Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Does ASHFALL Have a New Cover?

(Originally posted at The League of Extraordinary Writers)

Three weeks ago I posted about receiving my author copies of ASHEN WINTER in hardback--it's the sequel to my debut novel, ASHFALL. (To summarize the post: squee!) I also got author copies of the paperback edition of ASHFALL with its new cover. Fellow blogger and author Lissa Price (I just called Lissa a fellow. Snicker. Sorry, Lissa!), asked a great question in the comments: why'd the cover change?

To answer the question, let me refresh your memory on what the hardback ASHFALL cover looks like:

I love this cover like Santa Claus loves reindeer. The artwork is a composite of photographs taken and digitally manipulated by Ana Correal--see more of her amazing artwork here. It's perfect for my book--tough, dark, and a little bit foreboding.

So why did it change?

In the world of book sales, there's one retailer that wields a huge influence over covers. Not the biggest retailer, that'd be Amazon. But Amazon carries everything--you can have the worst book cover ever, and Amazon will still sell your book. The most influential retailer of physical books is this one:

As I understand it, there was a rumor that someone at B&N didn't like the hardback ASHFALL cover. That they thought it was too dark and grey--a fair criticism, although life after a supervolcano would be pretty darn grey for a while. I have no idea if the rumor was even true. But here's the thing, B&N is so important to physical book sales, that even the rumor that someone there didn't love the cover was enough to spur a change.

Does this bother me? Not in the least. Because I got new covers out of the deal:

They're also by Ana Correal. See, more color! I love these even more than Santa Claus loves his reindeer. Even more than he loves reindeer even if he loved them in highly inappropriate ways, which he doesn't, but I'm just . . . oh, never mind.

And that's why the cover of ASHFALL changed. Look for the shiny new covers in a bookstore near you on October 8th!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Courage, Passion, and Determination

(Originally posted at The League of Extraordinary Writers)

This weekend was a trifecta of writerly inspiration. On Friday night my wife, Margaret, and I went to a dinner sponsored by the Indiana Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I sat next to Alina Klein, whose debut young adult novel, Rape Girl, came out last year. So of course I dragged my copy along and bugged Alina for her autograph.

Rape Girl is an amazing book, one that belongs on your shelves alongside books like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. But what I find most inspiring about Rape Girl is the fact that it exists. You see, it's loosely based on Alina's own experience as a teenage rape survivor. (A fact she discusses in the author's note at the back of the book.) I can't even imagine the courage it took to write this book.

I've been kicking a blog post around in the back of my brain for more than a year--one that would deal with my middle school experience with child molesters--but I can't summon the courage to write it. Yes, I break concrete blocks with my bare hands, but I'm a wimp compared to Alina. It takes real courage to write.

Saturday night Margaret and I went to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Conner Prairie. I guess you'd call them a swing/jazz band.

What amazed me about BBVD was their passion--they're totally committed to their music and their audience. They break the conventions of their genre: electric guitar in a swing band? Banjo? Sure--they make it work! They play with an infectious abandon--if the Greek god Dionysus returned to earth, these guys would play for his procession.

As I enjoyed the music, I thought: this is how I want to write, with a wild disregard for everything but the words and my audience. I want to write words that unleash an irresistible flood of emotion, words that inspire laughter, dancing, or tears. It takes passion to be a writer.

Sunday was a day for yard work at the Mullin home. I bought two cubic yards of hardwood mulch to spread across the flower beds in our front yard. As the attendant at the garden center cut into the pile of mulch with his front-end loader, I noticed it was smoking. Even an hour later, the mulch in the back of my pickup truck was hot to the touch.

Unloading that much mulch from the truck to the wheelbarrow to the flower beds is a lot of work. My score? Five blisters formed, one popped. As I turned up yet another spadeful of black mulch, a spot of green rose to the top. It was an acorn, still a beautiful light green color despite its sojourn in the smoking mulch pile. I have no idea how long it had been buried there or how it escaped being ground to mulch, holding onto its life while all the neighboring twigs and leaves turned a uniform dark brown.

I felt I had a metaphor rather than an acorn on the end of my spade. All writers spend time buried among the thousands of others querying literary agents or struggling to find their readership via self-publishing. A few of us, like that acorn, hang on long enough to be unearthed. It takes determination to be a writer.

My weekend reminded me of the traits I aspire to as an author: courage, passion, and determination. How was your weekend? Let me know in the comments, please.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Epic ASHEN WINTER Blog Tour!

Check out all the awesome blogs participating in the ASHEN WINTER TOUR! Many, many thanks to Savannah Valdez at Books with Bite for organizing the tour. You're AWESOME, Savy!

Sept 23 - Mundie Moms
Sept 24 - Book Love 101
Sept 24 - Crossroad Reviews
Sept 26 - Good Choice Reading
Sept 27 - Page Turners
Sept 27 - Alluring Reads
Sept 28 - Book and Things
Sept 28 - Bookpics
Sept 30- Bea Book Nook

There will be at least six giveaways of signed first-edition hardcovers of ASHEN WINTER and paperbacks of ASHFALL--some open internationally. I also wrote about a dozen brand new guest posts--if you're interested in survival tips or taekwondo, you're in for a treat. There will also be some amazing interviews, so stay tuned! I'll change these links to the actual posts as they go live.