Dorchester’s BEA line-up

The Dorchester team is thrilled to announce our attendance at Book Expo America 2011!

Secretly, everyone attending wants to run around the Javits Center hoarding as many free books and goodies as possible, but BEA is really about learning what’s new and what’s next in the book publishing world (minimal hoarding is condoned).

While making the rounds, be sure to stop by the Dorchester booth #4540 for some goodies and giveaways! We’re also incredibly excited to be featuring signings with four of our amazing authors:

Don’t miss it!

                                     

The Bad Boy of the Sea

Intern Becky

Sketchy Becky

What is the allure of pirates? They captivate the imaginations of both the young and old, despite the fact that pirates of yore tended not be the nicest of folks. We dedicate an entire day to talking like them, they strut across the silver screen, and everyone from the Muppets to the Doctor has spent quality time with them. Pirates are animated, transformed into action figures, and doted upon. On the bright side, they do not regularly attempt to drink the blood of mortals or sparkle in the sun. Thus, our attraction to them is not totally insane. But seriously, where does the appeal of these seafaring individuals stem from? Maybe it’s just the sight of a guy with…er, a talking parrot and an eyepatch that gets hearts pounding?

Captain Jack Sparrow

O, that I were a steering wheel.

Pirates are on our minds currently. Possibly because the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie just came out. It makes one want to start going “ARGH!” or maybe that’s because it’s Friday and nearly the weekend. Since I can’t don a tricorne hat, I will settle for entertaining everyone with random pirate facts, in addition to considering the evolution of the pirate in popular culture.

  • Did you know that pirate ships utilized limited democracies? And that part of the treasure was put into a general fund that compensated injuries sustained by the crew? Gaining a peg leg also meant collecting a nice pile of gold.
Drawing of pirates

Arrrrgh!

  • How about the fact that pirates (and sailors in general) would wear eyepatches even when they had two perfectly healthy eyes? When going below deck, a pirate could simply flip the patch to the other eye and avoid having to wait for his sight to adjust to the dark.
  • Julius Caesar was once kidnapped by Cilician pirates and ransomed for fifty talents of gold. Originally, they were just going to charge twenty pieces, but Caesar claimed he was worth more than that. Unfortunately for the pirates, after regaining his freedom, Caesar raised a fleet and had them hunted down and…let’s say, those pirates never kidnapped anyone else again.
Amy Pond from Doctor who as a pirate

The ingredients for a pirate: a sword, a hat, and a coat.

  • Let’s not forget that Vikings were pirates. Sadly, they sailed aboard ships and never wore horned helmets. This does nothing to lessen the fact that they are wicked awesome when donning headgear and riding dragons.

How to Train Your Dragon VikingsIs it any wonder that dashing versions of these pirates frequently appear as the heroes of romance novels? The most bewildering aspect of the covers of some of these books is how well maintained their appearances are. I mean, check these guys out. Most average dudes of the 21st century aren’t this groomed. Shaving creams and powders were expensive back in the day. Using a rusty razor is presumably as dangerous and unhygienic as it sounds. Is it any wonder pirates typically sported beards? Additionally, I very much doubt any spare time a pirate happened upon would be spent slathering hot wax on a hair chest for the ladies.

Dorchester's Pirates books

Pirates: way sexier than you remembered

Pirates from Muppet Treasure Island

Does anyone else want to start singing about cabin fever?

Braids in a pirate’s beard can signify a number of things, such as men killed or whether a guy has a girlfriend back in port. That’s kind of sweet…in a ruthless-pirate-sort-of-way. Not that I’m complaining about the shaved guys of the covers. There is nothing at all wrong with a handsome, fictional pirate. Simply avoid time-traveling to meet any real ones.

Dread Pirates Robert from The Princess BrideThe fictional pirates of today have cleaned up nicely. They’re the right amount of charming and sinister. Captain Hook is fabulous, evil, and too inept to defeat a gaggle of children. Captain Jack backstabs but not quite. The Dread Pirate Roberts is just…really, really hot and romantic and could save me from Rodents of Unusual Size any time. Historical accuracy is nothing to scoff at, but trips in the fantastical when it comes to pirates often lead to remarkable adventures. (Plus, you’ll ultimately be a whole lot happier than you spent time with a non-existent pirate rather than a real one.)

Because we all deserve a little treasure, Pirate e-books are on sale for $3.99!Captain Hook from Peter Pan

The Pirate Hunter by Jennifer Ashley

Once a Pirate by Susan Grant

The Perils of the Heart by Jennifer Ashley

The Care and Feeding of Pirates by Jennifer Ashley

Pleasuring the Pirate by Emily Bryan

The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley

Batman as a pirate

Even Batman has been a pirate.

