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

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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.

Amazon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Is it a boy flower, or a girl flower

blankturncoverIf you haven’t heard, I’m running a contest this year to give away ARCs of The Turn, (Come back next week. I’ll have a cover to show you!) and since I’ve got a pumpkin patch this year, the winners will be chosen from those of you who correctly guess how many pumpkins I harvest. We’ve already had one round of entries, but I’ll be doing more both from FB and the newsletter over the next few months. You can double your chances by signing up to the newsletter and responding when the call goes out. (sign up is here: newsletter )

This year, the vines in my garden all came from three plants I started from seeds I kept from a locally grown pie pumpkin. I took a big chance that the original pumpkin would breed true, not knowing if it had been grown next to another variety of pumpkin, or even a zucchini, and so far, it looks like it is; the pumpkins on the vine are small, deep in color, and look perfect.  They have a fantastic resistance to powdery mildew, which is a plague upon my garden. We’ll see how they cook up.

But if I want to have more seeds for next year, I have to take care to make sure there is no inter-species hanky-panky by way of the bees.

It’s not that hard to pollinate your pumpkins, but you have to be attentive, especially if it’s hot weather as pumpkins don’t set well in the heat and you have to make sure the flowers don’t cook in their protective, ah, condoms?

Chances are, you’ve got pumpkin condoms in your kitchen. So the first thing is to identify the boy flower, which is carried high on the plant, right at the top of the leaves. The one here is likely to open the next morning. You can tell from its faint orange color.

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I’ve noticed that pumpkins put out a lot of males early in the season to train the bees to show up, long before any girl flowers appear, low and right next to the vine. If you’re unsure if you’re looking at a boy or girl, the female flower has a miniature fruit at the base of the flower. The one here probably won’t open for a few more days, but it’s got a nice ovum.

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Pumpkins open their flowers early in the morning, then close them in the afternoon, so if you go out the night before, you can usually identify which flowers will open the following day. They will have a nice orange color in comparison to those still developing.

Pop a condom, excuse me, paper bag, over the unopened flower, both male and female, and tie them closed so bees can’t find their way in. You have to cover the male flower as well to prevent any pollen being brought in from a bee or wind. Paper bags work, but this year I used a shoe cover I got with a new pair of boots. The open mesh helped to keep the flower cool.

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In the morning, go out and just pluck that male flower right off the vine. Find the female flower you covered the night before, open it up, and be the bee. Just smear that male flower all over. Some people even go bzzzzzz when they do it.

You can throw the male flower away, and carefully re-bag the female. This is where the heat can become a factor, because I’ve had fruit fail to set because it got hot in the bag. This year, I put an umbrella up and shaded it. It seemed to help.

You can take the bag off right around dusk, but be sure to tie a ribbon around the stalk so you can find it at the end of the season and collect your seeds for next year from it.

This should give you a true-breeding pumpkin seeds.

Come back Monday for the first glimpse of the cover for The Turn. It’s really something.

 

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Hollows–signed to you!

September personalization at Nicola’s brings us to WHITE WITCH, BLACK CURSE, BLACK MAGIC SANCTION, PALE DEMON, and A PERFECT BLOOD. I’ve signed the Truth books, the Princess books, and even the YA, Madison Avery series, and at the end of this personalization cycle, I probably won’t do this again for a very long time as its asking a lot of the people at Nicola’s who have to organize it. Those of you who ordered any of the earlier titles, you should have them by now. If not, shoot them an email. (And if you are late hearing about my personalization push this summer, I’m sure Nicola’s won’t mind adding some of the earlier titles we’ve featured to you pile.

 

Just click the images to go right to Nicola’s, and don’t forget to tell them when you order the books who you want them signed to. I’ve linked to the mass markets, but you can upgrade to the hard covers by a quick search.

Also, if you have not heard, Gallery was convinced to do a very small print run of hard covers for the upcoming THE OPERATOR  mass market release. Like the first four Hollows books, they are for the library trade, but they will be available for a time through normal channels. And, like the first four Hollows books, there is a pretty good chance that they will be hard to find in a year or so, much like those coveted FISTFUL OF CHARMS. Best part, the mass market and hard cover will be coming out simultaneously a few days before Thanksgiving.

Since THE OPERATOR is for all intents and purposes a mass market release, there will be no tour apart from an appearance at Nicola’s on November 26 for Shop Small Saturday, so if you want one signed, you have to order it.

 

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To find out more sooner as opposed to later and get in on extra chances to enter for an ARC of The Turn, subscribe to my mailing list. This is where it will show up first: Kim’s Newsletter

I know I said I would have another shot at entering the contest this week, but I’m crammed and Tim can’t get to the computer to shoot out a newsletter. Hang in there. We’ve got time.

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