How Two Covers Came About

Talented and prolific writer Jim Ainsworth has a book launch of two books at the same time.  (I said he was prolific.)  It will be from 5 to 8 p.m.  March 28 at the A&M-Commerce (Texas) Alumni Center.  Because it is unusual to do two books at once, I’ve asked Jim to tell us the story behind the covers of the two books.  Very interesting.

Circle of Hurt – We worked diligently to come up with real photos that matched my description of the general store, the table and chairs, the ambiance of the place, but we just could not make it work.  I decided a shack might work, with wooden boards as the background.

The real picker shack was clearly in my mind, but it is long gone. My wife, Jan, suggested we drive around and look at cabins, shacks. As we drove by my cousin Marion’s cabin, Jan pulled over.

“What about that one?”

“That cabin is only a few years old. The picker shack would have been maybe a hundred years old when the novel takes place.”

Jan smiled. “Yes, but wasn’t this one built to look old?”

She was right. Marion’s cabin was a cross between the picker shack in the book and Tee Jessup’s rented farmhouse. It could serve as either. And Marion would be pleased.

Sure enough, the table where we had weekly poker games looked ready for players. I realized that this setting, the old jukebox and a few other things might have partially inspired the scenes inside the general store described in the book.

After what seemed dozens of shots, I turned and saw Jan with her camera inches from the wall, snapping more photos.

I was puzzled. “What are you doing?”

She kept on clicking. “You said you wanted boards for the background, didn’t you?”

Days later, she showed me her concept, saying, “I feel as if I’m on the inside of the cozy cabin stealing a look at the story that is taking place outside.” That worked for me.

She and Vivian Freeman got together on the concept and colors and the rope and that’s how the cover of Circle of Hurt came to be.

Believing in a Grand Thing – My original idea for the cover was a cowboy or western scene on the front—maybe a kneeling cowboy with a cross in the background. But we see of lot of those in yards all around. We tried a few photos in public domain, but the lights just did not come on for me.

Something about the way the cowboys (or models) sat their horses; or the way they put their boots in the stirrups; or the way they held the reins; or the way they wore their hats always bothered me. Something just wasn’t right and I couldn’t express what.

Again, my wife Jan came through. “Do you still have that shot of Marion on his horse at his daddy’s grave?” Marion was a close cousin of mine.

The photo was taken on the next to last day of our wagon and horseback trip across Texas that I chronicled in Biscuits Across the Brazos. We were almost home, coming to the end of our fourteen day, 325 mile journey when it was taken.

I saw Marion lope ahead as we neared Shiloh Cemetery and knew where he was going. When he stopped at his father’s grave, I pulled a throwaway camera I had bought on the trail out of my saddlebags and took the shot. I knew it was a special moment, but never imagined it would one day be on the cover of a book. Of course, it is also inside Biscuits Across the Brazos.

If you look closely, you will see a slight hazy glow around Marion and his horse’s back legs. Unintended, but I like that a lot. I am certain Marion would, too.

Marion’s mom now lies beside his father and Marion is laid to rest a few feet away.

Try to visit the launch party.  There you can ask Jim Ainsworth questions about the books, the covers, or anything, for that matter.  I highly recommend it as a pleasant, fun, informative trip.

The Joy of Creating Characters

Jean Lauzier loves to play in all the different genres, but especially  mystery and fantasy.

She is a member of several writer’s groups and  president of the East Texas Writer’s Association. When not writing,
she enjoys reading, trying to grow bonsai trees, training dogs,  editing, and mentoring other writers.

“Fictional characters are made of words, not flesh; they do not have free will, they do not exercise volition. They are easily born, and as easily killed off.” ― John Banville

I’m not sure who John Banville is, but I have to disagree. At least for myself. I have one of those obsessive personalities and when I’m writing, I live and breathe my characters. I think about their likes and dislikes, how their past affects their present, and just what they want out of life.

Sometimes, I even forget they aren’t real. For example, one day while in the middle of a writing session, a song came on the radio and I realized Cande would have listened to and liked that song. Now, Cande is a character in a mystery novel I’m editing, but we’re also best friends. I know about the time she tried to paint her pony black because she wanted to go as the headless horseman for Halloween. I know how she defends those being bullied, her soft spot for animals, and how much she loves settling in front of a fire with a cup of hot cocoa. She’s a person I’d really like to hang out with.

I also know that as her writer, I can’t get her to do something against her nature. At the end of the novel, I really wanted her to take justice in her own hands and off the bad guy. But that’s not her. Yes, she’s an emotional wreck because of what she thinks he has done, but she believes in doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. And that is one of the things I love about her.

Another thing I love is when a character just appears and refuses to disappear. While writing Dragons of Jade, I was typing along in the groove, and a dog appeared in a scene. I didn’t want a dog in the book so backspaced and deleted him. A few sentences later, my character opened the door and in bounded the dog. He had a name, a personality, and I knew exactly what he looked like. I thought about deleting him again but just couldn’t. Turns out, he was an important part of the story.

Some authors seem to have no problem killing their characters. I read the Game of Thrones series and every time I became attached to a character, they turned up dead. I’d be a blubbering puddle of tears if I killed off as many characters as he has.

Once I read we need to get our characters up trees and then throw rocks at them while setting the tree on fire. I have a hard time doing that, especially with characters I love. I want things to go right for them. I want them to succeed and be happy. It’s something my editor says I need to work on. And, I am trying.

Creating characters is one of the fun things about being a writer. I learn about their jobs, their culture, and just what makes them tick. Then, we hang out in front of the fireplace sipping hot cocoa and telling stories.

You can find more about Jean on  her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/jeanlauzier2319

All her  books are available on Amazon or can be ordered from any bookstore.