Thriller Thursdays—THE BONAPARTE SECRET + Giveaway (part 3)

Our preview of  The Bonaparte Secret by Gregg Loomis continues today. The action is really picking up—Loomis wastes no time as he brings us along for Lang Reilly’s latest adventure. Today’s giveaway is book 3 in the Lang Reilly series, The Sinai SecretTo be entered to win, join the discussion below. Today we’re discussing sidekicks. Who are some of your favorites throughout literature or film? Or, do you prefer it when the hero goes it alone?

The Bonaparte Secret

Chapter One, continued

Years of Agency training kicked in. When you have no choice, cooperate, don’t give someone an excuse to kill you. But keep your eyes and mind open. Use what ever assets you have.

Like Gurt.

Instead of going directly to the source of the noise, Lang moved cautiously along the row of columns that had guided him before being taken prisoner. Even in the dim light, anyone could see his hands raised in surrender.

Including Gurt.

He was hoping that the dusky twilight, the deep shadows, had prevented his captor from seeing her, leaving her free to go for help once they passed the spot where he had last seen her.

It had never occurred to him he might need a weapon at Carnevale. He had left the Browning HP 9 mm in his bedside table back inAtlanta. Damn! How dumb could he get?

Arriving by the foundation’s Gulfstream, neither he nor Gurt were subject to security screening. Either or both could have brought the firearms he wished they had. On the other hand, had the Browning been in the small of his back, he could well have gotten himself killed trying for it. But Gurt . . .

His stream of self- condemnation ended with the sound of a very solid thump, an expulsion of breath and the sound of metal hitting the marble floor. The gun was no longer against the back of Lang’s skull.

Spinning, he caught sight of a man trying to regain his balance as he took a second blow from Gurt’s handbag, swung on its strap like the weapon it had become. Now Gurt was between Lang and the light. He could only see her silhouette as she moved forward on her victim.

The man yelled something in a language Lang didn’t understand, but he heard Gurt clearly say, “The gun, get his gun. He dropped it.”

There was a grunt as Gurt’s adversary apparently launched a counterattack.

Had it been any other woman, or most men, Lang would have felt compelled to protect her. Instead, it was her opponent who was going to need protection, he guessed. At the top of her martial- arts class of women in the Agency, she had insisted on practicing with the men. The only problem was finding competition after breaking one man’s arm and the ribs of another.

Lang contented himself with a hands- and- knees search of the area as he heard flesh meet flesh and a very masculine yelp of pain. He found what he was looking for and came to his feet just in time to see the man make a slicing motion toward Gurt’s throat with the heel of his open right hand.

It was his final mistake. Ducking under the blow that would have seriously damaged if not crushed her larynx, she grabbed the hand, snatching downward, diverting the force of the blow and sending her assailant headfirst into a nearby pillar with a clearly audible crunch of bone versus stone. He slumped to the floor with a fluid motion that almost denied his status as a vertebrate. He didn’t move.

Lang slid back the slide on the automatic, checking with a finger to make sure there was a bullet in the chamber. “Hope you didn’t have anything breakable in your pocketbook.”

Gurt was peering into the gloom in the general direction from which the noise of the drill had ceased. “I should have thought of that.”

With the hand not holding the gun, Lang took Gurt’s. “I’d be surprised if someone didn’t hear that guy yell. Let’s get out of here before—”

A shot split the quiet, filling the basilica with sharp echoes. Marble chips from a pillar stung Lang’s face. Both he and Gurt dropped to the floor, where they merged with the inky darkness.

“You see where that came from?” Lang whispered

“No.”

Lang took a second to think. On the floor, he and Gurt could remain hidden in a darkness as deep as Jonah must have experienced. They could move on their bellies commando- style but to get out of the church they would have to navigate a puddle of light just where narthex met nave. He had little doubt whoever had been drilling would come looking for the man lying beside the column and then for whoever had left him there. There was equal certainty that that person would also be armed.

“Give me your purse,” he whispered.

“Now is not the time to be checking for damage.”

He told her what he wanted.

“On the count: one, two, three . . .”

He was never quite sure what object she had removed from her purse and looped overhand in the general direction of the altar. What ever it was, it smashed against something with a gratifying clatter.

The response was a second shot, a noise that again sent sound caroming from wall to wall. But there was also a muzzle flash, a pinprick of light in the gloom.

Lang was on his knees before the echoes stopped. He fired three quick rounds at the place he had marked as the source of the shot and violently rolled to his left. The reply was a scream and more shots that filled the air with malignantly humming fragments of stone. Lang noted there were at least two shooters.

“They’ll spread out and try and find us,” he said. “I’ll give you cover. Run for it.”

“And you?”

“I’ll think of something. Right now, you best get moving or our son will be an orphan.”

She needed no further incentive.

