ebook covers: reimagined

One of the things on the to-do list for 2012 is a new cover not just for The Rival, but for the rest of the series (prequel The Mentor, sequel The Emissary, finale The Pretender). I was really impressed with Mayapriya Long’s presentation to my eBook DIY class at WriterHouse this spring, and I learned a lot from it. I’ve been spending some time researching what’s selling well in YA Action & Adventure. Next week, YA Dystopian Fiction. I’ve been impressed with some new tales, but also some old favorites reimagined. Some favorite examples here:

El Palacio de la Noche Eterna
Palace of the Eternal Night

This one caught my eye right away. Those teeth! The spooky text! And what a title. Especially on Amazon, where the storefront background is white, the black cover really stands out. This might not work on a dark wood bookstore bookshelf, but on a website with a white background, this does grab the eye.

Animal Farm

When I read Animal Farm in high school, the cover looked nothing like this! I love the bold color, the blood spatter, and the creepy way that pig is standing on his hind legs. This is a pretty good example of an old classic getting an eBook cover makeover that makes some sense.

The Hobbit

I’m starting to think for eBook covers, black is the new black. Unless you squint, you can’t really see that it says “75th Anniversary Edition” at the bottom… extra words really don’t work on an eBook cover. That sun really looks like an evil eye, doesn’t it? The Tolkien font is consistent with his published work, so the vibe is familiar. Overall, if I hadn’t just read The Hobbit again, this cover would tempt me.

True Grit

The paperback cover for True Grit looks like an old time Western wanted poster. This is a fairly good reimagining – most of the extra words have been removed, although there’s still a lot in there that I just can’t read. But the title really jumps out, and all you really need to capture the vibe is that Playbill font. What it’s not really showing is the feminine side of this story… but there’s only so much you can do in a single image, I guess. Less is more.

Reason to Breathe

Not sure what to say about this one. This book is apparently very popular in YA Action & Adventure… I don’t know a thing about it. The cover looks more like angst teenage romance to me. But I’m definitely getting the picture: black is back. Black is in. Once you go black, you don’t go back.

the rule of 10

The best thing I learned in screenwriting was The Rule of 10. Basically, if there is something that needs to happen in your story, come up with a list of 10 reasons why that thing happened. The first one will be cliche. The second one will be, too. The third will be pretty familiar. But by the time you’ve gotten to 10, you’ve come up with a couple of things that are pretty unique.

An example: in The Physicist (working title for the prequel to The Rival), Iago Andronicus’ brother Armando needs to be at the research station with Iago in Hawai’i. I did not use The Rule of 10. So my first thought was Iago and Armando grew up in a rough neighborhood, and Iago was getting Armando away from their abusive father. When I told my sister this on the phone, she was like “Ug! Cliche! Racist! Forget about it.” She was right.

This has been percolating for a couple of months now. The progression has been:

  1. Bad neighborhood / abusive father
  2. Orphaned in terrible car accident
  3. Distant, preoccupied parents usually send Armando to camp anyway
  4. Summer vacation
  5. Armando is interested in nature conservation
  6. There was a house fire, and while Iago was able to pull Armando out of the flames, the trauma has caused Armando to become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Perhaps a new setting will help him to recover.

I still haven’t made it to 10, but I really like #6 because, without giving too much away, there are some ways it ties nicely into not just the rest of the story arc for The Physicist, but The Emissary as well. I’ll still keep playing with this list. You get the idea.

So, how about some surf music?

the emissary: background on some new characters

If you’ve read The Rival, you’ll find something familiar in the name Armando Andronicus. He’s Dr. Iago’s little brother. And where we pick up with Bex at the start of The Emissary, he’s been in stasis for 17 years. Armando might look like he’s asleep on a space mission to a far off galaxy… but he’s not.

Meanwhile, Bex comes face-to-face with the leader of The Insurgency. More on her later. But she also meets Kimora Khan, the leader’s little sister. And what Bex doesn’t know is that Kimora has been trying to find Armando since she last saw him in Hawai’i… 17 years ago.

Kimora is an expert in bird conservation, just like her big sister. One of her key areas of study is the ‘I’iwi bird.

‘I’iwi, or Scarlet Hawaiian Honeycreeper

In Hawaiian poetry, the sweetheart is personified in the ‘I’iwi. It is mentioned in one of my all time favorite Hawaiian songs, Ka Ipo Lei Manu (My Cherished Sweetheart). Enjoy.

