for The Clay Lion was planted.
It gives me so much joy knowing that readers feel a sense of connection to Brooke’s journey. I think all of us have loved and lost, in our own lives, in our own ways. I’ve received many messages from people over the years sharing how the story has touched them in some way. The power of the written word can be so humbling.
Television too can be a powerful storytelling medium and I do enjoy watching my favorites in the evening with my family. We do have a bit of a battle sometimes - my husband enjoys a good hour long drama and I tend to enjoy half hour comedies!
What can I say, I love to laugh!
While I do enjoy The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, my favorites are shows like The Middle, The Goldbergs, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. A recent guilty pleasure happened to be Wayward Pines, which was of course adopted from the novels by Blake Crouch: Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town.
Perhaps one day The Clay Lion series will be adapted into film or screen. Until then readers can enjoy the novels in print or in audio, as the fabulous Lorelei King has recently recorded The Clay Lion for the world.
Sometimes the best things in life just sort of fall into your lap. That was the case when Creative Content acquired the audio rights for The Clay Lion Series. The best part about this partnership is that I haven't just gained business partners, I've made two amazing friends as well.
Here's the press release from the production company who will be producing all three books in the series:
"Creative Content, the specialist digital publishing company founded in 2008 by Ali Muirden and Lorelei King, has signed a 3-book deal with Amalie Jahn, author of the acclaimed YA "Clay Lion" trilogy, to publish audio editions of the series over the next 3 years.Published in 2013 and voted one of the "50 Best Self-Published Books of 2013" by IndieAuthorland, The Clay Lion was followed by Tin Men, the second time travel book in the Clay Lion series, which was released in July of 2014. The final instalment of the series, A Straw Man, will publish in June 2015.
The Plus Side listed The Clay Lion as One of the Best Kids' Books for Blossoming Bibliophiles. Bustle listed The Clay Lion as one of 13 New Books That'll Make You Feel Like a Kid Again and Tin Men was named One of the 50 Best Indie Books of 2014 by Readfreely.
Lorelei King said: "This project is wonderful example of the power of social media to bring content creators together. I was so please to have struck up a relationship with Amalie on Twitter and to have discovered her moving, inspiring series. I can't wait to get into the studio!"
Amalie Jahn said: "I'm thrilled to have Creative Content producing the series and am excited to share The Clay Lion with audio listeners in the coming months. As seasoned veterans of the industry, I know Ali and Lorelei are a perfect match for my series, and I'm looking forward to working closely with them to produce an amazing product."
The audio edition of "The Clay Lion" read by Lorelei King will be published this summer and will be available from all major online retailers.
For more information, contact Ali Muirden at firstname.lastname@example.org"
Many authors model their characters after people they know. And most authors who would tell you they don't are lying to you. My children were, quite indirectly, the inspiration for Brooke and Branson personalities. They are the children I am most familiar with so suffice it to say that more than a few of their character traits make an appearance in the book. There are others as well. I like to think that Charlie is a conglomeration of the best characteristics of a few of the boys I dated at Brooke’s age. His name, Charlie Johnson, I realized long after the book’s publication, was the name of my father’s barber when I was growing up. It’s funny what your brain stores away. If I’m being honest there’s also a lot of myself in the book – my beliefs and philosophies on life. You can’t take yourself out of your work. I don’t know that I would want to even if I could.
When I began writing The Clay Lion I had an outline of the plot but didn’t know how I was going to end the story. It was as if I was going on vacation, map in hand, knowing only where I was starting out and a few places to stop off along the way. What I didn’t know, however, was where the ultimate destination was going to be. After the first few chapters I thought I knew where I was headed, but the more I got to know Brooke, the more she began taking over the direction of the story. Places I wanted to go were not necessarily the places Brooke wanted to take me, so instead of fighting her, I surrendered to her. At one point in the story, I was writing at the kitchen counter and my husband was baking brownies. I started crying and he asked me what in the world had set me off. I told him I was upset because I didn’t know that what I had just written was going to happen, which of course made me sound as though I’d officially gone off the deep end. “If you’re the one writing the book, how do you not know what’s about to happen?” he asked. “I didn’t do it,” I replied. “Brooke did.” And that’s how it was for the remainder of the manuscript. Brooke was in control. I just wrote what she told me.
I spend a lot of time here talking about my own books, but I thought today I'd spend some time talking about some of the books I love to read. Here's a list of some of my recent favorites:
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
These books are constantly at the top of the YA time travel chart with The Clay Lion so I decided to read them to find out why. All I can say is leave your sensibilities at the door and just dive in head first to this crazy world. So very good. Looking forward to book 3 next year!
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I'm a huge fan of her YA stuff, but Landline is about an adult marriage and as a middle aged woman I could totally relate to so much of this book. Again, the supernatural "landline" connection to the past definitely spoke to me.
Matched by Ally Condie
Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent Series will enjoy this book, with its own twist on the love triangle / dystopian world. Definitely worth a read.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
I'm a huge John Green fan and I cried along with everyone else (and Hazel Grace) at the end of The Fault in Our Stars, but I especially enjoyed the male POV and that the main character grew by the end of the book.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This is a long-time favorite and every time I reread it I love it even more. A perfect homage to what it means to be a teenager.
If you think people don’t judge a book by its cover, you’re crazy. Sometimes it’s the only reason a reader will even consider picking up a book. It’s the first thing they see drawing them in. Readers have a visceral reaction to a book’s cover and if it isn’t appealing there’s a good chance they won’t even bother to consider the gist of the story. I think a great cover is every bit as important to an independent author as it is to a traditionally published author, possibly even more so – there should be no difference in the quality of the cover, especially if you want to maintain that the quality of the writing on the inside is exceptional.