Lang spread three rapid shots toward the same spot where he had fired previously. Before the second, Gurt was up and dashing for the exit. She drew two shots which, as far as Lang could tell, damaged only the church’s interior.

Moving quickly before his opponents could fi re at the source of his volley, Lang was at the edge of the lighted place at the entrance. He heard a footstep behind him and to his right, another from his left. However many of them there were, he could not be sure, but the fact they had distributed their forces was bad news. It meant they were probably professionals, not some random thieves using the distraction of Carnevale to loot the church.

Professional or not, Lang was going to draw fire the instant he crossed that lighted spot. Either that or stay here, hoping Gurt could bring help before they found him.

Then the lights went on.

Not brilliant illumination, but bright enough in contrast to the murk in which he had been. It was also enough to momentarily blind him.

Instantly, he understood.

That was the purpose! Gurt had somehow found a light switch and blinded whoever had been shooting at them.

He leaped across the space between himself and the narthex like a running back stretching into the end zone.

The impact with the floor knocked the breath from his lungs as two bullets ricocheted from the place he had been a split second before.

Gurt tugged him to his knees. “Hurry! They may be right behind us!”

He didn’t need the encouragement. Staggering to his feet, he stumbled the few feet to the door out onto the lighted piazza, just behind Gurt. Once outside, they both flattened themselves against the basilica’s facade rather than present a target to whoever might choose to fire from the church’s door.

After two or three minutes, Lang asked. “Guess our friends aren’t willing to step out into the light. Want to go back to the dance?”

Gurt pointed. “You will go nowhere with that in your hand.”

Lang had forgotten he still held the gun. He looked at it for the first time he could actually see. “Tokarev TT30. First time I’ve seen one of those in a long time.”

Gurt snorted. “Seven-point-six-two millimeter with an eight-round box clip. Based on the Colt .45. Used to be the standard Russian sidearm.”

Agency training included a working knowledge of small arms— recognizing them and using them.

“Underpowered piece of crap, if memory serves. But reliable in the worst of conditions.” Lang was examining the weapon more closely. “But this one isn’t Russian.”

He held it up for her inspection.

She pushed it down out of sight. “If someone sees you waving a pistol, the police will not care whether it is Russian or not.”

Lang took a brief glance around the square, confirming its only occupants were a group of very drunk couples staggering at the far end of the Procuratie Nuove toward the long- closed Museo Correr, too far away for them to notice what he might have in his hand.

“Not only not Russian, it’s Chinese. I can see the characters on the barrel.”

“During the Cold War, the Chinese manufactured a number of Russian small arms for their own army, the AK- 47 for example.”

Lang held the weapon fl at against his leg, invisible to any passerby. “But why would anybody use a gun that dated? I mean . . .”

“You wish to go back inside and inquire?”

“Not that curious.”

She took his hand. “I have had excitement sufficient for the evening.” She looked at him under half- lidded eyes, an expression he found sexy if not provocative. “Come, let us take the boat back to our hotel and I will provide even more.”

“That’s an offer I can’t refuse.” His hand went to his face.

“My nose!”

Gurt looked at him inquisitively. “Your nose? It does not seem to be hurt.”

Lang’s eyes were searching the paving around him. “My clown’s nose. It must have come loose when I hit the floor.” He touched his bare head. “And my clown’s hat, too.”

She gave him a tug toward the canal and, hopefully, the old Chris-Craft. “You have been clown enough for to night. Drop the gun into the canal before you have to explain it to the police.”

All About Lovely by Jemiah Jefferson + Giveaway

One of the most common questions that any writer gets is “Where do you get your ideas?” In many cases, I can truthfully answer that the ideas were shaped by my own life experiences – not that I’ve know many vampires, but I have known some people who came close, even if they weren’t truly undead, super-powered blood drinkers. In one particular case, however, a character occurred to me as if out of nowhere, and demanded that I depict him.

After I graduated from college in 1994, I moved from Portland to San Francisco to try and find some kind of gainful employment better than working the swing shift at a convenience store. I got a job with reassuring swiftness at a company that no longer exists (oddly enough, most of the places I’ve ever worked no longer exist), handling data entry and library database research. It was a decent place to work, and after a terrible spring and an even worse, underemployed, desperate, rootless summer, I felt as though I might be able to make it in the world somehow.

At that point I wasn’t writing. Part of the unpleasantness of the spring came from the humiliation suffered as I tried to defend a novel that I’d presented as my senior thesis; my overblown, overheated style made for an easy target, and my relative ignorance of what a novel was, and its place in a literary canon, even at the point where I was ready to receive a degree in English, earned me some well-deserved sharp blows from my professors. The message that I received, loud and clear, was that my writing wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t know what I was talking about (which was more or less true). All I really had to offer were stories, and characters, and conflict, and mood; if this was not enough, I had no business calling myself a novelist.

