Want to win an ARC of The Turn?


Kim’s hand-pollinated, seed pumpkin

It’s not the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but there is sincerity as far as the eye can see out in my pumpkin patch. We’re getting close to harvest, and that means I’ll be giving the ARCs of The Turn away. Until then, I’m going to let you keep making guesses as to how many pumpkins I’m going to harvest, giving you more chances to get in on the drawing for the ARCS.

Speaking of ARCs, you super-readers out there who got the three mass markets of The Drafter a few months ago? I think Gallery has sent out ARCS of The Operator to you. I’ve seen a few online at Facebook and twitter. Keep sending me pics. I love to see them. I was told they weren’t doing ARCs, but bound manuscripts. Gallery didn’t give me one, but from what I can tell, they look like bound galleys, not bound manuscripts. If you got one, and you’re in the businesses to know the difference, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

The real deal is available now for preorder. The Operator is coming out in all formats on one day, which I think is really cool. (mass market, audio, e-book, hard cover) It’s truly a mass market, but I whined, and my agent got them to make a small hard cover run for the library trade.

Mass market also means no tour, so the only place you will EVER get a signed or personalized hard cover for The Operator is through Nicola’s. Here’s the link. They ship everywhere, even overseas.

Once there, you can scroll down a little and get to the signed/personalized The Turn, as well. I love my local store. They are the only place I’m going to sign The Operator when it comes out, so if you’ll be in the Ann Arbor area on the 26th, come out to Nicola’s for Shop Small Saturday for my 1:00 event. There is no home game that Saturday, so driving around town will not be organized chaos. more info


But you’re reading this because I said contest for an ARC of The Turn.

You have until Thursday, (10/13), noon, EST to send Tim an email at <coldtoastwritingsllc@comcast.net> with the number of pumpkins you think I’m going to get out of my most-sincere pumpkin patch in the subject line along with the word CHARLIE BROWN. We won’t be opening them, so make sure your guess is in your subject line. i.e. Charlie Brown 42.   When I harvest, those who have guessed correctly will be in a drawing for however many Turn ARCs I have to give away. Out of the U.S? Not a problem.

Readers subscribed to my mailing list will have an additional chance tomorrow with a different word, so keep an eye on your email if you’re on the list.

Want to sign up? I don’t share your address with anyone. I hate that. Tim says those of you who are signed up need to Open it! We have a +30% open rate, and he wants to get it higher just on principle. (grin)

link to newsletter


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Kim’s mobile puppy fence

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was trying to imagineer a mobile small-dog fence that was cheap, mobile, didn’t take up much space when collapsed, and would stand WITHOUT support stakes. Some of you mentioned wanting to see how it turned out, so here it is!

Important to note, this fence is not designed to securely contain any animal from getting in or out. It is designed to be used only while you are actually with your animal, giving them and you a little more room to roam with a scooch more security. I’ve used it a few times like a play pen to keep my aging dog nearer to me while I work outside in the yard, but it has a wider scope than that.

I used a three-foot plastic fence as a base, with a tight mesh. Bigger holes made for a flimsy structure. The packaging says the mesh is 1/2 inch, but the actual holes in the mesh are about 3/8 of an inch, which is important.


I folded it in half lengthwise to form an open triangle, the opening against the ground. It was about 18 inches tall, which will keep my small dogs contained and still let me walk over it easily.

To give it more structure and prevent it from just flopping over, I made spacers from  1 1/2 inch PVC pipe which I cut into 4 inch lengths. The spacers are held in place by 8 inch lengths of 3/8 inch dowel shoved through the fence mesh. The mesh should hold the dowel tight enough so it doesn’t spin as the PVC pipe will. I’ve noticed some of the cheaper dowels are not actually 1/2 inch, and don’t hold the spacer well. You might have to take some mesh into the store and try a few dowels to find a good fit.


I spaced the, ah, spacers about 18 inches along the bottom of the fence, and got something like this.


My dogs are timid and don’t even try to get through the fence, but your milage will vary. I wouldn’t expect this to stand up to a puppy intent on getting out, or a big friendly ( or otherwise) dog trying to get in. I can’t say enough that this is not a fence to be used without supervision.


When time to take it down, just remove the dowels and spacers, roll up the fence, and stow it.

I’ve found the black fence I used didn’t roll back up as well as I would like, but it’s still better than trying to stow five foot lengths of standard fencing.


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So Kim, what does T-4 stand for?