 

 

 

Mailboxes and Murals

A few years ago, we traveled to Tasmania. It was for us like finding a beautiful gemstone while playing in the sand.

It is an island roughly the size of West Virginia located about one hundred  fifty miles across the Bass Strait from Melbourne, Australia. It was discovered in 1642 by a Dutchman named Abel Tasman, but there were a number of Aboriginal tribes there when the British came to settle it in the late 1700s. At the time we were there, the population was just over half a million people.

Until recently, fully one third of the island was in a protected forest, with no roads, no villages to disturb the natural beauty. In the last couple of years, some timber companies have been allowed into this area (a mistake in my opinion).

One day we set out to drive across the middle of Tasmania. We observed some rather interesting mail boxes. Upon asking some questions in the first village we came into, we learned that the people who lived along this highway had a friendly competition to see who could come up with the most unique mail boxes.

Some of these were extremely elaborate, many very clever, all attention-grabbing   And throughout the day, we continued to find such out-of-the-ordinary ways to receive mail.

In the midst of this, we came upon the town of Sheffield, often called Tasmania’s Outdoor Art Gallery.   If we found a building with an exposed side wall, we would find a mural. The first mural in Sheffield was commissioned in 1986. Many of the pictures give aspects of the history of the town and Tas. We could not count all of the murals, but there must have been close to a hundred walls colorfully decorated. Keep in mind that Sheffield is a small town of approximately 1,400 people.   However, it has become a major tourist attraction, with an estimated 200,000 visitors each year.

But Sheffield and the mailboxes are not the only things to see and be amazed over in the middle of Tasmania. In another blog, I’ll talk about the incredible wall being carved and the amazing use of hydro electric generation in Tasmania.   Oh, and we must not forget the Tasmania Devils, the only thing we knew about the island (thanks mostly to Walt Disney)before we visited it.

 

 

Feel free to add your comment about interesting things you’ve seen on your travels.  Thanks.

 

SIDE NOTE:  The winner of the free book, Blind Man’s Bluff, A Candle Island Cozy by the Sadie and Sophie Cuffe, was won by Mary Watson Hamilton.  Congratulations.  It’s a great book.

James R. Callan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In print & e-book format

Road Trip to Main

Today’s guest bloggers are the Cuffe Sisters, Sadie and Sophie. They were born, raised, and still live in the rugged area known as the Unorganized Territory in Main. They maintain a small farm, but (we know) their main goal is to produce great novels. They write “squarely to the hearts of real women who don’t always wear a size two and who prefer boots to high heels. And they believe some of the best stories are composed on the seat of a tractor.  They will give a free copy of their latest book to a name drawn at random from those who leave a comment. Here are the Cuffe Sisters.

We grew up on road trips. After traveling around the State of Maine, we later branched out to cross-country travel, vising relatives in California. It’s 3240 miles (give or take) from here to there. We traveled in a VW bus and camped out along the way. Six people in an old canvas Army tent was an adventure in itself, LOL. At the time, one of our cousins pointed out that we’d now stuck our toes in both major oceans. Some people haven’t experienced either one. Funny, the things you take for granted.

We grew up on the coast and now live Down East – where the sun first strikes the easternmost point of the USA.

Throughout the years we’ve hiked and biked around many islands. To date we’ve visited about twenty, but that’s nothing considering there are over 6180 left to explore. Some are easily accessed by huge bridges (one of Sophie’s biggest dreads), others by ferry, some by private boat. We rode the mail boat on our first trip to Isle au Haut many years ago, and asked the captain if we could go out on the deck. It was choppy, but he let us. As soon as we stepped out, a huge wave slapped the bow and covered us in spray. We went back into the cabin, soaked, but laughing like fools. It was wicked fun!

We experienced ten seconds of fame once, when photographers from Down East Magazine took a picture of us roasting hotdogs at our island campsite. When we finally found the article, months later, we were surprised at the caption: Local campers cooking over an open fire. Even WE didn’t recognize ourselves!

Our coastline, as the crow flies is, 250 miles, but the reality is vast – it’s over 5500 miles when all the islands are included. Islands hold a precious place in our hearts, but they’re more than our memories and adventures. They hold their own special mystique in their fiercely loyal people, their rugged independence, and their wild solitude. We hope our love of Maine and its islands comes through in our newest book, Blind Man’s Bluff, A Candle Island Cozy. Come to Candle Island, hear the lonely cry of the gulls, feel the spray of the raging surf, and plant your feet on the bedrock ledges of Maine that have endured for millenia. We’re giving away a copy, so if you’d like to be entered in the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment. Good luck, and thank you, Jim, for letting us visit!

JIM:  Makes me want to visit Maine again.  Please leave a comment and the Cuffe Sisters will draw a name and send the winner a FREE copy of their latest novel.  Thanks.

A NaNoWriMo Education

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Galand Nuchols is a retired school teacher.  While teaching, she found that writing short stories that incorporated the names of students helped to improve their interest and motivated them to work harder.  At the same time, she found she really … Continue reading

Mixing History with A Fiction Novel

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Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three housecats. She volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop in Elk Grove, CA. … Continue reading

The Hard Work of Telling the Truth:

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D.R. Ransdell is a writer and musician. She spent five years in Mexico teaching English and learning folk songs. Now, she plays with a mariachi group and writes a murder mystery series about mariachi bandleader Andy Veracruz. She also teaches writing at … Continue reading

A Time for Renewal

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Today’s guest is award-winning author Lena Nelson Dooley.  With more than 875,000 copies of her books sold, she has been on the ECPA and CBA Bestseller lists, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller list, and several Amazon Bestseller lists. She’s won the Will … Continue reading