I’d moved to San Francisco hoping that the city’s rich literary heritage might seep into me. I hoped that being in the same environment that spawned such greats as Shirley Jackson, Armistead Maupin, and Lemony Snicket might have a beneficial effect on me. Walking the endless stretch of Market Street, drinking in bars in the Castro, loitering outside the shops at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, and being kicked out of the first place I lived within two weeks of moving in had to have some kind of educational value, didn’t it?

When I was eighteen, I wrote a seventy-page draft of a vampire novel that I felt had some potential, but it certainly wasn’t there yet. I’d been thinking it over occasionally ever since, wondering if there was any way to make it better, to make it really work as a narrative and not just a collection of vignettes and one-liners between two vampires, old lovers, come to the point of their relationship when most of their interactions are fights and quarrels. I hadn’t actually worked any more on the novel since its second draft, written out longhand in a spiral notebook, but the two central characters refused to leave my mind, and increasingly, I saw a third character, a woman and a shared lover, as a bridge between them. And yet, that wasn’t enough, either; I needed more than a standard love triangle. These characters would require more than a bedroom farce. Even Noel Coward’s Design for Living has more than three characters.

One early afternoon, I was at work, and on the phone. I had a red pen and a lined spiral notebook so that I could take notes and mark up the printouts of the documents I had been tasked to find. The margins of that notebook had been used for many a phone doodle; I tended towards geometric designs, hands, and anime-style eyes. When I was little, I considered becoming a visual artist, and drew constantly, but at a certain point, I hit a wall of skill and expression that I just couldn’t scale, and my family lacked the money to invest in supplies to take further art classes. Spiral notebooks and ballpoint pens, however, were cheap, and as I had always narrated a story to myself with every drawing I created, I determined to just write the stories alone. On that work day, on the phone, I sketched the outline of a face, the curve of a neck flaring out to narrow shoulders and an arched collarbone. Almost as if out of nowhere, the eyes appeared – big, dark, soft, haunted eyes. No eyebrows. That was important.

The phone call ended, and I continued the drawing, adding a small, full, shy mouth; a slender, bare male torso, some vague drapery around the hips, and a couple of protruding, mouse-like ears. For hair, I dashed a couple of vertical lines sprouting from the center of the forehead, and stippled the sides of the head, suggesting a sort of fleecy stubble. I paused for a moment and considered the drawing. Despite the sadness of the eyes, this creature seemed to have a wonderful, wicked sense of humor. And he’d be a teenage runaway, from Oklahoma. A mutant freak in his native environment, he’d have to run away to find a place to call home; and perhaps it wouldn’t be a place; it’d be a person. An eternal person. A vampire. Of course.

I wrote, beside the figure, Lovely.

Then I gave him some tattoos. And pierced nipples. This was 1994, after all. He was beautiful; he was tragic in origin; he was fearless, sexual, sentimental, earthy and ethereal at once. He reminded me of the characters from Francesca Lia Bloch’s Weetzie Bat novels, which meant that he wouldn’t end up in San Francisco; it would have to be Los Angeles, the L.A. of punk clubs, bougainvillea, Oki Dog, Hollywood glamorous sleaze. He pulled the story along with him. He sprung from my head fully formed, and the novel where he would live shaped itself around him.

With shaking hands, I tore the drawing out of the notebook and put it in whatever book happened to be in my purse at the time, and got back to work. During the tumultuous months afterward, I would look at the drawing again from time to time, further details about this new fictitious person expanding in my mind. I found my original notebook draft of the vampire novel, and re-read it. Shortly after acquiring a bare-bones PC, I opened a new document and began writing a scene between Daniel, the more forceful of the two vampire characters, and Lovely, as told by the teenage runaway himself to an unseen narrator. As Lovely told his story, the unseen narrator, the intermediary, also began to take shape in my mind; her loves, desires, and frustrations.

Keep in mind that, as far as I was concerned, I’d given up on writing. This was just fun, like an expansion of “rolling up” characters for a role-playing game. I began to do that, too; in the occasional sessions of Vampire: the Masquerade I had with my only friends in the whole Bay Area, I created Ariane as a player character. Quickly, though, I realized that she wasn’t an RPG character; I needed more control and more detail than would ever be useful around the gaming table. Still, playing her brought her voice to my mind, and I wrote more scenes between her and Lovely, with other characters in her life, with her own story. Throughout all of this, Lovely remained strongly at the forefront of my mind; I wanted to write something worthy of him.

Lovely, seventeen years old and as childish and silly as a puppy, became the mortal companion of the vampire Daniel Blum. As ward, as lover, as good-natured heir to the immortal power of vampirism, Lovely bears many similarities to some young men I have known (and loved, and been vexed by), and yet he is as individual as anyone I’ve ever met. His realism and spontaneity helped the novel Voice of the Blood come into being. I don’t feel that I crafted him; he just showed up and told me how things were going to go.