And let’s hope Kimora doesn’t do anything crazy…

update: the emissary

When we leave Bex and her friends at the end of The Rival, we’re left asking questions that The Emissary is going to have to answer. Who is really in charge of The Insurgency? Why are the Electroleviathans getting involved now? What made Dr. Andronicus go criminally insane? Who is The Man With the Beautiful Voice? And most importantly, what is Bex’s next move?

I’ve been working hard answering these questions. The process involves a lot of me turning into a prune in the shower while I space out pondering how the Mauna Loa Space Observatory might be involved, and what is the Latin word for destruction. (Not going to post any pictures of that!) But it also includes scribbling down a lot of questions on a notepad and key plot points on post-its, like this:

Then, I start organizing the post-its by act and scene, like this:

Then I usually stare into space for a while longer, pondering the intricacies of time travel, and how to save the endangered Honey Creeper. It’s around this point that I am both very excited, but also pretty overwhelmed. How is all of this going to turn into a story? But somehow it does. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.


wow: ebooks make great gifts! but how?

Giving ebooks is a little new… and has improved a lot for the 2011 holiday season. Open Road Media has made an excellent video tutorial on how to give the gift of ebooks for a variety of major ebook readers. It’s great! The videos are quick (<2 minutes apiece) and simple to follow.

Basically, you’ll need to know your lucky recipient’s email address and what kind of ereader they use. After that it’s a pretty standard online retail experience.

There are some limitations, however. There doesn’t appear to be a way to gift books through the Google eBookstore (which beyond Android is also bad news for local indie bookstores). But don’t fret – there’s a Barnes & Noble app for Android, so just follow the video tutorial for the Nook, and that should work just fine for your friends’ Android devices.

And, if you’re looking to buy The Rival – it is not available for Kobo or the Sony Reader. But it is available on the following platforms to give as a gift!

  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s Kindle on Amazon
  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s Nook (or Android device) on Barnes & Noble
  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s iPhone or iPad on iTunes

Good luck with the holiday shopping! I know I enjoy it much more from the serenity of my home computer, cup of tea in hand.

fan mail: so cute

If you want to know how to make my day, this is it! A big thank you to Lily from Utah for the best fan mail yet. Lily will be getting a complimentary advance copy of The Emissary (Part II of Bex Blixen and the Electroleviathans), due to come out late 2012-ish. And yes, her reply, complete with some writing tips, is in the mail.

And now for something completely different: Tis the season to give eBooks. And since that’s kind of new, here’s a great tutorial on how.


“I didn’t like it. A lot of action… but too much for the amount of plot. I got tired reading it.”

It’s true, Bex Blixen is no damsel in distress. She’s out to kick some ass. So there you have it folks: not everyone loves The Rival.

But if you do, please vote for The Rival as a 2011 YA Fiction Goodreads.com book of the year. Voting closes Sunday – tomorrow – at midnight!

Just copy and paste the ISBN into the search box: 9780983819004


Vote now for your favorite books!


Even if you don’t give a crap about teen physicist chicks who kick ass, unicorns, and/or saving the world through dance, please give your ol’ pal Bethany a hand and vote for The Rival as a 2011 YA Fiction Goodreads.com book of the year. Voting closes this Sunday at midnight!

Just copy and paste the ISBN into the search box: 9780983819004


Vote now for your favorite books!

the rival: at indie bookstores today

Now you can support your favorite indie writer AND your favorite indie bookstore!

A few of the indie bookstores in my life where you can now buy The Rival:

  • Over the Moon Bookstore & Artisan Gallery, in the cutest little downtown barn in Crozet, VA (just west of Charlottesville).
  • Queen Anne Books, strategically placed right next to a coffee shop at the crown of beautiful Queen Anne hill in Seattle, WA.
  • Books & Books, in a charming Spanish Villa style shop… and yes they do serve wine. In Coral Gables, FL (just west of Miami).

Check your own favorite indie bookstore’s website to see if they offer ebooks through the Google eBookstore. And if they don’t… feel welcome at one of mine!

Just a reminder that any eReader that reads epub files (iPhones, iPads, Nooks, anything Android, and many others) is compatible with indie bookstore ebook shops. (In other words, the Kindle is not.)

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand…. Only five days left to vote! Please vote for The Rival as a 2011 YA Fiction Goodreads.com book of the year.

Just copy and paste the ISBN into the search box: 9780983819004


Vote now for your favorite books!