Did you know that this year, on Halloween, it will be the 50th anniversary of the Turn? I think I’m going to have a little party and celebrate. It’s been over a decade, over two and a half million words on this world alone, and though I tried to say good-bye, clearly that didn’t happen.

But in all the interviews over the years, no one has ever asked where the name T4-Angel originated from. It came from my writer’s critique group almost twenty years ago, when one of the other members began waxing eloquently about a bible verse he was incorporating into his thriller. (Yes, that means you, Craig!) “And the fourth angel poured his vial onto the sun, and it became as sack cloth.” T4-angel was born.

The image haunted me, and so at long last, I give you, The Turn


I think this will be one of my favorite covers, maybe because I took more of a hand in it than any other cover I’ve ever had to do before. The original before my tweaking was fantastically beautiful, but those who know the Hollows know she is beautiful only on the surface. She is harsh, unforgiving, dark, and can kill you even if you are careful. But I’m not going to give you bad unless I bracket it by an equal or excessive amount of good, hence Ivy, a true friend struggling with addiction, Jenks, loyal to a fault even as he deals with his wife’s death and his children moving on, and Rachel, who has a heart bigger than the bankrolls of those she faces and is often her own worst enemy.

So I love this cover, with equal amounts of beauty and ugly. It’s a fairytale, not where the prince carries the princess off to his castle, though you can kind of see that at the end if you squint really hard. It’s a fairytale where toes are cut off to fit in slippers, and children are abandoned in the woods to die of exposure. It’s death, and sacrifice, and heartache, and hope.

And I think you’ll enjoy it.


Barnes and Noble

Want a chance to win an ARC of The Turn? Send Tim an email at <coldtoastwritingsllc@comcast.net> by Friday (11/30), midnight, EST, with “Tomato” and the number of pumpkins you think I’m going to get out of my pumpkin patch this year in the subject line. i.e. Tomato42

We won’t be reading them, but we will squirrel your answers away, and when I harvest, I’ll draw names from those readers who guess right. So use an email address we can reach you at come October.



Filed under Drama Box

The Hollows is often shelved in horror

Today, I give you my favorite element on the cover. It’s one that I asked for when my editor and I first began talking about what should be on it, the star of the entire show, the T4-Angel tomato, savor of the third world, genetically engineered to withstand drought, cracking, pesticides, and grow tall without staking. It’s truly a scientific marvel of the sixties, and I think it’s a wish fulfillment of me not being able to grow tomatoes well.

Until . . . a governmental virus escapes and spontaneously attaches to it and kills a quarter of the world’s population.

This we know. The truth . . . is a little different, and Trent’s parents are involved up to their little pointy, docked ears.

So I asked for a tomato on the cover, and I got it, but someone had the idea that it was a magical tomato, and had put magical radiating lines coming out from it. It looked great, but the feeling of a magical tomato wasn’t doing it for me. This was the destruction of the third world and the beginning of the Turn in her hands, and it wasn’t magical, it was horrifying. So I doubled down and asked for the “magic lines” to be removed and for the tomato to be black and decaying, putrefying in Trent’s mom’s hands. I wanted to make a ugly, horrifying image to contrast with the flowing beauty of Trisk herself.  I think I got it.


I’ll give you the entire cover tomorrow with an explanation of my idea of what makes a good fairytale, but if you want it tonight at midnight eastern time, sign up for my newsletter. They’re getting it first.

Kim’s Newsletter



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A cover should have continuity

Part three in the evolution of a cover: the title

It’s a small thing, and you might not even be consciously aware of it, but most of the Hollows books use the same font for the title and author name. It has to do with name branding, and the first cover image I saw had the title and author in a thin font with swooping, graceful lines–extensions looping down and out along with sharp points sticking out here and there. It was beautiful, especially with the billowing dress blowing up and around to her elbows, but having both swoops and spikes was confusing. It was nothing like the thick, straight up and down, almost columnar font everyone identifies the Hollows with.  I wanted you guys to know it was me so you’d, er, pick it up, so I asked if we could have something more familiar.


It’s not a perfect match, but I wasn’t looking for perfection. I just wanted something harsher with straight lines without the swooping arcs confusing the feel. I got something kind of Gothy with a sword point, and I like it. If you look close in the larger picture, you can see that the author name looks very close to the previous titles. It feels comfortable and recognizable.