I still have the drawing.

Giveaway: Dorchester is giving away the complete Vampire Quartet to one lucky commenter in his preferred format. So, how ’bout it? Do you, as a reader, enjoy seeing a visual depiction of your favorite literary characters, whether drawn or live action in films, or do you prefer your own idea of what the character looks like? What are some movies that got it right with casting? That got it wrong?


Jemiah Jefferson was born in Denver, Colorado. Her childhood consisted of a steady diet of AM radio, New Wave and disco, music videos, Star Wars, and resenting the strictures of school. At an age too early to remember, she began making up stories populated by vivid characters. Combined with a compulsive urge to write commentary and reactions in the margins of books she read and re-read, she found that these increasingly-complex stories demanded to be written down. Her first printed work, St*rf*ck*ng, a group of short erotic stories with a touch of celebrity obsession, was published by local small-press rockstar Kevin Sampsell for Future Tense Books. The first draft of the novel that would become Voice of the Blood was written in 24 hours in 1990 in a fit of inspiration. After another six years of thinking about it (and writing a few more novels and short stories in the meantime) she finally began to apply herself to this work, taking her experiences of living in San Francisco and of her contacts with the young, amoral, and beautiful that she had there and applying them to a situation and a set of characters already in existence in her imagination. Voice (originally titled “Vox Sanguinus”) was released by Leisure Books in Feburary 2001. Wounds, a novel detailing the further adventures of the vampire Daniel Blum, saw release in May, 2002. The third novel, Fiend continued the story, with an exploration of the life of vampire Orfeo Ricari, released in April 2005. 2007’s A Drop of Scarlet, the fourth book in the series, further explores the neuroses, fascinations, desires, and loves of this extended vampire “family”. She has also written for Willamette Week (which featured the Halloween ghost story “Polaroids of Dorothy” in October 2005), Just Out, Plazm, 2Grlz Quarterly, and Cafe 80s Magazine, and maintains a regular comedy- flavored film review blog on Livejournal. She works in the editorial department at Dark Horse Comics, Inc., working on titles including Emily the Strange, Creepy Archives, The Complete K Chronicles, and the Eisner Award-winning Herbie Archives. Jemiah Jefferson lives in southeast Portland, Oregon.

Crossing Into Other Realms with Anna DeStefano + Giveaway

I was in the midst of writing about dream worlds that cross back and forth between sleeping and waking reality, and the psychic twins struggling to master their power to control both realms, when it struck me. Once again, characters in my books, this time Dark Legacy and Secret Legacy, were taking fantastical journeys that paralleled my real-life ones.

Sarah and Maddie Temple are forced to give up their “every day,” to survive the psychic battlefield their minds have become. Its quickly apparent that owning and controlling and perfecting their otherworldly talents is the only way they, their lovers and the lost child who belongs with them will survive. Denying what they see and learn in their dreams means disaster to both them and the realm of other psychic families being targeted by ruthless government scientists.

My situation as I branched out from my classic romance roots to write what’s evolved into psychic fantasy is much more pedestrian. I wanted to create more into my stories: more at stake, more deeply flawed characters, more than the “here and now” I’d shared with my readers so far. I started to write a thriller, and all the pent-up fascination with dream theory and parapsychology and metaphysics that I’d loved since I was a kid but never embraced on the page came pouring out. Denying what I was seeing wasn’t an option. It would have meant letting down not just my stories, but the creativity and the expectations of everyone who’d put so much faith in me.

So I crossed over fully into The Psychic Realm, the contemporary fantasy world I’ve created for the Legacy series. With the support of my agent and editor and publisher, who all said, “just write it and we’ll make something amazing happen with what you create,” I let go of what was familiar and expected, and leapt blindly into a place I’d never been but had always dreamed of conquering. Fast-forward three years later, and the second book in my series, Secret Legacy, is debuting as sci-fi/fantasy—a genre I was obsessed with as a kid but never thought I’d find a home in as a fiction writer.

It’s not an easy ride, for either my psychic twins or us writers, risking everything for a chance that comes with no guarantee. It’s a bumpy road of trial and error and discovery, because we don’t know where we’re going—all we know is that we can no longer stay where we are. We can’t give up this shot to do and be more.

Writing cross-genre doesn’t mean your readers from one “segment” of your writing world will automatically love what you’re doing in another. Heck, I don’t love everything that came to be in my first book. But I’m totally hooked on writing outside the lines and discovering without a safety net, and believing that every new thing that I attempt is another chance to get it right. And Secret Legacy, especially how the twins’ journeys in the first two books in this series are resolved in its final chapters, is by far the best ending I’ve ever crafted. Everything I love about classic romance and contemporary fantasy is right there in those priceless moments, coming together in a powerful way that wouldn’t have been possible with a more mainstream, “safe” project. And just think how easy it would have been for me to never have stepped into the scary dream that made all this possible.