When it comes to genre, there’s a lot to be said for a cover in terms of its branding. As a young adult author I take into consideration what many of the covers in my genre look like. Thanks to series like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures, there was a shift to black covers for any young adult book with a touch of paranormal. I chose to stick with that theme for my Sevens Prophecy Series, which is in fact young adult paranormal, but gravitated in the opposite direction for The Clay Lion series because I wanted to delineate it from that subgenre.
The genesis of The Clay Lion’s cover obviously stemmed from the title, but the decision to use a pencil sketch was an attempt to pay homage to the main character’s brother who was an avid drawer. I tried to imagine what his vision of the actual clay lion which makes several appearances throughout the story. When Tin Men was published, I wanted to continue the same sketch design while conveying the feeling associated with someone having a mechanical heart. When A Straw Man is released next year, its cover will have a similar design. I chose the sepia contrast to differentiate it from the darker young adult covers since as a coming-of-age time travel series, it exists in a completely different subgenre.
The role of the cover is to draw readers into the story in a way that makes them curious but doesn’t necessarily give too much away. It’s about establishing a feeling more than specifically telling a story. Again, think about Twilight, with its easily recognizable hands holding an apple. There were no vampires, no blood, no specific indication about what the book is about, but there was obvious symbolism with respect to forbidden fruit and the color red. With The Clay Lion series, I wanted the covers to be eye catching but also invoke a sense of wonder. The lion sketch is based off an ancient cave drawing which I wanted to serve as an indication of the time travel. With Tin Men’s steam punk inspired heart, again I was attempting to incorporate a feeling of another space and time.
As far as difficulties are concerned, except for being time consuming, I really enjoy the creation process. It’s another outlet for my creative juices and I love the satisfaction of constructing a quality end result.
If you're thinking about creating your own covers, I suggest spending a considerable amount of time online and in bookstores looking at traditionally published novels in your genre. Pick out what you are immediately drawn to and examine the individual elements closely. Where is the title? What color is it? What is the font like? What is the overall feeling you get from the cover picture? See what the professionals are doing right and incorporate those styles into your own designs. You don’t need any fancy programs either. All of my covers were produced in Microsoft Word. You must be willing to spend the time and effort to learn how to construct the different elements but a beautiful cover is well within your reach.
I loved my high school English teacher, Mrs. McCosh. She was always happy. She was passionate about literature and writing and grammar and teaching and she made me want to be a better person. I was lucky enough to have her for freshman English and as soon as I had the opportunity, I found my way back through her doors my senior year for an elective. I didn’t care what she was teaching. Whatever it was, I was taking it.
I lost my English book my senior year in October. I think someone took it because one day it was just gone. I didn’t want to upset her, so I just grabbed another one off the back counter and used it for the rest of the year. Two days before graduation, when we turned in our texts, she came to me and told me that my book was missing. I told her I’d turned it in. I knew I turned in the substitute book but I loved her (and assumed she loved me) and I thought for sure she would let it slide. Boy was I wrong. She made me pay the $28 for that book and she threatened to hold my diploma until she got it! She taught me a lesson I will never forget about trying to take advantage of a friendship. I’ve never done it again. That’s the kind of person she was. The stuff she taught us, the life stuff, she didn’t learn that in her education classes. The fact that she forced me to come clean about that book… I’ll never forget it. She could have let it slide. She could have written it off. But she didn’t. She held me accountable. She made me hold myself accountable. That’s a life lesson that will stick with me forever. I became a teacher and a better person because of her.
The world lost Mrs. Jacqueline McCosh in 2010 to a spinal cord injury caused by a car accident. A tragic ending to an amazing life.
I read a lot as a writer and I’m often drawn to world news and current events. I remember reading an article about slavery and thinking, “slavery was abolished 150 years ago!” I think a lot of well-intentioned, well-read people are in the dark about what is going on to millions of women and children around the world. We live in our first world bubbles and think that third world issues never cross our borders. It’s egocentric, but I think we do it because life is easier to live everyday if you just don’t know. I’m drawn to the parts of our society that we sweep under the rug and don’t like to think about. The parts that make most people uncomfortable. That’s why I wanted to write about it. Because once you know, you can’t not know.
And so I started out to write a suspense novel about human trafficking. And then the whole thing just kind of took on a life of its own. When it was time for publication, there was a huge discussion about what genre to place the book under. I’m still not sure we found the right one! Paranormal was tossed around. Thriller. Crime drama. It’s all of those I guess. I kind of like that it isn’t pigeonholed!
There was no specific inspiration for the characters in Among the Shrouded. I knew I wanted to write about human trafficking and I wanted characters that were going to be tough enough but vulnerable enough to take us on that journey. Initially, I just had the idea for Mia to be able to see whether people were good or bad. I thought that ability would be an amazing gift for a police officer to have and would be helpful especially in hunting down human traffickers. I also knew that she wasn’t going to be able to see Thomas’ aura since would be the catalyst for their eventual connection. But once she couldn’t see his, I knew that he needed to have something special about him which kept her in the dark. I also knew that I wanted Kate to have some way to overcome what I knew I was going to have to do to her with regard to the trafficking. In the initial manuscript, neither Thomas nor Kate were aware of their abilities and they were much less pronounced. After the manuscript went through the first round of edits, it was suggested that I “beef up” their abilities. I decided to make them aware, just as Mia was, and I believe that led to a better cohesive story line in the end.
Sadly, I don't have any of the vision or intuition Mia possesses. In fact, I don’t have a single superpower. Unless lightning fast sock folding counts. In that case, I’ll make myself a cape to wear on laundry day!
This is were you get to read about what's going on inside my head. I apologize in advance - the place is a wreck.