Okay, the tag line. “The Hollows Begins with Death.” The original idea was to have a tagline that reassured readers that this was a Hollows book, so I came up with the full line “Even the Hollows has an untold beginning . . . and it begins with death.” I’m glad they shortened it for the cover, but wow, it sounds kind of dramatic for me. Death. Yeah. Swords and pitchforks. (grin) But yes. You don’t kill off a quarter of the world’s population without mentioning death.

Tomorrow, I give you what she’s holding. It was my idea, and I hope it adds to the feeling I was aiming for. Sometimes my ideas don’t come across well, especially to those not already invested in the series. A tomato kills the world. Ah, yes. It could happen. Let me tell you how.



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A cover should be art

What sucks you into a cover and makes you pick it up? The cover artists, if they are worth their salt, know  what has worked in the past and what hasn’t as well as the current trends. It can be as simple as a horror novel having a light on in the dark house sitting on the hill, or as complex as a beautiful expression of art that speaks across the demographics.

Me, I like the cover that uses art along with all the other tricks of the trade, and it doesn’t have to be a lot of art. It could be as simple as an arm that drapes to draw your eye down to the title, or the shadow without the body that leaves you wondering where the shadow-caster is. Art makes you think, art makes you question, shows you connections that are there only in your mind. Art is a magician. So when I saw my cover for the first time, I was breathless with the high contrast between the main figure and the stark, icy background. It speaks on many levels–it is art.


Is there snow in THE TURN? No. Is there even a woods? No, and I can’t work either into the story as I did the helix necklace. Do I care? Absolutely not, because even if the snowy woods is simply there because it makes a nice white background to show off red dress to a better advantage, to me, the snow is an expression of the stark emptiness facing the world if Trisk should fail in her cross country trek. It is the silent purity of nothing broken by wind and ice. A glittering sparkle in the sun hiding death in the night, bitter on the skin, even as it is beautiful. (Maybe this is why I like the snow.)

It’s art, even if it wasn’t meant to be, and the only thing I asked of my editor of this cover element was could we have more snow, less billowy dress, because the snow spoke of the pure, clean image of death that dogs Trisk’s path, and the billowy dress–which I’ll show more of tomorrow–didn’t.

If you are a member of Goodreads and check “want to read” THE TURN, you’ll get notices when THE TURN is published and if any extras are released.


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You can judge a book by its cover

The Turn is coming! I’ve got the cover to prove it! And the tease in me is going to draw it out all week so I can take the time and tell you about the thought that should go into a cover.

There’s a joke in NY that the last person to design the cover should be the writer because most of us want it to be a pure expression of what’s inside, but after years of seeing how these are put together, I’ve learned a few things about what makes an effective cover, (I had a great teacher)  and what isn’t as successful. Rarely does the cover ever look like a scene of the book, but rather, it has elements that tell you what’s inside. Something magical for paranormal, a man and a woman if there’s lots of romance, a flavor of setting, (space, fantasy, castle, city, futuristic) weapons if there’s danger, wolves if there’s Weres, and fangs for vampires, you get the idea.

If I were to duplicate an image from the book, Trisk would be in a lab coat, that wonderful hair of hers in a bun with maybe a man in a suit or lab coat behind her smiling wickedly against a backdrop of a tomato field (or city) putrefying in the sun. Personally, I like the red dress much better. Covers are not so much duplicating an image from the book as finding the feeling they contain. And even after that, even the professionals don’t know what makes one cover fly off the shelves and others not.

I’m hoping this one jumps off the shelves like it was on fire.


Yes, I know you can’t see the last half of it clearly. Tease, remember? And I want to slow down and talk about aspects of this absolutely fabulous cover as it evolved from what I first saw.


At the heart of the story, there is Trisk, Trent’s to-be mother, and the cover should have her on it. My editor chose the model and put her in a bright red dress, and I think it does a fantastic job of reflecting Trisk. She’s a dark elf, like Quen, sophisticated, smart, and has been expected to focus on security as her career. And as beauty can be equated with danger, the model is indeed, beautiful.

But Trisk, like the story itself, has a core of science running through her. The original cover had all the beauty, but none of the science, so I suggested a DNA helix necklace. The necklace does double duty as the glints tend to draw in the eye and give hints that there might be magic involved. I also asked for the neckline to shift to a straight cut as that was the style in the sixties and I felt that that element of the book needed to be on there somewhere.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you the background, and tell you why I love my editor’s choice there so much.



Filed under Drama Box