The Legacy series is about family, like all my classic romances are. Yes, there are twins, and we share their struggle to love and protect each other despite their troubled relationship. But more than that, we explore the baggage so many of us carry around from our formative years, and how we have to deal with it and conquer our lingering fear of it and release that time, before we can evolve beyond the damaged places that still claim too much. The suspense/thriller elements of Dark Legacy and Secret Legacy are at times in your face, then in other scenes they’re so subtle you’re not quite certain why you’re on edge. It’s not a comfortable ride, and that challenge, though perhaps not the most marketable approach to take, is an intentional choice—these kinds of stories are meant to keep us off balance.

The scientific basis for the dream theory I use, though I’ll go into more detail about it and other metaphysical and parapsychological principles in future Legacy novels, isn’t the main focus of my first two novels. It’s a backdrop for the human drama that it fires into crisis. And the fantasy elements I’ve chosen…high fantasy is what hard-core readers love, but that’s not what I’ve written, either. It wouldn’t become that, no matter how hard I tried. My journey through this realm was determined to be about creating a near-there contemporary world where bizarre and eerily powerful things happen. Things that are real enough, you could almost imagine them happening to someone in your life, or even to you. Not exactly what readers expect from fantasy, right?

Even the romance I love to write became an outside-the-box adventure with these novels. I’m giving you flawed characters in this series. People who aren’t necessarily likable or even heroic when you first meet them. But if you dig these kinds of stories, I suspect you’ll feel for them and empathize with their frailty and the fundamental way we all find ourselves broken at times. And I’ve done everything within my power as a writer to make sure you’ll be rooting for them every step of the way. How Sarah and Richard and Maddie and Jarred learn to love each other is nothing short of heartbreaking for me. My hope is that you find their journeys just as mesmerizing.

Yes, it’s been a risky venture. But I wouldn’t have missed this ride for the world. I’m daily amazed by the readers I hear from who are looking for something new and different and unusual (even as I hear from those who wished I’d taken a safer route). A lot of people want something bigger, it seems, just like me. Something not as safe and familiar and comfortable as all the rest. Something that stretches its wings and flies in the face of all we know and expect, taking us on the fantasy ride of our lives.

So my question for you today, both readers and writers, is what dreams do you straddle? What amazing “other” realms do you want to explore, while you keep your base in the here and now? How have you accepted your calling to live outside the boundaries of the “real” world you know, and dream into being something that would never be without your passion for more? And finally, since we’re talking about crossing genres and realms today, tell us about the authors you love who’ve gotten this sort of thing right. What cross-genre, leaving the everyday behind, novels have captured your imagination and made it soar?

Giveaway: One lucky commetner will be selected at random to win the Legacy series in the format of her choice.


Anna DeStefano is the best selling author of classic romance and contemporary psychic fantasy for Dorchester Publishing. She’s won and finaled in numerous national contests, including twice winning RTBookClub’s Reviewer’s Choice Award. She speaks and blogs regulary about both her writing experience and the fascination with metaphysics and paraspychology that led her to create her Legacy Series’ contemporary psychic world. Join Anna at her blog each week for Dream Theory and Psychic Realm updates, as well as her running series on How We Write Wednesdays (HoWW) and the writing industry favorite Publishing Isn’t for Sissies (PIFS).

Cover Drama

Intern Becky

YPG and CoverSpy Present: Cover to Cover: A Conversation on the Art and Science of the Book Cover

The front of the room with the table and books.

Pretty covers on display!

We all know the old saying: “Never judge a book by its cover.” Let’s be honest though. Who doesn’t pay attention to covers? We can’t help it! Some books deserve second looks. Others make us cringe. It’s difficult to muffle our initial reaction and focus on the text itself even though in the end, that’s what really matters. Have you ever really thought about the people who are behind the packaging? The magical folks who design and pull the strings from behind the curtain…or rather, the book jacket?

Allow me to introduce our lovely cast:

Robin Bilardello is Senior Art Director at HarperCollins Publishers. She also has a pretty nifty blog called The Preposterous Ostrich and is @robinbillz on Twitter.

Tal Goretsky is a book cover designer at Penguin. His blog is Tal Designz. He loves Britney Spears and cats.

YPG Audience

The seats filled up fast.

Elda Rotor is Editorial Director at Penguin Classics.

Designing a cover is a long, tedious process. There is a lot of trial of error, rejections and revisions. One must consider color, font, style, and countless other factors. Many departments ultimately play a role in cover design, such as, logically, the Art Department, but also the Publisher, the Editorial Department, and Marketing. Designers cope with time limits and constraints while Marketing needs copies of the JPG as soon as possible. Editors want to make sure that the cover matches the content of the book.

Tal described the process of approval: Art Director –> Editorial –> Author & Agent –> Sales –>Stores

There are layers of approval and the cover has to get the thumbs up from each and every one of them. Each publisher has a slightly different process.

Robin mentioned how it’s often a puzzle that one has to put together. She goes in wanting to know what does the paperback copy of a book needs to accomplish? Did the hardcover not sell well? Where is the book going to be sold, and what is the audience? It is only through considering all of these multivariate aspects can she even begin assembling potential designs. She has around 175 titles a season.

Robin talks about cover evolution.

The evolution of Wicked's new cover. Aka, how do you convince adults to read about a woman with green skin.

She also pointed out that as a general rule of thumb that people like to buy books with an image of books on the cover. Why is this? She’s not entirely sure, but I suppose, if you’re a person who already likes books enough to purchase them, then you find books appealing.  A picture of a book will catch your eye more than say, an image of a stapler.

Tal emphasized the difference between hardcover and paperbacks. HCs are simple and minimalist. PBs tend to be more fantastical and busier. These preferences are dictated by the markets for each type of book.

Elda strives to shake things up with the classics. By teaming up with artists, Penguin Classics are breathing fresh life into favorite books. Professor love it because it gets kids excited about schoolwork. Classes are able to discuss what decisions and interpretations artists are making when adapting the work. Penguin matches the artist with each project, selecting styles that work with the book’s themes. For instance, the artist Lilli Carre was chosen for The Adventures Huckleberry Finn because of the friendly quality of her work. Elda wants to showcase beautiful book design and attract a new audience.

The panelists lecturing

Elda shows us the art process for several covers.

Apparently, half of the 4th floor at Penguin secretly shops at Etsy during their lunch break, which helped to inspire the Penguin Threads Deluxe Classics. There’s a beauty to handcraft that people continue to admire, especially in this day and age. Penguin commissioned Jillian Tamaki to create three original embroidered works for covers. And they are stunning. Jillian posted the process over at her blog.

The digital age brings challenges and advances for covers. When it comes to e-books, there tends to be less copy (subtitle, blurb, etc). Designers also have to consider what their art will look like when it’s small, for example, when it’s resized into a tiny JPG for Amazon.

The cover of Blood & Moonlight

So, what are some of your favorite covers and why?

My Dorchester pick would be Blood & Moonlight by Amanda Ashley, Lisa Cach, and Barbara Monajem. I love the sense of elegance and the looming darkness. The delicate detailing created by the branches and filigree of the fence intrigue me, and the touch of red to the white font of the title plays with the words. A bloody moon.

Thriller Thursdays—THE BONAPARTE SECRET + Giveaway (part 2)

We’re back this Thursday and continuing our preview of Gregg Loomis’s The Bonaparte Secret. Today’s giveaway is book 2 in the Lang Reilly series, The Julian Secret. To be entered to win, join the discussion below. Today we’re discussing heroes vs. villains in fiction. What do you think—is a hero only as interesting and compelling as the villain he faces?

The Bonaparte Secret

Chapter One, continued

Venice

18:20, February, the present year

Lang Reilly was not fond ofVenice. The city was like a movie star long past her prime. Faded stucco peeled from stone walls like a woman unable to replace her makeup. The

acqua alta, high water from theAdriatic, relentlessly flooded most of the city in its per sis tent effort to reclaim what had been taken from the sea.

It was a city of tourists, twenty-one million in 2007, as opposed to only sixty thousand residents remaining of the one hundred twenty thousand of twenty years ago. Many of the historic palazzos were now hotels, an increase in visitor accommodations of 600 percent in the last ten years. Claustrophobic byways, more alleys than streets, were far too tight for conventional vehicular traffic even if the city allowed it. They were so narrow they remained in shadow even during the day, perfect places for muggers or worse. Indeed, the city boasted a Street of the Assassins, reflecting a cottage industry of the city’s past. Many of the street signs, where there were any, were in the Venetian dialect, rendering a map useless. The numerous canals caused perpetual dampness and musty smells, adding to the reasons he and Gurt had chosen a hotel on the powdery sands of the Lido, a strip of beach front a five-minute boat ride across the lagoon that it separated from the Gulf of Venice.

The hotel’s boat, resembling a perfectly restored Chris- Craft from the 1950s, complete with teak decking, wallowed in its own wake as the driver reversed, then cut the twin engines a few feet from what would have been steps up to the Molo San Marco had they not been under water. As it was, the craft’s passengers had to balance their way on a makeshift gangplank.

From dockside, Lang could see the winter rain was adding to the flooding of the Piazza San Marco, already several inches under water from the seasonal high tides. A clumsily raised platform, specially erected for Carnevale to host musicians, acrobats and other entertainers, was draped with a sagging banner proclaiming Coca-Cola the “cocktail uffi ciale di Carnevale.” The banner across the Campanile also demonstrated commercialism was a prime theme of the festivities by advertising a popular Scotch whiskey. A network of raised boards gave access to the glass shops and restaurants lining the square. The emptiness of the tables and chairs outside the latter added a deserted moroseness where laughter and music belonged.

The somberness seemed to have spread even to the square’s famous pigeons, whom tourists delighted in feeding. Instead of gathering around and on anyone crossing the square, their mournful cooing from under the eaves of buildings only added to the gloomy scene.

The weather had done little to dampen the early- evening enthusiasm of the revelers ofVenice’s famous twelve-day Carnevale, however. Elaborate costumes were everywhere, most rented with deposits in excess of ten thousand euro in case of a drunken dip in a canal or other disaster. Partygoers flocked through and across the square. All seemed oblivious to the drizzle that, under the streetlights, wrapped the city in a glowing gauze of moisture. The impression was of an anthill just kicked over, its inhabitants scurrying in all directions to balls where the admission price could exceed eight hundred euro. Lang wondered if the celebrants were aware that the hook- nosed masks so popular here mimicked the masks worn centuries ago by those charged with burying those dead of the plague.

“You do not seem happy.” Gurt, in the costume of a seventeenth- century lady, was walking beside him as they dodged a puddle and turned right.

They were following what resembled a fretwork of loggias and arcades below a pink Veronese marble building of vaguely Gothic style.

“I’m smiling aren’t I?”

“Your smile is painted on your face along with the red rubber nose.”

“The clown outfit was your idea.”

Before the conversation could continue, they arrived at the back of a line of elegantly costumed men and women closely huddled under an awning, which ended at a pair of massive wooden doors, the Porta della Carta, the original main entrance to the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s Palace.

“You did remember the tickets?” Gurt asked.

Lang fumbled in a pocket of his piebald outfit. “If the rain hasn’t melted them.”

“I would hate to have come this distance and not get in.”

“For what the foundation contributes to Save Venice every year, we could buy the place.”

Only a slight exaggeration. The international charity, Save Venice, Inc., contributed millions each year to preserve and protect the city and its art and architectural treasures from being reclaimed by theAdriatic. The Italian government had spent even more on plans for a tidal gate, which had become a political football that no one thought would ever see more than lip ser vice, inflated contracts and political patronage. In return for its efforts, the charity was permitted to hold an annual masquerade ball in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the huge third- floor council room from which the in de pen dent city- state had managed an empire that embraced northeasternItaly, the Ionian Islands and a good part of theAdriatic’s east coast.

Although not a fan ofVenice, Lang realized its historical value. As CEO of the Janet and Jeff Holt Foundation, he honored his sister’s memory with generosity to her favorite city. She and her adopted son, Lang’s best ten- year- old pal, had died several years ago in a fire caused by one of the world’s wealthiest and least known organizations. It was Lang’s threat of exposure that had forced the very same group to fund the foundation that bore his sister’s name.

He frowned, wishing it were Janet, rather than he, who had been coerced into standing in the cold dampness, waiting to arrive at a ball he didn’t really want to attend. The fact he had only himself to blame did little to improve his mood. Like an idiot, he had mentioned the invitation to Gurt, who had made it quite clear she was going with or without him.

Inside, a canopy protected partygoers as they crossed a small piazza and climbed the Giants’ Staircase, carved from marble in the fifteenth century and crowned with statues of Mars and Neptune, symbolic of the city’s power on land and sea. At the top, an usher clad in seventeenth- century knee britches, complete with shoes with shiny silver buckles, directed them toward the sound of music. To Lang, it sounded like a replay of, perhaps, “String of Pearls” or “Pennsylvania6 5000.” It was certain the band was unaccustomed to the swing music of the thirties and forties.

Gurt took his arm. “It is Glenn Miller, no?”

“About the right band for this group,” Lang muttered, an allusion to the fact the foundation’s membership was largely elderly. Young people had better things to spend money on.

“You grousing again, Reilly?”

Lang turned to see a white- haired, elfi n man attired in hip- high leather boots, balloon sleeves and a cap with a feather. A sword hung at his side. Gorin, Gowen, something like that. The man spoke with the genteel twang of the American Northeast. He came from a family of such wealth that no one was quite sure where it all had come from to begin with. He had dabbled in politics, actually getting appointed to some cabinet post Lang had forgotten along with whoever had appointed him. Lang had served on the board of several charitable organizations with him.

What the hell is his name? Read more of this post

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